Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Southfield City Council Meeting September 24, 2012

City Council Meeting held in Southfield, Michigan on September 24, 2012

Topics Include

  • A bid for printing the community calender
  • An agreement with SMART bus service
  • An amendment to the alternative financial institutions ordinance clarifying definitions

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Album Review: P!nk: The Truth About Love

The Truth About Love

Alright, you know what this album has officially slapped me out of the retro spree I've been on.  I've seen P!ink better.  It just seems like every song on the album is borrowing from someone else. I'm hearing Owl City, Ke$ha, Jet, Franz Ferdinand, Lenny Kravitz, Siouxie and the Banshees, Cindi Lauper, Joss Stone, and The Talking Heads, everyone but P!nk except when she rips off herself from 10 years ago.

And to make it worse half of those artists were retro revivalists in the first place. So now we're having weird retro-retro. Not retro-punk. Not retro-new wave. Not retro-pop.  Retro-retro. The ouroboros has just eaten its head.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that the album sounds bad. It's actually quite good, if you can forget every song you've heard over the radio for the past 40 years. And it crushes me because I know P!nk is better than this. She's a great song writer. I just feel that this album was just lazy.Sure, I'll concede that my generation is too stupid to realize when we're hearing a song written 20 years ago. But are we really so stupid that we won't realize hearing one written 3 years ago? P!nk you are better than this!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Notes on Southfield School Community Forum

Yesterday I attended a Southfield School community forum. There really wasn't a big presentation as the purpose was to get input from the community on how to make the schools better. Here are some of the things I heard.

  • Parents need to allow teachers to challenge students
  • There needs to be more community involvement
  • There needs to be more exposure to different careers
  • There needs to be more of of focus on diversity

P.S. Something I forgot.

  • Teaching students conflict resolution skills

Science Fiction Rambling

So yesterday I watched .Hack//Quantum.

I liked it , but after further reflection I have to say that I think it's .Hack//Sign lite. To me .Hack//Sign is an underrated classic in post-cyberpunk philosophy.

Yeah that's what this post is going be about but let's get some house keeping out of the way.

A few thoughts on Quantum

It's not bad. In fact it's rather good. The animation is nice and I like the story. While I'm about to go into the headiness of Sign, I'll be the first to admit that not unlike Ghost in the Shell it does sometimes put the story on hold to gaze at it's navel. While Sign does have some action the action isn't the point. Here, in Quantum, the visceral action is definitely the point or at least part of it. The general plots of both are almost identical but they are handled very differently. Sign is about the philosophical ramifications of the the story's problem.  Quantum is about how the protagonists attempt to solve the story's problem.  Not bad, just different.

Some words on post-cyberpunk's foils

So post WWII America saw a general prosperity fueled by scientific and industrial progress. Sci-fi writers took that and ran with it.

We're going to get the flying car!

Some of these pieces of literature are idealistic. Technology is tool to make peoples lives better and it will.

Phillip K. Dick the father...ish of Cyberpunk.
Yeah nobody really calls Phillip K. Dick cyberpunk.  It was really too early and the computer was still in it's infancy in his day. But he is the Iggy Pop of the genre. A lot of his stories have the view that technology is only as good as how it's used and because people suck it will be abused. A mainstay in cyberpunk.

Furthermore I'm hesitant to say Dick isn't cyberpunk because almost is every major, Hollywood produced film in the genre is an adaptation of his work including, "the cyberpunk movie".

Just to make it clear, William Gibson the more traditional father of cyberpunk, and man who invented the word cyberspace said this in regards to Blade Runner. 

BLADERUNNER came out while I was still writing Neuromancer. I was about a third of the way into the manuscript. When I saw (the first twenty minutes of) BLADERUNNER, I figured my unfinished first novel was sunk, done for. Everyone would assume I’d copped my visual texture from this astonishingly fine-looking film.

and while I'm at it.

Yeah if it's a dark gritty dystopian future in a movie chances are Dick wrote it.

Cyberpunk itself
Well I more or less said it before. The grand thesis of the genre is, "Yes we are living in times when technologies are rapidly changing and are also changing the way we live.  But that does necessarily mean those changes are good."

There are several barriers to a an idealic technological utopia.

  • Technology costs money. Not everybody who could benefit from it can afford it. More over this inequality causes inequity and further problems with society. 
  • Often the mass production of technology requires massive resources some of which are nonrenewable, and resource wars are a reality.
  • Furthermore, the highly industrialized processes required to mass produce technology often leave really bad byproducts. 
  • New technologies produced by a few companies might make the public overly reliant on those companies, eventually leading to them gaining and abusing power. 
  • To that end a society dependent on factory labor may have complex management and labor conflicts.
  • An increase in technology may make a population overly complacent and lazy, even possibly becoming an opiate of the masses.
All of that said Cyberpunk is often a product of it's times, the 80's and 90's,  it's political messages and technology tied to them, becoming zeerust. While Japan had a serious amount of technological achievement, by the mid '90s it became clear it was going through a period of economic stagnation.  Rather than being a force corporate power the internet in many ways became a democratizing tool of the people. While there is still a digital divide, miniaturization and other advances seriously decreased the cost of consumer technology.  And nobody likes the idea of someone seeing them in their underoos while talking on the phone.

For a long time post-cyberpunk would just be called modern cyberpunk. But there are a lot of differences. For a better essay on this read "Notes Towards a Post Cyber-Punk Manifesto" by Lawrence Person. Cyberpunk has a very nihilistic view of technology. Yet many of the people reading and writing Post cyberpunk grew up in an age where, yes technology made their lives better.

I get computer withdrawl after an hour because I run through my head all the things I can't do without them. No movies, no YouTube, no news, no Facebook, no video games, no Skype and  I'll have to retype everything I write. 

A computer infused world is no longer speculative-fiction, it is the reality of modern society.  Rather than trying to predict where the world will go, post cyber-punk postulates the ratifications of where it's gone.

Now on to the philosophy of .Hack//Sign

.Hack//Sign is an excellent case study on interpersonal relationships in a world where identity is often a fabrication, and interactions through a digital existence can have consequences in the real world.   Even now I am writing using a pseudonym and when I use that pseudonym I exhibit a slightly different set of personality traits than I do through my RL interactions.

This is not uncommon, in fact it may be the new normal. One of the underlying principles of our current use of the internet is general anonymity. (It's no secret that if someone really wants to know who you are it's not that hard.)

Because through the internet I largely interact with a group of people I probably will not in RL I am free to create a new me. Furthermore because these interactions are every bit as real as physical ones who's to say that this fabricated me is not as real as the RL one. I am both The Cyphered Wolf and Greg Miles, yet they are both subtly different from one another. Greg Miles is relatively mild mannered. Yet the Cyphered Wolf is rather quick to anger.

But enough of my postulations.

Sign deals in the characters dualities. Bear is a fatherly old man in the game because he feels he failed as a father in real life. Subaru is leader of a squadron of knights in the game, because she feels so powerless in her real life. Crim is a rather laid back adventurer because in real life he has to deal with the stresses of running a large company.

All of these characters know and interact with each other primarily through the game. In fact the series almost never takes the audience outside of it, only hinting at their real life identities.

This comes to a head with the big reveal at the end.

The protagonist portrayed as a teenage boy for the entire series, is in actuality a girl.  And it works because in MMORPGS it happens all the time. You go in realizing that you know nothing about your friends in real life interacting based on what you know and experience in game. Heck that is the internet in general. On forums and comment sections, you respond to the words people write and very seldom go on more than that. Think about it, an entire world interacting and making decisions based on digital impressions. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

So I'm In A Cynical Mood.

It seems me on this night that if I truly wrote my thoughts I would come dangerously close to breaking personal rules. Yet, over the past week I feel I have been on a streak and do not wish to slow. I live not in the 60's. The dreams of our fathers have died. A utopia where all people's hold hands and walk together under the sun has not happened, and realistically will not happen due to the vices of our species, and yet to eliminate those vices would eliminate that which makes us human. The seven deadlies are to be lauded as evidence of the same fallibilities and vulnerabilities that make us worth saving. Despite them we still struggle on, trying to live on despite our loathsome natures. We're all trying to be the best version of ourselves and we should be commended on it. And the question I have to ask myself in all of this is what does the best version of me look like.

I have written over and over testaments to values. How does the man who lives by those values look and behave? And how does he struggle to overcome his baser nature. I am not an altruist. Self-motivated. Hell yes I'm self-motivated. I'm motivated to help myself.

But enough of these existential questions. We're approaching an election, and the first casualty in an election is the truth. The truth makes people unpredictable. Nothing makes a politician cringe more than the free will of the voter. When it comes to politics no one is an altruist. I once said we we're short sighted apes who would shoot each other in the face for three dollars and a shot of tequila. My view has not changed. But the question I now must pose is how do I feel, that it is we, the short sighted apes who would shoot each other in the face for three bucks choosing the leader of the free world.

The answer, I have no idea. When did democracy and republicanism become so complicated? I will not give up on them. I find all alternatives an anathema, and if I must to one day reaffirm why to my people I will find it an utter and contemptible disappointment. The reasons have already been stated by men and women with stronger pens and tongues than I, Locke, Payne, Thoreau,Anthony, King, Marshall and Thompson. Words to live by.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

In Defense of Free Speech


Recently a film trailer has sparked protests, some though not all violent, around the middle east. In the name of diplomacy none of my elected officials have responded in the way I desire so I will now say what I wish they had.

We the American people since our founding have held sacrosanct certain rights. These rights run parallel to our cultural identity and determine who we as a people believe we are. Among these are freedom of speech.

While our government does have a voice it has no duty nor prerogative to police the speech of the individuals under its sovereignty.

This includes satirization and provocative speech. Verbal provocation does not completely indemnify someone against the consequences of their actions. United States diplomats are dead not at the hands of the filmmaker but at the hands of his murderers.

The threat of violence can not and shall not be used as a mechanism to force us as a country to retreat from our values. While we as a people respect the Muslim religion, and all religions we shall not police the voices of individuals who do not.

It is seldom that we need to protect non-provocative speech, and in surrendering provocative speech we cross a cultural line that we hold dear by creating another. By declaring what is alright to say and not to say in a legal context we are giving up one of our most cherished legal and cultural lodestones.

In summation, I do not agree with what the filmmakers said, but I shall fight to the death to defend their right to say it.

P.S. Further recent developments regarding Sam Basile seem to have to do more with previous issues than the current diplomatic quagmire. 

Note: A previous version of this post misspelled  Sam Basile's name.

Angry Black Man: Law and Order Rage

Okay. It's no secret I hate Law and Order: SVU, but I thought original recipe was better. Then I started watching season 5 of "Original Recipe" and saw the slide into all the things I hate about SVU.  My hatred crystallized into a loathing rage, when I saw the episode ... "Rage".

Original Recipe vs SVU

I liked the lawyers in early Law and Order. Ben Stone and Paul Robinette made it a point that their office was to ignore the political ramification of their cases and prosecute according to the law. The overall thesis of the show was that the law is to be blind, and that as flawed as the legal system is, its ordered collective justice protects us from the chaos of individuals' vengeance. The show would often have a morally reprehensible victim, but would say, "Look. The victims and the witnesses aren't on on trail. The jury, (and by extension the audience) is only to establish if the defendant committed the crime for which they are accused. Nothing more or less than that."

To make it clear

  • Discover a Crime
  • Interview Suspects and Gather Evidence As To Who Committed Said Crime
  • Arrest and Accuse Prime Suspect
  • Prosecute According to the Law
Now I understand in real life things are not always that simple, but real life isn't written. I forgot who said it or some form of it, but real life has the luxury of being unbelievable. Fiction doesn't.

In SVU things go like

  • Discover a crime
  • Interview Suspects and Gather Evidence As to Who Committed Said Crime
  • Arrest and Accuse Prime Suspect
  • Find Out a Tangential Thing That May or May Not have Indirectly Caused the Crime
  • Declare There Should Be a Law
  • Arrest Tangential Non-suspect

  • Offer Prime-suspect a Deal For Testifying Against Tangential Non-suspect 
  • In Lack of an Actual Law Do Legal Back-flips to Convict Tangential Non-suspect

My point is SVU does all of that normally to make some clumsy social statement. Normally I'd just call it bad writing but uh uh now their on my turf. The complicated muddled area of race relations, and racial justice. I'm not going to lie early L&O  made social commentary as well but it did it competently. It was more nuanced largely because of Paul Robinette.

Paul Robinette: A Case Study on Post Civil Rights Racial Politics

He's black. It's a part of his character. A big part of his character, furthermore he has a job that does on occasion deal with race.  Yet he and his views are complicated, creating nuanced portrait of how race affects this country.

In "Subterranean Homeboy Blues" he's visibly unnerved when doing background research on a possibly racially motivated shooting. He's struggling to reconcile the truths that yes some crimes are perpetrated by blacks and that people and "The People" have the right to reasonably defend themselves against criminals, but at the same time society and individuals should not assume and react to young black men as an immanent threat. He feels the defendant is a racist but as much as he hates to admit it, also somewhat sympathizes with her fear after learning the history of the victim.


The case is more complicated than saints and sinners.

In "Out of the Half-Light" when a Black congressman more or less calls him an Uncle Tom for squashing a flimsy case(hoax) he was using to up-heave the ... white legal system. Robinette's response is
At times the system stinks Eaton. I know that as well as you do, but don't for one damn minute tell me that your self-aggrandizing polarization is going to solve the problem. Don't tell me that tearing down a 200 year old justice system, no matter how flawed is going to alter the consciousness of a society.

We're past the separate drinking fountain stage. We're past the legal discrimination stage. We're at the hearts and minds stage and believe me there's no quick fix. Your intentions might have been good but your execution stunk.
Paul Robinette represented a young black generation trying to come to terms with the fact that their lives were affected by a corrupt system of disenfranchisement that was slowly being abolished and that the injustices of that system could no longer be considered the sole cause for the plight of the black man. In order for there to be equality under the law, we had to take personal responsibility for our actions.

Furthermore, he also represented the truth that law cannot affect people's thoughts, and in a modern context subtle, covert and subconscious racism may be more of a problem than the overt racism our fathers and grandfathers faced.

That Law and Order was smart. I liked that Law and Order.

What's worse than infantilizing my people is making the assumption we want to be infantilized. In the story a man commits two ... three crimes I find utterly repugnant.

  • Stock Market Fraud (Maybe it's because I'm living in a post '08 world, but damn I have some strong feelings on the matter.)
  • Killing a Guy to Cover Up The Fraud
  • Tampering With Evidence to Make It Look Like a Suicide

His defense; the covert racism of his work environment neigh this entire society made him do it. Bull and shit. Don't get me wrong his coworkers are racist as hell, but come on. Furthermore it's written in a way that makes it seem like a black audience would buy that. It's damn near, no not damn near, it is, insulting. It's like saying my people literally want a magic get out jail free card by virtue of being Black. That we feel no matter what we, do it's excusable because society keeps the Black man down. Da fuck!

Look. Racism exists.  The effects of racism exist. For a very long time in this country's history and even today in various geographical regions minorities are underprivileged. Raising your hand and saying these things doesn't mean that you're saying that  African-Americans should abdicate all personal responsibility for their actions. And it pisses me off all the more because I know the show knows better.

I used to like you Dick Wolfe.

P.S.  Why Wendell Pierce? You played in one of the most well written television shows to deal with racial politics ever.  Hell you did it twice.  Your dialogue here is painful.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Revolution Tv Pilot : Review

Abridged Verdict
Look this isn't new. It's fairly clich├ęd and on occasion narmy, but if you aren't a sci-fan who has seen this kind of thing a bazillion times you might get a kick out of it.

Plot Summary
So the basic backstory is your basic "After The End". Something caused most of the world's technolgy not to work and as a result society broke down into a bunch of factionalized "republics". One of the leaders of these republics thinks the protagonist's father knows why and tries to kidnap him. Everything goes to hell and dad. The protagonist's brothers is kidnapped. Her father with his dying breath charges her with finding her uncle and rescuing her brother.

After The End
First off, let me say I love a good after the end story, or at least the concept of a good after then end story. We like to take the basic rules for granted and after the end is the obliteration of those rules.  That said there are only a few of them I really like. Most of them wind up being brainless action cliche ridden nightmares. But the few that are smart can be really enticing speculative fiction.  


The Tribe

The Tribe Official Promo Trailer by TribalMadonna

Children of Men 

And now to make the really dark speech.

You like to believe that civilization is static. Fools! Governments rise and fall like the tides on a beach. The Aztecs, the Romans, The other Romans. All knew they were the shining light of their worlds yet they all collapsed. Latin is a dead language. What makes you think English will be any different in a millennium. The long night is an inevitability. Yet dispite all of that we are evolved to be social. We kling to the fact that our primary defense against that which would do us harm is our tendency to travel in packs.  After the fall there is always a rise.  And the story of that rise can be rather interesting. But be not fooled. We are but the mites on the ant and through the eyes of eternity no one will know our names.

The Verdict
Now that I've done my Dr. Manhattan thing, let's get to the actual review. As I kind of alluded to the "After the End" story allows you to do some cool stuff, and I just feel that this does nothing with that.  Now it's a fist episode and it might get interesting later, but so far it seems like your standard survival primetime television, and I've seen this before.

The Walking Dead
 Hell I've seen this before from Abrams.

Mad TV's Lost Parody

The pilot doesn't really answer or really even pose the questions that make after the end so interesting to me. What could cause society to collapse? How do people cope? How does the fall change the human condition? After said change in the human condition what do people want in whatever comes next? When resources are so strained that even the basics can't be taken for granted what are people willing to give up on, or work towards?

Ultimately my problem is that I walked into it hoping for a show revolving around those questions and what I got was a plot that could be told without them, entirely wasting their interesting setting.

Almost everything that happens in the pilot you could set up without "The blackout" and it would mostly stay the same. A son accidentally kills his father during a botched kidnappping attempt on the father. In hope of making a bad situation better the kidnappers nab the son. With his dying breath, the father tells the rest of his family to contact his brother in hopes he'll know what to do. 

While it's a bit of a thriller, plot you don't need an apocalypse to tell that story.
Also I don't like what I call the drama button. Now it's not just this show that does it. I've seen a lot of other series do it and I find it lazy writing in them too. I'm looking at you Breaking Bad. The writers give a character some affliction so that whenever they want they can make it seem as though the character is seconds away from death. By the way I love Breaking Bad and they learned their lesson. By the second season Walt's cancer is no longer a thing. But I get the feeling on this show every other week the asthma ridden character is going to have an attack. It's cheap, manipulative, and the show has far too much potential to rely on it.
Goddamn it now that I think on it even my Galactica did it. 

My point is at least be subtle about it.

All that said I really do like the concept., but I've seen the concept. I've seen the concept done better, though it is a bit early to judge. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Target Gas Leak

Yesterday, at 1:50 pm a gas leak was noticed at the Target department store at Northland Center Mall. Public safety officials became involved and the fire department did an air quality check after closing the store. According to Brent Reetz, general manager of the mall, the store reopened within two hours.

September 11, 2012 Southfield Board of Education Meeting

Southfield Public School District Board of Education Meeting held on September 11, 2012

 Topics Include
  • Stuff The Bus Donation Drive 
  • A New Student Assessment System 

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 10, 2012 Southfield City Council Meeting

City Council Meeting held in Southfield, Michigan on September 10, 2012
Topics Include
  • Civic Center Sidewalks
  • Various Grants 
  • LED Gas Station Signs 
  • Street Meridians 
  • Public Art 

An agenda and related documents can be found here. Correction: A previous version of this post said LCD Gas Station Signs

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

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