Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Toxic YouTube Fandom




So I came across a web series "retrospective" on various personalities from ThatGuyWiththeGlasses.com now known as Channel Awesome. It's a hate-watch. I will not link to it. And it's a hate-watch for a couple of reasons. Most of the personalities he's talking about as "cautionary tales" have actually done alright or about as alright as a  professional YouTuber could reasonably expect to do.  But the more I watched the more I realized that wasn't it.

This guy is THE toxic fan.

Let me be clear. Channel Awesome was not and is not immune to the growing pains of internet content creation. There are plenty of things to criticize. It had trouble with the shift from enthusiast content creators to a more professional business.A lot the video producers couldn't keep up with the production schedule the managers wanted especially since a lot of them were working for the site part-time along with other jobs or school.  A lot of its early humor went for shocking and hasn't aged well. A lot of the creators didn't interact with each other very often and that led to a clash of personalities when they did. There was an exodus of talent. It has always been difficult to monetize internet content and that made a lot of the aforementioned talent unhappy, especially when Blip was bought by Maker and then later shut down.

While it's not the same, and I don't visit the site, in the same way, I used to, I don't think Channel Awesome is dead but if you want to do an enlightened post-mortem you could. Moreover, a lot of the creators who are the focus of his retrospectives like I said are doing alright for themselves producing content very much in the spirit of what they made for Chanel Awesome.

THIS IS NOT THAT POST-MORTEM!

Apart from the speculation, the series uses questionable sources and moreover delves into the waters of personal hit job bringing up any information that it can dig up to personally embarrass these figures in a way that at best is a massive invasion of privacy and at worst skirts the line with libel.

It is not the enlightening deconstruction of the difficulties of online content production and internet persona management it purports to be.

And I find it absolutely repugnant.

Moreover throughout it has a tone of absolute entitlement. I don't want to give this guy traffic and the creators involved have been around long enough that they have tough skin and can handle it but these videos are emblematic of the entitlement of a lot of internet audiences and it won't leave my brain.

First off even the most well-funded internet videoes tend to have budgets dwarfed by their Holywood counterparts.

Profesional work costs professional money.  A lot of the fans expect these web series to be THE priority of the creators and if they were being directly paid by the fans I agree but most of the time that's just not how this works.

The point I'm getting at is a lot of these fans act as if they OWN the series in a way they really don't. 

Patreon and crowdfunding complicate the point I'm trying to make. But most of these videos are experienced for free by the audience and net the video makers relatively little money. There is very little obligation on either party to deliver something to the other. Viewing YouYube videos, or really any form of media as a transaction in which a particular experience has been promised is ... unhelpful

Moreover since as established money isn't often the prime motivator for YouTube creators there has to be some room for them to get what they want out of it. And

...

A lot of YouTube creators are held hostage. It's not just the fans fault. But it's a bad situation that their behavior doesn't help.

 Alright if your sole or even primary source of revenue on YouTube is advertising the numbers matter. The sheer number of eyeballs required to make even a few hundred dollars is hard to wrap my brain around. So the million dollar question on everybody's mind is how do you get enough eyeballs to break even in YouTubeland. And the answer is to get signal boosted by YouTube itself.

For the user one of the most challenging things about YouTube is finding the content you'll like especially if you don't already know what you're looking for. YouTube has a vested interest in connecting eyeballs to content. While there are bots and algorithms personalizing content they still tend to skew towards a relative few reliable creators.  Most YouTubers who want to make a living at it work their butts off to become one of those relative few reliable creators.

Three of the biggest things YouTube uses to determine who gets featured and who doesn't are the frequency of content, subscriber count and the number of views already obtained. And this incentivizes creators to create in a way that is... less than healthy in fear of gaining or more often than not losing their featured spots.

They have to create a lot of content in a very small amount of time and make sure it has enough mass appeal to go viral. NOBODY LIKES THAT SYSTEM!

First off as much as people dispute it internet content creation is hard work.

I'm not saying YouTube creators are coal miners.  But managing to keep a regular schedule that has the frequency YouTube wants can be fairly hectic, at least more hectic than all the comments about how easy the job is would make it seem.

They have to:

  • Brainstorm ideas
  • Research those ideas
  • Script Everything Out
  • Cast Any Actors or Cameos
  • Buy Any Needed Video or Audio Equipment
  • Make/Buy Any Costumes or Necessary Props
  • Film
  • Edit
  • Make Thumbnails
  • Write Descriptions
  • Manage Social Media
  • Manage Advertising and Crowdfunding
  • And Manage Self-Employment Taxes and Other Business Stuff

And remember because of how little money they make most video creators even if they make money off of their videos probably also have to have another source of income and do YouTube stuff as a side gig.

Again the system itself isn't the audience's fault. But it is a toxic system. The bots are merciless when the number of subscribers of viewers goes down on a channel. And this leads to a situation where the creators can't take breaks or even really experiment with content. And if you're someone who started doing this to have fun and express yourself, you're in for a world of disappointment. 

What is the audience's fault is their complicity in the system, when they don't recognize that these video creators are human beings with human lives and human needs, and just expect them to be content farms. 

It seems like anytime creators bring this stuff up and ask fans for a little understanding they get mobbed. They can't ask to experiment with content. They can't ask for a break. Heck, they can't even ask for money to help support the content the fans want in the first place.

And God help you if you're so jaded you just want or, let's be honest, need out to do something else entirely.

They will never let you live it down.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Reason I Quit Watching Once Upon a Time



Well I'm in this place so I might as well. It's not the first time I've touched upon it but the primary reason why I quit watching Once Upon a Time was its binary view of good and evil which this season it's finally starting to write its way out of.

Up until season 4. Once Upon a Time actively tried to subvert the idea that the bad guys were the bad guys just because. Heck, the pilot threw down the gauntlet by having the sanest, most emotionally well-balanced character shown be the one whose name literally means evil.  Each of the major villains has an understandable reason for turning even if it doesn't excuse them from culpability for the horrible things they do.


Season 3 more or less is a redemption arc for Rumplestilskin and to a lesser extent Regina. It's a heavy lift but they get to the side of the angels.


 And then season 4 happens. 

The story of season four isn't actually that bad at least not the first half which acts basically a loose sequel to Frozen. 


But there is a b-story in the first half the becomes the foundation for the rest of season 4 and most of season 5.

And in order for the mechanics of that b-story to work. Magic has to work like the dark side as a slowly corrupting force.

That's not to say it wasn't there. In season 2 there is this throughline about getting Regina and to a lesser extent Rumpie over their addiction to magic. But I always took it as a metaphor. In this context Magic is basically a gun. They're walking around with a loaded pistol and the implied sometimes not so implied threat of violence.  And getting them to understand why that's wrong is an important part of getting them on the side of the angels. And it happens for the same reason for both of them. They don't like the fact that their children are afraid of them nor that they are right to be so. 

Then surprise! Nope none of that stuff really mattered at all. It was just all because they were mages. Rumplestiltskin didn't tragically make the choice to pursue power to protect his family from those who would do them harm while not realizing he was slowly becoming someone who would do his family harm.

It was all the magic's fault.

That's all regrettable but the point where it became ridiculous was with Emma Swan's turn to darkness which is what all of this was setting up.

For a really long time Once had the problem that its protagonist is the least interesting character of the show. I'm sorry she is. Emma Swan's role for at least the first three seasons is as an audience surrogate and as a character she's not much more than that.

Season four bends over backward to try to make her more interesting and the solution they hit upon is to make her evil.


Emma Swan has her issues. She has a pathway to the dark side. She tends to run away or at least attempt to run away from her problems. She feels some resentment towards her parents for not being around even if it wasn't their fault. But neither of those seems like it would be enough to force her to put on the black and those issues were more or less resolved by the end season 2. Emma's just not evil. Not even a little. She's hardly even mean. She's just Emma.

So in order to to get her there Once basically rewrites its own history in one of the most convoluted what the hell retcons I've ever seen largely to remove her choice in the matter. She's evil literally because the story forces to be. 

Which would be fine if her personality changed to reflect that at all.

It doesn't. At least not in a way that reveals how her character thinks. She does evil stuff but she does it more or less so the story can prove how evil she is now. She has no character motivation. Her actions don't get her any closer to her goals or desires. She's just doing stuff because the story literally told her to.

Furthermore, it actually undermines her Dark One powers.

Okay, let's back up. Rumplestilskin's origin story is that he ultimately became so desperate to have the power to fight against his tormentors that he sought out and acquired the powers of the show's version of the devil. And the guy who had the job before him explicitly tells him that he choose this. Nobody forced him into any of it. He may have had a slight push but ultimately his turn to darkness was on him. Which is sad undercurrent of his entire arc.

He IS the Dark One. It's not just the magic, it's not just the curse, it's him. If it wasn't the knife, it would be something else. And his best character moments always come when he accepts that. Emma does not have that. She's not dark. At all. Not even a little.

It was a bad choice but for a long time, the show wrapped itself around that bad choice so it touched EVERYTHING.

Remember how I said that Mels was the sanest and most down to earth member of the cast. Well, they retconned her backstory into a twisty pretzel.


Where is MY Alice

So far this season of is pretty good. As I've mentioned before the most frustrating thing about this show is that it almost always makes one or two creative decisions each season that kill it for me and so far that hasn't happened. Sure it feels like at episode six we're at what would be the end of episode 2 if this were a Netflix joint but that's broadcast TV and since I'm watching this week to week instead of binging it doesn't feel as bad.

But there is one thing.


Okay the new Alice is actually pretty good.  But I've always been bummed that the spin-off version never immigrated into the main cast. 

EVERY season of Once Upon a Time is flawed. But Wonderland is probably the best "season"  in the franchise and comes closest to the ideal of what if all of these iconic characters lived together in the same world and had to deal with each other even if at the end of the day it really only amounts to a giant crossover between Aladdin and Alice and Wonderland. 

The spin-off version had a lot of pathos and build up and while the show is satisfying as its own thing it's just a shame that it kind just ends...on a sequel hook never to be.

This new version of Alice, as good as she is,  more or less closes the door on the idea that the spinoff version will EVER integrate with the main cast it just kind of vexes me. Wonderland is one of the best things the series ever produced and it feels like they just junked it, I reiterate, the best part of this whole endeavor. 

By the way Once Upon a Time: Wonderland is available for free on ABC's app if you can I highly recommend you give it a try.

Oh and hey it features Millie Brown before Eleven.

Friday, November 10, 2017

GATE Is Military Propaganda



So Gate...

On the surface, GATE is a dumb little anime in the mode of a guy saves the world by being super special awesome at role playing games that have been taking over the medium over the past few years. And it is that but it's also military propaganda for the Japanese Military.

Okay let's back up.


World War II specifically how it ended with the nuclear bombing of cities with large-scale civilian casualties had a profound effect on how the Japanse have viewed warfare ever since. Japan is the only country to ever have nuclear bombs used against them in warfare. I am speaking as a western outsider who only really consumes Japanse culture through mass media but those themes are evident.




In the immediate aftermath, there was a lot of consideration for the causes of the war. Specifically what hyper-militarization cost the nation. To be fair some of that was forced upon the Japanese as a war concession by the United States but culturally it was still there.

How?

How did that happen?

How did the whole country, the whole of society up and down get on board with attacking both China and the United States?




For better or worse the most interesting thing about GATE is just how remarkably pro-military it is. And it's not hard to see that as a reflection of growing Japanese right-wing nationalism. Specifically, the show views the military as the most functional institution of Japans society, and in the story very much tries to circumvent checks the Japanese government has put on the military to prevent the sort of hyper-militarization that lead up to World War II and Sino-Japanese wars.

In fact it goes even further to frame what is essentially a military occupation the as a good thing.

Furthermore, it frames Japan's Self Defence Forces as the most proficient and moral military amongst, The United States, Russia, and China.

It's not like I've never seen any of these elements alone before. Ghost in the Shell, for instance, has a lot of negative things to say about the United States and isn't exactly against using force as a means to solve problems.

It's just that GATE in the form of a breezy lark feels kind of insidious. I know to turn on my brain and critically examine political philosophizing while watching Ghost in the Shell but GATE is just so damn subtle in it's framing that it's hard to even recognize that it does have a political worldview that permeates its story and taken to its logical extremes that worldview is concerning.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Map AKA I Need to Get My Ass Out to Macomb

Journalism or activism, or straight up political strategy, my biggest problem is transportation. I simply don't have the money to head to where the action is right now.  When I get over my anger at a general lack of resources in my life my next thought is that last year the map blindsided me. Even before "the crunch", I was constrained to thinking locally because that felt like the where arena I could do the most good with the resources I had. I can't run around "chasing the story". I can't afford to move to Washington. Hell I can't even afford to move to Lansing.

And the 2016 election (not just Trump) proved that just don't cut it. And in reflection, I should have seen it coming. there were a lot of Trump rallies that were just too far out for me to really think about.

It feels like where I'm from most of the folks around me agree with me, at least in the broad outlines when it comes to politics. 

I was and am living in a bubble.

And the reason why at least politically the policies I want in place still have a hard road to travel is that it isn't only the people around me who have a say. I've seen it time and time again. If I am going to politically get what I want a cultural change is going to have to take place in this state regarding how we see government as an institution that provides needed services to people and helps ensure resources are distributed fairly.

I'm there.

It feels like the people around me are there.

But that's just not enough to get stuff done.

In each of the state legislatures, that's just one vote. And dear lord the 2018 and 2020 nationals.

If I'm going to get what I want I need to position myself to help push along the map.

The Wolf's Guide to Activism

Sooo. I'm dead broke right now. And my laundry list of things I want to do and things I need to do that aren't getting done is starting to get to me. I need to do... something (before I lose my mind). So I'm revisiting an old idea.

The Wolf's Guide To Activism

Even if I can't "be a part of the resistance" right now maybe somebody else will read this and get an idea or two.  Here goes.  Before I start though here are a few other places you might consider to look for ideas.

Places to Go to For Advice
Contact Your Local Representatives
In the aftermath of the 2016 election Dan Olson used his web series Folding Ideas to provide a guide for how to well contact your representatives. I absolutely love this video.

Crash Course U.S. Government
I will talk about this in a moment but a basic understanding of civics is really useful in determining things like.


  • Who do I talk to address a concern I have?
  • Who do I contact this person?
  • What type of power do they have to resolve my concerns?
  • What are the limits to their power?
Crash Course U.S. Government and Politics is very useful as well a crash course in civics. 

Second verse same as the first. Here is the thing we live in a democracy and everything both negative and positive is the result of the choices we've made regarding how we organize ourselves as a society. Understanding those choices is incredibly useful. I recommend an understanding in sociology. As with government, I don't think these series are substitutions for a class but they are free relatively easily available. 

As usual here are a few books that I haven't read but are on my list
  • You're More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen's Guide To Making Change Happen
  • Rules For Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything
  • Rules For Radicals: A Practical Primer For Realistic Radicals
  • People Power: The Community Organizing Tradition of Saul Alinsky
  • Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing
  • Roots to Power: A Manual For Grassroots Organizing
  • Organizing for Social Change
  • Tools For Radical Democracy: How to Organize for Power in Your Community
  • Building Powerful Community Organizations: A Personal Guide to Creating Groups that Can Solve Problems and Change the World
Pay Attention and Be Informed
It's by far the simplest thing to do and is the first step towards action. Pay attention. Stay abreast of what's going on regardless of whether it's local, nationally or even internationally.  Most politicians want to solve problems so something is almost always happening being aware of this is the first step towards attempting to move policy. 
 
Eghhh nobody wants to be the guy who showed up the day after the State legislature held the vote. 

Here are some ways to stay informed
  • Go to council and board meetings
  • Go to town halls
  • Pay attention to the media
  • Read meeting minutes and packets
  • Visit the websites of officials and candidates for information
  • Call officials and candidates for information
  • Listen to conversations in common areas (public transit, bars, restaurants, stores, parks) you know people watch. 
If all of that is starting to sound like the outlines of journalism. That's because it is.


And this is the part where I say if you don't support local journalism, which is often the only place you can find certain types of information it will go away. And even if you think something better will replace it that will take a while and in the meantime, a lot will happen. 

Anyway, one of the easiest ways to get politicians to talk to you is to have the information they find useful. That helps them accomplish their policy goals. 



Know Who to Talk To
This goes back to that understanding of civics but with local and state governments that might still require a bit of research especially for niche or obscure issues. Still, the line, "It's your job" is very powerful.  Finding that person who is "responsible" is half the battle.  A few good places to start here are
  • Organizational Departments
  • Legislative Committee
  • Legislative Sponsors
  • Boards

Join a Group
I'm ripping off Dan'O but there is a power in numbers. We live in a democracy and it's easier to sway those in power if you can convince them you are speaking for more than just yourself. Before trying to grow a grassroots movement by on your own see if there is somebody already doing what you want to do and ask them how you can help. Some ideas are
  • Church Groups
  • Community Groups
  • Neighborhood and Homeowner Associations
  • Advocacy Groups
  • Non-Profits
Write and Speak Publically
Again I'm ripping off Dan but politics is all about persuasion. Most politicians are beholden to thier constituents and one of the easiest ways to convince a politician to an action convince their constituents. It's what the people want. 
 A Couple Ways of Doing That Are

Contact Your Local Representative
I would just be ripping off Dan Olson's video so there you go. 

Don't Lie
It speaks for itself. Lying will make you lose all credibility.

Donate or Volunteer
One of the most horrifying things regarding election 2016 is that it represents a massive shift in fiscal priorities. There is just a lot of necessary work that won't get done now. One of the easiest though not the only way to help is to donate and volunteer.  John Oliver provided an excellent list of non-profits in the aftermath of election 2016.  There are also a plethora of local charities and organizations that could use support. 
  • Forgotten Harvest
  • The Michigan Humane Society
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of South Eastern Michigan
  • St. Jude's Children's Hospital

Run for Office
As I said before even if it's a small office with limited power simply being able to say you speak for for people other than just yourself is incredibly powerful and running for office formalizes that. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Break In Case of Campaign

So the word on the street is that one of the more interesting aspects of The Womens' Convention over the weekend were the workshops regarding running for political office.  And that got me thinking STRICTLY HYPOTHETICALLY (yeah I can barely manage my own life if that thank you very much) STRICTLY as a thought exercise with my limited knowledge how would I run a campaign for local office... maybe... possibly... potentially in 2 decades.

Here goes

Decide on Which Office To Seek
Research Laws and Rules
Research Election Landscape
  • How many people vote in these elections?
  • How do they vote?
  • What issues are most cared about? 
  • Who has previously held the office?
  • Poll

Get Signatures/Petition/Register
Set Up Campaign Finances
  • Research Law
  • Open Bank Accounts
  • Set Up Accountability Standards/Bookkeeping
  • Set Up Committee
  • Solicit Donations
  • Obtain Loans/Credit
Set Up Campaign Structure
  • Finance Accountability
  • Phone Banks
  • Canvassers
  • Transportation & Food
  • Political Maps & Resource Allocation
  • Event Setup
  • Messaging
  • Speech Writing
  • Media Interaction
  • Talking Points
  • Spokespeople
  • Marketing and Advertising

Set Up Campaign Calender With Events
  • Debates
  • Marketing Meetings
  • Fund-raising Events
  • Community Events
  • Speeches/Rallies
  • Senior Centers
  • Recreation Centers
  • Parks
  • Community Events
  • Churches
  • Press Interviews
  • Blogs/Websites
  • Radio
  • Newspapers
  • Television
Set Up Web Site
Design and Buy Ads
Set Up Social Media Accounts
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
Meet with Establishment Leaders/Seek Endorsements
  • Other Politicians
  • Retired Politicians
  • Labor
  • Clergy
  • Hospitals
  • Business Leaders
  • K-12 Education/Teachers
  • Public Saftey Officials
  • Universities and Colleges
  • Individual Activists and Thought Leaders
  • Other Lobbying and Advocacy Groups
  • Feminist Groups
  • Transparency Groups
  • Civil Rights Groups
  • LGBT Groups
  • Environmentalist Organizations
  • Transportation Groups
  • Health Organizations

Monday, October 23, 2017

Storytelling by Reveal: The Network Skinner Box: Thoughts on Lucifer

I just got caught up in Lucifer.



I lik....don't hate it.

There are lots of good ideas a couple of interesting characters but the show is primarily framed around a rote standard police procedural. In short, it has the same problem as Grimm, the early seasons of Once Upon a Time, and a lot of network television.

Storytelling by reveals.

The show has a big story to tell but is afraid to tell it. So instead it features a supernatural police procedural.  I don't hate those. There quite a few that manage to keep things interesting. Haven, Eureka, arguably any supernatural monster of the week show including the Buffyverse..

But Lucifer seems to load all the interesting stuff into either the last five minutes of each episode or the last episode of each season.

And there isn't much excuse for it.

I understand why the police procedural is so prevalent and why even genre shows try to wrap themselves around its skin. It's a relatively easy way to have the characters do different stuff each week without much explanation in a flexible way.

And for writers, that's an invaluable tool. But  in a lot of shows it works against the premise so that one show becomes two fighting each other. And that's Lucifer.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Just When I Thought I Was Out: Once Upon A Time Season 7 Episode 1 Thoughts


Well, I'm back in. I skipped most of season 5 and all of season 6. But the idea of reboot got me back into Once Upon a Time. I always liked the premise of the show, a crisis crossover of folklore, every season it would make one or two creative decisions that were just deal breakers for me. All the same it is a show I very much want to like so a fresh start was right up my alley. Here are my thoughts on the season seven premiere.


Boomer B
Once is generally best when it's a story about stories so I generally don't have much of a problem with alternative versions of characters who already made appearances. (This is where I plug Daughter of the Forest which is a beautiful retelling of a fairytale that for its first third stops to examine and deconstruct fairytale logic before the fairytale proper begins.) That's kind the point when working with public domain characters there never is a definitive version that each iteration must live up to.  In particular, I really do like their version Cinderella who breaks the meta-meter when told how her story is going to play. "Do you know how many girls have that shoe size?"

That said I really do love the previous version of Alice and hope Once hasn't decided to scrap her altogether. Cinderella got a single episode so it doesn't bug me as much and like I said it's the nature of folklore but Alice got a miniseries which I viewed in many ways as being superior to that year's main season.

Batman In New 52
I don't know how I feel about it but this season is playing fast and loose with continuity and it's not clear what stuck, changed, and why. The word on the street (let's be honest Twitter) was that this is a reboot but it's really not. Thus far it's more along the lines of a time skip that allows for top-down retool of the show. Most of what happened still happened. But not always.

And that's okay.

I believe Once Upon a Time is best when it's a story about stories so I'm hoping they kind of write that into the plot and there are hints that they might. They make a big deal about Henry being an author.

...
Okay, why that matters.

Since most of the characters of the show are established to be fictitious, storytellers wield godlike power over them and the events of their lives.  Also when these storytellers screw up the universe falls apart. And I kind hope the story goes in that direction.

Regardless there is a bit of mental legwork in figuring out what you know and what you don't.

So... who's Batgirl again?


Not Again
It's not the first time Once Upon a Time has tried to retool and generally almost everytime (to the point it's getting kind of annoying) they basically redo the first episode. It's a justifiable decision. It's not going to make me stop watching the show but I wish they hadn't done it AGAIN. The problem with most network television, including this show, is pacing. There is a lot of stuff I'm interested in but I often have to sit through a lot of stuff I'm not, and somebody knocking on an apartment door to explain that the main character has amnesia and that fairytales are real is no longer cute. It's annoying.

It worked in the first episode because the show hadn't explained itself. There was doubt as to whether or not Henry was nuts and that was going to be the show.  When Hook shows up to do it again in season three it's an interesting in media res moment.  We instantly know something bad happened and somebody needs to fix it.

This time around... eh.

To be fair it's interesting to see Henry on the other side of this conversation and there is some fun in that. But there is so much going on the rest of the episode that it feels like there were better ways to do things.

Also, it creates this problem of SEVERAL characters being unapologetic copies of their first season counterparts.

Henry+ Cinderella=Emma
Cinderella's Stepmom = Snow White's Evil Stepmom
Hook=The Huntsman
Cinderella's Step Sister= The Magic Mirror
Snow White's Evil Step Mom = Jiminy Cricket  (Hey it was a heavy lift but she made it.)

And Rumple Stiltskin is basically playing himself sans character development... as usual.

I hated the back half of season 4... and the front half of season 5. And the few parts of season 6 I managed to catch. Why do they insist on bringing him back. Give him the hero's death he wants already. Let him die! Dealing with his inner conflict and mustering the will to commit a truely selfless act is his motivation for everything he does for the first 3,  arguably four seasons. He's a bad guy who wants to be a good guy. I could imagine no better closure for the character than to sacrifice his life to save his wife and son while at the same time exacting murderous revenge. It's so ... him. The best way for him to be the good guy he so desperately wants to be is to just accept he's the best bad guy and that sometimes life calls for a black hat. And they had to ruin it...again, and again.   

Most of what worked in the premier is what was new. Specifically, Cinderella and Henry are the most organic couple I've seen in this show which ships EVERYBODY. (Seriously, Cinderella is just about the only character I can think of who isn't related to Henry by blood or marriage.)

You Know Technically Henry is A Prince
Fairy tale logic and all. It's hard to tell this early but the vibe I'm getting is that by screwing up Cinderella's story Henry screwed up the multiverse. Heeeeh... authors.

Anyway if they do go that route Henry's technically prince and the two seem to be diggin' on each other. And I imagine that that could be a lot of fun. 


Who Knows What
One of the reasons why I liked the idea of the reboot is that it allows the writers to go back and try good ideas that didn't work the first time. The first season is flawed because it has a lot of fat but once it gets going it's really good.

Namely once the show stops playing coy about whether or not the curse is real and we are dealing with fairy tale characters the bigger question becomes who is and isn't aware of this fact and the show juggled that ball brilliantly.

And we're right back there. The show offers strong hints that returning characters are themselves even if they may not be aware of it, that it's not just some fluke that they're played but the same actors. Finding out who knows what and how is going to be one of the things that keep me glued to the show.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

If I Were A Rich Man: The Library: Comics: Marvel



Alright, they're making a Runaways show. This is gonna be good.  Time to break out my list of  Marvel comics I want to read. Let me reiterate these aren't comics I've read but comics I want to read, moreover this is not a complete list, not by a long shot.

By the way, anybody who knows anything about the comic knows the big hook the trailer is trying to avoid giving away. So saying ANYTHING about it even the basic premise is kind of hard.

Patsy Walker: Hell Cat
Okay, I don't want this list to be too obvious, so I'm not recommending Alias though it's on my list. If you want to read where Jessica Jones originated it's not hard to find. Anything that already had a more or less a straight Hollywood adaptation doesn't need any advertising from me, sorry Brubaker run of Captain America. Anyway, Marvel adaptations always have to simplify and compress comic book continuity that developed over decades without much of a plan. As such the characters from the MCU are often very different from their comic-book counterparts. For instance movie, Patsy is a mash-up of both herself and Captain Marvel.

In the comics, the minor character Trish Walker is a superhero in her own right and I can't help but think reading that would be kind of fun. Especially out of the context of Jessica Jones and more along the lines of Mary Tyler Moore with a cape which is the vibe I'm getting.

Spiderman 2099
So. I like to revisit old cartoons from my childhood... and a lot of them never got a chance. I love Batman Beyond. I will die crying the accolades of the Timmverse, but damn it people should have given Spider-man Unlimited a chance.  It's hard to track exactly when I became a fan of cyberpunk but Spiderman Unlimited is one of the earliest things with the aesthetic I can remember liking and nobody remembers it.

Next, to Spectacular Spider-Man it's probably my favorite Spider-Man cartoon. The Marvel cartoons of the day had this problem with being too faithful to the source material. Unless you were steeped in that stuff from the beginning you wouldn't know what the hell was going on and this show mostly avoids that problem. Still knowing who/what Man-Wolf is explains a lot.

Anyway, It's not an adaptation of Spider-Man 2099 but it did start out that way and well Spiderman 2099 sounds kind of bad ass. Basically what if a guy was running around in a dark cyberpunk future taking up the mantle of Spider-Man.

... And he shows up in Spider-verse.

X-Men: The Mutant Massacre
Look I love the X-men and all but the civil rights allegory always felt weak when most of the X-men could pass as normal humans if they wanted to. Mystique is the saving grace of the movies in that regard, lamp-shading and angrily pointing out that they shouldn't have to hide.

Regardless it's hard to think of the rich kids with superpowers living in an upstate New York mansion as the disenfranchised. I'm sorry.

...

The Morlocks are badass.  May I have some more, please. The movies screwed them over royally. I WANT MORE MORLOCKS!

The Mutant Massacre is their story. I want more Morlocks.

Nyx
Like I said I go back to cartoons I loved as a kid and it bums me out how many decent ones get kind of lost.

I honestly think that in a lot of ways X-men Evolution is the best X-men cartoon. It's not perfect but Marvel doesn't have as great a track record in that regard as DC. There is no really great X-men cartoon, in the same way, there are a lot of great Superman cartoons. Marvel cartoons made in the 90's are dense with continuity and that problem extends to X-men TAS. It opens with a Sentinel attack. A lot of it is spent going "whaaaaaaaaaaa?" and Wolverine and the X-Men while being better animated takes itself entirely too seriously to be fun.

X-men Evolution, on the other hand, was as well as engrossing. It did a great job at explaining who everybody was, in terms of powerset, backstory, and personality even if it was kind of annoying that all the X-men were in high school. Considering their origin that should not have bugged people as much as it did.


... It also introduced X-23 who has kind of become a big deal all of a sudden.

It's always interesting to me when characters and ideas migrate from a single adaptation to a larger mythos (writing a retrospective about "The Saracen" is on my bucket list).  While Nyx isn't just about here it does serve as her introduction to the larger Marvel universe.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Ah, joke characters, putting the comic in comic books. She beats mega-event level super-villains with squirrels. I can't help but smile every time I say that sentence.  And I can say it all day. Marvel has a character that beats mega-event level super-villains with squirrels. God bless Squirrel Girl.

Annihilation
Okay, I'm cheating, but the interesting thing about the Guardians of the Galaxy is that they were really obscure before their big-budget Hollywood extravaganza. Hell, even Hawkey, Falcon and Vision got a cartoon before making it to the big screen. The Guardians pre-movie were so obscure that Marvel has not so subtly retrofitted their comics counterparts into basically being their movie versions.  And I'm cool with that though I would still like to read a story or two made before the MCU. Word on the street is that Annihilation is one of the best cosmic Marvel stories ever written.

Howard The Duck
Moviebob made him sound like my kind of talking animal. Look. I have a soft spot for fast-talking glib wise-asses (let's just say I'm nowhere near as nice in my head as I am externally) and Howard the Duck is that.

Trapped in a world I never made gone mad I need some common sense now.

Time Is An Arrow: On Nostalgic Revival



Yaaaaay Hey Arnold is back.

What could possibly go wrong?

Okay, seriously my instinct is to be thrilled that I'll get to see a little more of the old gang. Hey Arnold is one of those shows that does hold up on rewatches, (due largely to a killer jazz score). The episodes are short and easy to stream during downtime and like a lot of kids media the show has a sense of fun not found in more mature TV shows. I love Jessica Jones and The Wire, but happy fun time they ain't.  But it is still yet another nostalgia revival and those tend to be hit or miss.

First of let me say that I'm not one of those guys boohooing that every television show or movie seems to be a part of some preexisting franchise or property. I'll admit in the long run that may pose a problem but I also don't believe in the zero-sum proposition of a lot of those hot takes. There are enough people with enough diverse interests that almost everything that deserves an audience (providing that it can get funding) will find an audience.

Nope, what concerns me more is on an individual level why are so many of these things unfulfilling despite the merit of the material.

And my general answer is that these pieces of media are a consequence of their culture and time, even if an audience can mentally rewind the clock many of the show's creative stakeholders can't. Regardless of their intentions to remain true to the spirit of the original, they can't recreate the circumstances that inspired the work in the first place.


I love Boy Meets World.

It is my 90's sitcom of choice, but I'll be the first to acknowledge that, especially the first few seasons, are pretty average even for back then. What made Boy Meets World notable is that it more or less (sitcom time is weird) covered these characters lives in real time as they went from middle school to college. Because of that, the status quo of the series was at least superficially always in flux.

Girl Meets World pretty accurately captured the spirit of the first few seasons but that's not what fans of the original wanted to see. But what they want to see is something they couldn't have at least not right away, the emotional attachment to characters they had watched grow up with them.

Back to Hey Arnold though, the show is very 1960's New York. The show doesn't make a big deal out of it but the P.S. in the school name is a dead give away.  While I have an obsession with both the 1960's and New York I can't help but feel that if the movie is going to be more than an extended episode of the show for its own sake (which in all honesty I would be fine with) it would need to change.

And that's the dilemma. These revivals can't change enough to justify their own existence in a new context thus appealing to a new audience without alienating their old ones.

To that end, I do not know what a modern day kidcom looks like. While kidcoms are written for children they are written by adults who are often utilizing their own nostalgia as inspiration. These shows have benifited from the relatively similar cultural experiences of middle-class Americans since the 1960s.

Bur for a lot of reasons that dynamic is breaking down. More and more audiences are diverging in their experiences and exposing differences that already existed. That's not a bad thing but it does mean that more and more movies and TV shows utilizing and/or appealing to the nostalgia of ubiquitous experiences are less and less able to count on audiences having a context to put them in.

Up until Girl Meets World most of the nostalgia revivals were for stuff that I had no real experience with. And while some of them could be fun most of them were obviously not made for me. (I'm sorry MST3K) And now I'm on the other end of it my opinion hasn't really changed all that much.

P.S. I'm sorry. The first two Power Rangers movies were not as bad as everybody makes them out to be. They gave me what I paid to see.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Don't Kick Me Out My Own House



Okay so a little over two weeks ago Detroit Free Press columnist Stephen Henderson published an article criticizing a local new arena for having Kid Rock as its inaugural act. And the article at the time mostly filled me with apathy. I can't say that I love Kid Rock but I don't hate him. In my younger days I had a lot of fun with his songs and while I kind of roll my eyes at that Senate run of his and some of the stupider stuff he's said I wasn't exactly taking it seriously. For me it is or was a wash.


Especially when the main thing that bothered me is that Kid Rock was neither a representative nor interesting choice as the ambassador the city's musical heritage. It's just kind of hard to get too worked up over for me.

But then last night Kid Rock punched back in a rant which, wow.

Now he IS officially taking up my brainspace.  So let's talk about this. 
For years he's been courting "the good ole boy", I don't know what to call it, let's go with faction of the rock and roll community and them I do have a problem with. I don't know how much of it is his fault. He mostly seems like an oblivious white guy which is a problem in and of itself but there are lots of oblivious white people. (Miles he's running for Senate. I'll get there.)

There are a lot of things I love but more and more it feels like I have to declare my presence and defend my blackness within certain spaces I've enjoyed for years. And while I've never been exactly okay with that when it comes to rock and roll, it feels less like people who are ignorant of what racism is and do not understand what they are doing and more akin something more insidious.

Since as long as I can remember I've always liked rock music. And since I can remember I've had to fight people both black and white who refuse to acknowledge African American presence in within rock music.

And there is a reason for that.


There is a history of cultural appropriation of black music in this country. This can not be argued it is fact. In my younger days I may have shaken my fist at that but enough stuff that I like has been the result of cultural exchange that I generally view it as a positive thing.

Play that funky music white boy.

Just don't be a dick about it.



Black people are here. And we've always been here. Who do you think made the boogie in boogie rock.

I'm not or at least don't want to be one of those "white people are stealing the culture guys".  (Though there is some stuff about royalties that's pretty messed up.) But when people who play boogie rock, punk, metal or even country decide to be racist dicks it kind of feels like getting kicked out your own house.

Again Kid Rock mostly to me seems oblivious.

He doesn't understand what racism is or that since he's running for Senate it actually matters now that he doesn't. For the record, the reason why the Kaepernick boycott hit a nerve is because Kaepernick is simply a man saying that he has grievances with his country via a gesture and the idea that black people are not allowed to acknowledge that they have a "complicated" relationship to thier patriotism for "reasons" is racist.

Or If I am a black man in America am I not allowed to express my grievances with my country and seek to have them redressed? If your answer is no you might be a racist.

That if Tom Brady "were doing it (he) would have no problem finding a job" is actually something to be a little upset about.

That being said I mostly think that  Kid Rock isn't malicious he's just kind of dumb. At least too dumb to understand racial politics.


But you know who ain't.


Man you used to be cool.

I might be wrong. I thought the same thing about Trump but in 2 years time nobody will remember Kid Rock was flirting with a Senate Run, but Ted Nugent has done and said enough dumb shit with an ear to the president that I can't give him a pass.

While Kid Rock is what made my brain go here. Nugent is a true example the co-opting of rock and roll by racist assholes.

And it bothers me okay.

It sucks when it's science fiction, it sucks when it's video games. But damn it this is the house that Chuck built.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Game of Thrones and the Fantasy Ghetto

Okay, the critics are being harsh on this season of Game of Thrones. And to be fair this season has had a lot of plot contrivances and internal inconsistencies but I can't help but feel something else is going on.

This season has been the most "fantastical" season of Game of Thrones We get zombies, we get fire breathing dragons finally breathing fire. We got pirates.

More so than any other season of Game of Thrones this season has broken open the fantasy toy box.

And I love it. Like a lot of the reason why I like Game of Thrones this season, in particular, is because this is the season it decided to stop trying to pretend that it wasn't a fantasy story and just decided to go nuts. Seasons 4 & 5 are the best seasons of Lost.



(Then it fell off the rails in season six but in the moment it was good times.)

And while it's fun watching the "normies" clench their teeth over who's going to get roasted by a fire-breathing dragon reading the reviews I can't help but wonder why folks are surprised by this.

I mean "when is Game of Thrones going to stop dicking around and give us the dragons and ice zombies we've been waiting for" is a joke so old South Park was making it like 4 years ago.

And the critical reactions as the seasons have gotten more and more magical have crystallized a thought in my mind.

I like Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire. George R.R. Martin is a great writer but he didn't invent epic fantasy.  Game of Thrones is one of the better examples of it and one of the best executions of it on television but especially as this season went on I became more and more uncomfortable with Game of Thrones place as some sort of revolutionary never before seen take on the genre.

I don't blame the show but the culture around the show. Sometimes it feels that the reason why Game of Thrones gets the acclaim it does it because it resists the use of its more fantastical elements allowing the audience to forget that at the end of the day we are talking about a show that since day one has been hinting at an apocalyptic  battle between ice zombies and dragons.   And this is the season where that dynamic broke down.

After The Loot Train Battle, nobody can pretend that this show is just high brow historical fiction anymore. And I'm okay with that since I was ALWAYS on board with the idea that while inspired by history as more or less the entire fantasy genre is, the show was very much in line with what I would expect to see in other fantasy stories.

Blackwater Bay ripped off LOTR so bad it's kind of funny. Let's just say I skipped my DVD of Two Towers to Helmsdeep a lot as a kid (And replayed that level a lot on the game.). I know the Hornburg when I see it.

It's a shame. I don't want Game of Thrones to be a lightning in a bottle moment the same way Lord of the Rings was because nobody takes its genre seriously. There is a slew of books and D&D campaigns, and folk legends, and the rest of it that deserve a big budget adaptation of their own just as much as the Song of Ice and Fire.



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

They're All Magic the Gathering TV Shows



Okay media's collective obsession with ice zombies and dragons has reawakened my love for Magic the Gathering... which is bad for me, oh so bad for me.  But if I'm going to lock myself in a room for a week thinking about combos and EDH commanders I might as well get a couple of blog posts out of it.

I am super broke right now so new cards are out of the question. No looking at cool new legends and planeswalkers and going ooh what does this button do. (I want the God Pharoh  soooooo bad.)  Evan Erwin I'm not. Wish I was. Hope I can be eventually. But my wallet can't handle it right now.

But I got an itch.  So let's do this.

It's no secret that I've wanted a Magic the Gathering TV show since forever and have pretty much given up on getting one.

...


 Almost every merchandise driven kid show since 1999 is a  Magic the Gathering TV show.




Kaijudo has it's own weird history and I'll get to it in a bit but for now, everything is trying to be the new Yu-gi-oh and Yu-gi-oh started out as a Magic the Gathering parody. So it's all Magic baby.

Let's Go Back


Okay I shouldn't pretend like the ubiquity of Pokemon was some alien concept. There had been Transformers, Turtles, and Power Rangers before but for some reason, the Pokemon explosion felt bigger, and like the rest of those fads, everybody was trying to get on that sweet sweet pokemoney.

To be fair most of these were using the increased power of miniaturized computer and gaming systems to innovate on the virtual pet fad Tamagotchi started.  So they weren't just knock offs of Pokemon and came out more or less in the same cultural moment.



I don't have a hypothesis for why Pokemon got so big but for a while it ruled the world. And ever since everybody's been trying to do it again. And the fad that cracked the code was Yu-gi-oh.

The combination of  Yu-gi-oh and Pokemon more or less wrote the book on how you market a collectible kid game and guaranteed that everybody was destined to reproduce them FOREVER.

But here is the thing. Yu-gi-oh overtly ripped Magic right the hell off.

Do You Want to Play A Game?


So the early issues of the Yu-gi-oh manga are much more focused on various shadow games than on Duel Monsters, to the point where it and "season 0" are almost unrecognizable from what we got here in The States.

The formula was that Yu-gi a bullied kid who had a penchant for games would get possessed by his alter ego and challenges his bullies to a "shadow game" where bad stuff would happen. Think Death Parade in high school.  A shadow game could be anything but eventually, the writer decided to basically feature a Magic the Gathering reference and the rest is history. The fans loved it so much they demanded more and more of the series revolve around it... and for it to be defictionalized... and get lots of video games... and flashy toy accessories.

BTW who the hell plays card games with a duel disk. You can't read the card. 

While I'm making notes I'll also admit I don't have the time to get into all the stuff that happened between Nintendo and Wizards of the Coast.

This is why the rules are so inconsistent before Battle City. The writer didn't actually expect people to give a rat's ass about the game. They did. Dear lord they did.

WE INVENTED THIS STUFF!


So Duel Masters.  Duel Masters basically started out as an unlicensed Magic the Gathering comic. Bless its heart.  No joke. It is a straight long running manga about Magic the Gathering.That works for a comic. But they wanted to adapt it into show. And you just can't do that at least not without a lot of wrangling.

So they had to invent a new card game that was as close to Magic the Gathering as they could get without being sued.  And they did. Like Yu-gi-oh it was defictionalized. But this time around Wizards of the Coast, the company that makes Magic got in on the action and helped develop the game.

I kind of wished they just they market it as is but they wanted Yu-gi-oh money. Most of the changes in Duel Masters are geared toward simplifying the game in ways to make it more similar to Yu-gi-oh. Creatures can attack and block each other rather than just defend the player and there are no designated land cards.  Other than that it's basically Magic with higher numbers.

While Duel Masters is still going strong in Japan, where even the original manga is going strong in the States not so much and Wizard's discontinued printing the game after about five years.

Even when I first started playing Magic had a bit of continuity snarl (Stop apologizing for Time Spiral Rosewater). And Wizards wants to get new players into the game. That's been their priority for more or less five years and almost every controversial decision Wizards has made in that time can probably be attributed to it.

They needed Magic the Gathering lite. A version of the game that wasn't super complicated and had a smaller base of cards. They basically rebranded and relaunched Duel Masters as Kaijudo it went down in 2014 but to this day is probably the closest thing I'll ever get to a straight Magic the Gathering TV show... along with all the other shows and card games trying to be the new Yu-gi-oh.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Competitiveness of the Michigan State House


This was a lot of data entry and I appologize in advance for any transcription errors or errors in general. Also when I say competitiveness I generally mean how close the 2016 races were. I basically tried to find the differences between the Democrat and Republican vote percentages (not counting third party and write ins)

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