Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Southfield City Council January 26, 2015 Regular Meeting



Southfield City Council Regular Meeting held on January 26, 2015

Topics Discussed Include

  • Proposed Architectural Lighting Regulations
  • A Presentation From State Representative Jeremy Moss
  • Amending the Overlay Development District Agreement For the Arbor Lofts Project on Civic Center Drive
  • A Human Rights Ordinance Designed to Guarantee Protection to various groups including the LGBT community in Regards Housing, Employment, and Public Accommodation

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Southfield City Council January 26, 2015 Committee of the Whole Meeting



Southfield City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting held on January 26, 2015

  • Proposed Architectural Lighting Regulations
  • Amending the Overlay Development District Agreement For the Arbor Lofts Project on Civic Center Drive
  • A Human Rights Ordinance Designed to Guarantee Protection to various groups including the LGBT community in Regards Housing, Employment, and Public Accommodation

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I Suck At Tipping


Since for reasons my brain is a little hurty right now how about something light.


So I came across this article from Inc. magazine about how undertipping makes you a jerk and I think it's a little harsh. Partially because I generally under-tip. So for the hell of it I am going to go through my mental algorithm for how I determine tips. A lot of this is going to overlap with Hank Green's Tipping video.

So first off realize that math and food time don't mix for me so I have a set of complicated rules for how I tip that should probably be revised.

So the main reason why I under-tip is that I tend to order the same thing over and over to increase service speed and ...because I'm a boring son of a gun. Grilled cheese on white Sam. I know what I want to order the waiters know what I want to order. It saves time. But I really do need to recalculate tips.

$2 for A Sit Down Restaurant
I don't generally eat with people. So yeah I ripping off Hank's $2 per person minimum.  Mostly this is how I do it at a sit down restaurant where my meal costs about $10-15. Since I generally don't go to fancy restaurants this is it.  And because this is it I realize that I sometimes under-tip. I don't take into account that extra orange juice that pushes me over. I should I don't.

$3 for Delivery
There is only one food I really get delivered. Pizza. And while I tend to order the same thing the price of it goes up and down based all manner of factors mostly sales I don't pay attention to so I have no way of predicting it. $20-30. If It's 20 I'm on the nose, but if the pizza is closer to 30 and I don't take that into account I've just under-tipped. 

Speed
Not really a rule but a factor. I am really really trying to get off cash, go paperless and use debit cards so instead of giving tips at tables I tend to do it at the counter or on the phone. When the guy asks me I'm not going to do the math I'm just going say what feels about right, about $2 for every $10 give or take depending on my mood.  

You know what? From now on everybody gets an extra buck. Until the price of bread goes up.  

Friday, January 16, 2015

Southfield Board of Education Meeting January 13, 2015


January 13, 2015 Board of Education Meeting

Topics Discussed Include


  • Oaths of Office From Elected and Reelected School Board Members
  • A successful crowd sourcing campaign by for the from Donor's First to allow Mychelle Martin to help photograph moments for students at Stevenson Elementary
  • Donated Books From a Grant Submitted by Lori List at Thompson K-8

 An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Southfield MDOT Roadside Vegetation Maintenance Presentation (January 12, 2015)

On January 12, 2015 MDOT presented to the Southfield City Council a new concept for Roadside maintenance where areas alongside (with the exception on a 12'-15' buffer along the road) highways would be allowed to grow more naturally.

Southfield January 12, 2014 City Council Meeting



Southfield City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting

Topics Include

  • A New MDOT Roadside Vegetation Maintenance Concept
  • A Workplace Anti-Discrimination Ordinance
  • The Consideration of Supporting the Detroit Transit Police in their Endeavor the Obtain Deputization from the Oakland County Sherriff Department
  • Councilwoman Joan Seymour Was Elected Council President Pro Tempore
  • Ways to Improve Revenue Being Generated By the City's Golf Courses
  • The Adoption of Using the Mind Mixer Platform To Facilitate Public Feedback For the Planning Department

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Trouble and A Bus To Nowhere AKA Episodic Television Needs Better Scripts Damn It

So I'm still putting off watching Extant and that makes me want to talk about every show i watch but Extant, so let's talk about Grimm.

Grimm came out in the  "pleasant '11"

It was a good year for genre shows. Once Upon A Time, Game of Thrones, Falling Skies, American Horror Story,  Heck it was good in general. And that's not considering all the shows that didn't premiere that season but were going through a good run. Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy you get the picture.

Right now Grimm has stalled for me. Season three showed a lot of promise and season two was pretty damn good but right now the show feels like it isn't going anywhere. In some ways it's worse than the flawed but pretty entertaining season 1.

When it premiered Grimm didn't feel all that different from it's many Buffyclone contemporaries. Mainly Supernatural and Lost Girl.  Especially Supernatural which was wasn't that far from Season Five, the capper on it's three arguably four season myth arc, I'll just call it "THE REVELATION of John Winchester" . I refuse to call it the  "Revelation of... Chuck" I don't care if he is God incognito.



That show had found itself and had in someway managed to hold it's own against what I had considered the best of the paranormal detective genre. (It's been a little rocky since then, the show having been on the air long past the plans of the creators but Supernatural is still a decent show.)


Part of what had improved both Supernatural and Angel was that the shows had evolved from thier monster of the week origins to have bigger bolder more serialized stories. And I looked at Grimm's smaller more self-contained stuff and turned my nose a bit.

In retrospect I feel that might have been unfair. Again you have to realize the context of the time. Big season long arcs had proven to be really entertaining to me.

But now that I've  had more time with Hulu I have a bit more of an appreciation for episodic television.  And part of me think it's the episodic elements that are failing the show.  Yes when I watch Grimm and I have to wait for nick to slay this weeks monster rather than engage with say the guys who kidnapped Trubel a few weeks back, Wu's two season long pending mental breakdown, or even more blatantly the fact that he's kind of a still a zombie with a kill on him.  It annoys me, so much so that my first instinct is to say screw that stuff let's get back to the plot.

Side Note; That list up there doesn't include the plot threads I just don't think are working. I cringe everytime the Wessen KKK shows up and think the show made too big a deal out of Rosalee and Monroe's marriage in the first place with Guess Who's Comming to Dinner lite and the Adalind stuff is a clear plot culdesac where everything else in the episode has to stop for ten minutes just so the writers can make sure the audience hasn't forgotten about it because it's so boring, sorry Wesley)

Right now I am at the height of my frustration because the show put one of the most promising characters of season 3 on a bus a few weeks back. While season 3 had too much going on I was hopeful because I felt Trubel could shake up the character dynamic. Up until that point Nick had been the naive newcomer mostly relying on Monroe to be Mr. Expodump. But after two seasons including one time skip that character dynamic no longer makes sense.

The show established Nick as being, "a different kind of grimm" the hook being that while yes he was your usual paranormal detective he was also a cop and had to balance the former's outlaw justice with the later's loyalty to the law.  Just killing the bad guy can't be his default option... if he can help it. 

Balancing Nick's personality with the more aggressive Trubel and the more nebbish Josh seemed to be on the road to changing that character dynamic maybe even in the long term creating a Grimm Academy with Nick being the seen everything guy. (I thought you said the show was too much like the buffyverse Miles. Shut up)

This was especially interesting to me because while I like Trubel as a character she didn't gel so much with Nick's supernatural "copness". And the show makes a huge deal about Nick being so good at his job because the moderate Supernatural community trusts him enough, not to disembowel first and ask questions later  to help him when otherwise they would have been packing their bags and moving to Venezuela. 

With nick losing his grimm powers, even temporally it looked like those two were going to be a bigger part of the show but it just wasn't in the cards. I think the writers felt it had to be all or nothing. The whole Teresa as the new Grimm on the block was admittedly badly written. Nick wasn't dead just a little physically nerfed. He still had the trailer filled with weapons and books and about 3-5 years experience chopping off bad guy heads not to mention the cop thing, and the fact that a lot of the folks in town trust him with tips.

The show isn't big enough for two maybe three grimms and that is disappointing. 

So far the season feels like it's been maintenance, trying undo everything the writers didn't like from season three, bringing back Renard, getting back Nick's grimm mojo, putting Trubel on a bus, even the stuff with Monroe and Rosalee feels like the writers were two afraid to just make the two a happy married couple and have that be a part of their characters (Despite them more or less having been written that way since season two) but like I said a lot of that feels like reverting the show back to its old status quo that is at this point unworkable. 

Apart from all that I feel there isn't enough time to keep going on these narrative divergences and the monsters of the week are the biggest in the pie.

But then I remember seasons 1 and 2 and there were a lot of good stand alone episodes. In season one in particular they made up most of the show. "Danse Macabre", "The Three Bad Wolves", "Let Your Hair Down" came all in a row and probably are what made me want to watch the show.  And Season 2 was no slouch either

When a show is episodic there is a much bigger bet that individual episodes... and thier scripts have to be good.  With a serialized show things blur together and if the show as a whole is good you can cover your ass a bit, but with an episodic show it's much more the ratio between shows the audience liked and shows the audience didn't and for me personally Grimm is starting if not be a show I dislike definitely flirt with the meh boundary.

Before the episodes and the monsters therein were tasked with explaining the world and how it worked. There was always some complication that made it more interesting than
  • Something kills a guy
  • Nick has to find out how it kills
  • Nick has to find out where it is
  • Nick Kills It
Remember Larry.

I don't know what it is, but right now the writing just isn't there. The show has too many plot cul-de-sacs demanding time from each episode, most of which exist just so the characters can pop in and go, "Hey we're a thing that's happening. We promise something cool is in the works. We just don't know what it is yet. But its coming. Do you hate Adalind? Will her suffering make you love us. PLEASE LOVE US."

Like I said in my last post it just feels like the show is spinning its wheels.






Sunday, January 4, 2015

How Problematic is American Horror Story From a Feminist Perspective?



So I just marathoned the first 3 seasons of American Horror Story over the weekend. While I can't say it's consistently good, it takes some odd story turns and assumes the audiences forgets things that a traditional horror audience would severely scrutinize but  overall it's an excellent show.

For me what made it pretty good is that it overtly tries to make moral and political statements. The show has balls. Unlike Extant.

Some of the most overt stuff its trying to say is in regards to feminism with characters often turning directly to the camera to condemn the ills of the patriarchy. The show seemed to me to have a pretty strong bent on this angle.


When a show makes me think that much I do a few Google searches and the reception has been a lot more mixed. I don't want to dismiss that. A lot of those posts make good points and being a dude what do I know anyway.

All the same I kind of feel a lot of those arguments are along the lines of Huck Finn being racist for using the N-word despite being one of the most scathing critiques of southern Romanticism of its day.

For me the problem is how much leniency I should give the show for the sake of each season being a supernatural morality play.

Let's talk about supernatural horror for a moment.

Speaking based on my limited reference pool. supernatural horror tends to be about justice.

Normally you start with characters who are or have been "fucking up" but they are in a position where for whatever reason the people around them, often who they've wronged are not in a position to do anything about it.

So the spirits get involved, they spirits have a very alien(draconian) sense of justice, causing the audience to question its own sense of morality.

That's not the only template but it seems to be the formula American Horror Story is going with.

To make that work the characters have to be "assholes". These have to be the sorts of people the audience can look at and know they've got something coming them.

AHS has a very female led cast so women are often the ones who are "punished" often in really violent ways.

But the more complicated issue is that these women are often portrayed as being the way they are because of the unfairness of the patriarchy.   That stuff is really interesting but you end up with this consistent undertone of these strong willed women being just stomped.

Equally complicated is that both of the horror archetypes of the second and third seasons, witches and nuns, have a loooooot of historical baggage in feminist circles, for good reason. There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in The Crucible.

At the same time not unlike my Tarantino movies the show is trying to evoke the 70's horror scene. Bloody Mask is basically Leather Face.   But even those stories were rehashes of rehashes of the folk tale, urban legend, fairy tale archetype which as pointed out are often morality plays.

Morality changes though.  Because the show wants to pay homage it has to play the game, dealing with rape abortions, promiscuity and a whole mess of maternalism dealing with the female body.

It creates this weird dissonance as you see characters suffer over complicated choices.

Also in Coven there is this theme of fighting age the story frames as the maintenance of sexual attractiveness.    It's an interesting way to go but making but the show focuses on it the primary motivation a several tangentially connected villianesses.

I can think of at least a couple dozen other reasons to want to live forever than staying sexy. I've seen a lot of meaningful stories about fighting the tide of aging and that was a weird way to go with it that seems to speak specifically with femininity.

Since I'm not a woman, pretty young at least by knocking on death's door standards, and not particularly a looker to start with (my great age based fear is slow onset dementia slowly losing myself  without being able to detect I am slowly losing myself. Hopefully I've got awhile before I have to face that), I feel unqualified to discuss whether or not that reading has some cultural truth but I've seen it as a pretty interesting interpretation of the Snow White story worth discussion.



I don't want to get creepy here but understanding that from my perspective would mean understanding the differences between the male and female standard of beauty.  Do women find older men physically attractive like everyone says and how does that dichotomy play if it's true?

Anyway, I am out of my depth so it's just something worth thinking about but that discussion almost always devolves into something either putrid or comedic.

Ladies of the web you tell me. What's going on in American Horror Story and in Snow White for that matter.

So back to my point. A lot of the stuff that's harder to mesh comes down to genre convention and I don't know how much rope I should give the show because of that.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

No More Half Measures Walt

So I've seen the first half of season one Extant.  I hate it. In reality it's mediocre not worth getting all that much in a lather about but it has a crap ton of superficial elements that would normally turn me into Spaceman Benny.

ROBOT! ALIEN! HOLOGRAM! ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE!

However, it drops the ball in several ways. The least complicated of which is the pacing.

Most maddening is that I've seen several shows that use its psudo-futuristic aesthetic to great effect so I know it's not like this stuff can't be done well.






While that deserves a talking about all on its own right now I don't have the patience so another time.

Part of me feels that the pacing problems are emblematic of a larger problem in network television writing right now.

Network television takes fewer risks than their cable counterparts. It's better than it was.  For a really long time the big three, NBC ABC and CBS were the only guys in town and were fighting each other for the numbers, so television had to be as broadly appealing as possible.

But we don't live in that world anymore and to be honest the networks know this and have been trying to take more risks over the past decade or so. I can't see high concept shows Once Upon a Time and Under the Dome (despite my grievances against both shows)  getting green lit between the 1970's and the advent of cable. And overall scripts feel more natural than the days where babies just magically appeared on screen as toddlers because nobody had the balls to explain how women get preggers. I might not have a lot of respect for an American television audience but if they are over the age of 15 they've probably figured it out.

It just feels to me though the networks are luke warm about serializing shows. And I would be fine with that if they were sold to me as the usual monster of the week stuff, but Extant was advertised as something bigger. Yet in most of the episodes I saw, really just the first 4 or five it was blatantly noticeable that story was jogging in place.

That there was all this stuff going on in the background but the show itself was afraid to reveal any of it and blow its wad. I feel like on cable the those episodes would have just covered the pilot.

And it's not just Extant. I love Grimm and I was excited because the close of season 3 hinted at several stories lines that just got padded out to the point where I stopped caring.

I'm not going to say there is no room in the space for episodic television.  Comedy is a gold mine for episodic good television for instance. But I'm tired of all these half measures, where there will be a promising cliff hanger and you have to wait half a season not because the writers haven't figured out what they want to do but because they'll afraid once they pull the trigger the audience will run. And in the mean time I'm getting more and more pissed that the show is wasting my time actively avoiding the hook that got me on the string.

Networks, please no more half measures.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Movie Review: Willie Dynamite: A Feminist Blaxploitation Pimp Movie?

So I fucking love From Dusk Till Dawn, both the show and the movie . And I would be lying to both myself and my audience if I didn't say that part of that was  their indulgence in the male gaze. I am human and both Salma Hayek and Eiza Gonz├ílez are a beautiful ladies.

That having been said I stupidly made a Google alert for Gamergate and am still getting "notifications" about the stupid. Why do I do this to myself?

Anyway my love of b. movie shlock makes me question how and why I said everything I vocalized during my twitter flame ups.

In a nutshell I can make it gel because of how I view the media landscape and the marketplace of ideas.

I view each piece of media as a way for it's creators to either do or say something meaningful to themselves even if what thier saying or doing is just commenting on something else somebody else said or did as in the case of most of the Tarantino ouvre. And in my view that big wibbly wobbly ball of stuff is "the way things should be dig it."

Most of my more interesting ideas come from studying the intertextuality of media, how does one piece work within the context of everything said and done around it, and my overall problem with Gamergate, among other things is that it refused to acknowledge that that intertextuality exists and should be studied, rather than sealing off each game as it's own little bubble.

Media is a lot more fun and interesting when it exists as a millue, an on going debate about the ideas the media presents and media itself.

And thus I present to you Willie Dynamite.



At first glance Willie Dynamite looks like the million and one disposable Superfly knock offs when it slowly becomes clear it's an anti-Superfly movie.

The movie exists to point out exactly why Superfly is a jackass and make him as miserable and pathetic as possible.

While yes it does have something to say about literal sexworkers it uses Willie D and the pimp archetype he represents as a metaphor for the male patriarchy. The only unambigously good character walks into Willies' place tells the prostitutes that Willie is worthless scum and is using them for his own ends, and that they should unionize because, "We're doing it for ourselves"
 


What makes the movie interesting is how long the movie can juggle being both a shameless blaxplotation movie and a vicious condemnation of the same. And that's both it's strength and weakness.

It juxaposes the junky shlocky tropes of say Dolimite with the composition, and themes of The Wire, never letting the audience get quite in the mental groove it takes to enjoy one of these types of movies.

The epitome  of this are the jail scenes where shots of cinematic Joyce Walker are intercut with women who look a bit harder which mostly means without a bunch of make up but hey film is a visual media.

You know at first I was set to hate this movie because Willie is one of the most dispicable characters I've seen on film and but pretty soon it becomes clear that's on purpose as the film wants the audience to enjoy taking him and by extension both the pimp genre and the male patriarchy he represents down a few pegs.

The third act is basiccally realizing that his talk in the first half of the movie was just that, talk as the movie proceeds to strip him of all his "pimptasticness".

In a normal Hollywood lesson this would be about Willie learning some sort of lesson about the price of gold or some such.

This is not that movie. Well it is but ...

Okay Willie D. does the obligatory last shoot out every crime movie has to do.





But rather than being funny, or spectacular, in this movie it's just kind of pathetic as it's slowly ripped all the "movieness" away from Willie. He's just a broken pathetic asshole with a gun. And the movie is about both him and the audience realizing that.

Not unlike Fujiko Mine the movie has the quasi guilt about ripping itself up. "Willie please don't hate me for what I've done." Both admit that yeah there is a place for that stuff but this one. This one has to do it's own thing and if that thing means killing your darlings to make a point so be it. And that's the point of the ending. The movie looking at the audience and going. "I'm sorry you had to see that but it needed to be done."

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