Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Let's Take A Walk Through The Enchanted Forest: Part 1

So. I watched Decedents and immediately regretted it.

Okay that cemented my disgustEntertainment is part of the hospitality package after all. There are standards to be kept. And don't get me started on their villain songs. Yikes. If you're going to put on the black do it right damn it. What's the point of being a proper villain if you can't ham it up a bit. Maybe have a suit of armor made of spikes, some sort of imposing fortress and a dungeon for people who annoy you.

Anyway I really do like the IDEA of fairy tales walking around in modern times. Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres.

Fantasy tends to work on rules and most of the characters from Bilbo on up kind of have an innate awareness of those rules. Good guys always win, true love always prevail and never trust anything that talks if you can't see where it keeps its brain.

But what happens with those rules being futzed with by the setting. Fairy tale urban fantasy a specific subgenre that I have yet to see get it right on the screen. There are some good shows but I have yet to find the fairy tales in a modern setting idea done in a way that doesn't have serious flaws at least on TV.

And it bugs me because it's something I really really want to see.

But I want to talk about some of the attempts.  Before I start in earnest however, allow me a brief digression on a few literary fairytales.

On Literary Fairy Tales

For my purposes a fairy tale is any story that draws more so on oral tradition than literary tradition. Oral stories have to be relatively short and broad to be remembered by the orator and as such many of these stories are more episodic than written literature. That's why Odysseus, Athena, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Paul Bunyon, and Mab tend to bounce around from and adventure to adventure. And that carries on into stories that are trying to evoke that oral tradition like Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit or even Harry Potter.

Think about it in most of the Potter books, particularly the early ones the plot doesn't usually kick in until the last 50 or so pages and the rest is just hijinks at Hogwarts.

Literary fairy tales on the other hand try to expand upon the relatively simple nature of oral stories normally by adding detail to plot, characters and setting that wouldn't work if the tale was being told by a single person on a single night along by the fire.

And that tangent was basically a way to allow me to discuss my favorite example, Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier a retelling of The Seven Swans. One of my major beefs with the stories I'm going to talk about is that the characters ascribe their actions as predestined roles to be played in a story, (What do you expect. I'm Rumpelstiltskin the dude who tricks women into trading their first born so I can eat them in my stew. Screwing people on the deal is what I do sir. It's what I do. ) but Daughter of The Forest is brilliant at giving character reasons for everyone's actions. More over a lot of those motivations were influenced by her version of the story's Celtic setting. Hell that's one of the story's subtexts. One of the characters thinks he might be doing what he's doing because of magical brainwashing only for it to be revealed, nope it was all you buddy and if you had it to do over you would make all the same moves 'cause of wuv. The only exception is maybe the villain and she get's her due in the sequels, which are admittedly weaker than the first book (Note: I only read the original Seven Water's trilogy so any books after that are Greek to me).


Instead of starting with the obvious let's start with The 10th Kingdom.

The 10th Kingdom

Okay. The 10th kingdom was a 2000 Hallmark miniseries. In general there are some real gems there so check some of those out.

But alas. This is about The 10th Kingdom. It suffers from two main problems, the first being produced on a made for television budget just before the LOTR fantasy boom.

To a modern audience that's used to Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter style battles the framing can't help but feel smaller than the story warrants. Plot wise it's mostly because the main cast is on the run and trying to keep a low profile but all the same there aren't that many big set piece moments. Instead of the wide shots making things feel expansive it makes you realize just how empty this place is.

 And the second is it's tone is all over the place.

All the same before Once Upon A Time I would say it was probably the best of these. Hell a lot of stuff was borrowed from it. Oh and it has John Larroquette and Warwik Davis.

The plot is that the well evil queen from Snow White or at least her successor escapes prison and transforms Snow White and Prince Charming's grandson who is about to be crowned king into a dog who hightails it to New York and enlists the aid of a woman who you could easily call Emma Swan 1.0.

The first third of the story is more or less her standing by and snarking at all the insanity of being hijacked into a fairy tale and more poignantly a place where all the talk of true love, honor and all that jazz actually means something rather than you know New York.

Back to that tone problem though the big bad who I'll get to in a moment is actually a serious threat but her underlings are idiots. (Except from THE Huntsman played by Rutger Hauer)

It doesn't help that Dianne Wiest her actress is probably the only one consistently playing her character straight, again except a stoic Hauer as The Huntsman. Oh I can't help it.

Anyway whenever the Queen actually starts doing plot stuff things get pretty serious even downright bleak but the rest of the show is a joke as Virginia (our Swan) snarks at the stupidity of fairy tale rules until they actually start helping her as one of the good guys.

And I forgot about the Wolf who is so problematic I'll save him for later. To be fair in a lot of ways Hook from Once Upon a Time is basically him done better but here he comes off kind of creepy and in some scenes downright rapey. How that guy didn't get locked up 5 minutes after touch down is beyond me... and he tried to do the grandma thing.  Seriously he's an  embarrassment to wolves everywhere.

Anyway since The 10th Kingdom doesn't take most its the characters seriously most of them are paper thin being used for cheap gags at the expense of being destined to play their roles, with The Wolf hamming it up like there's no tomorrow (and more than a few double entendres), but since that's what the show is going for I'm okay with that. However some of the humor can be cringy and I can never help but feel if it had given it's script a few more passes it could have been something more.

The best adaptations of fairy tales make the inherent fairy-taleness a result of the setting rather than the characters who are just playing by the rules of the universe. Or to put it more bluntly a lot of the "hijinks" are cause by the characters being kind of idiots and the actual plot doesn't really kick in until a late game reveal which is more or less the inverse of Swan's.

That said that late game reveal is very well foreshadowed and quite interesting I just wish it had come maybe two or three episodes earlier and actually added some much needed drama to the work.  The first few episodes are kind of hard to watch as nothing important really happens in the them once the set up is established.

Even though it's part of its character development the Prince's primary motivation is that he wants to be crowned King not all the stuff and evil witch and a troll will do in power, while everybody else just wants to go home. And that becomes kind of insufferable. The majority of story spends so much time pretending that there are no stakes that you wind up believing it after a while.

In short watch the first 45 minutes and maybe the last 2 and a half hours out of this 7 hour show the rest if filler.

The Wolf Among Us

You know what I'll say it The Wolf Among Us is by far the best version of this idea I have seen played out. All of the fables stories are just that stories that inform both themselves and the audience of who they are, what they want, and how they operate.

It also does a good job of making sure each of the Fables feels like themselves.

I don't want to spoil too much because it's so good but the set up is thus. Something happened that made all the Fables, your characters from folklore and fairy tales flee their worlds. They're on the lamb in New York and Because of his rep, The Big Bad Wolf, Bigby has been made the Sheriff of their little community, the guy who keeps the peace. In this installment is tasked with solving a murder case.

That said this one is kind of short but I'll give it some string since it's based of a long running comic series I haven't read. If I want more, and I do want more I know where to find it.

But anyway onward to the more obvious and yes more topical entry. Once Upon A Time...Next Time

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Make It In America August 31, 2015 Detroit Congressional Field Hearing

On August 31, 2015 U.S. Representative for Michigan's 14th District Brenda Lawrence and U.S. Representative for Maryland's 5th District Steny Hoyer held a Congressional field hearing regarding jobs and the education of the modern workforce at the Northwest Activities Center in Detroit.
Topics Discussed Include
  • The Need for Better Career Counseling in Schools
  • The Need For Cultural Attitude Changes in Regards to Vocational Training 
  • The Need For Increased Vocational Training In Schools
  • The Changing Nature of the Economy
Panelists at the Hearing Included
  • William F. Jones, CEO of Focus: Hope
  • Jose Reyes, Chief Operating Officer of Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation
  • Jeannine LaPrad, President and CEO for the Corporation for a Skilled Work Force
  • Mary Kaye Aukee, Career Focused Education Director for Oakland Schools
  • Kenneth Harris, President and CEO of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce
  • Rick Blocker, President of the Metro AFL-CIO & Chair of the 14th Congressional District of the Democratic Party
Also in Attendance at the Event Were
  • United States Representative of Michigan's 13th District John Conyers
  • Detroit Councilwoman Brenda Jones
  • Southfield City Council President Sylvia Jordan
Also a Previous Hearing in the series can be found here

Here Is What I Wished They Talked About At The Detroit Make It In America Hearing

So last night I went to a congressional field hearing regarding economics. Don't worry I'm uploading it to Youtube. I don't know if I left early but I couldn't help but feel disappointed. I didn't feel like many of the issues I care about were addressed. In my head I kept thinking "Where is the Beef", so here are a list of the bullet points that were running through my head.

  • The increasing presence of freelance, part time, and contract workers in the economy and how they effect both union and governmental policy. 
  • How does the government and unions for that matter protect or plan to the LGBT community from workplace discrimination.
  • How has the economic recession effected the education of the workforce as many education funds are based on property taxes? (Especially With Michigan's Prop A)
  • In the current climate in Washington how would jobs, or education legislation get funded
  • In president Obama's State of the Union he mentioned using community colleges as grades 13 and 14/America's College Promise where is that plan now?
  • How does transportation funding both state and federal effect the economy?
  • How does the private industry train employees. Is the unpaid internship the new starting position?
  • Address the talk in the Michigan Legislature of slashing the Budget of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation
  • What is the democratic position on the Trans Atlantic Trans-Pacific trade bill. The protectionist rhetoric there doesn't quite gel with the idea of training the modern worker to compete in the market?
  • Could hard data be provided regarding the availability of vocational jobs?  I just don't think the idea of training people in those jobs even modernized versions of them makes as much sense as it used to in the modern economy? (Note: I'll admit I'm wrong.)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Southfield City Council Meeting August 24, 2015

Southfield City Council Meeting Held on August 24, 2015

Topics Discussed Include

  • Racist Political Flyers
  • A Tribute to the Late Fire Chief Rowley
  • Automation Alley/Smart Zone
  • DTE Power Outages

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Our Competition Isn't Downtown Detroit. It's Brooklyn

Okay while I occasionally try to pretend otherwise I am not an economics expert all the same one of the reoccurring themes in my brain droppings is that the petty poaching and conversly the complaining about petty poaching in the Metro-Detroit business scene does nobody good.

The reason why it's happening is because up until recently the pool of large companies in the area up for grabs was limited and I'm not going to lie and say that's no longer the case but but focusing on how to steal companies for each downtown is treating the symptom not the disease.

Instead effort could better be expended on trying eliminate the barriers to economic activity. Revising zoning and usage laws, training the existing workforce and recruiting outside the state to reverse the brain drain, pumping money into research so that the next great breakthroughs occur here instead of the coasts or even overseas, investing in infrastructure to better allow trade, and creating safe spaces that can provide access to tools and technology for innovation.

Instead of all that stuff I hear my political leaders discussing more and more how we can play pass the potato with the few businesses that are here and I feel that attitude is contributing to an overall stagnation.

Worse I feel and have always felt that that sort of anti-regionalism is why the state is so slow to deal with problems like transportation and education as municipalities who share common interests are more inclined to protect their little bit of turf rather than work together and actually get something done.

I don't know what to do about it but it's what I think.

Friday, August 21, 2015

DTE Energy Presentation August 17, 2015

On August 17, 2015 DTE Energy made a presentation to the Southfield City Council regarding Tree Trimming Activities

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Southfield August 17, 2015 City Council Meeting

Southfield City Council Meeting Held August 17, 2015
Topics Discussed Include

  • Potential Soup Kitchen and Homeless Shelter Regulations
  • DTE Energy Tree Trimming
  • Southfield-Troy Smart Zone
  • A New Investment Firm (The Bogdahn Group) Being Given Responsibility For the SERS (Employee Retirement) Fund
  • Zoning Ordinance Amendments For Vehicular Storage

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Why Do We Never Move?

I have finally decided to give my writing a good go yet I find myself uncertain as to what to write. I wish not to be jubilant nor flippant for there have been events that temper those emotions in me so instead I will forgo my normal dishonesty and be earnest. I will be earnest in what I desire and my arguments for it.

I want prosperity. I want personal and more over familial prosperity. I want myself and my kin to be able to do as we please unhampered by a lack of funds. That desire is the guiding star of my politics. I shall not call myself a Democrat but I do honestly believe that a great public good can be achieved when we all give a little of ourselves to obtain it.

Due to my reticence to humor I feel the most poignant point I can make at this moment is that, we have failed to finance our roads; we are failing to finance our schools. We should be ashamed, not only of the wound we commit to ourselves but to the wrong we do to our progeny.

The world may seem to move quickly but government moves slowly. The world our children inherit will be the one which our hands build. But out of greed those hands are tied and bound as the world, no not the world, my home slides backwards. Instead of rising into the dawn we plunge ourselves further into the night. I do not like my home being the butt of national jokes. I do not like cringing as people I have great respect for laugh at our wretched condition, which to be honest we have cast upon ourselves through our inability to dream,  to look into the black night and see the light of the stars, to chase those suns no matter how distant. The dawn may be far away but it will arrive through diligent work. We must rise from the muck, take up the gavel, take up the level, take up the ledger and yes take up the tomes of those who have puzzled their hopes before as we do now and for Christ's sake get to work!

The reason why our government does not is not foolishness but because they have taken the temperature of the people.  We want everything but will pay for nothing. This is not how a dream, not how a life is built. Yet that is what we have told to them. "Do what you can to fix our problems as long as we do not have put in for them." And we wonder why nothing gets built, why nothing gets fixed.

Before we shake the fist at them we should look to ourselves and ask do we really want things to get better. Do we want better schools, do we want better roads, do we want better laws or shall we remain and mire in the doomed status quo until the cost of our stagnation becomes to obvious and contemptible to bear.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Passing of Fire Chief Keith Rowley

After a days long search Southfield Fire Chief Keith Rowley's body was found on Monday August 3 in Lake St. Clair not far from where he went missing. Funeral details can be found here.

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