Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Album Review Wierd Al: Alpocalypse

Weird Al Yankovic

I'm in a weird position, by my own criteria I should give this one a 5/5 before even listening to it. You see, a good chunk of the singles are from Weird Al's Internet Leaks EP. I heard it and loved it. Nearly every two weeks I just go banana's with Weird Al singles and "Ringtone"," CNR", and CRAAIGGGGSLIIIIIIST!!! have been firmly in place in that lineup for a while. Hell I even know half of the lyrics.

Even beyond that most of the rest of the album is also great. I laughed my ass off at "Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me" and "Whatever You Like"

It's funny.

Monday, June 27, 2011

River Rights, River Nights Chapter 1/2 Draft 1

It was a Thursday when she walked through my door. I should have known that dame would bring me nothing but trouble, but I was fooled by that pretty face of hers. She said her brother had gone missing. "So what?" I thought. In this town hundreds go missing. What made the case interesting is what her brother was doing when he went missing.

The dog was a reporter sniffing around the largest company in the city, hell maybe even the state. The woman said he had made a phone call late last night, told her he had found something big. She went to his place in the morning to see what he had found and he wasn't there. At first she just thought he was working but after a few days he still didn't show. I told her I'd take the case. Idiot.

If I was going to do this and not end up choking on my own blood at the tail end of some back alley I was going to need to team up with my old partner Mickey. Problem with that is we had words. We hadn't talked in nearly a year. The old goat had settled down, found a decent living and a decent house. I heard through the grapevine he had even got hitched. I needed a way to get him back into the game.

I rode Sheila, my 1971 GTO convertible, up ol' Mickey's driveway and honked. I can't say I was expecting a warm welcome but his face was cold. Damn cold. I offered him a smoke.

"Mickey, I got a case."

"The hell does it have to do with me!"

"I need you. It's big. I'm sorry about all the shit I said before you left, but right here, right now I need you."

"It's a dame's big sparklies isn't it, sucker."

"What if it is?"

"You're getting soft Rick, too soft for me to ride 'round with you like the old days. Hell, I am too. I know I don't have it anymore and I doubt you do either. You had done the job too long even before I left, but now?"

I swallowed. That was a low blow from Mick. Sure most of the cases I worked even back in the day were of jealous husbands, but this was one of the rare ones that could get hairy. I was pissed at the insult, but I couldn't tell him he was wrong.

"Yeah well that's why I need you. You were always the best at getting the intel."

"That's not going to work. The only way you'll get me on this case is a 70-30 split in my favor."


"So what's the take."

"I haven't negotiated it yet"


First thing me and Mick did was head to the precinct. The girl had filed a missing person report for her brother. We wanted to see what the cops had picked up on the case. We weren't expecting much. Too many folks go missing in this town. It's no secret that if you turn the wrong corner, see what you aren't suppose to, you'll find yourself belly up in the river.

The cops hadn't really looked into it, but hell we thought there might be something in that report she hadn't told us. Her brother was a reporter all right. He was Harry Klien. Klien was a freelancer. He didn't have one paper he worked on, more like a consortium of editors. He would find out what the papers knew and wanted, put together a piece and sold it to the highest bidder. It was all high quality work too. The man had a lot of enemies. We figured we should follow his trail, and that meant talking to the papers. According to the report three were interested in the story and gave him the whiffs the dog needed to start hunting. The Star, The Press, and The Liberator.

We decided to start at the Liberator. The metro editor, said he had talked to Klien on the phone about two weeks before he went missing. Jerhico Motors, the company Klien was looking into, was mostly known for producing consumer cars, but they also had military contracts. Big whoop what large company didn't. What made this different was that the military vehicles were failing in the field. A source was leaking that precious piece info to every paper in the phone book. Nobody knew exactly who the guy was but they thought that what was said was at least worth a look. The Liberator had their own guy working on it, but the editor said that he thought Klien probably would have done a better job.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cyber Paradigm Shift

I hate to admit it but a large reason why I idolize computers and writing is because I idolize the tone and methos of cyber punk and noir. It looked cool. The lone hacker (Miles you are in no way, shape or form a hacker. Shut up.) sitting at his computer working from a spartan kick-ass base of operations.

Then I get bored because I think I should get out more. Then I realize the vast majority of things I want or need to do can be done by computer and go what's the point. Want to hang out at the electronics store and video game store, naw I'll just surf through Amazon. How about the record store? Ah Amazon. Bank. I do that online. Post office? Email. How about a party, I can talk to the same people using Facebook in my underroos.

For nearly every fun thing that involves going out I can think of something that serves the same purpose that could be done from home.

I looked at those movies, shows and comics and my eyes glowed at the urban landscape, but now I think, Do I really have a reason to experience that landscape."

It used to bug me, but I think I'm getting used to the simple fact that well I have an efficient, base of operations. Is that a bad thing?

It's time I re-read the Post-Cyber Punk Manifesto. The urban landscape made cyberpunk, but in this new world where cyberpunk is slowly becoming reality what role does the city play? The old paradigms just don't fit anymore. Is the city still gritty yes, but it just seems like there is a division between that grittiness and technology that is at odds with the old view of cyberpunk? Technology has become prevalent in our lives but there to me still seems to be a division between the virtual and real worlds. They affect each other but aren't quite as symbiotic as in classic cyberpunk. Mortar and concrete are inherently different from bites and binary.

When a good chuck of the goods and services you use are just code and data to be downloaded from you're PC what happens to the old noir notions, mainly ideas of the city, that got transposed to cyberpunk?

I mean hell, a good chunk of urban problems are caused by the digital divide and lack of tech rather than the flat out misuse of it by big brother. I didn't say big brother doesn't exist though.

It's okay to gloss over these sorts of issues if the point of the narrative is to just be cool, but sometimes the goal of sci-fi is to mirror and discuss changes in society and project those changes into a speculative future. The speculative future of classic cyber punk in a lot of ways has been debunked, but in others has been proven true. How does the genre adapt to that while staying true to it's roots.

Ah screw it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Argument for Affirmative Action

I stopped writing about affirmative action in my last post, because if I were to argue against Goodkind's argument I would be essentially arguing that slavery was bad. Listen people. If we as a society haven't moved beyond the concept of white exceptionalism and are still taking the slavery as a positive good argument seriously, we're fucked, I find humanity entirely repugnant, and am moving to my secret arctic base to get as far away from the rest of you as I can. You sicken me.

If we have, then we can have a calm rational discussion about the effects of and reasons for our nation's use of affirmative action policies.

To start off I have some basic beliefs and will try to argue that they are true. These are the things that lead me to believe we still need affirmative action.

  • From before the founding of the country until about 1955 give or take a decade depending on where you lived, (I can't help it if Chris Rock said all this better.) the country systematically disenfranchised minorities and women politically, economically, and socially.
  • Resources of institutions, individuals, and governments, particularly local governments are often affected by the policies affecting them in the past as well as the accrued factors of production (I mean a general term for resources, human, material, and economic and I apologize for sounding snooty. Ah who am I kidding. I don't.) of the generations before them.
  • While not as pronounced as it once was there is still a disparity in political power, wealth and education between minorities and whites. (This in my opinion is the cringer. Which side of the line people stand upon tends to depend on how much stock they put in this one.)
  • Affirmative action policies were put into place in the 1950's and 1960's as a way of bridging the disparities aforementioned in the previous bullet point.

Let's go.

Racism sucks.
Do I really have to argue that not being able to vote, legally own property, marry, sue and the U.S. Supreme Court saying, that blacks were "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect," qualifies of disenfranchisement. And don't get me started on discriminatory hiring practices and Jim Crow.

I'll do it if I have to but read the first paragraph again before you ask me to.

We are all products of the past
Society depends on the fact that resources outlive us as individuals. We die. The world doesn't. Knowledge, wealth, buildings, infrastructure; we all use these things and never really give thought to how much of it was put into place before we were born. Think of what would happen if each generation started as a tabula rasa, without the technology, scientific knowledge, and wealth created by the previous. Watch the tribe.

Hell, the house I grew up in is about 30 years older than me.

Anyway the point I'm trying to make is the current state of society is directly linked to its previous states. As much as a liberal I am and how much I cry about individual freedom bladdy blady bla I have to admit the person I am today is a result of the circumstances and decisions my parents made and their parents before them made. Decisions I had no part in can and do affect me. I didn't just spring out of the ground fully formed exactly as I am. Nobody did.

This is true on an individual scale.

According to The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

"The likelihood of enrolling in postsecondary education is strongly related to parents’ education even when other factors are taken into account.

"As parents’ education increases, so does students’ likelihood of enrolling in
postsecondary education. Among 1992 high school graduates whose parents did
not go to college, 59 percent had enrolled in some form of postsecondary education
by 1994 (table 1). The enrollment rate increased to 75 percent among those
whose parents had some college experience, and to 93 percent among those
whose parents had at least a bachelor’s degree."

This is also true on a municipal scale, and can be seen in the numerous catch 22's hindering Detroit's Renaissance. Due to many of the circumstances of Detroit's past the city has a lack of resources that make returning it to former glory incredibly difficult. (I don't mean to start a flame war so note I didn't say impossible.)

There was and is a wealth gap.
One of the results of that disenfranchisement was that the policies instituted prior to the civil rights movement were created to primarily benefit white people. Minorities had limited economic, social, and political power which overall reduced quality of life and wealth. (Again I will smack someone if I have to say being a slave, not being able to vote, and having limited work and living options sucked.)

All of this lead to an education and wealth gap that the country is still suffering from. I don't harp on it because I am relatively well off. I mean I'm broke, but I'm broke because the economy sucks and I'm in my early 20's, with little work experience. We're all broke, but I've seen some folks way worse off than me.

Which leads me to my next point.

Affirmative action was created as an imperfect solution to close those gaps.
I'm a hippie and the reason why I'm a hippie is because I have a fondness for the attitudes of the 60's. It was a time when people said look here are some problems. Here are some things that we don't like about society. What can we do to change them? In a lot of ways they succeeded. The civil rights movement happened. The EPA was created (Miles that happened in 1970, I'm counting it). A crap ton of sunshine laws were passed including the ones my trade depends on, the Federal Freedom of Information Act and Michigan Open Meetings Act (Again Miles '70's. Shut up.) How the justice system looks at the rights of the accused changed. I love the idea that if we have a societal problem we don't just shrug and say that's just the way it is. Affirmative action polices came out largely due to people in the 1960's saying that the system was unfair and going let's fix that as best we can, and it is working. Do I see a day when we will no longer need affirmative action? Yes. I just don't think we are there yet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Terry Goodkind and Affirmative Action

So some time last year I said I would blast the political arguments of Terry Goodkind. I didn't for two reasons. One, while I like some of his books, the ones where he gets political, with exception of Faith of the Fallen, are crappy and I didn't feel like re-reading them. Two, when I talk about race which is tied to the, first book I was going to do, I tend to get a little fiery and I like the mousy persona I've adopted and don't want to blow it. For some reason people like me when I'm quiet and I like that. Yes, ignore the fuzzy haired nerd.

Anyway, I'm bored and have met only a third of this month's blog quota so ... yeah.

In his fifth book of the Sword of Truth series, Soul of the Fire, Goodkind tries to set up an allegory regarding affirmative action.

Due to personal laze rather than type out most of chapter thirty-four I'm just going to show you the google book of it.

You probably didn't read that so I'll sum it up for you. First how I think he means it. While being in on the bad side of atrocities suck the posterity of the society, including the descendants of the oppressed benefited from the resulting progress.

Now time for how I read it. Are you blacks better off living in the United States than in Africa? Yes. Then shut up about how slavery sucked. Are you Native Americans benefiting from European tech? Yes. Then shut up about the genocidal Indian wars. It aint my fault and it all turned out well in the end, plus it wasn't as bad as you're probably saying it was.

My reaction is more or less Sam's on this one.

I'll be honest. I am for affirmative action. However there are several arguments against it that I respect. Note, I said respect not agree with. That the atrocities of the past aren't the fault of the current generation and they shouldn't be penalized for the sins of their ancestors. That the economic inequality of the past isn't as institutionalized as it once was and that the need for it has passed. That it disenfranchises whites in a similar fashion as blacks were in the past. Damn I think I might have changed my own mind. Anyway the one argument that makes my head explode is that minorities are benefiting from the sins of the past and that makes it all good.

You know what? I think I'll more calmly lay out my arguments for affirmative action later but for now I need to blow off some steam, and run away from my demons. Until next time enjoy a piece of the soundtrack I listen to when pissed.

Musical Themes

I'm going to be honest here. Whether or not I like music is probably going to be based on the styles I'm predisposed to. Here are some themes that show up when I'm listening to tunes using albums released in the last 5 years as examples.

Metal Aint Dead
Metal is in a weird place right now. There are a lot of new styles. Some of them I like some of them not so much, but you got to give it to the classics. I love it when the masters come out with new material.

Ozzy Osborn: Black Rain
Megadeth: Endgame
Alice in Chaines: Blue gives way to Black
Guns and Roses (Really just Axl): Chinese Democracy
Slash: Slash

Dirty Rock
Okay I know it's an image that may not be accurate. I love no frills rock. Fuck the synthesizers and all that bull we're doing it old school, lot's of fuzz just so we can kick out that jams.


The Dirt Bombs: We Have You Surrounded
Tamir Kali: Black Bottom
Bellrays: Hard Sweat and Sticky
White Stripes: Icky Thump
Spinnerette: Spinnerette
Rise Against: Appeal to Reason

Smart Hop
Some rap is good some rap isn't. What makes the difference for me is rap that tries to say something. It doesn't have to be positive it just needs to be more than 50 clever ways of saying I'm hot and you're not.

Common: Go
Lupe Fiasco: Food and Liquor
Gnarl's Barkly: St Elsewhere
Flobots: Fight with tools

Soulful Songstresses
What can I say. I like ladies who can sing.

KT Tunstall : Tiger Suit
Adele: 21
Erykah Badu : New Amerykah

Nerd to the Core
Hey these are my people.

Jonathon Coulton: Thing A Week Series
Wierd Al: Alpokolypse

Media Ratings Guide

Okay this week I was going to review Pink Pants by Jet, but a lot of how I felt about it was tied to the belief that it was by the Jet that did Get Born. My gut is screaming to me that it was misfiled by Napster and Rhapsody. So I think instead of a review I'll take this as an opportunity to explain how I give media ratings. These aren't just about albums but sum up my general feelings about all sorts of different media; movies, books, video games, music. You get the drift.

1 Star out of 5: Don't Insult Me
This means that I feel that the makers and producers of this thing insulted media consumers by assuming that they could put this out and still make money. It's shit.

2 Stars out of 5: Nice Try, but no cigar
I can see what was trying to be done, but I don't think it succeeded.

3 Stars out of 5: Meh
I don't particularly like it, but I can easily see why someone else might.

4 Stars out of 5: I can dig it.
It's something I really like.

5 Stars out of 5: Personal Classic
Everybody has those books they reread, those movies that they watch a bajillion times, those songs that are auto-includes on their playlists. For me these are those.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Southfield City Council Regular Meeting June 20, 2011

Topics include
  • Re-appointments to the Board of Review, Building Authority Commission, Commission on senior adults, and Total Living Commission
  • Parks and Recreation Bus Contract
  • Library Materials Purchases
  • Assessments for the City Center Advisory Board
An agenda and related documents for this meeting can be found here.

Audio of the meeting can be downloaded here.

Southfield Regular City Council Meeting June 20, 2011 from Greg Miles on Vimeo.

June 20, 2011 Southfield Special Budget Adoption City Council Meeting

Special city council meeting held on June 20, 2011 in Southfield, Michigan regarding the adoption of the 2011-2012 fiscal year's budget

Southfield Special Budget Adoption City Council Meeting June 20 2011 from Greg Miles on Vimeo.

An agenda and documents related to the meeting can be found here.

Audio of the meeting can be downloaded here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Getting Meta: Narrative Economy

You're flipping through the channels on cable. You find a movie that all of your friends have told you to see and its right at the beginning. Cool beans. You start watching it, but it seems a little slow. Eventually you start to lose interest. Eventually you say, screw this and decide to do something else.

People have limited attention spans. As such writers have a limited amount of time to tell a story or at least gain and retain the interest of the audience before it all goes to hell and they get bored which is bad.

That's what economy of narrative is all about. How do you tell the story you want to tell as efficiently as possible so the audience isn't staring at the TV, or reading the book saying, "get on with it already."

As a writer there are certain pieces of information that are important to the plot and that must be conveyed to the audience or nothing else makes sense. The problem is that explaining all this stuff so when you can get to the interesting stuff so it has impact can be, well boring. Since I'm in a Scott Pilgrim mood let's use that. Let's just pretend you pulled a Scott during that scene I just showed you. You're pretty much screwed especially if you also tune out Patel who was polite enough to write an email and send a letter in advance of Scott's face pounding explaining the matter.

The email explains pretty much the set up of the entire movie. Scott likes this girl and her exes have teamed up to kick the crap out of the dude going out with their ex.

My point is you have to explain, who that guy is, why they are kicking the crap out of each other and who that girl is. Yada yada yada you get the point. Edgar Wright did it with a 2 minute letter to Scott and for that matter the audience. Very convenient, and Scott deleted it not only from his computer, but his brain. It's part of his character. What are you going to do?

Anyway just about every story has this problem. How do authors deal with it. A couple of ways. First off they assume you already know some basic information and decide that they don't need to explain it. This is why a lot of people love sequels. The Dark Knight didn't have to explain who Batman is, why Gotham is so messed up or who this Commissioner Gordon guy is. It could just say, "You know what. We already told the origin story. If you're still in the dark, watch it. We've got more interesting stuff for you cats."

Also this is one way show don't tell comes in. Most people say that show don't tell is important because it gives the audience emotional impact, but especially in visual mediums it can be faster than explaining something through dialogue. That's why people love good actors. The directors and the writers don't have to write a bunch of cluttered lines to convey emotion when a simple glance can say it all, while the characters can continue a conversation conveying other information.

No need to say,"I feel angry" or worse, "I'll cut his heart out with a spoon" with that look.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Album Review: Tech N9ne: All 6's and 7's

Tech N9ne
All 6's and 7's

I'm split here. There are large chunks of the album that I hate, and I mean hate. Most of the first quarter is nothing but him going, I'm the hot shit (Track 5 "He's a mental giant"), which made me want to say you're nothing but cold diarrhea in a Dixie cup.

Then there are really awesome parts like "Strangeland" through "Cult Leader", tracks 9-13. Part of me feels like the album could have been better but is trying too hard. I'll admit sometimes the feature colabos add to it but not often. Also the album is waayyy too long especially when there are so many tracks that are mediocre, clocking in at about an hour and 20 minutes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Getting Meta: The Ensemble Cast, POV and Jordon Syndrome

Why the heck do people love Joss Wheden so much. Well for one he writes great dialogue, but that's not what I'm here to talk about. Joss Whedon has mastered writing for an ensemble cast.

Up until relatively recently most television shows would have a main character, and everything that happened on that show had to be related to that main character. Now this isn't always a bad thing, but sometimes it does annoying lead to characters who serve no other purpose than to get the main character into action or define the main character by contrast.

A good ensemble cast is the opposite of this. Most of characters have something interesting going on sometimes so much so that you don't care about what the heck is going on with the quote on quote protagonist. Like I said Whedon is a master of this so let's use one of his shows as an example, Angel. Let's face it there were a lot of episodes that were not devoted to the title character, in fact one of my favorite ones "That Old Gang of Mine" barley features him. That episode is all about Gunn.

A better example would probably be Battlestar Galactica. I dare you to tell me who the most important character in that show was.

It's hard for me to explain why people like ensemble casts. Maybe it's because they allow for more complicated characters and plots, though that is just my opinion.

The hard part in writing an ensemble cast is knowing when to shift the story's point of view. I'm not talking about first person and second person and all that yada ya. I mean who the story is choosing to focus on at the moment. This is why every now and again you'll get a Zeppo episode.

Let's say you have a story with two characters who are not physically in the same space. When and how do you let the audience know I'm taking a break from Alice to talk about Bob?

If you talk about Bob for too long there could be problems. What happens if the audience doesn't particularly like Bob or his story arc and would rather hear about what Alice is up to, or what if you spend so much time with Bob the audience forgets something is going down with Alice or that she even existed, or worse what if you pull a Jordon and never get back to this cool thing that was happening with Alice even if it was really important.

Late author Robert Jordon is best known for his Wheel of Time series. I haven't read past about book 8 for the following reason. In book 4 Jordon sets up a pretty cool plot point involving a character, Perrin, creating an army to defend is neighbors and wondering if that would be cool with his Queen. That plot point doesn't get revisited until book 10. This was to me the most interesting character and he doesn't even show up for at least another book after that because Jordon had so many characters and was doing so much with them.

Sometimes having an ensemble cast can be bad for that reason, which leads me to what I'll right about in my next one of these, economy of narrative: telling a good story in a limited time and space.

Note: After Jordon died Brandon Sanderson was hired to wrap up the series. I hear he's doing a good job a tying together lose ends and getting back to reading the books is on my list of things I should be doing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Southfield City Council Meeting May 31, 2011

City Council Meeting held in Southfield, Michigan on May 31, 2011

Topics include
  • Two tax abatements
  • Rezoning to accommodate ITT Tech
  • Assessments for the City Center District
You can download audio of the meeting here.

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Southfield City Council Meeting May 31, 2011 from Greg Miles on Vimeo.

Facebook Comments

Note: These Comments are from all across this blog.