Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Southfield City Council Meeting July 30, 2012

City Council Meeting Held in Southfield Michigan on July 30 2012

Topics Include
  • An Appliance Recycling Business
  • A Synagogue
  • Northland Mall in particular the Bus Area

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Am Not a Professional Journalist AKA A Quasi-Review of The Newsroom

Warning starts with a few True Blood season four spoilers. Highlight stuff to see it

I love me some internet, and I used to love True Blood until it started getting stupid. They introduced Tara in season four as the most genre savvy character. She is the one quick to point out that Marnie isn't exactly a team player and will probably sell out everybody if comes down to a choice between her "friends", death to the vampires, and her own mortality. She also points out that Marnie isn't completely sane either. Yet, she signs up as Marnie's/Antonia's lieutenant.

How'd she expect for that to work out? (Obviously spoilers)
Rocks fall and mostly everyone dies.

That I could forgive. For the sake of the plot they needed someone in the coven who Eric and Bill cared enough about not to just order a carpet bombing of the place.
But then turning Tara into a vampire, that was just unforgivable. I mean out of all the characters Tara is the one who everybody knows does not want to wake from her grave. Especially after the wiggins from season 3.

So I kind of gave up on True Blood, but every now and again I read a recap on Television Without Pity. Recently started reading their The Newsroom recaps and halfway through it became clear the recaper hates the show.

I liked it. I still do. But then I started reading other reviews and it became clear. Journalists, with the exception of Dan Rather, hate this show.

After a little thought I realize why. It's kind of smug. Couched in valid criticism is the assumption that Aaron Sorkin, the show's creator could do better.

I am a blogger and have a journalism degree, but I am not a professional journalist. I have almost no experience in a newsroom. Moreover broadcast was never my thing. Web and design were the areas I took most of my courses in. But let me rebut some of Sorkin's 'implied criticisms and level a few of my own at his show.

News Judgement
Journalists try to get quality information out to the public as quickly as is reasonably possible, but the complicated stuff, that takes research; interviews, phone calls, gathering documents, going over them, investigating ground sites, occasionally even scientific testing and external expert research firms. Nobody does an exit poll by themselves these days.

My point is the reason why breaking news seems to just scratch the surface is that sometimes  gathering details and figuring out a narrative takes time. Furthermore fact checking those details takes more time. Nobody magically knows anything. People have to sort through the available information. The show likes to say journalists have crappy news judgment (Sometimes they do.), but some of the stories it provides flat out didn't exist yet. They aren't psychics. The problem is the show has the benefit of hindsight. The writers of the show know what the story is going to be because it already happened. Regular reporters don't. They have to just fumble around in the dark.

The series almost always deals with the types of big complicated stories that require research and tact, and then will quickly find an angle of the story that took weeks or months to develop in real life. Journalists have to look into these big complicated stories, try to wrap their heads around them and then explain them in a way the American people can understand.

For example nobody really expected the debt ceiling to be a thing. Everybody always threatens to hold it hostage, but then it eventually gets passed usually with a little pork albeit. It took a while for everyone to realize. Oh shit! This new congress might be serious on this one. And it took even more time for everyone to realize that the American public doesn't necessarily understand what the debt ceiling is.
Which leads me to the day to day

The show only deals with the big stuff.
My personal gripe with the show is that it focuses on the big stories, but what about the smaller ones. Not just the human interest stuff, but the stories that are important, but probably won't end up in the history books in 20 years. I guess what I'm saying is I what to see these characters on a slow news day, when there isn't necessarily some earth shattering story. I want to see them sitting in a meeting where the question isn't the angle or the sources, but, "What happened that we can talk about?"

Okay. You know what? I get it. Television shows thrive on personal relationships, love interests, bladdy bladdy bla. Hey in all honesty I don't care. It's TV. But seriously with all the temper tantrums, emotional breakdowns, interoffice dating, shouting matches, and workspace smashing how the hell does anyone actually get any work done? Most of these people would have been fired in less than a week. J-School is supposed to beat unflappability into you.

You are not supposed to get emotional.

Which leads me to.

This is where the show really gives out mixed messages. And as a result becomes almost unwatchable in its hypocrisy. I hate talking heads. You want to know the cure for that? Objectivity. Why I dig good ole Cooper. The man is relatively even handed. Right, left, everybody, well almost everybody respects him because of that even handedness. Sorkin's protagonist has ultimately become the thing he hates, an arrogant self-righteous talking head and he fails to realize it because God (the writer) happens to agree with him.

I wrote about this earlier
but the thing is everybody has opinions, but objectivity in my view is about realizing that your opinions and views are no more or less valid than anybody else's and as a result, it is an abuse of power to use press' role as speakers of truth to convince people to think as you do. The thing is people view what the press say with a certain authority even when it's opinion, conjecture, or speculation. So those are things to stay away from. Especially when you know you're right. God help us from the man (or woman) with a soapbox and 30 million viewers who knows he's right. Thanks to Sharpton I still don't know what to make of the Zimmerman case.

That's not to say opinion doesn't affect reporting. I'm just saying why in a perfect world it shouldn't. It's what good reporters aspire to even if they fall short of it.

By the way as much as I like Obi Wan, all forms of mind control are evil. I mean these troopers were just doing their jobs at the check point and they probably died. For all we know they're The Galactic Empire's equivalent of beat cops . We know Vader doesn't tolerate failure. He isn't exactly the understanding type. Shit rolls downhill, my friends so guess who probably wound up with the blame for the Death Star exploding. You know the brass is not taking that one, at least not by themselves. The whole Sith mantra is backstabbin' and getting ahead at the expense of others. See chance for glory and power, kill your mentor. You think they're gonna take one for the team? You think they're taking personal responsibility. Hell naaaaaw!

Wait what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, The Newsroom. Right back to that fully armed and operational news station.

Look I'm a guy who will go down with the ship...when I need to. The show is made up of a lot of martyrs without a cause. I'm not saying a journalists shouldn't be willing to fall on their sword and take a risk for a story. On the contrary, I kind of respect that. But if you're going to take the sword through the neck you damn sure better know exactly why. Calculate your risks. My point lawyers; I wish I had 'em. God I wish I had them.

The protagonists basically told a dude to sneak into a military compound during a civil war. What could possibly go wrong?

Great show Monster is by the way. Both the sub and the dub are on Hulu.

I'm not saying there is never a story worth risking dying over.

And I'm not saying there is never a story worth risking burning some bridges over.

I'm just saying those should not be your go-to first options. At least ask the question does this story require the risk. Most journalists, even war correspondents take some kind of precautions in those situations, that is one of the reasons for the proliferation of embedded journalism. Nobody wants to take a mortar shell or IED.

The Economics of News
I got my degree 'cause I thought I'd make money, well more than a literature degree would get me. Oh how young and stupid I was, well younger and stupider at least.

Sure the household names get paid pretty well, but most journalists don't make a lot of money. They are underfunded to all hell.
According to the United States Department of Labor, the 2011 median annual salary for a reporter was $34,000.

I'm saying all of that to make a point. On television people like to make speeches about how money doesn't matter, but in the real world it does, quite a bit actually. The building, microphones, travel expenses, cameras, teleprompters, computers, editing software, soundboards, and monitors all cost mucho bucks. Last I checked most of the professional grade versions of that stuff cost a least a couple grand a piece.

Somebody tapping everyone on the shoulder and saying , "We have to make our ratings quotas so our advertisers don't jump ship and make it so that no news gets out." is a necessary evil. The thing about mass media is in order for it to work it has to be mass. The typical media business model is to get eyeballs by having content people need or want. Advertisers pay for those eyeballs. Use the money to ... do cool stuff. God I wish I could afford a new camera and a couple hotel nights in Lansing. Even circulation (subscription revenue) depends on having a critical mass of eyeballs.

"Doing a good show for a hundred people," would result in a stockholder riot in about six days.

And speaking from personal experience not having the critical mass of eyeballs sucks donkey doo. Damn you Google ads.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's Not Always The Quiet Ones

I'm struggling to write this. People are dead and injured and yet that is not what is on my brain. After reading the news reports what has me so paralyzed is the suspected theater shooter's bio sounds a lot like mine.

According to most accounts he's only about a month younger than me. The New York Times says, he "struggled to find work after graduating from the University of California, Riverside." And nearly everyone interviewed about him says he was the quiet one. And then there is this in celebration of the Dark Knight, which I was really excited about a few years back.

Now I have that in my head. That I see myself in a crazed gunman. I don't know what to do about it. I don't know what to think about it. I just know that I have to find some way to deal with it. Which is what this is. Me trying to reassure myself that as reclusive, alienated, and generally fucked up I may be, I don't have that in me.

Part of what makes me want to write this is that I always had the feeling I wasn't alone in my eccentricities. Maybe I'm not the only one who has to go through this.

A lot of people are weird loners. I've come to grips a long time ago that am an introvert. I like hanging back and doing my own thing. And there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing ticks me off faster than someone trying to "fix" me.

When I was in middle school right after the Columbine shooting and even after the Virginia Tech shooting, I would always get some chucklehead saying with a completely straight face, "Don't mess with Greg. It's always the quiet ones who snap." Hell people who thought that they were helping me would use that in my defense against bullies. Like that isn't going to further alienate an insecure child.

And as much as I hated it then in a weird way I am doing the same thing to myself now.

Look sometimes bad things happen. Reflection is a necessity, but we need to be careful about overreacting. Now I'm going to go back into my hole and try to get over this.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Are Bloggers Journalists?

Okay. So again last night people brought attention to the human mic that is yo. It always puts me in an awkward position and makes me think about what I am doing. One thing that always concerns me is the fear that I have misrepresented myself.

When I first started doing this I told people I was putting these meeting on the internet, but I think they forgot about me. Then later somehow down the line they started paying attention again.

Typically when I introduce myself in a professional capacity I say I'm a blogger. I do that as a way to avoid the question of whether or not bloggers are journalists. Culturally and legally it's a grey area, and it almost always distracts from everything else I'm trying to do. I've stopped caring about what I am and have decided to focus on what I do. Generally it's a question I ain't touchin' with a 20 ft. pole. But like I said. I fear I may have misrepresented myself so I'm going to poke the poodle.

There was a great Law and Order Episode, original not SVU which I think sucks, that demonstrated the point. It was made just after the old BBS' were going out of style, '95, so it's a little dated but poignant Rebels season 6 episode 2. Thank God for Netflix.

As with everything there are ethics and then there is the law. My cultural belief on the question, yes, absolutely. Nobody licenses journalists. And a good deal of the job is making choices. What's in good taste? What does the public have an interest in knowing? What's the most efficient, informative and tasteful way to do the news? Part of the reason why the traditional media developed the way it did is because it wrestled with these questions and bloggers, have to deal with those same questions. Furthermore these questions are still being wrestled with in newsrooms across the country. Just like you have gossip blogs you have gossip everything. The difference is the FCC in radio and television, but the FCC can't fine websites, newspapers and magazines for content.

There are a good deal of people whose primary source of the news is the internet. While most of them are going to legacy sites, sites run by traditional media, some of them are going blogs especially for specialty news in areas like the law, politics, technology, music and movies.

Legally this is an evolving field and nobody really has a clear cut answer yet. One case that worried me was a case in Oregon late last year.

Fast Forward to 45 minutes

I disagree with methods of the blogger in question, who was trying to invoke Oregon's shield laws in a defamation case, but I am disheartened by the judge's opinion all the same.

...although defendant is a self-proclaimed “investigative blogger” and defines herself as “media,” the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law.

That said it was a written by district court judge so I don't know how much precedent it sets, but it illustrates my point.

To quote a defense witness in "Rebels," "The proper question isn't where they appeared, but the function they served."

Southfield City Council Meeting July 16, 2012

City Council Meeting Held on July 16, 2012 in Southfield, Michigan

Topics Include
  • Council's Acceptance of the FEMA SAFER Grant
  • An Abatement for CBS Radio
  • A Synagogue
  • Pawn Shops and Check Cashing Institutions
  • Unifying the Sewer and Water Services Connections Loan Program
  • A Tanker Spill that occurred just prior to the meeting
  • Changes that the State Made to Wireless Communications Equipment Regulations that affect Southfield

Oak Park Tanker Spill

At roughly 5:30 PM on July 16 a gas tanker had an accident and began spilling gasoline at a Marathon Gas Station in Oak Park, Michigan at 11-Mile and Greenfield. Several neighboring fire departments were called in to help respond to the incident including the Southfield Fire Department.

During last night's Southfield City Council meeting, Acting Fire Chief Keith Rowley provided an update to the situation.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Full Disclosure on Website Question List

There isn't a non-douchey way to say what I'm about to say. I'm only saying it in the name of full disclosure so people can't use it against me later. I've been trying to keep this blog non-partisan, success is debatable but anyway my father is big into Democratic politics and is President of the Southfield-Lathrup Village Democratic Club. Recently I created a list of questions he should ask someone who he was working with in order to get the website for the club back up. All I did was make a list with a few notes to explain things and I am hoping to keep this blog non-partisan. I am not going to get further involved in any way.

Thank You

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Manifesto Part One

When I wrote "The Manifesto Part Deux". I was writing basically a modern response to "The Hacker Manifesto", written in 1986. For those who haven't read it you should and you can find it here.

It is one of my favorite essays to read right up there with "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

I'm writting this because I don't know if that was clear.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Film Review: American Pop

As you might have guessed from the playlist I posted earlier today I watched American Pop. I loved it but I do have a few criticisms. That said most of those criticisms are understandable due to the limitations of the type of story the film is trying to tell.

First off some background on Ralph Bakshi.

By the 50's the animation ghetto started appearing, due to the fact that Disney was one of the only major feature length animation studios in the business after the studio model fell. And Disney has and probably always will rely on its family friendly image.

Bakshi hated this and spent his career trying to show people that animation wasn't just for kids but a medium that could be used to tell a lot of different kinds of stories.

As a result Bakshi is known for three things. First off trying to make adult animation. The definition of "adult" changes depending on ... stuff, but the point is his stuff aint just for kids, heck some of it aint for 'em period. Second is the general weirdness in his movies. He likes fantasy. This is the guy who tackled Lord of the Rings first.

Third is his use of rotoscoping, a technique where the animators draw over real actors. For a more modern example A Scanner Darkly was mostly rotoscoped.

Now on to American Pop. Basically it uses the lives of four generations of a family to try to quickly encapsulate the essence of four American media cultural movements, vaudeville, jazz, psychedelic rock, and punk. Overall I think the film succeeds in what it is trying to do.

A lot of people say that the individual protagonists aren't given much time, but in my view that's a result of them not being the true protagonist. The true star of American Pop is American Pop. The film is trying to tell the story of American music as best it can as a 90 minute feature film. Like I said most of my criticisms come as a result of constraints of the medium. Not animation, but narrative. Ken Burns has made a documentary series on just one of these sub genres.

Furthermore there are a lot of genres that are just plain old fashioned left out. Rockabilly and funk are hardly mentioned.

Part of what makes me like the film is that I like the idea of American Chronicles, especially around this time of the year. How did we become who we are? Well part of that question can be answered by charting American culture and by extension American music. How do we express who we are, what we feel is important, and what are our frustrations and fears?

But like I said the story hampered by the constraints of narrative. Lets take Roots. By the way I dislike Roots. Mostly because Alex Haley, plagiarized it. When I found that out it was like finding out Santa wasn't real. But I will admit as a multi-generational narrative it works better, largely because it has more characters and more time to explore historical themes.

You spend maybe an episode and a half with each generation so you know more of what's going on in their heads. That said I do appreciate Bakshi's visuality. He doesn't always have the time to say that part of the reason why some of the characters are the way they are is result of the relationships or lack thereof they have with their fathers, but he does manage to get it across visually. Take Pete, the punk, being more or less abandoned on a street bench as his dad pawns his guitar for heroin. He wears virtually the same clothes and is in the same position in a time skip but his facial expression says it all.

Similarly, Tony, Pete's' father continuously carries around his late father's harmonica and even gives it to Pete before the aforementioned abandonment.

But the films soundtrack also brings the emotion. It's a movie about music and uses some of the best cuts of the last century to tell the tale. More movies should use "As Time Goes By" as a leitmotif. Oh wait.

Also the movie has a lot of historical parallels. For instance Tony's segment starts with him in a bar listening to "Howl", and eventually pulling a Jack Kerouac. Zalmie, our vaudevillian protagonist's mother dies in what is probably the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911.

And yes there are WWII and WWI scenes.

But like I said before the film is constrained by the limited time it has to tell the narrative. I really would like more of a miniseries like this. Often the time skips in the film force you to guess for what's going on. Again the music and visuality help, but sometimes you just need more. For instance the film never explicitly tells you that Pete is Tony's son. You have to just kind of guess that from clues the film gives you, like the fact that Pete has the same "Corny" hair as that nice girl Tony had a time with 10 years before this weird kid starts following him around. That's a lot of detail to ask an audience to keep in their head for something so important.

I like this movie and I admire what it was trying to do, but this is one of the few films I say needs a remake. Partially because of the aforementioned flaws, but also as the tale of American culture I'd like to see the next 30 years. The punk portion of the film feels a little weird. That is probably because it was made in '81 relatively early in the punk movement. For reference, Never Mind the Bollocks, the landmark Sex Pistols Album was released in '77.

American Pop can be seen for free at

Post Independence Day American Pop Fused Playlist

A playlist to cool my jets after a love hate relationship with my country. Strongly Influenced by Ralph Bakshi's American Pop.

It's the Choice that is America

America. A word. A nation. More than that the power to be. To choose. I am. For good or ill, I am. I am, because I choose to be. Not because some lord, or king, or army told me what I was. But because as a free thinking individual I made a choice.

That is what America is or at least should strive to be.

Behind all the industry, the music, the technology, the war, the pain. It's the choice that makes us who we are. Both ours and those of our fathers. It's the choice that our ancestors fought and died for. It's the choice that now defines us. Not the consequences of the choice. Not the rightness or wrongness of the choice. But the choice itself.

And make no mistake. We make some idiot choices. Some downright shameful ones. But again on this day. It's the choice that matters. It's the choice that is America.

The Ole Girl Lost Her Gait

It was the fall of '08. Young man thinking though life he'll skate.
Nothing lost for nothing gained.

He grew up seeing rolling floods and great towers fall.
So he knew life you can't always anticipate.
Yet he forgot that lesson as he lept into a new demon's maw.

All he wanted was to not stay silent. Just to not ride fate
To not be ignored.
But by the 10th year there were a thousand voices baying for blood.
Who can blame them as it all came down with no great ole thud.

Everything was turning cut rate.
But to him it always was.
We were just realizing it too late.
Life's palette we kept stirin' to mud.

The old girl had lost her gait.
Stumbling over her own weight

But still she limped on as she must
Because she had to, we had to trust

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July 1, 2012 Michigan 14th Congresional District Canidates Forum

14th Michigan District Congressional Candidates Forum held on July 1, 2012 at Congregation Shaarey Zedek hosted by Stephen Henderson of The Detroit Free Press

Participants Include

Note: Hansen Clarke while running did not participate in this forum.

Topics Include
  • The Federal Government's Role in Aiding Detroit
  • The Economy
  • The Housing Crisis
  • The Affordable Care Act
  • The National Debt
  • Foreign Policy in the Middle East Particularly Relations with Israel and Iran

Facebook Comments

Note: These Comments are from all across this blog.