Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Monday, October 31, 2011

Urban Fantasy TV: My thoughts on Grimm and Once Upon a Time

I love me some urban fantasy. I love shows and stories that go, "You know the boogie man. I got him on speed dial. Yeah, he's real and still eats people under I-24. You just ain't been paying attention. Come on I need to go hit the old troll up for some info on my latest case."

The next portion of the post is where I'm going to bitch about inane crap, but let me be honest. If the shows do what their trying to do right, I'll sit down every week to watch them.

First off I have this fear. Over the past few years network television has been trying to avoid sci-fi. Hell, even Sci-fi (Syfy) has been trying to avoid sci-fi. Don't get me wrong we still have sci-fi, but they are more and more reluctant to let the show go hog wild with us not being in Kansas anymore. Let's take, Lost and the first season of Heroes (When the show was awesome not okay or good but awesome. ) They went through huge lengths to establish those shows as being grounded in reality. Think about it. In Lost everybody is on crazy mind-fuck island but for the most part the rest of the world is just the rest of the world. Heck the show doesn't even really start making the weirdness plot relevant until season 3.

Part of urban fantasy is that yeah this is a world where dragons occasionally need to be slain. I loved shows like Alice and Tin-man where it's clear to the audience that we're on the other side of the looking glass.

In urban fantasy there is probably going to be a masquerade but beneath it the wild things must dance. And I just have this fear that the wild things I want are going to be mild things instead. And it's a shame. There was a golden age or silver age or whatever you want to call it of great sci-fi and urban fantasy when I was coming up. X-files, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Roswell, Angel, and Andromeda were all doing their thing. And guess what? The first season of Angel is more or less the premise of Grimm. The occult detective is not new. I like occult detectives. Hell,I love 'em but it's not exactly new ground.

They don't have to be afraid audiences won't except it. If you make a good show we'll watch it. (One word and one word only, Miles, Firefly

And just to stab you a little deeper Kings. )

What's going to make all the difference is the writing and whether or not they accept that the fairy tale angle is enough to get our attention but without good writing is not enough to base a whole show around? Like I said that angle has been played up by several movies and tv shows. And if they do it wrong I can go somewhere else to see it done better. Honestly if wrong I can always crack open Mercy Thompson.

Which brings me to my next point. The Mercy Thompson books are very clear that the tales we know are watered down versions. Especially thus far in Once upon a Time it concerns me how much they're going with the Disney iconography. If part of the point of the show is to creep us out there a much better versions of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast you can go with.

All that said Rumplestilskin is a creepy little fuck no matter what story you put him in.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What's On My Mind Come Election Day

Alright so Election Day is coming up. The main elections that are going to affect me are local. There isn't any vote I can participate in for the U.S. House of Representatives this go round. The main election I'm looking at is city council. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that for the past few months I've sat in most of the meetings and know most of the incumbents styles. Secondly because of Councilwoman Garrison's not running for re-election, no matter what there is going to be a new face in a week or so. If I were doing what I was suppose to I would have a decent amount of interviews for you guys but up until recently I've been a cheapskate who didn't want to shell out a few bucks for skype recoding software.

Anyway, here are some issues I think are going to be important when people go to the ballot box
1. The Obvious Stuff: Jobs, Crime, and Roads
While the crime and unemployment rates are better in Southfield than they are in Detroit, people are still not happy with them. In a lot of the meetings I sat in there seemed to be this defensiveness, a feeling that the problems of Southfield were beginning to mirror the problems of Detroit. Over the last few months there has been a lot of discussion over a declining tax base, lower property values and home foreclosures.

2. Planning Innovation
I've tried to keep my mouth shut about it, but honestly I don't like Southfield's aesthetic. There are large seas of concrete parking lots and green space everywhere and the city isn't very walkable. I'm just a guy. I know it's not as large a priority as the other stuff, I don't know if anybody agrees with me and even if they did, I don't really know what can be done about it, but it's on my mind.

3. Reaching Out to Other Communities
I think one of the largest problems facing municipalities in Metrodetroit is that nobody realizes how closely they are related. In Southeastern Michigan it's not uncommon for somebody to live in one city, work in another, and do their grocery shopping in another one. Every municipality wants to protect its tax payer's dollars not realizing that the quality of life in one city affects everybody. Several people who live in Southfield work in Detroit and vice versa.

4. Reaching Out to other government agencies.
One of the reasons why infrastructure, roads, water mains, etc. often take a while to fix is because sometimes it isn't exactly clear who should be doing the fixing. But residents don't and in all honesty shouldn't care about who has jurisdiction over road maintenance. As long as the people pay taxes the roads should work. There has to be a way of getting down to business and bridging who does what on these types of things.

5. Changing
This is really a subtopic of planning innovation but well... The nature of the city is changing. Both the residents and the leadership have to realize that. Just because the city was envisioned a certain way 20 years ago doesn't mean that that's how the city should or even can remain. The entire southern portion of Michigan is dealing with population loss. If we are going to survive we have to look at adjusting to and halting that population loss. That of course needs to be balanced with the current resident's expectations of the city but as I said it can't stay the same forever.

The Unemployment Rates for Various Michigan Metropolitan Areas From January 2008 Through September 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Shotguns and Crosses: Let's Face it When the Apocalypse Comes And That Which Is Wrong Walks the Earth, God Will not Save You Playlist

The Coming of the End (Our Sins Unredeemable)
Bad Things: Jace Everette
When You're Evil: Voltaire
Devil's Night: D12
3 AM: Eminem
Touched: Vast
Judgment Night: Onyx and Biohazard

The Smiting (Revelations)
Returns a King: 300 Soundtrack
L.A. Song: Christian Kane
All Along the Watch Tower: Bear McCreary

The Rise of the Unholy (The Blight Spreads)

Hoist the Colors: Pirates of the Caribbean At Worlds End Soundtrack
Return of the Machines: 9 Soundtrack
Extreme GhostBusters Theme
Dragula: Rob Zombie

The Scrapes of Humanity Heed The Clarion Call (The Chosen Children)

Terminator Theme
Cells: The Servant
Grocery Store: Zombieland Soundtrack
Hanger 18:Megadeth
Ten Thousand Fists: Disturbed
This Day We Fight:Megadeth
Supermoves: Overseer
Voodoo People: The Prodigy

Album Review: Five Finger Death Punch: American Capitalist

Five Finger Death Punch
American Capitalist

With the exception of the metal screams this is a pretty solid album until "Remember Everything" (Track 8) then it falls apart. It starts to turn into a bunch of generic revenge ballads.

Until that point, again with the exception of the metal screams, the vocals are pretty good. The guitar fills the album with a bunch of crunchy riffs. There is definitely a double pedal that's getting a work out. It's not a great album but it's not disappointing or bad either. It wasn't an exercise in patience to listen to. I was actually digging it.

Then "Remember Everything" happens. The album turns into a childish and if may say it musically boring fuck you to anybody the band thinks done it wrong. Don't get me wrong I think revenge songs can be fun. I love "99 Problems."

Ah back when he who sits on the throne actually was king.

Or even "You're so Vain."

The problem with revenge songs though is if you do it wrong you make yourself look like the jackass of the song and that's what these guys did. Even when that's the case I can forgive it when the song is fun enough.

The latter half of American Capitalist just isn't. It just makes the band look like a bunch of whinny little bitches. And I feel bad for them son 'cause I got 99 problems but 'em bitches ain't one.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In the Defense of Defense: I Love Hang 'em High McCoy But...

You know how every couple of blog posts I have to give a disclaimer that I'm a lefty at heart. Guess what?

While I hate Law and Order: SVU, I actually dig the original. I just found it on Netflix and have been treating myself to a few hours of watching "Hang 'em High" McCoy do his thing.

And it reminded me of a point I made in an old ethics essay for a class.

The importance of the presumption of innocence. I "imagine" that that lawyers don't argue guilt or innocence because they have a personal stake in it, but because the certainty of what happened is in question for a jury and they need to hear arguments of both guilt and innocence. That is my snooty way of saying that for a lawyer it shouldn't matter if your client is guilty or not. The truth of the matter is you don't know and you can't know. The best we can do is let a jury decide what probably happened and live with whatever they say.

In most of the episodes of Law and Order what happened is left ambiguous so we can be entertained watching the cops work through case. Just as if we were a jury we don't actually see the crime.

Despite that, because the show is told through the eyes of the prosecuting attorney the audience knows all the suspects are guilty. Hang 'em high McCoy! But do we? Nope. The best we can do is let both the defense and the prosecution present their case and let the jury vote.

In real life, that's what is supposed to happen they vote and you have to have faith that the system worked. The prosecution presented their evidence, the defense presented their evidence, the jury looked at both and came to a reasonable decision.

But because the show follows the prosecution the defense attorneys come off as slime. Their job is keep the criminal out of jail thus subverting justice. That is not their job. They are all part of a system to see justice done and both the prosecution and the defense ultimately have the same job within that system. To present a reasonable depiction of the unknown truth so a jury can come to a reasonable conclusion in the service of justice.

P.S. The ethics essay mentioned argued that the media bonanza surrounding the Menendez case interfered with the presumption of innocence. Don't look at me like that. The research was easier. I had video and all sorts of documentaries.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

It was finals week and I was working on that minidocumentary. (Stop with the shameless plug.)

I'll write another blog post about it later but I hate the writing in SVU. Half the time the entire point of the episode is to make a ludicrous ill informed argument and the other half is to deal with horribly written melodrama. It all adds up to make a show that I just a can't take seriously.

P.P.S. I'm not naive I just wrote how I feel the justice system should work I'm wholly aware that sometimes it doesn't happen that way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Southfield City Council Meeting October 24, 2011

City Council Meeting Held in Southfield, Michigan on October 24, 2011

Topics include

  • Appreciation of Councilwoman Janna K. Garrison who is not seeking re-election due to moving.
  • Agreement with the Oakland County Road Commission regarding winter snow removal
  • Comcast phone service interruption
  • The possibility of a citizen code enforcement commission
  • Discussion of the city's new smart meter resolution
  • Discussion of the recent International Festival
  • Discussion of the importance of voting
  • An ordinance that would regulate child care facilities

An audio file of this meting can be found here.
An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Album Review: Evanescence: Evanescence

3/5 Stars

This album took me a while to form an opinion on. The most obvious reason for that is that I loved their debut album, Fallen when I was a kid and this one I'm not so hot on. This is a challenging album. I don't mean bad but challenging. See rock's great contribution to music writing is the hook, the catchy repetitive 3 or 4 notes/chords along with a chorus that you can't get out of your head. This album says screw that in favor of more complicated melodies.

Which means that this isn't one of those albums you're going to be singing along to in your car. It is however a very emotional series of ballads that combine many instruments you wouldn't normally think of in a rock album, and what's weird is the guitar is probably going to be the one you pay the least attention too.

Most of the other instruments along with Amy Lee's voice create a wierd creepy, and kind of epically pissed off vibe. Not the bar room brawl saw some dude is hitting on my girl and is just asking for an ass kicking kind of pissed off, but "Don't ever ask me for another favor because we're done. Get out of my life." pissed off. But back to the point I was trying to make, the guitar sounds kind of boring in the middle of all that. The guitar riffs are kind of generic when you put them next to all the other stuff.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Magic the Gathering Deck: Eye of Odin

Format: Commander Classic
Commander: Sen Triplets

So, so this is basically a commander deck that is suppose to control the scene.

Magic Spreed Sheet

I just thought this might be cool to share. I like creating huge Magic the Gathering decks that go right up to the limit of what the Magic Online is designed to handle, 1400 cards. To do this I made this spreedsheet to help get the proportions right. I've been experimenting with using it for smaller decks too. You can change the total number of cards and the category percentages to get card numbers. It also tells you how many cards you should have in deck once you get done with each catagory.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17, 2011 Southfield City Council Meeting

City Council Meeting held October 17, 2011 in Southfield, Michigan

Topics include:
  • An Resolution Regarding DTE Energy Smart Meters
  • Oakland County Economic Development
  • Regulation of Child Care FacilitiesLink
An audio file of this meeting can be found here.
An agenda and relevant documents can be found here.

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly called the smart meter resolution an ordinance.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stuff That's Going Down In Town: Golden Corral and Lawrence Tech Update October 12, 2011

On September 26, 2011 Southfield's City Council voted for the necessary legislation to allow Lawrence Technological University to build a new dormitory. Here is audio of the public hearing and vote.

After the vote regarding Lawrence Technological University, a public hearing was held and relevant legislation voted on regarding the possibility of Golden Corral building in Southfield. Ultimately the Southfield City Council voted against allowing Golden Corral to build at the site they desired. After the vote the mayor spoke on the difficulty restaurants and other businesses may have in coming into the city. Here is audio of the relevant aspects of the September 26, 2011 city council meeting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 11, 2011 Southfield Public School District Board Meeting

Meeting of the Southfield Public School District Held October 11, 2011
Topics Include:
  • School Supplies Donated by Office Max
  • Virtual High school Classes
  • Transportation
  • Security
  • The College Readiness Program
  • The WAY Program

An agenda and relevant documents can be found here.
An audio file of this can be downloaded here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Need to Work on "Game"

Okay it's late at night. I did what I said I was going to do for the day and I'm bored. I should start writing...fiction but I really am not in the mood. To mentally prepare my self for that moment I want to talk a little about "Game", how it got started and where I want to go with it.

Why I Started Writing it.
"Game" got started for a couple of reasons. The first is that I around three years ago, Shards of Alara I really really started getting heavy into Magic, and I wanted a cool TV show about a group of friends that had fun playing a game they all liked similar to magic.

Most sports stories artificially create conflict by having the opponent be a total ass.

But I always thought the stories where both teams or players were likable were more well written and at the end of the day more fun.

The second reason was around the time I started thinking up game I was also really getting into science fiction. I was revisiting A Scanner Darkly, Andromeda and Batman Beyond. I loved cyberpunk (Though I still need to read Snow Crash and I only made it partway through Neuromancer) but a lot of stuff perplexed me. The problem is that a lot of the tech in original cyberpunk has come. (wi-fi, the i-phone, the internet) We are more or less living it, but the tone of the life and most of my friends and I lead is nothing like the dark dystopian future cyberpunk portrayed. Oh sure there is some scandal, and I'm broker than I'd like, but even though I may occasionally put on my Deckard face I am nowhere near as cynical as he was, nor do I feel I have a reason to be.

I would always watch cyberpunk movies and go, "Why can't the movie be more about how cool this tech is." And yes I think the internet is cool. I think it's awesome that, if I could afford a shiny new laptop, I could get wi-fi in most public places. I think the idea of augmented reality is cool. I think the idea of downloadable media is cool. The idea that if I get bored on a bus I can within about ten minutes buy and start reading something is cool. (Again if I could afford a kindle. I wasn't lying about the broke thing.)

The problem I always thought was that you needed conflict. A lot of the early cyberpunk was attempting to be allegorical, but as with most science fiction trying to speculate on how society will advance, a lot of those allegories seem dated. Do corporations have too much power in American society? Sure, but to me the idea of Globocorp now seems dated. The same could be said of the post-apocalyptic wasteland.

These tropes provided a lot of the conflict but I think that in a world where a lot of this tech is emerging we can, but don't have to be that far out. If you wanted to you could write an entire story about chronicling an epic flame war and how it affects a small forum where most of the participants kind of know each other.

Or even better write a story where the audience only knows the characters through their online personalities, and can subtlety pick out what's going on in their real life by how they act in character.

Maybe I'll save this for a later story, but the dichotomies between somebody's real life reputation and their online one interests me. That nice guy at work might be a huge troll and that quiet guy in the corner might be one of the best posters on his favorite forum. People act different on the internet than they do in real life, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better. It's almost like we have multiple identities, but didn't we always? People are different work and home too.

Problems and Blocks
So why isn't "Game" as far along as I'd like. Firstly and honestly, "Sometimes I just want to be entertained."

Sometimes writing is the most entertaining thing I can think to do. And sometimes it ain't. A good chunk of what I have so far was written when I was bored in some class. As lousy as seems to say, while one day I hope to get paid to write, right now I'm not. I'm mostly doing all of this for shits and giggles, and sometimes I go, "You know what. I can get mo shits mo easily by watching a marathon of The Tribe."

Or better yet Dune. I could also really go for some Alice.

Then there is the "Oh Shinny" affect. All in all, I think I've actually gotten better at applying myself to putting "stuff" out there. But at the end of the day I still get to choose which stuff I get to work on. One day I might go. "I want to write about my magic triumphs." The next I might decide to write about what's going on at city council. The problem is that for something like "Game" or the myriad of other stories I have cooking I need to sit down for an extended uninterrupted time and tell myself that I'm not doing anything else until this gets done. And in reality there is no way that's going to happen I have too much fun stuff and not so fun stuff going on to do that.

Beyond that there is also a mood thing. Most of what I write I start when I'm in a certain mind set. There is no way I could go from "Orientation" to "Game" in one sitting and know it. I don't want to write "Game" when I'm feeling morose and wind up having all the characters giving terribly long diatribes about why the world sucks, especially when part of the point is to avoid all that and just have some fun.

Beyond that, and this is the one that's been haunting me, writing action is hard. You have to know exactly where each character is, how they can affect the world around them and how it can affect them. Especially in a non-visual medium that is tough. It sounds easy when I say it like that, but here is an example. Simple scene one guy is shooting a bullet at another guy. You have to know where they are in relation to each other, figure out the basic type of gun, and keep track of how many shots were fired, and figure out if there is any cover or innocent bystanders in the room nay the general area. You need to know all of the plausible ways "shit can hit the fan." It's a lot to keep in your head especially when you've broken off into two or three groups.

Most of what "Game" had been up to that point was me playing two sides of whatever mental conversation I had that day.

Where I want to take it
I like characters, and I like the world. I've already gotten started on a pseudo-sequel. I just need to end the match already.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Album Review: DJ Shadow: The Less You Know, The Better

DJ Shadow
The Less You Know, The Better

You know those albums our parents speak of as gifts of the gods, The Wall, The White Album, Straight out of Compton, Legend. This is one of those. I've been saying it a lot lately so I don't know if it means as much, but this album is amazing. It's diverse and has something for everybody. It's not about being lumped into a genre it is it's own thing that transcends genre. You go from a crunchy rock riff to an old school rap session between tracks 2 and 3 ("Boarder Crossing" and "Stay the Course") then goes in to a Bob Marley-like ballad ("I've Been Trying').

On the album Shadow is giving us himself, everything he digs and everything he is. And god is it good.

What Can Microsoft Do

The king has died. As a result I expect a flurry of articles about Apple in the coming weeks. When people talk about Apple they can't help but talk about Microsoft. Why hasn't Microsoft, which a decade ago had undeniably better positioning not become the force that Apple has?

Cultural Change
Microsoft is still the go to brand for a P.C. controlling over 90% of desktop operating system market share. People by Macs for specific reasons, like photo and video editing, but for a business owner or the average Joe on the street windows is still the go to operating system. But in today's culture that doesn't matter.

When I was a kid and people were talking about the wonders of technology they were talking about all the new ways people could use P.C.s.

In today's culture the P.C. has lost it's mystic. Right now the wonder is all about mobile technology, which is a field, that Microsoft is playing catch up on.

There are a number of things that Microsoft does, and is a leader in, but culturally we take most of them for granted. Nobody cares that the standard word processor taught in schools and colleges was Microsoft Word, which brings me to a secondary point.

Internet Service
I loved walking down the software aisle growing up seeing all of these amazing pieces of software that would do cool stuff. I loved Encarta, an entire encyclopedia that was searchable in seconds. I loved Streets and Trips. All of these were premium services. Many of which were supplanted by free services on the internet.

In the days these services were in their prime it was impractical to use their internet equivalents because they either didn't exist, or they were in their infancy like the rest of the internet.

Today however that is not the case. There is less and less of a problem with using the internet for major computing functions. People have access to more bandwidth and many computers automatically sign in to the internet.

The main advantage that services like Microsoft Office, Streets and Trips, and Picture It have over Google Office, Google Maps and Piccasa is disappearing. It used to be a pain to do work over the internet especially since before broadband which is a relatively new development (Broadband over took dial-up only in 2006) people had to either deal with not having a phone connection or get a new line. People needed to be productive while only being online in short bursts. So anything that could be done through local computing was a godsend.

That's not the case anymore. People don't mind working in the cloud as much as they used to. In fact some people welcome minimizing the hard drive space. As a result many of the programs that Microsoft used to create have become obsolete as we move more and more towards doing things on the internet.

See What's Cool and Make it Better
Apple didn't create the MP3 player, the Smartphone , or the tablet, but it did find ways to make these products better. If Microsoft wants to better position itself in the marketplace it needs to keep it's ear to the ground and figure out where computing is heading. For example, As mentioned before it seems to be headed for the cloud. Microsoft has the money to develop a web service platform not unlike Google where in clicking a icon in windows would take you to sort of an personalized online desktop where you could access web services and applications developed or at least supported by this cloud interface. If Microsoft did it well they could develop them in a where they worked well together like Apple and Google products already do. The main draw of it would be the interface, having a variety of cloud applications like photo editing and office solutions and in sort of a mini-desktop that could be accessed by tablets, phones, and P.Cs.

Note: This is hopefully what's going on with Windows 8

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Southfield City Council Meeting October 3, 2011

City Council Meeting Held in Southfield, Michigan on October 3, 2011

Topics Include:

  • Neighborhood Stabilization Program
  • Two Liquor License Requests,
  • A General Discussion On The City and County's Allotment of Liquor Licenses,
  • Engineering Contract Extensions,
  • The Sewer Loan Revolving Fund
An agenda and relevant documents for this meeting can be found here.
An audio file of this meeting can be found here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My Philosophy on Cursing (For the record all the cursing in this is to make a point.)

Short Version
Cursing by itself is just words, but an insult is an insult. React accordingly, though keep in mind some people, places and things are acceptable targets. For instance, if anyone is going to yell at me for calling Jeffrey Dahmer a fucking bastard they have problems.

Long Version
Goddamn it people, what the fuck happened to us. We were a country that was founded on the idea that for the status quo to change people had to be free to speak their goddamned minds. If that involves some fucking cursing excuse me!

The moment you start taking out what can and can't be said communication starts breaking down.

A word is a word is a word.

Oh I could start getting erudite in my analysis of how totalitarian governments first start by changing the way people think through censorship, indoctrination and propaganda, and that one of our best defenses against the government impeding on the liberties of man are our rights to freely communicate with each other, through the press, speech, and assembly. And that I refuse to start going down the path of new speak because some words can't be said.

But then again ... fuck it.

That wouldn't amuse me, and damn it, it's Saturday night and I want to laugh my ass off.

The truth of matter is that curse words are often the best words to express emotional intensity, anger, joy, sorrow. These are the words we reserve for emotion.

How do people know I've past the breaking point of the shit, I'm willing to deal with?

"Go fuck yourself!"

While rationality is important we should not even consider doing away with one of the most commonly recognized ways we have for communicating and dealing with extreme emotion.

(Wait. I thought you said you weren't going to be erudite about this. Fuck off!)
The links of brotherhood and humanity are all tied to our ability to express that which makes us feel and to cut ourselves off from it would do us disservice. I feel. Through that which I feel I fight, and I write. (Stop listening to the bard while you type and speak plain, for if you do not, Miles, your words will miss their aim.)

Our rage, our love, our fear, and anger, these are the things that make us human, that which makes us make us sentient. Our drives and motivations. For whatever our sins, our emotions are what drive our greatest triumphs and failures.

To subdue the ways in which we convey them by removing from our vocabulary the words we use to express them, would rob us of that sentience. For what is a word but, a thought? I have a nature nay a right to feel rage, elation, sorrow and love and express such feelings through words and art. (I said stop listening to The Bard already Miles.)

Therefore I shall say, I feel goddamn great after that.

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