Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Southfield Police Crime Bulletin May4-10, 2015

Southfield Police Crime Bulletin April 27-May 3, 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Do it. Do It Now!

So monday was one of the more frustrating City Council meetings I've been to. Not because it get derailed as often happens but rather because I was disappointed that many of the Council saw the point in going to both Japan and Korea.

And that requires a lot of context.

Sister City
Way back in the tail-end of 2012 the City of Southfield was approached by the Koran-American Cultural Center about a sister center relationship with the City of Dongducheon South Korea.  While the sister city agreement was never signed things had progressed far enough that when the City Admistrator tried to couple the promised trip to Korea with a trade trip to Japan to save money I was actually kind of shocked they hadn't done that already. 

See a delegation from Dongducheon had come to the city in 2013 and the city had unofficially agreed to fly over to South Korea and sign a formal agreement. That didn't happen. I kind of missed it because it's been a busy year for me.  

Woman of Comfort Memorial
Tangentially related is that in 2014 a Comfort Woman Memorial Statue was pegged to be installed in the Southfield Public Library and one of big companies, headquartered in Japan in the city, Denso, objected so it was instead installed in front of the Korean-American Cultural Center. I'm hazy on the details here but evidently it caused "a thing".

Now would be a good time to talk about why it would. We Americans think of the pacific theatre in WWII as starting with Pearl Harbor but part of the reason why Japanese-American relations had broken down is that Japan was already occupying parts of China and Korea. And by all accounts they did some pretty nasty stuff that still effects relations between all three countries. Comfort women were a part of the "pretty nasty stuff"

Recently there have been a series political movements in Japan that in an attempt to restore its cultural identity kind of ...

Look I am neither Japanese nor Korean but I occasionally read news reports about Japanese revisionism and it kind of bugs me. Especially since I absorb a lot of Japanese technology, movies, video games and TV shows. I was raised on Sega and Nintendo. I was raised watching Dragon Ball Z and Power Rangers. I was raised listening to a Sony Walkman and playing a Playstation 2. 

A lot of what I hear about right-wing Japanese conservative nationalist movements "concerns" me. Though the same could be said for right-wing European conservative nationalist movements. But all the same in both cases I am an outsider and have more domestic concerns. 

On a "quasi" lighter note that back drop influences  one of my favorite movies. IP Man.  Hell once you scrape away all the fancy fights that movie is more or less about China finding and reaffirming its national identity (Something something revolution) during the Japanese occupation. 

Aaand some good old fashioned audience catharsis as Donnie Yen kicks ass.

So the governor has been trying to increase Japanese investment in Michigan via the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association conferences. It kind of makes sense. Even outside of the big three Michigan has lot of car part manufactures, and they could all benefit from contracts with Japanese auto-manufactures. 

Denso (the one mentioned earlier), a Japansese car part manufacturer that has a facility in Southfield requested members of the council accompany it and the governor to Tokyo for this year's conference.

In an effort to save money the City administrator decided to try to couple that trip with the trip to South Korea.

Don't Be Nintendo At CES in '91
At monday's meeting it seemed most of the Council was luke warm to the idea at best. Okay now I have to go into the subjective area of my read of the room. Most of the staff considered the sister city thing with the South Korea a done commitment.  But the official agreement never got signed...probably because the trip was planed in 2013 (I was wrong it was planned for early 2014 so my mild griping over how elections interfere with policy was pointless and has more to do with Prop 1 angst than anything else.

That said I'm still mad about Prop 1.

Anyway, bringing it up all of a sudden opened the gates for some members of Council to try to dodge the deal.

It's been a while and I'd say that only three of the Council members who were originally there when the South Korean Delegation visited the city were in the room so there isn't really a feeling of personal commitment.

But man that would suck. Again things had moved so far that I kind of assumed it was a done deal. Gifts were exchanged. The South Korean Delegation was hosted in the city and offered to do the same.

That right there is at least a gentlemen's agreement.

Okay I'm making generalizations that may be mildly racist, but almost everything I've heard about the Japanese business world implies that breaking a gentlemen's agreement is serious business. You DO NOT do it.

Oh and for a quicky video game history lesson MovieBob did it pretty well. Though my childhood owes more to the PS2 than the NES so I disagree with his conclusions.

And in a more general economic sense we need to project trust and stability. Our business partners must know that...

I was getting a little too ...serious yeah let's go with serious rather than uh upp no not going there especially with all this talk of World War II. So enjoy that clip from Excel Saga while I talk myself down from wishing for "a strong leader" to say to everybody else, "shut up this is what we're doing".

And for balance here's the trailer for Volcano High. I need to watch Oldboy already.

Where was I? Right trade mission to Asia. Apart from the obvious cool factor. If things go well it could mean jobs down the road. Even if they don't if it's not an outright catastrophe the exposure itself would be great.  It would get the city's name out there in the international business community.

And as far as the Korea trip goes,  there is something to be said for honoring commitments even the soft ones.

But beyond that there are a lot of other reasons for honoring the agreement. As I walk around town I fear, and I include myself in this, that we think too locally and the world doesn't work like that anymore. The cultural exchange with South Korea could help the younger generation get over that.

I got to get out of Michigan.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Southfield School Board Meeting Held on May 12, 2015

Meeting of the Board of Education Held on May 12, 2015

Topics Discussed Include
  • Building Utilization
  • Summer School
  • Police Safety Tips For End of School Year Parties
  • Awards the Levy Middle School Band Received
  • The Potential Merging of Southfield High School and Southfield Lathrup
An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Southfield City Council Meeting Held May 11, 2015

Meeting of the Southfield City Council Held on May 11, 2015

Topics Discussed Include

  • Potentially Changing How Multiple Family Residential Land Requirements are calculated. From Number of Rooms to Number of Units 
  • The potential of a trip to South Korea in reciprocation to the city of Dongducheon for its delegation's visit in 2013  
  • Accompanying the governor and representatives from Denso to a trade visit to Tokyo 
  • A charter amendment to eliminate primary elections 

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

X-Men: Days of Future Past and Specific Comic Adaptation?

My dirty little secret when it comes to movies is that since I'm broke I don't tend to catch them until way, way, way, after the fact. Which bums me out because yeah it means I don't get to see Avengers 2 this weekend and because it means that when it comes to movie reviews I am almost never topical.

But there is a freedom in that. It means that rather than worrying about telling people if I think a movie is good or worth thier money I can take a much more lackadaisical approach and talk about any interesting ideas I had while watching a movie or letting them percalate for a while.

In this case I had an epiphany about a recent shift in comic book movies after watching X-men: Days of Future Past.

While I enjoyed it I couldn't help but feel the movie was a bit of fan wank. Almost every narrative flaw the film has can be explained by it bending over backwards to position itself for moments and characters the fans have wanted to see for years.

Once it becomes clear that dealing with Mystique in the past is a golden snitch why do we keep cutting to the future? Because realistically it's the only chance to see future characters like Bishop the fans have been clamoring for since the first one.

Why does young prof-ex seem so out of character? So we can have Patrick Stewart give one of "his" speeches to James McAvoy, both of whom are two of the best actors of their respective generations.

Why is Quick Silver in the movie even though his presence raises a million questions and breaks the narrative?  Well because he's a fan favorite and everybody's been asking for him to show up even though the rights are nutty for while now.

That got me thinking. What should I have expected with Days of Future Past. The movie fans have been asking for that they never thought they would get since the first one of these.

Why when I was a young warthog the point of a comic book movie was to distill the characters and essence  of half  a century into something a mainstream audience could understand. Sure there might be elements from the bigger story lines but it was rare for a movie to straight up admit, "Hey this is an adaptation of say Civil War.  If you're a fan of that this is for you.

If you wanted that you had to go to cartoons.

 And I'm not talking all that long ago. Even the first Avengers was more about that distillation than a specific story. But with Age of Ultron (which again I haven't seen) and the crop of movies over the last year and a half I see a new paradigm on the horizon.

It's just something to think on.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

State Representative Jeremy Moss' April 27, 2015 Transportation Coffee Hour and Presentation

On April 27, 2015 State Representative Jeremy Moss held a coffee hour and presentation at the Southfield Public Library to answer questions regarding proposal 1, which would constitutionally change how tax dollars are distributed in Michigan in the hope of better funding transportation. Proposal 1 will be voted on by the public on May 5, 2015

Note: Roughly the last 15 minutes of the Coffee hour are cut off.

April 27, 2015 Southfield City Council Meeting

Meeting of the Southfield City Council Held on April 27, 2015

Topics Discussed Include

  • The Appointment of Michael Ari Mandelbaum to the City Council to fill Former Councilman Ken Siver's Seat
  • The Appointment and Oath of Office of John Michrina as Deputy City Administrator
  • A Brownfield Redevelopment Plan For a Property on 8-Mile Road Being Developed By Arizona Investments, LLC

Note: Due to technical difficulties there are roughly 15 minutes missing roughly a half hour into the recording. 

 An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Still Not Over It

So I'm mad and part of my new...last-July-I-had-the-biggest-argument-in-my-life's day resolution I am no longer going to try to so desperately pretend I'm not mad when I'm actually furious. It does me no good and is probably going to lead to a heart attack. I'm already on blood pressure pills. Though on that count my doc's right. I could stand to lose a few pounds but stress can't be helpful.

So let's play catch up. A few weeks ago the Southfield City Council approved the expansion of a church for a parking lot. The town generally hated that decision. Or at least most of the people I talk to hated that decision. But I thought that was it. But during the meeting Council asked for adjustments to the site plan so for the next few weeks this is going to be a thing.

You know maybe there is something I'm missing about this particular church. I'm not great at reading site plans, but for me this isn't about the church. This is about the The Golden Corral and The Walmart,. Heck its even about the developments that got through but were butchered in the legislative process.

Okay so eventually I'm going to try to sort my thoughts out logically and play devil's advocate with myself but before I do I need to handle the elephant in my brain. Thing I need to say but really don't want to say.

The Elephant
A lot of these arguments stem from a "we don't want to urban" perspective. Which is okay. That's a life choice. I disagree with that life choice and will explain why. But a decent contingent of those people are coming from a "We don't want to be Detroit" perspective and a lot of that is a thinly veiled "We don't want poor people OR (The or is important) black people coming into the city"

Again it's not everyone. And there are other reasons to not want the church, or anything else there that I will argue against momentarily but I needed to clear the air and get that out of my system. It's been festering there for years. And in light of the petition to roll back the civil rights ordinance I felt I needed to hit it dead on. To say clearly and loudly I may be tolerant but I'm not that tolerant.

On Urbanism

You know in college I took up a cities of the world class. I got a horrible grade and thought the professor was a bore, but it did get me thinking.  What is a city. In short it's people.

A city is people.

And all the social, economic, and engineering infrastructure it takes to support human life.  It's just that when you start talking about lots of people things scale up. You need more food, you need more water, you need more sanitation, more trade, more everything.

But it all works out because the resources it takes to deliver said resources to people generally decline per capita as population density increases. It's easier to transport goods. Water pressure holds up better. Teachers can teach more than one family's students at a time.

Heck I view the creation of the city as a technical innovation on the same level as the wheel.

My view is that despite all the problems on an aggregate level cities beat the alternative by a country mile.

But on the whole the entire point of a city (the place not the government), a social innovation, is to meet the needs of the people who dwell within it and provide them the services required for daily life.

The Heart Is Stronger Than the Head

On a more personal note cities are where things happen. Where enough people live to make things move.

Everybody has a story.
Everybody has a life.
That's a city's glory.

Too Many People
On the other hand maybe I'm a bit too nieve. I'm with more people brings more problems. Crime. Dirt. Unemployment. The whole 9, all the same I would argue that the function of a city's government are to mitigate these problems, not by eliminating the beast itself but by finding creative solutions.

Like say a police force to help deal with security, or a Parks and Rec department to preserve green areas or a Fire Department to deal with well fire or a Sanitation Department to help deal with what do you think?!

Again all of these problems would exist but having people gathered in one place makes them easier to deal with than if folks were scattered and in a million places. I'd rather be murdered in a city where someone will find my body and find justice than in the woods any day. Not that it's exactly a choice I like.

But I Get It
Like I said wanting to live a pastural life is a choice. And I'm not some Stalinist who would forcibly move people. But I find a lot of the reasons people don't like city's are not inherent and furthermore bringing this back around the moves my community wants to make in the attempt to "preserve nature and residential characteristics" exasperates these types of problems.

Allow Me to Turn that Detroit Comparison on It's Head

Only an idiot would argue that Detroit has no problems. But my view has always been that most of those problems are social problems, caused by the sort of micro decisions being advocated.  Why is there so much crime? Well because there is so much unemployment.  Why is there so much unemployment? Because businesses left the city. Why did businesses leave the city. Well because the monied residents left. Why did they leave?   Do I have to go back and mire in that bullshit?

Southfield Police Crime Bulletin March 30-April-12, 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Southfield City Council Meeting April 14, 2015

Southfield City Council Meeting held on April 14, 2015
Topics Discussed Include

  • Mayoral Powers and the ability to veto land use ordinances
  • The New Hope Missionary Baptist Church
  • A Brownfield Plan for Retail development on 8-mile road
An agenda and related documents can be found here.
 Note: The First portion of this meeting, which was not recorded, was a closed session.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Movie Review 300: Rise of an Empire

You know I've cooled a bit on 300.  Sure as an Michigan State University graduate I have to have some loyalty to it but all the same the O.G. Spartans were kind of ... complicated.

The more I think about it though the less I like that we've deified  them as the "founders of western military tradition". While crazy awesome in the moment this scene in particular feels like the height of stupidity when my brain turns on.

When your sword is blunted and your armor is dented you'll be damn glad you had a blacksmith or two around.  Shut the hell up.

And as for potters, I have three words. GREEK FIRE ASSHOLES!

I'm borrowing a bit from Moviebob (I have got to stop doing that) here but yes 300: Rise of a Empire feels like nothing more than a deconstruction of the black and white simplicity of the first movie, an attempt to inject some brains into it.

But the reason why the first movie worked was the extreme melodrama that such moral simplicity allowed for. Who doesn't love shouting quotes from it at the top of their lungs?


I am torn. The thing that makes this movie intellectually interesting is the same thing that makes it boring as hell to sit through.

The grand thesis of the film is that Greece was more than her army and definitely more than the Spartans. And considering all the societal infrastructure it took and still takes to build a military naval vassal it seems like an apt foil to the a free man with a just cause and a long spear posturing of the first.

To that end the movie tries to undo some of the myth making of the original by showcasing Themistocles and the Battles of Artemisium and Salamis who many including myself believe don't get as much press as his terrestrial counterparts when he deserves at least as much and maybe more.

But since the movie's raison detre is to bring 300 back down to earth and it knows it can't while still remaining 300 it problematically tries to find the sweet spot between Scylla and Carbides.

As for actual history or political theorizing about the relationships between a civilian economy, the navy and the army there are better places to go.

And for action well, look naval combat is always a bitch to film. The movie gives it a good go with usual 300 tricks, but in the wide expanse of water ships are kind of slow moving doubly so in antiquity. Most movies get around this by having a lot of tension and build up.

And sure the movies tries but first off that takes the edge of the decapathon, and second of all the movie seems to think that anybody watching already kind of understands Salamis' relationship to Thermopylae and the larger Greco-Persian conflict.

Lets get the history out of the way.

While yes there were a shit ton of Persians at Thermopylae the bulk of the Persian army was tied up in the straits of Artemisium in a naval battle, after the battle of Thermopylae was lost Themistocles convinced the Greeks to change objectives and engage the Persians in the Straits of Salamis where they more or less crushed the Persian navy The movie is trying to do for that naval battle what 300 did for Thermopylae while criticizing the notion that that one battle forged western civilization especially when Thermopylae was lost. .

Anyway, we get a lot of talk about why the battle is important to the characters but again part of the point of the film is to get past the guttural manipulation of the first one so there isn't much of a reason to root for anybody other than the battle's bigger importance in the war the 300 started, which like I said the movie is kind of vague on.

In the original the battle is important because of how the film is framed. The Greeks are a rag tag band of bad-ass brothers while the Persians... that's a can of worms I'm not touching with a ten foot poll.

In this movie since everything is downplayed there isn't a lot of difference between the two navies. Hell at one point I thought the Greeks were shooting arrows at their own guys in the water.

The first one was all heart while the second tried for brains and their both flawed for it.

Responsible Gaming?

So last year I wrote my newbie gamer guide which was basically a codification of everything I said to my Mom when she was hoping to hook my little cousins into an Xbox 360.

But as I said with my Fallout review... thing my gaming sabatical is over. For a while now I've been thinking how to economically get back into gaming and I'd be lying if I didn't say its part of my overall life plan as pathetic as it sounds.  Hey I want to be able to walk into a Best Buy without feeling like a Dickensian urchin.

All the same there is no way I'm going to be able to get back into the habit the way I did when I was a teenager. I've got bills to pay and stuff to do. So how can I do this responsibly, without the impending feeling that my life is crumbling around me to feed the beast.

With that in mind I know I'll say things in here that are going to make hard cores angry. Hell after some thought I've decided on things that would make the me of 10 years ago kick my own ass.

PC First
You know dispite the truth that console gaming is no longer as plug and play as it was in the NES days it's still a lot easier to get Xbox 360 games than PC games for the simple reason that my P.C. is hitting the edge of its lifespan.

But I need to have discipline and deal with the bigger problem rather ignoring it in favor of cheap quickie fixes both gaming and not.

Apart from the fact that I am a PC gamer at heart I really should focus my efforts on getting a new computer for productivity reasons. Sure part of my larger economic plans is to do a whole technological overhaul but even that has the stain of "Do I really need a new cellphone and tablet? Is that the best use of my money?" on it. But without hesitation I can say I NEED a new computer. If I don't get one soon this blog is going to look ... very different.
But the purchasing calculations for that have so many asterisks attached to them that it might as well be a whole new post.

  • Do I wait and save or do I buy on credit.
  • Desktop or Laptop
  • Touch Screen or no, hell do I really even need to replace my old monitor at all?
  • Cost or performance
  • Do I spring for a new printer and shave it off the overall budget, the copier and scanner are both busted but it still "prints" fine.
  • I really want to spring for so external hard drives to help with transfer and backup but that adds to the budget. 
  • Do I upgrade software like Office and Adobe or just stick with older stuff?
  • Which new free software do I install that I might previously not have considered?
I think I could swing it if I had to but I'm putting it off because I don't want to spend three days locked in a room installing software but sooner or later I'm going to have to. This old heap has seen better days and I've been half expecting the blue screen of death for over a year now.

Hardware First
In that same vein I really need to focus on upgrading the hardware. Because I have an older Xbox with a small hard drive I've been using flash drives, but it's obvious that at some point I'm going to hit the point where the $15-20 I'm spending on each on is going to add up to more than it would cost to just get a new console.  Each stick lasts me about 2 months so its a long term concern but I can't keep pretending like its not a bad idea in the long term to keep doing that.

Right now I've sprung for 6 flash drives to extend the life of the thing. At $20 a pop that's at least $120 and that's an underestimate.

Furthermore flash drives suck for DLC and digital distribution which often require an internal hard drive. (I'll get to it)

7th Generation
And now for the thing that's going to make everybody mad. I don't think the 8th generation is worth the money. At least not yet.

On a personal note since I went off the radar during generation seven there are still a hell of a lot of good games for Xbox 360 and eventually PS3 that I never got a chance to play, but really want to that I can buy on the cheap. And my estimation of the eighth generation right now is the opposite of that. Most of the major games I see advertised are just bigger re-releases of stuff that already came out, or are games of which I hear nightmare tales of day one bugs and glitches.  

And since the Xbox One isn't backwards compatible I can't say that with it I am in essence buying both it and a new Xbox 360 the same way I did with the Xbox 360 and the original Xbox.

I kind of have to make a choice about which has the games I want to play and the Xbox One just isn't there yet.

I'll probably go with the 8th generation eventually but even then the prices will drop rather than increase so its hard to rush a purchase. Speaking of which.

Digital Distribution Sales
What really makes me want to get back into gaming are digital distribution sales. The realization that games that have been on my list for years can be bought for like 3 bucks with the right timing and equipment.

With a steam wishlist I literally get emails saying. "Hey this game you told us you want can be yours for the low low price of... $1.99" And it is infuriating that my PC just isn't up to it.

And while I'm at it I'll include games for gold here. Microsoft has really been going for the good stuff with that program.  It's well worth the money... if my hard drive could handle it.

All the same its harder and harder to keep with the line "I can't afford to game."

I may not be to able buy everything day one or play every game in the world but if I want to I could do this.

So in my day it was rare that a console game would get an expansion pack. Sure there were a few stand alone but those were in essence whole new games. What sort of trips me up everytime I do dip my toe back in is DLC.  For most of the recent games I played and liked, (Dishonored and Fallout) I kind of want the DLC. It's less than the price a new full game and I get to mess around in the world, but see the hardware section.

On the other hand I can also see how DLC can go horribly horribly wrong.

It's just something on my mind.

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