Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Monday, June 30, 2014

I'm In The Mood For A Few Episodes of Haven (I'm a Goddamn Hippie and Oh I WILL SPOIL EVERYTHING)

So apart from all the stuff I've already said about Gotham I have this fear that it will be just another cop drama but with a Miller skin and I'm tired of those.

There is already a television series based entirely on the meta joke that by now most of these things look and feel the same.

Do I really have to make the case again? I dunwana.

If the show really wants to work it's going to have to really inject the spirit of comics into the cop formula rather than the other way around.

But really that's not my problem. At this point I'm starting to hate these kind of shows and their good-evil, black-white binary morality scale.

I get it. The law is the law. More often than not it's the best tool we have to deal with a lot of these issues. But my view is that the law and law enforcement isn't in the morality business. Or at least shouldn't be. The question of the day is how do you get to the best possible place.

That's justice. Healing rather than hunting.

Most of the time the law makes the assumption that you are fully responsible for you're actions. Most of the time that works as a decent postulate. But there are times when it doesn't. We aren't too far removed from a world where child prostitutes could be prosecuted.

That's not where I'm headed with this but it demonstrates my point.

One of the reasons why people loved The Wire so much is that is was a crash course in sociology describing how societal pressures can push people into making unsavory life decisions and largely avoided that good guy-bad guy binary all the while not letting people wholly off the hook for their decisions.

But this isn't about The Wire. This about another, "cop" show that seems to get it.

Let's talk about Haven.

Haven is a paranormal cop show. But with a twist. It uses the various "powers" as a metaphor for various types of mental illness.  How do you get to a good place when people aren't fully responsible for their actions.

For instance the first episode deals with a woman whose "episodes" which are normally manageable are getting more and more out of control after her grandmother dies. She accidentally kills a guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  She doesn't even realize she did it. It takes a while for everyone to figure out she's "causing" the problem of the week and why since she normally seems to have a handle on things and only about three of the cast know about her issues, and moreover feel her secrets aren't for them to tell. Out of death, jail, or counseling which feels the most right?

She can "control" the weather. Note the quotes there. It mostly happens when she's stressed or panicked and she doesn't generally realize when she's doing it.  She doesn't know that even the condition of being more wired than usual can make bad things happen.

Everybody has bad days but her bad days are more than that. And it's not her fault. It's just how things worked out.  At least that's how the show frames it.

Her issues directly parallel her friend's PTSD. The entire episode is getting these two people in a place where they can help each other live

Damn near makes me want to cry.

The next episode is about a kid, Bobby, who reality warps when he sleeps. The entire point of sleep is that it's when your head can safely be out of control.  When you can deal with whatever problems you have without fear or guilt.

Unlike the last episode he knows. He knows the damage that can happen when things go wrong. And so he doesn't sleep.  He figures that will give him more control when in reality it gives him less. Everything that would normally run through his head at night goes 24/7 and he can't stop it when micronaps hit.  So what is running through his head?

His foster father is kind of an ass. The Rev's adult daughter has been secretly preparing to leave and Bobby is afraid his mother figure will leave him alone with the angry drunk. Who by the way becomes a central antagonist later in the series.

At least that's the problem at first. When Bobby was a kid, well more of one, he thinks one of his episodes may have caused the car accident that killed his birth parents. The show frames that as more survivor's guilt, but things go more and more wrong he becomes more and more afraid of history repeating itself.  He tries to do everything he can think of to solve the problem on his own but it doesn't work. I-pods and caffeine drinks.

There is a solution to the problem. A way out.

Get the kid to talk to someone and get some rest.

The next episode gets a little more complex and overt about the metephor taking place mostly in a modern mental hospital.  I'm reluctant to speak on that other to say it feels honest. And heartbreaking and honest. Did I say honest.  It's about feeling powerless watching someone you care about lose who they were and trying to accept and do right by who they are.

At the hospital one guy's power accidentally manages to invert psychosis. The show starts with the patients miraculous recovery and a raving doctor. Afterwards the guy has to make a choice. Save his wife's mind or let her go for the sake of the town.

Each time she comes back she knows that the method which she comes back is hurting people and also that in the end its temporary. I have problems with the end which I won't spoil but over all it's a episode worth watching.

From there most of the crimes of the series are unintentional and the question of the day is how can the characters' "troubles" best be managed and in some cases utilized so they can live as close to a normal life as they can.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Garlic Jr. Arc is Okay (So I'm a Gohan Fanboy. Deal With It)

You know, an offhand comment I made a few days ago is rolling around in my head and I can't shake it. The Garlic Jr. Saga isn't half as bad as the DBZ fandom thinks it is. And to explain why I have to explain the essence of Gohan, Goku and Garlic Jr.  Let's go.

First off I may rip on it but well Dragon Ball Z for its nearly 300 episodes and 14 17 movies/specials was my childhood. I watched that show from the 7th grade nearly into college and when they started airing GT I watched that too.  Damn it. Though I stopped as did everyone else. Nobody likes baby.  Oh the allowances I've blown on VHS tapes so I could see stuff before it aired on TV.

I love me some Dragon Ball Z. It was the first anime I recognized as anime and not just another cartoon. That doesn't make it "good" anime but it does give it a special place in my ... cockles.

There are a lot of things that separate Dragon Ball Z from its beloved but slightly less popular predecessor. A whole mess of retcons and a tonal shift  makes the two hard to consolidate but in the manga at least they were the same series. No joke All the stuff from Dragon Ball Z is in the Dragon Ball comic. They sort of separated it out in the states to capitalize on Dragon Ball Z's growing brand recognition here, but in Japan. Dragon Ball just kept going and became Dragon Ball Z.

While there were a lot of  things that could have been the reason for the shift the going fan theory is that Gohan was originally supposed to be the protagonist.

Let me explain. Dragon Ball is the coming of age story of Goku a loose interpretation of the Monkey King. Oooooohh Son Goku. You want to know why Saiyans turn into giant rampaging apes? That's why.

I'm a ashamed to say I've never read Journey to the West. It's on my list!

His story (in theory) ends with Goku's attainment of adulthood and his marriage to his wife Chi Chi.

 Dragon Ball Z is SUPPOSED to be about the coming of age of his son Gohan.

The thing about it though is that Goku was just too popular and the story could never pass the torch. This is why Goku dies so many times. But it could never stick as fans and publishers demanded he come back.

The early Dragon Ball Z episodes have so many parallels with early Dragon Ball it's kind of nuts. I'm not just talking subtle hey this is a show based off another show either. I mean subtle visual nods that signal Gohan is the new Goku on the block.

 Except the two have radically different personalities. Gohan is kind of a reverse Korra.

Goku is kind of an idiot. Does he save the world and beat a bunch of bad guys? Yes but he never does what he does to save the world and beat a bunch of bad guys. Goku loves a challenge and even as a kid isn't afraid to go to the most powerful guy on the block, who is normally marshaling an army and kick their ass for the hell of it.

No seriously.  One of the main groups of villains are the Red Ribbon Army.

Gohan by contrast generally hates fighting and would much rather read a book or something but since he hangs out with the strongest dudes in the world keeps finding himself entangled in alien invasions and World Martial Arts Tournements.  Evidently both shows run on authority equals ass kicking. And in almost every case it comes down to a mano a mono brawl between Goku and the despot of the w... month.

Despite their personality differences. Gohan isn't weak. A lot of the fans think he's weak because of his personality and the fact that since he's not going to relentlessly train like his Dad he's "relatively" weak but he's not.

Coward's another story, at first anyway,  but come on things start when he's five. Of course there is going to be a lot of crying. It's what 5-year-olds do, damn it.  But from the start its clear that Gohan has the potential to be stronger than his Dad and by the end of the series he is.

Look we're going to be here all day if I have to recount each and every one of Gohan's moments of badassary. And I would be lying if I didn't say I related to his anger issues under his pacifist veneer. He doesn't like hurting people but also hates it when people get hurt.

Almost every villian's downfall in the series has been in some way due writing him off as just a kid and then pissing him off.

"Sorry. I snapped there for a second."

"No stay snapped! Stay snapped! Goddamn it!"

By the way that's his entire arc in the Cell saga. Learning to control and harness and control and control and control (Gohan you're starting to scare everybody) his anger. Kid's got issues. When he goes he goes hard.

As far as I know Gohan's only beaten two (Three if you count Vegeta. I do but it's a bit of a stretch.) villains in his own right though. Cell.  Which was a beat down of epic proportions. And Garlic Jr.

The Garlic Jr. arc is Gohan's. It's all about him figuring out how to save the day on his own. Not only that but in a lot of ways Garlic Jr. is his villain. Let's talk about Dead Zone, the first Dragon Ball Z movie, airing only 2 months after the start of the show. Arguably its more of a Dragon Ball movie than a Dragon Ball Z movie.

It's been awhile and its one of the weaker movies/specials. It's plot serves as an excuse to have a couple admittedly impressive for the time (1989) fight scenes. There is a reason why the series intro recycled a lot of the animation from the movies. Still, I'm not going in detail, but its the ending that's important. Garlic Jr. wins. Yeah in Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z most of the villains are trying to use the eponymous dragon balls which can grant any wish to gain immortality and Garlic Jr. is the only villain to succeed. Vegeta didn't get there. Frieza didn't get there. Pilaf didn't there. But Garlic Jr. did.

In early episodes Gohan wears the 4-star dragon ball on his hat as a commemoration of his adoptive great-grandfather whom he is named after. So he gets kidnapped for the ball and the race is off to get him back. Because giving a kid a one-of-a-kind well seven-of-a-kind, highly recognizable object that it's been known unscrupulous fellows want to steal is a good idea.  RENT A SAFETY DEPOSIT BOX GOKU! And that jokes already been made by Team Four Star.

Anyway, the only reason why our guys survived the fight is because realizing his Dad is about to die Gohan loses his shit and flings Garlic's ass into the titular dead zone. Think the phantom zone but kind of creepier.

Of course Gohan was like three, and Piccolo was still evil so nobody remembers that part. Fans or characters... Except Garlic Jr.

That's part of why I like it. Garlic Jr. is clearly Gohan's villain He's not some blast from Goku's past like Raditz or Dr. Gero.

Or even a direct foil to a pre-existing character (You do realize he's basically a more evil Pilaf. Miles. Shut up.) Even his connections to Kami are thin at this point.

At this point in the timeline Goku is... somewhere. Point is it's up to everyone else to save the day and this arc feels like the closest the show has come save maybe the high school arc, which everybody also hates to having Gohan be the main character.

And since Goku isn't around the show feels a lot like old school Dragon Ball. With adult Goku around it's hard to remember that Gohan is voiced by the same voice actor as kid Goku at least in the Funi dub but yeah he is.

Also it's fun that show actually does something with Chi Chi's martial arts skills even if it's as a brainwashed foe. Most of the time she plays schoolmarm so well that fans forget that she's a 3rd place world martial arts champion. And everyone's fear if ticking her off is justified. Shy of all the aliens running around she's probably the strongest human character. Using her powers of intimidation to make everybody back off and give Gohan some time to study doesn't seem all that bad anymore now does it.

But Chi Chi we need to take the 6-year-old with us to defend the planet from alien invaders. No my baby has a earth science test in the morning. Screw yo aliens.

Same goes for Yamcha and Master Roshi who kept getting nerfed by the "good" aliens in the cast that by this point it's hard to remember that Master Roshi is the guy who trained Goku and kicked his ass numerous times.

The entire arc gives those guys something to do before they more or less fall into series obscurity for good.

Look I'll admit it's one of the weaker arcs but there is a lot to like and it shouldn't be as reviled as it is. That said Maron is kind of annoying. Bulma without the brains or the dignity.  You know maybe she was a character designed to make mainstay Bulma look better. For me Dragon Ball just wouldn't be Dragon Ball without Bulma but fans were divided whenever she called Goku on his idiocy.

Also Garlic Jr. as a choice of villain is interesting. They had built up Frieza a lot. I'm mean after you have a guy who can and does blow up planets WITH HIS FINGER for jollies where do you go?

The entire series has a problem of making things bigger and bigger until they lose all meaning. This show is the poster child for power creep. As Team Four Star Vegeta said, "Power levels are bullshit!" but the Garlic Jr saga was an attempt to pull things back and make them smaller. Goku is out of the picture so he can't act as his usual deus ex machina self and the problem is sized right so that these guys can win but not without effort.

The arc is Ginyu sized.

That might be the problem; all of the super mega powerful characters i.e. the saiyans are MIA.

It's up to Gohan and Krilin, let's be honest Gohan to win this one.

Also since this is a filler arc there are some continuity inconsistencies. But it's Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z who the hell can keep all this stuff straight anyway.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Let's Talk About Trouble (T.Rubel)

You know what? I've actually seen a version of what I imagine a teenage/young adult Selina Kyle to be on television. She's not perfect as a character but she's pretty damn close. Grimm's Teresa Rubel aka T.Rubel.

She's pretty new but her very existence changes the status quo and stakes of the show.

By the way as a disclaimer I just have to say don't go off meds if your taking them. Just don't. Anybody telling you you're better off without them and isn't a licensed physician is an idiot. There are a lot of people who aren't in a place to get treatment and it fucks up their lives. Take the damn pills.

T.Rubel's arc is about her figuring out she doesn't have a medical problem and the stuff she sees in her head is real but if you do have a medical mental health problem for the love of god accept help where you can get it.

With that said I think she's the best thing to happen to the show in a long time.  After season two the show hit bit a status quo monster of the week rut and the writers have been throwing everything they can think of on the wall. Some of it works some of it doesn't. For instance the wedding stuff is badly paced. But there are a lot of interesting arcs and subplots in the show right now and T.Rubel's represents one of the more interesting ones.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Southfield Citizen Observer Police Bulletin June 16-22, 2014

Selina as a Prostitute?

You know it occurs to me the prostitution angle isn't universally liked. It's taken from Batman: Year one, a 1987 Batman arc penned by Frank Miller that has become the defacto origin of Batman, Catwoman and Jim Gordon since it was written until more or less the New 52. Most of the origin retcons in between were comments on, fixes to, or incorporations of that arc.

There are more or less 3 versions of Gotham City that more or less coincide with the Golden, Silver and Bronze/Dark ages of comics. And Batman Year: One is literally the bible of the later.

For instance you want to know why almost every adaptation of Batman for the last 10 years has Jim Gordon as a Lieutenant instead of a Commissioner, because Batman: Year One.

You want to know why everyone does that Bat-call thing.

Because Batman: Year One.

By the way Batman Begins is basically Batman: Year One until you know they just went ahead and made that.

 I can't comment on why Batman Year One has stuck around for so long but the reason why I accept it is because the math works out.

It feels like in order to have most of the Bat-family around, Bruce has had to have been doing his thing for at least 15 years. Add to that that the earliest and latest it makes sense for him to start to be Batman is his early 20's the time for him to have started being Batman feels like the late 70's and early 80's and that's more or less when Batman: Year One takes place framing Gotham as an analogue to the vice filled New York of of the era.

But as I said not every element was liked and people have a justifiable problem with Selina as a prostitute. I don't. At least not in concept, Frank Miller's version of it where she becomes Catwoman largely because of Batman was a little loopy, but as an explanation of why she is the way she is former prostitute makes sense.

Here's why.

Most of the cinematic versions of Catwoman, I know most of them suck, but they're what I have to work with here, are about her use of the persona to regain a certain type of power. In order for that to happen she's had to be in a place where she's lacked power, where she's lacked control over herself, and her life.

You don't have to go as dark as former child prostitute for that but it works.

 Again I have problems with every movie version of Catwoman but the eye role at the word "protection" was a nice call back to the Miller origin where when things start going down and the people around her start asking what's going on she says tells them it can't be the cops because the pimps paid them off, paid "protection" to "vice".

It also makes sense that that's why she's so reluctant to put said persona away and just go straight. In her mind that's tantamount to giving up the power that the persona has allowed her to gain. She's not going to do that.

Not only that but what makes Catwoman interesting is that she does have a code. A code which prioritizes the poor and women. BECAUSE SHE IS ONE OF THEM. Most people have compared Hathaway's dialogue to the occupy movement.  In my head it sounds a lot more like those motivational speakers they bring into high schools to keep kids from going "the other way".

She knows how hard it is to work the system and more over gain the tools to fight it. She feels like someone who has at various points been ignored and written off and is now screaming to the world, "I AM HERE YOU MUST, DEAL WITH ME!"

Going with the prostitution angle could send a powerful message regarding sex workers. And I don't just mean the normal get them out of the life stuff. I mean that the character could give them agency.

The problem with prostitutes in fiction is that they are always people to be pitied or ignored.  As a black guy and a nerd characters with that vibe annoy the ever loving shit out of me. And there are other reasons why that view of prostitutes in particular pisses me right the hell off. Selina as a prostitute is a person first and everything else second. As we all should be.

How Are They Going To Handle Catwoman

So Gotham has been in my feed a lot lately.

Okay for those who don't know Gotham is the upcoming Arrow-style Tv show for well Gotham, aka Batman's home turf with the gimmick that this show takes place in the immediate aftermath of the Wayne murders.

I've always been of the opinion that this was a stupid stupid premise, but some of the stuff coming out about it seems interesting. So yay?

Batman has some of the most interesting characters in the DC universe. Setting the story when it does means those characters' timelines and by extension the characters themselves have to be ignored, compressed, or re-written and that worries me. ( I know. I know New 52. Blah Blah Blah.)

I'm going to pick on Catwoman here partially because she's really hard to translate from the panel and also because in the show's marketing she's been front and center, almost more so than Bruce and Jim.

I am not a comic guru. Most of what I know about comics come from their adaptations and the most interesting and for that matter compatible adaptation of Catwoman I've seen has been her DC showcase.

It's heavily implied that Selina adopts the persona of Catwoman as a way to deal with her kind of messed up life which includes her childhood.

My point is framing the story when it does means that she wouldn't be too far removed from the death of her parents and depending on which version they decide to go with she may or may not be a prostitute at this time.

If they want to go that route more power to them because I would like to see them deal with that. The Catwoman persona as her power fantasy made flesh, using her sex appeal to rob blind the guys who would have raped, and possibly killed her. Eventually becoming a feminist Robin Hood of the slum. But I doubt they would.

  1. I doubt they have the balls to deal with her prostitution or even her life in the gutter on network TV
  2. If they did they would have to moralize her and that's dangerous. The entire point of her character post-catsuit is that she does EXACTLY what she wants because for a long time she couldn't.  Hell this is her central conflict with Batman who just can't get that. 
  3. Most people aren't interested in seeing the character at her lowest point. And based on the photos I've seen so far it looks like that's not the direction they're going anyway. 
  4. They're overtly shipping her and Bruce at least in the visuals and the reason why that relationship is so interesting is because he's lawful good and she's chaotic... - whatever phase of life she's in at the moment. With Bruce as just a kid before the bat, and her without her justifiable distrust of authority there isn't really any place for it go other than meet cute and I can get that just about anywhere else. 

The Thematic Story of Cloud Atlas

So this movie just won't leave my head. In my previous review I said that the movie has a larger thematic story but I failed to describe it largely because well it's thematic and kind of abstract. Let me try again.

So the movie retells a basic story 6 times having consistent story roles and making them recognizably archetypal. Here goes.

The Privileged Prisoner
Most of the time this is the person the story chooses to follow as they are brought low and try to essentially regain their privileged position, normally by making some sort of escape from bondage. There are generally two ways the privileged prisoner becomes a prisoner. The first is through some sort of voluntary commitment to the concept of abolition, the of the concept equality and disavowment of their own privilege for the sake of that equality in the effort of universal freedom, life, truth,  rights, dignity, and all that good stuff.
The second way The Privileged Prisoner is brought low is some sort of external inciting incident caused by the thief.

The Thief (The Guy Normally Played By Tom Hanks)
The movie seeks to answer the question "How come we keep making the same mistakes?" and posits it's simple greed and self interest. The big injustices are done for the same reasons as the small ones. The slave owner is no better than a pick pocket but has the benefit of of social institutions that aid and indemnify him.

What often brings the privileged prisoner low is a crime of opportunity. I did it because I could and no other reason.

The thief does what he does not because he hates the other guy but because he prioritizes his own self- interest over anything else. Everybody but himself is The Other and does not matter.  He will without remorse take advantage of the weak. He will kill. All because the only thing that matters to him is securing his own position. Doing what he can to make sure he comes out alright in the struggle that is life.

The Unprivileged Prisoner (The Slave)
Once the Privileged Prisoner crosses the threshold and enters "hell" for the sake of their own survival they often need to partner with the unprivileged prisoner or the slave as they both make a journey to escape bondage.  Each of the stories tries to show the plight of The Slave, to show that they are never secure.

And that is more or less how the film defines slavery. The lack of security. The lack of being able to take for granted certain things the film feels are "inalienable rights". Security of movement, security of life, security of limb, security of dignity.

These are things that status as "The Slave" or even the prisoner make unguaranteed. The journey of both prisoners is trying to get to a place often a physical location where these "natural rights" are secure.

The trick is that most of these quests end in failure but even the mental fortitude to make the attempt to freedom is framed as a restoration of dignity, as close to a victory these people could and did get.

In the film that quest for freedom is framed as a universal and eternal ideal something to both live and die for so even a defeat of the cause counts as ... well they said it better in the film.

The Profiteer (The Guy Normally Played By Either Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving or Both)
So the thief is the small time guy to show why injustice happens. The profiteer's purpose is to show why it endures. He is normally someone who has a direct interest in protecting the status quo. He has the money. He has the power. And he wants to protect it... even if it means stepping on the necks of every poor bastard in his wake. He is what the thief becomes after awhile.

His whole existence is a "crime of opportunity". The thief does what he does without actual malice. To him there is no right or wrong to it. "You had stuff I wanted stuff I took yo' stuff." It's that simple.

The profiteer has gotten more philosophical about it believing that he's earned his position, might makes right and the universe wants things to be the way they are so he should do what he can to keep them that way. And if doing so let's him effortlessly steal labor, or money so be it.

One really really interesting bit that I sort of meant to mention in the last go 'round but forgot that the movie frames slavery as theft in most cases theft of labor. In the 1970's segement rather than human labor the profiteer is seeking to sabotage clean energy for the sake of profit and the film draws a parallel to this character's 1850's self defending slavery.

Both are shameful and done for the same reasons. Mad duckets yo. The profiteer doesn't care what happens to anybody else as long as he... profits.

The Love
So what drives often drives the privileged prisoner to return from bondage is a love interest on the other side. What's interesting about this role his how the movie plays with it. The Love acts as motivation but everything else about this character is up for grabs so often he/she get's choped and screwed with other roles. For instance. In Neo-Seoul this role is split more or less evenly between the prisoners.

And the 1930's story splits the role between several characters including the profiteer holding the protagonist in bondage.

The Che (Anybody Played By Keith David)
Whenever there actually is an "abolition" movement Keith David normally shows up somewhere as its leader. I caught him in 3/6 segments. It's a large cast and everyone was wearing make up so I might have missed him elsewhere. What's interesting is that his character seems to be in the film to directly discuss slavery as a positive good.

In the first segment he's more or less a "happy slave" but as each of the segments gets pushed farther and farther into the future he becomes more and more rebellious casting doubt on the happy slave first impression.

His second appearance in the 1970's, is as the reverse mole so we the audience don't know if actual slave Keith David was as well.  Maybe, maybe not. He's a slave. Do you really expect him to tell the owners who have a legal right to kill him to go fuck themselves?

The movie leaves that up for grabs.

I heard...heard that the rebellion he was leading in the penultimate story, Union, was a 1984ish farce. That's something to think about but also it's in the book, which I haven't read. In the movie David plays that role straight bringing into question everything 1850's Keith David said.

Even so the movie also says a lot about the changing mentalities of the unprivileged so even if 1850's Keith David was "happy" with the way things were. 1970's Keith David sure as hell ain't.

Chopped and Screwed
Here is the thing this is a story that's told six times and each time it changes a little creating more and more room for reader interpretation and evolution in the story itself. And that's the point on a more metaphorical level. The story repeats itself but the story can and does change.

And that change makes the audience think. I am Boomer but I'm a different Boomer.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Movie Review: Cloud Atlas

So I just saw Cloud Atlas.


And now since I saw it I have to talk about it. That is kind of difficult. Apart from the fact the Lana Wachowski had the guts to tackle these issues the movie is impressive because it uses a bunch of what's best decribed as media tricks to communicate its ideas.

Look here's the thing I was already on the freedom, dignity, volition bandwagon. I'm the "Do what you feel" guy. The best the movie could hope from an ideological stand point is to maybe point out some of my own hypocrisies but other than that it's just a confirmation of a bunch of stuff I more or less already believe.

I am its choir, or at least like to view myself as such.

Nope what impresses and interests me is not what the movie says but how it says it.

Alright let's back up. Couple things you may need to know. First off who Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski are.

What Does the Matrix have to do with anything?
The Matrix is one of my favorite movies.

Hell part of the reason why I choose my name is because I dug one of the characters.

By the way, that's why there is a y instead of an i. I named myself after Cypher. Here's hoping I don't lose hope and betray all my friends and ideals then die horribly  via a vengeful lightning bolt to the chest. Eh he got all the best one-liners and can effortlessly translate code.

Anyway I have studied the film academically and I don't just mean I wrote something on my blog about it. I mean discussed in college philosophy and film courses. IT IS DEEP! I am not going down that rabbit whole (see what I did there. See. See) but am only using it to say. I really respect this direction/writing team. And that unless Cloud Atlas was really off the rails which it is not I would probably still enjoy it as a part of their ouvre.

That said many of the themes, philosophies and autistic of The Matrix are left intact in this movie. You could more or less rename the Neo-Seoul segments "The Third Renaissance" or "Morpheus Explains It All 2 Electronic Boogaloo"

Hugo Weaving is more or less reprising his role as Agent Smith in at least 2 of the six stories. More depending on how I look at it.

He more or less copies his performance from the Matrix's interrogation scene in Neo-Seoul.  Same thing new context. At that point in the Matrix we didn't know what we were dealing with. He was just a g-man. A little creepy sure, but not yet a reprehensible villain. Here it's clear from the beginning that he's a tool and on some occasions the mouthpiece of oppression. The guy who justifies all of the abstract concepts the movie wants to knock down. Racism, tribalism, privilege, sexism, homophobia, classicism. He is the cog that keeps the machine working in most of the segments of the film.

While The Matix could be read as a film about human rights and freedom all of that stuff felt abstract and too a degree unreal. In this movie several of the characters are physically restrained. Physically kept from having the power to direct their own lives. How did I put it elsewhere.  Freedom is the ability to act on your own self-interest or desire without fear. Physical constraint is the most black and white lack of freedom I can imagine. There isn't a lot of philosophical wiggle room about what "self interest" means in that case. I want to move myself from here to the other side of the door, is it.

While I love The Matrix, it didn't spend a lot of time explicitly telling the audience how it defined freedom. At least the last two didn't. Why is the matrix, an artificial construct, unknown to most of "the prisoners" inherently unreal, inherently not free?

On Lana Wachowski

I don't want to say anything stupid and want this post to mostly stick to my own interpretations of the film but a lot of the themes the film do seem to draw inspiration from Lana's coming out of the closet as a transgendered woman.

In this respect I am not a reporter if you want the facts there there are better places than here to get them. When it comes to media I don't have so much of a problem giving priority to my own thoughts and interpretations, what it means to me,  but with real people, especially in issues of identity and "who they are" I don't want to do that.

All the same the film's themes of universal freedom, dignity, the general universality of ideas regardless of gender, race, time and place do seem a bit like a personal manifesto on her part. And I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention it as potentially part of the authorial intent of the film.

So I've been dancing around this. The film is actually centered around six stories that share themes and actors. Unlike most stories like this they aren't clearly delineated as an anthology would be.  The editing juxtaposes similar shots, characters, and set pieces to highlight the similarities between them and demonstrate the universality of the themes in each one.

Thematic Elements vs Specific Elements
In a way it feels like you're watching 7 movies at the same time, each of the six smaller ones and a larger more abstract thematic story. I am of the opinion that the six smaller stories serve largely to augment and comment on the larger thematic story so that's going to be important and difficult to talk about.

Damn you sideways thinking.

See in a way each of the 6 stories are telling what amounts to the same story. But not quite. The movie asks the audience to figure out how each story is different and why each story is different.

For instance most the actors play characters with the same roles in most of the stories but occasionally they don't. For instance in the 1930's story "Thematic" Tom Hanks is instead played by Jim Broadbent.  All of this threw me for a loop putting me in a mental "you don't know everything, Miles." place.

All the same the connection of the same actor playing similar roles said something. "Everythin' After" Tom Hanks is more or less the same guy as 1850's Tom Hanks, 1930's Tom Hanks,  and 2012 Tom Hanks. But his arc is despite himself not doing the sort of stuff that make those guys the villains of their respective stories and for the most part succeeding. Though to be fair he's also in the same story playing and combining elements of thematic Jim Sturgess. So take that with a grain of salt.

And Hugo Weaving, like I said in almost every one of his arcs. is the guy justifying the unjust status quo which includes slavery and nazi style "final solution" tactics. Watch Morpheus explain NEO-Seoul and you more or less get what's going on. Seriously that segment IS The Matrix done tighter, without the flab not that there was much to begin with... at least with the first one.  Oh and there is some Blade Runner mixed in there for good measure as Weaving is simultaneously playing both Smith and Deckard.

I'm actually surprised Rutger Hauer didn't get a cameo in this baby. I ought to rewatch that one. Nope! Not now! Move on Miles. Cyberpunk night later. Can I watch Existenz? You can watch Existenz.

Anyway it's heavily implied that thematic Hugo Weaving has had an epiphany and seen the light by the end of the movie.

The Words We Have
Another thing that's interesting is the use of slave speak. Thematically the movie talks a lot about dignity human rights, and the other. It wants to divorce slavery from just our concept of American Slavery, though it does comment on that as well.

To do that several of the characters speak in broken English implying that in their story they are thematically slaves or at the very least the unprivileged of that particular story. And while various character may treat them without dignity the story never does, inviting the audience to empathize with them and draw thematic connections to the other thematic unprivileged.

How is Mexican immigrant Bae Doona the same as ... Korean Replicant Bae Doona the same as "Everythin' After" Tom Hanks the same as 1850's David Gyassi. What do these people have in common in their stories?

The Words We Leave Behind
Another interesting theme is that each of these characters, at least the ones who can, know of the others via the records they left. "Everythin' After" Tom Hanks watches the video interrogation of Replicant Bae Doona. 1970's Hale Barry reads the letters of 1930's, who read the journal of 1850's Ben Sturgess.

Despite being in different times and places all of these characters are able to draw strength from each other's experiences via the words they left behind.

The story posits that these ideas, these truths are meaningless on thier own. What makes them powerful is their ability to be transmitted to others and transcend our own deaths, to be applied by other people in other places.

God bless the writer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Mirror

So I want to talk about politics in film but I don't want to talk about any film in particular. I guess this would be a good time to discuss why talking about politics in fiction is important and/or interesting.

The short answer is that all fiction has a relationship with reality. Idea Channel did a pretty good idea explaining it with Ms. Marvel via the concept of representation but that still casts the concept in the light of social justice. I want to speak more broadly.

I am a guy who feels he's often been ignored as a result I know that sometimes saying exactly what you mean just doesn't work. Fiction is a tool that allows for subtly and when called for ambiguity letting people identify more closely with the ideas being presented.

These aren't just things being told to you but characters who in a way you view as yourself.

Moreover stories, stories give us a way of talking without talking. In this world there are things I can't say, things I can't be. Normally truth is a binary. Something is or it is not. Words are either the truth or a lie. Fiction, metaphor, allegory. These things allow for a breakdown in that binary. The ability to construct a lie to tell a truth, in some cases a hard truth, a subjective truth or even more difficult to communicate an abstract truth.

Years ago I saw the world as numbers. Beauty can be explained as the laws of light. Harmony as the laws of air. But then I asked what is this strange creature I gaze in the mirror. Why does he move? Why does he think? Why does he speak? And numbers, facts they did not hold this truth.

So I had to look in other places. On the page, on the canvas and on the screen. I saw in these places the same mirror. A place to observe the man. To see him move in the darkness. To see him move in the light.  And with that I came a little closer to the truth I can not know.

Is an unknowable truth, truth. Truth is known. Truth is certainty. But the mirror, the image shifts and moves with the beast as it is alive and simply can not still itself. Every time the beast moves the mirror moves with it and the truth is lost once more.

The truth I seek can not be found but it is the attempt that seems to matter most. I cannot hold my truth only slowly approach it. The closer I get to it the farther I find myself from it like a glint in the sunlight.  The slightest tilt of the head, movement of the eye, and it is gone.

I wish to share my truth as it was shared with me. But to speak a truth I do not know a truth I can only guess at. How do I do that.

I craft a lie to speak my truth.

Anime Gender Round Up

So as a guy I'm never felt fully comfortable talking about gender politics mostly because I don't spend a lot of time thinking about them, most the the time at least. I'm a guy.  But I like talking about media. While depending on my mood I might make some claim as to this blog being about news that's not really its purpose.

Its purpose is to be a place where I feel emotionally safe enough to talk about whatever is on my mind without the fear of crickets or confused stares. Sure a lot of the time that's politics because I always had an interest in how things work and a lot of the stuff we take for granted is hashed out in chambers and debates or spreadsheets and emails.I get a kick out of looking at that stuff.

But I also love media. Movies, video games, television books I can't get enough of that stuff and so often "whatever is on my mind" is that movie or show I saw last week.

Often times what makes a show or movie or whatever stick on my mind are its gender politics which are often so important to the work you can't separate them from any real discussion so before I start talking feminism or gender further I thought it might be a good idea to get an idea of how this stuff got on my mind in the first place, at least via media, so let's do it.

Rin: Daughters of  Mnemosyne

For a long time Rin was the best piece of "serious" science fiction anime I had seen since GitS:SAC.

It's a show about the adventures of eponymous IMMORTAL (that's important think a cross between Conner MacLeod and DBZ's Cell) paranormal investigator Rin as she and her partner Mimi take on cases.

Some have accused the show of being basically porn but its raison d'etre is to talk about sex. Not just t&a though it has plenty of that but how sex affects our relationships, culture and identity. Metaphorically it's all about sexual dimorphism and by extension the difference between sex and gender. Heck by the end of the subtext just becomes text as the progtagonist and antagonist who are male and female respectively gain genitalia of both sexes. More or less his entire M.O. for six episodes was to get her in a position where he could rape her, kill her and cause the end of the world or something. The ending is kind of weird. Something about ragnorak and Rin being analogous to Freyja and/or Frigg with the villain playing the role of Loki... I think as we watch him try to off an aging despondent Odin figure in 2050. And I never got into the eddas. So let's stick to gender.

The show is all about exaggerating and then blurring the biological differences between male and female to make its point about what sex and gender means. The show also delves into what makes sex enjoyable. Two of the main characters are shameless flirts and bonk a lot. All the same there is a lot of rape imagery. What makes sex harmless or harmful is control over one's own body and the case of transsexuals that might be an eternal frustration.

Oh and shit tons of post structural feminism.  And oh my god the visual references to the uterus, ovum and vagina, as Rin begins the path to become the hermaphroditic mother/father to the world. Did I say the end is weird. The end is weird.  First time I saw it I pretended the last two episodes didn't happen. The end is weird. Not bad but without a sex ed class it makes no damn sense. And even then you have to be smart enough to understand that the show posits the only meaningful difference between the two sexes is or should be the biological. And for some, especially, those uncomfortable discussing that crucial difference, that might be a leap.

The entire point is blurring the line between male and female on a sexual level so you're going to see some lady parts.  Not so much dude parts as the show is more concerned about what the feminine means (i.e. the womb), but you're going to see some lady parts. Especially in the end when the show decides to tell the audience what it really is about rather than laying on subtext.

As I hinted at the show is all about the body, its utility, its connection to and potential imprisonment of the mind or soul or whatever. Most of the really bad stuff happens whenever one of the villains manage to divorce Rin's soul from her body making her vulnerable without the obvious physical tool to fight back and then regenerating the flesh and trapping her within it.

And those mind body references are through out the entire thing.  Does a clone retain the soul of the original? In a world of the digital what is the importance of the physical?

Interesting stuff.

Avatar the Legend of Korra
The point I'm trying to make is that these shows put me in a position where I have to talk about gender because its so important to the perception of the work as a whole. One of the most interesting things about the Legend of Korra is it's protagonist defy's gender convention and does so in a way that feels organic. She isn't going to punch a guy because she's trying to prove herself against the patriarchy. She's going to punch a guy because her default tool to solve problems is her body and ...her fists are part of her body.

"I'm not oppressing anybody're oppressing yourselves".  Not one for rhetoric and debate is she? "That didn't even make sense"

It's just how she operates. The show doesn't frame it as weird though sometimes it is troublesome. Not because of gender roles but because Korra is rash and has a tendency to get in over her head.  Something that would happen to a guy with her personality. Subtley and restraint aren't her strong suites and punch it until it stops being a problem doesn't always work.

The show made me think about how personality traits are deemed masculine or femine and showed a character kind of divorced from that. Korra is just Korra.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

So this show is a deconstruction of the magical girl genre,  which on occasion has been a guilty pleasure of mine. Hey the later seasons of Sailor Moon were pretty good, better than DBZ's filler arcs at least. Go home Garlic Jr. Nobody likes you. You literally got your ass kicked by a 3 year old throwing a temper tantrum. You can NOT hold up to the god kings of this show.

(But Cell was pretty badass and lost to Gohan at 12. Shuduuuup. Cell beat every other opponent that came at him.  Trunks, Vegeta, Goku, Android 17, Android 16. Android 18. He earned his rep. Gohan sucker punched him... to single bit of his name wait I'm forgetting that time he came back from hell. Or the fight he lost to Pikon in hell. Damn it.)

Madoka  Magica made me think about how magical girl shows work and made me that divorced from thier hypersexualized (masculine vs feminine not actual sex) nature both shonen fighting shows and magical girl shows work on basically the same rules. Crazy transformation sequences and a lot of stock animation.

Our masculine speeches about honor, friendship and fairplay could be substituted for their feminine speeches about honor, friendship and fairplay.

I say anybody who bitches about Sailor Moon can't go on a nostalgia trip about Power Rangers because they were basically the same damn show with different uniforms and minus the dinozords ...and the megazord. Okay so it didn't have giant robots. Not everything can have giant robots... Though everything should have giant robots. Magical girls with giant robots.  I got to get in on that. Could be the next big thing. Maginoids.

Lupin The Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

The reason why I wrote a 10-page review on this one is because as a Lupin The Third show I was going to watch it no matter but rather than being a straight revival it was a deconstruction of Fujiko Mine and women's roles in media especially legacy media. The show was trying to pose the question what the role of gender politics should be in writing.

You can't have Fujiko feel like Fujiko without at least a little fanservice. As a character she creates an interesting dilemma. And the show tackles her head on trying to find a balance between the character and the gender politics of her literally being a walking boob joke.

Thelma and Louise and Michiko and Hatchin
Again because of the director I was going to watch Michiko and Hatchin anyway but it felt wrong to talk about a Japaneses TV show based on a Brazilian movie without watching the Brazilian movie.  And while I was at it I figured I might as well watch Thelma and Louise.

I still feel that Thelma and Louise misses the boat on race and class but what I failed to consider when I reviewed it is that the dynamic between the two leads is the closest the audience could expect to seeing a lesbian relationship on screen at the time at least for a mainstream film. Maybe I should cut it a little more slack than I do.

As for Michiko and Hatchin its a critique of the empowerment fantasy posed by T&L.

Soul Eater and Soul Eater Not
So like I said Shonen fighting shows shows tend to be hypermasculine. Soul Eater wasn't. The main cast featured 7 characters 4 of whom were girls. The story is arguably about the female lead's coming of age. What wierds me out about Not is that it takes the gender neutral original and goes the other way with it. I'm still trying to puzzle out how I feel about that.

Shows like Dragon Ball Z and Card Captor Sakura have gotten a rep as being pretty silly by today's standards. I tend to give Dragon Ball a pass because as a guy I seldom have to deal with gender identity issues, or at least so I keep telling myself.

But I have to ask are shows like Card Captor Sakura harmful. And if they are isn't hyper feminized Soul Eater Not harmful as well?

I don't know.

Its the same as asking if Sleeping Beauty is harmful. Eh probably. But after all the injustice in the world its hard to muster real rage at Aurora or Walt.

Look like I said at the outset I'm not a girl. But I've always dealt with that by aggregating feminism with discussions about race and as a black kid growing up in the suburbs I can tell you rap depictions of the thug life tempted me to the dark side.

Oh, now I realize I wouldn't last a day on the actual streets but 12 year old me might be too stupid to get that. The life of the gangster age of hiphop was a calculated lie. An empowerment fantasy the masses wanted to buy. But deriving what it means to be black from a 50 cent video is stupid.

I always wondered if hyperfeminzed magical girl shows and Disney princesses were the equivalent for girls. Do they derive what it means to be female from that stuff I don't know.

Anime and Gender

Okay after the princess flying on a white halberd with hearts Soul Eater Not is really flippin' girly. And I don't know how I feel about that. My instinct has always been that the distinction between male and female interests is largely cultural and the original Soul Eater played that up.

The protagonist and more than half of the cast were female and they kick just as much ass if not more than the guys. One of them is literally a sword, and a scythe chain. Hell the entire story is a female coming of age plot wrapped in a Shonen i.e. teenage male targeted show. It even has some pretty strong condemnations of male infidelity.

For most of the series Maka is pissed at her dad for ruining his marriage and "making mom cry". It was a show that tried and succeeded in bridging the gap and being inclusive to everybody.

This thing is pushing it. Whenever I see that in a show I start to worry because I start thinking of the pink isle. The idea that we have to artificially girlify everything to make it interesting to women. That's not to say don't be inclusive. There is no excuse for not having more character model customization in video games for example. But I think it's kind of stupid assuming that reason women don't like tools is because they can't find a pink hammer. That is stupid and assumptious  on so many levels. For the record I disagree with that statement and did a whole other blog post on it.

I'm a dude but I just feel like literally adding hearts and pink wings to a giant SPEAR misses the point. Of course this is the original team so eh. All the same there was a lot for women to be interested in with the original (yes I know there was a lot of fan service, no need to bring up Blaire)

I had the same problem with Fam the Silver Wing but I had so many other problems with Fam: The Silver Wing I let it go. Seriously that show can go die in a fire. Alex Rowe is a sky pirate.

Now that I think about this whole thing is making me question gender in anime on a whole new level. Awhile back, when talking about Madoka Magica I said that magical girl anime was the female equivalent of shonen fight anime which are no less exaggerated but on the male spectrum. Oh I can't help it.

Both genres are hyper gendered. Since I'm a guy and grew up with them I cut shows like Yu Yu Hakusho and Dragon Ball Z a lot of slack for their Liefelding.

My original position was that if I could have that I shouldn't make fun of magical girl anime but I'm starting to shift as I realize they're both ridiculous, but as a kid I was too stupid to see it. I just knew that Freiza blew up Namak and that made him evilllllllll. There isn't much difference between Goku and Usagi. Their pecs are about the same size.  Don't get me wrong if they're having a dark tournament marathon on I'll be there in a heartbeat, but still these shows send the message of what it is to be masculine or feminine and that's worth talking about.

More over could either genre work if they were totally divorced from gender? Like I said the original Soul Eater played by DBZ rules without DBZ abs. Except with Black Star, but that's kind of the point of his character.  He's overcompensating and everybody around him knows it and wishes he would just grow up.
They basically turned what was as close as you could get to a gender neutral shonen fight show into a magical girl show and that is kind of interesting, annoying but interesting.

Even though I know he's an insane sociopath there is a bit of me that wants to be like Kenpachi Zaraki despite the fact that in this day and age physical fighting capability means almost nothing.

Freaking 11th squad. Why because I've been indoctrinated to believe that physical combat strength is the zenith of masculinity even though it's generally useless and for that matter stupid. But action is action and there has to be a way of divorcing fight scenes from notions of masculinity or femininity for that matter.

Fight Club is about trying to futilely cling to notions of masculinity in a world where those notions must adapt or die. The space monkeys were a bunch a dodos and didn't know it. Still how would the framing of the narrative feel if instead of a bunch of guys they were women. How would the movie work if all of the brutality was divorced from notions of masculinity?

Soul Eater Not Thoughts So Far

I really really like the original Soul Eater. I always go on and on about how I prefer anime of the old Toonami era but Soul Eater is probably the anime that put me in a place where I knew things would be okay. It's not necessarily the best but it was good enough to put my mind at ease that we weren't headed into a fanservice, moe, myopia when I saw it back in 2010.

Soul Eater Not, a prequel series is not Soul Eater. Not by a long shot. Soul Eater had this whole action horror comedy thing going for it and so far Soul Eater Not barely touches its mindfuckery. The main antagonist of that show IS fear.

But Not does justify its own existence. Soul Eater had a lot working under the hood and one of the things it had going for it was that the relationship between weapon meister and weapon were tantamount to actual personal relationships many of which were romantic. Spirit and the protagonist's mother. Stein and Marie. The show uses a working partnership as a metaphor for partnership more generally.

The story used Maka's conflicted feelings towards her partner weapon Soul to tell a story about puberty and a girl's first love. All while she kicked bad guy ass six ways to Sunday. Ahh aint that cute.

The strongest justification for Soul Eater Not is that it does the same thing except for same sex-relationships and like I said that justifies its existence. I don't know if it succeeds and who am I to tell, but it takes some balls to even try that with a show so connected to the Shonen (teenaged boys) crowd. On the other hand the show does skirt the line. I feel dirty watching some of those glomps and pillow fights, and of course there is a maid cafe in Death Valley. Still though I like that it basically is telling young girls that those feelings are okay. We have a quasi-lesbian love triangle front and center. Though if you find love triangles annoying in general...

Beyond that though I'm on the edge as to whether or not it can avoid the trap of the sequel series. Both Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing, and Eureka: AO Astral Ocean were most interesting when they were featuring characters and themes from thier parent shows. In both cases there wasn't a whole lot interesting besides that. In A.O in particular the highlight of the entire 20 some odd episode series is a two part episode in which the eponymous Eureka shows up and makes you realize just how boring Ao is in comparison as a protagonist. She's fun but only so because you spent 50 episodes watching her series where she had actual honest to god character development and you feel happy that her personality shifts stuck (for the moment grrrr another time). And Fam can die in a fire. Last Exile needed a sequel but that ain't it.

Soul Eater Not has moments like that. But they too justify themselves. In the original the Thompson sisters had mostly mellowed out, their wilder days being back story and its fun to see them a little rougher than I remember. Stein went through so much in the original that he almost seems like two characters by the end of it both of which are wholly enjoyable.

It was fun seeing him again before the fissures started forming. Though the series was clear to a degree he was always like that and was just barely holding the madness at bay.

And that's him mostly sane. Mostly.

It's really early so I'm not that worried about it and there are some interesting ideas that could go places. Medusa and Arachne were really good villains and set the baseline for how witches work in this franchise and it looks like this show is going to play with that.

Arcahne's backstory is complicated but Medusa was pretty much pure evil for the hell of it. Arachne wasn't much far off. Witches are always chaotic evil. Or are they. Damn it Glinda.

P.S. When I wrote this I had just made it to episode 9 after which shit gets real.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I Never Liked Carni Games

Well I'm bored and cranky. So let me shake my emasculated fist some.

We're about to have a great big giant discussion about roads, on the county and local level. The state maaaaaybe. I doubt it but maybe. 

In almost every discussion about roads I've seen people seem to be missing a major point.  Everybody agrees that the reason why the roads are so bad the money isn't there to do much more. People are trying to get more funding out of the tax payers but nobody wants to say the thing nobody wants to hear. 


People seem to hear it but not understand it. So let me explain.

Fixing something costs less than replacing it so ideally you want to fix things as you go along rather than waiting waiting so long that you can't. On an aggregate level for our road system what this means is that fixing the mostly okay roads is going to cost less fixing the really rotten ones. Everything costs money. So if you do decide to fix the worst of the worst there is less money in the pot to maintain the alright ones and eventually they won't be so alright.  

If we want long term transportation improvement. A true fix rather than a patch. Than ironically we need to put the money into patching...and resurfacing. Doing so will save money and make those desperately needed road reconstruction projects more feasible in the future as we won't be playing wack-a-mole for the next 20 years.

But people look outside their door and want Greenfield reconstructed yesterday. 

We're going to have a road funding initiative. I have no idea how it will look or how things will turn out but so far the tone is that the money will fix your street. That's not how I see it. At least not completly.

In the meetings I attended I got the vibe that at current funding levels the city could barely maintain current pacer rating. Even at 4 million a year which is more the city's current levy levels the road's Pacer rating decreases over the long term. 

Without more money we're hosed. Despite what people think I'm a cheap bastard. Either way this thing goes I don't like that nobody wants to hear that the most efficient way of spending the money, the way that gets us to the best place in the shortest amount of time is going to be a little painful and anything else is going to spread out the hurt over more time.  So let's get it over with, sit down and take our medicine.

And now because freaky carnival imagery at the wack-a-mole metaphor made my mind go there. The Extreme Ghostbusters Intro. That show freaked me out as a kid. Eh Killer Clowns is still on my list. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Movie Review: Pain and Gain

Here's my dirty little secret. I love Micheal Bay. See I never saw the Transformer movies so my experience with him is, The Rock, Bad Boys, Bad Boys 2, and the fun but kind of stupid Armageddon. Apart from speculative fiction I make it no secret that action is my favorite genre and Bay knows how to blow up shit real good. It's what he does people.

More over Bay is the type of guy who won't even pretend to try to take his his premise seriously. And divorced from pretentious melodrama and moralizing he's one of the most fun directors alive. While it can sometimes be embarrassing and insulting his movie's tendencies to not dwell on message make them fun.

Pain and Gain feels like it has something to say but would rather just sit back while everybody else makes an ass of themselves. That might be disappointing to a lot of people but it also is what makes the movie good. The movie doesn't have to work very hard to convince the audience that these guys are absolutely insane because their narration does that for it. The movie can instead focus on being  ...  fun. Not dramatic, not profound, but fun.

Unlike his other outings rather than action this one moves by its sardonic wit.

Our protagonist Daniel Lugo, fully buys into the American dream and makes the mistake of fully believing he's smarter than really is. That he "deserves it". I've said previously that people don't deserve anything, but this guy, this guy he deserves an epic ass beating.  We get to watch as he and his buddies get "you are an idiot" pounded into them.

He concocts a crazy scheme to get rich guy to sign over his fortune to him.

What makes the movie funny is that Lugo and his buddies, in this specific aspect mostly Paul Doyle, played by The Rock have the mentality of children. I mean it. If it weren't for the torture and violence their lines sound like they could be coming out of 12 year-olds. And that's what's so hilarious.

These guys think they're criminal masterminds when they are children, no, worse than children because children have the excuse of being children.

The story progresses about how you would expect but again what makes it is how self-delusional every character is. I said that the movie feels like it has something to say and that's more or less it. "Deserve ain't got nothin' to do with it"

The American Dream is A LIE! The pursuit of it is what makes these guys the idiotas they are while we the audience get to sit back and laugh knowing that there is no way these guys, these guys, THESE GUYS are smart enough to get away with this.

At the big show down we all know ends these types of movies it's clear, the movie isn't making some big statement about morality and how crime doesn't pay, but rather pointing a finger and pulling a Nelson Muntz that they were stupid enough to think they were smart enough to make the plan work in the first place.

And well. I'm not half the nice guy I pretend to be.

I'm an evil evil man. And as long as no real harm comes from it, i.e. fiction, I love laughing at the stupid.  And these guys are brilliantly stupid. It takes real brains to write characters who are this dumb and feel authentically dumb. While the movie is based on a true story Bay did what he wanted. Still it feels like somewhere down the line he was infuriated by somebody who thinks this way or by people constantly telling him, he thinks this way.

This isn't your normal heist gone wrong movie, where some unforeseeable detail causes the plan to collapse on itself, and you feel bad for the guys who are in too deep and know it.

Lugo has drunken so much of the Kool-aid he think's it's champagne and the characters around him are so stupid they wants some of the Cris too. And these aren't poor unfortunate souls duped by him sooo.

Schadenfreude biiach!

What potentially makes the movie profound his how these guys are stupid. Again there is some subtlety there because nobody goes to Bay movie for critiques on society. Get that shit outta here.

But the characters all ignore the obvious because they're overly concerned about masculinity, patriotism, and Christianity. All of which are meaningless social constructs especially, as interpreted by these dumb-asses.

What's really interesting on rewatches is the acting on Mark Wahlberg's part. Most movies like this hint that deep down the guy doesn't believe any of it and is only desperately clinging to the faith in order to keep his entire belief system afloat.

Nope not Lugo. He believes. Everything. Unshakably. You almost have to admire the little bugger... if it weren't for the upside down torture. And the car. Oh my god the car. If I read the movie wrong and there is some sort of sign that god hates these guys and wants to see them fail miserably. The car.

Wahlberg never breaks. Never falters. Lugo is Lugo and damn is he entertaining.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Southfield Police Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin June 9-15 2014

TV Review: Titanic Blood and Steel

I have a weird relationship with Titanic the 1996 movie. Now a days I tend to escew overblown melodramatic movies but those are the types of movies my parents really dig. So when I was younger the "epic" is what I had on VHS. Titanic, The Ten Commandments, Gladiator.

 My brain doesn't like them because the film wants to engage in the type of spectacle and storytelling that demands foreshadowing and melodrama. All the same I liked Titanic. My late music teacher really dug the movie and taught the class how to sing and for some of the kids how to play "My Heart Will Go On".

As an experience yeah it was pretty good, but as narrative it ran on the type of melodrama that I would smack down anywhere else. As much as want to give my wag of the finger the movie works. It movie was created to do that sort of thing as James Cameron's return to form and succeeds if I can get into a head space to enjoy it which yeah I can. It may not be my default head space but with a little work I can get there.

All the same it's kind of hard to take the movie seriously when you know a lot of the emotional ratcheting isn't because of narrative necessity but to grip the audience in a little deeper and put them through the ringer.

This version of the ill fated voyage makes a decision early on that separates it from the 1997 version. The thing that wows audiences in the 1997 version and most versions is the spectacle of watching the sinking ship.  Nobody is watching the movie to watch Roses fiance make digs at Jack.

The series isn't really about the sinking of the Titanic, but rather the environment and people around which it was made. The boat it self if a physical symbol of the age and the hopes of the people living in that age and the knowledge of it's crash looms over the audience. No matter how hard these guys work, how much they sweat, or how good things look in the moment we know how the story ends.

And that's the overall point of it all, to show the endeavor as being more than just it's ending.

Look I am and always will be a sucker for stories about engineers. Blah blah blah, path not taken and all. I still really dig science and the application thereof to practical problems and there is a lot of science in this show as the protagonist Mark Muir who partners with real life based drafting manager Thomas Andrews to design the ship..

Look I'll be honest I failed out of engineering school but really still do get a kick out of tolerances, materials choices, and spreadsheets. God how I love a good spreadsheet. Also I like hearing the pull between "We could do this really awesome thing," "We have a duty to do this as a bare minimum" and "It would cost a fortune" articulated.  What generally separates an engineer from a pure scientist is that engineers have to aware of the practicality of implementing ideas meaning they have to know when the cost doing something outweighs it's practical benefit and or the budget. The pull between the scientist, the builder and the accountant. GIVE THE ROADS MORE MONEY, DAMN IT!!!!!! And for the love of god don't patch the bad roads at the expense of maintaining the good ones, or we'll be right back here in another 3 years. If I hear that line about getting to the worst one more time my head will explode!

Sorry what was I saying. Right the Titanic is a physical manifestation of the hopes and dreams of all the characters representing all of their work. The story mostly follows Mark Muir but also other characters. To the a lot workers and foremen the ship is just as much their baby giving them an opportunity to show the managers just how necessary they are in the social order. Ship don't get built without them.

This is a show that's trying depict the environment in which the ship was made so it continuously deals with big ideas. Manufacturing, science, economics, feminism, class, law, politics and trying to show how all of those impacted the building of the ship.

And its inevitable failure.

You see the compromises and why they were made. That's mostly what Mark's role is to guide the audience into understanding the science of it all, the manufacturing process from ingots to rivets and plating while Andrews does the hemming and hawing over whether or not he can sell it all to the board sometimes succeeding sometimes not.

To that end the show has a really strong supporting cast.

But what makes it is the ending. Like I said one of Mark's role for most of the show has been explaining how the structural failure of the ship happened and sounding an alarm to anyone who would listen during it's construction. Not all of his suggestions were listened listened to but enough were that it feels like the show earned the right to rewrite history a little. This created a narrative problem. The last episode feels like it's trying a little too hard to remind the audience that yes despite everything that happened in 11 episodes prior the boat did sink as it tries to undo all the decisions made by Andrews and Muir. But the show has the sheer balls not to end on the sinking of the ship leaving it ambiguous and up to the audience. Did THIS Titanic sink? I dunno.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Southfield City Council June 16, 2014 Regular Meeting

Southfield Regular City Council Meeting Held on June 17, 2014

Topics Include

  • The Appointment of City Attorney Fred Zorn
  • Approving Amendments to the Begging Ordinance
  • The Conversion of Service Bays at a Gas Station to Retail Space

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Southfield City Council Special Budget June 16, 2014 Meeting

Southfield June 16, 2014 City Council Committee of the Meeting

Committee of the whole meeting of the Southfield City Council held on June 16, 2014. The meeting primarily discussed the contract and appointment of then Deputy City Administrator Fred Zorn to the City Administrator post as well as a new circular sidewalk for the municipal front lawn.

God Damn It! Don't Ruin it guys.

Right now I'm trying to process the audio for last night's city council meetings. It's pretty early I'm still kind of out of it so I decide to take a break and watch YouTube and I catch this commercial.


I'm pretty much up for internet humor. But this, this is just stupid. The Meet The Spartans of commercials.

For those who don't know this is a "parody" of a series of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon parody segments called "The History of Rap" in which Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake sing medleys featuring some of the big hip hop hits of the last 30 years. And it "The History Rap" not the "History of Bromance" is absolutely brilliant.

When people speak in defense of the modern cut and paste culture made prevalent by the internet and digital technology. I can and do point to this and say I want a world where this is possible.

While it's hard to say that the segments are greater than the sum of their parts since "History of Rap" they go a long way in justifying their own existence and the use of someone else's work. And they do that and make that point by sampling music known for its sampling.

The performance itself is a real show probably taking real endurance on the part of Fallon and Timberlake. The songs they choose are really diverse meaning somebody had to work really hard on the transitions. The Roots are doing a lot of real instrumentation. And Fallon and Timberlake are both aware that the spirits of the songs may clash with their personas yet at the same time seem to understand and respect them and it's fun and interesting seeing them try to within seconds sometimes milliseconds get into the head space of the next song and succeeding in taking on the affectations of their performers made the more obvious in their version of Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day" when  Justin breaks the fourth wall and calls Jimmy on some of the lines(7:30 of the YouTube video).

The commercial on the other hand is just a reference trying to take advantage of and make money off of something popular without understanding or respecting why it's popular. And that is kind of slap to the face of not just "The History of Rap" but the history of rap.

Monday, June 16, 2014

I Need to Finish This

Yep before asking people for money for this thing, i.e. bank loans and Kickstarter I would want to finish this.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Revenge of Da Biz

Soooo yeah this is what I should probably be doing. Note I did this in like 4 hours so there are no formulas and it's really rough. This is basically a list of everything I could think of the blog needs. Also it looks better in excel.

Da Biz Strikes Back: Segregating Living and Business Expenses

So I don't know if you're getting this but that thing was a pseudo-business plan. Telling people exactly what you would do with money makes it all the more likely that they'll just give you the money if they want that stuff done.  That's more or less the entire point of Kickstarter. I want to make this thing. You want this thing made. Let's do lunch.

As I already hinted at one of the main reasons why I just don't do that is that segregating the business from myself would be hard for a number of reasons.

  1. A lot of the accounts I use for this blog are personal. YouTube in particular would be rough to migrate meaning probably a hundred or so man hours of downloading and re-uploading videos.
  2. Opening up the type of bank accounts I would need to just get going would take more money than I have.
  3. And the one I want to talk about now is that due to the fact that my ideal work space looks a lot like my ideal living space segregating the expenses would in essence mean buying two of everything and being the broke bastard I am that's really hard to justify
The thing that the people in my life don't get is that my bedroom really does double as my office. And if I were setting up an office from scratch it would almost be a clone. I find that an interesting topic so let's do this.

So for almost as long as I can remember I've had a computer in my work space. As a kid it was neccisary for homework so there you go. I've never had a large place to live so my computer went in whichever room I spent the most time in, causing a chicken and egg philosophy question. Do I spend the most time there because that's where my computer is or is that where my computer is because that's where I spend the most time. I dunno.

All the same "work" i.e. most productive tasks would require a computer. A pretty sizable investment, especially considering a lot of the software is the same sort of stuff I would buy no matter what. Photoshop, Microsoft Office, you get the drill.

This would be all the more trouble later in life when when I might have multiple businesses operating out of the home. Do I really buy a web development computer, a fun computer, and a studio computer, all with common apps and software.

The same could be said for tablets and cell phones and all that good stuff.

So I've never been a laptop guy. Sure if I had the money to buy whatever I want I would get a laptop and a desktop and a tablet oh my but in order to get a laptop to work the way I want I would have to stick a bunch of stuff to it that would eventually turn it into a desktop making the mobile point moot. Mouse, keyboard, microphone, external hard drive, camera, printer, scanner, heck maybe even a larger monitor. Disconnecting all that stuff would be a nightmare and a tower is just cheaper anyway.

But you can't have a desktop without a desktop.  So there's that and all the stuff that goes with it.

And while I'm at it a bookcase for technical books and a file cabinet would be nice.

Yeah I know this might be controversial, but part of what I want to do is observe and write about culture so that's necessary and even if I were doing straight reporting I would want to keep an eye on news, and be able to watch important YouTube videos and streaming events on a second... well third screen.

So with that all the stuff connected to comes into play, a set top box or two and maybe a cable hookup for C-Span (and let's be honest and Comedy Central).

It would be a place for people visiting the office to have a seat and a place for me to lay down when I want to think or am pulling an all nighter.

Food Corner
What it sounds like a minifridge maybe microwave and storage for snacks, soda, coffee and stuff like that.

This starts getting really nutty considering I would still like to work from home. I would in essence have two rooms that are clones of each other for the sole purpose of an abstract concept and maybe a tax write-off.

By the way probably for budgetary reasons calculate the expense of the work area as a proportion of floor space of the apartment and rent.

All the same I really would want to be able to show investors and donors an itemized spreadsheet of what exactly their money bought through the quarter and year placed publicly and prominently on any website I maintained. In my head segregating living and business expenses is just kind of what makes a business a business but damn is it wasteful.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

If I Were A Rich Man: Playing With Money 2: Da Biz

So last time I just kind of said business accounts and left it at that. What I didn't say is if I had those business accounts I would do the same things I would do with my personal accounts so lets do this.

Business Income Accounts
I have a couple ideas. I would like to have one overall grouping that I'll just for now collectively call enterprises split into multiple projects. Each project would have it's own set of accounts and all of them would include an income account. Again this would help keep track of how much money is actually rolling in. And provide a broad picture of how much is running out.

As for the blog if I had some straight up capital I would try to monetize in a couple of ways. Upgrading the website would make advertising a little easier so that's the obvious. Next up having actual bank accounts would allow for Kickstarter and donations. Beyond that I could also merchandise. I actually do have a logo and branding. Slap that on a t-shirt and sell it. Free marketing baby.

Furthermore if I had the money to do things in a more polished way I could do what everybody else does. Find some endorsements. Then of course I could also try a fundraising bash at the end of the year.

Go go Gatsby.

Like the personal accounts money would flow from the income account into expenditure accounts.

Fixed Cost Expenditure Account
Right now I cut a lot of corners to do this thing on the cheap cheap. But if I were doing this professionally there would be some costs. Web hosting being the most obvious. The primary reason I stick with blogger is because it's free. But it has a ton of problems. And I'm getting sick of it.  But right now hosting and designing a new page is a hypothetical so I just sit on it.

Improvement Expenditure Account
This account would be for getting getting better equipment. And things that improve the blog overall. Better computers, software, recording equipment. Maybe even a studio.

Story Expenditure Account
So right now I'm going for low hanging fruit. But man I would like to earn my name.  I would like to take on bigger stories and doing that would require budgeting. Realistic sitting down and before hand and going, how much do tickets cost, would staying in a hotel be practical, would travel be necessary, would I need to pay FOIA fees. Just map that stuff out and budget a certain number of "big" stories through the year with room for a couple unexpected ones and maybe some room for overage.

While I'm at it budgeting for copyright in this spot might be good too. Since I don't make money at this I'm kind of loosey goosey about  it though I do have a framework that might make a good post in its own right. Still I ought to pay people.

Payroll Expenditure Account
Name on the tin. I make so little money that when I do an odd job here or there I don't feel particularly guilty putting the money in my pocket. Give me a bag of Doritos and 20 bucks. Doing things that way is starting to annoy me. I do stuff that I know for a fact other people make a living off of but the people around me act like I don't do squat.

No. No. No. No. No. No.

Here's an invoice. Pay the account. Later I get my cut out of a salary I pay myself.


And if I want to pay an artist for a photo or commission some art, or pay a writer that's cool too.

Tax Account
Guess what this pays.

Legal War Chest
The days of Calvary and swords are long past. To defend what is yours in this age ... you need a lawyer. And  maybe an accountant.

Segregation of Operations
One thing keep all of this from happening is that some of my blog stuff stuff connected to my personal accounts. Blogger itself is easy enough to segregate and  I would want regular webhosting eventually anyway but I might need to migrate all the YouTube stuff and that would be a chore.

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