Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Representative Gary Peters Response Regarding Syrian Crisis

Roughly a month and a half ago I contacted U.S. House Representative Gary Peters regarding the Syrian crisis, mostly asking what his position was. At the time President Obama was urging Congress to take military action due to the use of chemical weapons.  

Here is a copy of an email he sent in response on October 29, 2013.

October 29, 2013

Dear Gregory,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the ongoing armed conflict in Syria. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to express your views on this important matter. Your input is, and will always be, welcomed and appreciated.

For over two years, Syrian forces led by President Bashar al-Assad have engaged in an ongoing armed conflict with anti-government rebels. According to recent United Nations estimates more than 100,000 have been killed - a majority of them have been civilians. In addition, on August 21, 2013, more than 1,400 people - including 429 children - were killed in a chemical weapons attack near Damascus. Although President Assad has not claimed responsibility for the recent chemical attacks, reports from U.S. intelligence strongly indicates Syrian government forces are responsible for this attack.

On September 10, 2013, following a robust diplomatic response from the United States and its allies and under the threat of military action, Syria's foreign minister announced that Syria would agree to give up its chemical weapons stockpiles. While this plan is not yet final, I believe any solution must include sufficient oversight and enforcement measures to ensure Syria lives up to their end of the agreement.

The threat of military action against Syria played an important role in this diplomatic process, and as a former naval officer, I take the responsibility to send American men and women into a military operation very seriously. I am hopeful there will be a diplomatic resolution to this conflict; however, should any legislation impacting the situation in Syria come to the House floor for a vote, I will certainly keep your views in mind.

I would like to thank you again for contacting me. I always enjoy hearing from constituents and hope that you take the time to contact me again soon. For more information, please feel free to visit my website,


Gary C. Peters
Member of Congress

Southfield Police Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin October 21-27, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Horror Anime For The Season

Everybody else is going to be watching their slasher movies or vampire movies but I your friendly neiborhood otaku will be watching anime so here are some horror anime I like.

Blood the Last Vampire

I barely remember it, but it was awesome. If you can find it definitely check it out but I'll probably be watching the movie they made out of it.

There are two Tv show based off of the property but the short film is the one that stuck in my head.

Petshop of Horrors

You know there are some people who just don't listen. You tell 'em don't feed the rabbit junk and they do and then they end up getting eaten by the rabbit and expect you to feel guilty for selling the abomination to their dumb asses in the first place. Damn it.


I've only seen one episode and there are rights issues involved for the first season but I will probably hole up and watch the second and third. Anyway think bloody mary for the new millininum.

Boogie Pop Phantom

Kicking it old school.  I never watched it but it's on my list and on Hulu.

Paranoia Agent

Okay the show may not seem that, "scary" at first, but it gets there. Every episode is told from the perspective of a disturbed person and it takes a while to figure out they aren't exactly reliable perspectives. Keep in mind we're watching through the eyes of schizophrenics and the story waits a really long time to tell us that.


It doesn't look like horror at first, I think I'm repeatiing myself, but things get wierd fast. Almost every character has something supernatural going for them.

Yu Yu Hakusho: Chapter Black

After the Dark Tournament Toonami started messing with the schedule so a lot of fans don't even know about the Demon Kings and Chapter Black arcs of Hakusho. But man the rabbit hole goes deep.

Imagine if you will that you were a human detective charged by the cosmic order to keep the things that go bump in the night from devouring humanity. Then imagine if you will you were shown every and I mean every asshat thing people did to deserved their fates and decided, "You know what they have it coming."

Full Metal Alchemist

The show is a lot of things and what's striking is it does all of them well including the horror bits.  Check out the poor fate of Nina Tucker.

Hellsing Ultimate

Dracula going on a vampire Nazi killspree. With batshit catholic priests thrown in for good measure. I'm in! Okay so it's not scary in the least but ... Nazi vampire killspree. They're vampires and Nazis I feel totally fine watching them get ripped to shreads, by the psychotic king of vampires.


Well since I have a thing for Vamapires. You know apart from supernatural wakiness the best horror stories are all about human drama. How our failings which are normally ignored can cause our undoing. On the surface it's a pretty standard other wordly invasion story, but the real drama is how everyone's vices human and former human alike, vices escalates the problem.

Rin Daughters of Memoysyne

Mommy the immortals are fighting again.


While it's fun to think up boogie men the most dangerous monster of all is man himself. Clever and ruthless. Ultimately the Antichrist will be one of our own. We will be brought low buy not the rage of the heavens or the earth but by the worst of us.

League of Woman Voters October 23, 2013 Southfield Candidates Forum

On October 23, the League of Woman Voters Oakland Area held a Candidates forum for those running for Southfield City Council.

Screened questions from the audience included

  • What is the most significant challenge you believe is facing the city over the next five years? 
  • Where do you believe downtown Southfield is and address the perception that development is exclusive to certain areas of the city?
  • What initiatives and projects would you champion in the next year if elected?
  • Two questions regarding tax abatements and the candidates' stance on them?

For more please visit The League of Woman Voters Oakland Area website

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Southfield October 21, 2013 City Council Meeting

City Council meeting held in Southfield, Michigan on October 21, 2013

  • Breast Cancer Awareness
  • Zoning and Site Plans for Two Mixed Use Developments
  • The Upcoming School Millage Election
  • Acceptance of 2013 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Indy and Magnum as Chipmunks

Okay here is a little secret. A lot of the ideas of these blog posts come to me between about 6 and 9 ' oclock. If you know me you're asking "But Greg you're a horrible morning person, growling and grunting". Yes. Yes I am, but when I actually am able to wake up naturally that's the time when my brain can do some "free thinking"  Instead of trying to focus on how much I want to go back to bed or some other immediate problem that forced me to wake up in the first place.

Some of these ideas are really weird for instance I've got a Gothic vampire story ruminating in my computer archives somewhere. But their almost always interesting.

Normally I forget the random dream or train of thought that got me to that point but this time I wrote it down so here goes.

Magnum P.I. and Indiana Jones as Rodents

Being the nostalgically I already knew that Chip and Dale's costumes were reminiscent of older cultural icons. 

But it was one of those pop culture tidbits I have rolling around in my head but never put into a larger context and well then 5'clock in the morning happened.

For most major animation studios the late 80's and early 90's were "rebuilding" years.  Now that meant stuff in the theater circuit and I'll talk about movies in a bit.  But in particular Disney decided to start animating stuff soley for the TV which at the time was thought to be very undisney. See in the 60's and 80's other animation studios like Warner Brothers had survived the collapse of the studio system by going to TV way back in the 50's but Disney never really made the jump preferring to crank out features.

But in the Disney Renesaince they started to pump out TV versions of their movies.

The Rescuers

Not all of these were able be direct TV show of the movies though. Bonkers was basically a reworked version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. By the way if you haven't seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit, go watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

While yes it works as a kid movie, it is also very much a tribute to the old school film noirs that would have made the parents taking their kids to see it have a heart attack. Seriously how did this scene make it in a kids movie.

Yeah there is no way parents would stand for that on Saturday Morning TV so instead we got

The show that started this whole discussion is actually similar. Both Bonkers and Rescue Rangers are loose adaptations of older Disney movies.

Before I actually talk about the Rescuers I just wanted to say that While most people like to chart The Disney Renaissance at the Little Mermaid I always oscillate between the rabbit and The Rescuer's Down Under.

The Rescuers

When talking about the Rescurers what really interests me is the contrast between the first and second movies. Okay, let's get this out of the way. People tend to have a very rose colored lens when looking at Disney movies forgetting that the 1970's disney was doing things technically that an animation purist would not find too cool. Mainly reusing animation from older movies.

The original Rescures was made in this enviornment. That said if you can't tell by now the credit I will give it is that the movie had a good premise. Just like the Rangers the Rescuers were a bunch a of rodents who would help kids in trouble, and "not oh God I have a test" trouble balls to the wall peril trouble.

The Rescuers Down Under

You want to see George C. Scott frighten the hell out small children?

Anyway you know those great wide and tracking shots you get in Aladdin and The Lion King? Well they happened because of new digital inking techniques that were pioneered in this movie.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Defense of Streaming 2 Electric Boogaloo

Just for the record since I am about to talk about copyright and music yes Vevo allows me to use that clip.

 Anyway time to shake my fist at opponents of streaming which I already did... twice.

Every now and again The New York Times will publish an article about how the artists are getting the screws put to them by the music streaming industry.


Before I go into full on rant mode let me make a few disclaimers. I am not defending piracy, I'm not decrying (I originally said extol. That's what I get for using big words I don't understand.) it as much as I should probably, but I honestly don't feel I have it in me to successfully argue that piracy is good for artists, maybe not as bad as the music industry makes out but not good. Also while I believe that it was a horrible system for consumers the complaint that iTunes has debundled singles is valid. They did and it means less money for artists and I can't fault them for feeling a little bitter about it.

More over while, I do feel they are acting against their long term interests I also can't fault artists for seeking the maximum royalty revenue they can.

Great now that I got that love train out of the way let's get started.

Overestimation Of Value
This is going to make me sound like an ass so I just will. When I read these articles I always get the feeling that these artists are over estimating how much they realistically should be making. That's not to say that I don't want them to get paid at all but not everybody is going to make Jay-Z money. People have an inflated sense of the money artists make not realizing that via traditional music sales  only a few artists actually are able to produce the sales numbers that generate that kind of revenue.

I am going to try to quantify this in a flawed way so here goes.  Right now on the Billboard 200, the lowest album is Lana Del Rey's Paradise. In it's opening week it sold 67,000 units. And that is a relatively indie EP.

Note it premiered at the 10 spot but again I can't deal with the long-tail effect or else I have to start going through things like Legend and Nevermind and the idea of doing that makes my brain hurt, though it would help another one of my arguments down the line.  If I were smart I would try to find or make a chart combining sales and weeks on the chart but brain hurtieness. Also Paradise was packaged with certain copies of Born to Die another one of Rey's albums which had much stronger sales so let's try another one.

Next up on the list is You Get What You Give by the Zac Brown Band aka the "Chicken Fried" guys. In its first week it sold 153,000 copies. To be fair it debuted at the one spot. Anyway, my point is unless you can sell at least 10,000 units in your first few weeks and consistently sell 1000 a week after that the traditional music industry model was not designed for you and that's low balling it. The labels won't invest, and even if they did both their and your return on investment would be pretty low.

Fragmentation of The Market
I'm not going to say that the internet hasn't hurt the music industry, but it didn't hurt it they way everybody claims it did. This is more of an explanation of my last point than a new one. Large cutural events don't happen the way they used to, including music.

Let me amend that. That was my thesis for this section until I started comparing everything, Nevermind, The Bodyguard soundtrack featuring Whitney Houston's signature song, The Eminem Show to Adele's 21 which is nuts. My gut is telling me that it is a crazy weird outlier but my theory definitely has holes.

Rather than going with my original plan and taking the top album of 2012 let's go with 2011... which is also 21. Oh goddamn it! Okay 2010. 2010.  Susan Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream. Selling roughly 3 million units that year.

Back to The Bodyguard, within a few months it went 6x platinum selling 6 million.

It should be also noted that it's entirely possible Whitney is also an outlier I choose the completely arbitrary number of 20 years ago but just dealing with Adele made my brain explode, though she does deserve the succes. Anyway this was only a small part of my much larger argument so I'm moving on. Generally the current music environment does not allow for the type of mega-celebrity it did previously, and individual artists probably aren't going to have the same sales figures as the 90s. God don't I miss 'em.

It's Not Distribution's Fault
I swear in a bit I'm going to talk about why streaming is good,  but my last two sections were my way of saying new business and distribution models are sometimes scapegoated for larger cultural and economic shifts.

So and so's albums aren't not making money because of Pandora, they aren't making money because we're in a recovery music is a luxury and on top of that people don't gravitate towards a couple of artists the way they used to.

Service Provided
Okay I know most of you have already turned away calling me a whiny crybaby by now. Let me tell you how streaming helps artists.

The reason why mass media, not just the music industry, but mass media, developed the way it did is because typically an artist does not have the means to promote and distribute their own content. As previously demonstrated the current business models of most mass media companies really on the "mass" to provide an economy of scale to justify the investment of the corporate infrastructure that enables the promotion and distribution of aforementioned content.

You had to press the record, truck it to the store, produce music videos, maybe have a late night commercial, book tours, book press interviews, not to mention studio equipment and talent cross pollination in the studio. God I hate colabos.

Now due to the internet a lot of this is superfluous in this day and age, but I don't care what industry you're in whether you're Bill Gates or a shoe shine boy connecting your product to the market is a huge headache.

10 years ago if I were going on a school camping trip and wanted some tunes I had to either choose my favorite CDs or bring and risk loosing my entire collection. Now on my lunch break if I feel like I can get most any song (except copyright fubars like The Beatles collection) I like via streaming services and digital music stores, from my phone. From Classic Jazz to Zydeco classics to the hot 100, to old school punk.

These services

  • Distribute music content to the consumer in a way that is inexpensive and convient
  • Do so in an organized visible way that caters to individuals musical taste better allowing people who might be interested in an artists music to actually be exposed to it. 
  • Allow information about artists and on occasion even upcoming performances to better allow for further engagement which as much as a sell out as I am starting to sound allows for more economic opportunity.  (You call yourself a punk Miles. For shame.)
  • Monetize that experience in a way other media dream they could, (I'm looking at you print journalism, online video, and television.) 

You know what was The Pandora of the 60's, 70's and even 90's.


Artists deserve to be paid for their work but, radio and radiolike services provide an essential service to the music community. Hell 60 years ago you would literally pay  DJs, because of the bump it got you in publicity and album sales.  I'm not saying payola was right but damn the shift is weird.

There is a reason why every music movie includes a scene where the artists go crazy when they hear their song.

Now until 5 years ago I can understand why instead of radio all the labels were courting MTV but MTV is no longer radio, but cooler. That mantel has passed to the internet.  Youtube music videos, digital distribution, digital press,  internet radio, twitter based fan clubs, targeted online advertising, this is the stuff you need to feed the machine.

However the higher the royalty rates go the harder it is for the machine.

It frustrates me because almost every other type of media is still figuring the internet out, when the music industry has the economic infrastructure to support itself and won't use it.  It has ways of promoting its content amongst the content sea that is the internet in a way bloggers and online video makers can only dream of. It has monetization mechanisms journalism should be envious of. It isn't being screwed by advertisers and Nielson the same way TV is i.e. digital sales of music actually count in measuring success and have for a long time.

And despite all of this the industry is still reluctant to use all that infrastructure in ways that may in fact doom said infrastructure to failure. The horse is out of the barn. If Vevo, BandsinTown, Itunes, Spotify, and Pandora fail, the public isn't going to go to Sam Goody; they're going to go to BitTorrent.

My Experience with Streaming
When I first went to college I for the first time in my life got my own debit card. This meant I could buy stuff not only without asking my folks but without them even knowing about it. You want to know what one of those purchases was.

Napster went legit. They had a good selection, and the music was organized in ways Best Buy could only dream of. I could sort search tracks by the name the artist and the discography. I remember on day I just had a blast listening to like 10 different versions of "Johnny B. Goode"

Heck I sill have Napster kind of. I even before they were bought out I also subscribed to Rhapsody because both services were cheap I could and for a while Rhapsody was the only place I could find The White Stripes. And Napster was the only place I could find the AfroPunk soundtrack.

And it burns the hell out of me that people are treating streaming as this new thing.

At the tail-end of high school VH1 started doing their I Love The X series. And I would hear about all these bands and artists I wanted to get into but knew next to nothing about. I didn't know enough about music to even really get started. All I knew was Will Smith and Disney. I kept hearing about some song, or band or album the guests would reminisce about and I would want to know what the deal was.

When I got to college cable wasn't as robust as it was at home so if I had some time to kill VH1's I Love the 70's would do.

And then Napster came along. I could search for the song, hear it, read an artist bio, and if I really wanted to get crazy listen to an entire album.

A Different Model 1.0

The reason why I took you back to '06 is that it burns me a bit that people think streaming is a new thing.  It's not it's just that when legal digital music distribution streaming lost its version of the betamax wars.

So at the turn of the millennium the internet happened. And Napster came along. And debates and discussions formulated about it.  Some of which are still being had. The consensus though was at the time downloading a song, and listening to it on the flashy new iPod was too convenient vs the old way of doing things not to expect the consumer to do it.

So the music industry tried a bunch of ways to make it less convenient. First being  litigation the big one being Napster and then Limewire.

Now here is where things get a little legally.

Before Napster there was an old ruling referred to the Betamax Ruling. Back when VCRs were new we had similar problems. Movie studios basically tried to sue VCRs out of existence. Long story short the court ruled that manufactures of technology aren't responsible for potential copyright infringment created as a result users action. You can't sue Broksonic because I taped Friends.

The Napster decision and for that matter Limewire turned that on its head.  A technology company had sucessfully been held responsible for the copyright infringement of its users.

Now the RIAA could have sued Apple and damn near every other mp3 manufacturer and crushed the Ipod in its infancy.

Realizing this the big dogs decided that if they wanted some cover, they needed to create and encourage non-infringing  methods of using their products.

My big angry pet peeve with Apple is they get credit for inventing everything even when they didn't.

Everybody was trying to figure this thing out.  Ultimately you ended up with two major services. Napster 2.0 and iTunes.

If you are reading this article you probably know what iTunes is and how it works. But for a while there was competition. Both of these services (Napster was bought out by Rhapsody) worked more or less the way they do now save smartphone nuttiness but with a one major caveat.

See back again the purpose of the iTunes store wasn't so much to turn a profit as much to provide Apple cover for any lawsuits regarding the iPod and copyright. So they made it so iTunes songs couldn't be copied. And for the sake of the business model Napster followed suit. Don't get me wrong you could copy purchased tracks on Napster but rented streaming stuff could only be listened to on certain compatible devices.

This frustrated consumers to no end, and eventually the idea of "my music" started to take hold. The idea of "I bought it I should be able to do what I want with it."  iTunes could begrudgingly change it's copy protection policy so that once you bought a song you could do what ever you wanted with it, but Napster and Rhapsody couldn't since their business model was more about renting the music. Once you stopped paying the monthly fee you were out of tunes.

And so by around 2008 streaming went out of vogue.

A Different Model 2.0

Look if you ask me why Spotify took off when it did, I have no clue. All I know is that Cnet and Twit were all of a sudden talking about streaming as if it were no longer the redheaded step child and I was thinking, but I never canceled my subscription to Napster or Rhapsody. I do all this stuff already!

I'm trying to put stuff together. Well Pandora happened. With streaming services prior you either had no know what you looking for, listen to a premade playlist or a theme station. The Music Genome Project which is basically the thing that makes Pandora work allows for automated music suggestions.

Facebook blew up and it let you share with friends in ways you couldn't. Yaaaay.

And it's free.  Which kills me because Napster tried limited free music in 2006! Anyway...

Until Spotify people had stopped paying attention to streaming. iTunes was king, and while there might have been a few pricing dust ups it worked more or less like a traditional music store so people understood it.

I don't think people understand streaming the same way.

Basically me in college, would pay about 10-15 bucks a month in return for that I would have access to basically a entire  very well cataloged music store.  As long as I payed I could listen to any song they had in stock when I wanted to.

The manager of the store would take notes to what I was listening to and then rather paying artists and labels based on what I buy would pay them based on what I listened to. Since I had to keep coming back to the store in the long term the manager makes more money than if I just bought what I wanted and left, I don't have to pay thousands of dollars at a time for my dream music collection, and artists who I like get paid more than usual because I tend to keep listening to my favorite songs. Seriously I have "Invaders Must Die" burned in my brain.

Now there are variations between all the services for instance Pandora and Spotify, both use ads in conjunction with tiered payment plans, but this is the gist.

Let me put it this way.  I started with these services in 2006  depending on circumstance I can say I spent about $10 a month on them.  That's $120 a year. Your typical iTunes guy spends $40 a year. Unless there is a mystical magical music boom you will make more money off of a streaming subscription customer than a itunes customer.

But the question is do the artists see that.


First of let me make this clear. The music industry has always and will always screw the artist. Unless you actually play and are not Lars Ulrich I do not believe any starving artist arguments coming from you.

Let me back away from that crass statement a little. Artists should be compensated for their work, but in the music industry actually delivering their music to the consumer takes multiple people and mechanisms. How much an artists ultimately takes away from their music should be based upon

  • The quality and success of the work i.e. How many people listen to it and how often
  • How much economic infrastructure it took to get that content to its audience i.e. distribution and promotion

Digital distribution dramatically increases both. I honestly believe that at the end of the day everybody. Labels, and artists will not only benefit from but will monetarily profit from these sorts of business models far more than they could from traditional album sales and that they create the type of musical culture and community that is engaged enough to put more money into things like live performances where a good chunk of the money comes from anyway.

Let me put it like this. This kind of bullshit  is wrong.  Not getting paid for a massive hit song that endures for decades.

Deciding not to put your record in a store because the store owner wants to keep some of the profit isn't wrong but it is insane. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The American Revelation

I just sat down and watched the Sleepy Hollow pilot and, I'm intrigued. The show has its problems. The Moulder/Scully dichotomy they're trying to set up with Ichabod and Abbie wears a little thin after a while and the accents can be a little grating, but I like the feel of the show. When it's good the camera work and effects can be really creepy.

There is however one thing that they're doing that annoys the crap out of me. That said it makes me question a show where I let it pass.

Revelation in America.

Okay so the headless horseman is set up to be the horseman of death. I like the idea, but he's literally a redcoat.  This is the point where I should give my usual disclaimer about religious prophesy and how I really don't care one way or the other about the end times other than as a kind of intriguing narrative setting. Which is a clear cut way of keeping myself from asking or answering the question of how much stock I really put in the Bible. For better or worse I don't feel like answering that one until I'm facing St. Peter himself.

Anyway, the apocalypse is a big deal and it seems sort of presumptuous to figure the trumpets will sound and the last battle will be fought in 'Merica... by a guy literally out of Washington's Army.

It makes me think because I let it pass in Supernatural, probably my favorite show post High School... short of The Wire.  Why did I let it pass there?

For starters an integral part of the show is its Americana. Heck a primary set piece is the "Roadhouse". The "home" of our protagonists is a '67 Impala. I'd beat money that Dean, one of said protagonists, is named after James Dean.

My point is the show breaths American culture and iconography and did so from the beginning, a good chunk of the first season updating American urban legends, including the curse of "Bloody Mary" and "The Hookman"
By the way the clip is referring to the curse of "Little Bastard" James Dean's car.

Without that Americana Supernatural just wouldn't be Supernatural.

The religious iconography didn't start showing up until the tail-end of Season 2. Before that the show's formula mostly entailed heading to an interesting American local, including Michigan for "Hookman",  and watching Dean, who pre-character development was the ideal male of that American culture kick the ass of one of America's legendary villains.

As hard as it might be for some to admit American culture is filled with religious iconography and tall tales. If you want to spice up one of our ghost stories add in a demon possession or a deal with the devil.

The Revelation shtick felt like a natural progression of that and felt justified. Heck one of the main episodes where it got heated up involved Robert Johnson's deal with the devil.

The characters were American and you can't tell an Americanized version of the Revelation without telling an Americanized version of the Revelation.

With Sleepy Hollow I just don't see the point in adding in the Revelation stuff. A headless ghost rider chopping off heads is enough to hold my attention.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 8, 2013 Southfield Board of Education Meeting

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

Topics of Discussion Include

  • The Upcoming Millage Election
  • The District's In Progress Strategic Plan
  • The District's Partnership with The Detroit Pistons

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October 7, 2013 Southfield City Council Meeting

City Council meeting held in Southfield, Michigan on October 7, 2013

Topics of Discussion Include

  • A Land Development That Was Being Fast Tracked Through The County That Several Members of Council And Administration Believed Would Negatively Impact The City.
  • A Smoking Bar Ordinance
  • A Change In The Zoning Ordinance That Would Limit Administrative Reviews
  • A Grant That Would Allow The Police Department to Purchase a Mobile Surveillance System

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

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