Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Southfield Police Citizen Observer Bulletin January 21-27, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Southfield City Council Meeting January 28, 2013 (Walmart Public Hearing)

City Council Meeting held in Southfield Michigan on January 28, 2013,

The meeting mostly concerned a public hearing regarding rezoning that would allow for the building of a proposed Walmart store.

In the end the City Council voted against the rezoning 5-1 voting as follows

  • Sylvia Jordon:  Abstained  because her husband a clergyman had shown prior interest in purchasing the property.
  • Donald Fracassi: No
  • Sidney Lantz: Yes
  • Myron Frasier: No
  • Kenson Siver: No
  • Jeremy Moss: No
  • Joan Seymour: No

In a written email statement after the vote, Daniel Morales, Director of Communications

We are disappointed in the Southfield City Council’s decision.  Walmart listened to residents and elected officials and incorporated that feedback into a plan that was well within city zoning ordinances.   What’s more, our proposed store would have been consistent with the City’s Master Plan for continued retail development along the Southfield Road corridor.  It’s unfortunate that residents won’t be able to benefit from an additional 300 job opportunities and new, fresh food options along 12 Mile and Southfield Roads. 
We thank our supporters and associates for their hard work and dedication through this process.

Prior to the meeting a protest rally was held in the pavilion outside of council chambers. Several members of the community were in attendance including, Stephanie English who spoke both at the meeting and at the rally in opposition to Walmart. Ms. English compared the situation at the St. Bede property to fitting a glass slipper on many feet to find Cinderella. She stated that she felt that the city shouldn't allow the rezoning just because Walmart was an immediate developer at the table, and and that the city should wait for something that was a more proper fit for the site.

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Roots Phenomenon

I just got done watching Pillars of Earth (series not book) and am starting to move on to it's sequel World Without End. It's during a breast groping prior to a woman's execution that I realize a fundamental problem I have with the World Without End.

That said I'm still watching it and I am not a woman, I am black and the same problem can be found in Roots. I have some slavery baggage.

While in the past I've said I reserve the right to be pissed about slavery, I still have to function. I do this by putting it and every other fucked up thing that EVER happened into historical context. While I don't excuse all that stuff it's the way the world was. It happened and unless I had a DeLorean I can't change it. If I try to look at every event in history, and being a history nut I would try, through contemporary value and moral lenses I would drive myself insane. I have to live with it and move on.

Which brings me to the Roots phenomenon. Roots took my anger at racial injustice and manipulated me. When I first saw it was when I was a kid, and I was more or less told this is how it happened. This is how life was back then. I'm not denying that some fucked up shit happened, but Roots, which by the way Alex Haley plagerized, is a book that was written in the racially charged 1960's it's not exactly an unbiased account of history. I'm talking mostly about the miniseries but in rewatching it becomes clear that it is somewhat manipulative.

I hate this sort of thing for two reasons, one I feel that audience manipulation, especially blatant audience manipulation is a sure sign of bad writing. If you haven't written a character I care about enough about to get invested in without cutting off his foot, go back and try again.

But moreover I hate it because it uses real social injustices to manipulate and amplify indigence, not for the sake of history, or justice or equality, but for the sake of the narrative and book sales. It's cheap.  There is a lot to be furious over slavery, and I am, make no mistake, but that anger shouldn't be for Kunta Kinte and his foot. It should be for the millions who were kidnapped, whipped, and mutilated. Now telling thier story through a fictional character is one thing, but a lot of these stories have an ulterior agenda.

I don't mind allegory.

But often times it's not. It's using people's emotions about not just historical, but also contemporary social injustice to get them invested in characters. I've said it about five times but, it's cheap and manipulative. And I hate writing like that, but moreover I think writing like that hurts society. It creates indigence not based on historical events but on a fiction. "Based on a true story" is not the same as "this is a true story". People get hung up on the contrivances used to manipulate their emotions, while at the same time diminishing the effects of the real thing.  I feel this is the super trope of using rape as drama.

Don't use slavery as the Scrubs music. Don't use rape as a scare chord.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Southfield City Council Meeting January 14, 2013 Regular Meeting

Regular City Council Meeting held in Southfield, Michigan at 7:00 pm on January 14, 2013

Topics Include
  • A proposed Tim Horton's
  • A brownfield credit amendment
  • Parking for the Southfield Funeral Home
  • Public Comments regarding the proposed Walmart development
An agenda and related documents can be found here

Southfield Janaury 14, 2013 Southfield City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting

 January 14, 2013 Southfield City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting held at 3:00 pm.

Topics Include
  • New In car camera equipment for police officers
  • A new police liaison officer for Southfield Regional Academy 
  • Discussion of the proposed Walmart Site Plan
  • A grant to provide for new police training equipment
  • The 2013 meeting schedule
An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I Speak For the Trees

Not long after The Lorax came out I was going to post arguments for environmentalism. I thought I was being too preachy, but damn it to hell. But first an argument for progress.

We want. On our own we are weak, cold, and hungry, so we put to use our gift, our minds. We've harnessed, the spear, then the flame, then the wheel in an effort to reduce some of our pain. A desire for progress is nothing to shame. For fire is one of misery's best banes. Without a flame in winter to sleep I can't have lain.

For me you see problem is clear. The process of production no one cheers. Oh screw my scheme I'm through with it. I think that all the rhyming is making my writing shit. So excuse me if for now I just quit.

My point is that it's not wrong for people to want their lives to be better and stuff, or even more blatantly technology has the potential to make it better. If I hear another hippie sarcastically ask someone if their life is better because of a TV, car, or computer let's just say I'll devolve into a caveman.

Furthermore the wheels of industrialization are not wrong. For companies to want to make more, cheaper, and better is not patently wrong. I'm channeling my inner Gekko here, but greed is good. The incentive for production, for which the benefit of has been previously illustrated, is money,a piece of technology to make trade of other technologies which can directly benefit individuals easier. Money may be the root of all evil, but in and of itself money, the concept of money, the technology of money, is good.

The lack of money can cause great misery. Every year, every god damned year, I hear of some poor soul who dies from exposure. Your not going to convince me that we should all trade in our furnaces, our transportation, or our computers, but that's not what environmentalism and conservationism is about, and now this for the most part won't be about global warming.

Stewardship of the Earth
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
The Bible (NIV) Genisis 2:15

I am not an overly religious man, though am big on Pascal's Wager, the idea that there isn't much to lose by choosing to act as though God exists. I use religious texts mostly to explore interesting intellectual and philosophical ideas, and this is one of them.

Many religions have the notion that it is humanity's duty to, "tend to the garden." From a more secular point of view, humanity as the most intelligent of the beasts can understand long term consequences in a way animals can't. We can play the long game. A dog, not so much. If not us who?

We are the only beings I know of who can look out for the long term interests of the environment. Ahimsa / Primum non nocere i.e. Do no Harm To contrast with the previous argument, humanity has the capacity to impact the global environment far more dramatically than most other animals, yet even our best biologists are barely scratching the surface on our relationship to it. Science is not magic. They are not fortune tellers. We don't really know the consequences of all of our actions and so within reason we should be prudent, because not everything can be fixed, or at least fixed quickly. If you chop down a forest will it grow back probably, but not for a long time. We need to at the very least be careful how much harm we do.

Animal Rights
The question is not, Can they(animals) reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
Jeremy Bentham 
An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation 
Let me preface by saying I don't think we should treat animals like people, but I also believe that without cause, and yes eating and wearing them is a cause, we should try not to put them through cruel treatment or death. I'm not saying an animal should be living better than me. But I've heard of some pretty messed up stuff like birds choking on plastic, animals with missing limbs because of traps, and a lot of it wasn't necessarily not because someone was a sociopathic asshole, but just because we sometimes don't think of the later consequences of our actions.

  Wilderness As a Good

There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm."
Theodore Roosevelt
Look I'm not going to go wrestle a bear but I think ol' Teddy Roosevelt was right. Right outside my dorm for two years there was a nice patch of woods. I miss it. Not because it looked nice. I can't even really even put my hand on it but I liked being able to walk the foot path. (Okay it helped that that footpath through the woods was probably the quickest walking path to anywhere. Compared to where I know live where it's a nightmare walking anywhere.) It helped me think and grasp hold of my thoughts, and I think that that is something that everybody needs even if not that way, a place or time or activity that helps you grasp hold of your mind.

We still have relatively few wild places but we should cherish and protect them, because when they are gone it will be a long time before they return if they ever do. As cheesy as it may sound I don't want my kids to grow up without ever having seen a tree, or a river. I want both them and myself to be able to still be able to find and walk along wild places even if they may be in short spans. I guess when there is a lot on one's mind I want all of society to have the option of going for a nice walk in park.

Environmental Health
We are part of the environment. I'm not saying we affect it, although we do. I'm saying it affects us. Too much smog or toxins in the water and we start to get cancer. Do I have to explain how that's bad? Often when people say you're destroying the environment they don't mean it, you've blighted the earth. What they mean is that we're slowly but surely creating conditions that will make it difficult for humanity, not the fuzzy bunnies, not Lassie over there humanity,  us to live here.

As such there should be some standards. Somebody to say you can't dump whatever you want into the river.

Or spout whatever you want in the air.

Furthermore those standards should be fair. Air and water travel. We have to own up to the fact that for a good part of our nation's history, we didn't give a hoot, we didn't do our part, and we didn't exercise the power that was ours. If we want to lead the rest of the world in solving environmental problems. If we want Russia, China and India to step up to the plate in that regard we have to be honest about the fact that we're a little late to the ballgame ourselves. Contaminants in the air we breath, and the water we drink are a health hazard, and yes there should be laws to protect John Smith from the giant factory two towns over, or even two countries over.  And by the way if I were going to go on a rant about global warming this is where I would do it. Remember the progress speech. I always here people talking about how environmentalists want to hold back progress. The opposite is true we can and should be developing and investing in laws and technolgy that improve the public health and yes that includes the public environmental health.

I'm not just talking oil, but yeah it's the main one. We have non-renewable resources. It's not a matter of if, but when their going to become scarce. You can make the argument that we're already at that point. We have to manage what we have left, to get the fairest and most efficient use of it. I don't want to put my kids in Road Warrior world. The said truth is that we are headed towards resource wars. Again you could argue that we're already there. You want to know why the U.S. supported Gaddafi so long? Oil. You want to know why the U.S. sided with Libyan rebels? Oil. Scarcity of a vital resource causes conflict, potentially international conflict. Potentially international conflict that can lead to war. Potentially intentional conflict that can lead to major war. I'll flatout say it, WWIII is going to be a resource war. It will start small, then the major players will worry about the flow of gas, or oil, or copper, and get involved to protect their supply. That's how wars start in this day and age. No one is out for conquest. No one gives a damn about farmland. It's, "what do we have to do to keep the tap flowing?"

The more pressed we are for resources the more our hands our diplomatically tied. You know what we can't get off foreign oil. We can't. The best we can hope for is to reduce our dependency on it, by making cleaner more efficient tech. We can't afford to waste energy.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Voice of My Demon

Damn them all to hell
Let me have my wall
I can be a man in a shell
I'm not hearing angels call

We are all petty and small
Why stand we've long since fell
I will be no one's toy ball
I won't be driven on the rail.

I am but myself no more and no less
I shall not bend knee
Or anyone's feet kiss
I and I alone decide what I will be

Friday, January 11, 2013

Voice Of My Angel

God save the dreamers
We lost the garden
But through all upheavals
Let not our hearts harden

Life is our test
Through the muck
Let us not rest
Let us not give up our pluck

We can be better
For all our demons for get not
spirit is our treasure
Regardless of our lot

That is our measure

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Jack Beras Has Passed

On January 7, 2013 Southfield City Attorney Jack Beras passed. A funeral mass will be held on January 12, 2013 at 1 pm at The Church of The Transfiguration. More information can be found here.

Southfield Police Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin December 31 2012- January 6, 2013

Southfield Police Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin December 24 -30, 2012

The Post-West Wing World

I'm sitting down looking for intellectual television drama to watch on Netflix and I come accross The West Wing. I like it. It's a good show, but that's beside the point. There is a moment in the show when after blowing his election chances a campaign manager raises a shoe at a senator in the second episode. I find it funny, but I can't help but thinking that in a post-9/11 world her brains would be splattered across the parking lot via secret service snipers.

The show also features a lot of White House Press Briefings. All of this comes together making me realize how much politics has changed in my lifetime. I'm not talking about societal mores, or issues we deem important. I mean the process of running a political office.  Here is my list of how politics has changed since The West Wing started airing.

5. The Tea Party/Government Spending
You can argue how relevant they are after the 2012 election, but the point is that they are a faction that has to be dealt with. Even if they don't have the clout they did two years ago it's hard to forget that before 2010 nobody was really focusing on the deficit and spending. The economy and the Iraq war seemed to be the major issues of the 2008 election, but the stimulus package, seemed unfair to many taxpayers, creating outrage at how the government spends money. Ever since every government program and spending decision the government makes is suspect. They don't just have to past the does it help someone test, but the does John Smith mind giving the cash test.

4. The Vice-Presidency
Okay this one is about a concept most people can't rap their heads around. Traditionally the Vice-President has very little power. John Nance Garner, one of FDR's Vice-Presidents, said of the office it was "not worth a bucket of warm piss" The President is often viewed as the most powerful man in the world, the Vice-President, not so much.

Dick Cheney changed all of that. It's debated how true it was, but during the Bush administration, people viewed him as the man behind the man. I don't think Biden has as much power as Cheney did, but he is undoubtedly one of the most powerful VPOTUS's we've had. I've lost count of how many news articles I've read where he was a major player at the negotiating table. 

3. Mobile Video and Photographic Technology
You know when I was a kid my folks would tell me I was always being watched. When I was ten I didn't believe them. Now I do. Most phones come with a camera. Even when they don't almost every other device does, laptops, tablets, I wouldn't be surprised if the next watch swatched Ipod nano came with one.  Not taking cheap verbal shots for a few hours can be a chore, but now for politicians that's life. Out of fear of the infamous Youtube video, they can't be glib, goofy, or grumpy EVER. My head would explode if I could never whistle while walking down the street, shoot a quick comeback or admit that I liked Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Related is the...

2. The Internet
Twitter, YouTube, blogs. Point is we know more, faster, and farther, or at least have the capacity to. I have access to the same media outlets, the Chinese, Egyptians and Mexicans have, or at least some version of them. After the election we knew the results 6 hours later. From my desk I can get video of the House debates regarding the fiscal cliff archived a week after they were filmed or live if I wanted. The internet is one great big information gathering and archival system. Stuff that used to fall the gaps is all of a sudden finding it's way to the front page because of the internet. 

1. 9/11 and the Decade of War
In my lifetime my country has been at war for nearly more years than it has been at peace. Sometimes, most times, I forget that.  The war feels so much like peace, that I forget that I grew up in a time when all of the security didn't exist. I grew up in an age where nobody cared about foreign policy, an age where if I asked someone to name a dictator in power they probably couldn't.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January 8, 2013 Southfield Board of Education Meeting

Meeting of the Southfield Public School District Board of Education held on January 8, 2013

Topics Include

  • Swearing in of elected officials
  • A visually impaired English as a second language student from Iraq
  • A new parental messaging system

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Progeny of Huon (Chapter One:Draft One)

It was midnight when I received the call. Albert was on the line. It wasn't often we spoke. Mostly he concerned himself with my father.  I figured that it was the damn time change.  My family's running ground was Paris. I had had a bit of a falling out and had moved to the States after university. 

"Paul, I know you won't want to, but we need you back here."
"It's complicated but the short of it is that your father is in the hospital."

In that instant I knew that I would go, but still I didn't want to.  I left to get free of all the weirdness.  I grew up around it. The old man was some big wig among the strange, I didn't understand it nor can I explain it now.

When I was 15 years old I was nearly mugged by a werewolf only to mention my last name and have him go running into the alleyway.  When I was 7 I was nearly poisoned by fae fruit.  I just wanted to quit all that.  Don't get me wrong the strange is here, but they don't know me. To them I'm just another mundane and that's the way I want to keep it.

I've just been running into the wild things by accident though.  What I know about that world is only the tip of the iceberg.  Running through my mind that day was the fact that beyond the looking glass there are more things than are in my philosophy. If he was hurt there is no telling how it happened. It could have been food poisoning or the wrath of some angry god.

"I think it would be easier to explain the rest when you get here. But with him laid up the world's  gone wrong."

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Jetlagged and hungry I found my way off the plane.  Albert was waiting, just as I remember, tall and slim with a shaved head and thin glasses.

 "First thing first let me take you to him. I didn't want to get into the particulars on the phone, but he's unconscious. Been so for the last 24 hours.  He's stable. We don't think he'll keel over anytime soon, but that's part of the problem. How much do you know of what your father is?"

"Oh I don't know ."

"He's not exactly human nor am I. Strictly speaking neither are you.  How should I explain it. Okay. In the early days the wild things were wild. I mean really wild. They roamed the countryside doing as they pleased.  Then man grew strong.  Before the mundanes were divided and weak, one warlord fighting for dominion over all the rest. It didn't happen all at once but one by one the wild lands became less so. The odd had more to worry about than one strong man and twenty of his friends with pointy metal sticks.  The strongest of the sentient fae gathered to figure out a course of action. It was decided to grant one mortal power over us. To keep the peace and keep the secrets. That guy was your ancestor. Who passed the duty on to his son and so on and so on until your father. This coma puts us in a fix. Nobody knows what has or should happen now. "

"And what do you think?"

"I have no clue. But due to some promises I made a while ago I felt honor bound to tell you at least that much. In all honesty I'm hoping everyone else will sort it out so I won't have to get involved."

"So why are you?"

"Our world works on one and only one principle. After that all bets are off. We, all of us are held accountable to Alec Huonson."
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------When we entered the hospital there were already several people in my Father's room.  Some I knew. Most I didn't but among them I did recognize Meridian. Meridian was dad's best friend and he helped raise me.

"We know the why, but we don't know the who, how, or when." Merry said with a grim face.

"His job, our job, was to police the big uglies. Mostly we let them do what they will and only got involved with the big stuff, the occasional plot to overthrow the mundane, civil wars amongst the unnaturals, someone threatening to blow the whole damn charade. There are a lot of them that want to go back to the days when they roamed free.

"The sons of Huon earned a lot of enemies. Your dad is mostly immortal, hard though not impossible to kill. Even if he wasn't most know that doing so is stupid. The moment he dies someone else becomes champion of your house.  Probably someone bound by blood and duty to avenge his death. Thus the coma.

"The whole system is held together by ancient spells, and nobody predicted this scenario. Back when they were first cast, people who got into this situation mostly croaked.  Before you left your dad was planning on passing the duty on over to you. I have a letter he wrote to you a while back in case he passed, but even if his status wasn't so up in the air things have changed.  If he died would you do this?

"When you left the old man sent the word. Let you go. He always wanted it to be your choice. I always told him what a risk that was. This job needs to be done. He didn't exactly have a plan for his end of days. Why would he? Like I said it's not exactly easy for him to die. We always figured it would be his choice when to go just like it was his father before him.  You were too young to remember the days when you grandfather got tired of the fight.

"I wasn't around in the old days but I heard the stories of terror and chaos. And it wasn't just among the mundanes either. The strong prayed on the weak. The odd isn't exactly unified. It's all just everything that was deemed humanity can't handle. They'll war and feast upon one another if left to it. Hell, some are so removed from man that it's easier to kill them on sight rather than try to reason or negotiate with them, especially the bastards who did this. I have far worse fates in mind for them than the reaper himself could cook up.

"But that's not the point. The point is nobody knows who is supposed to do the job, or how anymore. All of your father's predecessor's had their own way of doing things.  Some were just lone hunters. Others crowned themselves king overlords of the all that was strange. Others were liaisons between us and the mundane.  So much of it was just a fluke of who was in charge. And since we don't know who is in charge right now things are in the air.

"Things are still somewhat under control. There are rumors and whispers in the wind. But nobody really knows about this. But that doesn't answer the question on everybody's tongue What happens now?

"I ran from this."

"And run again you can. Sprint to the farthest corner of the earth. But before you do I ask that you at least read Alec's letter.


Meridian drove a jeep down a dirt trail through the Ardennes, speaking of about the how he was planning the search.

"We've been thinking about how to go about finding out who did it." said Merry. Among the strange there are seers, beings that are privy to privileged information. We were hoping you would come along with us to talk to The Three. They have a certain allegiance to your father and we're hoping it might extend to you.

"The Three?"

"Among the legends they're sometimes called gods and sometimes witches, but in truth they are unique. There is nothing else like them so we just call them The Three. They are the most powerful among the beings that divine truth." Albert clarified.  "I can't go with you.  Me and them have some old grudges and I don't think my presence will be of any help to you. But I can offer some advice. As Merry knows your father classified the odd into five categories based on their relationship to the mundane. The Three, depending on your luck and their whim, fell into categories three or four. Three means they have no allusions of being a part of humanity, but they understand human concepts and morality. Four means they're still sentient, but too alien for any interaction with them to be meaningful. My point is that they may help you, they may toy with you, they may even attempt to do you harm?

Meridian stopped the car and started unpacking.

"This is as far as we go by car. We've never really figured out where they live apart from in these woods. Generally if they want to find you they will. It takes a lot of effort to speak with them, but I think it will be worth it. Our best chance is to wonder around in the forest hoping they get curious. Don't worry I tagged the car so after it's all done we'll be able to find our way back but we're going on a bit of a camping trip. Maybe it will give you some time to get your head straight after seeing your dad like that, I know I could use it."

Around dusk we started to make camp, not far from a river. Merry had said that he would take first watch, and allow me to get some much needed rest.

That night I dreamed I was thirsty, I walked in the woods for hours but unusually I found no water. No rivers, or ponds. I finally came upon a clearing at which there was a well. Pulling a bucket from the well there were three women, each of them surprisingly tall, also each of differing ages. One was seemed like an old, woman, the second a young girl barley out of grade school and the third in the peak of her life.

The two younger ones seemed annoyed as though they had been taken from something else they would rather be doing but the eldest spoke to me.

"Long ago we decided not to intervene in fate. There are times where we have regretted that decision.  After much deliberation we have decided to compromise. We will not directly intervene in the coming events, but we will tell you some of what is to come.  We cannot change what is to come and have seen that to even tell you changes very little. He who guards you may think this an ordinary plot, but be aware that this affair will change our world. Oberon's oath has not served all of us.  Your father in particular had a penchant for interfering.  As Meridian has told you plots to break the oath are common. There are many paths and whether this plot succeeds or fails we can not say for certain for in truth it is not our concern, what we have seen is not the shattering of Oberon's oath but a shattering of a different sort. Soon Huon's Son, the mundanes will know. They will know of the dark things that hunt them. They will know of the what they can not unknow, and our ways, your ways and their ways shall be forever changed.

Clasping my mouth Meridian kicked me awake. He nodded his head towards the trees and unclasped his holster.

"We didn't expect to see you Merry." A voice said in my mind.
Merridian shot into the darkness

"Only my friends can call me that and you are no friend, lycanthrope." Not, taking his eyes of the tree line he said, "I forgot tonight was the full moon."

"Indeed you did."

"You know who I am. You know who I serve. You know that even if I am devoured, my master will hunt you and your pack to a man. You think I am the prey here you are wrong! And despite your pride my master is a better hunter than either of us."

"Maybe, but you do have it coming."

There was a howl and then we saw them, two black wolves charging us. Meridian fired hitting one of the wolves, but terror had over taken me and I ran.

"Damn it. That's the worst thing you could have done." Meridian said as he chased after me

We heard another howl and suddenly three wolves were coming at us from the left. We swiftly swerved narrowly avoiding them.

It continued that way howling and more wolves, for what seemed like hours. As we were running Meridian said, I can't do this forever. I want to make a stand, but my first duty is to protect you.  I nodded.

What happened next is difficult to describe, it happened so quickly. A large gray wolf with one eye charged into the Meridian fired, but was out of bullets. Then a smaller wolf that looked almost reddish attacked it. The gray wolf was larger, but because of its eye it was at an obvious disadvantage to the much swifter red wolf.  The red wolf managed bit into the left leg of the gray, snarling as it's teeth entered flesh.

"Andre, what the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Just hunting some foxes, Annabelle."
"Merry, excuse me it is the only name I know of yours and I have more important things to worry about. Why are you in my woods?
"I needed some information and this seemed like the best place to get it."
"From one of mine?"
"No, I was here on an unrelated matter when your wolves attacked me."
"He is one of Huonson's men. In fact it was he who took my eye."
"Huonson, huh."
"Maybe I should have let him have you, but the night is young and I want a simple hunt right now. I am not in the mood for a beast that bites back."

The wolves retreated into the forest. "Werewolves?" I said.

"Yep. Andre still has no goddamned impulse control."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Detroit 2012 Homicide Statistics and Press Release


DETROIT – Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Interim Chief of Police Chester L. Logan and other top officials of the Detroit Police Department (DPD) today released 2012 crime statistics that showed an overall reduction in the city’s major crime categories, despite an increase in homicides during the year.

Numbers for major crime categories were down by 2.6 percent for the year, compared to 2011, according to DPD data. Detroit Police investigated 461 deaths due to unnatural causes in 2012. Fifty of these deaths were determined not to be homicides.

Total homicides numbered 411 in Detroit during 2012. However, 25 of these deaths were determined to be Justifiable Homicides, as defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook (UCRH). The remaining 386 homicides were Criminal Homicides, defined by the FBI / UCRH as the unlawful or illegal killing of another person.

Detroit Police also investigated 39 suicides; 6 accidental deaths; 2 deaths from natural causes; and 3 deaths that occurred in another jurisdiction.

“The release of annual crime statistics reminds us of the senselessness of crime and violence in our community; the challenges facing our police force; and the need to improve conflict resolution and other anti-crime initiatives,” Mayor Bing said.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Up To Season 2.5 Review of Once Upon A Time

Okay I've been meaning to have this out for a awhile. I'm disappointed with Once Upon A Time. I wanted the series to work and for me it's failing. I want to sort out in my head why. Before I get to why it's a bit of a let down let's get to why I had such high hopes for it.

On Fantasy, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales

 The first stories I was exposed to are well folk and fairy tales, stories that have been passed down from the centuries. Those are always the ones the teacher would tell the class to gather 'round for, Robin Hood, John Henry, and even Sleeping Beauty. The cynical me is going that's probably because they're in the "public domain" but that's not my point. My point is that they sort of form the basic outlines of narrative. In my head they form a lot of the tropes, plot devices, themes, and even morals, that I like in a good story.

Now I know that we've built on those foundations and modified them for each individual story's needs, but you know what? I still like a good folk or fairy tale every now and again. Every now and again I like a story whose purpose is to evoke the feel of old stories from the oral tradition, even in a medium that's not oral.

And that is ultimately what the fantasy genre is to me. An attempt to evoke the tropes,narrative devices, plot themes and devices used in oral tradition.  Of course the problem comes in that a lot of these stories aren't being orally told. Most of the Grimm Tales that are recorded versions of those orally told stories are only a few pages long. And a lot of those old medieval ballads are only a few stanzas.  Let's face it folks it's rare for a campfire story to be more than about 10 minutes long.  It would have to have been short enough for an orator to remember.

In the age of printing, television , and film these stories are often adapted, and I think that's part of where Once Upon A Time fails. It doesn't do a good job of separating what would make those stories great for TV and what wouldn't.

On Urban Fantasy

As I think about that I realize that one of the larger criticisms of the fantasy genre is kind of true. After a while you wind up in monomyth territory, hell done wrong you get into more than monomyth. When you get to brass tacks Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are more or less the same damn story.

Urban Fantasy is nice way of spicing things up. For those who don't know Urban Fantasy is fantasy in an urban setting, taking those tropes and plot devices out of the usual feudal environment and plucking them in a modern one. It gives the story a good excuse to deconstruct and reconstruct those.. eh I've used the phrase enough you get the point.

How does the monster in the woods deal with SWAT? Does a wizard ever just say, "screw it" and use a gun? How would a monarchy work in a day and age when the world has largely said no to that type of government? In terms of social stature what is today's equivalent to the medieval farm boy? Does the chosen one get tired of it and ever just call the cops? In a society founded on saying fuck you to fatalism how does, "the prophesy" work? In a society that's been more and more skewing away from the unnatural and unexplainable how do those elements come into play? How do the weapon tropes translate? A lot of these stories were told for kids who have no sense of moral ambiguity or subtlety. How do these tropes they play out in gray crapsack world where there may not be a happily ever after? In a story that may not have had a lot of dialogue in it's original medium what type of dialogue gets written.The same goes for characterization. In a stories that may have relied on stock characters what happens when they are fleshed out?

My point is that done right urban fantasy can take what I like about fantasy and change it enough to make it sometimes more intriguing than fantasy classic.

All Myths Are True

One of the things I lament about stories is that I can't see characters from different stories interacting.  Which is sort of the point of the crossover. I think of the concept of all myths being true as a way to get a folk tale/legendary crossover. Yeah  I'm the kind of guy who would like to see King Arthur dueling Macbeth or Cuchulain for that matter thinking it would make a pretty bad ass fight. And I wonder what John Henry and Thor would talk about over a couple brews. I like watching a world where strong fleshed out characters from other stories can interact. Let's face it we've all done who would win in a fight in our head?

Season One: Adaptation Expansion

Part of my disappointment comes from the fact that I felt the first season had potential. It wasn't great but there were truly interesting things about it. Namely the characterization.

The first season was brilliant at taking the less fleshed out aspects of our favorite stories and doing something with them. Why is Jiminy so obsessed about morality? Apart from being Prince Charming, who is Prince Charming. Why was Grumpy so damn grumpy? Rumpelstiltskin tends to get only one story told about him, the one where he nearly tricks a woman into giving him her first born child to eat. What's his deal? Did he ever have kids of his own?

The series was great at providing interesting backstories for these characters. And to a decree some of that carries over to season 2 but those back stories were for a long time the point of season one. In season two they're kind of in the background.

Season One: Character Translation

The Show also did a good job of adapting the few established traits we know about these characters to the modern world. Red Riding Hood's favorite color is still red. The huntsman is the man for the job when you need to find someone lost in the woods, and Rumpelstiltskin is an antiques trader and quasi-town banker who will definitely screw you on the deal.  

Designated Protagonist Syndrome
All of this good stuff created a problem. Emma, Snow White's daughter and the protagonist of the story, as well as the antagonist, The Wicked Queen, Regina, are absolutely the least interesting characters of the show.

In almost every episode of the first half of season one the show would spend around ten minutes having the two cat fight with one another. Narratively it accomplished nothing. They would just scowl at each other and go back to their corners. I would find it annoying no matter what, but I find it particularly inexcusable because I knew the show had more entertaining stuff to fill the screen time with.

Show Grandma and Red's zingers. How about Rumpy being a magnificent bastard. Whenever he's on screen something important and interesting is going down.

And now that I think about it that's what really gets me upset about it. It's so obvious that he's the real villain of the show.  Damn near every event that occurs was planned by him, some of them years in advance. Yet he get's way less screen time than Regina, who due to her stupid evil status is doomed to failure. She graduated from the Joffery Baratheon school of leadership.

While in Rumpy's case while the other characters know he's planning to screw them they also know he tends to have expedient solutions to their problems. Which is why they're kind of hesitant to flat out sick the angry mob on him later. 

Show Don't Tell
The main problem I have with the series was in season one, but it's gotten worse. Especially in the modern portions of the show the writers don't know how to show instead of tell. For instance, for most of the first season the characters are terrified of Regina/The Wicked Queen. They have no established reason for being so afraid of her except she's the mayor. That's it. Don't get me wrong she's established well as being selfish, vain, and vindictive. But no reason is shown for why the other characters don't just ignore her, or even better recall her ass. Get the torches and pitchforks and send her out of town on a rail.  Don't  get me wrong she has a secret weapon, but the other character's don't know that. All they know is that she's kind of a bitch so why are they so afraid.

Which leads me to another problem. The show has the subtlety of a children's fairy tale. Remember how I said that somethings translate well from the oral tradition and some don't. Well this is one of them. Some of  the originals and let's face most of the adapted versions of these stories were meant for kids. But the show itself isn't. It's Sunday prime time entertainment whoose competition includes Grimm and Game of Thrones.

It's a show that's targeted for adults. The first season for all it's faults mostly got that. Second season not so much.

My point is this. Some of these stories for kids lack subtlety and moral ambiguity because it's harder for kids to understand. Furthermore part of the purpose of those stories was to instill in kids a certain type of morality.

All of that works in a kid's story, not so much in an adult one. Here's what happens when those qualities are in an adult show.

Characters are wildly and unrealistically exaggerated, and on top of that they become incredibly anvilicous to boot, becoming corny.

I've seen stories like this done better. Despite his online craziness Orson Scott Card wrote an incredibly satisfying retelling of "Sleeping Beauty". I've also read a very entertaining version of "The Six Swans". Then there is the book series whose title character is the daughter of Coyote and was raised by The Grendel. Hell this was part of the reason why Tolkien wrote Lord of The Rings, to take the battles, monsters, villains, and heroes of those stories and make them something adults could enjoy.

Actually, the association of children and fairy-stories is an accident of our domestic history. Fairy-stories have in the modern lettered world been relegated to the “nursery,” as shabby orold-fashioned furniture is relegated to the play-room, primarily because the adults do not want it, and do not mind if it is misused. It is not the choice of the children which decides this. Children as a class—except in a common lack of experience they are not one—neither like fairy-stories more, nor understand them better than adults do; and no more than they like many other things. They are young and growing, and normally have keen appetites, so the fairy-stories as a rule go down well enough. But in fact only some children, and some adults, have any special taste for them; and when they have it, it is not exclusive, nor even necessarily dominant. It is a taste, too, that would not appear, I think, very early in childhood without artificial stimulus; it is certainly one that does not decrease but increases with age, if it is innate.

It is true that in recent times fairy-stories have usually been written or “adapted” for children. But so may music be, or verse, or novels, or history, or scientific manuals. It is a dangerous process, even when it is necessary. It is indeed only saved from disaster by the fact that the arts and sciences are not as a whole relegated to the nursery; the nursery and schoolroom are merely given such tastes and glimpses of the adult thing as seem fit for them in adult opinion (often much mistaken). Any one of these things would, if left altogether in the nursery, become gravely impaired. So would a beautiful table, a good picture, or a useful machine (such as a microscope), be defaced or broken, if it were left long unregarded in a schoolroom. Fairy-stories banished in this way, cut off from a full adult art, would in the end be ruined; indeed in so far as they have been so banished, they have been ruined.

On Fairy Stories
J.R Tolkien

Mostly it just annoys me how the writers can't seem to show a character's emotion without stopping the show. Okay how do we show the Mary Margaret is a moma bear? Spend at least 10 minutes an episode showing her protecting Emma even when narratively it doesn't make sense. How do we show Emma and Regina hate each other. Give each a 10 minute bitch fit in every episode even when they have mutual goals and should be working together for the sake of something they both care deeply about, namely Henry. The show simply doesn't have the capacity to say we have good actors and a reasonably intelligent audience. We don't have to have the actors explain every emotion, or justify every action. If the writers and the actors did their job, the audience will pick up on it. 

But because they do.

Clunky Dialogue
Because a lot of lines are spent justifying character actions,dumping exposition, and explaining character emotions you end up with a lot of, "That makes me angry."

In fantasy and science fiction for that matter suspension of disbelief is almost always an issue. There are two obvious things to do in order mitigate the problem of people not just going with the story.

The first is having characters acting in a realistic way even if the story isn't remotely realistic. Okay this is complicated. Despite all the technological development and culture shift, people have been fairly consistent throughout their history. Despite being written nearly a millennial ago we still fall victim to the deadly seven, and the golden rule is damn near universal. Even if the setting is different human nature isn't. Having people who act like people in a story helps ground the audience.  

Part of this is having people who talk quasi-realistically. Not actually realistically, but close. It's actually rare that people verbally describe their emotional state of being. We have other ways of doing that.  Generally people don't go around declaring and justifying. They just do and feel, because people can generally pick up on when someone hates their guts and if they've been paying attention they tend to know why. Right Ronnie. 

The Power of Love
The second is world building, establishing a setting with enough detail that it's clear that it has it's own rules even those rules don't match up to reality, it's clear the writer isn't making stuff up on the fly for the sake of narrative convenience.

I'm tired of the writers using the power of love every time they write themselves into a hole.  What makes it worse is all they know how to do is have character's stare and make declarations. Back to the subtlety thing there really isn't a lot of chemistry on the show. It's rare to just have two loving characters just hanging out enjoying themselves.

The Henry Problem

In the first season arguably the most important character is Henry, Snow White's 10-year old grandson. Why? Because he is the only benevolent character who has broken the masquerade. In short he's the only one who really knows what's going on.  He is the mover and shaker of the plot. While the protagonist is his biological mother, Emma, Snow White's daughter, it's Henry who really drives her and the other good guys into action. Even when they don't believe a word he says, they'll go with it because they don't want to hurt a kid's feelings.

And it works for a variety of reasons. For the first half of season one it really is a toss up of if Henry's nuts or not. It also provides a very good explanation of why while things seem normal and fine the characters are driven to action. "Look I'm just here for the kid." It also makes him an interesting character knowing that he's the only one who can do this really important thing and how tough it's going to be, because no one believes him. Heck there are even times on screen where he actually does doubt his own sanity. Part of the reason why he believes so hard that he is right, is because he doesn't want to deal with the implications of him being wrong.

The problem is that in the first season finale the masquerade is broken taking away Henry's narrative purpose. Everyone else is now available to work as free agents solving the town's crisis. For most of season two his role is relegated to being told to sit it out. And who can blame the other characters. Henry's ten.

It becomes really annoying when it seems the writers have finally given him narrative importance again. The party's been split and Henry is the only character who can communicate with both groups. It gives him something important to do. And they take that away from both him and the audience.

I liked where they were going with it because it seemed that character had an emotional need to help. He's got stakes in this fight and was getting tired of everyone telling him to sit down. This was the pay off. After spending half the regular season on the bench after a painful knee injury he was finally back in the game.  Dangling the string just seems emotionally dissatisfying.

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