Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Monday, September 30, 2013

Television Review: Under The Dome

I'm at about 10 episodes into Under the Dome and I feel the series losing me. Okay let me back up Under the Dome is a relatively new science fiction television series based on a book by Stephen King wherein an invisible dome isolates a small town. And like a lot of shows I've seen recently it doesn't seem to get what's so interesting about it's premise.

I like the idea but the second half starts to throw subplot after subplot at the wall losing track of cool idea I liked in the beginning. The premise, of what would life be like if everything you took for granted was suddenly gone, and what would be a dramatic enough force to create such a cataclysm while done before, (RevolutionThe TribeJerichoJeremiahFalling SkiesThe Walking DeadBattlestar GalacticaAndromedaand anything involving the fall or rise of the Roman Empire or the Sengoku period) was interesting made all the more so by the fact that the catalyst of such a society would be caused by isolation rather than full on destruction, but it is as if the series has so little faith in that premise that it has to keep throwing superfluous stuff at the audience to keep them interested.

Part of me wants to go into a quasi review of BSG because basically in the first 5 episodes I was watching it for the same reason, watch a group of interesting strong characters being forced by circumstance to have to deal with one another. Most of the characters have interesting motivations and it looks like it's going to be really fun seeing how they interact with one another once the polite facade of society falls and choices have to be made about whose ideas, resources, plans and even lives get priority in the pressure cooker that is the dome. And further more the mystery of what the dome actually is.

But as I watch each episode it seems more and more like the show just doesn't understand that or even if it does it can't think up ways for the interesting characters it set up to affect the plot. Most of the characters fall into interconnected camps so I'll just describe them.

  1. Adults
  2. Kids
  3. The Law
  4. The Media
All of these groups share characters, but at the beginning it always seem liked each of them had something to do. The kids were the ones who rather than focusing on how to survive in the new world order were intrigued and trying to find out exactly what happened. The adults focused on practical how do we survive stuff. The law were trying to maintain order as well as they could in the chaos. The media were doing more or less the same thing the kids were doing, but rather than analyzing phenomenon they were watching the frequency for chatter.

The problem is by about episode seven the story switches gears to plots which generally aren't all that interesting. For instance there is a subplot of the town elders manufacturing drugs, but I've seen that plot. Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad.

The original reason why the drug dealing subplot intrigued me was for its characterization of those involved. While the town thought of these guys as paragons, at the end of the day they'd do anything to get theirs. But midway through the interesting character dynamic is ground to a halt to deal with a SAMCRO lite plot.

It was interesting to just watch the kids walk around and adjust to the new world order in ways the adults couldn't but, I kid you not, the later half has them stuck in a barn staring at a CG egg. 

I have a love hate relationship to Stephen King, being mostly familiar with his work through adaptions, and the bad ones tend to fall apart in the second act as deus ex machinas start to metastasize and interesting ideas become overrun with needlessly complicated plots. 

The most obvious way it does this is by introducing new characters in an already sprawling cast.  Everybody introduced in the first episode seems like a person everybody else just seems like an ill fated attempt to shake up the status quo.   Can you even have a status quo halfway through the first season? Moreover, each new plot element after episode 9 or so seems like it could have made a new series in it's own right.

Even the original characters start to feel flat as theoretically the wigity woo starts to mess with their minds. The aforementioned personality shifts rather than making them more interesting and compelling actually starts to make them less interesting by taking away subtle complexity. For instance one of the characters in the drug ring in the early episodes begrudgingly parts with propane, a necessary ingredient for the aforementioned drugs, when faced with a choice between keeping the now lucrative propane and watching the town die of thirst. He goes nuts and starts killing people when in a similar situation later. Keep in mind that the timeline of the show is about two and a half weeks. That's less time than it would take for me to empty a fridge let alone go "Kill the Pig".

See the point I think was to leave it ambiguous as to whether most of the characters were already sort of nutty, but the circumstances pushed them over the edge into actual sociopathy or if the paranormal shim sham is slowly edging everybody into madness. I can see it but if that was the aim the pacing is way off. The actors do their job well enough in the beginning so that almost everybody has a way to pull a convincing here's Johnny, but when it actually does happen they go so far that it breaks suspension of disbelief.  

In the first half every thing seemed synergistic. Even if the characters were not aware of it almost every individual action and plot had impact on the story as a whole. As the series goes on it gets harder to say that. 

As it goes on it more or less becomes Lost. And to be clear Lost had a lot of promise depending on whether it was on the rails (seasons 1, 3,4 and 5) or of them (season 2 and 6). As it goes on nothing makes any sense. Don't get me wrong I love fantastic elements in a story, but there has to be a consistency. Here it is as if whenever the writers got stuck they decided to do something else in the hope that doing so would keep the audience from realizing they were writing themselves into a corner.  The shows I like always feel like there is a plan. Even left turns fell like they were set up. That's not the case here. In a scene with a new character an established character asks where she was up until this point. Good question.

P.S. There is no way to bring a character back to the light after he chains his ex up in a bomb shelter.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

How Much Can We Control Foreign Policy

Okay so I've been really busy for the past few weeks and the past few days have been the first time in a long while I've had time to slow down and think. Consequently a lot of thoughts that have been up in my had for a while but haven't had time to coagulate into a fully formed argument have just started to coagulate. All of that is a long way to say that this post is throwing timelyness out the window and I'm going to talk about those slow burning ruminations.

On of my problems with modern presidential politics particularly in the 2012 election is the illusion of power of the office. Don't get me wrong the President is a powerful guy, but alot of people expect him to control and influence stuff that in all honesty he can't.

The big one being the economy. During the election I wish either candidate would have just stared into the camera and said, "What we call the economy is actually the aggregate trading behavior of ... everyone and I am just one guy.  Even if I did everything I could it would only push the numbers around a little, not create a grand reversal"

All of which leads me to an actually kind of timely issue despite my disclaimer, foreign policy. Foreign policy depends on the relationships of nations. For instance it is very doubtful we will ever go to war with Canada, because as it stands now we rely on each other for trade, work visas, and dare I say it television. My favorite childhood show was shot in Vancouver.

Thank God MacGuyver could get a Canadian work visa.

Most modern foreign policy is about creating such relationships and then using them as quid pro quo to advance national interests. Maybe you guys let more of us in without hassle and we'll cut you a break on the sugar tariff type of thing.

The problem is that in order for the U.S. to be an actor on the world stage those relationships must exist. And they do but the more of them you have the more place you have to start a dialogue and eventually bargain. Which is why recently we've been hamstrung. We don't have as many of those relationships with both the Egyptian or the Syrian governments as we'd like so influencing them without waving the big stick is hard.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

2013 Southfield City Council Candidate Interview #6 Lloyd Crews

Interview With Lloyd Crews, who is running in the 2013 Southfield City Council election.

This interview was recorded on September 25, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Southfield City Council Meeting September 23, 2013

City Council Meeting Held in Southfield, Michigan on September 23, 2013

Topics Include

  • The Swearing Into Office of the Deputy City Clerk, Mary Steflja
  • The Southfield Food Truck Rally Scheduled For September 25, 2013
  • The Purchasing of Ammunition for the Police Department
  • The Upcoming Taste of Southfield Event Scheduled for October 8, 1013, Sponsored by the Southfield Chamber of Commerce
  • Larry Williams Being Named Big Brother of the Year
  • The Sale of the Former Ramada in Property to Oakland Community College in order to Recoup The Costs of the Demolition of the Property
  • The Premier of A Love That Hurts, a Christian Film Produced in Southfield 

You can find an agenda and related documents here.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Trailer For A Love That Hurts

On September 26 the Star AMC Southfield will premiering A Love That Hurts, a film produced in Southfield.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Movie Review: Titan A.E. (Spoilers)

First of let me say that I love this movie. Other than The Matrix it is probably most responsible for cementing my love of cinematic science fiction growing up. But it is also seriously flawed movie. It went down in history as the movie that shutdown  Fox Animation and ended Don Bluth's cinematic career.  While I am going to point out what I consider to be the narrative flaws of the movie, it deserved better than it got.

There are a lot and I mean a lot of good ideas.

Let's talk about the first 15 minutes or so. They are dramatically different from the rest of the film and when people say it feels like a different movie they're right. The majority of the movie feels a lot like The Matrix in tone, but this feels a lot more like The Iron Giant.

A lot of other reviewers say they would cut it but I feel it serves a lot of purposes. It sets up who the characters were and creates a contrast to who they become. Our protagonist, Cale was a bright eyed little squirt and in the time skip he's a cynical smartass. "Well you know having your planet blown up can have that effect on a species."

Speaking of which let's talk about the back story. Aliens blew up Earth, this is the A.E, after Earth.

Anyway his shift in personality says something about the universe he's living in. I like dystopian science fiction, but a lot of it is starting to look the same. I've seen Road Warrior knock off after Road Warrior knock off. It's interesting to get a new setting, and with it a new aesthetic (alright so I know their ripping off Blade Runner a little but who the hell doesn't rip off Blade Runner).   .

A good deal of the movie discusses the concept of not just an individual home, but an ancestral one. One of my problems with the film is that it set ups weighty issues like that, but doesn't follow through. When we generally discuss humanity we're talking about the bonds of and rights sentience bestows on any organism. But that is not what the movie is discussing. It's discussing the commonality of an ancestral home, culture and heritage and how important or unimportant such commonality  should be to an individual.  Something something panafracanism something something Israel.

Korso another character comes to Cale with The Call, and he at first turns him down, more or less making the argument a high and mighty quest for a new homeland is pointless. Specifically Cale's father left him a genetically encoded map to a macguffin that could lead him to a new home, thus making him the chosen one destined to lead the people to the promised land does this sound familiar, like Exodus familiar.  Yeah the movie has a lot to say about fathers, sons and father figures, but that stuff doesn't interest me as much as the search for home does.

At this point Cale doesn't give two shits about team human. And for the next couple minutes we get pretty pictures. Okay I love the race through the hydrogen trees, but narritively it serves no purpose other than to make the heroes emotionally vulnerable enough when they get captured to drop Joss Whedon's trademark snark, yes he was one of the writers on this, and talk about all that homeland stuff.

Apart from that the middle part is also frustrating because we get to see glimpses of the much larger universe that humanity has been forced to inhabit and adapt to, but we never have enough time to drink it in so it resonates has implications for the characters.

For instance there is about a five minutes scene in which Akima, the female lead, is nearly sold into slavery, but she fights her way out of it and the interesting environment and the implications of slavery being a thing that happens to people aren't focused on long enough for them to have any point other than Akima can take care of herself.

There is a lot of underlying comedy to the scenes dealing with it, but I can't help comparing it to the scene in the Warriors with the Orphans. Describing that scene without going on a long diatribe about The Warriors would be tough but I'll just say that the pitifulness of the Orphans is humorous, yet at the same time they do provide a tense immediate threat to the eponymous Warriors. "Thirty is a lot more than eight." I don't feel that in the slave Akima scenes. For a better reference let's think of Jabba's palace. Sure you get a lot of dancing muppets but there is still a Rancor in the basement and the odds are Leia and Han ain't walking out of there. Also the movie spends a long enough time there for the audience to get a feel for the place.

The settings are interesting.

One which we do get a feel for is New Bankok, a drifter colony ship that houses remnants of humanity.  But let me talk about Korso. There will be spoilers here. If you plan to watch the movie leave now. You have been warned.



Korso double crosses Cale, intent on selling the map to the bad guys, whom the movie is admittedly a little vague about.  I like this turn of events but the movie undercuts it. See by this point Cale has had character development.  He's starting to buy what Korso and Akima have been selling. Rather than being the strictly individualistic Cale of the later half of act one he's starting think about "humanity".

In the aftermath of the betray Cale spends sometime in New Bangkok and through the impassioned words of a throw away character starts to understand what a home means to the rest of humanity.

The twin reversals could create an interesting dichotomy, the newly converted making pleas and arguments to the jaded renouncer of the faith. The ending could work if not for one change but let me back up.

One perspective that I really wish had been explored in the film is the concept that a community doesn't require a geographic place. But that's a heavy argument even I am not prepared to make.

You get some cat and mouse and then a big physical fight at the end. They trade a few words, but altogether I wish it were a little smarter with Korso giving better arguments for his actions. Is he really that forlorn that he would literally sell out his entire species, hastening their extinction for immediate gratification? And has he been that way so long that he doesn't even question it anymore?

That is interesting. And there are places you can go with that. But instead the movie gives him an unbelievable heel/face turn that undercuts the emotional gut punch that was his betrayal. He gave Cale hope and was spouting some pretty idealistic stuff and when he takes aim at the heroes, the unspoken question that both the characters and audience are asking is, "Was all of it a lie?"

While not as well executed the Cale-Korso relationship in many respects is like Smith and Paine. Like Smith Cale's father died and he viewed his father's friend Korso as a bit of a mentor at least, by the end of the second act. Cale's angry but I think the movie just doesn't also communicate how hurt his character should also be. Korso got Cale believing in heroes and then took it away. It's an interesting moment and the movie does nothing with it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

I Will Provide the People of This City With an Outlet That Will Tell All the News Honestly

There are occasions where the medium of film serves as a mirror, a mirror to my thoughts, my dreams, and my self-loathings. At times I draw inspiration from these mirrors in hopes of becoming what I consider to be my true self. Not the man the world gazes upon, but the man I see myself to be in my mind.

I know not how it came to be, but this blog can be a tool for good. A tool to make alert the public and allow them to hold their local government accountable, so that they can make informed decisions and furthermore hold educated conversations about issues of the day, the issues that directly affect them and their families.  

I believe as I must that information and knowledge are the keys to societal change. For change in technology, production, government and culture to exist ideas and information must be allowed to thrive.  I know not what those changes will be, but in order for progress to be made people must have and indeed deserve access to information.  I will admit they may not always seek it but those who do make the effort deserve to have answers for their questions made easily available to them. They deserve to not have to guess and and not have to hope that their concerns are being addressed.

I may not bore into every issue I deem important. I am one small man, but I will share the desert water I do come across. 

Gregory Daniel Miles, Jr.
Also Known As The Cyphered Wolf

P.S. This is the closet thing you're going to get to a Citizen Kane review.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Recent Movies I Like

Okay I'm broke so even though I love movies I don't see many in the theatre. Meaning it takes awhile for me to see movies since I mostly see them on Tv so here is a list of movies that came roughly two or three years ago that I like.

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I think this might be my new favorite movie after Scott Pilgrim. My big problem with thrillers is their run and gun nature. But here they get the bad guy by going to a library, poring over records, and conducting interviews. That's what I want.  And that will be why The Wire is forever better than Law and Order in my books.


You know speaking of smart thrillers. I might as well put this one up. What amazes me about argo is the lack of normal machismo. It's not about running and gunning but doing a job. Getting in and getting out with as few problems and possible. Let me back up. Another thing that frustrates me about thrillers is that the protagonists make a lot of the problems by refusing to use anything other than a gun. The way the story, which is based on reality, goes is if these guys get in a shootout they failed and will probably die. The entire plot is about them getting out before the bad guys know where they are.

Rise of Planet of the Apes
I am going to wreck this movie. See part of what makes it good is that it subverts the expectations the marketing gave the audience. But it is a really really smart movie. If you really want to know it's a quasi remake of an older Planet of the Apes movie that while kind of cheasy I have fond memories of.  Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

See the marketing made the film seem like the "rise" was the apes revolting against humanity and taking over the world mostly showing the big climatic battle at the end.  But really  the, "rise" is about the journey and growth of the first intelligent ape. Let me put this way I walked in expecting big stupid stunts with monkeys and got a movie with brains.

Rise of the Guardians

While I will admit I was in a weird head space while watching this movie it made me cry... twice. Other than that while being mostly targeted at kids the movie is fun and has a lot of heart.

Life of Pi

It's a type of movie that I like but almost never see. The sort of metaphysical spiritual movie that is really hard to pull off well. For the last really good one of these I can think of watch or read Five People You Meet in Heaven.


I love superhero movies, but I've seen 'em. I've seen good ones. I've seen bad ones. I've seen 'em. I not exactly tired of the genre but I will be the first to admit that there is a formula here. Chronicle is a superhero movie, but not. Largely because the characters are not superheroes they get super powers, but rather than the big hero-villain stuff the movie focuses on how those powers change their lives. Don't worry though the hero villain stuff is still there.

Captain America

Okay despite everything I just said it is rare that I get a WWII era, golden age, cornbread filled, punching Nazis in the face superhero movie.

Ip Man 2

I love Rocky 4. "Hearts on fire, strong desire, rages deep within." but god is it stupid. If "I can change and you can change then we all can change."If you want Rocky 4, but smart with kickass martial arts. Here you go. In 1950's Hong Kong a brit goes all "my boxing is better than your kung fu" and it is on. You got your Apollo Creed guy, your Ivan Drago guy, and your Rocky guy.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Why Is the Goat Important (Spoilers)

Okay so I said I could write 10 pages on the symbolism of the stuffed toy goat in Last Exile. I don't have that much time but here is why it's important. To use a more literary metaphor the goat is similar to Holden's cap in Catcher in the Rhy.

Do to conservation of narrative and Chekov's gun any element in a story that's get as much time as that goat is there for a reason. My guess is that the goat is symbolic, but I'm not talking about that yet. I'm just say that the animators and writers wanted to draw the audience's attention to that goat. Even if we the audience don't have an answer it causes us to pose the question, "Why did they choose to spend the time and narritive energy to focus on this thing."

Relationship to Lavie
Okay back story time. The show has two protagonists. Claus and Lavie. Lavie is the most reluctant of the two to accept the call brought forth by Al.

Literature lesson: The call, i.e. the call to adventure is part of the hero's journey, the monomyth thinggy that most stories windup following even before we realized it existed. It is exactly what it sounds like, the point in the story where the heroes are driven from their normal lives to ...adventure. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Lavie realizes something it will take Claus most of the series to understand. War is not a child's plaything. But if they didn't in the end decide to go there would be no show.

All of this makes Lavie a little cold towards Al in the beginning. Al is unintentionally dragging the two off to war. As stated, Lavie gets the implications of that. Part of what makes her eventually accept the call is her growing relationship with Al. They spend time together and Lavie wants to protect her.

Al is the character who most associated with the goat but it did have a previous owner. Lavie. Every now and again there will be a shot of photo of a very young Lavie clutching the goat much the same way Al does. Hinting that despite herself Lavie sees a younger version of herself in Al, especially when she voluntarily let's Al have this stuffed animal which is still very dear to her.

A Proxy For Al and to a Lesser Extent Lavie
The goat is almost always seen with either Lavie or Al and so we the audience associate it with them. Whenever we see the goat we see those two and so when we see the goat alone it's a way to make us think about them without being obvious about it.

Also the goat can imply narrative information to the audience. For instance when it's on the floor on it's side it typically means that Lavie or Al are in turmoil or danger. Whenever sombody says they will make sure Al get's her goat back they aren' talking about the goat, they's saying they want to make sure Al lives through the events of the show.

For instance after getting Al to where they were contracted to get her Claus uses the pretext of returning the goat to insure they haven't handed her over to people who do not care about her well being.  The metephor of returning the goat is used repeatedly.

Fear, Security, and Emotional Attachment
These are big themes that run through the entire show. And the goat is one tool for communicating them. There are others for instance Mulin's survival medals, (They're basically the goat but more manly) and I'll get to Dio's whole deal in a minute, but I'm focusing on the goat.

This is an idea that needs more than a word so here it is. We can become emotionally attached to something that scares the hell out of us and become dependent on it.

You know what screw it let's talk about Mullin. Mullin is a soldier that the show makes clear has PTSD. His job basically amounts to Napoleonic infantryman aka the meat in the grinder. Each battle has a 30% survival rate for guys like him and he's lived though 19 of them. The math says he only has a 1.5 percent chance of existing in the state of life by this point. Through a lucky break he becomes an airship mechanic. Still dangerous but at least he's no longer expected to die.  "The Silvana is the safest place in the world." Guess what? Towards the end of the show he transfers back to the front because he became emotionally attached to being a musketeer. (Yeah, people argue the sanity of that decision but it fits with the rest of the series.)

That was just one example. One of the first times we chronologically see the goat is in a flash back with Lavie clutching it as she closes her eyes while flying in a plane with her father. Her chosen profession years later is as a courier navigator.

What does the goat have to do with this theme. Before the theme even becomes fully apparent we get a scene with just Al and the goat. And the goat freaks Al out at first. She touches it with a toe, it makes a noise and she hoists it under the blankets. Later through the series though she is hardly seen without it. Even though it scared her at first it later gives her comfort.

It's Mullin's medals on a smaller scale.

Dio and Foreshadowing
Keep everything I just said in your head. Dio is a very interesting character. He starts the show as a villian literally trying to kill the protagonist. But he spends most of his time as one of their party members. Hell you want to know the big thing the antagonist does to up the stakes in the third act. She lobotomizes him. And everybody realizes that even though they were somewhat nervous around the guy they became his friends. They became emotionally attached to a guy who scared them. Moreover Al's relationship in particular with him parallels her relationship with the goat. She originally doesn't like him. "You call Claus by a funny name"(Immelmann, a reference to his flight prowess.)And the scene where they first meet is kind of creepy as it is meant to be but they become friends. Later, Dio kind of knows the lobotomy coming and well.

Check out the goat there.

The Young Alex Rowe
When thinking about this I was under the impression that Lavie's dad gave her the goat but I re-watched the episode and realized something else. By this point in the show Lavie had faded in importance so the first time I watched the episode I was watching from Claus' perspective and it caused me to miss something. Alex Rowe the apathetic, single minded, kind of crazy captain of The Silvana gave Lavie the doll before he became the apathetic, singled minded, kind of crazy captain of The Silvana. His last moment in life is to move his tied up, tortured arm just enough to crush the throat of his enemy, by the way she's the one who lobotomized Dio.  That flashback episode is the only time we see Alex before the event that turns into the master of the "Kill 'em all! Silvana". It isn't until some time later that it is even revealed that that man was a younger Alex. His treatment of young Lavie in giving her the goat contrasts with his apathy for Al.

Why Does Alvis Work?

Okay so I just quit watching  Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing. I stopped around episode 18. While looking through forums and and reviews I kept hearing that among other sins of the series it went out of its way to make the protagonist cutsey.

And I think to myself, in the original, which you can watch legally for free here,  that was a big part possibly even the entire point of Al and I liked her. Hell her defining character moment is being frightened of a toy stuffed goat (about 10 minutes and 30 seconds into the fourth episode), and slowly getting over that fear and gaining enough of an attachment to it that ace pilots would traverse hostile airspace to return it to her. Which sums her up in so many ways.

By the way if I wanted to I could write 10 pages on the symbolism of that goat.

but alas this is not that post.

Al's role as a character, when not being a macguffin key to her universe's super-weapon is that she makes every other non-sociopathic character, and yes on occasion even some of the good guys are unhinged, want to protect her. She makes characters who by all rights have no purpose being involved in the plot force themselves into it for her sake.

All this post is really meant to do is pose a question. Why does Al work as a character and Fam not. I have no clue.

By the way anybody who can make jet turbines work as a hairstyle is okay in my book.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11, 2013 Pro-Millage Rally and March

On the November 5, 2013 Southfield, Michigan ballot voters will be asked to renew a 17.6345 millage rate. On September 11, 2013 a rally and March was held in favor of the millage. 

I briefly interviewed Interview With Paula Lightsey, Principal of Thompson K-8 International Academy about the millage.

I also interviewed Deborah Tremp, Associate Superintendent of Administrative Services regarding the millage.

Southfield Police Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin September 2-8, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Southfield Board of Education Meeting September 10, 2013

Board of Education Meeting Held In Southfield Michigan

Topics Discussed Include

  • The Millage Renewal Request Set for the November 5, 2013 General Election
  • A Report Regarding Stuff The Bus 2013
  • The District's Wireless Networking Project
  • A Report Regarding the Performance of The Summer School Program
  • A MAP Assessment Parent Meeting Scheduled For September 6

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Southfield September 9, 2013 City Council Meeting

Southfield City Council Meeting held on September 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm
Topics Discussed Include

  • The Appointment of The Deputy City Clerk, Mary Steflja The Redevelopment of the Former St. Bede Property at the Corner of Southfield Road and Twelve Mile Road 
  • The Postponement of a Section of Reconstruction on the Evergreen Road Project Due To A Conflict with One of The Michigan Department of Transportation's Other Projects 
  • Various Environmental Features of The Evergreen Road Project, Namely a Rain Garden and Pavers
  • A Report Regarding Negotiations To Sell The Former Ramada Inn Property to Oakland Community College in order to Recoup the Cost of Demolishment

An agenda and other related documents can be found  here .

Monday, September 9, 2013

Duels of the Planeswalkers Is Weird A.K.A. The Cost of Cards Is Too Damn High

Okay so thanks to Xbox Live's Games With Gold I just got my first Duel With the Planeswalkers experience and it was wierd. Okay a little disclaimer to to me misreading the promotion everything I am about to say is about the 2013 version not the 2014 version. Got that. Okay.

Let's play catch up about my quasi-magic hiatus. I love magic the gathering. Mostly I love building decks but it frustrates me that a lot of the cards I want to build decks around cost a lot more money than I'm willing to pay. Yeah I remember when we were complaining about $5 original recipe Jace rather than $45 Lilliana of the Veil. Damn secondary market. And yes near everything about economics I didn't learn from the financial collapse or a class I learned from the Magic the Gathering's secondary market. Such as the financial shock in who wins in tournaments and with what cards.

Or to the layman never buy immediately before or after a tournaments because the prices will be inflated by players who are willing to spend more for specific cards as a result there being actual prize money at stake. At the same time prices will be unpredictable because demand will be unpredictable because who wins with what will be unpredictable.

Anyway, this has lead to a reluctance to play a game I really like because I don't want to get drawn down the rabbit hole and I'm trying to save money in general so one of the first things to get trimmed down was Magic. While I occasionally play the game I haven't played it the way I want to in about a year and a half or since about Avacyn Restored hell if we want to get real New Phyrexia. God damn Phyrexian Obliterator which over the course of it's life span averaged about $11 for a card you needed in playsets to be most useful. Meaning if I really wanted to build a kick ass Phyrexian deck with the Oblitorator as a headliner that's $44. By the way go team evil.

Well I thought Duel of the Planeswalkers is free so let's give that a shot.

And it is weird.

Mostly because of deck building. And that is kind of interesting. I mostly play Magic Online and I got in on that pretty early. Back at the start one of the big criticisms of MODO was that the digital business model was more or less the same as the paper business model. Packs with cards. And Duels of the Planeswalkers offers an interesting what if, made all the more blatant that in the game a lot of ads come up for other Magic products highlighting how the game is really designed as a teaser for Magic in general. There are a couple weird interfacy things but the deck building is the big defining difference.

In Magic Online you can use any card in your collection and since that collection is based on what you buy and while I know you can make all sorts of contrary arguments the deck building seems less limited. For instance in my experience which was admittedly brief I had to stick to mono colored decks and I generally hate mono colored decks. Explaining why is a whole other post about the color wheel.

Also it'f frustrating because of what I call deck problem solving. So in any game of magic certain things are going to happen and most players build their decks around these consistent problems including card drawing or spot destruction, but since I have a more limited pool of cards and am restricted in colors balancing that stuff is rough. God I miss Concentrate. Hell I'll even take a Divination. Or hell if I want to stick to my first choice color anybody remember Browbeat.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying Duels isn't MODO, but damn it, it's free. Then again technically so is MODO as long as I don't start thinking of crazy ways to abuse new mechanics that require new cards. Long story short I am still jonesing.

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