Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Friday, March 28, 2014

Anime Review: Blue Exorcist (Mild Supernatural Spoilers)




Well then.

I've always said that as excited as I am about new Toonami the thing that keeps me jumping on board is that there are other arguably better ways of watching anime these days than old television networks. I saw the first few episodes of Blue Exorcist on Toonami, liked them, and then binge watched the whole series on Crunchyroll.

And I like it. It's okay, but I feel that like a lot of shows it limited itself by sticking too closely to the conventions of shonen anime.

The show is about a typical high school student, who's a bit of a delinquient, who finds out he the spawn of satan. Satan possess his adoptive father who then commits suicide and Rin, swears to kick Satan's ass.

For me this show has a double edged sword. I love urban fantasy.  Tell me about a show with a masqurade, demons, fae, occult detectives and some sort organization...possibly religious vowing to keep everything in line and I'm there.

On the other hand it means I've seen, Hellboy, Angel, Supernatural, Grimm, Lost Girl, X-Files,  True Blood, Blood +, Wolf's Rain, Witch Hunter Robin,  Yu Yu HakushoKekkaishi, ClaymoreRin: Daughters of Mnemosyne, Hellsing Ultimate, Spawn, Fate Stay/Night, and a good chunk of Fate/Zero (I'm working my way through it).

I've tangoed with the demons. And that's the problem. You start to realize all of the influences of this show and it makes you want to watch them more, especially when you realize how it's shonenness nerfs a lot of stuff.

For instance the pilot feels like a mash up between Yuseke Urameshi, Hellboy and Sam Winchester's origins, but at the end of the day all of those stories seemed to make more internal sense and I liked them better.




Heck the episode redoes the makai insect scene from Hakusho's Saint Beasts arc.Oh and later they (rip off) homage the opening scene from Princess Mononoke. It takes some balls to redo the opening scene of Princess Mononoke! After a while all of the homages give the show a Frankenstein feel, that I might be willing to forgive but it bends over backwards to create a school environment status quo. Part of almost any spawn of demons arc is about them slowly realizing how little they fit into the world and coming to terms with that normally by leaving and burning the ships.

Even Hakusho, which in a lot of ways is this show done better had the good sense to leave all that behind once both the Dark and Demon World Tournaments started.

Sorry you don't get a normal life with the two story in suburbia, hell spawn.

When Sam whines about being the true vessel for Lucifer I get it. Most people FOR GOOD REASON feel he would be better off dead and aren't going to be just cool letting him walk around no matter how nice he is or how much they personally like him. Heck half the time he feels the same way.

Furthermore with that hanging over his head he never really knows how far he can trust anybody since at some point they've all thought of just putting a bullet into him and ending the pending doom. Sure there a few mustache twirlers in this show who go that route but otherwise other than first episode this guy has had it pretty sweet.

And that kind of annoys me. The end of the first episode sets up a walking the earth scenario. "Demons will be hunting you for all sorts of reasons." And the characters end up just sitting on their hands. Not to say they don't do anything but for most of the show none of the stuff is brought up in the first episode. The interesting premise goes to waste.

I will give them this though they did something great with old scratch himself, just as creepy but what he does has a weird twisted sort of logic that almost seems not as evil as you expect. It still causes most of our protagonists problems and is pretty evil, but it makes sense from the perspective of a being that does not comprehend normal human morality and has defined understandable goals.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Angry Black Man: Beyond Overcoming

Okay something has been needling me. Mainly me and my father have a race based division. Oh we're both Black. No shit Sherlock, but more and more I am becoming disinterested in the sort of the movies he likes.



I made mention of this in my Night Catches Us review, but I feel it's a big enough and interesting enough topic to deserve a post in it's own right.

I know how stupid it would be of me to say that racism doesn't exist. I'm know how stupid that claim is but we as a society are in a place where at least the idea of racism is morally reprehensible. We're in a place where even almost saying the N-Word is a bomb to a political campaign and advertisers will walk if it's uttered on television.

These are not the days of George Wallace.



While I will fight that battle if I have to I think as a society at this moment what's more important is asking ourselves the tough questions. What is racism. How have I benefited from institutionalized racism? And yes that all too hard one, am I racist.  As well as if any of those are true how do we fix it. Can we even?




When I was growing up there were a lot of people who would be disgusted by the idea of a teacher showing a film in class, thinking of it as a lazy cop out, but I don't. I have a fundamental belief in the power of narrative, the power of a story to convey abstract, but paramount ideas, to change not just our minds but the fabric of our souls.

And that power transcends the medium of the story.


Brief Aside: Cat's Don't Dance is a great, kid friendly, toe tapping allegory about discrimination in Hollywood.

But but just pointing at overt mustash twirling villainy, no matter how historically accurate we're able to distance ourselves from that and avoid asking those questions. We instinctively know that things have changed and need the context to connect that world to this one and analyze how the two relate.

How do the struggles of my parents relate to mine.

I've seen Men of Honor, Something the Lord Made, and The Tuskegee Airmen. Not to diminish what the people these films are based on did but most of them are the same movie. Don't get me wrong I like at least those three, but they are the same movie. They have the same characters and the same beats.

Despite my generation gap fist waving, I'm becoming a bit of an old goat, struggling to fight the growing cynicism of my heart.  I'm starting to believe that these movies are being released less and less as a tribute and remembrance of our past but more and more because there is an older audience justifiably so enamored with any film that would paint racism in a negative context that they'll see it no, love it regardless of it's qualities as a film.

These are people who had to endure those times when the idea of racism didn't exist in popular consciousness let alone the idea it was a bad thing.

But that's not me. I was born after the civil rights movement. My experiences, and mindset are different.  I can not change the color of my skin nor do I want to but the construct of my race has a different meaning to me than it did to those who marched with King.

Thus far in my life nobody has told me to my face I am a lesser man just because I'm a bit mocha. And because as a child nobody said that of me as a man I view the idea so ludicrous that deserves not even a thought let alone a fist even a metaphorical one. I am a free man born in a free country of laws due to the struggles of my parents, grand parents, and great-grandparents to be treated equally and fairly under those laws. As long as we mind and mine the law to make it righteous no one can take that from me, for the struggle for equality is in my eyes mostly the struggle for equality under the law as well as equality of opportunity. That's my struggle.



It shouldn't matter if you're Black, White, Gay, Straight, Latino, whatever. The law should treat you the same and you should get the same shot. And part of my beef is that by framing racism as merely a few loud knuckleheads we're ignoring that. I don't care if someone calls me the N-Word. I do on the other hand care if my kid's school doesn't get as much money as the whiter school down the road. I don't so much care if a lady crosses the street when I walk by but I do care if a cop pulls me over.  I don't care of the big wigs don't like me because I'm black but I do care if they think I'm too "urban" to give me a job. Law and money. Law and money.

Hell, my narrative of The Civil Rights Movement is it started because trains were refusing service, juries were refusing justice, and school districts were refusing books.  Bathrooms and water fountains were just the symbolic icing on the cake.

Anyway, a movie brokers no credit with me for reaffirming a belief I held not in question my entire life.

I must continually ask myself how racism affects my life knowing that it unquestionably does.

I've seen Night Catches Us, Ghosts of Mississippi,  Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, and Boys in the Hood, Raisin in the Sun, (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Django Unchained, and 12 Years a Slave are on my List)



Not to mention documentaries like 4 Little Girls, Murder on a Sunday Morning, The Pruitt Igoe Myth and The Black Power Mixtap.





Movies that examine the ramifications and nature of race and racism exist and have for a while. Films that delve deeper than saying it's bad and try to reveal something about it and ourselves. Regardless of the race of the audience. The lives of me and of every generation after me are depending on us to be smarter and tougher. To demand and fight for not just our shot but theirs and right now that's not about yelling about the slights of the past but building bridges to tomorrow's dawn.  I don't know how we do that but we need to have the stone cold courage to ask,  how do we fix it. How do we make it fair?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Southfield City Council Meeting March 17, 2014



Southfield City Council Meeting Held March 17, 2014

Topics Discussed

  • Authorization For the Parks and Recreation Department to Apply For Various Grants
  • The Purchase of 600 Tons of Cold Patch For Roads
  • The Rezoning of A Property on the Corner of 10-Mile Rd and Lasher Rd.
  • The Rezoning and Development of A Property on Evergreen Rd. As well as Council's Future Plans For That Area of the City
  • An addition to the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church


An agenda and related documents can be found here

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Southfield Board of Education Meeting March 11, 2014



Board of Education Meeting for Southfield held on March 11, 2014
Topics Include


  • A Reading and Dental Program and Vandenberg Elementary
  • Michigan House Bill 5268 and 5269 which would reform the Education Achievement Authority (EAA)
  • Board Member Buchanan and His Intention to Run for the State House


An agenda and related documents can be found here.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Southfield Public School Board Member Darryle Buchanan to Run For Michigan House of Representatives

At the March 11, 2014 Southfield School District School Board Meeting Board Member, Darryle Buchanan Discussed his intentions of leaving the board (not running for re-election) to run for the Michigan 35th State House seat left open by Rep. Rudy Hobbs who is currently running for the Michigan 14th U.S. House District seat. Running against him is Southfield Councilman Jeremy Moss.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Angry Black Man: Do What You Feel

So my Facebook feed was hit up with a a picture of Dr. Bill Cosby with the caption "Bill Cosby has gone and done it again" along with a transcript of the famous Pound Cake Speech. Most of my feelings on that can be found here.



In a second I'm going to recap those thoughts but the post itself seems to be a demonstration of my point. This isn't again. This isn't new. The original caption was six months old and the speech is 10 years old. The only reason it's making the rounds is so that people who think that way can point and look at Bill Cosby and think they get a free pass. No you don't. Na uh. Sit down shut up and let me school you.

And I had almost forgiven him for that. Bill Cosby Himself was the first stand-up special I ever saw so the dissonance of my opinions regarding the man is mildly disconcerting.


At least I still have Bigger and Blacker


Anyway.

I am a young black man. I consider myself civilized. I'm a staunch pacifist, though I've been becoming more militant as of late feeling that if President Obama had militarily intervened in Syria two years ago hundreds of thousands of lives over a hundred thousand lives could have been saved. Wasn't that the justification for the Libyan no-fly zone?! I have much more beef with Putin than just the Crimean Peninsula!

Down boy!

Yet there are some places where I will be called a thug just because I feel more comfortable in street shoes and flannel than anything else.  You know what I'm a grown man and can dress myself! Thank you very much! It's Michigan, land of the cold and snow at least as far as the lower 48 is concerned. And the same could be said for choosing my diction.

And it infuriates me that people would make assumptions based on those choices without knowing anything else about me. I'm a complicated man and no one understands me but my woman.  Eh I couldn't help myself on that one.

Alright but let's take this thing a piece at a time.

His speech harps on five main topics.
  • Lack of Appreciation of Education
  • The Use of Ebonics
  • Urban Dress
  • Lack of Parenting
  • Lack of Community
Let's go.

Education
Everything am about to say can be summed up thusly. Education is complex. 

Cosby says it's not about money. Yes yes it is. I'm a part time substitute teacher.  I don't sub as often as I should but I often notice kids using books from the classroom.  When I was coming up the first day of class, especially in High School  for the big four, Math Science, Social Studies and English, the teacher would take us to the school book depository and have us check out our books for the semester. It seems like something that's a no-brainer, give every kid a book so they can take it home and study from it. You want to know why that doesn't always happen? Money. 30 books is cheaper than 150. Growing up I had a computer in my house so even if I wasn't reading books, though I was, I still read something on the internet almost everyday. Now I know there are a lot of people out there will play up the internet as the doom of the English language. 

But I can think of no fewer than 5 reasons of the top of my head why having a computer with internet access in the home is a huge advantage a kid growing up yet a lot of people can't afford it for their kids. For some even that cheap $300 laptop is a huge investment compared to $600 of rent $200 of groceries, and at least another $100 spread across utilities, and that's low-balling it, especially for a family

Also consider that these days a laptop is only designed to last maybe three years.  

Having the money to have access to resources is a boon especially in the home and while yes personal effort can make up for some of the shortfall I feel it's just plain foolish to pretend like a kid with books a computer, and the money to get everything his teacher requests has the same chances as a kid without all of that. 

So that get's us to resource battles. And I could spend this whole post talking about school funding, and public vs. private education, appropriations bills, and white flight out of urban school districts. But I'm kind of lazy so let's move on. 

The Use of Ebonics
Colloquialism is a thing. Deal with it. Bing bang boom. We're done.

Damn it. Fine, fine. 

I understand while young people not knowing when to turn it off and on may be a problem, but I feel to complain that informal language merely exists seems kind of backwards. Also there are times where the use of formal language seems inappropriate. 

Formal language is the result of consideration, and there are times where that consideration clashes with sincerity.Talking to friends and family guess which one I put more value on? 

And then there's the whole double consciousness thing. The understanding that other people are in fact judging you against racial stereotypes and the question of whether or not that's fair and should affect your normal patterns behavior. 

Screw that. 


Do you know how long it took for me to admit to myself that I actually like rap.



Do what ya feel.

Urban Dress
If you are someone's boss, and are paying or considering paying them to represent you and present an image, then you can talk. Otherwise why do you care?

I whenever someone does the "how you dress tells people about you" thing I think, "So your telling me that people are going to make stupid assumptions about me based on how I dress. How is that my problem."

I am not going to lie there are times when I care about what other people think about me, but that is mostly about my character, Something that is impossible to observe at a glance.

I am whats I yam and that's all that's I yam.  And I don't like playing games to convince people otherwise just for the sake of making them feel more comfortable unless actual currency is going to be exchanged in which case.

Cash moves everything around me, green, get the money dollar dollar bill y'all.

I just feel playing that whole game means playing into the belief system that you can accurately judge someone on sight which kind of offends me on a basic level.



Legally, i.e. the thing I would march for, regarding Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman is stand your ground, morally i.e. the thing I just have to live with is that they were making an unprovoked judgement on whether or not this kids presented a lethal threat based primarily on how they looked.

That's racism. I let it pass because I don't feel anybody should be the thought police, but I still am offended by it and refuse to live my life in fear of it. Rascism exists and people have a right to to think and feel however they want about, "young black men" but I shouldn't have to and absolutely refuse to live my life as dictated by those people. Screw that!

Do what you feel.

Lack of Parenting
I'm a little bit on weaker ground here as there are stats here,  but I still have some arguments to make. Mainly that the criminal justice system isn't helping and that reforms need to be made.



Also I feel that Dr. Cosby was overstating the case.  Parents can be a huge influence over their kids, but that influence is not absolute. After a certain age kids are going to do what they're going to do and the authoritarian sit down and shut up method is going to pretty much going to erode a good chunk of the trust, goodwill and respect they have.



"My parents told me so" to only works as a guiding light for so long. Especially when kids discover everybody including their parents are fallible. What happens when rather than the certainty of their word all they have is the calculus of their advice.

My view is that your training the kids, so when they get out there and your not around they have a decent head on their shoulders, so they do what they do not because their afraid of public shaming or the switch, but because that's what's in them. When given a choice, which all of life is, they will make it well.

So the phrase, "Mama didn't raise me to" actually has meaning.

But what do I know.

Do what you feel.

Lack of Community
If what Dr. Cosby is describing is a sense of fellowship and brotherhood around the block, I'm all for it. On the other hand I am opposed to public shaming in most of it's forms, and some of the speech sounds as of it's wistful for that. I have said it many times and many different ways that I am an enemy of "thou shall". I'll abide the law. But other than that I feel nobody has the right to tell another how to live their life.  All of our rights, all of the marching, and fighting and you know that war that happened seven and a half score years ago amounts to idea that personal sovereignty is inalienable. All things being equal in a row between society/community and the individual I will side with the individual, for I believe that it is society's primary duty to protect the interests of the individual.

People should be able to do what they feel.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Favorite Western Animated Drama Episodes

So. A couple of days ago I put up some of my favorite animated shows. But I have a problem. Normally to talk about a show I need to watch the entire show or at least enough episodes so that I have something to say. Most of the television, movies, music heck any type of media I talk about on this blog is stuff I would have watched any way. Heck that's sort of my policy if I watch something and it gives me something interesting to talk about well there is a post. With Tv shows it's mostly stuff I've binge watched, that's left such a strong impression that it's on my mind years after I've seen it, or stuff that's ongoing and so the guilt of having not watched it all is abated.

That's a long way of me saying I don't have it any me to watch the typical 60 some odd episodes of the shows right now but I still want to talk about them so let me get into some of my favorite episodes. Or at least my favorite episodes.

Gargoyles: The Avalon Arc (Season 2 Three-Parter)
The Plot
A one shot character from the pilot comes to New York seeking Goliath, the show's protagonist's aid. During the pilot stuff went down and as penance this character and his friends swore an oath to look after those that survived the betrayal, namely the gargoyle eggs that were hidden away under the the castle. When the call comes without telling anybody he's leaving Goliath goes.

What follows is epicness explain in what  what happened in the intervening years as well as how an old enemy became near omnipotent.

In an attempt to save what was left to save they sought sanctuary on Avalon, yes that Avalon. But the island itself is magic, much coveted magic. Using mystical artifacts The Archmage, a bumbling, yet treacherous blackguard  of last season used time travel to gain unfathomable power and wishes to use the island as a power base laying siege to it.

Tom pulled an R2D2 and sought Goliath's help to defend the now grown "eggs", who unlike Goliath and his ilk are not warriors.

The Reason I Love It
Gargoyles was famous for its continuity. A problem a lot of serial media has is it tends forget about various aspects of the continuity. Have you ever read a comic were a problem is squeezed for all its drama when you know that the character is buds with someone who could solve it in five minutes, but the writers forgot that Doctor Strange is well an actual doctor and that Mr. Fantastic can do just about anything given enough time and tech.

Gargoyles didn't do that. Every character mentioned is out there somewhere, doing something. And this is the pi├Ęce de r├ęsistance of that skill. Sure a lot of the main characters take a holiday, but guys we haven't seen since the pilot come back and have had actual off screen character development.

Okay time for backstory while Tom, our R2D2 is the knight the actual leader of the Avalon group is the Magus, aka. they guy who in a blind rage cast the curse that imprisoned Goliath and his friends in stone. A third party betrayed them both and and a furious magus acted in haste. The ruse wasn't hard to pull of because he had some enmity for the gargoyles prior to the betrayal.  But that's all the pilot what's striking here is after realizing his mistake he has spent his life trying to repay the debt owed.

People change.

Batman Beyond: Season 2 Episode 5 "Hidden Agenda"
The plot
Terry Mcguiness's, AKA the new batman's, best friend Max invents a program to correlate all the known data about Batman until she finds out who it is. After a gang member starts hassling her she turns the program around and ends up right smack in the middle of problems.

Why I love it
Mostly I dig Max, and this is her episode.  It's weird especially in Superhero shows to have platonic relationships. Terry already had a girlfriend and just hung out with Max because she was a mutual friend. And neither character is presented in away where that doesn't seem to be the case.

This is the episode where thier relationship changes as she joines the Elderly Wayne as the voice.

Also this seems like the idea that would work in an age of computers. Heck I could probably set something like that up with Google Alerts. Glasses and a slouch aren't going to cut in the 21st century.

Reboot: Season 3 Episode 8 "The Episode With No Name"
Okay Season 3 of reboot has five distinct parts.

  • Little Enzo's Story
  • System Hopping
  • Access to The Net
  • The Webriders
  • The Return to Mainframe
All four of them are interesting but the second is really episodic, mostly trying get the audience used to the fact that Enzo isn't the same guy he was at 11. Well he is but bigger and meaner and with a gun... that has nuerovisual targeting.

Or to put it in a way his girlfriend, AndrAIa does when asked if he ever smiles. "If he does run."  

The Plot
"The Episode with No Name" is the transition from the more episodic..episodes back to the narrative and it gives the audience a host of new info to compute that turns the series on its head. After being pick pocketed, Matrix winds up in a bar. Being the dude he is and in the mood he is he tells everyone to scram unless they want to be filled with holes. Everybody but one guy listens. Turbo the leader of the guardians. Think of them as international cops/Norton Antivirus. Remember Reboot takes place in your computer. He's been looking for Matrix who's been M.I.A. since the first part of the story, at least from everybody else's perspective. We the audience know where he's been and why but heck his whole arc is the search for home.


Most of the "good guys" have been infected/brainwashed by a super virus and Turbo is the last traditional guardian to hold out but even he is compromised. To him Matrix who "technically" is also a guardian is his last hope.  Turbo thought that Matrix was Bob, his mentor but Bob's also M.I.A. The whole of the internet under threat. These three are the only ones that can save it.



Why I Love It
All of the plot stuff doesn't pay off until the last season, but two badasses in a bar makes for a pretty good episode. 

Oh, and the episode name isn't for show. In a b-story featuring AndrAIa we get an old fashioned draw complete with the "The Ecstasy of Gold" or as close as you can get to it.



But beyond that, part of Enzo's character is that he's leagues away from anybody he cares to talk to, save AndrAIa. Chatting with Turbo, he let's his gaurd down... a little, and we the audience get to see that yeah Little Enzo is still in there somewhere and beyond all the anger and fury, he's completely despondent about how it all went down. In short he meets a new friend and through that regains some hope that it will all work out in the end.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Southfield March 3, 2014 City Council Meeting



Southfield City Council Meeting Held on March 3, 2014
Topics Discussed Include


  • Lawrence Tech University's Proposed Biomedical Engineering Buildind
  • Establishing a citywide Michigan Public Act 198 Industrial Development District
  • Citizen's desiring an Appeal of Aspects of the Jonna/Former St. Bede Church Development as well as the need to Address Non-English Speaking Members of the Community
  • Limiting The Public Communications Portion of Meetings from Five To Three Minute
  • A Long Term Plan For Senior Housing
  • The City Center Special AssessmentAmendment to The Recently Approved Percent Consolidation Plan


An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Defense(ish) of Free Speech Part Five

So the Southfield City Council just enacted a rule that limits public communications from 5 to 3 minutes per person. Saw it coming. Part of me feels weird about not taking more of a stand against it especially considering 1.) It was the only time I ever actually spoke in front of council and 2.) I mostly agreed with an impassioned defense of free speech by Councilman Moss, especially since I share his background as an MSU Journalism grad.

Mostly it's just that I hate repeating myself. Part of what drew me to writing was that rather than the impromptu arguments I normally make I can point to a more structured incarnation of my thoughts that's lasting. You want to know what I think go here.

But I also have to admit that part of the reason why I'm staying out of this one is that while my position hasn't changed my mind has. I'm not the free speech absolutist I once was.

My Position Most of the Time
It seemed that at the table the value of speech was viewed for it's practical applications. And that as long as council was tending to those practical applications s'all good. Everybody gets a chance to address their problems. That sort of thing.

Moss on the other hand seemed to view speech more in the abstract. Valuable in and of itself. And when you go down that route which I will all speech is valuable, even the most putrid vile crap people can spew.

Oh god, the Skokie Case, which actually has me intellectually siding with Neo-Nazis. I hate Nazis! Both neo and original recipe.



Best moment on television ever. Sorry I stopped writing to re-watch that clip 20 times. I could do that all day.

I am Rory Williams, psychologically dealing with the fact that I just saved Hitler's life. Time travel is a harsh mistress.

Though a World War, and multiple genocides kind of prove me wrong I try really really really hard to believe that most people can look at various repugnant ideas and go. "No. We're not doing this. No. "

Something something about the arc of of the moral universe, which by the way is too damn long.

Anyway, part the the system that allows people to exercise their will is the ability to choose which ideas they subscribe to and in order for that to happen those ideas have to be in the aether. No one should be able to choose for anybody else the ideas they have access to.

Even if those ideas are really really offensive, annoying, disgusting, repugnant, asinine, or just plain old fashioned stupid people need to be able to choose.

Otherwise you get North Korea.



Buuuut


It's Not Okay
People are starting to flirt with harassment and I have strong feelings about that. I was bullied as a child. You want to see me unwittingly picking that scab read this.  It was one of those times where I was pissed but I didn't realize I was pissed until about 500 words in and by that point I was too far gone to stop. I should know better than to scratch at the wall.

Up until recently my instinct was to side with who in my mind had the least power, feeling that if the Council really really wanted to devote themselves to the task of making it stop they could. They do have a staff of lawyers.  Or to put it another way, no matter what a five-year old does if I knock them into next Tuesday I am in the wrong and have become the bully. Let it go.

But I've also recently become a fan of The Jimquisition, a webshow were Jim Sterling typically rants about what's annoying him in the game industry, and while binge watching it I came across his episode on the Phil Fish incident.

Quick recap. Phil Fish was a game developer who was developing a much anticipated indie game but reacted badly to internet trolls. In mid 2013 he decided he had enough, canceled development of the game and retired from the industry making some believe he was the kid taking his basketball home before the game ended.

Phil Fish really did react badly but Jim's take on the matter was that he had to put up with a lot before his explosion and in the end we all need to realize that it is not okay to harass public figures. That publicness does not change the fact they're also people.

In a way all of that crap is the same type of bullying I had to put up with as a kid. And I feel less and less inclined to stand in that corner.

Sometimes the Rights of the Many Outweigh the Faults of the Few
On the other... foot at the end of the day they're limiting the opportunity of the many to contribute to the town's marketplace of ideas to reign in the few. That rubs me wrong for a lot of reasons. It feels like a "This is why we can't have nice things" debate and especially with speech I disagree with that. As Moss put it "free speech is a right not a privilege" to be granted and taken a way when you no your idiot brother ticks off Mom.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Movie Review: Night Catches Us



Enough with gender politics let's talk about something of which I can speak about with a little bit more authority.

I have a bit of a problem with most movies dealing with race. At this point in history most of them serve to give the audience exactly what they want. And what they want is the same story. You know the one. About a young black man, who is really good at something, but the world won't or rather one asshole won't let him just do it. So he has to spend the entire movie proving that guy wrong until finally sheer skill wins the asshole over. I've seen it and it bores me.

Look racism is bad. In real life I will argue that point on my deathbed, but the, "overcoming" story is not the only story about race you can tell. Especially if you want evoke a sense of realism. I'm black and I'm always black, but I'm also other things. People are complicated.

Night Catches Us is another story.

It's a story about Black people rather than a story with Black people in it. And as a film that's kind of weird. It's not about telling a story but exploring the characters mental framework, how they think and how their race informs that.

The story follows a group of people where were formally affiliated with the Black Panther party until the assassination of one of its leaders. The story doesn't take place in the immediate aftermath but rather the "tomorrow" of it.

The when it comes to the black power aspect of it the only person who is overtly spouting that rhetoric is the youngest male main character, Jim, and the story frames it as naive.  While not having been in the party like the older characters at least in the beginning, he has bought the talk, hook line and sinker, he has his reasons, being stiffed on payment and arrested by racists, but he's also been getting into more and more confrontations with the cops and is starting to put himself and his family in danger. To the more seasoned characters who have gone through this already this is worrisome. The film understands that the Black Panther movement was complex, and its characters are as well.

What ultimately makes the movie is a passionate monologue by Patty, the leader's Neil's widow, played Kerry Washington of Scandal but I can't talk about it without spoiling the movie. The film is framed in a way where there is a lot of tension but we the audience don't know why, until the monologue.

SPOILERS


SERIOUSLY GO NOW YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

Jim isn't the protagonist the film actually follows a family friend Marcus as he tries to make peace after having returning to the community, and starting a relationship with Jim's cousin the widow. Everybody seems to have it in for Marcus but the movie doesn't reveal why until Patty's monologue and later Marcus' continuation of it.

Being in the Panthers pretty much made her and her husband a target from the cops. Eventually two friends of theirs were killed and her husband killed a cop in retribution. The authorities were threatening to take her kids when Marcus (it was actually Patty) decided that they were more important and gave up Neil not realizing he was going to end up dead. It's a really powerful scene because of the acting, and not just of the adults. For most of the movie the kid, Iris, has been dropping adult like hints that she knows she isn't living a normal life. She knows her Mom doesn't go out. She knows the cops have bugged her phone, she knows how people talk about her dad. And she keeps asking why.

The monologue is Patty answering that question.

But all of that is back story. And it pretty much all happens again, except the first time the old guard immediately knew how stupid and crazy cop killing was but the younger guys represented by Jim, are much more militant getting swept up in the "legend". Well things fall apart.

I guess I could do a critical reading of the movie and I might later but really I just want to talk about what I said previously. It's a movie that talks about race and racism in a complex way beyond that of the usual. It has it's flaws, but I'm glad it exists. If we really want to create a post-racial society we have to be to really examine and and analyze race and racism, rather than just putting it in the "bad history" box, and this movie does that.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Female Physicality

So one of the more obvious solutions to how do you make the action movie inclusive to women problem is to simply write a female action hero. I am about to say something that might be offensive to some and obvious to others.

Eh hem. The female action hero has to be believable as an action hero. Okay let me say this as if I were talking about a male action hero for a second. I as a member of the audience have to believe that this person is physically and mentally capable of pulling off the crazy stunts that make the genre work. Moreover I have believe that physicality is going to be a primary tool in their tool box.



Even though Jackie Chan is always running away he's still using physical objects including his body as tools to solve his problems.

And that's kind of weird for female protagonists, not because there aren't a lot of women like that in real life but because due to cultural gender roles that sort of physicality is frowned upon leading to the stereotypical belief that it doesn't exist. We think of the trait of physicality as male in and of itself.

It's why society thinks of female mechanics, soldiers, and athletes as odd and also why we(male writers) don't know how to write that trait in females.

Physicality isn't a male or a female trait it's a human trait. Without the ability to use tools including our own bodies we would have been eaten to extinction a long time ago. We got the fire and we got the spear heads.

For better or worse that's one of the best things about Korra. In Avatar: The Last Air Bender one of Aang's, the protagonist's defining character traits was that he was a staunch pacifist so rather than just pummeling the bad guys into next Thursday he would try talk his way out of problems and failing that try to use a "clever trickity trick trick" to win the day. Heck this serves as one of the primary conflicts of the third season. The badguy is a genocidal maniac and every one of Aang's friends wants this guy dead. Aang, being the only guy powerful enough kill him, refuses to do it but knows that something needs to be done for the sake of everybody or else people will die.



Heck I'd even go so far as to say that Aang wasn't an action hero. He was the protagonist of an action series but he wasn't an action hero. He was friends with action heroes, but he wasn't one. Aang was a guile hero.

For its sequel series the writers wanted to make Korra as different from Aang as possible, still a good person but mentally different,so they made her more assertive as well as making her go-to tool to solve her problems her body.



Push, pull, punch, kick, chase, tackle, lift, run, climb, jump.  Her solution to most of her problems is to use her body. Korra's not a perfect character as her development is all over the place. She continually has to relearn that just punching it doesn't always work, but she does have the personality of an action hero. I believe this is the type of person who would get into a brawl, or ten. I believe that this is the type of person who wouldn't call the authorities, or try to bargain with a villain, but would chase them down... and then get brought in by the cops for all the property damage in the ensuing fight.

And yes that does happen.

The question regardless of gender is how do you convey physicality? In a visual medium it's through design. Heck that right there is part of the problem. Often that physicality is shown through musculature. Subconsciously an audience knows that you aren't just born muscular, Or at least as muscular as your typical action hero. That muscle is gained by using physicality.

Let's take one of my favorite hero's Daniel Jackson. In the start of Stargate SG1 he's a nerd, sort of wimpy looking but part of the visual conveyance of his character development was his developing tone as he hung out with and held his own with more traditional action heroes. Michael Shanks got ripped.

A problem though is that musculature, a direct result of physicality is still seen as unfeminine. Particularly with live action visual media if you aren't willing to hire a muscular actress you have problem. If the actresses aren't willing to put up with possible societal alienation from the stigma of being a muscular woman you've got a problem.

And this is starting to get into traditional notions of beauty which is way too heavy for me to just do without reading some stuff so I'm outty 5000.

Who Digs Western Animated Shows?

Okay time to play connect the mental dots. I love Bennett the Sage's Anime Abandon a show where he reviews old schlock the anime community would probably like to forget. He just concluded not quite anime month reviewing stuff that's anime influenced but just not quite anime. Part of what got him on it was an infuriating November Forbes article calling Avatar: The Legend of Korra, a show I like by the way, a new genre.  Anybody who's watched any anime knows that's a falsity, but he was trying to prove that the idea of adult animation and more specifically the animated drama was not new in the west either, by reviewing Spawn, Aeon Flux, and Lady Death.

You know what I've been meaning to something similar for a while now. There was a time in my life where I was a little but of an anime snob. Well I still am but what I mean is that I hated western animation. I was one of those assholes. You know the type. Those guys who believe that there is no way western animation could compare to anime ever.  Then I opened my eyes and realized there was a lot of good stuff.  Let's go.

Mighty Max


Okay technically Mighty Max is one of those old 30 minute toy advertisement shows from the 90's but god is it good. There are a lot of things I like to point to making me interested in sci-fi, but Mighty Max might actually be the prime here.  The show played off of so many genre tropes it would be easier to make a list of the stuff it didn't hit, and it didn't aways do it in expected ways.  Vampires can shape shift but they ain't bats. They're the other annoying little blood suckers of the summer, and swatting the little buggers pisses the hell out of the vampire queen.

All said the show was smart and well written with its lead being a guile hero snarker.

Gargoyles

So much pathos so little time. How many people remember that old Beauty and the Beast show not the remake but that thing from the 80's. Show's like that but cool. Okay there is a whole thing and explaining their origin would ruin the first 5 episodes. So I'll try to explain it as vaguely as possible.  A group of living stone gargoyles are transported from the 16th to 20th century and have to adjust. I know that sentence sounds lame but the characters and arcs are brilliant. Furthermore the show has this habit of integrating folklore, for instance Puck and Macbeth yes that those ones are reoccurring characters. Heck this was my introduction to Coyote.

Downtown


I never hopped on the Seinfeld bus, largely because it was before my time and only once I hit college did I realize I was watching stuff influenced by Seinfeld. Downtown is one such show. It's a sitcom so there really isn't an over arching plot but rather a status quo. Alex a 20-something New Yorker has just moved out of his parents place and has to put up with the antics of his annoying little sister as she uses his new privacy as a way to get away with doing whatever she wants, while he just wants to be chill. I'd be lying if I didn't say that the reason why I like the show is that I really relate to Alex.

But what really made the show were the surreal cut away gags as the characters gabbed about whatever.




ReBoot


Alright seasons one and two of reboot were your normal Saturday morning affair about the world inside your computer, but the show got canceled on ABC and was moved to Toonami. When season three came it out was a whole new beast. To be fair a lot of that stuff was set up in the tail-end of season two but man there were some great ideas. The main character was betrayed and was this universe's equivalent to lost at sea.  For reasons the guy chosen to fill his shoes is was the kid character. That might sound normal for these types of shows except here he's in over his head barely holding it together, eventually failing and failing bad. Better yet.

Spoilery Short version (Seriously this is 5 minute recap of season 3 set to that Major General song from Pirates of Penzance Don't watch it if you're going to watch the show.)


You know the Forbes article said that cartoons never had the guts to let the bad guys win. Well here the bad guy wins and turns the place into a post-apocalyptic hellscape!


Not unlike his predecessor he's lost and after a a time skip he grows up to be "Matrix, The Renegade" a cynical mean, enraged version of his younger self willing to do anything to accomplish his goals of finding his mentor and eventually his home.

The show built up the stakes and made him fail. He's on an epic quest to make it right even if it turns him into a maladjusted antihero who his friends barely recognize. And it works because we saw both this show and this guy when he was a lighthearted squirt. We the audience are continually asking the same questions his friends ask whenever he shoots the dog. What the hell happened? And we know we the audience were there for both the good and bad times.


The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest

It's a reboot of Johnny Quest that's pretty damn good. Remember in the early 90's cartoon network was looking for action shows and Jonny Quest delivered. Benton Quest has made a name for himself by basically inventing Second Life, or in this universe an incredible simulation program that can be used to scan the attributes of real life objects then analyze and manipulate them. The tech is used as the glue that hold the show together, Quest being commissioned as a consultant on some pretty amazing stuff.


The Venture Bros.

The Venture Brothers started as a metajoke parody of Jonny Quest with the idea that all that adventuring would a.) traumatize the kid and b.) give him a massive inferiority complex when he couldn't live up to his scientist dad. And yeah that is pretty much Rusty Venture, a former boy adventurer to a tee.  But eventually the show pulled back layers and as it did more and more revealed how a world of boy adventurers, super villains and a GI Joe style commando force maintained itself leading to an ever more intriguing setting.



Moral Orel
Not unlike The Venture Bros. Moral Orel started as a parody of those old Davey and Goliath shorts with the idea that nothing is that wholesome.


The first couple of seasons played Orel's dad's asshattery and hypocracy for laughs but well the last one was downright depressing.

The Timmverse/DCAU

Okay if you aren't a fan this may take some explaining.  After the first well technically second Batman movie, Warner Brothers commissioned Bruce Timm to produce a Saturday morning television version. And, god was it a success eventually leading to several fondly remembered in continuity spin-offs. Superman the Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited are the agreed upon shows in the universe but I also like to count Teen Titans, Static Shock, and Legion of Superheroes. I dig Braniac 5.



The thing is that these shows, continuity is so tied together and especially with the first five the quality is so constantly good, that you can't really talk one without the others so that's what I'm going to do. I came on board with Superman: The Animated Series and that show pretty makes up my image of Superman, even more so the Chris Reeves.

And don't get me started on how awesome Batman Beyond is.



For a long while these shows were considered the best out of comic adaption of the DC Universe, heck there is still an on going debate whether or not Heath Ledger outdid Mark Hammil's Joker.


Young Justice

The DCAU came to an end after Justice League Unlimited, but it wasn't long before Young Justice came to take it's place. Instead of the big boys this show however focused on the sidekicks who were hungry to prove they could hang. Heck the series starts with a tirade after they were due to be inducted into the JL, but weren't told about The Watch Tower, their secret space station headquarters.

The tiff ends with the sidekicks deciding to go and do their own thing for a while acting as a covert force since they aren't as well known as their mentors. Seeing Superman is a big deal, but how many people even know Superboy exists.  One of Kidflash's petpeeves is confusing him with Speedy, and oh boy does that guy have issues.

What really makes the show for me is that is a really good ensemble piece. Everybody is given their own distinct powers, back story, personality, and character arc.  Everybody does something in this show.

Ben 10 Alien Force/Ultimate Alien

You know what. I like Ben 10. The show about a kid who can transform into aliens was slowly building a mythos and you know what? Those two spin-offs are the payoff to that mythos. Five years after the end of the first show Ben's Grandpa goes missing and it's up to him to find out why. The first show slowly revealed that Grandpa Max was basically a Man in Black and with him missing things are a little wonky. First off there was a reason and second off the MIB are concerned getting more and more entangled in Ben's life as he tries to dunk them and find out what's up.

What's most striking is how different these shows are from the original, as a matter fact the third series is bassically trying to bring the tone back to the original and I kind of don't like it. That personality for Ben worked when he was 10 but not so much at 17. And that's my problem with Omniverse five seasons worth of character development is gone and that's not even counting the subtle shifts in the original.  And I think the art style is stupid. Focus Miles. Focus.



Samurai Jack
Long ago in distant land.. Wait. Hold on. Let me turn on "Da Voice".


While Samurai Jack has some amazing stories what really works is the style. First off Jack is laconic so what we know about the guy is mostly conveyed through his actions and expressions. And amazingly both of those are strong enough so that yes he is a character. His silence is one of those actions. Jack is sincere. Whatever he says and even whatever he does he means it. He doesn't waste words for the sake of themselves. That's more or less his defining trait being delivered by showing it rather than telling the audience he's a sincere guy.

Furthermore visually the show is just interesting using contrasting colors rather than outlines to form shapes.

He-Man 2002  and Thunder Cats 2011

I like fantasy and the He-Man reboot was pretty cool. Same goes for the 2011 Thunder Cats reboot. Not perfect, Lion-O's character development zigzaged but given another season it had potential.




Do We Need to Fix "Man" Movies and How?

So an ongoing discussion in the video game community is gender politics. Or more specifically how can video games retain some of their classic yet somewhat insensitive tropes while at the same time being more inclusive to women. Or to put it another way. Hey I like Dead or Alive the fighting game. I knew some girls growing up who liked Dead or Alive the fighting game.



Those same girls don't want to have anything to do with it because of Dead or Alive the beach volleyball game.



And yes I am going to be one of those guys who says that D.O.A. did have an innovative fluid hold/counter system and I wasn't just playing it for the jiggle physics. If you knew how to play it was more complex than most of its competition. Not to mention the level design. You could throw a guy off of infinite cliffs, or with a well placed kick break into a new level.

But now the entire series is a joke, known only as a cheap way to get character models in more and more scant thongs.

Anyway as evidenced by my reference materials I am a little out of the loop on video games. I still play them but I'm not the kid with the allowance anymore so dropping 60 bucks on games whenever I want isn't feasible.

But I do watch a heck of a lot of movies.  And every now and again I get a craving for "Man" movies. Specifically The Warriors which is one of my favorites.



Okay if you've never seen the movie and don't have two hours watch D12's and Eminem's "Fight Music" video which is an homage... or as close to a remake as you get in 5 minutes without inter-character dialogue.



I love this movie. I mean it. For a time this was one of my go to Friday features along with Sin City and Fight Club. But I am willing to admit it is mildly masochistic.


The Chicks Are Packed


There is an idea a not compleatly wrong idea that guys get stupid when we think with our second brain. And so when for whatever reason a writer needs a plausible reason for a guy to do something stupid insert hot chick. Unfortunately this carries the connotation that what ever consequences of doing the stupid thing were the woman's fault, and some stories like the above will even carry it further into full on deviousness. Hell this is an old one. Circe baby.



Heck the whole turned into pigs thing is a great scene but if I swapped half a chromosome I might little pissed at the ultimate guile hero's tales of adventure.

Anyway back to the Warriors, what ultimately saves the group is Rembrandt's Chastity. There are a couple of ways to read that. One interesting way to read it is that Rembrandt's gay and that his ability to not get distracted by the prospect of sex with a woman is something much needed he brings to the group more than making up for the fact that physically he's probably the weakest fighter but the more traditional reading is that he's the only guy smart enough to believe that a bunch of hot woman coming out of nowhere offering sex and good times is probably trouble. Beware women for they come from hell.

The while I like the scene with the Lizzies, it's not one of my favorites. It serves the narrative purpose of revealing to the Warriors why everyone is after them, but as a scene on it's own it's an excuse to see women making out on camera. You know what scene I would complain about if they touched it.

The Orphans
Okay let me explain. The plot of the movie is that the eponymous gang, the warriors, have been framed for the murder of the leader of the largest gang and most powerful gang in New York. His lieutenant puts out a hit on the guys, who due to a multi-gang parley set up at the late Cyrus' behest are behind enemy lines. The movie is about them, "bopping their way back to Coney" Island their home turf where in theory they'll be safe.

On the way they meet the gang The Orphans who are so low on the totem pole that none of this news has reached them. The warriors are on their way to convincing the leader of the Orphans to let them walk on through no problem when his girlfriend shows up, demanding that he forces them to remove their vests as a token gesture of sovereignty. It's a tense scene. Which I can't find except as a cut scene from the pretty decent game based on the movie.



As the movie puts it Mercy, is "trouble on two legs" the resulting rumble is a framed as an  avoidable conflict caused by her interference in the deliberations, and that things would have been simpler if Sully, who while antagonizing the heroes is presented as a pretty amiable guy, had just ignored her. Heck part of me wishes they made a movie just following around that guy, a nice guy who has to play tough to be taken seriously even by his friends.

All of that is encapsulated by the conversation with Mercy and changing it changes the character and the scene but in the context of everything else it's not a good look.

The Citizen's Arrest
Again in this movie is seems that women are the source of all these guys problems and nothing is more complicated than how Ajax goes down.

Ajax has been set up for the whole movie as being the thug. Think Jayne Cobb 1.0. He's big and mean which makes him useful, but he's also not to bright which makes him annoying to just about everyone. Dude is a horndog, and has been complaining all night about the lack of tail, and then he comes accross a woman on a park bench who he thinks is easy pickings. He takes things too far tries to rape her and get's what's comin' to him.



It's a complicated scene. On it's own yeah it's not that bad. But in the context of the film remember that Ajax is one of the good guys. Sure he's their token evil teammate but he's still thier teammate and the film wants you to feel bad whenever one of them gets taken out. Heck you even get shots of his friends mournfully watching all this go down and discussing whether they should help him out and risk getting busted themselves.

In a way the WOMAN WHO HE TRIES TO RAPE is framed as just one more bad thing that happened that night. Though the movie does make it clear that Ajax was hoist by his own petard.

The Take
I love this movie absolutely. It's a fun example of late 70's exploitation movies. I am glad it exists. But well it is what it is. I want a world where movies like it can be made, but I also want a world where women could feel comfortable watching these types of movies.

How?
First of of let's make the cast less of a sausage fest.  That doesn't seem all that hard. Most male characters in movies are gender neutral anyway so let's make an effort to give some of those roles to women.  In life half of the people you interact with are going to be the opposite gender just by shear chance, but in movies it seems characters are only written as women when there is a narrative reason for it. That right there can break suspension of disbelief, especially if that reason is stupid like you need a damsel.

Besides that a lot of things could be fixed by how things are framed. To the movie's credit it goes out of it's way to show the audience just how stupid it is that The Warriors are going to put their own personal safety on hold for the sake of getting some. It's not the Lizzies' fault these guys are idiots.

And later in the movie Mercy does get some character development making her a little more sympathetic.

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