Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Friday, February 28, 2014

Southfield Police Citizen Observer Bulletin February 17-23, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Southfield Regular City Council Meeting February 24, 2014

Regular Meeting of the Southfield City Council Held on February 24, 2014

Topics Discussed Include

  • Recognition For Marcus Glen, A Local Artist Chosen to Create the Official Artwork for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards
  • Information For the Benefit of People Going Through Housing Foreclosure
  • DIA Inside/Out Exhibit

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Internet Film Class

So an article on io9 theorizes that fanboys are over in determining cinematic success. It's an idea that interests me for a number of reasons, yet I kind of disagree with where the article goes so let's discuss.

While the premise is interesting I disagree largely with how the article considers fanboys. Okay let me explain. In the article fanboys are the media intelligentsia, they people who care enough about genre films to review and discuss them and states that the tone of those discussions at the dawn of the 21st century was used by Hollywood as a barometer for the potential success of a project once it hit the mainstream, both in terms of immediate returns and pop-culture legacy.

And I kind of disagree with that statement which is the backbone of the article's later argument.

See for the past five years or so we've seen an increase in genre films. Later on the article cites examples( I will get to them in a bit) to prove that the success or failure of those genre films as of late is independent of fanboy reaction.

My view is that's not really true since the entire reason why those films are getting made is to cater to said fanboys.

Okay let's go back. My main beef if the view of these fanboys as the pop culture intelligentsia. In a way they are but not as you would normally expect.

Whenever any type of media reaches maturity, or the point where it has enough of a structure to be studied a distinction is made between the works that have enough meat for that task and those that don't, or the distinction between popular culture and classical culture.

Once that happens another problem arises, the dichotomy between the two.

Sure if you went to conservatory you were being taught.

But we all know a lot of the kids in the 50's were listening and practicing this.

And nobody in their right mind is going to say Chuck Berry and his impact on American and British music isn't worth being studied. Heck if you want go a little deeper there was a time when this didn't make the cut.

Yeah see way way back when opera was the pop music of its day now and trying to have that conversation with Mom always brings up the His Master's Voice look, though even that has its problems. And don't get me started on Broadway.

The problem with the "classical media" is who get's to join the club. For a long time genre film and literature not unlike rock and roll were considered ephemera.

See what determined "the cannon" was academic discussion leading to the drifting of popular personal tastes and academic ones.

Access was on of the primary reasons for this drift. Before the age of Netflix or even cable how many people would have been able to see The Bicycle Thieves without being in a film class.

And do you know how hard getting your hands on a hard copy of The Goddess is to this day. One of the criteria of both popular and classical schools is how much a film leaves you talking, but because of the structure of academia the pool of those films is larger for the classical school than the popular one that's somewhat the entire purpose of having a library or a museum. To preserve culture for academic consumption and discussion. But someone must act as curator.

But what happened is the advent of the internet changed that dynamic. From the acedimic perspective it's easier to find a lot of "The Cannon". Seriously go watch Bicycle Thieves on Netflix. Stop reading this and do it. I'll wait.

Back. Good.

But for the purpose of this essay I'll say the internet made everyone a curator. The ease of communication of the internet made conversations that would normally only happen in a film school possible on a forum, but any discussion of media is going to require common reference points which is one of the reasons for, "The Cannon" in the first place. A lot of film classes I took were structured so. Tuesday watch film, Thursday, discuss film, with exams, projects, essays and reading done in between.

Having a common piece to talk about while discussing mechanics was the point, same as when lit professors assign their reading lists. But that's not how things work on the internet.

On the internet the way it works is you find a movie you like enough to talk about and find people willing to do the same. All of a sudden instead of academically discussing Citizen Kane we were gabbing about what made Raiders of the Lost Ark good.

For another metaphor it's the difference between the discussion in class and the discussion in the dorm rooms. One of the big sticking points is that kids running the candy shop were a lot more willing to discuss genre films academically than their professors.

Again needed to facilitate an academic discussion is common reference pool, the old way of insuring that reference pool was to curate and preserve a cannon of film reserved for academic discussion but now people were using, "popular" media to facilitate it instead.

And genre films have always had a hard time cracking that case. People forget this but it was a damn near miracle that Lucas finished Star Wars let alone made it a success. Heck even the cast and crew thought it would never work, including Alec (Obi-Wan) Guinness. Of course it didn't help that he was filming in a desert.

The biggest point I want to make is that we're in a weird state in critism where the dynamic between pop culture, classical culture and media critism is changing.

And all of that is stuff I made up on the spot, the thing that got me up a three in the morning were the examples used for the articles later point that the fanboys were no longer running the show.  First it uses rise and fall of The Matrix, Battlestar Galactica, and Lost to point to the influence of critics. The problem I have with that is particularly the first two a good chunk of those still hold up. Most of the people I discuss The Matrix with for example generally agree that while the second two films aren't as good as the first, the original is still a classic of science-fiction. The same could be said about Battlestar's miniseries. On their own those two can be and are still are satisfactorily studied.

Lost is a bit more complicated since it failed its purpose of making it all come together, which was the reason most people were watching. But those other two had a lot more going for them especially in their early installments.

But then again all of that doesn't matter in the larger argument. What does though is flash controversy and the postulate that flash controversies that in the past greatly influenced the direction of projects is being ignored. I would say that those flash controversies are the least influential thing about modern internet movie culture.

The big picture is that due to that culture we are now in a place where we can have a serious film discussion about how a studio managed to make the movie fans have been waiting 70 years for when for almost the entirety of that duration conventional wisdom said the industry would mad to pump money into it because it wouldn't be taken seriously, and most of the actors would stay the hell away from it in fear it would hurt their careers.

Or to put it another way.

This the Cap I got and my Dad wanted since childhood.

But this is the one he had to put up with.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Favorite Firsties

So I mentioned that The Mask of Zorro was probably my favorite movie between when my parents dictated and influenced just about everything I watched, but before I had my own sense of taste and movie preference.

That idea intrigues me because to this day a lot of those movies are my favorites mainly because now I'm old enough to pick them a part and see what makes them tick.  But more over those first movies set up my aesthetic. In a weird way they are responsible for introducing me to the themes, and tropes I would get a kick out of for the rest of my life. Let's go.

The Craft

Okay you're never going to catch me saying The Craft is an actually good movie. But I was a social misfit and dug the hell out of it's themes of social isolation. Furthermore it along with the next movie were my introduction to Horror. That having been said the plot will probably seem familiar. After her mother dies Sarah Bailey and her dad move to a new town. There she meets 3 other girls and they sort of become friends. The thing that draws them together is they all practice magic, and since there are now four of them all of there magic is stronger than usual. The problem is that the power goes to their heads, with all of Sarah's friends slowly getting crazier and crazier.

You know what? It it's Chronicle but worse and with girls instead of guys and witchraft instead of superpowers. Hmm maybe that's why I dug Chronicle so much.

Not unlike our antagonist from that movie most of the girls have in someway or another been mistreated by the school leading the the movie to slowly blurr the lines between  "good fun", "reasonable payback", "okay that's kind of creepy", "and oh shit, oh shit!.

By the way nobody plays crazy like Fairuza Balk.

The Faculty

Who doesn't love the Breakfast Club?

It's the story of how all these high school stereotypes aren't that different after all.  I actually really like that movie but I also think it really did underplay what made all of these kids different. It's not just that their parents are screwing them up, but they all have different problems and priorities in their lives.

I like to think of the Falculty as a messed up yet "more realistic"  Breakfast Club at least in terms of characters.  You have the nerd who actually get's his ass kicked, the beauty queen who wears the mantal of bitch proudly, the jock who is actually kind of pissed off that nobody expects anything from him but his arm, the burn out who's actually kind of smart but doesn't give two shits about school and the headcase that lies about her sexuality to keep guys from hitting on her. What brings them together isn't detention but an alien invasion that proves that all of them are human after all.

But I saw this movie before I saw the Breakfast Club so none of that maters, what matters is that Casey, the nerd seemed like at the time the most realistic nerd I'd seen in a movie. And considering I identified with nerds that made him one of the coolest characters I'd ever seen. It doesn't hurt that he's the last man standing in our body snatchers plot, or that he's played by young Frodo Baggins.

Brokedown Palace

Okay I have very complicated feelings about this movie it being the first movie I ever saw that actually involved the law. Like the craft I'm not going to call this a good movie, but it's interesting and has some twists, mainly that it's the "good girl" character's nievity that causes a lot of the films problems but because of her reputation as a "good girl" she get's more or less off while her friend rots in a Thai jail.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

I have the sense of humor of a 8-year old. That's how the movie got me. I've never been much a fan for Bond movies, not even the Daniel Craig ones so I had and still do have little clue of the Roger Moore and Sean Connery mannerisms these guys are spoofing but the movie does have good comedy.

Problem Child 

I am an evil evil man. I try to hide it, but damn it my sense of humor is kind of black.  And I aint talking about Katt Williams. And you know this is one of those times where I absolutley hated the kid show that was based on the show. The entire point of the two good movies is that Junior even at 8 is kind of an asshole bordering on sociopathy. That's where all the jokes come from. Making him a good guy, or at least any more of one as is in the second one where he actually did mellow a little just makes no sense. I mean the title is Problem Child.

But anyway I love dark humor, and this is probably the first black comedy I ever saw.  The plot is that John Ritter's  Little Ben Healey and his wife (oddly enough played by Ritter's real wife who is kind of evil in this) are having trouble conceiving and decide to adopt the adoption agent sees him as a mope which he kind of is and pawns the orphanage's worst kid on him.

The rest of the movie is about Healey trying to reach this kid by doing typical father son stuff only to get goose eggs until the third act which involves the kid's idol, a serial killer.

The interesting thing is that almost all of the kid's antics are some form of disproportionate retribution as most of other characters except Jon Ritter's are in someway just as bad. And his slight turn around is realizing that Little Ben is kind of a decent guy and therefore should have some immunity. Though everyone else is still fair game.

Drop Dead Gorgeous

Keeping with dark comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous. Do you absolutely hate beauty pageants. Then this might be the movie for you. All the girls in town are trying their darnedest to win the thing and one is taking things a bit further by killing all the competition. But where other movies might want to play the murder mystery quasi-straight, the joke of this show is that everyone continues as if it's business as usual as the contestants start dropping valuing the crown more so than each other's and by the end of it their own lives.

Scary Movie

People forget this but at the time the original scary movie was pretty well received, largely because with a few exceptions it was parodying a specific genre, teen slashers and two movies in particular Scream and I know What You Did Last Summer and it had pretty good visual gags.  Heck if you break it down you could almost call it a remake but more obviously trying to be funny. A lot of people consider the first 2 Screams to be parodies and I can see that. They both viciously deconstructed the 80's slasher movie in a way that later allowed it to be reconstructed in the 90's but it's also kind of subtle except with Randy. Oh Randy.

Apart from him, rather than a parody it played out more like a self aware straight movie. Scary Movie on the other hand, puts the laughs above the screams.

Men In Black

Okay Men in Black has been talked a lot about mostly in criticism of its latest installment but most people agree the first one was a near classic. The big beef is that as these movies go on a character dynamic between the two leads that no longer works. In both movies it now makes sense for J to know more about what's going on than K thereby disrupting their whole relationship.

But in the first movie it works and Tommy Lee Jones playing a caricature of his other notable roles, most obviously Gerard from The Fugitive despite all the crazy around him was legitimately funny.

Also on re-watches it does become clear that the movie does have something important to say. It's using the Ugly Americans metaphor 10 years before Ugly Americans would exist, using extraterrestrial aliens as a pastiche for the experiences of real aliens.


What if instead of hunting Ghosts, Spengler and company hunted aliens? That's pretty much this movie it has the same tempo and energy as Ghostbusters but since it came out after I was born I saw it first. Not unlike it's spiritual predecessor what makes it really is the dialogue as well as a meta joke. David "Aliens are out there" Duchovny is is pretty much playing a more cynical and snarky yet more energetic version of his last big role.


Ron and Randal were right about monkeys. Chances if you have a friend who can't stand the little buggers they saw this movie growing up. It's the nightmare scenario. A world wide plague. Well we had a nice run.

Battlefield Earth

You know what for all it's flaws this was probably the first "serious" science-fiction film I saw. And I loved the hell out of it. Sure now I can say naming your main character "Goodboy" is kind of stupid and that dutch angles are distracting. But back then my 13-year-old brain was like evil alien overlords, lost technology, fighter jets, human rebellions to retake the planet. OHMAGODZTHISISSOAWESOOOOOOME!!!!!

I know I'm not going to convince anybody that it's a good movie. I've been trying for years and will admit I've lost on that count, but damn if there ain't a good movie in there somewhere. You hear me remake it but good, rat-brains in Hollywood.

You know as I keep thinking about this movie it's harder and harder to see why it failed. It's ideas ain't half bad, and you have a damn near all star cast. It was the direction.

And yes I did read the book. You know maybe I should convert to- NO! NO! NO!
For whatever reason around 9th Grade I started becoming interested in what makes a good movie and started seeking out "good movies". Recommendations from movie websites as well as movies that kept being replayed in my classes(non-film classes mind you) because there was enough stuff there to talk about.   And I think I'll start talking about those next time.

Southfield Police Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin February 10-16, 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Movie Review: The Legend of Zorro

You know The Mask of Zorro is probably my favorite old movie. I don't mean old as in actually old. I mean old as in one of the first movies I saw that I recognized as a movie, something I saw right between that sweet spot, after my entertainment choices were dictated by my parents but before I had any sort of film knowledge or sense of aesthetic besides, hey this looks kind of cool or that was sort of funny, before I had any idea of the mechanics of film or narrative.

And you know what? It holds up. The action was great, Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones had real chemistry, and the writing was pretty tight, both in terms of narrative and dialogue. It delivered! Wooed damsels, sword duels, horse tricks, vows of revenge against autocratic villians, and a hero for the people. It seems like a movie from another age. People say Pirates of the Caribbean brought back the swashbuckler. I say nay. It was Zorro five years prior. The Pirates movies, even the one I really like have a lot of flaws but as far as the genre goes The Mask of Zorro is as close as I can get to a damned perfect movie.

So as you can imagine I have much beef with it's shitty shitty sequel that seems to have missed the point of Zorro.

By the way that trailer. LIES! FILTHY HOLYWOOD LIES!

The main problem with the film is well it lacks the spirit of the first one, which was by all measures fun. It was a fun movie. And part of the problem is Zorro. In the first one the guy was digging the hell out of the gig. Kicking bad guy ass with a rapier, $200, Wooing the daughter of both your mentor and your enemy( it's complicated), $500, Being goddamned Zorro. Priceless.

But this Zorro just seems joyless. Same actor by the way. But the character seems different. Off. That's part of the point of the movie. We're watching "How Zorro Got His Grove Back", but you know I don't want to watch that movie. A lot of the jokes as well as the larger themes of the movie are about that, an aging Zorro dealing with the fact that he's not the invincible beast he was in Mask. But here is the rub Mask and by extension this movie sold us a Zorro who was an escapist fantasy. Women wanted him and men wanted to be him.

I don't want to be this guy, this miserable shell of a man.

And it's not just him. His beau, the steamy couple who flirted their way across the first movie are on the rocks.  I want to watch their spat why? Want to watch a Zorro who spends half of the movie sulking and drunk why?

I wouldn't mind if if the movie actually had something to say about age, human frailty, or the futility of the heroic ideal. Heck that seemed to be Don de La Vega's entire arc in the first one, the original Zorro trying to regain his honor vicariously through his pupil after being found out, imprisoned and made impotent.

But here. Eh I'm sorry but Zorro as a depressed, jealous cuckold just doesn't work.

All of the energy of Zorro has been transferred to his son Joaquin. But even that's sort of frustrating. Even though Zorro was a light hearted hero his antics had dramatic context. The movie starting with a vow of vengeance for his murdered brother, and an expansion of those motives when he realizes the villains aren't just pulling that sort of crap with his family and that the stakes are much bigger.

Without that context  Joaquin just seems like a spoiled brat too stupid to realize what heroism actually looks like, picking fights and making an ass out of himself just because he think's it's cool. He's introduced by caning his teacher and jumping down a flagpole.

 I'd be lying if I didn't say the choreography and cinematography just don't compare. In the first movie almost every other scene left you wondering how the hell they pulled that off. Flips, horse tricks, sword fights, dance, the whole shebang .

Legend is nowhere near ambitious, and it shows.  The movie wants to get by on drama but it's script is no where up to it. The only thing it has going for it is the dramatic irony of Joaquin's father's identity, and that get's old quick. We get it  Zorro is ticked of that his kid is acting like an idiot in an attempt to emulate him, and he can't really tell him to cut that shit out.

A problem I have with the movie is it relies on narrative pet peeve of mine.  Guilt by association. In the first one the villain's wily scheme to use SPANISH  MEXICAN gold to buy California from SPAIN MEXICO and become the overlord of the west was despicable all on it's own. I didn't need an excuse to hate that guy. Heck him kidnapping Zorro #1's daughter and raising her as his own was just icing on the evil cake by the end of it.  Not that this new guy is sympathetic but he's playing for the American confederacy. Associating your bad guy with the Nazi's or the 19th century equivalent for no other reason than to prove how evil they are always seems lazy to me.

Heck that could be considered a problem with the film's entire aesthetic. Yes while Mask is set in pre post-independence Mexico. That setting was used to provide context to a plot and characters. Here though the movie uses every icon of antebellum America to place you in a time, but it causes distractions as you realize how historically impossible this timeline must be (Mexican Independence from Spain: 1821, California Statehood: 1850,  Attack on Fort Sumter: 1861, Nitroglycerin Invented: 1863), and draws into focus how little is transpiring as well how uninteresting these characters actually are.

That other movie I keep bringing it up. It had arcs. Characters partook in journeys that changed their identities. I don't just mean that for Alejandro, the protagonist who went from a simple bandit, to well ...a less simple bandit, to Don de La Vega. His mentor, his love interest, heck even the villains went through some sort of transformation after the movie's crucible revealed information about each character's essence that went unknown even to them before it's events. Or to put another way eh em. STUFF HAPPENED. And more importantly, STUFF MATTERED.  All this movie has is a late game twist that at the end of the day doesn't mean much and makes what little drama there actually was earlier in the movie absolutely meaningless.

That said the last 15 minutes are actually alright. They don't mean anything but the fights are better, and there is a giant explosion. But you know what? The final explosion in the last one was literally and metaphorically bigger, ending on a crescendo, a grand conflict of all the characters motivations and ideals revealed over the course of the entire movie, where we see after all that character development what they are really made of.  And it's on Hulu.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Start A Revolution AKA It's Time to Stop Singing and Start Swinging

Okay so about a week ago the Millennial Mayors Congress, met with the civic leadership of my hometown Southfield, Michigan, in an attempt to discuss how to get more young people involved with local government. Literally being the youngest damn person in the room, or possibly a close second to Councilman Jeremy Moss depending on how you do the math (Rather than asking people's ages I try to get a rough idea based on when they graduated college. He graduated first but I think I took longer so it's wash.), I have some pretty strong feelings on the matter.

Social Justice

Okay this is one of the posts where my nice guy facade is going to have to take a backseat to the growing criticisms and slight depression I have about my life. So fuck me.

This issue is kind of personal for me. I feel like I not where I want to be at in life. Yeah a lot of that is my fault but almost nobody in my generation is where they want to be at in life. One of the not talked about most talked about social issues is the loss of lifetime wages due to the economic fall out. Even if my life were to be roses and sunshine tomorrow I seriously doubt when all is said and done I would be making as much money as say my parents did, neither in a starting position or over the course of my lifetime. And that is just the issue that most affects me personally.

What about the wars? When the Iraq War started me and most of my friends a lot of whom served were in high school yet it and the subsequent wars lasted well into our adulthood.

What about the literal rather than metaphorical justice system? One of my worst fears is getting hauled  in for something I didn't do and not being in an economic position where I can hire a good enough lawyer to adequately defend myself. And I'm barely even touching race.

Sometimes it just feels like we are adrift in social and economic issues much larger than ourselves, with very little chance to sway those tides.

Well in my head I go why is that? Because of failed economic policies that all got us here.... As well as the fact that it takes a while to gain the social, political and economic capital to really gain the sort of self determination that would allow my generation to make real changes that affect our lives.

... Like landing appointed positions in companies and political organizations that give you the clout to have your ideas taken seriously rather than just being the intern or worse the kid.

The best person to speak for you is you. Since we live in a representative rather than direct democracy I'll allow that not every election is going to allow for that. There is not always going to be someone running who I can say represents me or my views, but we really should be doing better than we are when it comes to the appointed positions. The stats they pulled out were a bit shocking though since I haven't fact checked them I won't repeat them.

Why Aren't Young People More Interested

Well being one of the few young people who are interested in government part of me wanted to deny that claim but objectively, we have a problem.

Get of Your Ass Brother

What happened to us man. Three years ago seemed like a revolution. Dictators were toppled, banks were getting worried. The rage had a voice. Bodies were in the street. And the heads of the powerful had to take notice.

The dissent  was done fermenting and was a fine fine wine to be toasted to a new age. What the hell happened man? It couldn't be sustained? I try to keep sane but I'm always at a rolling boil!

Il nous faut de l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace. Damn it!

Protest, vote, run for office, disrupt, fight damn it! We are lions when we want to be!

Inside Baseball

Schools do a decent job at giving people a general idea of how government works but there is a lot of inside baseball. How many people know the difference between a bill and a resolution, or can name a standing committee of the House, specifically one that handles an issue you care about.

And that's the national stuff. What happens with the stuff schools can't teach? Local government. Curriculum is more and more managed by state and county.  Do you really want Beverly Hills' schools spending a week on the ends and outs of Clawson's City Council? No. So the best you get is very generalized stuff and there is enough difference so that the only real thing you can tell anybody is visit the Clerk's office and go to meetings.

The Generation Gap
Honestly I'll say it. There is a generation gap. My ideal life looks pretty different from my parents and it's difficult to have a political discussion when each side has vastly different goals. My ideal house, job, transportation, city, state and country, all look pretty different than what my parents' looks like and going back to what I said before it's really easy to get discouraged about that when you feel like you have less and less skin in that game. Who's going to listen to the 26-year-olds who don't yet have houses to pay property tax on, or own companies they can say create jobs yet. He's just the cat in the back room.

I Don't Want to Be That

You know there are times when I think I could be good at politics, where I think I have a head for the game. But then I turn on Fox or MSNBC and realize how much I hate it. No hate isn't the word. Loathe. No that's not it. Despise in the absolute. Yeah that works. Despise in the absolute. In my mind the way it works is getting as many smart people in a room as you can, a lot of whom  probably will disagree with each other but at the end of the day respect each other and the process enough to hash it all out in a way that's never personal. Where you punch the idea but not the person because at the end of the day somebody voted for the other guy, giving them just as much a right to be heard as you.

Right here, right now is not that age. I doubt we'll ever have another national Presidential candidate who will say "My opponent is alright guy who I just so happen to disagree with about some pretty important stuff". 

This is the dialogue about a relatively well received video game.

Short aside. Mass Effect is on my list, right along with the Bioshock trilogy. I should probably grab it since it's only about $15 these days. Okay back to your regularly scheduled programming.

What happens when we have to talk about real issues; public education, tax reform, infrastructure investment, privacy, net neutrality, drones, drug policy, free trade agreements, foreign relations, human rights, income inequality, immigration reform, digital first amendment rights, monetary policy, energy and environmental policy, entitlement reform, urban policy, and the goddamned penny?

Sorry they think all you want to do bang bang bang and take their money so that won't get resolved this election cycle.

Are we all just going to go to our corners screaming at each other across networks while nothing actually gets done and act like we actually accomplished something? That might be the world I live in but I don't have to be that. Nope I'll just write what I can and let people take it or leave it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Superman vs Lex: Ethics vs Achievement

The sad sad truth is that I'm broke. What this means is that I'm normally 1-3 years behind most of the media I like. I don't watch movies until they make it to Netflix or at least HBO. This is to say that I've almost never watched the latest I'm doomed to be Butters to all the Cartmans of the world. It also means that I almost never truly go in blind, especially for the really big ones.

I haven't seen Man of Steel. I'm going to eventually but as of right now I haven't, but a lot of people who I respect have issues with that movie. As a thought experiment, I keep coming to how would I construct a modern Superman movie. So let's do this.

What is the Point of Superman
In a nutshell Superman represents humanity's ability to be the best version of itself. That's why I liked him as a kid. That's why I like him now. He's a guy who has almost unlimited potential and is actually living up to it. At least with Superman classic I can't imagine a dude with his powers being any more of stand up guy or "doing more", and seeing that sort of makes you want to just try a little harder.  What's even more important is that he made that choice. He could literally do any damn near thing he wanted to because, he's Superman. He could declare himself the heir to Lenin and rule all of Russia with an iron fist, Who would stop him?

For all it's failures I think that Flashpoint at least the animation got that. Seeing a Superman who never got the chance to be Superman is kind of crushing.

He is the symbol all the stuff I just said, choosing to be the absolute best version of yourself, and being deprived that is just low.  I mean there is a reason why ascendance to the sun is kind of his thing.

The best versions of superman are all about that but never in a pretentious way. Superman himself is just a manifestation, a big honking example of this larger ideal.

Achievement vs Ethics
As much as I hate to admit it not counting Darkseid the best possible foil for this is Lex Luther. Both him and Superman are about being the best versions of themselves but it means different things to each of these guys. To The Big Blue Boy Scout it's all about ethics and morality. Using your natural abilities to be the most good version of you and well Sups is kind the the most iconic American big good character out there.

All of his power is just the thing that let's him be so good. Even without the super strength Clark Kent would still be trying to be a good guy, but that Kryptonian DNA let's him take it to a whole other level that makes the people around him turn their heads.

And in a way Lex does the same thing. For him being the best version of himself is all about achievement. Doing awesome macbadass stuff just because you can. While Superman has the physical strength do do just about anything he wants, Lex has the money and brains to do the same. And what they both want is to be the best. For Superman that means using those natural resources for the public good and to Lex it means using them go further than any man has before.  He's kind of an ubermench, literally believing himself to be beyond good and evil. It's Utilitarianism vs. Nietzscheism. Oh god this will get  pretentious.

Okay okay. Superman believes that it his duty to use his natural gifts for the betterment of mankind as defined as helping as many people as possible. Lex believes it's his duty to use his natural gifts to attain maximum achievement regardless of all other factors including, the law and conventional morality.

This could lead to a great scene where Lex is about to do something absolutely awesome but the Big Blue Boy Scout is forced to stop him because of how many people he would trample along the way. This is the guy who would build a space elevator with slave labor.

I'm a little fuzzy on Metallo but he seems like the exact sort of thing to bring this on. Lex would all excited because transhumanism, through ingenuity, persistance and intellect breaking the biological limits of humanity And Sups would just be horrified at all the non-consenting test subjects he used to get there. And Metallo would be so messed up he's pissed at everybody. He's on a rampage to destroy everything he can get his hands on. It starts small. Maybe just the lab. Lex covers it all hush hush like. I smell a Daily Planet story. Heck you can make it so that Clark joins the team because he knows that Perry, Lois and Jimmy, would be the guys who've been most closely keeping track of Lex's more "experimental" projects.

But before the story breaks Metallo starts getting ideas.  Why not put a plan into motion to destroy all of Metropolis.  The gleaming city of the future that made him a monster.  The city that Lex built. Yes. At first Superman goes toe to toe with him and the cyborg barely escapes. He decides he's going to need an edge since the only one who could stop him is Superman, he upgrades his nuclear heart to the one substance that could beat The Man of Steal.

I can see it now. Then out of no where Lex uses his hardware to up the ante since this robot will destroy everything he built. The Man of Tomorrow is reluctant to accept his help knowing that he started this mess. For what it's worth Lex is glib trying to prove his superiority by talking the two men to the breaking point. Then Lex goes all out and kills Metallo without a thought, further cementing their rivalry. Credits.

Lex is still the king of everything and only a few folks in town are in position to resist. Superman is the fly in his ointment swearing to keep him in check

Southfield Board of Education Meeting February 11, 2014

Southfield Board of Education Meeting Held February 11, 2014

Topics Include

  • Superintendent Wanda Cook Robinson Moving on From Her Position
  • Text Book Purchases and Digital Integration In The Classroom
  • Read Across America
  • New Band Uniforms
  • Current Southfield High Student Malaya Watson's Appearance on American Idol

An agenda and related documents can be found at here.

Southfield's Redevelopment Readiness

On February 10, 2014, The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, presented Southfield City Council it's findings regarding the city's redevelopment readiness.

Note: The PDF presentation, used at the meeting, and subsusequently this one was slightly out of date. Corrections were made verbally at the meeting.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

February 10, 2014 Southfield City Council Meeting

City Council Meeting Held In Southfield Michigan on February 10, 2014

Topics Discussed Include

  • Promoting Fred Zorn from Deputy City Administrator to Acting City Administrator
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964 Compliance
  • Proposed Outdoor Industrial Art at the Intersection of 8-Mile and Telegraph Road, an Entrance to the City's Technology Corridor
  • The potholes between 9-Mile and 8-Mile Road along Greenfield Road and the Possibility of Closing the Road
  • Redevelopment Ready Evaluation
  • A Partnership With The Millennial Mayors Congress and a Discussion on Getting Young People More Involved with Government

An agenda and related documents can be found at here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Paperless Classroom

So for a couple of reasons I been spending time thinking about the paperless classroom, a classroom where assignments, grades, reading and so forth are delivered using digital services rather than well paper. What intrigues me more and more as I think about it is that the technology exists to do a lot of this stuff. Right now if a teacher wanted to they could make a lesson plan public via Google calendar or update a students grades via a shared spreadsheet. Being the technophile I am I really dig the idea so I've been rapping my head around how I would implement it. I'm not an expert in this stuff but using the public tools I have at my disposal how would I set up a digital classroom. I'm not talking about setting up a private server network or anything,  just what I could use with the tools I have on the cheap.

Before I get into how I would do it though there are a lot of barriers for entry as to why this stuff isn't more implemented as it is.

The Digital Divide
In order to make it fair,  you have to create a classroom in which every kid can participate and the sad truth is not every kid has a computer let alone a mobile device. Even if they did I just created another barrier to learning. Not only would the kids have to understand the material being taught but also all the digital crap.

Names and ID
Even if you tell the kids not to they will name themselves something stupid in the creation of the services I'm going to talk about. Normally it's not an issue but but when trying to create consistent spreadsheets and contact lists not being able to easily connect a username with an actual name might be a problem.

That said I also don't like the idea of just creating a bunch of accounts for the kids. That would be a security nightmare and I don't like the idea a teacher having the students email passwords. If I had more know how I suppose I could create a IFTTT rule to automatically put files into folders with student's real names but that is a little beyond me at least without some more research.

Privacy and Security
So if you're going to integrate social networking and cloud sharing into the classroom privacy becomes a big deal. I have very low privacy standards FOR MYSELF when it comes to these types of services because I just figure that's the deal. It's always a trade off for convenience and security. The most secure room in the world would have no door but then that defeats the point. I have a higher standard for kids, and I'm not a security expert so all I'll say is take it into account.

Distraction Action
Seriously if every kid had a device/computer in class there is no way they wouldn't go onto Facebook or do some other stupid thing. I guess you could put spyware on the computer but there are a thousand ways that could get really stupid,  and I object to it as a rule.

At the end of the day my philosophy has been a if you slack off you get what you get. The kids know the stakes and can act accordingly, but then that causes problems down the line as well. There is a world of difference between 12-year-olds and 14-year-olds.

Following Rules
This whole thing relies on systems. Which means directions would need to be followed to the letter and kids hate following directions.

The Pregame Show
So before class proper started there are some things I would like to do.

Technology Inventory and Letter to Parents
So the first thing I would do is send a letter explaining all of this stuff to parents along with a technology survey asking

  • Did the student have access to a traditional desktop or laptop computer?
  • Did the student have access to a smartphone or tablet?
  • Did the student have a device that could interface with a television
  • How comfortable is the parent with computers?
  • How comfortable is the student with computers
  • Did the student and/or parents have any existing email addresses or social media services
  • Did the student use any of the following services: Amazon Student, Google Account, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook,Twitter,

The results of the survey would determine how far I went with it. As a point of fact if I were an administrator I would factor technology level into how I grouped students into classes.

The School Allowance Idea
In Gregland (the fictional country that I rule in my head. Bow before your king and master.) a portion of educational dollars would be granted to each student as sort of a grant (well ain't that redundant) that would allow them to buy supplies including digital supplies as needed but that brings its own headaches. Young kids who barely know arithmetic are not going to budget that money well, and I've seen enough crappy parents to know someone down the line is going to find a way to steal the money for themselves.

Still I really like the idea of having a class amazon wishlist and giving the kids each a gift card on say a bi-semester basis to just buy what they needed. Every kid gets the right books, every kid gets standardized supplies, yet it's flexible enough so If they got what they needed elsewhere they can spend it on something else on the list. If  I still have paper from last semester I can buy extra pens.

Furthermore it would allow choice in format. Let's say you have some kids that really dig the idea of getting the book Kindle and others who aren't so hot on the idea.

Most of the schools around me don't have the money to just pull that and it would require really trusting the kids and the parents to budget the money out properly, but it would allow the school to guarantee each student had the right supplies which helps in the digital divide.

Guide Letter
Between the survey and the allowance the school could be reasonably certain about each student's access to technology. From there I would move on to sending out a letter explaining to the parents and the students which services (mostly free) they needed to set up an account on and naming formats, as well links to a blog/website explaining further and teacher/administrator contact info. Maybe I would send out all of this stuff with the usual schedules and letters.

The Block
When I was in middle school the teachers did something really creative and in retrospect I think it was ingenious. On the first day they set up class groups so that all the students in the group had the same classes with the exception electives. This allowed for a sort of collaborative effect with the teachers in that block. They all new the students, their other classes, and their other teachers and could plan around each other. They knew if the science teacher was planning a test on Wednesday or if the English teacher had group presentations.

I bring this up because it allowed all of the teachers in the block to have sort of a singular group orientation for each block, where they introduced themselves to the students, explained rules, and gave out basic materials for the semester. I'm thinking that setting up the technology could be part of that group orientation.

All the teachers could just take a day to deal with all of the house keeping, then take the kids down to the school computer lab in shifts.

Shared Calendar 
Each class could have a shared Google calendar. I know of a lot of schools that use online calendars, but I think a goggle calendar is the best way to go because it could easily be exported to what ever other apps the students were using. Further more each class could make more than one coordinate colors for, tests, quizzes, lessons, readings, homework given, and homework due. It would also allow the teacher to make easy adjustments.

Shared Class Folder
Students loose stuff. A looooooot. Having a shared class folder would be a good way of making sure students had easy access to additional copies especially if they were absent. You could even organize it. Class assignments, reading materials, fliers, seating charts.

Also since things are being shared in a digital format the students and teacher could easily share links, which could aid in multimedia learning.

A real out there idea is to archive audio recording of class and put them in the folder, as well as power point presentations and what have you,

Assignment Drop Box
Look this is the way I turned stuff in in college and it was great. The teacher would set a specific time, let's say an hour before class. And the computer would let them know if people were late. It's that simple.

Shared Individual Drop Box
A teacher could share with students pdf's of their graded assignments as well as an updated grade spreadsheet.

Skype and Google Hangouts
Digital Office Hours. 'Nough said. Well not quite I also wanted to point out how useful email mailing lists could be and Google hangouts seems like the best place to do it. Beyond that hangouts and skype would also allow students to classes to video conference with people who might not have the time and money to visit the class themselves. Imagine for instant a biology class being able to talk to a researcher in the Amazon, or a Congressional aide.

Group Projects
Office software these days is made for collaboration. Comments and changes tracking is great.

Evernote ...Notes
The best thing about ever note is that the text almost automatically is readable on what ever device you're working on and the notebooks and tags allow smaller notes to come together in bigger ways. I could easily see a teacher making a shared class note book and tagging things based on topic, date, and chapter.

Again I mostly want to keep this to stuff I could get on the cheap, not crazy $1500 smart boards, but a cheap Xbox 360 would allow for basic internet access and YouTube on a TV, and if a school is really broke a $100 Roku box will also offer YouTube.

I also know of a lot of software solutions that would allow presentations to be sync. I'm running a really old version of office but I think 2010 might let you do it as an integrated feature.

The Front End
I figure a good idea would have a website with links to all of this stuff also explaining it. It doesn't necessarily have to have all this stuff in html or even be all that flashy, just a page where people with the right credentials could just click a button and get to all of it, the calender, the shared folders, links to all the services, instructions on how it all works.

Off To The Races

Okay so over the last few weeks or so the political races locally have really started to heat up. Mayor Brenda Lawrence has announced her candidacy against State Rep Rudy Hobbs, and State Senator Vincent Gregory for the 14th Michigan U.S. Congressional seat. Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land is making a good go of it for Levin's Senate seat against Representative Peters and Councilman Moss is campaigning for the 35th State House seat.

Interesting stuff. Interesting stuff and I have nothing other than that. August and November are going to be interesting. I really need to get off my butt.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Movie Review: Justice League War

Well it's not incompetent. It's not good but it's not as bad as some superhero adaptations out there.  If I had one over all beef it's just that after the close of the first act it's a giant fight scene. There are some villains where that wouldn't be a bad thing but Darkseid ain't one of them. Part of the reason why you drag Darkseid out is because he can unironically give showy menacing speeches, while gloating about some plan that relied on the hero's ...heroics. He's a villain who has the stage presence and frankly the arrogance to pull all of it off in a way that seems natural. And he gets maybe 8 lines. They had Steve Blum. They could have made that work.

Furthermore because it's all one giant fight scene it all seems way too easy.  Dude has strategic beachheads to launch his invasion of earth. Gaining the intelligence to pull that off proves that he must have been planning for a while and the JL beats in a single night. I don't buy it.

Because it's a giant fight scene all of the leaguers end up feeling the same, though all of the personalities of the JL are on display albeit slightly tweaked . The worse offender of all of this is Batman whose "World's Greatest Detective" traits and role as the league's strategy expert get undermined by the punching. In my head Superman, Captain Marvel , and Wonder Woman are tanks, Batman and Cyborg are DPS, while Green Lantern is the white mage.   More specifically a batman fight at least within the context of the Justice league is about Batman tricking his opponent into thinking it's a straight fight so he can pull an awesome trick out of his hat at the last second proving why even though he has no powers he can hang with the best of them.

I bring this is up is that after a while the worst thing that can happen happens. The fights and by extension the movie itself becomes boring. It's 90 minutes of watching everybody punch stuff really hard. In short bursts that's kind of entertaining but after awhile I start screaming in my head, "Bored now I could use a good old Darkseid speech. Something about desolation, torment, and futility would do nicely right about now."

I'll be honest I don't really like some of the changes in personality, there are times when Wonder Woman, seems a petulant child (ice cream),  and the feud between Bats and the Green Lantern seems unprofessional for a space cop/Air Force pilot and the member of the league with largest stick up his butt.

But that's more of a New 52 argument and I'm not familiar enough with the comics to really touch that. Mostly I just feel that there wasn't enough story, especially when contrasted to season two of Young Justice which has a similar plot and characters but is much denser.

There everybody and I mean everybody is given something interesting to do.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Stoner Semester

As a strictly political matter I'm pretty lenient when it comes to drugs, specifically mary jane. But there was one experience that made me want to put my foot up a dude's ass. The stoner semester.

Let's rewind, for, reasons... I transferred to Michigan State University, and stayed in the dorms. The first semester was a little rocky, because since I transferred I went in mildly blind and spent the first three weeks holed up with two roommates one of which was kind of an asshole, but I was a spoiled brat and ended with a sweet single after a while.

The way my dorm worked was that every two rooms would be connected by a shared toilet.  So while technically I was on my own I really wasn't. My first year my suitemate was the coolest RA ever. Seriously, this guy wound up in third place in the campus' battle of the bands.

And this is a good way to transition to talking about R.A.s. Resident advisers. At MSU I went through three, the cool one, the nerdy one, and the nice one. All three them were good but this story deals with the third, the nice one.

In my last semester of college my suitemate was a stoner. And I mean hardcore Half Baked stoner.

I pride myself on not being a narc, but damn I was hopping either this idiot would be smart enough to cut it out or would just get kicked out or arrested. It was hell having to deal with him.

By the way if you share a toilet think very carefully about getting so inebriated that you throw up and are in a state where you can't clean that shit up.

While I never admitted at the time because "not a narc" he would get blasted at two and three in the morning with his buddies. The guys didn't exactly keep it on the QT. Everybody in the hall knew what they were doing.

Never ever piss off nice guys. We want to be all chill, but there comes a time when we realize we can't, and when we get past that point Jesus H. Christ, the dichotomy. Again this R.A. was one of the nicest girls I ever met but man this guy pushed her to the breaking point.

So now I am not being kept up by his loud ass friends,  but arguments with her, and eventually...regular cop dog drug raids, when she decides to just call it in.  I am not making this up. Again this was the semester I had the "nice" R.A. but even she had to start going hardcore on him. At first she just started calling dorm meetings to reiterate the no drugs thing. That was the lowest key way should could deal with this, it wasn't just him, but he was the worst.

But now everybody in the dorm is ticked off because they have to sit through these things and are looking at me because I quasi-live with the guy. As she put it "I know the people who show up to these things aren't the ones I need to be talking to." I guess if I were a better man I could have tried, to "help" this guy but honestly I was just trying to ignore it and get though my last couple of months before graduation. I am a bad life coach.

I don't know what happened after that. I graduated in winter so I only dealt with a semester of that.

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