Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Southfield December 5, 2016 City Council Meeting

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Personal Christmas Traditions

As you can probably tell based on my last post I have a love-hate relationship with the holidays and have developed a rather eclectic series of traditions. So why not.

The Lobo-Paramilitary Christmas Special

These days everybody has some sort of go to ironic Christmas... thingy and this is mine.

Also for a LOOOOOONG time it was hard to see Lobo in anything that wasn't Superman-Tas or the comics. And it still is. So it doubles as probably the most accurate portrayal of the character I'm going to get until that movie comes a long and even then... yeah I have no faith in DC's movies.

Christmas In Hollis

Apart from all that stuff I said the OTHER reason I hate Christmas is I can't escape all that horrible freakin' music. Let's be honest here. Most Christmas albums are soulless cash-ins because people will buy anything this time of the year.

Christmas in Hollis is probably the first though not the only Christmas song by mainstream artists I heard that didn't suck.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

On the other hand if you want straight Christmas music nothing beats the Trans-Siberian orchestra. Accept no substitutes. With one exception.

Tiny Toons's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

You know. I'll get into the hokey specials in a bit but nothing more so captures what it felt like to wake up Christmas morning to a Sega Dreamcast/Xbox than Tiny Toon's rendition of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

which of course brings me to.

The NutCracker Prince

It only makes the list for nostalgia points. I haven't seen the ballet so I have no clue how "authentic" it is but it was probably my favorite Christmas special as a kid.


Seinfeld

No. Bannon and Trump do not get to take Festivus from me. I need this. No. I will not allow it. If I have to have smiles painted on my soul for a month especially after the November I've had I get to vent a little in private. Screw those guys! I'm getting Festivus.

A Muppet Christmas Carol

Okay time to get serious now. While the holidays can be annoying and stressful I actually do like the IDEA of a day where all grievances are forgotten and we come together in good will and charity to all folk. I may have problems with the REALITY of Christmas but life is what you make it.

So I need a story to remind me to at least TRY to be a good sport.

If sworn enemies on the battlefield can do it I owe it to them and myself to at least try.

You know we can argue all day about what version of A Christmas Carol is the best but in order to get in the spirit of things requires me to remember things like, fun and joy...

Point is this is the version I liked as a kid so it's my favorite by default. I know Bill Murray is funny and Patrick Stewart is in the running for best actor of his generation but damn it The Muppets just captured something that stuck.

And it is a reminder for me to despite it all at least try.

Frozen


I can't say that Frozen is my favorite of even the "new" Disney movies. But it came out at a time when I was seriously angry and depressed enough to earn a spot on the list of movies that changed my life. We're right back at the I need to at least try thing.

It's very easy for me become trapped in my own head if I let myself and Frozen was a reminder that I really do need to loosen up a little and not be so afraid to let down my personal barriers.

As uptight and frigid as I can be I do have a family that loves me and I owe it to them to at least put up an effort even when I'm nervous, pissed off or whatever. Whatever is going on in my head GENERALLY has nothing to do with them and they shouldn't have to suffer for it.

And hey it's a movie with a shit ton of snow.


The Snow Queen
Long before Frozen there was the Snow Queen. Like I said before I really do have a thing for fairy tales and since it was so long before Disney got there hands on it there are actually a lot of good versions of it floating around.

Hell I'll even admit it. One of the easiest to find is Disney's own Once Upon A Time. Rather than rehashing Frozen Disney tried to incorporate the characters into a modern retelling of the story and came pretty damn close all things considered.

That's not to say it's perfect.  But if you ignore all of the stuff that was established before the arc the story is basically intact. More over it was an interesting creative choice for stoic introverted Elsa to play the role of warm-hearted Gerda while Anna ball of extroverted energy Anna is playing the locked off Kay.

Seeing that evolution in a way that didn't seem like a total reversal of personality helped give me something to work for.

God do I have a love hate relationship with that show.

Rise of the Guardians


Another thing to remember is that Christmas isn't FOR me. It's for the kids. I had my time and they deserve theirs so don't be an ass about it.

Also if I'm lucky maybe the fun might be just infectious.


The Invader Zim Christmas Special

That being said I can still snark in my head.

Look I love Invader Zim. It along with Futurama, South Park and Aqua Teen Hunger Force are specials I watch during the year just because those are shows that were consistently funny during their runs. Thier Christmas specials included. Seriously I watch that stuff in June. If I think the season is getting too sanctimonious It's not hard for me to get a quick hit.


The Boondocks Christmas Special

I could have put this up with the rest but considering our little political foul up and how The Boondocks treats race I thought it deserved it's own space. It's basically is an homage to Charlie Brown's classic Christmas special but with the role of Charlie Brown being played by a quasi-militant black radical. Huey don't play that. 

I need that right now.

If I Were A Rich Man: Christmas Presents (Doubles As A Personally Cathartic Gift Giving Guide)


STUPID BILLIONAIRE RICHY RICH MOTHER... SON OF ...

It's time for another one of these.

For the most part I've been kind of ambivalent about Christmas. I thought it was a hokey holiday as a kid but liked that I got presents and some time off school. And then I became an adult. The person who is suppose to be giving out the presents.

In the 6 years since I graduated college I've only been able to do Christmas the way I wanted exactly once. And I'd be lying if I said I haven't built up a certain amount of resentment to the holiday as a result.

That one year I had to damn near kill myself to get the money to get those gifts but I did it and I am not in a hurry to do it again. Or at least go that far. Especially as with everything else there are A LOT of places the money could better go.

Not only that but I have a huge extended family. If I were to really do Christmas the way I wanted I'm looking a probably a couple thousand dollars and that's if I don't also decide to host some sort of party or dinner which I can't anyway because I don't have a space to do it.

Let's just hope I all of a sudden become more interesting in middle-age.

But fine. Fine a man can dream so here is how I would do Christmas if I had unlimited funds.

Da List and Da Budget

So around September I would assemble a list of all of my numerous relations. I currently have a spreadsheet where I have fields for

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Nick Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Parents
  • Are They Paternally Related to Me or Maternally Related
  • Am I Getting Them A Gift
  • Gift Ideas
  • Have I Got Them A Gift
If I were going all out I would also like to mail out gifts to my more distant relations and set things up for some sort of party so addresses and the like would be in order.

But for now let's talk about presents. Like I said my extended family is huge so even in the best of times I probably wouldn't be able to get something for everybody. I would have to prioritize. The general rule is only people ages 2-13 get something. 

In general for kids less than two giving a gift is mostly a token gesture to the parents more so than a gift for the kids themselves as the kids that young are unlikely to remember jack all. Moreover, kids that young think very differently and I have no memory of that time in my life so it is hard as hell to get a good gift for kids that age. 

And after 13 let's be honest everybody would just prefer money. 


Even the adults. "The Gift of the Magi" is the stupidest thing I ever heard. Get that shit outta here.

Which brings me to the budget which is what the list really represents. I expand or shrink who gets what based on cost projections. Almost anything worth a damn is going to cost at least $10. And if there one of my relations who I like, or has hinted at something in particular or who has had a rough year and needs a pick me up that gets blown to hell.  So it's more responsible to budget $25 and see where I stand.

If there is any money left after the kids everybody gets a card and a visa gift ... card.  The teenagers can buy what they want online especially if it's music or movies or video games or whatever. And the same goes for everybody else.

Other than that I keep or try to keep an amazon wishlist year round of anything I think would make a good gift for the fam.

Black Friday

So we arrive at the capitalist nightmare-hell  (it warrants a new compound word) that brought this on.

Yeah no.

Nope.

Uh uh.

Not doin' it.

No.

The reason why Black Friday has significance to me is that it marks a date close enough to Christmas so that it's not unreasonable to buy stuff but far enough out so that if I buy stuff online it will be in stock and probably delivered on time, with the ancillary benefit of cyber Monday sales.

I am not walking into a store unless I'm desperate and chances I'm not going to be that desperate on Black Friday.

Spend the time making a list before and then spend an hour checking out and be done from my desk.

I have too much brand loyalty to Amazon. Thier lists make mass shopping like Christmas and personal projects easy, but I on occasion worry about knock-offs but there are some ways around that.
First off avoid buying from Amazon sellers and buy stuff straight from Amazon. They have to stand by their products or risk their reputation. That's not foolproof though so if you really want to be safe buy straight from manufacturers.


Gift Ideas


As I already mentioned, resist the urge to buy anything for teenagers. "But I remember what was like when"... no you don't and things travel a thousand miles per hour these days even if you did. Just give them money and be done with it.  They will thank you for it.



That said for younger kids there is a little more leeway.

Stick with the classics. They are the classics for a reason. Really young kids like physicality. Stuff they can manipulate with their bare hands. That's what toys have been since my granddaddy's day for a reason. So things like dolls, blocks, trains, cars and the like never get old.

But as kids grow older that start appreciating abstraction. It's not just what a toy is but what it represents.  Age matters. What is super special awesome for a 5 year old will be laughed out the room by a 10 year old. 

Which brings me to board games and the like and my same advice follows. Stick with the classics unless told otherwise by the kid or the parent. I know the urge to get "creative" is biting. You saw Betrayal on Geek and Sundry and started drooling but that's something for you. The holiday is not supposed to be about you 29 year-old Miles. You had your Christmas'.


BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIE EVER! I needed that.

Anyway.

The advertising may get confusing but keep in mind the same damn companies have been basically been making the same damn toys with tweaks and revisions for years.



When I was a boy Beyblades were a thing but as I look back I am surprised I didn't realize that they were nothing more than modular flashy spinning tops. That wouldn't have been wholly alien 50 years ago.


But to kids the small differences matter.

Beware Licenced Toys

This is the exception to the rule about sticking to the classics. Stick to the classic in form but in image don't. Unless you are amazingly plugged into the minutia of fictional media targeted towards children chances are your going to screw it up. And corporate America has vested interest in your ignorance.

That being said kids love stuff from the latest movie or comic or whatever. But if you screw it up they will be piiiiiiissseed.

Aside On "Gratitude"
As adults we all know the amount of time money and effort that can go into getting good gifts for kids but rule one when dealing with kids is don't punish them for being kids. Children especially young children often aren't aware of how much their stuff is worth and how all of that translates into tangible work.

And that's not their fault. At least not in the case of little kids.


So don't expect them to appreciate that that PS4 meant 2 weeks overtime until they're older.

We all want to pretend like Christmas is about family and all that jazz and if you're over 13 maybe it is but for kids let's be honest it's about having one of two days in the year where everybody else will bend over backward to get you what you want, everything else be damned. I didn't appreciate it when I had it.  And I wish to god I could pass it forward.

But I can't.

Don't Kill Yourself



So for reasons, a lot of reasons, it's time for me to revisit the concept of MANHOOD! Let me be clear while Donald Trump is the impetus for me actually sitting down and writing something I've been in a perpetual identity crisis since the end of college regarding what the hell adulthood and masculinity mean on a personal level when a lot of the stuff I want to do as a MAN seems just out of reach for me.



And I also want to be clear I don't blame women for any of it though that Fight Club clip might make it seem otherwise.  I've seen those asshats and want to say loud and clear I absolutely fucking hate them. And think they are part of the problem.

I blame racism, classism, and mostly myself for it all but I don't have it in me to do another Marxist diatribe right now. Wish I did but for some reason the wind has been knocked out of those sails.

So let's try something different.

For better or worse I contextualize my life via media (stick a pin in that) so let's talk about two media portrayals that at my coming of age defined the how I wanted my personal vision of masculinity to exhibit itself.  Gran Torino and Scott Pilgrim.

Also this gives me a chance to square my love-hate relationship with Clint Eastwood in an interesting way. Like I said Gran Torino came out at exactly the right place and time to define what adulthood and masculinity mean for me and then the primary force behind it comes out of the woodwork to essentially undercut almost everything I felt that movie was telling me.

Eastwood is so much of a cinematic force that it's easy to forget that a lot of his later movies aren't ABOUT the characters he plays.


At least not in the way his old school "classic" movies are.

If you really want to understand Gran Torino you have to realize it's not fundamentally Eastwood as Walt's movie. It's Thao's.



And dear god if that movie did anything more to make Thao like a 19 year-old me they would have had to turn him into a Black guy with glasses.  The movie is Thao's coming of age story. But it's doesn't adhere to the usual formula of a male coming of age story and in doing so becomes something new and different. Most of these stories are about what does a person have to do to be RESPECTED as a man but Gran Torino is more intrinsic. What does a person have to do to ACT as a man, to BE a man.

And the movie is all about the dissonance between what that means for both Thao and Walt.  Hell that is the foundation of their inter-generational friendship.  For Walt what defines manhood is sacrifice. And all the sacrifices he's made have left him a hollow shell of a man as the world has changed around him and refuses to acknowledge those sacrifices.

Despite not having a lot in common he looks at Thao and realizes he's just at the age where he's going to start making the sorts of sacrifices a man makes and wants to emotionally help him through it by preparing him for it.

Then the film goes into a giant left turn as Walt realizes that making those types of sacrifices will LITERALLY destroy Thao as he picks up a gun to go on a suicide mission to defend his family.



Thao deserves better than that so Walt scrambles to think up some other solution to the immediate problem.

THE WALKING SYMBOL OF 1950'S STYLE MASCULINITY DECIDES TO DIE SO WHATEVER COMES NEXT CAN HAVE A CHANCE TO THRIVE IN THIS NEW WORLD!

The movie was screaming to guys like me don't be Walt. He's honorable in his way but there might be something better for you all if you choose to grasp for it.

The movie is vague about what that something better might be but it is clear that it's saying that modern masculinity should not be judged by Walt's standard. So what should it be judged by.


Dispite all the fight scenes, sight gags, and video game references Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is fundamentally about Scott's journey from emotional immaturity to emotional maturity.

While the movie isn't about repudiating 1950's style masculinity it is inseparable from the exact moment in time it was made. I could not and still can not escape the fact that if I tried to judge myself by my father's standards I would probably kill myself in the attempt to man-up.

ESPECIALLY as a young black guy. I don't want to say this glibly but a hell of an enormous amount of effort on my parents' part was spent trying to do anything in their power to keep me from anything that might lead to jail. And I DO NOT want to throw all that away.  And still I know people who despite their best attempts still wound up in that system.

I can't.

I can't.

I can't.

There has to be something else.  And Scott Pilgrim lead me to think about that something else. Scott Pilgrim is so far from Clint Eastwood it almost breaks my brain but by the end of it well he's obtained manhood. A different kind of manhood.



Time to stick a needle in Mr. Eastwood's eye. When Scott Pilgrim first game out there was a generational divide that caused it to fail miserably at the box office. There was this generational divide as a lot of older audiences found it to be all style and no substance. But the style was part of the substance.

By filling itself with ephemera seen as to be childish while still making itself about emotional maturity the movie was redefining what that emotional maturity was about. It's not about whether you still like video games, or anime. It's not about how many romantic entanglements you've had. It's not even about how much money you make.

It's about how you treat the people around you and respect their feelings and lives. And yeah the movie is about Scott going from not having a clue to all of a sudden getting that the people around them have their own lives, and emotions and desires worth taking into consideration.

By the end of the movie the quest for Ramona's heart becomes kind of irrelevant as Scott realizes that Gideon Graves represents everything that by then he's come to hate about himself and deserves a right ass kicking as a repudiation of it.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

On Fidel Castro


First off let me say I am not Cuban nor do I  have an expertise in Cuban history.

But Fidel Castro's death seems like a learning opportunity a lot of the internet is missing. For me Fidel Castro represents the complexities of leftist politics, human nature and the fallibility of man.

Nobody can deny he did absolutely horrifying things.

But. And I believe that this is also important in the grand scheme of history he refused to easily conform to the narratives we Americans wanted to place upon him. That doesn't all of a sudden make him a hero. He still has a hell of a lot of death and misery on his hands. But it is a conversation worth having that I don't think I'm hearing.  (Never depend on Twitter for moral complexity.)

One of the failures of American diplomacy, that did in deed cause massive loses of life, during the Cold War was the imposition of binary narrative. Instead of trying to figure out how international figures and peoples thought we made policy based upon the labels we gave them. Communist or capitalist, good or evil,

Castro led a long and complicated life that I have no hope of coming close to understanding. I am not that smart. It defies a simple single solidifying story where he is either the villain or the hero. Because at different times and different places he was either, both and neither.

To me he is a symbol for all the contradictions in my own politics, writings, and soul as well as the blurred line between hope and horror as people, places and even ideas I champion may betray not only me but themselves in ways I find viscerally repugnant.

Life is messy and complicated as are people and everything that is built on top of human fallibility. And that is a truth that gets remembered far less often than it should.

Friday, November 25, 2016

On Paris Geller


I've watched the revival and I'm more or less done with it but one thing bugs me that it took a while to process. The revival HATES Paris Geller.  Geller is one of my favorite characters her slow defrosting is one of the few things I think the later seasons did right and the revival decided to completely undo it.

It shouldn't have taken me so long to figure out why because a character turns to the camera and says it.

"You rule the world what's your damage!"

Parts of Gilmore Girls very much plays out as a female version of  the boarding school drama. As originally envisioned Paris is Draco Malfoy.  She one of the primary mechanisms the show uses to criticize class and wealth.  The audience was never suppose to like her.


But partially by script and also by acting the character is a lot deeper than just snooty blueblood Rory has to prove wrong.

Geller herself dislikes her own status and subtly tries to subvert it in ways that don't automatically make her look like an ass.  I respect that. While she has the advantages of wealth she wants to use those advantages to prove to herself and all comers that she does indeed deserve said wealth.

She's still an antagonist to Rory but not strictly in the same way other school bullies are in these types of stories. Geller dislikes Rory because she is the first of her peers who actually gives enough of a damn to challenge her intellectual queen of the school status. She hates her because she does actually respect how damn smart she is rather than how in most of these stories the bluebloods underestimate the working class protagonist.

And that for the first three seasons was a very interesting dynamic as those two came to grips with the fact that despite personality and circumstantial differences they were more similar than different.


The problem is that Geller remained a fairly interesting character while the Gilmores themselves leaned more and more into the privilege of wealth in the later season undermining the original purpose Geller to criticize and show the flaws those systems.

Or to it put it another way, the roles of the two character slowly reversed with Geller more or less losing a lot of her parents' money and having to get by on her wits while Rory was able to sit on her ass for a year. And I can see how that could be considered a derailment both characters.

That said I also personally liked how direct and forceful Paris could be and liked that she added that to the character dynamics of the show. I liked how she was written in the later seasons showed how that "get shit done personality of hers" could actually be a positive thing.

I'm generally mild-mannered but life has taught me that sometimes you just need to use your big boy voice to get shit done. And that's something that as a character Rory Gilmore was seldom good at. I liked that there was a character who was good at it and wasn't doing it in small petty ways for small petty reasons... Emily.



Sometimes you just need an asshole to get shit done. And if well targeted Geller could be that asshole


TV Review: Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life


 As a whole I love Gilmore Girls, but I went into watching the revival of Gilmore Girls the wrong way and I think that negatively impacted my view of it.  A Year in the Life has been advertised as Gilmore Girls Season 8 when it's actually closer to a series of related yet episodic short stories involving the characters.



The title says it all. "A Year In The Life". The original series had themes and character development and all that stuff while A Year In The Life seeks to be a much smaller scale anthology of moments in the characters lives. Which is fine if you go in knowing what to expect.

To be fair a lot of that isn't A Year In the Life's fault. It spends the first 2 episodes of four writing around the decisions made in seasons after creator Amy Sherman-Palladino left the show. During the first half, it almost seems a mean-spirited parody of those seasons. With most of the characters, Rory in particular, acting insufferably entitled in a universe that agrees with them.

That after high school Rory became a Mary Sue who could do anything she wanted and get anything she wanted without a whole mess of effort which is kind of annoying because earlier the show went to great lengths to show, not tell but show how much the eponymous Gilmore Girls worked to make lives they could be happy with.

The first two episodes are all about showing why that status quo didn't work and it seems purposefully hard to sit through.

Most of the characters in their late 20's and early 30s a lot of the characters are emotionally and professionally exactly where they want to be. Rory starts the revival off a well-off print writer regularly appearing in multiple nationally read publications. Paris who even with her Ivy League education shouldn't be out of residency yet is running an artificial insemination clinic. I find it infuriating almost none of my peers can come close to that sort of job satisfaction and security. And that leads to the another problem.

Over the course of the show's run it criticized class dynamics but with everybody more or less where they want to be the show doesn't really do that anymore and it was one of the strongest reasons to watch.

There are no more speeches about how Rory while benefiting from an education with the bluebloods still doesn't completely fit in with them. No more arguments about how the world is the limit for the Gilmores while Lane, Jess and Dean live vastly different lives. The conflicts between Luke and Lorelai as new monied entrepreneurs vs her parents as old money aristocrats are gone.


The third episode is about returning the show to feeling and vibe of the Chilton seasons. And the third episode stands out as the best to the point that it is the only episode I can unqualifiedly recommend. It exists primarily to rewrite the series' post-script into something more in line Palladino's version of the show rather than how it actually ended.

And that's really the point of the whole enterprise. It's not so much an eighth season of Gilmore Girls as much as an episodic bridge between the 7th and whatever Palladino decides to do with it next.

The closest we get to that is the 4th episode but by then so much has passed that there really isn't much of a plot left.  What is left acts as a memorial to Edward Herrmann straight plots that exist are all about the emotional hole Richard Gilmore played by Hermann left after his death and every emotional thing the characters say about Richard might as well be spoken about Herrmann.

I want to be very careful how I phrase this because I liked the man as an actor and everything I've heard about him as a man has earned my respect.

How you feel about the show's writing will depend on how you appreciate that. Prior to the fourth episode, A Year In The Life seldomly manages to transfer that thematic hole into actual plot and the loss always acts as subtext rather than text. I'm on the fence about that. Part of me likes the fact that the show took a chance on making itself about the lose of a loved one without making its story about the lose of a loved one. Life has to go on yet those who have gone before are not and should not be forgotten.

As an artistic decision, I can respect it but it does make the show less engaging. The revival is a lot less focused on narrative than the original and sometimes it feels like there isn't really anything happening. And directly dealing with that would have been, well  something happening.

Apart from that the show also makes subtle criticisms at the forces that retooled it. Yet again it chooses to be subtle about it.

Diverging into an Eat, Prey, Love style aside the show criticizes itself and the Mary Sueness of the later seasons.

Almost all of the ships come back and we are shown exactly why they wouldn't have worked. Dean's content being a regular guy while Rory isn't. While it's clear Jess actually does care about her he can never completely turn off his snark and show sincere affection. Christopher being unable to man the hell up when Rory was born is a sin that can never be washed away in the eyes of the Gilmores.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

When The Hell Did Populism Stop Being About Class Struggle (Donald Trump Does Not Represent Marxist Liberalism)



So one of the most infuriating things about the election is that I'm reading think pieces about how it fits within the larger confines of populist movements and how Trump's election represents a rejection of new identity liberalism in favor of old school Marxist liberalism (by the way those are great videos I'm just mad that it came down to that this election).

And it makes me want to punch something. A billionaire creating an administration with other billionaires who will almost certainly act in the interests of yet again other billionaires is about as far as my view of what populism is as you can get.


That is not populism.

That is oligarchy.

My view of populism is that a methodology for upsetting the relational power dynamics inherent in society and dispersing economic and political power amongst many actors so that together they can act as a check upon the systemic accumulation of wealth and influence and the power that it affords within a capitalist system.

So uh President Elect Donald Trump represents everything I hate about my country.

I love me some sweet sweet capitalism but even I'll admit that left unchecked it leads to an untenable stasis that makes positive economic and social change difficult as the moneyed use their resources to resist change that doesn't benefit them.

We need protected social mechanisms for upsetting the power imbalances inherent in society and I lack basic faith that Donald Trump represents that.

He has attacked those mechanisms and institutions speech, assembly, the press, unions, employment protections, education, human rights and the free market. Much of he has said and done since being elected has signaled that he does not respect these mechanisms and probably won't shield them when they become unpopular and might even go so far as dissolve them when it becomes clear they can be used against him.

So I'm going to spend the next four years as Benjamin.

I keep hearing of this faith amongst Donald Trump's supporters that he will act in their interest. That he's their man. He's not. Donald Trump only acts in his own interest and he's spent the last two years getting high off of his own ego. The truth of the matter is that I have a fundamental doubt that Donald Trump knows the sort of things the masses are concerned about and even less faith that he has practical... practical... PRACTICAL policy ideas to address those concerns.

DONALD TRUMP IS NOT THE MESSIAH OF THE WORKING CLASS!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The White Veto

So I've spent the past week reading Twitter and news and trying to be a good sport about the election.

I lost. I lost cold. I lost a lot.

But I kept reading. And kept reading. I'm going to still try to be a good sport or at least want to but I'm pissed and I feel the need to explain something.

My vision of myself is greatly tied to being part of what I felt was the first generation of Blacks that could be Black without that blackness meaning giving automatic deference to white people or facing reprisal.

To be able to say, "screw whitey, I'm doing what I want."



This election feels like one giant ass reprisal.

Damn near every political writer is going on about how the dems failed to connect to the working class, and need to change the platform but let's call a duck a duck.

Donald Trump stood up and cried nigger. And let me be clear I'm using race and my race particularly because I'm speaking for myself. I imagine you can substitute nigger with any other slur you want.

He stood and told people that all their problems could be blamed on giving everybody but the milktoast too much leeway and he was going to rein it in. You couldn't take anything he said seriously and even his supporters knew that but at least he seemed like a white guy who wasn't too shameless to defend someone punching a Black guy in the face.

I tried not to and especially after the election has already been lost I definitely do not want to campaign for Clinton, let's face it between her and everybody who ran in the primary America had a choice and out of all of them we decided to choose the guy who wasn't afraid to call nigger in a bid to reassure white people they were still in charge.


AND IT WORKED.

Let me tell you what that means. It means that every time I have a grievance I have to be careful even when that grievance amounts to it's hard being X in America.

That's at least ONE reason why I'm so pissed off.

White America just told me I don't have the right to be both Black and proud.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

I Just Want My Life Not To Suck



The last few years haven't been exactly great for me, but I had hope. If I could weather the right now things would be pretty cool in a decade or so. That election, not just Trump but all of it.  beat the optimism right the hell out of me. It feels like every cool thing I had to look forward to is gone politically. Personally, my life wasn't all that great to start with. There are loads of people way worse off than me but part of the reason why I always look toward tomorrow is because my right now kind of sucks.

I get the idea of peaceful transfer of power. Let me speak plain. A lot of the stuff coming from the left would break the country. If the electoral college decided to give Hillary the presidency the other half of America would be just as pissed off right now, maybe even more. Trump has already promised a bunch of stuff he can't deliver but he pulls a complete bait and switch and morphs into Hilary-lite well than he's not the man they voted for and there you go.

One of my gripes with Trump is that he refused to recognize the legal legitimacy of a sitting United States President but back then he was just a reality show idiot. If anybody with actual power pulls that we turn into Egypt.  We are a global superpower.

Like I said my life isn't that great but I live in probably the most powerful country in the world. If this thing fails it won't just be the United States that feels the fallout. WE CAN NOT HAVE A EUROMAIDAN SCENARIO! It would blow up the world.

That being said. I want my life not to suck. I could claim to speak for gay people and trans people or Latinos, or Muslims, or even other Black people. I'm not. I'm speaking for myself. I've spent months thinking about how a Trump presidency could screw with my life. I don't have a lot of money but I have an education and a couple of tools I figured I could forge into a viable career if I worked hard enough. I personally know folks who've been done wrong by cops but I felt like in my hometown things were okay and with the conversations being had eventually I wouldn't have to put so much time and energy into trying to keep people from being scared of me. I've seen a lot of scary stuff in the media but the stats say that over the past few years on the whole things have been winding down.

Like I said I wasn't happpy with my life but I felt if I could survive the now life would be pretty great in a decade or two. I still feel that way but I'm less confident I can survive the now.  But I have to at least try. I'm not into the other option. This is my life and this is my home.

Not all of it is Trump's fault. He's a symptom not a cause. But he is President Elect.

Let me say it again. Donald Trump won a free and fair election for the United States Presidency and represents more than half of the country by the accepted constitutional rules of that election.  THERE ARE NO DO-OVERS.

That being said no matter who won the election people still have to live here. Trump's pitch was that he wasn't going to take into consideration anybody who disagreed with him. And in my head I get that he has a mandate. But we aren't just talking about esoteric policy but people's day to day experiences. A lot of the stuff Trump promised is the stuff that makes, not is going to make, but even before he got elected, makes their lives suck. People harassing anybody who has a brown skin tone as an undocumented immigrant. People trying to make lives together questioning the legal standing of everything they've done. And a lot of people thought that a Hillary win would do away with not all but at least some of that stuff and came to find out nope. Life still sucks. Life is going to suck for a really long time.

They have a right to stand up and say that's not okay and ask that Donald Trump realizes that they exist and that their lives have political meaning but that is the exact opposite of his pitch to the country, that he'll deal with things expediently by ignoring and even punishing people who disagree with him.

I begrudgingly accept that Donald Trump is President but I wish Donald Trump would at least try to convince people who disagree with him that he's going to try not to deliberately make their lives worse. That's what I want. For Donald Trump to get on a podium and say that  even if I disagree with him he'll try not to make my life suck.

But doing that is antithetical to who the man is.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Lost Shows


So I more or less skipped Halloween. It wasn't like I meant to do it but I'm generally not a people person so parties just don't do it for me. Whenever I do decide to get off my butt and get in the spirit it's normally in the form of marathoning some sort of horror themed media.

It occured to me I couldn't watch the show I was jonesing for not legally anyway.



So I might as well.

Here is my list of TV shows that have been lost to the sands of time. I'm going to be loosey goosey here. It's not so much that these shows aren't available but rather I think they've been left out of the nostalgia-fest that is modern pop culture and deserve some love. I'm going to try to keep this from being a giant list of me reliving my childhood and try to restrict it to things I'm not just nostalgic for but do think hold up. That being said.

Muppets Tonight

So the Muppets revival got a mixed reception. They turned the Muppets into the Office. ...

They turned The Muppets into The Office.

Maybe what the audience was hoping for was a nostalgic return to form. Maybe like updating one of the best incarnations the franchise for a new era.  Hmmm...

Hmmm...

Yeah, they already did that. Muppets Tonight was basically nothing more than straight a 90's update to The Muppet Show and  in light of the reaction to the ABC show, I get the feeling that people maybe just wanted that. If you did it exists.



Living Single

You know there is this joke going around that Friends is for white people. SCREW THAT NOISE. Living Single made it to air first. And for my money is the better show. Why isn't it streaming on Netflix?  Yeah, whenever I want to start griping about racism in media marketing this is the scab I'm scratching.

They're almost the same show except for you know the obvious.

The Torkelsons


Hi. Redstate folks. I've said some not so nice things about you over this election cycle. Let me throw you a bone. I, as a black guy, know it can be tiresome to have to put up the majority of mainstream culture treating you, your friends and family and your general way of life as some sort of alien thing to be ignored, ridiculed or feared.

Which is to say, "Stop treating us like idiots." is one of the few grievances of this election cycle I think actually has some credence. Not everybody born past the Mason-Dixon line is a slack-jawed racist idiot. And it can be tiresome to have half the country assuming that about the other half.

So uh I like Reba.


And the Torkelsons is Reba 1.0.

And it was also one of the late Britanny Murphy's earliest gigs and I always liked her. I'm not going to act like I knew her but she had a lot of talent and brought a lot of stuff into this world that I liked.

Speaking of actors who left this world too soon.

Roar



I've said it before and I'll say it again.  If a story involves a dude with a sword I'm game. And hey look Heath Ledger as a dude with a sword. Okay then,

Okay, that being said what makes Roar interesting is it came out just slightly before what I'll just call the narrative revolution of TV. So while there is ongoing plot and continuity stuff  on its also in the background which makes it's structure something other than hey let's kill the monster of the week and sprawling epic as it's kind of both and neither. It's not a story you had to wait 20 hours in to actually start to understand what was going on.

Spellbinder

On the other end of that spectrum is Spellbinder which actually does play like a sprawling fantasy epic. I find that interesting because back then not many television shows let alone children's television shows had the guts to do that sort of thing.


Also worth checking out is The Tribe. But it's got its own youtube channel so it's not exactly lost to the ages.

Downtown


Growing up I was kind of an anime snob, but looking back the 90's were a golden age for satiric and surrealist animation.  And out of all of that, I think Downtown is the most underrated. I've seen a million videos proclaiming the brilliance of Clone High, and they aren't wrong, but Clone High is out there. If you want to get at it, you can. Downtown has kind of been erased which sad because it's a very good show and is representative for a lot of the humor Adult Swim would make it's bread and butter a decade later.

Early Edition

I could take easy pot shots at the spat of qusirelegious "god is watching" shows of the 90's. And a lot of them were not good. But one of them actually was with a great high concept idea.

What if god told you all the bad stuff  that was going to happen 24 hours in advance and tasked you to fix it.  Thus is the premise of Early Edition. Which played like a cross between Quantum Leap and Touched by an Angel.  I really like Quantum Leap.

Judging Amy

While I'll go on record as saying we are living in a golden age of television most of that is because we've finally figured out how to do genre shows right, balancing the conventions the audience expects with character and plot. We've discovered that within those conventions there is space to do a lot of interesting stuff.  But it still annoys me that there are so few down to earth dramas apart cop shows.

I spent a lot of time rewatching old episodes of Gilmore Girls over the past few years because it's hard to find realistic relatable stuff that's not a sitcom nor a police procedural. Technically Judging Amy is a courtroom procedural but since it deals with family court and is more concerned with Judge Amy Gray's personal life it has a different feel from all the Law and Order knock offs.  It's not about catching bad guys or anything like that. It's about the daily grind of life and trying to do right by people.

Boston Public

Hey, look a school procedural. It's one of the closest things I've seen in fiction to realistic schools that have to stretch their resources beyond their capability.  Or to put it another way. It's rare to on television or even movies to pull back the curtain and show school with all of the institutional clockwork.

That's just not how most people think of education Here is the thing most people only experience it as parents or students. Parents generally want to believe the sanitized apple on the desk version and former students may want to believe that version but a lot also never had much love for school in the first place

The truth lies somewhere in the middle and that's where Boston Public lies. It treats education as a public institution with many flawed players who are trying to do the best they can with what they have.

So it's The Wire of school.

And that's a view of school I don't see often in the media.

Watch There Will Be Brawl


Okay quick aside. I off-handily mention that I like Critical Role and it's one of those shows I don't know would survive if everything was run like it was on broadcast television.

Then I digressed into discussing how different types of media violence are framed differently and shot. And remembered that is the central joke of Matt Mercer's previous internet series There Will Be Brawl.

While there is a story and it's good the central joke is what if all the wacky goofy cartoony violence of Nintendo's golden age and Smash Brothers games was played dramatically.

And it is something to behold.

I Love Me Some Filmic Violence


So a few days ago, one of my favorite local columnists Rochelle Riley wrote an article calling out The Walking Dead and television violence in general. And the then the local alternative newspaper, The Metro Times wrote a response article....

Okay then...


So first off I dislike The Metro Times article. Rochelle Riley is one of the best writers in Detroit and I kind of felt she deserved more respect than lumping her in with all the other reactionary think of the children types, but the article she wrote is the article she wrote.


The FCC


So my biggest least abstract disagreement with Riley's article is that she suggests the FCC should take on a bigger role in regulating cable broadcast decency standards. And I fundamentally disagree that that is the FCCs role or at least the one they should be taking.

While we Americans like to pretend otherwise government has had a profound role on both media and the speech it represents.


We like to pretend there is this giant wall between the two but there isn't. What concerns me more than pretending that that wall doesn't exist is eaking out how in a society that benefits in multiple ways from an environment of free exchange of ideas the government helps facilitate it.

This is what I feel the role of the FCC is and should continue to be in this regard.

There is very limited regulation in the United States in most forms of media but broadcast television is different.  Why because the spectrum is a public resource. And the job of FCC is to manage the use of that public resource.



While I do believe the government should have a light touch I also don't have much of a problem with it attaching some strings to the use of public airwaves for the sake of the public good.


Especially in the world where these rules developed where there were so few television and radio outlets.

Media Fragmentation
But cable and more importantly to me the internet developed in a fundamentally different way which while flawed I think does serve its own purpose. These spaces allow for more diversity and that diversity is facilitated if not created by how laissez faire the government has been in terms of how and what content is created. If it can be funded and or made profitable nothing is completely off the table.



How else do I get a series about a bunch of "nerdy ass voice actors playing D&D"


Not For You
Specifically, the thing I love about the internet is that creators have to worry less about making content "for everybody" one of the things that annoys me most about writing on the internet is when somebody complains that they don't get something or another that I say and wants me to  remove content.

And in those instances, I want to yell out and scream. I didn't write it FOR YOU. Internet creators can write to specific audiences in a way regular broadcasters can't. And dear god I love it. There is more freedom to make fewer creative sacrifices for the sake of broadness.

Which is to say I like that I have the opportunity to consume and perhaps even make content that was specifically tailored with me in mind or people like me. The same goes for everybody else.

And I'd be lying if I also didn't admit race didn't have anything to do with that.


I've heard some stories on that one.


The Line Between Distasteful and Non-Existant


And now I can actually get to the point at hand. There is a line between saying something is distasteful and saying it shouldn't exist. And getting government involved leans more on the latter than the former.

Like I said, I'm not going to pretend like government doesn't have anything to do with regulating speech or art or whatever but with a few exceptions which I am not getting into but you can probably guess, the government shouldn't be in the business of saying this or that form of speech shouldn't exist period and regulating decency standards on cable is close to that and the internet is definitely that.


While the use of violence in media should be scrutinized and discussed I don't exactly trust the government or rather law to do it. Law has to work on rules, on algorithms and those don't do nuance well.

Finally, Let's Talk About Violence


First off I haven't seen the episode in question and I'm probably not going to. I watched the first season and a half of The Walking Dead and while I don't hate it never made it the level of compulsory watching for me. And I'm not going to watch the episode in question now because the Walking Dead is one of those types of shows. The new breed of tv shows which are in essence filmic novels.  I would have metaphorically skipped 2/3 of the book.

That being said I do try to pay attention and the conversation around the episode in question is just one more instance of a much bigger discussion on how media uses violence, a subject you could write an entire book on.

Over the past 15 years there has been this push for more character-driven television shows and The Walking Dead has been trying to do it's darnedest to balance that and the general conventions of of both post-apocalyptic fiction and zombie fiction.


Shotguns and chainsaws. 

The argument I've been hearing has been more nuanced than "decency". Specifically I've been hearing that The Walking Dead and a lot shows like it have been using violence for cheap shock value at the expense interesting story opportunities and character continuity.




Languages

I also want to state that any real criticism of media violence needs to take into account for what I call language. There are differences, for instance, between artistic (visual) violencecomedic violence, kinetic violence,  invasive violence/body horror and dramatic violence,  or symbolic violence and all of these serve different functions within a narrative.

Specifically shows like The Walking Dead to balance between all of these different types of violence which serve different purposes  and have different rules and techniques.

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