Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Southfield July 21, 2014 Regular City Council Meeting

Regular City Council Meeting held in Southfield, Michigan on July 21, 2014
Topics Include

  • A Tax Abatement From Maxitrol
  • A Tax Abatement for Federal-Mogul
  • A Site Plan For the Miracle League Concessions Building

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Southfield City Council July 21, 2014 Committee of the Whole Meeting

City Council Meeting Held In Southfield Michigan on July 22, 2014

Topics Include

  • 11-Mile and Inkster Construction
  • Administrative Changes to the Building Department and the Involvement of an Evaluation Firm

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Frozen, Paranorman, Jumanji and Bullies AKA. Life Sucks But That Doesn't Mean You Have To Be an Asshole About It (Spoilers Abound)

Okay so upon supsequent viewing Frozen is actually getting better to me. Partially because I'm in the head space for it right now. Like I said I really really like Elsa and Frozen almost seems to be written as a guide book on how I and people like me should deal with certain hang ups.

So yeah that made me tear up a little. At its core its a movie about dealing with isolation and the fear of not being accepted as who you are.  I almost wish I had this thing 20 years ago. The closest I got as a kid was Jumanji.

Part of me doesn't want to talk about that movie as it would wind up being 1500 words of "I have daddy issues" and God knows I've done that enough but yeah it warrants a talking about. So the movie is about Alan a kid who gets the crap kicked out of him on a daily basis and goes to his dad for protection. And his dad, though well meaning gives him the worse advice he could and Alan goes along with it knowing exactly what's going to happen because the kids outside aren't the only bullies he has to deal with.

Yep the movie makes this explicit by having the big antagonist, at least the big human antagonist anyway be a caricature of everything Alan fears (which also happens to be a lot of my own hang ups) about his Dad, being even played by the same actor and his "victory" at the end of the movie is a great big ole metaphor for him gaining the guts to stand up to him.

I'm kind of jealous of kids today. In my day most of the media we had about how to deal with bullies was crap advice that had no real meaning. The sort of pandering touchy feely crap that would get your ass kicked. Yes you should stand up to bullies but not because standing up to them will magically make it stop and make them your friends but because not standing up to them and giving them the power to control your day or when things get really bad your life is no way to live.   All the same as an authority figure I do feel kind of guilty.

See as a substitute teacher I can't always act as the ref I would like to be, putting an end to the bulling that kind of messed me up as a kid. I don't have the benefit of knowing the class well enough to figure out who started an inciting incident if I don't actually catch it myself and in a class that mostly doesn't respect me anyway with kids who may or may not be doing things that are actually dangerous that demand my immediate attention often the best I can hope for is to try to do damage control as fairly as I can in the name of order. There is nothing in the universe that hates order more than a class of rowdy 1st graders.

I don't want to harp on it but it bears saying the hardest challenge of that job, at least for me, is figuring out how to divvy out attention to students who need it, deserve it, and demand it. And well sometimes that slider just can't pan out as well as I would like it to.

For instance sometimes there is a student who wants and is accepting help on an assignment but my attention gets grabbed from them by the student flicking crayons at everybody in the back row and I have to spend 10 minutes in a stupid circular argument with that guy because he's keeping everybody else from getting anything done and left unchecked will cause... well one of those inciting incidents I was talking about.

And I would be lying if I didn't say that as a member of the human species, I have my limits too. Sometimes a stupid kiddy fight is obviously a stupid kiddy fight and I just can't help but be annoyed that so much trouble is being caused by something as small as losing/borrowing/stealing a pencil. Once I had to negotiate giving away 5 of my own stock to stop a fight in its tracks.

Part of me would like to ban pencils for all the fights they've caused but then that would be bad. And for the record as a guy who was there I know that sometimes a fight about a pencil isn't really a fight about a pencil. All the same...

But back to the movies.

So Frozen hit me at juuust the right time, with just the right script, to give me an emotional gut punch but I feel the movie in one regard didn't have guts to follow through.

See both the marketing and the narrative itself plays with the idea of Elsa going evil. Basically saying screw all ya'll and becoming well the "Snow Queen" but in the movie itself Elsa never seems to go in that direction, not even a little. Sure she's frustrated and sometimes angry but she never seems to be wrong in that frustration and anger. Remember she didn't freeze Arendelle on purpose and is just as panicked as everybody else when she realizes the trouble she caused.

To put it another way Elsa never goes dark.  I'm going to be honest all the bullying and crap I went through has made me somewhat of a jaded cynical bastard. And there was a period of my life and mentality, which yes does on occasion come back when I'm pissed enough, where all of that stuff caused me to be apathetic and mildly amoral. Let's just say on my bad days I look and sound a like like Al Swearengen.

Most of my idealism or what idealism I have left is in effect me trying to fight my own demons and somehow wind up on the side  of the angels come the last battle.

But you know what movie did have the way to go full Nelson on that one. Where the villain is somebody who got screwed with too many times and for legitimate reasons now just wants to watch the world burn.

See the thing that solves the problem in Paranorman is that the protagonist is just enough like the villain and sees enough of himself in her to want to help her. I don't mean he wants to help her raze the town. Nope he wants to help her land on her feet. He knows what she's doing now isn't right but how she was treated before wasn't right either. There has to be a middle path and the movie finds it. Forgiveness. In the third act his brave brilliant decision is to try to talk to "The Witch" and get her to forgive the slights against her and move past it all, to get her to a place where she is no longer an enemy to all of humanity, is what provides the movie with it's best possible outcome.

While Paranorman is a good but not great movie the decision to basically make the big climatic action fight basically talking someone with legit beef out of a locked room took some balls. There are so many easier paths to story could have taken and for the first half, yeah that looked like that was the way it was going to go, but nope they took the hard one.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Just So We're Clear on One of The Reasons Why I Like Frozen

Skip to about 4 minutes in. Oh and by the way when winter comes and ice has mucked up the porch steps who do you think spends hours trying to hammer, pick, chop and whatever it is off. Part of me would like to take a blowtorch to it but then it would just refreeze worse and there are other concerns. Nope playing with fire is bad.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Southfield July 14, 2014 City Council Meeting

July 14, 2014 Southfield City Council Meeting
Topics Include

  • Michigan Ballot Proposal 1
  • The Brownfield Plan For the Former St. Bede Property
  • The Miracle League Concession Building
  • Smart Zone Economic Development

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Michigan State Representative Discusses Michigan Proposal 1 With Southfield CIty Council

On the August 2014 Ballot Proposal 1 Will Be Put To the Voters. According to the Detroit Free Press It Reads

The amendatory act adopted by the Legislature would:
1. Reduce the state use tax and replace with a local community stabilization share of the tax for the purpose of modernizing the tax system to help small businesses grow and create jobs in Michigan.
2. Require Local Community Stabilization Authority to provide revenue to local governments dedicated for local purposes, including police safety, fire protection, and ambulance emergency services.
3. Increase portion of state use tax dedicated for aid to local school districts.
4. Prohibit Authority from increasing taxes.
5. Prohibit total use tax rate from exceeding existing constitutional 6% limitation.
Should this law be approved?

On July 14, 2014 Michigan State Representative Vicki Barnett (Dem) and a representative from the Michigan Municipal League made a presentation to the Southfield City Council in hopes of explaining the ballot language and what the proposal will do.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Anime Review: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: First Gig (Holy Navel Gazing Batman Oh and Spoilers)

So I want to talk about my favorite western  animated movie. Except I already did. Titan A.E.

Ah good times.

So let's see what else do I have to work with? Screw it. Wagons East!

Let's get with that cyberpunk night I promised myself.

Okay so when ever I talk cyberpunk I'm probably going to name drop one of two things. But here is something you have to remember. I came of age in the minst of the anime boom so I didn't see Blade Runner until college. Cut me some slack. It was made before I was born. But you want to know what I did see.

Even then, while I like the movie, what blew my mind was the series, Stand Alone Complex. And it hit right around the time when I was becoming interested in computers and the internet was starting to look more or less like it does now.

See in the early 2000's the internet was starting to become a thing everybody had and used. You didn't have to explain what email was anymore you could just ask, "what's your email address". And the show seemed to be the best I'd seen at articulating all of the changes I saw around me.

How this non-physical space which until now was thought of as wholly separated from reality now was affecting the world in ways that could no longer be ignored as distinct from that reality.

This show reads like Nostradamus' quatrains.

And it was damn cool. Oh classic Adult Swim how I miss thee.

Seriously my 16-year-old head exploded.

Largely I think the reason was the world it created. Ghost in the Shell presents a world where the digital has been so integrated into society that it's impossible to view it as distinct from it. There is no longer a line separating digital avatars and the actions they take in that space versus their real world counterparts. And yeah that's where I thought and still think the world is headed. It's our future and arguably our present. I may have separate email and twitter accounts but all of them still represent different aspects of real world me as I act through them.

Let's Meet Section 9
So the show and the movie largely revolve around with the adventures of Public Security Section 9, a cyber-terrorism task force as they try to do their jobs.

That job is largely to protect the status quo, to keep the bad guy of the day from using, abusing, manipulating, or revealing the types of information that sort of networked world makes available for those with the skill and interest in it.

The first episode deals with the group trying to stop a terrorist from using a politician's, Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs, sexual fetishes to kidnap him and pull a Manchurian Candidate by swapping out his brain case. Or in real world terms think about all the shit that could happen if President Obama's cell phone got hacked. All the texts, emails and tweets that would carry presidential authority before anybody figured out it wasn't actually him.

Which is why secret service protocol is the POTUS doesn't get a iPhone.

Almost nobody is going tell someone they think is the president no. Think of all the the crazy insan...that's the plot for another movie me thinks.

Alright but let's do this

Aramaki- He's the brains of the outfit. He's an older dude and doesn't do much field work but has the Rolodex-O-Power. Whenever our guys need assurances that they won't be punished for breaking protocol, going outside of the chain of command or eventually going after government corruption Aramaki, the Chief is the guy who makes it happen.

He also tends to be the smartest guy in the room and remember this is a political thriller featuring g-men, hackers, and cabinet ministers so that's saying something. The reason why he has that Rolodex-O-Power is because everybody knows he's probably the smartest guy in all of Japan at least when it comes to sheer clock speed. Once he has the pieces he can figure just about anything out, and formulate a counter plan that will take everybody else about 10 minutes of story time to understand let alone foil.

Despite that he's mostly in the background acting as the big good when the rest of the team can't figure things out by themselves. Since he's thought of as being the the country's intellectual powerhouse he's a busy guy and can't micromanage them. His showing up is normally the cue that things have the potential to get really bad and that somebody on the inside might be working against them.

The Major- She has a name, Matoko Kusanagi nobody calls her by it so I'm not. She is the face of the franchise and is normally the mouthpiece for all of its heady philosophy. Case in point in almost every version of Ghost in the Shell she is mildly insecure about the fact that she's a cyborg and her body is almost completely artificial.  Is this Robocop still human? How much of her is her. Or to get into specifics. She could choose just about any model that's functional but tends to stick with a female casing. Why? In a lot of ways she is the eponymous Ghost in the Shell.

That having been said while its still there that is not the focus of her character here. At least the human after all bit. For that watch the movie.

She's professional and somewhat aloof but when shit hits the fan it's clear her team matters to her. She's a cipher and a good portion of her arc is about her team figuring her out.  Realizing that though it might not look like it she is more than just the job. She may hide it but she does have it in her to be sentimental.

In a lot of ways her personality is like a younger more physical Aramaki. She's still smart, probably the second smartest person in any room featuring her boss but she is also the show's highest ranking field agent. In the action scenes she's the one leading the charge and giving commands.

Aramaki may come up with the plan but The Major executes it, flawlessly I might add.

Batou- He has a few roles. First off he's The Major's best friend being the only person to really call her by her name and as such is the person on the team most likely to give her the benefit of the doubt when the plan calls for some risks. He's the walking proof that she isn't the unfeeling robot the series makes her out to be.

All the same he is also probably the guy with the most military experience and questions authority the most often as he and people he cares about have been screwed over A LOT.

Overall the plot is about the team making the decision that the status quo, which it's their job to protect, on occasion isn't always worth protecting and he's the guy who is most outraged at government corruption as it is soldiers like him who end up paying the price when policy gets set by self-interest and personal greed. These are the guys he risks his life to protect and more potently cover for?

In general he tends to be the most emotional of the group. Everyone else is able to stay detached, stoic. But Batou feels. And through that feeling regrets. Why do people, why do we, keep making the same mistakes? When tragedy hits he's the guy who takes it the hardest because he feels he was in a position to do something about it and didn't.

Togusa: The thing about Togusa is that he has the least prosthetics and cybernetics of anyone of the team. The show downplays The Major's human after all act for Togusa's mild inferioity complex. This show was made nearly a decade after the movie and in this day and age not having computers puts you at a disadvantage.

All the same Togusa acts as the heart of the team. Without all of that "gear" risks for him are more real than they are to the rest of the team and everybody knows it.  When he says, "this must be done and if you won't I will" it signals how important things are, and can force the team to question themselves and enter action.

He also rounds out the team being the most normal of them. He's the guy who closest to the series' probable audience, a running joke is that he is a guy from another age, an old-school cop and family man who wouldn't feel out of place in Lethal Weapon, who holds his own among these machine men who can bench probably three times as much as he can.

While there are others on the team these are the most important and have the most distinct personalities.

Trans-humanism and Digital Dualism
So while there is a plot the first few episodes serve introduce the world and get the audience used to the series' motifs.

The big innovation of the series is cyberization. The interfacing of the human brain directly to computers by mapping and grafting the biological onto the digital. And what makes the series tech even more interesting is that they've taken it further. Since the human brain is basically a computer it can interface directly with other brains.

This is fundamental change in the human experience.

The mind apart from perhaps the body is the most intimate space I can imagine. One of my common idioms is "My head is a dangerous place". If I were to invoke God or something and go for a tree of knowledge metaphor, which I won't because the tech in this show is so damn cool and I don't like saying there are places science shouldn't go, this would be it.

Opening up your mind directly to the rest of the world is dangerous and the show explores that in depth but also relishes all the stuff it allows our protagonists to do. The entire world becomes a GUI but its more than that. Its complete augmented reality. Sounds, sensations, recorded thoughts and impressions. All of that can be used to improve the experience of life.

In this show a director who can't find funding creates the perfect movie in his mind. The movie is so splendid that people spend their entire lives interfacing with his brain preferring to die than walk out of the flick.

Still though a door once opened can be walked through in either direction.

The only thing keeping our brains from being hacked now is that we don't have machines that can interface with them and that acts as a natural firewall. If I really wanted to build the most secure network on the planet I would probably build it out of old gear nobody knows how to program anymore and is incompatible with modern languages anyway.  Of course that would severely limit its functionality, bringing into question the old security vs convenience dilemma. There is a reason why nobody still uses punch cards.

What happens when the mind itself is no longer private, when it rather than the body becomes the interface through which we interact with the world?

Since the transmission of data and ideas has become so easy we are living in a world where more and more those ideas and the minds that birthed them are less and less limited by the physical body. The sound of my voice is not bound by the the location of my mouth.

All the same the body isn't completely divorced from my concept of self. I am both more than my mind and more than my body. In a world where the tools we use to interact with the world are digital constructs and fabrications what role does our physical biological bodies play?

We are living in a world where the mind and the ideas it creates do on occassion live divorced from the body. I write a lot. Would it be possible after my death for somebody to reconstruct my mind from my recorded thoughts. THIS AINT CAPRICA MILES. Though there is that one episode where a South American guerrilla clones his mind and sticks the copies into prosthetic bodies to keep the spirit of revolution alive after his many assassinations.

Anyway like I said the show didn't have to work very hard to make it's point of digital transhumanism. That's not its purpose if your watching your probably already in the mindset to explore the division between the physical body and the digital mind. And that was what the movie and original manga were for anyway.

What You Know, What You Think You Know, and What Is
Part of me wishes J-schools would be bold enough to show this thing in class and analyze it. Part of Section-9's job is to deal with things before they get to the media. And we get more than a few information wars in this show.

Since Aramaki has everybody in his contact list he's generally the most informed about everything and has to make decisions on who needs to know what and also when he needs to straight up lie in order to manipulate someone for the greater good.

He has to predict what people will do with the information available to them and also assume everyone else is doing the same calculus as he is.   He's king of psyops and information misdirection. Like I said clock speed.

See as I said a lot of the episodes deal with political blackmail, so nobody wants to tell him everything even when not knowing is going to put his guys in danger or risk the operation. So as the group in the field finds stuff out he often has to bluff how much he knows and how much he doesn't to get a fuller picture, and on occasion also bluff that things are bad enough that he would or in some cases already has gone to the press, since we're talking some career ending stuff here.

Of course the press is mostly state controlled anyway so even then he has to do political calculus. How important is the g-man of the week to the political status quo and how likely is it the system will save him? How expendable are these guys?

Also how good is whoever he's bluffing at jumping through the same logic hoops he is. How well are they able to assess their own political importance and how much should he arm twist before the people around him realize he's got nothing.

Or on the other end of things if he overplays his hand he becomes more of a problem than a solution and even bigger fish might come around to swallow him whole. While people tend to keep him around because he solves problems they also don't like that they need him so there is always the chance that if he steps too far out of line scary things will happen. It's not paranoia when four out of five characters are espionage agents that probably hate his guts and would prefer to permanently seal the vault that is his mind. Though that's stuff is mostly the 2nd Gig (season).

The Laughing Man
I'll get to who The Laughing Man is later but right now I want to talk about what The Laughing Man is.

Anything digital can be manipulated. Especially in transit from one computer to another. It's that simple. The Laughing Man is a superhacker who has godlike power in this digital world because he can hack directly into people's brains. Again the transmission of digital data has implications for the physical world.

And we're not just talking about the obvious make 'em do what you want type deal. A hacker who's smart wants to infiltrate a system and gain access to its information. Sure a computer's credentials on a larger network might be useful but the valuable thing is the information and data contained within, and if a hacker reveals himself the opportunity to gain more of it will be lost as security is increased.  Or think about it like this. What if your head had a key logger. And we're not just talking your internal monologues. Every visual image of the eye, every sound of the ear, every sensation of the skin, every thought even the non-linguistic ones recorded and transmitted to an outside observer.

My point is that the dude is covert. Most of the people he hacks don't even realize it. Everyone's eyes literally act as his security monitors. And when he does decide to reveal himself he tends to do it in big showy dramatic ways that suggest if he wanted to he could unravel the entire government just with a few leaks.

He is Julian Assange four years before Julian Assange became a thing.

You want to know why people are afraid of that guy watch this show. Oh and the proto-metephor goes deeper but I'll get to that later.

He directly hacks into observers brains and any digital cameras and superimposes his logo over the face of whoever he's using as his puppet so nobody even knows what he looks like.

Since the guy is basically a digital god, in the omniscient, omnipresent sense, the powers that be are scared shitless.

It doesn't help that the guy has gone full on ubermench believing himself to be beyond morality or at least morality as espoused by the government. Well to be honest that's the show in general. As cops our protagonists, especially at first aren't really concerned about  the right or wrong of things. They're job is to enforce the law and protect the government. Morality has little to do with it. It's not their place to judge.

All the same and this the thing that makes him so scary and is key to the case, nobody understands his M.O. Why does he do the things he does? What are his goals? What is his endgame? What does he want?

When The Laughing Man is introduced, the show explains that he's been quiet for six years so nobody was expecting another incident, again adding to their fear when he does show up. You never know when he'll strike and he can't be bargained with.

The Major At Home
You know I want to talk about the scene where the Major is expositioning about the Laughing Man a bit. It's one of the few times we see the Major off the clock when she's reflecting on the case and as such reveals the most about her outside life of the job.

She's relatively well off living in a penthouse above the city, is a lesbian or at the very least is bi and is a bit of a hedonist when off the clock.  The big subtle reveal is that its implied that she's in a polygamous relationship with two girlfriends.

Part of me wants play a lot off that as fan service but it serves the purpose of telling us about who she is outside of the office.

"The Major" is a role she takes on at work, but isn't the whole of who she is.  And the same can be said about her home life as well. It's unclear how "serious" either of these relationships are yet its also clear that there is a genuine affection there.

Since her body isn't her body she doesn't have the hangups most people have about it. It's a piece of hardware to be explored. Or at least that's what I tell myself when she spends half of the series in a "camosuit" that requires her to be half naked, with the exception of a leather jacket over let's call it a tubetop and stockings. Oh god I am a pig.

That said for her character it doesn't feel as exploitative as it usually would since she has brains and a personality and is more than just eye candy. Also I feel all of that other stuff I mentioned is trying make an overt statement about how we attach unnecessary meaning to sexuality. The body is a nothing more than a physical tool to interact with the world but it is not her at least not the important irreplaceable part of her self.

Where We're Headed
While the plot of the show is about the laughing man the show takes its time exploring the ways in which the world has changed to give him so much power.  Let's explore.

Information Is The Reality
In order for society to work instructions and information have to be transmitted. And that transmission is often accepted as a proxy for its source or even its subject. Think about it like this. If I tell you to do something you don't think about the fact that before my voice reaches your ears it has to travel through the medium of air. I am still the one who gave you the command.

Since like it or not we live in communal society communication is necessary and that communication always travels through a medium. Is always transmitted. CAN ALWAYS BEEN HACKED!

How many times have kids played the well so and so "said it was alright game".  Kids don't think about communication theory! They don't think how the operator on the switchboard could control the ... (Miles you're at an eleven I need you at about four.  Remember that thing you said about not wanting to turn in to Izaya aka the guy who talks people into committing suicide by preying on personal information and nearly destroys his home town through rumor mongering both for shits and giggles. Don't be that guy. If Larry Page can control his inner Blofeld so can you. Dude don't be evil.)

Anyway this is made all the more clear by the political structures of the show. How and when they act is based on intelligence. The information they have on hand. It's not the reality they act on but rather the information. The information. The interpretation of available transmittable evidence, is what matters.

The Mind Divorced From The Body
Let's talk transhumanism for a moment. Transhumanism is the idea that sometime probably within our lifetimes the human body and by extension the human experience will transcend the strictly biological. Prosthetic limbs, pacemakers, hearing aids, and voice boxes are already common how long before more complicated organs and even the entire body become so as well.

Since people are no longer strictly limited by biology the body itself has lost some of its importance and is viewed as more of an interface or output device to allow the mind interact with the real world.

I never think of my monitor or my printer as my computer and view both as pretty interchangeable. Further more like with communication in general information has to be transmitted from the CPU to them. Somebody could totally screw with your display drivers and basically brick ... I got to try that..

What happens when people can swap their bodies which have become just another piece of hardware?

All the same those devices are still expensive. Part of the reason why Matoko joined the military in the first place is that when she was young her body was damaged beyond repair and her gig gives her access the best gear. She's keenly aware other folks are often not so lucky. Their minds, their self, is not so easily divorced from the body.

And despite herself neither is hers. Organ trafficking pisses her off something fierce. All the same the job often requires her to use another body when she goes undercover. Since she is going undercover and has to keep up the act it is really difficult to tell that she is herself and the show often asks the question is she.

Synthetic Manufacturing And The Internet of Things
So again we're in a world where the idea is more important than the physical product. For instance the instruction to build a product are often more valuable than the physical product itself because the template can be used to recreate it.  Or at the least create a satisfactory facsimile. Words are more valuable than paper because its the sequence of words on the page that give the book meaning.

All the same in the case of humanity can a facsimile ever replace the original. If I could create a perfect copy of myself would I be able to still call that copy me.  We would not just have the same body but we have the same thoughts as well. The exact same thoughts.  If two books contain all the same words in all the same order we consider them to still be the same book. But would we do the same with people?

Probably not because experience alters us. But let's look at things another way. Let's go sideways.

Fabrication of Identity
Early on it becomes clear that we might be dealing with a copy cat. That's the reason why its so hard to get a bead on The Laughing Man's MO. The reason why that can even occur is because identity itself exists. Like I said before in this world we communicate but lets go more broadly. We act. And those actions are almost always associated to a source. What made the laughing man interesting is that early on his actions never had a clear source. A clear agent.

Stuff would just happen. And in that way The Laughing Man didn't exist because he didn't have an identity. Since his actions weren't associated with him he did not act in the world.

Then he got angry and reckless. There are reasons. But later. The association between action and identity is in and of itself data that can be manipulated and when that association can be made. When it becomes clear that these actions do have an agent and that they can be associated to that agent they give him an identity. And that association itself can be hacked.  That identity can be hacked.

Okay let's say you have a guy who posts anonymously on a message board.  While he never reveals is name or any personal information it becomes clear that its the same guy because of certain ticks.  Since the only information anybody has about the guy are the posts those, posts become what identify the person as an agent. 

Since those actions don't have a physical body to be connected to the identity isn't of that of the physical author but of the abstract construct author.

This show predicted the future.

The Stand Alone Complex
But let's take it further. Let's say that thought is in and of itself an action. So is my identity merely the aggregate of all of my actions rather than any physical form? And if it is am I a sum of all the actions associated with me not just the ones that I initiate. My actions are the instructions. The blueprint for my identity.

What if I gave someone permission to tweet on my behalf. They in a sense would become me. Or is my concept of myself based wholly on my own will? I'm making my brain hurt and I'm only on episode 10.

By the way this is the show's eponymous stand alone complex. How actions taken by multiple agents can come together to form a singular identity and how in the modern collaborative environment the individual is a myth. This is why you can't kill Pirate Bay or Wikileaks and why trying to destroy Anonymous is impossible.

Taken even further this the direction of modern warfare where nobody and anybody can claim to be responsible for military action. Where the identity of combatants aren't based on the bodies on the ground and the physical associations of their actions, but the actions themselves making negotiation almost impossible.

This Show Predicted The Future

This by the way is why anti terrorism is a job for the police and not the military. The best you can hope for is the prosecution of individual acts rather than the neutralization and victory over entire organizations. In this new paradigm there will never be the last of anything. Some idiot will always claim to be a part of Al-Qaeda. And if you say you're Anon you're Anon. The struggle for stasis is never ending and in and of it self requires flux.

The actions themselves matter more than their supposed source. And the entire show is about Section 9 figuring that out.

Who Is The Laughing Man
Strap in kids this is going to get complicated. When humanity started digitizing their brains there was a small percentage of patients whose  brains would reject the process, hardening and slowly killing them. A doctor found a cure or at the very least a preventative treatment for the disease,  But that treatment used old school biological techniques that were out of vogue verses the series more modern nano machine technology so the powers that be sabotaged it for the sake future health industries.

A LOT of people died, because of that chicanery. Even then the machine treatment had its own share of risks and its hinted the biological one in some ways might be better.

The big wigs who were holding the treatment back were using it, unwilling to forgo the cure. They saved themselves at the expense of everybody else for money.

Originally The Laughing Man's or at least the man identified as the laughing man, it gets weird,  goal was to gather enough evidence to blow the lid off this thing. His hope was that if he went to the right people with what he knew they would rather stop suppressing the treatment and give people a choice rather than have the truth come out and deal with all the subsequent scandals. Even if it wouldn't bring the people who died back it might reduce a lot of suffering.

He kidnapped the director of  a nanomachine pharmaceutical company that had recently received the go ahead from this stories version of the FDA and was cited as a reason why the biological treatment wasn't needed. The two talked for a few days in rather interesting intellectual debates, and actually came to respect one another but the cops viewed the incident as corporate terrorism, which yeah it was.

After that plan backfired the original guy Aoi calmed down and decided to just give up and disappear. You just can't beat city hall.

That's why nobody's heard from him for 6 six years.

All the same the attack made the guy a hero and icon to anybody who had beef with the government or capitalism in general.  A bunch of copycats crop up reinvigorating his will to fight. He doesn't like that a lot stuff he disagrees with is being done in his name, especially corporate theft.  And feels that he has a duty to carry out his original plan to make up for all the chaos his antics have unleashed. In his mind what he was doing was about saving lives not money and it makes him sick that people are using his methodology for things like theft and assassination.

When it become clear that he actually is back the powers that be decide to do everything they can do discredit him so that when he does eventually go public nobody will believe him. Furthermore they were using the threat of this boogie man to manipulate the public as well as stock prices.

We have a classic false flag operation on our hands.

An investigation was given to the cops, not Section 9 mind you, but guys a little lower on the ladder. They weren't suppose to find anything out just give the public a good dog and pony show, maybe do a few press conferences about the threat of cyber brain hacking but when they do get close there are some "mysterious accidents".

One of those guys was a friend of Togusa's and he's not going to let it go, especially when it becomes clear that those guys were being illegally bugged. Togusa's friend called him when he thought things were getting too hot. Look you know how these things go. Dude dies in a bridge accident 6 hours later.

While there is some evidence of foul play its still not Section 9's  case and they really don't want to get involved. But Togusa keeps digging deeper and deeper get his ass kicked more and more until he ends up shot and on a hospital bed.

If what he was into was worth taking a bullet everybody else feel they owe it to him to take a look.

And that's good plot but let's talk about the head stuff.

The guy, or at least the original guy never named himself in his operations. Again he didn't want to be found out."The Laughing Man" was invented by everybody else. The Laughing Man is a construct distinct from its original agent. An amalgamation of anybody who wanted to bare the identity, even the bad guys.

When things get bad and its clear shit has hit the fan the original guy completely repudiates that identity. He wants to kill it but can't because it isn't him anymore.

You can't destroy an idea and that's what The Laughing Man has become as much as his creator Aoi regrets it. A construct not bound by flesh and blood but only by the actions associated with him.

Despite that the story frames him as good but fundamentally flawed, a modern Holden Caulfield with all the same personality problems. He acts as an arrogant rebellious teenage without thought to the consequences of his actions merely his disgust of the status quo and all of the "phonies". Except unlike Holden his skillset gives him the power to act as a catcher in the rhy, guiding the innocent from the path of sin or at least it does to him.

One reading of that novel is that Holden's quest futile and that his problems arise because he's fooled himself into believe that it is possible to walk the path of the righteous man, never compromising in this world which demands the compromise nessisary for the societal living that kept us alive when the universe wants to eat us.

And in a way so have Aoi's problems. The last few episodes are about him realizing how much damage that delusion has caused and trying to do what's in his power to minimize the damage.

Another interesting bit is that what got Aoi involved his reading of a document. A document which he didn't author. All though its convenient to call him the original laughing man he's not. He's just one more guy who's actions contributed to to the constructed identity that is The Laughing Man and the show never reveals who actually wrote the document that kicked this whole thing off.

Game On
Back to Section 9 once they actually do start investigating The Laughing Man Case seriously, with their rep, IT IS ON!

No more information wars, misdirection, media propaganda. Nu ah. Its an us or them dogfight. Especially once Section 9 is legally force. It's basically as if congress decided to outlaw the CIA and put the entire organization on trail  oh and forget modern prosecutions we're talking old school Knights Templar style . How do you think that would play. A boom boom boom.

And don't make the mistake of thinking that these guys would just going be reassigned to other agencies with a few prosecutions of the top dogs.  Ha ha ha. NO. What type of dystopian future would it be if that were the case. Section 9 is too dangerous to let go civilian. The weapons training, the intelligence. You don't want that to just be in the wind. Even before the legal stuff they tried to assassinate Aramaki, The Major, and well Togusa was already on his death bed. The only reason they made it out then was the intervention of Aoi and his interference gives the other team a pretext go at 'em sideways or rather stop going after them sideways.

Once that happens they bring out the heavy hardware. Or do they?

All of stuff happening put the powers that be in a corner where hey couldn't hide the original disease scandal any longer. Once that happened its clear who's going to fall on their swords and since Section 9 which has been publicly disbanded they can go back to their original purpose, covert ops.

And that's where the first season ends.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Film 101: The Three Act and Five Act Structure and Revisiting Frozen (Spoilers)

Okay so I kind of want to explain the three act structure but to do that it might also be a good idea to explain the five act structure.

So in study classical Greek drama as well as Shakespearean drama which was deliberately trying to evoke classical archetypes scholars found the trend of the five act structure, or Freytag's pyramid. While what's being taught in schools today is mostly Freytag's the 5 act structure has been a centerpiece of drama for a long time being formalized way back in Rome. Though I tend to think that modern teachers tend to be too literal about it applying it and asking students to apply it to non-classical stories or less traditionally structured stories.

All the same, it's a tool to help people understand narrative and on occasion better write it. Even without taking it literally the pyramid helped create the language we use to describe and understand narrative.

It consists of

Exposition- This is the part of the drama that tells the audience what they need to know in order to have context for the central conflict. It includes, explanations of characters, their relationships, setting, backstory, macguffins all that jazz.

The Rising Action- This is the part of the story where stuff typically first starts to happen. Now that the audience has an understanding of the status quo it can be shaken up as the plot forces things to change. Think about it like this. In Othello we the audience know Iago is doing a bunch of stuff behind the scenes long before anybody else does.  But we don't really start to see the effects of his machinations on Othello, Othello's doubts about Desdemona's fidelity and the beginning of his repudiation of her until Act 3 and .

The Climax- What makes the climax the climax is that it's more or less the point of no return. It's the moment in the plot where it's obvious there is a plot. In modern jargon it's become synonymous with the biggest point in a story and while that's not exactly right it does make a certain amount of sense. The climax is generally where most of the big changes in characters and settings are realized. The place where the conflict, crisis, and problems of the story are made explicit.

The Falling Action- This is generally the point where the conflict of the story that was made explicit in the climax plays out.   In a lot "movie speak" this is what people would often refer to as the climax. Though it's weird. This typically is the big show piece battle in your blockbusters.

The Resolution/Catastrophe/Denouement a bunch of other names- So the conflict has played out the day has been won, but what now. In dramatic terms this is all about getting things back to "normalcy" and describing what happens to characters after their ordeal. What do they do after the problem of the story has been solved or in the case of tragedy has played out?

So in the old days this was how you structured a story, and to a degree it still is. But around the mid 1800s playwrights aka those guys who would become screenwriters started playing around with the idea that you didn't need to have literally 5 clearly delineated acts.  Still though having a beginning middle and end to a story makes sense and just seems to be how people naturally write and conceive narrative.

Thus the  five act structure became the three act structure.

One of the reasons why its important is that it helps writers budget their narrative time. How long do I have to explain things to the audience? How much time do I need to resolve the ending? How much time do I have to faff about with all the cool plot stuff? And the answer for all of it is about a third of the narrative.

The First Act- Mostly consists of exposition and typically ends with the falling action.

Second Act- This is mostly about the dramatic climax ending at the darkest point of the film. Big showy onscreen character death is normally a clear signal that we're exiting the second act and entering the third.

The Third Act- Goes about resolving things, fixing the problems established in the second act.

Let's go for a twofer and do this with Frozen.

Frozen's First Act
So obviously that whole little kids segment falls well within the movie's first act It explains who these two crazy kids are, what Elsa's powers are and what her and for that matter Anna's hang ups are, their relationship and dynamics with each other, and their parent's death. But I would also argue that it extends a little bit into the ball,  where we get to see who Weasleton and Hans are and get to see more of Anna's genki personality. "Do You Want to Build A Snow Man" may be sung by Anna but it's all about explaining Elsa while "For the First Time in Forever" is really about introducing Anna herself to the audience.

We also get a meet cute. While not particularly dramatic it does set up the events that will later create the big conflict of the story. That these two are courting each other and more importantly how they met is necessary context for later events, especially after Hans' reveal.

It also sets up all of the plot's red herrings to not only give later events narrative context but emotional context. While I might not dig the movie as much as I feel I should, it does have brilliant twists and they wouldn't be as brilliant if the movie didn't do such a job of making the audience feel like they have it figured out in the first act.

And also feel okay with what they figured out. If the movie was just a love story between Hans and Anna within the usual Disney framework there is a good chance the audience would still have dug it so the movie does it's damnedest to make them think that's the movie they're getting until it can't. .

So the first act more or less ends with Hans' proposal, Elsa's not blessing and her retreat to Da Mountain.

Frozen's Second Act
With that it becomes clear that there is an overt problem that needs to be solved. I need my guy mountain so... hey.

The world is the world. But I am the wolf that roams the mountain. He who travails the storm to devour his enemies. Alone and unknowable. A force to be feared, for once unleashed this beast, voracious and insatiable, is destined to devour the world. I AM FENRIR, SON OF LOKI! I am now bound by choice, but when these chains are broken Ragnarok shall be hence and all shall know this beast and my name shall have been earned.
Dogs are better than people. Rex don't you think that's true. Yeah people will beat you and curse you and cheat you... everyone of them's bad except you. ...But people smell better than dogs. Rex don't you think I'm right.  I miss my dog. He always got me out of my funks. Rex listened. He had to or no treat, though his dookie was a pain to deal with.

Miles. Back to Frozen. Right.

So with "Let It Go" the plot of the movie can get going. Anna knows more or less what she has to do, journey up the mountain and get Elsa to relent in her ... let's just call it "me time". And that's what the 2nd act more or less is.

We get some banter, a few action beats, and a fun tribute to one of the best scenes in Beauty and the Beast

Speaking of which I really dig wolves.

In analyzing the structure of this thing I think I figured out my problem with it. For about half of the second act nothing interesting happens. While the chase was "cute" and the banter was funny, you could take it out and nothing in the story changes. Same with Olaf. There's about 20 minutes where nothing necessary and therefore interesting is happening. Say what you want about "Hakuna Matata" but it created a smooth transition from Kid Simba to Adult Simba and explains the character of the latter.

"When the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world."  (Miles, you're taking life advice from Timon? From Timon?)

Anyway  it's a kids movie and well without all the yucks the movie is kind of dark. You need some levity. Laugh Miles, laugh. The movie goes meta. You love that.

Eh,  but the true love thing was done better in Cinderella nearly a decade ago.

But of course "Falling in Love with Love" was sung by the "evil" step mother so as a legit critique on Disney formula eh.  The whole point of the movie is to prove her wrong.

Next they'll want me to sing "Make 'Em Laugh" and do prat falls while performing Olympic level  mugging... Like I haven't.

"Fixer Upper" has the same problem though thematically it fits and does further the red herring for the thing that solves the problems in the third act. The act of true love that saves the day is of the sisterly variety not romantic though I'm getting ahead of myself.

You could argue the second act closes when that plan bombs and bombs spectacularly and the reprise of "For the First Time in Forever"

Of course I would argue it actually ends with Hans' reveal  From there on we know more or less  who are bad guy is, what his plans are, and all what the problems that need solving are.

Like I said the second act typically ends with things being at their lowest point so the third act can go about building them back up and fixing everything. And things are pretty low. Anna's dying. Elsa's captured, Arendelle is still a barren frozen wasteland. Hans has been making papa Palpatine proud, it looks like he's going to win, and nobody knows how to fix any of it.

Frozen's  Third Act
So now things start going right. Kristoff and Sven show up to get the band back together and give the dying Anna a much needed morale boost. Elsa figured out the properties of steal at subzero temperatures. Mainly that her ice powers can let her pull a Toph.

Mystical jail breaking through metallurgy. You know you dig it.

And Anna shows up just in time to pull an epic sword block of science. The scene is almost enough to make me take back what I said about the movie lacking spectacle. I mean that stance is just visual poetry as are those shots, but two minutes of splendor, five if I count "Let It Go" just isn't enough.

So after our "falling action" battle we get a bunch of resolutions. Anna punches Hans. Olaf get's a microclimate. Weaslton gets embargoed.  Even Kristoff gets a new sled. I totally forgot about that line but the movie didn't.

Everything get's tied up in a nice little bow so the kids can blow this thing and go home.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We Need A Good Sherriff

So all my disneystalgia made me go back and revisit the tale of the patron saint of modern guile heroes and watching the simpering idiot that is Prince John made me realize something. Your story is only as smart as its stupidest character.

See part of what makes Robin (all Robins) fun is watching him run circles around the sheriff, the prince, and whoever is hunting him this go 'round. When those guys are idiots it makes it really hard to break out the a-material on the heists and con jobs.

Apart from luck there is no real suspense that these guys will get caught. If something goes wrong which it has to the marks probably won't notice if they're imbeciles. Why waste the effort when you could wing it and come out just as good.

Nope you need a smart villain. Somebody who can think almost as fast if not faster than Robin. Who can figure out and likely foil the plan. Made all the more dangerous because despite being on the right side of the law he is freed of the rules Robin plays by.

Somebody who doesn't care about collateral damage. He wants him. He doesn't care what it takes or who gets hurt. Robin is the fly in his ointment.

There is an order to things. Right or wrong there is an order. And that man defies it. Defiles it. No. That can not stand.  This Hood must be made an example. The law is the law and your king is your king and all his subjects owe him not just absolute allegiance but obedience.

This bandit thieves on his roads, and spends his gold. The gold meant for his majesty's loyal soldiers, men who risk their lives for their king. That can not stand. All the same it would be a mistake to call him a simple brigand. The people love him. They love him more than they love the law. This can not stand. Fear is a good tool but it has been tried and has been of no help against this hood.

How do we find the man who lives in the wood, who can move among the trees as the night owl and slip in and out of the castle walls as easily blighted vermin.   Do we use his pride. Do we use his lust. Do we use his wrath.

He is a thief, vice incarnate. He will succumb and when he does he will meet his noose.

Sorry I lost myself in the character for a moment.  Go chaotic good.

Movie Review: Frozen

Well Frozen was interesting. It's a good movie but I somehow feel that I don't like the movie as much as I should. I like it on a metatextual level and on an ideological level, but as a film experience I'm kind of meh. This is queuing up all sorts of other thoughts about my love of Disney and Frozen's place in the cannon. So let's go.

I'm a Disney Brat
While there are some movies that I avoided due to bad press there are very few Disney movies that I don't like. I never saw Brother Bear or Home On the Range so I'll give those the benefit of the doubt until I see them and even the other Disney movies nobody liked I dig. I actually loved the chorus in Hercules and both Atlantis and Treasure Planet are some of my favorite adventure movies.

I'll admit I've eschewed a lot of the older stuff but from about Sleeping Beauty on I love  Disney. The Great Mouse Detective, The Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood kindled my love of those respective legends. I am a sucker for the mouse. I wouldn't be as much of a fan of the BBC without Disney giving me a cliff notes as a kid.

By the way I have a Robin Hood TV/Film retrospective that I really need to finish.

Anyhow there are times when someone will say hey you just have the nostalgia goggles on but I insist no. The Lion King is one of greatest films ever made.

Despite that I find myself liking but not loving Frozen. It's better than the Princess and the Frog, as well as Tangled, but all the same I'm just not getting caught up in it.  And that's a troublesome thought. While my thoughts and opinions change it's very rare that I flat out stop liking something I've dug since before I can remember.

My favorite lunch is still grilled cheese like mama used to make them. And I'll sing "Seven Nation Army" until I die.

But up until now I've thought myself relatively immune to the nostalgia goggles.  I've always held that if let's say Aladdin came out tomorrow and I saw it I would still think it was a pretty entertaining movie despite it being targeted towards kids. I dug the hell out of How to Train Your Dragon didn't I.  And this has me questioning that. This is the first time at least with Disney fair, I'm thinking I don't like this movie as much as Aladdin not because it's a less well made movie but because that movie was so tied to my childhood at least the non-crappy parts of my childhood.

I have this feeling that despite my reservations this will probably be this generation's Lion King. THAT movie. The movie that causes grown men and women to have bar fights because everybody saw it as a kid, has an opinion on it and can't just let it... NO I am not doing it. No!

I am NOT a meme!

I'll Improvise
Another thing that makes me think a little cautious is that I didn't see this movie on the big screen and most of my Disney classics I did. I saw the Lion King was the first movie a saw in a theater more than once. Oh the 90's economy. How I miss you.

There were some shots that seemed tailored the big screen and 3D but overall the film seemed to be more based around narrative than spectacle than say Rescuers Down Under.

That's not a bad thing but it does bring down the "Wow, only the mouse house could have made this" factor. Hey remember that near escape from the cave of wonders, or that eagle flight, or that dive off that waterfall, or the feast of fools, or that avalanche, or that cheetah fight, or that water buffalo chase well there doesn't seem to be anything as big as that. The closest we really get is sleigh ride chase that's throwback to Belle's wolf chase in Beauty and the Beast but it just ain't the same.  That scene had a lot of drama and so does the this movie as a whole but a good chunk of it's humor is deconstruction of the normal Disney formula, it's dialogue often but  particularly in that scene completely ignoring the life or death drama and instead focusing on "You're engaged to a dude you just met. Who does that?" It's funny and poignant but not quite as visceral as Belle's well animated terror of being ripped apart by voracious wolves.

Seriously though the "nobility" in these movies comb kingdoms and spend hundreds of man hours and probably a shit ton of tax payer money for that girl they danced with once at that party. Must suck to be a peasant.  No schools, no aqueduct, no paved roads, no subsidized healthcare or hospital, no maritime inspections. no building code enforcement, no grain/firewood reserve for the harsh winters of let's just call it ...midevictorwardsance Europe just...

This is why hereditary monarchies that can't be held accountable the constituency are bad news. What the hell do the royals do anyway?

Nevermind. I'll give my undying allegiance to that guy and follow him to the gates of Mt. Doom. His fucked up kids probably not though.

When I Was A Young Wart Hog
Look I'm not going to do a feminist critique this as a Disney film it's already been heavily analyzed by people with better credentials both above the neck and below the waist.

But honestly I do have to say I really did relate to Elsa as a character.  One of the things I struggled with as a kid up until basically now is how much do I value the opinion of what others think of me and how much should I allow that to impact my actions. How tight should that restraining bolt be?

And at various points in my life I've gone to both extremes. Being a pathetic wallowing mass of jello desperate for the approval of authority figures, and Mr. "I'm sorry. Were you under the impression that I had a basket of free fucks to give? I gave them all away last Thursday. Hey...Hey ...Hey guys do you have the fucks I gave you a while back? Oh I'm sorry they must have lost them. Now GTFO! I don't have the time or the patience for this shit." Heck you could say that my personality is still oscillating between the two depending on how stressed I am at any particular moment.

Elsa's arc was all about finding the balance between individuality, discovery of self  and making the sorts of compromises needed to maintain personal relationships, all  while it's kind of ambiguous is she has it in her to learn to love people again which is  something I kind of still struggle with. Let's just say there is probably an alternate universe somewhere where I turned into Izaya Orhihara, screwing with people just to watch the peons squirm. I said squirm! "Let It Go" was ...damn it all to hell.

It's a good scene that's kind of cathartic for both the audience and the characters. Though overall the music in the movie does eventually start to sound kind of the same. Which I suppose is one of the reasons why I don't like it. as much as I should.  Mulan gave us both "Be a Man" and "Reflection" and I still can sing both "A Whole New World" and "Friend Like Me" from Aladdin. There is a reason why my pre-mp3 CD collection is about a fourth Disney soundtracks.

"Let it Go" on the other hand feels like the only really memorable song in this thing. Of course The Princess and the Frog had the same problem with "Friends on the Other Side" (Eh em. Miles aren't you forgetting something.)


But still there just wasn't a lot of good music in that musical. Again Frozen lacks the big show piece moments of my youth, which makes it a different beast from those movies. But I can't say all together that's bad. Again all the why "Elsa and Anna make better princesses than Belle, Aurora and even Jasmine" arguments has been worked to death so I'm not going there.

Still their plot has more to do with platonic relationships which at least in this moment haven't been drummed up so much by Hollywood fantasy as romantic ones have. (What about macho honor brotherhood relationships ... laterz) The sisters' relationship and the central conflict it provides feels more real than say "Kiss the Girl" largely because their dynamic isn't caused by wuv but their inherent character personalities and how they clash. Good drama.

You could stick anybody into Snow's glass case her movie would be the same film because ...wuv but you can't do that with either of these two.

I give Disney movies a lot of flack, despite my affection for them, but this seems to be the zenith of a trend since Belle. (You said you weren't going to do it. ) For years Disney has been trying to get onto the feminism train and this is the first movie that feels like it has more than a cursory understanding of feminist theory. Yeah Belle, Mulan and Merida kick ass and prove they can hang with and handle the boys but this feels in a way like the the first movie they made that was about the experience of being a woman coming into her own rather than just starring one. At least it feels that way to someone who is xy. So yeah it's an important movie and I can appreciate what it's trying and succeeding at doing.

But ...still no rattling rocks and zoom close up on Simba's face as doom approaches.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Film 101: The Shot and Editing

You know I've been meaning to do this for a while. Why not.

When film nerds refer to continuity editing techniques they're generally referring to techniques created early in film history to help communicate narrative and give logical, spacial, and temporal context to the things on screen. The use of editing is arguably the thing that separates a play from a screenplay and editing is the use of shots give contextualize to film.

So what is a shot. A shot is a piece of continuous film, a piece of film without cuts. Why is it important? Because film editing is the craft of putting shots together in way that gives them meaning.

The way I think of it the frame is the letter, the shot is the word, and the scene is a chapter/paragraph.

Most of the technical nuts and bolts of film happen at the level of the shot and transitions between shots, cuts. For instance when filming a conversation it's not uncommon to have the over the shoulder shot focusing on the speaker's face with the camera from the perspective of the audience is "over the shoulder" of the character not speaking.

One tool to do this is to utilize screen direction when filming the movement of characters and objects. This basically means that that the movement of objects, "between" shots needs to stay consistent. If a characters is moving to the right long enough to move off frame in the next shot they need to still be moving right. If a character moves their head to the right to look at something off screen the next shot of that object should imply that what the audience is seeing is to the right of that character.

A problem with that plagues the editor is logical spacial and temporal continuity. Since films are often shot at different times work needs to be taken so that the action between shots feels like it was taken at the same time. So for instance if you're doing takes with a coffee cup lipstick marks might be a problem, not to mention which hand an actor is holding the coffee cup in.  And clocks drive people absolutely nuts. Editing continuity requires intense attention to detail figuring out the logical position of people places and things.

One of the most important unspoken functions of a shot is to give the audience information about the relative position of the elements on screen. For instance the establishing shot is used mostly for this purpose at the beginning of a scene.  But due to how films are ... shot, i.e. the sequence of events and positions of characters and items are a facsimile, it's always important to try to convey that information visually.

One of the first films to use continuity editing was

Here lies a reasoned, measured academic discussion on The Birth of A Nation which in addition to being horribly racist is also rather quite boring and is of note only because it was one of the first films to use continuity editing ... and reignited America's fascination with the Clan.


I am off to watch The Rail Splitter split heads. Who's with me?!

Monday, June 30, 2014

I'm In The Mood For A Few Episodes of Haven (I'm a Goddamn Hippie and Oh I WILL SPOIL EVERYTHING)

So apart from all the stuff I've already said about Gotham I have this fear that it will be just another cop drama but with a Miller skin and I'm tired of those.

There is already a television series based entirely on the meta joke that by now most of these things look and feel the same.

Do I really have to make the case again? I dunwana.

If the show really wants to work it's going to have to really inject the spirit of comics into the cop formula rather than the other way around.

But really that's not my problem. At this point I'm starting to hate these kind of shows and their good-evil, black-white binary morality scale.

I get it. The law is the law. More often than not it's the best tool we have to deal with a lot of these issues. But my view is that the law and law enforcement isn't in the morality business. Or at least shouldn't be. The question of the day is how do you get to the best possible place.

That's justice. Healing rather than hunting.

Most of the time the law makes the assumption that you are fully responsible for you're actions. Most of the time that works as a decent postulate. But there are times when it doesn't. We aren't too far removed from a world where child prostitutes could be prosecuted.

That's not where I'm headed with this but it demonstrates my point.

One of the reasons why people loved The Wire so much is that is was a crash course in sociology describing how societal pressures can push people into making unsavory life decisions and largely avoided that good guy-bad guy binary all the while not letting people wholly off the hook for their decisions.

But this isn't about The Wire. This about another, "cop" show that seems to get it.

Let's talk about Haven.

Haven is a paranormal cop show. But with a twist. It uses the various "powers" as a metaphor for various types of mental illness.  How do you get to a good place when people aren't fully responsible for their actions.

For instance the first episode deals with a woman whose "episodes" which are normally manageable are getting more and more out of control after her grandmother dies. She accidentally kills a guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  She doesn't even realize she did it. It takes a while for everyone to figure out she's "causing" the problem of the week and why since she normally seems to have a handle on things and only about three of the cast know about her issues, and moreover feel her secrets aren't for them to tell. Out of death, jail, or counseling which feels the most right?

She can "control" the weather. Note the quotes there. It mostly happens when she's stressed or panicked and she doesn't generally realize when she's doing it.  She doesn't know that even the condition of being more wired than usual can make bad things happen.

Everybody has bad days but her bad days are more than that. And it's not her fault. It's just how things worked out.  At least that's how the show frames it.

Her issues directly parallel her friend's PTSD. The entire episode is getting these two people in a place where they can help each other live

Damn near makes me want to cry.

The next episode is about a kid, Bobby, who reality warps when he sleeps. The entire point of sleep is that it's when your head can safely be out of control.  When you can deal with whatever problems you have without fear or guilt.

Unlike the last episode he knows. He knows the damage that can happen when things go wrong. And so he doesn't sleep.  He figures that will give him more control when in reality it gives him less. Everything that would normally run through his head at night goes 24/7 and he can't stop it when micronaps hit.  So what is running through his head?

His foster father is kind of an ass. The Rev's adult daughter has been secretly preparing to leave and Bobby is afraid his mother figure will leave him alone with the angry drunk. Who by the way becomes a central antagonist later in the series.

At least that's the problem at first. When Bobby was a kid, well more of one, he thinks one of his episodes may have caused the car accident that killed his birth parents. The show frames that as more survivor's guilt, but things go more and more wrong he becomes more and more afraid of history repeating itself.  He tries to do everything he can think of to solve the problem on his own but it doesn't work. I-pods and caffeine drinks.

There is a solution to the problem. A way out.

Get the kid to talk to someone and get some rest.

The next episode gets a little more complex and overt about the metephor taking place mostly in a modern mental hospital.  I'm reluctant to speak on that other to say it feels honest. And heartbreaking and honest. Did I say honest.  It's about feeling powerless watching someone you care about lose who they were and trying to accept and do right by who they are.

At the hospital one guy's power accidentally manages to invert psychosis. The show starts with the patients miraculous recovery and a raving doctor. Afterwards the guy has to make a choice. Save his wife's mind or let her go for the sake of the town.

Each time she comes back she knows that the method which she comes back is hurting people and also that in the end its temporary. I have problems with the end which I won't spoil but over all it's a episode worth watching.

From there most of the crimes of the series are unintentional and the question of the day is how can the characters' "troubles" best be managed and in some cases utilized so they can live as close to a normal life as they can.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Garlic Jr. Arc is Okay (So I'm a Gohan Fanboy. Deal With It)

You know, an offhand comment I made a few days ago is rolling around in my head and I can't shake it. The Garlic Jr. Saga isn't half as bad as the DBZ fandom thinks it is. And to explain why I have to explain the essence of Gohan, Goku and Garlic Jr.  Let's go.

First off I may rip on it but well Dragon Ball Z for its nearly 300 episodes and 14 17 movies/specials was my childhood. I watched that show from the 7th grade nearly into college and when they started airing GT I watched that too.  Damn it. Though I stopped as did everyone else. Nobody likes baby.  Oh the allowances I've blown on VHS tapes so I could see stuff before it aired on TV.

I love me some Dragon Ball Z. It was the first anime I recognized as anime and not just another cartoon. That doesn't make it "good" anime but it does give it a special place in my ... cockles.

There are a lot of things that separate Dragon Ball Z from its beloved but slightly less popular predecessor. A whole mess of retcons and a tonal shift  makes the two hard to consolidate but in the manga at least they were the same series. No joke All the stuff from Dragon Ball Z is in the Dragon Ball comic. They sort of separated it out in the states to capitalize on Dragon Ball Z's growing brand recognition here, but in Japan. Dragon Ball just kept going and became Dragon Ball Z.

While there were a lot of  things that could have been the reason for the shift the going fan theory is that Gohan was originally supposed to be the protagonist.

Let me explain. Dragon Ball is the coming of age story of Goku a loose interpretation of the Monkey King. Oooooohh Son Goku. You want to know why Saiyans turn into giant rampaging apes? That's why.

I'm a ashamed to say I've never read Journey to the West. It's on my list!

His story (in theory) ends with Goku's attainment of adulthood and his marriage to his wife Chi Chi.

 Dragon Ball Z is SUPPOSED to be about the coming of age of his son Gohan.

The thing about it though is that Goku was just too popular and the story could never pass the torch. This is why Goku dies so many times. But it could never stick as fans and publishers demanded he come back.

The early Dragon Ball Z episodes have so many parallels with early Dragon Ball it's kind of nuts. I'm not just talking subtle hey this is a show based off another show either. I mean subtle visual nods that signal Gohan is the new Goku on the block.

 Except the two have radically different personalities. Gohan is kind of a reverse Korra.

Goku is kind of an idiot. Does he save the world and beat a bunch of bad guys? Yes but he never does what he does to save the world and beat a bunch of bad guys. Goku loves a challenge and even as a kid isn't afraid to go to the most powerful guy on the block, who is normally marshaling an army and kick their ass for the hell of it.

No seriously.  One of the main groups of villains are the Red Ribbon Army.

Gohan by contrast generally hates fighting and would much rather read a book or something but since he hangs out with the strongest dudes in the world keeps finding himself entangled in alien invasions and World Martial Arts Tournements.  Evidently both shows run on authority equals ass kicking. And in almost every case it comes down to a mano a mono brawl between Goku and the despot of the w... month.

Despite their personality differences. Gohan isn't weak. A lot of the fans think he's weak because of his personality and the fact that since he's not going to relentlessly train like his Dad he's "relatively" weak but he's not.

Coward's another story, at first anyway,  but come on things start when he's five. Of course there is going to be a lot of crying. It's what 5-year-olds do, damn it.  But from the start its clear that Gohan has the potential to be stronger than his Dad and by the end of the series he is.

Look we're going to be here all day if I have to recount each and every one of Gohan's moments of badassary. And I would be lying if I didn't say I related to his anger issues under his pacifist veneer. He doesn't like hurting people but also hates it when people get hurt.

Almost every villian's downfall in the series has been in some way due writing him off as just a kid and then pissing him off.

"Sorry. I snapped there for a second."

"No stay snapped! Stay snapped! Goddamn it!"

By the way that's his entire arc in the Cell saga. Learning to control and harness and control and control and control (Gohan you're starting to scare everybody) his anger. Kid's got issues. When he goes he goes hard.

As far as I know Gohan's only beaten two (Three if you count Vegeta. I do but it's a bit of a stretch.) villains in his own right though. Cell.  Which was a beat down of epic proportions. And Garlic Jr.

The Garlic Jr. arc is Gohan's. It's all about him figuring out how to save the day on his own. Not only that but in a lot of ways Garlic Jr. is his villain. Let's talk about Dead Zone, the first Dragon Ball Z movie, airing only 2 months after the start of the show. Arguably its more of a Dragon Ball movie than a Dragon Ball Z movie.

It's been awhile and its one of the weaker movies/specials. It's plot serves as an excuse to have a couple admittedly impressive for the time (1989) fight scenes. There is a reason why the series intro recycled a lot of the animation from the movies. Still, I'm not going in detail, but its the ending that's important. Garlic Jr. wins. Yeah in Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z most of the villains are trying to use the eponymous dragon balls which can grant any wish to gain immortality and Garlic Jr. is the only villain to succeed. Vegeta didn't get there. Frieza didn't get there. Pilaf didn't there. But Garlic Jr. did.

In early episodes Gohan wears the 4-star dragon ball on his hat as a commemoration of his adoptive great-grandfather whom he is named after. So he gets kidnapped for the ball and the race is off to get him back. Because giving a kid a one-of-a-kind well seven-of-a-kind, highly recognizable object that it's been known unscrupulous fellows want to steal is a good idea.  RENT A SAFETY DEPOSIT BOX GOKU! And that jokes already been made by Team Four Star.

Anyway, the only reason why our guys survived the fight is because realizing his Dad is about to die Gohan loses his shit and flings Garlic's ass into the titular dead zone. Think the phantom zone but kind of creepier.

Of course Gohan was like three, and Piccolo was still evil so nobody remembers that part. Fans or characters... Except Garlic Jr.

That's part of why I like it. Garlic Jr. is clearly Gohan's villain He's not some blast from Goku's past like Raditz or Dr. Gero.

Or even a direct foil to a pre-existing character (You do realize he's basically a more evil Pilaf. Miles. Shut up.) Even his connections to Kami are thin at this point.

At this point in the timeline Goku is... somewhere. Point is it's up to everyone else to save the day and this arc feels like the closest the show has come save maybe the high school arc, which everybody also hates to having Gohan be the main character.

And since Goku isn't around the show feels a lot like old school Dragon Ball. With adult Goku around it's hard to remember that Gohan is voiced by the same voice actor as kid Goku at least in the Funi dub but yeah he is.

Also it's fun that show actually does something with Chi Chi's martial arts skills even if it's as a brainwashed foe. Most of the time she plays schoolmarm so well that fans forget that she's a 3rd place world martial arts champion. And everyone's fear if ticking her off is justified. Shy of all the aliens running around she's probably the strongest human character. Using her powers of intimidation to make everybody back off and give Gohan some time to study doesn't seem all that bad anymore now does it.

But Chi Chi we need to take the 6-year-old with us to defend the planet from alien invaders. No my baby has a earth science test in the morning. Screw yo aliens.

Same goes for Yamcha and Master Roshi who kept getting nerfed by the "good" aliens in the cast that by this point it's hard to remember that Master Roshi is the guy who trained Goku and kicked his ass numerous times.

The entire arc gives those guys something to do before they more or less fall into series obscurity for good.

Look I'll admit it's one of the weaker arcs but there is a lot to like and it shouldn't be as reviled as it is. That said Maron is kind of annoying. Bulma without the brains or the dignity.  You know maybe she was a character designed to make mainstay Bulma look better. For me Dragon Ball just wouldn't be Dragon Ball without Bulma but fans were divided whenever she called Goku on his idiocy.

Also Garlic Jr. as a choice of villain is interesting. They had built up Frieza a lot. I'm mean after you have a guy who can and does blow up planets WITH HIS FINGER for jollies where do you go?

The entire series has a problem of making things bigger and bigger until they lose all meaning. This show is the poster child for power creep. As Team Four Star Vegeta said, "Power levels are bullshit!" but the Garlic Jr saga was an attempt to pull things back and make them smaller. Goku is out of the picture so he can't act as his usual deus ex machina self and the problem is sized right so that these guys can win but not without effort.

The arc is Ginyu sized.

That might be the problem; all of the super mega powerful characters i.e. the saiyans are MIA.

It's up to Gohan and Krilin, let's be honest Gohan to win this one.

Also since this is a filler arc there are some continuity inconsistencies. But it's Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z who the hell can keep all this stuff straight anyway.

Facebook Comments

Note: These Comments are from all across this blog.