Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why Superman Shouldn't Kill or Rather Why Superman Shouldn't Kill Lightly

Okay so in my Man of Steel review I said that I wasn't on board with the whole Superman shouldn't kill band wagon with the prior knowledge before watching it that that was one of the deal breakers for fans.  And I think I should clarify that.

Along with the many metaphors about Superman's symbolism of hope he also represents the responsible use of power. In most Superman conflicts it's not a fair fight by the simple nature of Superman.

Being the boyscout he is, he actually cares about that. It's not just about stopping the bad guy but stopping the bad guy in a way where the fight doesn't go too far.

Or more subtlely.

Green Lantern said it best. "We have to be held accountable. We have to much power not to be."

The "Superman is willing to kill" story is sort of interesting not because oh Superman is willing to kill. But because crossing that line means that Superman for whatever reason is willing to stop being Superman, that in that moment there is something he values more than all the other stuff that matters to him, that makes him him.  Superman is kind of passionate about the stuff he cares about. Heck that more or less the arc of everyone around him, realizing he isn't just talking a good game, but actually believes and is willing to fight for truth and justice, and for that matter is one of Lex's major beefs as he believes that nobody is that good and sooner or later Supes is going to get a con over on everybody else. Nip it in the bud now.

So the question becomes what is so big it could make Superman decide to take off the badge and go Vic Vega rules.

What can drive him that up the wall. It can't be an immediate threat because well, it's Superman the entire premise of this guy is at least physically he can handle anything. It has to be something deeper than that. The things villains are made of.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Movie Review: Man of Steel

So I finally managed to sit down and watch Man of Steel. As expected I couldn't go in blind but I still have my thoughts. The movie feels too big. Don't get me wrong I like big ideas in movies and so it got me thinking why does this not work.

The problem I think is empathy. And the movie lacks that. No this Superman lacks that. For me superman to me always served as the answer to a question. If you could, physically at least, choose to do any damn thing you wanted what would you do? How would you use that power? Well... how about a neverending battle for truth and justice.

Yeah that works. That's how Clark got me. But this film chooses to go another route and it's weird. Rather than framing Supes as just a guy trying to use his natural abilities to the betterment of those around him it tries to focus on his more alien aspects. And it doesn't work. Before I could rap my brain around the why of Superman. He was just a boy scout who was bigger than the rest. But here not so much. I don't understand the why. I don't understand the why of Jor El. I don't understand the why of Pa Kent. And most of all I don't understand the why of Clark Kent. The usual explanation is that Ma and Pa Kent raised him that way. You see a man in trouble you help him. And if you're a living forklift well he has a living forklift helpin' him.

The Kyptonian stuff only really came up when writers wanted an excuse to have wacky silver age space hi-jinks. Not that you can't have a serious superman sci-fi story, but not at the expense of his humanness.

The movie chooses to go from vignette to vignette as Clark goes on a sort of walk about as he can't stay in any one place too long without stuff happening. The stuff happening doesn't really reveal anything about this superman. He's an enigma.

And because of that the movie struggles to find a new meaning for him. It tries to tap in to the symbol of superman but the thing about a symbol is that it has to be representation of the thing it represents. It has to have a connection to it. You can't just say something represents hope without showing a connection to it.

Normally (at least to me) Superman represent's hope thusly, he symbolizes humanity's ability to try, to push forward and in the eternal struggle become something greater. I'm not feeling that here. I never get the sense that he's becoming something more because I don't sense any real personal growth. Every other Superman felt like he had been through his arc, he had been the scared little kid having more and more heaped on his shoulders until he became capable of handling just about anything not just physically but mentally because he meet all of those challenges, because he never said "It's too big for me." If he can do it why can't we?

That is the entire point of "New Kids In Town" and for that matter All Star Superman.

It gets better because you get better. That's hope. How does seeing all of that affect Lois and Perry. Heck it's one of the few things to slap Bruce out his normal depression. We aren't all destined to mire in the muck. "Justice doesn't always have to come from the darkness."

Okay okay, but that's all not about the movie. But I suppose that's because I have trouble connecting this guy to my Kent. Apart from that there are a lot of adventure beats. It would be a lie to say that nothing happens in this movie, but none of it feels like it's adding up to something greater than the sum of it's parts.  It feels like a 2 and a half hour trailer. Sure there is cool stuff and all but it feels as though the bits stringing it together giving it all context and meaning was stripped from it.

The more I think on this the more I realize it doesn't really benefit from being a Superman story. And that's problematic since this thing was marketed as the Big Damn Superman movie we all wanted to see since Quest for Peace

There are a lot of interesting ideas but none of them intrinsically have to do with Superman. Humanity's distrust of the alien, Day the Earth Stood Still. Consequences of eugenics on self-determination. Gattaca. Heck the entire last act feels like a more serious yet less meaningful rip off of Doctor Who "The End of Time". At least there I had good old Wilf. I liked Wilf. And who doesn't like Ten, "Allons y". There aren't a whole lot of characters in this thing I like. On top of that Zod feels a lot like Vegeta with less pathos.

Vegeta's a villain but I feel for "The Prince of All Saiyans". He lays out his beef quite clearly, and we the audience have hung around him long enough to know for him these are no small slights. The guy's pride in his strength is everything to him. Just when you thought having a kid mellowed the guy out.

Apart from the script the movie makes some weird editing choices.  Previously I said everything felt meaningless. Part of me feels like that might be because between all the super speedy punches it's hard to see who's hitting who and who's getting saved from being super slammed. And that's not even considering the weird transitions between flashbacks.

At the end of the day I can't say it's a bad movie but like the Man of Tomorrow himself, I feel it could be more. It's an okay Saturday afternoon popcorn muncher but there have been Superman stories that have really stuck with me over the years andobviously they tried to make this one of them but it ain't.

And while the Superman has to kill a dude angle can be interesting and I'm not wholly opposed to it that was one slow ass eye beam.

Why not shout, "Hey guys. I can't hold him forever you might want to run!"

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dude Don't Be a Douche (Game Developers Don't Encourage Metagaming Through Sociopathy)

So I just watched Extra Credits' latest video on Free to Play Games. And it made me think. Why? Well because my primary experience with free to play games is with Evony, a game I long since quit, and it's interesting to figure out why I quit it and why I stuck with it so long. Keep in mind I'm talking about age 1 not age 2.

First off let me say that when things were bad Evony was one of the most frustrating games I ever played in my life. The reason for that is simple. The game mechanics encouraged stronger players to pick on weaker ones and because everybody wanted to get strong fast they excused their behavior by saying that they had to do that crap in order to maintain their own strengh.

Let me explain. Evony is a multiplayer RTS. I always liked the idea of a multiplayer RTS but it always provided challenges mainly players wouldn't always be able to play at the same time. Evony solved this problem by making it a persistent world like an MMO and allowing alliances,  sanctioned players who were affiliated with one another to help protect each other.

And most of the problems stemmed from that system. What kept individual players, "safe" was the promise that if you randomly attacked any one player you were declaring war on their alliance and those things would crush individual players but it was fun for alliances to go at it with each other.

But that led to a problem.

In order to build an army in Evony you need food. The obvious way to get food is to build farms but the number of farms you can have is capped. So you have to get creative if you want to actually do anything. I did and it was awesome trying to maximize production but most players and alliances just pillaged (farmed) NPCs.

NPCs regenerated loot about once a day so that meant that only one player a day could loot them. Or at least reap the benefits of looting them. So the primary driver of conflict in the game wasn't "honorable combat" but "stop looting my NPC's or I will end you and if I can't I'll call my gang and they'll end you"

Keep in mind that you needed to loot NPCs to get food to maintain an army and if you didn't have an army people would attack you because stealing food from you was even easier than getting it from an NPC.

Worst of all were the alliances that would take the third option. Make smaller players offers they couldn't refuse. Extorting them "to join our guild or we'll crush you". Literally threatening to make it impossible for non-affliated players to play.

Heck at least once every six months I would get my ass handed to me and have to negotiate tribute food payments. Like a christian bishop to the vikings.  And they kept getting more and more ridiculous.

Seriously 1 million gold was typically my starting offer and 1 billion wasn't uncommon. Half the time I think they were just shouting numbers they knew I couldn't come up with so they could continue to pummel me when I didn't pay up, or trying to use the negotiations to make me indentured to the point where I was a reluctant member of the alliance. In real life it's called racketeering, extortion and usury Did I mention the extortion.

Being strong armed like that doesn't make for a "fun" game, made worse when I pissed off the wrong people and spent nearly a week of paranoid 2 hour a night naps rather than actual sleep.

Ultimately what I think ruined the game was that nothing was capped making everybody more and more and more ruthless as they tried to get a competitive advantage. They picked on the smaller players because it was a easy way to get ahead in the vicious dog eat dog game. Woe to the poor fellow who got to the server late to the party and was surrounded by the wolves.

All that said I really liked the player economy. Most people pillaged for food, but I traded it for it. While food was the most needed resource it was the most plentiful. The NPCs would crank out about 10 times as much food as everything else so in the player economy it balanced out to food being worth about a third as much as everything else. All though player production of these resources was limited if you were smart rather than focusing on what you needed you focused on what was valuable and traded it. So even though I forswore alliances because I thought they were a bunch of douchebags I had the resources and troops of three players. (Alliances with sister alliances typically had 300 so I was screwed no matter what I did.)

Speaking of which while not as an anathema to me as the alliance system players also gamed the system by having alt accounts. I didn't, though nobody believed me. I thought of it as a sort of cheating metagaming. Which is sort of my entire problem with the game. The mechanics encouraged gratuitous metagaming rather than honorable competition to the point that most players considered the metagaming part of the game.

Eventually even the alliances got sick of it and the wars wouldn't be chimed off by resource battles but some idiot doing something so bad everybody else decided they had to go but even that seemed like overkill.  Entire alliances were crushed because of a few jerks.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Thoughts on Night Broken

So I just finished my way through Night Broken Patricia Briggs' eighth Mercy Thompson book and it was okay. Not great. Not one of the better books but it had its moments. Overall I this book might be setting the series up for something better so I'm willing to cut it some slack. Here are my specific thoughts. There will be mild spoilers.

Too Many Plots
There are a lot of really good, really interesting ideas here and it feels as though it should have been three books almost.  At the 20 page from the end mark I asked myself how the book was going to finish everything and it all felt rushed and unsatisfying. Mainly the b-plot about the walking stick which I felt was more important to the series than the main plot.

Don't Blame The Victim

So the dust cover jacket plot is that Christy the protagonist's husband's exwife has been attacked by a stalker and the main cast has to deal with that. I have some problems with the villain himself but I really like how Christy was handled. She is not a good person, and the characters around her a stuck between calling her on her bullshit and saying that everything that's happening is her fault.  The book strikes a decent middle ground by saying okay to be disgusted and put out when people are being manipulative assholes, but no matter how "bad" a person is they don't deserved to be stolen from, raped, assaulted, or murdered.  Nothing they do makes them deserving of that. Her condo was burned down not because she's a flighty, conniving, gold digger, though she is,  but because one asshole has problems.

That being said Christy, isn't so subtle about hinting that yes does still "love" her ex, Adam, even though he's remarried, and would like to make a life with him,  all while she's living across the hall from his current wife.

Building the Myth

The b-plot I mentioned has to do with a legendary weapon or the creation there of. The thing that attracts me to the Mercy Thompson series on an intellectual level is that it appears as though Briggs is setting up Mercy as a modern champion. I didn't say hero. That word gets used to often. I mean champion.

The old classical hero. The guy descended from the Gods (Coyote), tested by them, and fated for some journey, often featuring the defeat of supernatural creatures of some sort and maybe a legendary weapon.

This was the story of the legendary weapon.  But I feel as though it didn't really do much other than retell and explain events that happened in other books.  Now that I think about it all this hero stuff really get's put more into action in River Marked and is only subtly touched upon there after.

On the other hand a lot of those stories, King Arthur,Sigurd, Heracles, Momotaro and the like, are short vignettes with added narratives coming later as those stories were either passed down orally night to night or ballads.

Still it feels like the build up of Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed, Silver Bourne, and River Marked is starting to fizzle out.

I want to see that. I want to see how you can make a VW mechanic from Washington a herculean figure.

Revisiting The Past
Neither a good nor bad thing this book really treads on old ground. Several of the new characters are echoes of older ones. And that is the case of our villain who in a lot of ways feels like a revisiting of the villain and themes from Iron Kissed.  Iron Kissed is probably my second favorite book in the series and I would be lying if I didn't say it was more focused. In both books some anvils need to be dropped but merely as a reading experience Iron Kissed is the better book and I'm mildly disappointed that in this book it didn't feel as though the series has moved forward narratively. Almost every book shows more about the world and advances it, pulls back the curtain a little more so we the audience are closer to the reality that the first few books are clear we don't know. We know what Mercy, the protagonist, knows and she starts the series with more knowledge than the typical muggle but also knows what gets people killed being the person who can tell tales.

As she learns about her world we learn about her world, but this book just seems disposable in the overall series.

I'm Not Feeling The Menace
The odd thing is Gauyota just doesn't feel as threatening a villain as the guy from Iron Kissed. If I had to put my finger on it would probably be because we know from the outset what his deal is. Sure a lot of supernatural mumbo jumbo gets put on top of it, but at the end of the day he is just possessive douche trying get his ex back. That's not to say that in real life those guys aren't threatening but the only reason why call the cops doesn't work here is because of the supernatural element. I suppose my point is he doesn't feel alien the same way most of the series villains including the one from Iron Kissed felt.

And I suppose that might be the point. While he's crazy, dangerous, destructive, and possessive he doesn't feel viscerally evil or at least as alien as say the guy who had dog fights with werewolves, or the guy(s) who gained perverse pleasure from their powers to hold the dead to the earth, or she that would devour the world. To a point anyway.

Anyway every other villains' deal felt more interesting as we learned why they blew into town. Here there is no weird trick. There is no facade, no misdirection.  If you read the dust jacket you know what he's about.  He's just not that interesting.

Like I said it's not a bad book. It's entertaining, but the series has a lot of potential and this is one of the weaker books. I wore out the first three. The forth and fifth hold up to them and while I was disappointed with River Marked at first, it brought a lot of series changing information to the table. Before speaking on Frost Burned I need to reread it but at the time I liked it.  I just feel this one could have been better.

Southfield City Council Meeting April 7, 2014

City Council Meeting Held in Southfield, Michigan on April 7, 2014

Topics Discussed Include

  • The Proposed Travelers Towers Retail Site Plan
  • The Site Plan of Lawrence Technological University's Proposed Biomedical Engineering Builiding
  • Utility Easements
  • LGBT Rights
  • The Possibility of a Special Assessment For the Paving of Farmbrook Rd.
  • Southfield Crime Mapping Data at

An agenda and related documents can be found at here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Anime Review: Blue Exorcist (Mild Supernatural Spoilers)

Well then.

I've always said that as excited as I am about new Toonami the thing that keeps me jumping on board is that there are other arguably better ways of watching anime these days than old television networks. I saw the first few episodes of Blue Exorcist on Toonami, liked them, and then binge watched the whole series on Crunchyroll.

And I like it. It's okay, but I feel that like a lot of shows it limited itself by sticking too closely to the conventions of shonen anime.

The show is about a typical high school student, who's a bit of a delinquient, who finds out he the spawn of satan. Satan possess his adoptive father who then commits suicide and Rin, swears to kick Satan's ass.

For me this show has a double edged sword. I love urban fantasy.  Tell me about a show with a masqurade, demons, fae, occult detectives and some sort organization...possibly religious vowing to keep everything in line and I'm there.

On the other hand it means I've seen, Hellboy, Angel, Supernatural, Grimm, Lost Girl, X-Files,  True Blood, Blood +, Wolf's Rain, Witch Hunter Robin,  Yu Yu HakushoKekkaishi, ClaymoreRin: Daughters of Mnemosyne, Hellsing Ultimate, Spawn, Fate Stay/Night, and a good chunk of Fate/Zero (I'm working my way through it).

I've tangoed with the demons. And that's the problem. You start to realize all of the influences of this show and it makes you want to watch them more, especially when you realize how it's shonenness nerfs a lot of stuff.

For instance the pilot feels like a mash up between Yuseke Urameshi, Hellboy and Sam Winchester's origins, but at the end of the day all of those stories seemed to make more internal sense and I liked them better.

Heck the episode redoes the makai insect scene from Hakusho's Saint Beasts arc.Oh and later they (rip off) homage the opening scene from Princess Mononoke. It takes some balls to redo the opening scene of Princess Mononoke! After a while all of the homages give the show a Frankenstein feel, that I might be willing to forgive but it bends over backwards to create a school environment status quo. Part of almost any spawn of demons arc is about them slowly realizing how little they fit into the world and coming to terms with that normally by leaving and burning the ships.

Even Hakusho, which in a lot of ways is this show done better had the good sense to leave all that behind once both the Dark and Demon World Tournaments started.

Sorry you don't get a normal life with the two story in suburbia, hell spawn.

When Sam whines about being the true vessel for Lucifer I get it. Most people FOR GOOD REASON feel he would be better off dead and aren't going to be just cool letting him walk around no matter how nice he is or how much they personally like him. Heck half the time he feels the same way.

Furthermore with that hanging over his head he never really knows how far he can trust anybody since at some point they've all thought of just putting a bullet into him and ending the pending doom. Sure there a few mustache twirlers in this show who go that route but otherwise other than first episode this guy has had it pretty sweet.

And that kind of annoys me. The end of the first episode sets up a walking the earth scenario. "Demons will be hunting you for all sorts of reasons." And the characters end up just sitting on their hands. Not to say they don't do anything but for most of the show none of the stuff brought up in the first episode, the interesting premise, goes to waste.

I will give them this though they did something great with old scratch himself, just as creepy but what he does has a weird twisted sort of logic that almost seems not as evil as you expect. It still causes most of our protagonists problems and is pretty evil, but it makes sense from the perspective of a being that does not comprehend normal human morality and has defined understandable goals.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Angry Black Man: Beyond Overcoming

Okay something has been needling me. Mainly me and my father have a race based division. Oh we're both Black. No shit Sherlock, but more and more I am becoming disinterested in the sort of the movies he likes.

I made mention of this in my Night Catches Us review, but I feel it's a big enough and interesting enough topic to deserve a post in it's own right.

I know how stupid it would be of me to say that racism doesn't exist. I'm know how stupid that claim is but we as a society are in a place where at least the idea of racism is morally reprehensible. We're in a place where even almost saying the N-Word is a bomb to a political campaign and advertisers will walk if it's uttered on television.

These are not the days of George Wallace.

While I will fight that battle if I have to I think as a society at this moment what's more important is asking ourselves the tough questions. What is racism. How have I benefited from institutionalized racism? And yes that all too hard one, am I racist.  As well as if any of those are true how do we fix it. Can we even?

When I was growing up there were a lot of people who would be disgusted by the idea of a teacher showing a film in class, thinking of it as a lazy cop out, but I don't. I have a fundamental belief in the power of narrative, the power of a story to convey abstract, but paramount ideas, to change not just our minds but the fabric of our souls.

And that power transcends the medium of the story.

Brief Aside: Cat's Don't Dance is a great, kid friendly, toe tapping allegory about discrimination in Hollywood.

But but just pointing at overt mustash twirling villainy, no matter how historically accurate we're able to distance ourselves from that and avoid asking those questions. We instinctively know that things have changed and need the context to connect that world to this one and analyze how the two relate.

How do the struggles of my parents relate to mine.

I've seen Men of Honor, Something the Lord Made, and The Tuskegee Airmen. Not to diminish what the people these films are based on did but most of them are the same movie. Don't get me wrong I like at least those three, but they are the same movie. They have the same characters and the same beats.

Despite my generation gap fist waving, I'm becoming a bit of an old goat, struggling to fight the growing cynicism of my heart.  I'm starting to believe that these movies are being released less and less as a tribute and remembrance of our past but more and more because there is an older audience justifiably so enamored with any film that would paint racism in a negative context that they'll see it no, love it regardless of it's qualities as a film.

These are people who had to endure those times when the idea of racism didn't exist in popular consciousness let alone the idea it was a bad thing.

But that's not me. I was born after the civil rights movement. My experiences, and mindset are different.  I can not change the color of my skin nor do I want to but the construct of my race has a different meaning to me than it did to those who marched with King.

Thus far in my life nobody has told me to my face I am a lesser man just because I'm a bit mocha. And because as a child nobody said that of me as a man I view the idea so ludicrous that deserves not even a thought let alone a fist even a metaphorical one. I am a free man born in a free country of laws due to the struggles of my parents, grand parents, and great-grandparents to be treated equally and fairly under those laws. As long as we mind and mine the law to make it righteous no one can take that from me, for the struggle for equality is in my eyes mostly the struggle for equality under the law as well as equality of opportunity. That's my struggle.

It shouldn't matter if you're Black, White, Gay, Straight, Latino, whatever. The law should treat you the same and you should get the same shot. And part of my beef is that by framing racism as merely a few loud knuckleheads we're ignoring that. I don't care if someone calls me the N-Word. I do on the other hand care if my kid's school doesn't get as much money as the whiter school down the road. I don't so much care if a lady crosses the street when I walk by but I do care if a cop pulls me over.  I don't care of the big wigs don't like me because I'm black but I do care if they think I'm too "urban" to give me a job. Law and money. Law and money.

Hell, my narrative of The Civil Rights Movement is it started because trains were refusing service, juries were refusing justice, and school districts were refusing books.  Bathrooms and water fountains were just the symbolic icing on the cake.

Anyway, a movie brokers no credit with me for reaffirming a belief I held not in question my entire life.

I must continually ask myself how racism affects my life knowing that it unquestionably does.

I've seen Night Catches Us, Ghosts of Mississippi,  Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, and Boys in the Hood, Raisin in the Sun, (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Django Unchained, and 12 Years a Slave are on my List)

Not to mention documentaries like 4 Little Girls, Murder on a Sunday Morning, The Pruitt Igoe Myth and The Black Power Mixtap.

Movies that examine the ramifications and nature of race and racism exist and have for a while. Films that delve deeper than saying it's bad and try to reveal something about it and ourselves. Regardless of the race of the audience. The lives of me and of every generation after me are depending on us to be smarter and tougher. To demand and fight for not just our shot but theirs and right now that's not about yelling about the slights of the past but building bridges to tomorrow's dawn.  I don't know how we do that but we need to have the stone cold courage to ask,  how do we fix it. How do we make it fair?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Southfield City Council Meeting March 17, 2014

Southfield City Council Meeting Held March 17, 2014

Topics Discussed

  • Authorization For the Parks and Recreation Department to Apply For Various Grants
  • The Purchase of 600 Tons of Cold Patch For Roads
  • The Rezoning of A Property on the Corner of 10-Mile Rd and Lasher Rd.
  • The Rezoning and Development of A Property on Evergreen Rd. As well as Council's Future Plans For That Area of the City
  • An addition to the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

An agenda and related documents can be found here

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Southfield Board of Education Meeting March 11, 2014

Board of Education Meeting for Southfield held on March 11, 2014
Topics Include

  • A Reading and Dental Program and Vandenberg Elementary
  • Michigan House Bill 5268 and 5269 which would reform the Education Achievement Authority (EAA)
  • Board Member Buchanan and His Intention to Run for the State House

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Southfield Public School Board Member Darryle Buchanan to Run For Michigan House of Representatives

At the March 11, 2014 Southfield School District School Board Meeting Board Member, Darryle Buchanan Discussed his intentions of leaving the board (not running for re-election) to run for the Michigan 35th State House seat left open by Rep. Rudy Hobbs who is currently running for the Michigan 14th U.S. House District seat. Running against him is Southfield Councilman Jeremy Moss.

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