Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What's Going On In Town September 30, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Let's Play

Okay so I kind of described why I'm doing what I'm doing... to piss off my Dad. (I kid) but let's talk hardcore about what exactly I'm doing and what are my future plans.

First off about in June I started opening business bank accounts and opened up a business credit card. That makes it easier for me to do stuff for this blog and not worry so much about whether or not what I do here is going to interfere with the other stuff in my life... to a point I still have to make minimum payments and taxes are going to get wierd but I have enough money in the bank accounts not to worry about that for a while and if push comes to shove it's relatively easy for me to invest more seed money.

That line of credit will allow me to make equipment upgrades some of which have already arrived. I have a new video camera, a new laptop, and have upgraded adobe software. In addition I'm going to get a new microphone and a new still camera.

All of this in theory will allow for this blog to be more visual and for my YouTube channel to actually have real video.

In addition I'm broke (and have bad luck with them... one cracked head gasket on a Chevrolet that lasted two weeks and one absolutely totaled GM. Never buy a car for less than 2 grand) so I don't have a car. But I've discovered Uber, which labor issues aside considering insurance might be cheaper anyway so that's not as much of a problem as it used to be.

My point is that there are fewer and fewer reasons not to carry out my ideas for this blog which are many.
  • As a fluke of fate a family member decided to cut me a break and give me enough cash to go to Youmacon this year and I want to use the new equipment to do some cool stuff. Actually cover it right, photos, vlogs, edited video the works. It's kind of acting as my deadline to get stuff set up but things have been moving faster than I thought. 
  • It's a little late in the game but I could still at least cover some of the local debates this election season. 
  • I always wanted to try podcasting but a one man show is hard and by the time my resolve kicked in my old mic died. But I ordered a shiny new one so s'all good man. 
  • Ditto for skype audio interviews. And while I'm at it short documentaries
  • Hell why not a regular news show focusing on hyper-local stuff. It's more or less what I already do in text. 
  • While I'm at it I can actually FOIA stuff without begging my parents for cash. 
  • The new financial structure is also better for , Google Ads, Amazon kindle publishing, merchandising, and crowdfunding so I need to get on setting that stuff up. But before I ask for crowd funding or donations I want to show people what I'm actually promising them. So that might take a while.
  • Speaking of which there is tons of fiction and poetry on this blog I half-assed. if I polished it up something could happen with it. 
  • And speaking of which since this is financially a business I can actually pay people now. I mean I'm not going to right away. Right now this is still a one man show, but if I wanted to I have a mechanism to actually pay guest bloggers, artists and freelancers. Dawww that's so cute he thinks he's an actual media outlet with a payroll and contractors. 
  • A lot of the text reviews I have on the site already could be repurposed into video reviews.
  • And since money isn't as much of an issue at least for the business if I want to review the weird buying DVD's isn't as much of a stretch. I've been meaning to discuss The World forever but that movie is hard as hell to find and the same can be said of tons of other stuff that can't be streamed.  
  • And having an actual disk would mean I can edit it into an actual discussion. My most clicked stuff tends to be when I decide to actually analyze stuff. Quote stuff, break down visual metaphors and symbolism, discuss cultural relevancy, but it's hard to do when I have to  take a long ass time to describe a scene rather than just show people.  On the other hand do I think sitting editing this stuff would be quicker. Hell no. All the same I kind of want to do some Mr. Plinkett style stuff especially with movies, shows and anime that have been out for a while and have enough influence to warrant that sort of discussion. And even for some obscure stuff I think needs more love.  Mighty Max is so fetch. 

Southfiel Regular City Council Meeting September 21, 2015

Southfield City Council Regular Meeting Held on September 21, 2015
Topics Discussed Included

  • A Tax Abatement For ElringKlinger
  • A Tax Abatement for Versa Development
  • Potential Renewal of Comcast’s Franchise Agreement and Potential Legal Ramifications if The Application is Denied Councilman Sidney Lantz’s Absences From Meeting
  • Landmark Entertainment Group’s Interest in the Northland Mall Property
  • Labor Issues
  • The Building Department’s Dissatisfaction With the Wade-Trim Consulting Firm

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Don't Do The Thing I Did

So I'm kind of in a soft reboot of my blog and it's finally starting to get to the point where it's showing up on the front end. I got a new YouTube channel. I ordered new camera. I subscribed to creative cloud so I should be able to do some cool stuff with that.

It makes me want I'm going to reflect how I got to this point.

Let It Go
So about a year ago I had the worst argument with my father ever. It was pretty much that scene in How to Train Your Dragon except without an impending dragon attack to break up the tension.

There was a lot that pissed me off in that moment but the gist of it is that I felt I wasn't getting credit for any of the stuff I was doing. My dad was going on about how I don't have a job (I do, 3 depending on how I look at it). Anyway that job that I don't have was kind of stressing me out at the time.

Moreover despite being stressed out I was working more hours than usual so I had a couple hundred more dollars in my pocket than I was used to. Sitting down and listening to all that made me think. I have more money, why does my life still suck?

Sidenote: That argument made me realize that part of the reason why was/am so frosty towards my extended family has nothing to do with them and maybe I should cut them some slack as it's unfair for me to avoid them like the plague because I want to avoid the kabuki act I had to play for the sake of my parents, especially the ones too young to pick up on what's going on or haven't been around to add to my ire. And maybe having some outside perspective during that argument rather than furiously fomenting in my own juices might have done me some good.

In other words that right there is why Frozen joins A Boy Named Charlie Brown on the list of movies I watch when I need a pick me up.

Damn it. I can't listen to that song without tearing up a least a little. All the same I'm a natural introvert so I'm not all of a sudden going spend my nights hitting up the strip club. But maybe I shouldn't dismiss family events out of hand like I normally do.

The Pizza-Router Scenario
The answer to that question was what I call the pizza-router dilemma. Although this is somewhat exaggerated it's what was going on at the time. Let's say I have $100 of not allocated to some bill money. That's not enough money to change my life but it is enough to warrant some decisions. And after some thought I realized this was the pattern. I'm not going to save money indefinitely. Within a few months there is going to be something I need or want and unless I massively increase my income to the point where I have money I can squat on that $100 will be gone, The best I can really hope for is try to make sure that when I do spend it I spend it well.

Back to the Scenario. I needed a new router. I knew I needed a new router for over a year. But I didn't buy one because it felt too expensive. All the same over the course of that year I ordered plenty of pizza which isn't exactly something necessary to maintain life. Over the course of that year I was pretty sure I spent more on pizza than it would have cost to buy that new router, something that would have made my life easier if only slightly.

Why was I more comfortable spending the money on pizza which was ephemeral than on something that would have bettered my life?

Because pizza felt cheaper. When I make that $20 purchase on pizza I never thought about how much money I spent on pizza in the last three months I just thought. I'm hungry I have the money and everything else I could spend it on is waaaay more expensive so why not pizza. But over time those small decisions added up. In the grand scheme of things I would rather spend $100 on one new router than on five pizzas but I needed allow myself to feel secure in the idea that that was I was doing. That that $100 is money I had to spend and if I spent it smart now I wouldn't spend it stupid later.

Let's Get To Work
To facilitate this I more or less carried out the plan I outlined in this blog post while I was still fuming about it. I made a spreadsheet of everything I could see myself spending money on and tried to categorize, subcategorize and then prioritize it. Doing that made me realize even if I hate spending money there are some things you just have to buy. Toilet paper, trash bags, tooth paste. And trying to pretend that you won't have to throw down on those only means that when you do you'll be forced to take the most expedient, but not necessarily the cheapest or most efficient option.

Mapping out all the ways I'm likely to spend money allowed me to cut costs and slice off time but I'll get to that in a bit.

I wanted to be able to just look at a website or my phone or whatever and be able to get a number. One number that would amount to how much free unallocated money I had to work with.  And at the time the best way I thought to do that was through the bank, which would keep track of what I spent in relative real time.

So I spent the year opening up a checking account for each of the major categories as well as one to just house money I hadn't figured out what I wanted/needed to do with yet.

Decisions Decisions
Doing that I realized that I had more wiggle room than I thought. I'm not rich but some of the stuff that was off the table all of a sudden became justifiable as things that would save me grief if not money down the line.

And slowly these decisions compiled and compiled. $10 of wiggle became $50 which became $100. Still not enough to move out but enough to make my life demonstrably easier than it was and to make me less angry than I usually am.

As March approached I started to get over my financial lethargy. I could do stuff all of a sudden. I could be proactive. I could shape my world to my will!

In the mail I found a preapproved credit card and all of a sudden all my rhetorical plans weren't rhetorical anymore. So I decided to make a bet with myself on myself. All of these mad cap schemes of mine would pay off in the long run. That all of these projects and improvements will pay for themselves so I've been doing ...stuff.

Cleaning the garage, building a small library, ordering supplies to make my day job a little easier and building a budget for the blog.

All of a sudden I have plans.  Plans with considerable risk. But plans all the same.

Southfield City Council September 21, 2015 Committee of the Whole Meeting

Southfield City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting Held on September 21, 2015

Topics Discussed Included

  • The Potential Renewal of Comcast’s Franchise Agreement and Potential Legal Ramifications if The Application is Denied

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Television Review: Tyrant Season 1

Well the first half of season two of Once Upon a Time kind of drags so I decided to take a break and watch the first season of Tyrant.



I have not visited nor have I have I studied in a university setting the Middle East, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya,  or Egypt. And the same can be said for post colonialism and the Arab Spring in general other than in broad social studies survey courses and I apologize for anything horrifyingly off base I will say now or have even said while watching this show on Twitter.

Also no joke if I somehow manage to say something that sounds clever remember the previous statement and do not take it overly seriously this is after all (mostly) just a rant about a cable TV show. One of my biggest fears is that somebody takes something I say because I'm bored and kind of annoyed and runs with it.

Okay. Not wholy unlike Once. Tyrant is a show where I like the idea of it. An in-depth albeit fictional examination of Middle Eastern politics during the height of the Arab Spring or if you're over 40 the Iranian Revolution. And on top of that we are in an age where a really good show like that might be able to make it, where Generation Kill, In Treatment, Orange is the New Black, The Wire Treme, House of Cards, had their due.  Where shows can confidently deal with social issues, and revel in dialogue, and go for high concept without fear that the idiocracy will change the dial the moment something comes up the might need to check a news report on.

But the show keeps making weird choices forcing me to concede that it's a miss and that I really want a better version of this idea. And then I realize, revolutionary drama is not a new idea and that I actually have seen a better version of this basic story, albeit outside of a Middle Eastern skin.

Most of the basic story beats of this series can be found in Last King of Scotland along with a lean mean no nonsense script and better acting.  Or if you want to drink te... my usual colloquialism for going high brow won't work when I am specifically describing British Colonialism all the same I feel I also need to recommend Anthills of the Savannah and The Poisonwood Bible.

But the biggest face palm worthy decision I can think of has to do with how the show tackles race and nationality. Let's talk about Americanness

Okay so the show's protagonist "Barry" is supposed to be a Bashar al-Assad analogue.  He spent time in the west and is presented as less heavy handed moderate to his brother. And that would have been great giving the show some historical authenticity and depth if the show hadn't made two decisions.

The first is casting Adam Rayner. Generally I will be the first guy to decry assuming people's ethnicity based on how they look and making judgments about it, but eventually it's hard to get past that you have milk toast over here telling all the brown people how to run the country for most of the season.  It's a constant distraction.

Let's go back to Last King for a second. James McAvoy's character generally has the same advisory role but his entire arc was about him, as a metaphor for the west in general, realizing that he lacked the means to control Amin and that this guy was going to do whatever he wanted regardless of coaxing by the white guy in the room.

And especially with Middle Eastern dictatorships that were propped up by American and British oil interests that might be a good point to make.

One narrative of the Arab Spring in general is about the loss, and flailing maintenance of control both by western interests and Middle Eastern governments, and the attempt to identify and halt disruptive forces before chaos ensues or dealing with the calamity that comes when it is impossible.

The second choice is making his "American" family absolutely insufferable. They are idiots. They are what breaks the show for me however, look I get it. The show wants to make the very necessary point that Americans are out of touch with Middle-Eastern politics and most of the shit we say would be (almost) hilariously stupid if so many people were not suffering (I include myself in that statement). We are long past the point where any sort of easy solution to the Syrian Civil War can be found or managed. There are too many factions, nations and parties that have competing interests and will fight like hell for them.


But back to the show.

The American family tips the scale from sort of obtuse to "Are you actually trying to kill yourself". And none of the drama surrounding them works. I keep finding myself hoping some crafty internet editor will make a cut of this show entirely without them just to see if the show plays better. It would help some of the pacing at the very least.

On the other hand what ruins the show's credibility is what isn't there. The second act on deals with a Square protest analogous to the one that ended the reign of  Hosni Mubarak, yet the show spends very little time in the actual square with the protesters.

One episode in particular that downright pissed me off was when the Royals and the Americans are in a NIGHTCLUB debating what's going on in the square. WHY THE HELL ISN'T THE CAMERA IN THE SQUARE?!?!?!  Why is it so seldom any of the "rebel" characters look directly into the camera and say this (and I mean that in multiple ways) this is why I am so pissed off at the government.

By the same token one of the big reveals of the season has to do with a gas attack committed by the protagonist's father and it is seldom (it does happen) that any of the characters discuss what that moment meant to them and how it changed their lives. To be blunt almost all of them seem more interesting than the schmucks in the palace but they hardly get any screen time, the dissident journalist and his daughter, the man who failed to negotiate elections and his sons. That would be compelling.

One more thing is that religion is noticeably absent. And before I someone calls me a terr'rist. I'm not talking (solely) about jihadists. It's incredibly difficult to describe politics in the region without describing religious motivations or the reactions there of. Even the secular states are secular partially out of a fear of encouraging religious extremists.

Islam says a lot about social justice particularly how the poor should be treated and in a lot of the political movements the show draws from somebody was making overt religious calls to action. And with all the opulence in the palace it seems hard to believe somebody on the ground hasn't given some sort of "Do you think God approves of that palace while children starve in the streets? Does God approve of these men taking any woman, your wives sisters, and mothers as they please?" speech.

Which goes back to the protesters. What do they want. Do they want reform or full ousting of the ruling family. How does religion play into their politics? How do they feel about the west and western culture?  If elections happened who would run amongst them? Do any of them see violence as a viable tool for political change? Are there any internal conflicts?  WHAT DO THEY WANT THEIR COUNTRY TO LOOK LIKE? Most of what we hear about them and their motivations comes second hand, from characters who view them as a problem that needs to be solved post haste. And that is a problem.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

TV Review: Once Upon A Time Season One (Quasi Redux)

For my own sanity I'm going to break this up into seasons. What I like and dislike about the show changes from season to season.

When I first heard about Once Upon a Time I really really liked the premise. I am a fantasy nut, but overtime I had to come to grips that the show specifically this go round the first season but the other seasons have problems too. I believe and will probably always believe there is a good, hell a great show in here...somewhere.

The first season is kind of schitzo. There are a lot of ideas floating around some of them are great and some are good but badly executed, and some are down right lame.

The first season really does try to flesh out the backstory of the fables and really does make them quite interesting but it also makes clear that these interesting characters are the supporting cast. Most of the main characters. Snow White/Mary Margret, The Evil Queen/Regina and especially Emma Swan are just not that interesting.

Almost every moment somebody would get a really cool moment, I would want some time to digest it and the show would go, nope back to your regularly schedule program.

The biggest example I can think of is the Jiminy/Archie  episode which spends a lot of time explaining who he was, who he is and why he does what he does only to cut to bickering between Swan and Regina as Henry another more interesting character is in mortal danger

On that note Henry is one of my favorite characters. He more or less has the entire plot of the show and most of the characters figured out but nobody will listen to him because he's 10. Later on people start to get wise to it and their first response to the problem of the arc is find Henry and read his story book but it's still the first season.

Furthermore there is some fridge logic with Regina being the mayor. Being the evil queen and all she has prickly personality that keeps making me think who the hell elected her. Almost everybody either fears or hates her. And not in the good "Look, I don't want to cross that guy until I have to" way but more in that "Up yours pal" way. I can get that everybody else just sort of fell into their modern roles but for Regina I just can't see it. On the other hand she did cast the curse so of course she would put herself in charge.

Now that I think of it I kind of have a problem with most, though not all the villians. The better written ones dominate later seasons but Regina is kind of weak sauce especially in season one. The show in general focuses a little too much on wuv, and I'm not buying especially as written in season one Regina's I just want love motivations for all the crap she does.

Especially her murder of... look it's Snow White do I really need to spoiler tag that The Huntsman bites it.  The way that scene plays out she kills him not because he's the only guy who's reached the age of majority who's figured out the plot and can move the board against her but because he broke up with her and she can't deal. That's kind of weak.

That said the biggest problem with the first season is it plays fast and loose with the reveal that the flashbacks actually happened. Sometimes the show pretends like those are just stories, and sometimes it pretends Henry is the only sane man who knows what's going on.

This mean that the season spends a lot of time jogging in place until the last four or five episodes where everything is explained and we finally get a what's going on and why. Specifically who did what, how, and what their motivations were.

Because of that huge chunks of the first season feel like a prequel and I'm not talking about the flashbacks which are actually pretty good self contained stories in the vain of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre or that Jim Henson show. (By the way I keep using the clip from The Story Teller for a reason it is really really good. It used to be on Hulu but alas. Then again there might be a reason for that.)  I mean that the over arching plot always feel like it's setting the pick for bigger more interesting stuff. This is especially so since the first season ends on a huge cliff hanger that feels like "okay the show can actually start now".

------Spoilers Now-----

While The Evil Queen brought all the fairy tale characters to the real world as revenge for all the stuff that happened in Snow White she was actually being manipulated by Rumpelstiltskin.

Before he was the evil bastard we know and hate he was an absolute wuss who sought power to protect his son but all that power changed him into the bargain makin', baby eatin', nightmare we know today. His son realizing that part of the transformation was caused by a magical deal with the devil made another deal with him to travel to a land without magic where he wouldn't be able to BE Rumpelstiltskin but Rumpie just couldn't let go of all that power and welshed, despite all the "stuff" he's done since that moment has become his biggest regret, "the one deal" he couldn't keep. Everything that happened in the first season was part of his master plan to reunite with his son and beg for his forgiveness, but being Rumplestilskin he doesn't have it in him to truly commit being without all that power. So he wants to, get to our world, locate his son, and here is the cliff hanger find a way to bring his mojo with him. What happens when you have a evil, goal oriented megalomaniacal,  fireball throwing wizard who at the same time ALSO happens to be a devious and ruthless contract lawyer in the REAL world?

That is a really good premise, but "the creators of lost" spent way to too much time keeping the audience in the dark and I can't help but feel the story doesn't really get started until season two and good until season three.


I'll deal with the second season later but what makes Rumple an interesting character is his fatal flaw. He is an absolute coward who is always searching for a bigger gun even when being the guy with the big red button scares the ever living shit out of his family (as embodied by his son) and would be allies partially because they know the score. If it's a choice between them and power he'll choose power every time.  And the question he has to ask himself is does he have it in him to change, to be comfortable being a weak man even though being that weak man is what drove him to be the monster of the tales.

But that question can't really get answered until the show explains all the background which doesn't happen until the tail end of the season.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


For reasons I find myself wanting to talk about the worse time in my life (this won't happen often so take up a chair). My second (or third depending on how I count) semester at The University of Michigan. The one where I failed out of engineering school. In recent years I've been thinking about whether or not when I recall the story of my life I still want to call it the worse time in my life. There have been worse things that happened. Friends and family have died.

All the same I don't know. Once something horrible happens you can sort of start to pick up the pieces and move on but this was a slow inevitable train wreck where I felt the ill advised need to fight fate. There was the moment between where you think if you work really hard you might make it and you realize there is just no way in hell to make the math work and you're just stuck in the nightmare until it ends.

For a really long time I thought the worse thing that could happen to me was to  fail in school. I suppose it was just how I was raised.  At the same time I didn't have the perspective to realize that I was an okay but not great student.  I had and arguably still have the ability to make people think I'm smarter than I really am and this was the time in my life where I got a little too drunk on that kool-aid. In the end I actually think failing out of college might have been good for me as it taught me a hard lesson of what can happen when I do that.

To be fair by my second semester (and arguably the end of the first) that had worn off but I'll freely admit the first was mostly just me hanging out in my dorm goofing off until something came up that meant I couldn't. But during the second I spent many a hard night looking at a Linix screen at the Dude and coming up short. Stupid mother fucking game of life. And while I'm at it stupid orbitals.

In the end it became hard for me to justify to myself the time and effort I was spending, hard to justify to my parents the amount of money they were spending but more importantly harder to justify to the counselors.

I was learning something. Hey I went from 10 percents to 50 percents. But I wasn't learning fast enough to justify not giving my spot to one of the tens of thousand of other guys who might get it faster.

Eventually I went to community college and then Michigan State to get a degree in journalism but I can't help but feel that my time at University of Michigan was good for me.

First off it was the first time in my life that I wasn't hanging around the same group of people I had since grade school. It made me realize how much of my perceptions of myself were reflections of what they thought of me.

Speaking of which it was the first time in my life where I started to seriously question my parents. And I don't mean in the rebellious teen kind of way. Failing out of engineering college made me ask the question of how did I get to that point. I couldn't remember waking up one day and thinking I want to be an engineer. I think that might have been part of the problem. I didn't really want it I was just there because it never occurred to me to do something else, largely due to my parents' pushing.

Ruminating on that realization is what normally gives me the guts to tell them "Shut up. It's my life"

Even when I should probably just shut up my own self and just nod my head.

And lastly look. As long as I don't feel as bad as I did in those moments of my life I figure I'll get over whatever is ailing me. That no matter how bad I feel it's only a moment in time and sooner or later another moment will come that's not to say that moment will be better than the last but the thing that I am spending so much of my brain on will not seem as important as at least one of the next things. A problem is never as big as it seems in that moment.

That said don't make the mistake of thinking it doesn't still piss me right the hell off. It was still the worse moment of my life after all.

But enough of the self-indulgent navel gazing.

Here are some pro-tips. What time and reflection has taught me about school.

  • Everybody tells you you're going to spend more time working outside of the class than in lecture but what they don't tell you is that time may be less than flexible unlike regular study time. Labs, group projects, office hours. I doublebooked once and while it affected my grade what hurt worse was that made me the odd man out in my group.
  • For the love of god realize when your professor expects you to collaborate. In high school it's cheating in college it's survival. 
  • It's the rare professor who is going to tell you to skip class (most of my better ones were honest about it and did) but if you feel your time could be better spent working on something else weigh it and make the choice. Do you need to study for another exam? Having trouble scheduling that group project?  Is that paper due?
  • Speaking of which know your class's attendance policy inside and out. 
  • The same goes with any other policies. You would be surprised at how many classes have an objective policy regarding grammar, or late papers, or any number of other things. 
  • Know when to fold them and just withdraw from a course. A W generally doesn't hurt your GPA. That said some colleges have policies on how many course you can withdraw from. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

President Obama's September 9, 2015 Education Speech

On September 9, 2015 President Obama gave a speech at Macomb Community College in Warren Michigan regarding higher education.

Second Lady Jill Biden's September 9, 2015 Speech and Introduction of President Obama

Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden's September 9, 2015 Speech and Introduction of President Obama at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan.

Southfield City Engineer Leigh Schultz Updates Southfield City Council on Infrastructure Upgrades (September 8, 2015)

On September 8, 2015 Southfield City Engineer Leigh Schultz updated Southfield City Council regarding infrastructure upgrades taking place in the city.

Southfield September 8, 2015 City Council Meeting

Southfield City Council Meeting held September 8, 2015
Topics Include

  • An update regarding the city's infrastructure efforts
  • The need to curtail the invoking of the council's rules regarding the immediate need to act and transparency
  • The merging of one of city's engineering contractors, Tucker, Young, Jackson, Tull, Inc. with another firm, Alfred Benesch & Company
  • A Tax Abatement Request for ErlingKlinger Automotive Manufacturing

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

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