Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Southfield Police Crime Bulletin April 20-26, 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

State Representative Jeremy Moss' April 27, 2015 Transportation Coffee Hour and Presentation

On April 27, 2015 State Representative Jeremy Moss held a coffee hour and presentation at the Southfield Public Library to answer questions regarding proposal 1, which would constitutionally change how tax dollars are distributed in Michigan in the hope of better funding transportation. Proposal 1 will be voted on by the public on May 5, 2015

Note: Roughly the last 15 minutes of the Coffee hour are cut off.

April 27, 2015 Southfield City Council Meeting

Meeting of the Southfield City Council Held on April 27, 2015

Topics Discussed Include

  • The Appointment of Michael Ari Mandelbaum to the City Council to fill Former Councilman Ken Siver's Seat
  • The Appointment and Oath of Office of John Michrina as Deputy City Administrator
  • A Brownfield Redevelopment Plan For a Property on 8-Mile Road Being Developed By Arizona Investments, LLC

Note: Due to technical difficulties there are roughly 15 minutes missing roughly a half hour into the recording. 

 An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Still Not Over It

So I'm mad and part of my new...last-July-I-had-the-biggest-argument-in-my-life's day resolution I am no longer going to try to so desperately pretend I'm not mad when I'm actually furious. It does me no good and is probably going to lead to a heart attack. I'm already on blood pressure pills. Though on that count my doc's right. I could stand to lose a few pounds but stress can't be helpful.

So let's play catch up. A few weeks ago the Southfield City Council approved the expansion of a church for a parking lot. The town generally hated that decision. Or at least most of the people I talk to hated that decision. But I thought that was it. But during the meeting Council asked for adjustments to the site plan so for the next few weeks this is going to be a thing.

You know maybe there is something I'm missing about this particular church. I'm not great at reading site plans, but for me this isn't about the church. This is about the The Golden Corral and The Walmart,. Heck its even about the developments that got through but were butchered in the legislative process.

Okay so eventually I'm going to try to sort my thoughts out logically and play devil's advocate with myself but before I do I need to handle the elephant in my brain. Thing I need to say but really don't want to say.

The Elephant
A lot of these arguments stem from a "we don't want to urban" perspective. Which is okay. That's a life choice. I disagree with that life choice and will explain why. But a decent contingent of those people are coming from a "We don't want to be Detroit" perspective and a lot of that is a thinly veiled "We don't want poor people OR (The or is important) black people coming into the city"

Again it's not everyone. And there are other reasons to not want the church, or anything else there that I will argue against momentarily but I needed to clear the air and get that out of my system. It's been festering there for years. And in light of the petition to roll back the civil rights ordinance I felt I needed to hit it dead on. To say clearly and loudly I may be tolerant but I'm not that tolerant.

On Urbanism

You know in college I took up a cities of the world class. I got a horrible grade and thought the professor was a bore, but it did get me thinking.  What is a city. In short it's people.

A city is people.

And all the social, economic, and engineering infrastructure it takes to support human life.  It's just that when you start talking about lots of people things scale up. You need more food, you need more water, you need more sanitation, more trade, more everything.

But it all works out because the resources it takes to deliver said resources to people generally decline per capita as population density increases. It's easier to transport goods. Water pressure holds up better. Teachers can teach more than one family's students at a time.

Heck I view the creation of the city as a technical innovation on the same level as the wheel.

My view is that despite all the problems on an aggregate level cities beat the alternative by a country mile.

But on the whole the entire point of a city (the place not the government), a social innovation, is to meet the needs of the people who dwell within it and provide them the services required for daily life.

The Heart Is Stronger Than the Head

On a more personal note cities are where things happen. Where enough people live to make things move.

Everybody has a story.
Everybody has a life.
That's a city's glory.

Too Many People
On the other hand maybe I'm a bit too nieve. I'm with more people brings more problems. Crime. Dirt. Unemployment. The whole 9, all the same I would argue that the function of a city's government are to mitigate these problems, not by eliminating the beast itself but by finding creative solutions.

Like say a police force to help deal with security, or a Parks and Rec department to preserve green areas or a Fire Department to deal with well fire or a Sanitation Department to help deal with what do you think?!

Again all of these problems would exist but having people gathered in one place makes them easier to deal with than if folks were scattered and in a million places. I'd rather be murdered in a city where someone will find my body and find justice than in the woods any day. Not that it's exactly a choice I like.

But I Get It
Like I said wanting to live a pastural life is a choice. And I'm not some Stalinist who would forcibly move people. But I find a lot of the reasons people don't like city's are not inherent and furthermore bringing this back around the moves my community wants to make in the attempt to "preserve nature and residential characteristics" exasperates these types of problems.

Allow Me to Turn that Detroit Comparison on It's Head

Only an idiot would argue that Detroit has no problems. But my view has always been that most of those problems are social problems, caused by the sort of micro decisions being advocated.  Why is there so much crime? Well because there is so much unemployment.  Why is there so much unemployment? Because businesses left the city. Why did businesses leave the city. Well because the monied residents left. Why did they leave?   Do I have to go back and mire in that bullshit?

Southfield Police Crime Bulletin March 30-April-12, 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Southfield City Council Meeting April 14, 2015

Southfield City Council Meeting held on April 14, 2015
Topics Discussed Include

  • Mayoral Powers and the ability to veto land use ordinances
  • The New Hope Missionary Baptist Church
  • A Brownfield Plan for Retail development on 8-mile road
An agenda and related documents can be found here.
 Note: The First portion of this meeting, which was not recorded, was a closed session.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Movie Review 300: Rise of an Empire

You know I've cooled a bit on 300.  Sure as an Michigan State University graduate I have to have some loyalty to it but all the same the O.G. Spartans were kind of ... complicated.

The more I think about it though the less I like that we've deified  them as the "founders of western military tradition". While crazy awesome in the moment this scene in particular feels like the height of stupidity when my brain turns on.

When your sword is blunted and your armor is dented you'll be damn glad you had a blacksmith or two around.  Shut the hell up.

And as for potters, I have three words. GREEK FIRE ASSHOLES!

I'm borrowing a bit from Moviebob (I have got to stop doing that) here but yes 300: Rise of a Empire feels like nothing more than a deconstruction of the black and white simplicity of the first movie, an attempt to inject some brains into it.

But the reason why the first movie worked was the extreme melodrama that such moral simplicity allowed for. Who doesn't love shouting quotes from it at the top of their lungs?


I am torn. The thing that makes this movie intellectually interesting is the same thing that makes it boring as hell to sit through.

The grand thesis of the film is that Greece was more than her army and definitely more than the Spartans. And considering all the societal infrastructure it took and still takes to build a military naval vassal it seems like an apt foil to the a free man with a just cause and a long spear posturing of the first.

To that end the movie tries to undo some of the myth making of the original by showcasing Themistocles and the Battles of Artemisium and Salamis who many including myself believe don't get as much press as his terrestrial counterparts when he deserves at least as much and maybe more.

But since the movie's raison detre is to bring 300 back down to earth and it knows it can't while still remaining 300 it problematically tries to find the sweet spot between Scylla and Carbides.

As for actual history or political theorizing about the relationships between a civilian economy, the navy and the army there are better places to go.

And for action well, look naval combat is always a bitch to film. The movie gives it a good go with usual 300 tricks, but in the wide expanse of water ships are kind of slow moving doubly so in antiquity. Most movies get around this by having a lot of tension and build up.

And sure the movies tries but first off that takes the edge of the decapathon, and second of all the movie seems to think that anybody watching already kind of understands Salamis' relationship to Thermopylae and the larger Greco-Persian conflict.

Lets get the history out of the way.

While yes there were a shit ton of Persians at Thermopylae the bulk of the Persian army was tied up in the straits of Artemisium in a naval battle, after the battle of Thermopylae was lost Themistocles convinced the Greeks to change objectives and engage the Persians in the Straits of Salamis where they more or less crushed the Persian navy The movie is trying to do for that naval battle what 300 did for Thermopylae while criticizing the notion that that one battle forged western civilization especially when Thermopylae was lost. .

Anyway, we get a lot of talk about why the battle is important to the characters but again part of the point of the film is to get past the guttural manipulation of the first one so there isn't much of a reason to root for anybody other than the battle's bigger importance in the war the 300 started, which like I said the movie is kind of vague on.

In the original the battle is important because of how the film is framed. The Greeks are a rag tag band of bad-ass brothers while the Persians... that's a can of worms I'm not touching with a ten foot poll.

In this movie since everything is downplayed there isn't a lot of difference between the two navies. Hell at one point I thought the Greeks were shooting arrows at their own guys in the water.

The first one was all heart while the second tried for brains and their both flawed for it.

Responsible Gaming?

So last year I wrote my newbie gamer guide which was basically a codification of everything I said to my Mom when she was hoping to hook my little cousins into an Xbox 360.

But as I said with my Fallout review... thing my gaming sabatical is over. For a while now I've been thinking how to economically get back into gaming and I'd be lying if I didn't say its part of my overall life plan as pathetic as it sounds.  Hey I want to be able to walk into a Best Buy without feeling like a Dickensian urchin.

All the same there is no way I'm going to be able to get back into the habit the way I did when I was a teenager. I've got bills to pay and stuff to do. So how can I do this responsibly, without the impending feeling that my life is crumbling around me to feed the beast.

With that in mind I know I'll say things in here that are going to make hard cores angry. Hell after some thought I've decided on things that would make the me of 10 years ago kick my own ass.

PC First
You know dispite the truth that console gaming is no longer as plug and play as it was in the NES days it's still a lot easier to get Xbox 360 games than PC games for the simple reason that my P.C. is hitting the edge of its lifespan.

But I need to have discipline and deal with the bigger problem rather ignoring it in favor of cheap quickie fixes both gaming and not.

Apart from the fact that I am a PC gamer at heart I really should focus my efforts on getting a new computer for productivity reasons. Sure part of my larger economic plans is to do a whole technological overhaul but even that has the stain of "Do I really need a new cellphone and tablet? Is that the best use of my money?" on it. But without hesitation I can say I NEED a new computer. If I don't get one soon this blog is going to look ... very different.
But the purchasing calculations for that have so many asterisks attached to them that it might as well be a whole new post.

  • Do I wait and save or do I buy on credit.
  • Desktop or Laptop
  • Touch Screen or no, hell do I really even need to replace my old monitor at all?
  • Cost or performance
  • Do I spring for a new printer and shave it off the overall budget, the copier and scanner are both busted but it still "prints" fine.
  • I really want to spring for so external hard drives to help with transfer and backup but that adds to the budget. 
  • Do I upgrade software like Office and Adobe or just stick with older stuff?
  • Which new free software do I install that I might previously not have considered?
I think I could swing it if I had to but I'm putting it off because I don't want to spend three days locked in a room installing software but sooner or later I'm going to have to. This old heap has seen better days and I've been half expecting the blue screen of death for over a year now.

Hardware First
In that same vein I really need to focus on upgrading the hardware. Because I have an older Xbox with a small hard drive I've been using flash drives, but it's obvious that at some point I'm going to hit the point where the $15-20 I'm spending on each on is going to add up to more than it would cost to just get a new console.  Each stick lasts me about 2 months so its a long term concern but I can't keep pretending like its not a bad idea in the long term to keep doing that.

Right now I've sprung for 6 flash drives to extend the life of the thing. At $20 a pop that's at least $120 and that's an underestimate.

Furthermore flash drives suck for DLC and digital distribution which often require an internal hard drive. (I'll get to it)

7th Generation
And now for the thing that's going to make everybody mad. I don't think the 8th generation is worth the money. At least not yet.

On a personal note since I went off the radar during generation seven there are still a hell of a lot of good games for Xbox 360 and eventually PS3 that I never got a chance to play, but really want to that I can buy on the cheap. And my estimation of the eighth generation right now is the opposite of that. Most of the major games I see advertised are just bigger re-releases of stuff that already came out, or are games of which I hear nightmare tales of day one bugs and glitches.  

And since the Xbox One isn't backwards compatible I can't say that with it I am in essence buying both it and a new Xbox 360 the same way I did with the Xbox 360 and the original Xbox.

I kind of have to make a choice about which has the games I want to play and the Xbox One just isn't there yet.

I'll probably go with the 8th generation eventually but even then the prices will drop rather than increase so its hard to rush a purchase. Speaking of which.

Digital Distribution Sales
What really makes me want to get back into gaming are digital distribution sales. The realization that games that have been on my list for years can be bought for like 3 bucks with the right timing and equipment.

With a steam wishlist I literally get emails saying. "Hey this game you told us you want can be yours for the low low price of... $1.99" And it is infuriating that my PC just isn't up to it.

And while I'm at it I'll include games for gold here. Microsoft has really been going for the good stuff with that program.  It's well worth the money... if my hard drive could handle it.

All the same its harder and harder to keep with the line "I can't afford to game."

I may not be to able buy everything day one or play every game in the world but if I want to I could do this.

So in my day it was rare that a console game would get an expansion pack. Sure there were a few stand alone but those were in essence whole new games. What sort of trips me up everytime I do dip my toe back in is DLC.  For most of the recent games I played and liked, (Dishonored and Fallout) I kind of want the DLC. It's less than the price a new full game and I get to mess around in the world, but see the hardware section.

On the other hand I can also see how DLC can go horribly horribly wrong.

It's just something on my mind.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Greg's Wasteland Survival Guide (A Spoilery Fallout 3 Review AKA Damn I'll do Anything for Caps)

You know a few years ago my mother had noticed that I had been using my Xbox mostly to watch Netflix rather than play games and asked, "if I had finally out grown games" my response was "nope I'm just broke."  Costing $50 gaming is an expensive hobby to maintain. But over the last year and a half or so a lot of games have kind of fallen into my lap and it's starting to weigh on me more and more that I've developed sort of a queue (Bayonetta, Tomb Raider, Fallout 3, Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite, SXX, Brothers a Tale of Two Sons, Gears of War, The Walking Dead, Alice: The Madness Returns and that's just the stuff I really want to play.)

In order for me to really get into a game I need to be able fit in a play session of a least a few hours and in recent months I just haven't been there.  But between Easter and the viral hoards currently taking residence in my body over the past week (is that what a uvula is supposed to look like) I've been comfortable sitting on my ass and enjoying myself playing Fallout 3 (as much as I can while hacking up a lung).

All the same it is starting to worry me how much of life has become an interruption to my fix as of late. My gardening timetable is screwed.
At first I decided to wean myself off by watching Fan Films. Nuka Break is glorious and having the opposite effect.

Now after watching Red Star I sort want to play New Vegas.

And spend another month locked in an underground bunker both in game and out.

Okay so here's what's going to happen. I am going to write about my journey traveling the wastes in Fallout 3 and get it out of my system now so when I'm not clogged up I can do soil testing and finish cleaning the garage without jonesing.

Never R.P. Mad
For the first hour or so of the game I kind of hated it. I was mad at the time and just wanted to shoot something to relieve stress. After I didn't get my needs for instant gratification met I kind of put it down for a month or two.

What I've come to realize is that yeah while those trailers and promos have loving shots of guys...shooting Fallout is a lot closer to an old school roleplaying game than a first person shooter of course now every old school is laughing at me for not realizing that. Oh Fallout THREE.

Even back before I took my gaming sabbatical there was this discussion about how most roleplaying games were some variation Mideival Europe. To everybody who bitched about Mass Effect and it's ending. When it came out on the scene that was the conversation. It was a role playing video game outside of the Tolkien paradigm. And probably set the stage for Fallout 3.

Using the mechanics of the old school Dungeons and Dragons formula in a land without Dragons. Okay there are some dungeons if you squint.  But I don't see dragons.

In Fallout's case you're basically playing D&D in Mad Max. When I figured that out the game was a blast.

To be fair almost everything done in the first hour could have been accomplished by a menu... which it is after leaving the vault. The game asks you hey all those stats you've established. You cool with them? Want to make any adjustments before being thrown into the wastes?

Guide Dang It
Like most "open world" games though it sucks at telling you stuff. What gear does what? What stats mean all that jazz. It must have been 5 hours before I knew what the hell I was doing after which I restarted the game so I could stat my character better.

I decided I wanted him to be Harper from Andromeda because well in universe he kind of grew up in a wasteland ... and I really like Harper DA BEST SCIENCE FICTION CHARACTER EVAAZZZZ

So I put all my skill points into lockpicking, repairing, and science. And I over specialized with my strength endurance stats being 2. And even in late game my melee skill is 11.

He is/ I am complete wuss. He's the only non-special human of the Andromeda crew. Even Beka had the nanobot hair and that whole mother of all Nitcheans thing going for her. But Harper has to lie and cheat and steal and play dirty...or continually get his ass kicked which sums up the next 5 hours of the game.

Not in My Town 
So after continually getting ripped to shreds by dogs and naked molerats in the wasteland I see a structure in the distance. A town. A town to keep me safe from lurking sounds of growls and my having to tail it or bite it.

I crawl into the place low on health and meet Lucas Simms. The town Sherriff/Mayor dude who ends problems. After convincing him I'm not a raider he leads me to Moira's general store so I can hopefully get a gun that can actually kill something. And the minx sends me out on a series of suicide runs to research her book. And like an idiot I keep saying yes. But the quest rewards are good so I keep going.

After a while I figure its probably time to head on to the main quest line. Simm's told me about this Moiriarty guy who might now something about where my (game) Dad headed after leaving the vault so I head to his bar. Nice couple of quest hooks and by not being a racist douche I convinced the bartender to give me discounted drinks. See this is why I go to Gob for stimpacks even after my high barter skill makes the discount negligible. He treated me decent when even the town Doc was fleecing me.   100 caps for a radiation treatments my ass.  Just give me Radaway for 30 asshat.  Can't believe I fell for that shit.

The thing about the town, is that there is a giant undetonated A-bomb in the place. The residents figure the bomb hasn't gone off in 200 years and the crater provides some protection from the dust storms, mutants, and raiders, but its still very much active.

Some shady ass in the bar offer's me 500 caps to detonate the damn thing and blow up the town.

This is probably the moment when I how I want to play the game and how I actually do play the game diverged. While not evil, Harper never liked sticking his neck out because shit like the Katso-Drago pride and Magoog would snap it and then leave eggs in his corpse that would explode Alien style.

But this asshole kind of pissed me off. So I went to Simms hoping I could stay out of it from there. Of course the game wouldn't let me. Burke, the shady cat in the bar shot Simms in the back causing me to use magical time traveling powers (save scumming) to beat him to death with a baseball bat before he could do it.

I was so ticked off at the near detenation I decided to use my repair skill to deactivate the bomb, pro-bono which is very Unharper.

Doing shit like that caused me to be in a perpetual money squeeze for most of the game. Most people can duke it out with the wildlife with a knife and some pluck. My luck stat is 1 and I am really squishy so I need to pay for ammo by the truckload.

Look Let's Be Real We Have a Space Problem 
At around this point I ran into a technical issue. Gamesaves suck up space. When Microsoft first started letting players save games to the cloud I thought it was a godsend, but now I'm back into the days where every few sessions I have to delete gamesave files.

And what annoyed me was when I went looking on forums to see if there was a way to expand it with players saying you should have more than x number of gamesaves for a game.

Maybe with sports games but in roleplaying games its either save every 15 minutes or get used to losing all that precious loot you fought the raiders for in that last firefight when the wasteland kills you.

I Have Forsaken My Vow to never do harm to another living thing (Ants are now KOS)
So Moira's quest line takes me town by a grocery store to forage for food. It's surrounded by raiders but by this point I'm better outfitted. AND I've finally learned the benefits of cover. I find this kid rambling about his town of Grayditch "Those things" and it doesn't take me very long to figure out where this is going.

God Damn it.

I have a very weird relationship with Them (as well as The Day the Earth Stood Still and Soul Food) because its one of those movies a relative forced me to watch. But with the stink of the Clockwork Orange chair of torture gone I'll admit for what it is its pretty compelling.

But back to the game. These giant ants breath fire. And with me being so damn squishy they killed me over and over and over again. That quest forced me to evolve. Before my solution to hostile wildlife was to just shoot it until it dies. With these guys I had to pull out all the stops, mines, granades, it was before I got my hands on a rocket launcher but you bet your ass if I had one I would have used the damn thing.

God damn ants.

Threedog the Bastard
So at Moriary's place everybody damn near worships this DJ called Threedog and its easy to see why. Its either listen to him or sing my country tis of thee a million time with President Eden. Threedog has is pretty interesting and actually has some interesting music. It's a little retro and anachronistic with his 70's DJ vibe but hey the whole game has this under current of cold war gone wrong. So it works.

Hell before all the stuff with the Enclave went down I hated them on principal because their radio station sucked ass compared to Threedog's Galaxy News Radio. Moriarty tells me my dad headed over to talk to Threedog so I fight my way past Supermutants to follow the trail.

Before Threedog will tell me anything though he wants me to fix his broadcast equipment at the top of the Washington Monument. I figure no big deal since by now my repair skill is getting stupid good. So I go there not realizing.

All the old shit lying around the Mall is dubbed of strategic importance so its become a whose who of crazy assholes wanting to make a name for themselves in the wasteland. Raiders, Talon Company, Supermutants, The Brotherhood of Steal. They're all going at it and I have to make my way through them to the Smithsonian to pick up some equipment to fix the damn thing.

Okay then.

I figure the trenches belong to The Brotherhood (the good guys), with with their military history and all but I'm wrong. Dead wrong. They've been dug by the super mutants and I barely make my way through them, but the trenches give me decent cover for everything else.

After returning to Threedog beaten and broken to report that yes his broadcast tower is operational again he tells me to head to Rivet City, probably the closest thing the wasteland has to civilization.

My Country Right or Stupid
You know sometimes I go a little nuts on the hyperpatriotism.

But the game piecing together the history of the Wasteland there is no way you could call the Americans the good guys. I mean hell even before THE war we were just shy of Nazi level "science" shit.

So the Enclave really sticks in my craw. Some assholes calling themselves the real remnants of not just the United States but of "pure" humanity with casual talk of genocide on the side. Oh they are getting my foot so far up thier asses...after I finish upgrading all this sick loot and trading it to Moira.

So The Savior of the Wastes is An Arms Dealer
So I had a bit of a money problem early in the game and decided to fix that. I had a crazy stupid repair skill and not much to do with it so I started fixing guns I looted and selling them back to Moira. Considering most of the shit I was fixing was the stuff everybody was dropping anyway and selling loot back to npc venders is what you do in videogames I didn't much think about it.

But then the Enclave started hitting me and now I'm starting to repair and sell their shit. And the idea of Raiders and Mercs and all the chem-tweaked nutsos being able to just walk into a store and buy plasma pistols and power armor worries me a little.


It makes me think. In a normal Tolkien flavored RPG selling swords back to the local merchant is nothing because in this modern world we don't think of swords and knives as much of a threat but for the bast few hours I've been selling assault riffles like it was nothing.

And now I've gotten to the point where I'm basically selling the game-world's equivalent of a tank.

But here after I had to go Magnificent Seven for Bigtown. Just selling guns to any nutso who has the cash seems wrong.

But a guy's got to make a living. If I can't buy the ammo to put down a supermutant or two I'll end up a corpse in the wastes.

Gun Runnin' in Fairfax

The problem with my loot and fix strategy is that guns are heavy and I tend to go overboard encumberin' myself with loot.. While traveling through the wastes by mere chance I headed through Fairfax and got pinned down by raiders. The bastards were crazy armed. Rocket launchers, miniguns. granades. I didn't think I would be able to make it. I had to make a choice shoot my way out or drop the loot and run. It was tough and I had to use my magical time travel powers a lot but I made it out with all my gear.

But I'll always remember. When in need of a rocket launcher or twelve. Gear up and blast your way through Fairfax. Raiders got it comin'.

So the Regulators are Lawful Good Huh
Because I have a fetish for retro-cool I'd been running around the wastes with a bolt action instead of one of the crazy weapons I'd been fixing. It might not have been the best gun but if you sit in the cliffs and wait for your moment it'll do the job.

I couldn't think of a reason not to get the lawbringer perk. As many raiders as I've killed because they try to hit me just for walking around I could get paid for it. Sheeeeeeed. And I get a kick ass duster.Why not?  I could ride around the wastes like Simms who've I already established I really like. Fuck yeah.

Except their basically paying me for desecrating the dead. I can get behind the idea that raiders got to be put down. Hell if they see me first I didn't start the throw down, but damn cutting off fingers and basically sellin' them to the regulators seems dark.

But its easy money just lying in the dirt.

And that's basically where I'm at in the game now.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Musings (AKA So Greg Read a Book or Two)

I really really really want to like Outlander.  It's setting up some really interesting stuff, before too long I don't doubt we'll see the Battle of Culloden and all that came with it before the end. But it also every so often does bodice ripper stuff that makes me want to facepalm. Claire is a really interesting character who is depicted as being ahead of her time even by (her) contemporary standards. She seems constructed to say one thing this crap (patriarchy) is stupid and she (and by extension the female audience) is not going to put up with this bullshit and a lot of the story is about the characters around her from the 18th century dealing with that she's not going to just do what they tell her because they're guys (or nobles).

Sometimes they love her for it, sometimes they hate her for it but at the end of the day the entire point is that they can't control her. She is what she is and they have to just deal.

And then the show came back from mid season break in the middle of a rape scene. And let's just say I think it could have handled it better.  Things get complicated. This is one of those values dissonance things that come with the territory of historical fiction. The script and the actress make it clear how messed up Clair views the situation but damn the music cue and direction undermines that she is getting beaten by her husband, who up until this point has probably been portrayed as the most sympathetic character other than herself, after being nearly raped and killed and frames the whole thing as a lovers spat.

On the other hand the show's narration has switched from Clair to Jamie so maybe that's how he views the whole thing.  It's just that up until this point the show had a clear raison detre and these events muddy it a bit.  Even after that there is a weird "make up" sex scene near the end of the episode.

All the same I generally like trapped in the past stories.

After some thought I realized that Outlander has the same basic plot if not the same setting as Octavia Butler's Kindred. It's been a long while since I read that book and I don't have easy access to a copy of it as I write.

Instead of an Scotish woman from the 50's you have an African American one from the 70's being "trapped in the past"

I'll be up front everything up until this point has been so I can transition into talking about Lilith's Brood but dispite how long its been Kindred is a great book as well. A lot of people call it a children's book because its more structurally if not morally simple than the Xenogenesis trilogy. Xenogenesis is coy being all sly metaphor and allegory laden post-apocalyptic fiction (WITH AN ALIEN INVASION) but from the get go Kindred is like this,  this is what we're talking about.

One of the reasons why I like Octavia Butler is that while yes I kind of want to do what she did, she very clearly uses science fiction to explore the African-American (and yes feminine) experience, and it kind of pisses me off a little that that is so hard to find.

But she delves deeper that just the usual obvious condemnations and tries understand colonialism and slavery to ask the questions of why and how while maintaining her own brand of indignation.

Specifically the thesis of Kindred is that Slavery was not just a crime against African-Americans but against society itself as we see characters warped by it. We see the antagonist as a child who is raised by his, aunt out of time. Its clear that despite how repulsed she is the protagonist feels something for this child and wants to see him not turn into the monster she knows he probably will.  He is a reverse Huck Finn.

We see all the forces in that kid's life pushing him away from her and towards "the world".

And that's the same of the Xenogenisis saga. The characters (and by extension the audience) meet most of the major alien players when thier kids and kind of flexible and a central theme of that stories is that while children may be more open minded they generally have limited political power until they've "grown up".

You know reading about the book the first thing that people describe is the allegory of colonialism that runs through it.  And it's pretty strong sure but what often goes uncommented upon is that Butler draws a strong parallel between the infantalism of colonialism and actual infantalism.

The idea that kids know what it's like to have the people in their lives assume their wrong just for who they are and as such kind of more receptive to understanding the injustice of the same from other sources.

In almost each book of the saga there is a character who believes how "the adults" are doing things is profoundly wrong but has to wait to rectify things because no one will take a child seriously.

Not only that but the book frames Lillith's, our human protagonist of the first book's"transformation" as a sort of rebirth with her developing in parallel with the first "child" figure of the saga. The story is very much about development (Lillith's BROOD) as Lilith (oh a thousand theologians punched the air) developes from an inarticulate ignorant child figure into the maternal figure to what humanity will become.

And then of course there alien puberty. The third book is particularly interesting in that one of the central problems of that text is that the biology of its "child" figure is in flux and nobody literally knows what it will be. Both it and its parents are freaked out worrying that it could either lose itself or worse change in a way that will cause it to harm others.

Especially sexually (I'll get back to it) but back to the colonialism.

What most interests me about the book is that its aliens are alien. Its clear they are sentient, they are people but their needs, biology, values and culture are radically different from that of humanity. Much of the book deals with how the original "colonists" viewed what they were doing (I'll get back to that) as an equal trade but later generations object and try to figure out how to make a situation that can't be undone more amenable as the over time the cultures and yes species become closer and more able to understand each other.

To that end I have to explain this.

Okay. These aliens survive by "trading" genetic material with various compatible species into themselves via mating to the point that the species become one (I know I'll get to it later)  that doesn't sound so bad but remember what I said about alien alien. The first book is more concerned about Lillith's, i.e. humanity's point of view but the second and third are all about various aliens who understand why their parents did what they did and came to the decisions they came to (yeah yeah I already said this)

The aliens are much more in tune with biology than humans. We communicate with our words and expect that to be it they communicate with words... and smells. and touches and when words don't align with that stuff (remember what I said about hurting someone sexually)

Again what makes the alagories in the saga work is that Butler is very good at mixing metaphor and literal imagery. Remember these "trades" happen via mating and its revealed much later in the story that this type of communication is a two way street something humans are kind of unprepared for and doesn't get explained to humanity until its waaaay too late. In other words the aliens are literally and metaphorically raping the whole of humanity.

That said part of what makes them so alien and drives the conflict and how they handle things is they don't exactly have a choice in the matter. "Baby It's Cold Outside" is kind of just part of their biology and has been for so long that the idea that volition (both sexual and non) exists outside of "biological consensus" takes a while for them to accept and internalize.

Which is the point the story wishes to create a scenario where no matter what people say the aliens will believe they "know what's best". Most obviously sterilizing old school humanity humanity.

The first book is about how we got to this point and Lillith's guilt regarding basically "betraying her race" to the borg and her anger and acceptance after learning those weren't fully her calls. What is interesting is that while Lillith eventually does accept things as they are and takes the good changes (Cancer is good?) with the bad its also clear she's not strictly speaking "over it"giving a long monologue at the start of the second book (which serves basically as an episode recap for versions that aren't in the same volume) about how the rest of humanity isn't exactly wrong to hate her guts and the current state of affairs are at least partially due to her failings in the first book but also admitting she did what seemed best at the time which is congruent to everything she said "at the time".

While I love that this book is so complicated it is a bitch to explain the plot

Lillith was chosen to be the first human to be returned to earth after an collapse that was "fixed" by the aliens.  She is tasked with leading a a group of humans on the "new" planet and making sure they don't get themselves killed. At the time she feels she understands the aliens better that most people, who either flee in abject terror or try to shoot them on sight and doing a rough job is better than an unwinnable war which is also something the aliens don't want since they want to "trade" with us rather than kill us.  (I know, I know)
She bargains with the aliens and leads the rest of humanity, or at least tries to lead the rest of humanity into that bargain. A central conflict in her story at least is that the aliens are very seldom clear about which such bargains entail until waaaaaay after the fact. THEY ARE MANIPULATIVE ASSHOLES. Or maybe its that whole not understanding the concept of volition thing.  Again the later books are much more sympathetic to the aliens than the first.

The thing about Lillith is that she is also kind of cynical out of necessity and believed that yes if she didn't handle everybody with kids gloves they would murder each other (which by the way happens a few times) So in the first book she was trying to balance her indignation at not being told things by her alien captors/bosses/masters whatevers and not telling people stuff that would make them make stupid mistakes.

The result of toeing or not toeing this line is a rebellion that sets the stage for the later books. I segment of humans who want to be left alone but at the same time were irrevocably changed by the aliens who don't incorrectly blame Lillith (oh there is that name again) for it all.  But this is Lilith's Brood after all. While I personally feel that the first book is the best and that Lillith is the most well developed protagonist of the series the second two books aren't really about her. Heck she's barely in them.

It's about her kids who have spent enough time with her to know how she (and by proxy) the rest of humanity feels about assimilation. At first this is just an understanding that humans were wronged but by the third book her decedents are able to understand exactly how humans were wronged and why thier alien ancestors made the choices they made as well. There is a Liberia analogue and like in real life it doesn't magically solve anything.

But the books are also clear, both the humans and the aliens have been changed and trying to ignore or undo said change is foolish at best and ... you know what inbreeding. Yep trying to keep the "races" pure leads to inbreeding. and while I've been hinting at it I'll say it here the book is good science fiction in that it both explains and details what happens when you are your own uncle... for a few generations. It aint pretty.

The third and second books are all about the futility of trying to stave off external cultural, social and technological influences. Which of course is a central part of the African-American experience and has been for a long time. How do you condemn colonialism and even slavery while exploiting things that are a direct consequence of it.

And that's something all of the human, "bargainers" struggle with. A lingering anger at what has been done but at the same time a familiar comfort with the lives they have built around it.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Problem

We have some great politicians in this city. By that I mean they're approachable and honestly try to give people what they want. But sometimes well.

Somebody has to be the line, the rock and say the whole town's needs come before an individual's. And the town needs jobs, occupied office space, and yes traffic.

Everybody agrees the city needs business but no individual wants to be the guy next door to it so the whole town suffers because individual choice turns into collective action

It takes balls for a leader to stand up to their constituency when they know they are wrong and what they want will suck in the long term.

I need to watch Dawn.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Editorial: The Spice Must Flow! AKA I'm Better When Pissed.

You know I think I'm going soft. I just haven't been as pissed off as I normally am. Sure I tried to hide it but I was absolutely infuriated when I first got home from college because I knew I was going to be more broke than my peers by only a year or two off.

I'm still not where I want to be but I'm better off and I think that it's making me lose my edge, letting things get past me I really should be more ticked off about.  And this article right here was just what I needed to put me back in that head space. Time to earn some dark side points.

Apart from finances part of the reason why I've been so chill is that I had an elected official in office who was more or less saying everything I was thinking and doing it in a way that didn't make everyone want to curse him out, (seriously you poke the poodle once  and everybody gives you the stink eye for like six months.) Former Councilman Moss was in a lot of ways the best I could have hoped for and now I have to deal with the reality that he's no longer on council and the closest guy to him policy-wise is vacating his seat as well so yeah I'm back to demon days.

You know how I said I was angry when I first got back from college. You know what didn't help. Sitting in a room for 4 hours with more or less the whole town saying they didn't want to live next door to me. I'm the master of deferred anger, I know its unhealthy and I'll die from a heart attack at 50, but damn was it hard to not take some of the Lawrence Tech dorm thing personal.

And the signs are on the wall that we're headed back in that direction again from everything to business to gay rights (I swear to god if that stupid thing actually ends up on a ballot) and I just can't do it again. Nope.  Even handed, level headed "Nice young man" Greg has left the building. Meet the id that he kept chained in his brain basement.


Councilman Siver gave a speech at the regular meeting which mirrors what "Nice Greg" has been thinking for years and what I have been saying when ever he would let me off the leash. Nothing gets built in this town without an army of people opposing it mostly just because they hate the idea of change. And if this were a utopia I would be fucking fine with it but we still have an unemployment rate higher than the state average let alone the national and a 26 % office vacancy rate.

And everybody is acting like we have our pick of businesses. Like fucking hell. And before you get started I know as non-profits churches don't pay taxes. The point stands damn it! If we spend 2 hours slinging mud at a pastor (hey while I'm an atheist I still have some respect for the cloth) what are we going to do someone wants to build an office or heaven forbid a factory.

Look this ain't a town of scrappy homesteaders fighting off the railroad, people. Trade, the exchange of value is the lifeblood of civilization.  Business. Without the transfer of goods and services this town will dry the hell up. Look around. In a lot of ways it already is. Even if it ain't the retail the me of three years wanted we need to move the money which means that maintaining the residential status quo can't be a blanket defense for stymieing anybody who wants to build something because honestly the residents need to work, and build, and trade and serve. The money must flow. When people can't go to a grocery store or can't get a job they'll leave too and all the whining about traffic and noise pollution won't mean a damn!

You know I once said something on twitter that I think people took the wrong way, I talked about how democracy was chaos. I think people thought I was talking about the problems of democracy but I wasn't.

See in order for things to improve there must a risk that they won't work out, but that risk or chaos is inherent to a dynamic system. Positive change requires that risk, requires, uncertainty, requires chaos. Nothing in this town is going to get better and, believe me it needs to, until people are on board with change and the chaos it brings. We have to be comfortable for a time not knowing if things will work out.

While I'm at it Council really needs to have a conversation about pavement management. If they keep demanding individual roads get fixed that bond won't do anything for the system on aggregate. It's starting to drive me a little batty, well more batty.

Since I'm still airing my grievances they also need to schedule more meetings

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