Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Drawing the Line, Justice Through Comics Book Talk

 On April 27, 2016 an event was he;d at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Church in Southfield, Michigan to Discuss social justice, feminism and politics in comics. The event featured Nicole Burton, founder of Ad Astra Comix, Ayesha Ghazi, Executive Director of American Citizens for Justice, and Chelsea Liddy, Organizer of Comique Con.

Southfield April 25, 2016 City Council Meeting

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Pitch: Rewriting Magic the Gathering Lore As A TV Show Part 2: Characters

I really like this idea so I can't shake it and part of me wants to outline characters.  As usual when forming magic the gathering characters I think color is a good baseline.

Also I kind want each of these character to be demonstrating magical aptitude before they are aware of how magic magic works strictly.

Sort of like force sensitives in Star Wars.


The immediate image I had in my head when writing what I did yesterday was a of a green mage. A character who in this new world all of a sudden finds themselves surrounded by fauna and flora and instead of the chaos caused by being thrust into a new world are comforted by it. They aren't so much concerned about what has happened or how to survive it but are simply in awe of so much life.

This character would have a natural empathy for animals. And that is how they come into thier magic. Not from being told about the mechanics of the world. At first they wouldn't even realizing they were doing magic all they would know is that when animals are around them they seem stronger and better able to survive what nature throws at them. And that when in danger all of a sudden they would be around to help the mage maybe even an old animal companion.

The mage wouldn't be hostile to humans on the contrary they would be quite social but all the same they would just noticeably get along better with animals.


Whoever represented white would more or less be similar to my green guy except with people. They would be able to quickly understand how and why people did what they did.  And as such would be great at forming coalitions.

We're talking the leader guy,

Not necessarily a fantasy prince or king figure but at the very least someone who would develop into "The Captain" of his immediate circle by virtue of enforcing moral action. When something goes wrong he is the guy who insists his crew fix it.

Being a such team player this guy would be able to use "martial" magic and "healing" magic.


So my blue guy would have been a student before being transported and would have a whole mess of that knowledge still in their head, not enough to be an omnipotent God in a fantasy world but enough so that if they were clever and we're talking blue so they would be, they would be able to apply that knowledge.

Yep I'm talking an artificer.

Eventually they would be recognized by the big wigs and given access to even more knowledge allowing him or her to be the first of the planeswalkers with a decent grasp on the mechanics of how magic itself works in this world perhaps even coming across ancient written accounts of other planeswalkers and trying to summon someone from thier original world to fill in informational gaps.

 Again I want the characters to be using magic before they even realize that they have been so blue would be subtly using mind magic.


Put simply I want someone who lives as my red mage. It's not that the character is angry but that they feel things and have a tendency to act on those feelings regardless of consequences. In short they're hot blooded.

And said magic would be geared toward allowing that person to be able to be that reckless. So spells that involve luck, and brawling.


In short for Black I want somebody who knows about human weakness, who tries to compensate for their own by exploiting other's. Instead of making people stronger they have tendency to make them weaker so that by default he is the strongest around. A foil for white who understands how to use human nature to encourage the best black would be about using it to devise the fall of threats.

They would be able to manipulate people into forgetting important details, or be able to intimidate and trick them into a course of action.

Also since they would be woefully aware of their own weaknesses they would be vulnerable to corruption and temptation via offers of power, by say all the ancient evil beings that want to exert influence over the multiverse even if they can't directly travel in the same way planeswalkers can..

So while eventually they might have the same sort of organically obtained knowledge as the blue guy they would have access to all the ancient forbidden stuff because ...something... would be whispering in thier ear.

That said I don't want all of that to imply that this character is evil. I just want to provide a framework for how they operate and how thier magic would express itself. And that is more or less the point. At least at first none of these characters would be in direct conflict with one another.

My idea would be to have a plot structure somewhat like Heroes where they are all discovering their powers and floating in and out of each other's lives until they all converge at the same point which would be the appearance of an established planeswalker who in the season finale would open their eyes to the wider multiverse .

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Pitch: Rewriting Magic The Gathering Lore As A TV Show

So for years I've wanted to make a Magic the Gathering television show. A show that would translate the flavor and mechanics of  Magic the Gathering into televsion form.

Because of the rights involved I am fully aware that chances are slim such an endeavor would happen and even slimmer that I would be at the head so I have no reservations about publicly sharing my pitch.

Basic Premise
The conceit of at least the first season would be that an event happens in our world or a world similar enough which ignites the spark of several planeswalkers who unwittedly walk to the same world. These aren't people who necessarily know each other though they might.

While we the audience may know that these people may be some of the most powerful wizards around they don't. All they know is that they aren't where they used to be. They are all of a sudden in a place that operates on fantasy rules, and have to learn how to survive in that world, So Hai to Gensou no Grimgar crossed The Twelve Kingdoms with a little Spellbinder  and Lost thrown in for good measure.

I really do have enough faith in the rules and potential conflict of these types of fish out of water stories that I think it is enough for the plot to be about explaining this new world and watching character's reactions to those explanations.  But if I did have to settle on a plot it would be the slow reveal of how Planeswalkers are different for normal average everyday wizards. In the later seasons you can walk to different planes perhaps even the established ones, the characters would be developed and established enough that complex fantasy stories could be told. But for the first season I would really like to focus on world building with a very essential element as the myth arc. What is a planeswalker?

Planeswalkers are rare enough in Magic the Gathering to by godlike mythological beings in their own right spoken of only in myth and legend. A regular wizard would not be able to recognize one let alone teach one. How these characters come into and own that revelation is the plot. Do they read the old scrolls? Do they come into it inductively? Do they meet other Planeswalkers? And once they do how does that realization affect their sense of self, goals and motivations in this new world?

It would essentially be an origin story of some Magic the Gathering's most powerful beings.

Having them be unaware of magic and the type of power they wield would allow for their character to be demonstrated before color pie assumptions are made before the audience can decide which character represents black and therefore will be a villain and so forth.

In this series color would be subtle mostly being referenced by the story context but it would also be visually referenced by the effects.

As for story context color would be conveyed by the personalities of the characters and the types of spells they choose to master and use. Also for the sake of our walkers where they first land when they walk.

I wouldn't necessarily stick to basic land types but certain types of settings have been associated with certain types of colors. So a red character might first walk into a gladiatorial arena, or a city's seedier parts while a green character might find themselves not in the wild but in a noble's gardens.

At some point in time I would also like use color to visualize and represent character growth. One of my favorite episodes of Avatar the Last Airbender was, "The Firebending Masters", which metaphysically acknowledged and explained the character development of its resident fire wielder.

I would like at least one or two similar events of the show where a character learns that their magic is acting, differently because of some shift in personality, that they have more ease or difficulty using certain spells than others as a result.

It would make a great moment for a world of cardboard speech.

When I was playing magic the gathering my Vorthos gave great thought to how summoning worked and in a way that question is what birthed these ideas. For me there are two ways to summon creatures.

The first is creating a construct from scratch which something that only the most skilled of wizards could accomplish and that eventually be the case for our Planeswalkers but not at first as they wouldn't know they have that type of power more easily accessible to them.

More simply they would form a kind of magical contract and pull that contractor creature from wherever it is they are to where the magus is.

I thought it would be an interesting rule that until mastering their abilities our mages could only summon creatures they had directly interacted with. This would be why green wizards are better able to summon creatures. They have a proclivity for interacting with animals and beasts.

Eventually most walkers would gain spells that allowed them to interact and contract with creatures from a distance granting them immense power but each of these would be dependent upon how these characters conceptualize the mind which is an aspect of color depicted by the game's tutors and "portal cards" but rarely discussed within the context of the color pie.

Our planeswalkers would generally be the only ones that could summon beings from across the multiverse because they are the only ones that can, "travel" foreshadowing exactly what they are even before they are aware of it.

In most Magic the Gathering settings Planeswalkers are rare and nearly mythological.  There are only a couple dozen of them running around through out the entirety of the multiverse. The walkers can have the basic rules of magic exposited to them but planeswalking they have to figure out for themselves.

One of the best clues for what they are is how I envision legends working.

For the purposes of the show and my Vorthos a legend is any creature iconic enough that it is irreplaceable. That instead of "a" one must use "the" when describing it.

For sapient creature summons I view this as when who these summoned characters are is more important than what that character is.  These are characters with personalities strong enough to pull a story, to inform a plot.

If my summoning logic holds the first few creatures the walkers will summon may be beings they interacted with on their home world. To introduce the concept early I might have one of them summon their pet (or good ole Grizzlies) in the pilot but eventually I think it would be interesting if one of them somehow managed to summon a person. It would create an interesting character dynamic.

Would that person have willingly come or be unaware of the implications of such a contract, why was that person summoned their skills, their knowledge, their personality, their relationship? How does that person interact in this new world where they may not have the acquired knowledge or powers of the walker in this point in the story? What role would they take on in the walker's party? Would they be able to adapt the skills of their unmagical profession into a traditional fantasy role?

A War of Ideas: On Democratic Socialism, the United States as a Mixed Economy and Left-Libertarianism

So for about the past month or so Youtube has inundated me with conservative YouTube videos. The bots believe me to be a neocon. I'm long past the point where in the name of objectivity I'm going to claim to be on the fence about the GOP. It has a rotting core of sexism, jingoism, homophobia and racism currently embodied by it's leading candidate Donald Trump that makes it increasingly difficult for me to admit that yes I do engage with some aspects of Republican ideology.

I am a capitalist.

Even if my pockets are currently empty the concept of profit motivates me greatly.

And yet I also consider myself a socialist.

I've spent a lot of hours recently listening to neocon propaganda that views the two as incomparable yet I do not.

Economic Systems vs Political Systems
For me communism, socialism, capitalism and even mercantilism are economic systems determining what goods and services are produced and how wealth is distributed. In my mind I can divorce these concepts from political systems such as representative democracy and autocracy that determine how collective decisions are agreed upon.

But a lot of pundit's and bloggers don't and that's frustrating to me. I see nothing inherently undemocratic about socialism. That's not to say that I believe the Stalinist Soviet Union or Maoist China were paragons of functionality, but I chalk that up a lot more to their undemocratic political systems rather than their economic systems.

Let's Talk A Mixed Economy
As I define each of the economic systems I named the United States has and has had for a long time elements of each of them, so rather as diametrical opposed opposites I view each of the systems more as competing schools of thought on the role of The State in economic planning. Capitalism is the view that prices signaling supply and demand equilibrium determine whether or not a good economically feasible to produce by forcing producers to confront whether or not there is a wide enough profit margin to justify it. Socialism is the view that whether or not a service or good is profitable should not alone determine whether or not it is produced and distributed but rather the State. Mercantalism is a system whereby The State uses economic policies to protect its interests. And communism is a system whereby The State not only determines what will be produced but also owns the means of that production itself.

The United States for various goods and services utilizes all of the schools of thought.

It protects its national interests by controlling the import and export of goods via tariffs and embargoes. Also President Obama has many times attempted to use aid packages as a foreign diplomatic tool. Also one can view currency itself as a tradable good no differently from any other and monetary policy is all about the State's interest in maintaining low inflation, a relatively slow decrease in the value of currency to preserve its role as a medium of exchange.

Various institutions that provide public services are owned by and operated by the government such as schools, the military and police. Moreover I also view a road not only as an object but an institution that provides and facilitates transportation services that are also government owned. If it were not government owned it would most likely be constructed, maintained, operated as a toll road

Via taxes, social programs, contracts and regulations The State affects supply and demand price signals as well as other aspects of production without necessarily owning the means of that production.

Regardless of state interference what motivates most people to participate in trade and industry within this country is the idea of extracting more personal value out of whatever it is that you have traded for than what you have traded away whether it be a service provided such as wage labor, a good, or currency as a means of exchange. Currency however has an added value compared to most goods because it can easily be used as a medium of exchange. That lends itself to more quantifiable and standardized estimates of value across the board that allow for discussions such as profit and the value added across a supply chain.

A State
For my purposes a state is the entity within a population responsible for determining how that population comes to collective decisions often though not always embodied by law. A political system describes the rules by which that entity is chosen and operates which in an economic system effected by the push and pull of State policy is of great importance.

I could be here all day arguing what the role of the state should be but I've always found I like Mr. Lincoln. The State should be for the interests of it's populace and as such should whenever possible have decisions be made by it's populace and on occasions when that is not practical or possible use representatives of those people chosen by them to make decisions in the their interest.

This is the foundation of representative democracy which I will argue for some other time. My point is that the State if truly representative of all of its constituents must be able to set policy that they have agreed upon.


Rights and Guarantees against Coercion and Compulsion
However a representative democracy must be representative. In order for the state to act in the interest of the populace, individuals within that populace must be free to express and act in their interests without fear of coercion or compulsion by either the state, or individuals with competing interests, Therefore democratic states have often sought to guarantee the protection of individual rights seen as essential to that goal.

On Egalitarianism and Power
Despite the protection of these rights one factor still remains. Power. In a democratic society political equality is necessary, no individual interest can dominate all others lest the representative State becomes unrepresentative. Lest the state acts only in the interests of a minority of its population.

Law has always involved state compulsion, a sort of political violence. What makes that political violence tolerable is participation within the social contract. That this is the law the people, made up of all available individual persons to which it apply have chosen.

An individual right that is often protected is that of property. Other individuals nor the state can not unduly obtain nor harm an individuals property.

However one can view an unfair trade as coercion again a type of violence that prevents people from acting in and expressing their own interests.  So it is in the interest of the state to promote more egalitarian trade where each agent is free to choose the terms of the trade without fear for their life, freedom or loss of some other form property that essential for the other two.

A consequence of continual unfair trade includes a disparity of wealth which translates into a political power differential where those with capital have the resources invoke their political will upon the populace and enact law-compulsion, and political violence upon them.

On Truth and the Marketplace of Ideas
The reason for this power differential may be because the wealthy may have more access to the marketplace of ideas. They have the resources to better communicate and be communicated with. More access to media and education. If egalitarianism is within the state interest to promote individuate freedom so too is promoting access to a free marketplace of ideas where individuals within the populace can express, and debate ideas eventually to be acted upon by their collective will, The State.

It is within the State's interest to promote such a marketplace to allow individuals expressing their interests, yet again I fear coercion. While I have conflated the state with the collective will of the individual that make it up I am also aware that as an institution The State is much more powerful than any one individual and as such may be more powerful than any one individual idea.

Which is why the marketplace of ideas must be protected from The State, that individuals participating within in it must be guaranteed  basic individual rights to prevent The State controlling the marketplace that it promoted. To prevent the state from committing political violence against individuals birthing and spreading ideas and truths that offend.

That is a fine line to walk as even state approval may act as a thumb upon the marketplace of idea's scale yet I still believe it is the interest of the state to promote diverse and easily accessible communication and education amongst it's citizenry so that they may make informed choices and not be deceived by those who would coerce them, by those who would use political violence against them for their own interests in trade and politics.

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