Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 RTA Southeast Michigan Transportation Master Plan Presentation

Monday, May 30, 2016


I've softened on Roots. Which isn't to say I've changed my mind but rather changed my understanding of my own thoughts and feelings.

Roots isn't a bad miniseries. Not by a long shot. As just narrative it's actually pretty good, but it can't just be that. It's frustrating to me that growing up it was THE story of the black America. When really it's not.

As a guy who was born both after the civil rights movement and after Roots originally premiered in 1977 I don't have quite the same emotional baggage. And I know how that sounds but hear me out. For me Roots isn't as much of a historical drama as it pretends to be and is very much informed by the 1970's racial politic.

What I'm getting at is that Roots is less of a historical account and more of a story that mostly blacks but also whites would enjoy and also understand. A lot of the dialogue sounds less antebellum "do what you got to do to get through the day alive" and more 1960s "what do we need to do to subvert the system from within"  A lot of the themes, morals, and conflicts aren't so much about the 1770's as much as well you know.

That's not to knock it, but rather to explain that I loath this perception that Roots is somehow a historically accurate correction to all the European bias of American story telling. It's not. What it is, is a landmark of television the exemplified African-American audiences being treated as though what they wanted to see in their living rooms mattered.

And what they wanted to see was some sort of acknowledgement of them as human beings and of the various crimes America had committed against them. Namely the big one.

My real dislike of Roots has less to do with the miniseries (I haven't read the book.) but more so that it represents a racial politic that is not my own. That our continual focus up on it and what it represents diminishes focus from current conversations about race and identity being had.

The conversations we need to have and are having about race in a America are not necessarily the same ones we had in the 1970's.  My experience as a black man in 2016 is not the same as my father's in 1977.

I could and probably should write a book on that last sentence.

Which is why Roots bothers me so much.

It's hard to spot because of its racial politics but the miniseries is very much also about reinforcing traditional family values in a way that very much makes sense considering it was made right when divorce, abortion, and premarital sex were becoming big voting issues.

Roots is ground zero for black social conservatism. WHICH I HATE!

Here is my dilemma. I am not a conservative. A lot of my family are able to reconcile those values with their politics. But I'm just not.  To be free. For me to be truly free means living the life you choose. (How's that working for ya empty pockets.)

Roots set's up type of life these characters want for themselves. The lives they would have outside of slavery. And those lives look very much milk toast.

The miniseries tries to deliberately draw a parallel between those values and traditional African values which were lost to the original sin. And I can't say with a straight face that it's wrong to try to recover some of what was stolen.

All the same it's one of my major beefs. I don't like that Roots tells me the best way to fight the white power structure is to... get married and go to church.

My take on it is that my ancestors found love and life despite being in bondage not because of it.

It bugs me because most that is not so much about showing the brutality of slavery. But 1.) communicating the stories and by extension the writers ideal values to African-American Audience and 2.) Making the slave characters more sympathetic to a white audience. Both of which are bitter pills for me to swallow. Me being born in an age where I owe no white man my deference, the series being made in the same and belief that's the way it ought to be. 

And don't get me started on the token good slavers sprinkled throughout. It sort of bothers me when slavery is presented as the only bad thing about the antebellum South. Because at least based upon my quick take slavery pervaded the entire society.  It affected everything, where money went. who got married to who, who got elected, what laws got passed, what stories got told. Put a pin in that.

All those speeches claiming slavery was the foundation of southern society and that the planter aristocracy would fall without it...weren't exactly wrong. But you know. They were slave owners. I don't care about their plight. SEE HOW THAT WORKS!

Anyway panafricanism as well as the Nation of Islam are a prime example the 1970's crashing up against the 1770's.

By the by Titan A.E. while a bonifide cult classic becomes instantly more interesting when you consider it an allegory for displaced diasporas and the need for a homeland.

Speaking of which I also get the feel that while anger at slavery is justified the show's target isn't so much the stuff being done to the characters.

Okay this the part where I describe part of MY experience as a black man in America. EVERTHING is about race.

You can't know for sure how your race effects any aspect of your life so you have to constantly question whether or not it does. Did I lose out on the job because I'm black. Did I get turned down from that loan, because I'm black. Did I not get into that school because I'm black. Am I getting that look because I'm black.




Eghhh.  Now all of those are things I can not know. But it is very much constantly on my mind. With everything wrong with the world you're always thinking, is it because I am black? Or more broadly because I am not white?

And that feeling was being expressed. Is everything I don't like about my world the result of not being white? Not having the power and privilege that conveys to change the world.

 And the original we can do this to you because you're not white sin is slavery.

The root of Roots indignance is that slavery is being used as a stand in for every damn thing white people did and do to piss black people off.  Due to ehem, "differences in racial experience" you can't point the finger on the more subtle stuff so instead you do the one thing that ...I wish... even the most racist person in the world would admit was fucked up.

By the way. I have gotten into way too many online arguments over the years with idiots basically believing the same thing as John C. Calhoon.

Do I need to even say the words.

That said if you know where to look you'll find the other stuff.

You have to remember we were less than ten years out from 69. And the sheen of the civil rights era was gone. In a lot of ways hope had turned to anger.

Hmmm people disenchanted with what a few years prior seemed like a moment of momentous change for black folk. I wonder why they are remaking this?

By the way this is one of the reasons I like Roots II, The Next Generations a lot better. That show is actually pissed about the injustices they show rather than rolling everything into the slavery box. Instead of it slavery being a allegorical metaphor (which kind of screws my head), it plays more like a series of vignettes, episodes in its character's lives.

Which is a lot closer to where I think cinematic representation of the African-American experience needs to go, rather than focusing on the collective historical narrative of the people, Africa, Slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, end credits aaaaand nothing of import happened in between.

I really do like Roots II.

I can't help but feel why we go with the usual is because its easier to get these big dramatic show piece moments.

But a lot of life isn't that. It's waking up and trying to do what you said you would and trying to remember why you said you'd do it in the first place. What's important to you. Why in spite of all of life's trails do you keep going. WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU!

Both in life and on the screen that is where character is found.

And I might as well say this now. That is more than a name for damn sure.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

I Swear To God I Haven't Been Brainwashed By Ads But I Just Have Musical Feels Part 1

Taylor Swift is doing commercials for Apple music.

Why is nobody talking about this. Taylor Swift is doing commercials for Apple Music. Look folks you know where I stand on streaming, but this isn't that. I watch those spots and I think the way they are designed from top to bottom is to promote her change of heart, that Apple is so good even one of it's greatest opponents can come around to it. Yet nobody has noticed.


That being said I don't actually like that spot. Apart from the meta-commentary of Taylor Swift actually promoting Apple Music, it's a pretty conventional celebrities doing funny stuff that you wouldn't think celeb really did commercial.

 Nope what made my jaw drop was the Pandora commercial.

That everybody evidently hates.

But I love that ad. Dear god how do I love that ad.

And I think I love it for the same reason everybody else hates it. It's not just promoting Pandora. But music itself. That do to the proliferation of the internet the music we choose to listen to has become this deeply intimate and personal thing.

Earnestness isn't cool.

And reading the comments. I'm like come on.

I thought of School of Rock. Which sort of makes the point I'm trying to. As a filmic booster of music I can't top it.

I forgot how much I loved that movie. It's not a "great film" by any stretch but it's an almost perfect version of what it's trying to be, an advocate for good old fashioned rock and roll.

Ain't nuthin' wrong with that.

...Until I think of School of Rock 1.0. Sister Act 2. While the GenXers have thier infighting about Ghostbusters I remember how much my music teachers loved that movie. And while not perfect it had this earnestnest to it. It was doing the same job trying of boost music in a world that might find it frivolous.

Look overall I feel School of Rock is the better movie but it having lifted it's plot from Sister Act kind of does bring up one of the biggest elephants in rock and roll so here we go.

Especially in the 70's and 80's, and even the 90's it's hard to get around that the rock and roll landscape was looking...pretty white. That's not to say there weren't black musicians working in the genre. Or that a lot of funk doesn't overlap with the look and aesthetic of glam rock. But it's undeniable that a lot of the marketing of music was downright racist.

But as hard as I love the sound and ethos of rock and roll. Yeah that's kind of messed up.

So this scene kind of bugs the hell out of me.

Dewey shoots down the music they like and I think that Sister Act was more accepting in that regard. No matter what style you like Whoopi will work with you.

Especially considering the music you like as well as everything else is informed  by your personal background. So if your someone who grew up hearing R&B oldies you're  still in...

That having been said in terms of plot structure and character I like School of Rock better.  Sister Act 2 is firmly entrenched as 90's inner city school movie. And I find a lot of those movies were incredibly condescending. I love Morgan Freeman but I can't stand Lean On Me.  (The only thing schools need is a tough no nonsense borderline abusive principal, not qualified teachers, support staff , building improvements and maintenance, books, supplies, parental involvement, academic monitoring, after school programming and tutoring no just yelling at the problem will work. Sooo that's why I'm watching this stuff who knew.)


Anyway this is the one instance. The one instance where making the story about the rich kids was the better creative decision. It allowed the movie to strip itself of a lot of the cringe inducing stuff in Sister Act and make it actually more interesting.

The plot is as much about the ethos of Rock and Roll as is about the sound. Probably more so since how much can you expect an audience to know about chord progression.

So movie drowns itself in classic rock iconography

Jack Black as the god king at portraying overenthusiastic crazy-eyed rock and roll fanboyism is perfect casting. If anybody can make you believe in the power of rock it is him. And more so than Sister Act 2 the movie is on his side. Probably due to Richard Linklatter.

It takes a damn genius to make crazy stupid fun look like this.

Also as a guy who has actually substitute taught there are moments in this movie I find hilarious.

Speaking of which I also like how the movie has the guts to make Dewey more than a little insane. You can argue that the movie never calls him on it, but it's more interesting than the usual To Sir, With Love knock offs. He actually has a meaningful arc. It's a little Bad News Bears crossed with Three Amigos.

Okay. Okay I mostly just think it's just funny that they made a mildly bad-ass version of the joke song the film uses to prove how insane he is. "The Lair Revealed" was totally worth it for that one song.

Beyond that it lampshades something I think people always forget in this types of movies.

GRRRG No. Rammones, Dead Kennedys, Runaways ACHHH Achhh

...It's not totally unreasonable for the parents or the school to feel their kids should focus on academics ahead of all the fun stuff and Dewey's usage of the kids for a music contest without even their knowledge kind of does make him kind of the bad guy. The movie turns around on him at the end but still frames as an asshole for a lot of it. With the exception of that last scene it does call him out on his bullshit.

Rule of cool will take you far kid.

Which by way is one of the things I think gets lost in conversations of Sister Act 2. There is a line between being supportive and letting kids spend a quarter forgoing Math, Science and English. 

That's not to say you can't do it. But it's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.

And as much as I've bought into the rock and roll mythos it is the genre of family unfriendly aesops. I'm not saying the Footloose preacher was right just that parents wanting to set limits on the types of media their kids consume, including music isn't crazy. And for the most part parents, principal and other teachers are never cast  as wrong. Stupid maybe but otherwise there would be no movie. You know what I take that back. Almost immediately after Dewey is found out cops get involved. The faculty might be incompetent but the parents are on it.

I also love the fact that the movie doesn't scrimp on the backstage jobs. Roadies, costume designers and effects technicians are called out for the masters of the glam and progressive rock eras they were.

Oh and it's it's easy to forget since as of late she's been casting herself as "magical" but Sarah Silverman playing the straight man is kind of meta fascinating.

And man I love that ending. It is not just a spectacle driven light show but also the resolution of almost all of it's character arcs as sad sack Zach (who I relate too a little too much as a guy who likes to do what he does alone in a corner) get's to perform that super mega awesome guitar solo as the class wins battle of the band with his song.

You know there has been a revival on Nick. I haven't seen it and don't want to knock it. After all a large part of the point of the original was that kids should be allowed to rock and I don't want to be that old man complaining that nobody sounds like Aerosmith anymore.

All the same as a spiritual successor nothing is going to beat Beck.

Friday, May 27, 2016

I Ain't Got Time for Bernie and Hillary's Tiff (Brain Droppings 5/27/2016)

Okay so evidently supporters of Bernie and Hillary have lost their minds attacking each other. I've noticed but not really because right now state and local government has been taking up the majority of my "serious" brain space. Also let's face it the primaries are more or less done, and there is no way in hell I'm voting for Mr. Thinks Everybody Should Have Nukes.

So here is a brief list of other non-goofball stuff that's been on my mind.

  • Detroit Public School Scandals - Look nobody had any illusions that the school system worked but over the two last months it's been one scandal after another.
  • Detroit Public School Bailout - So for the last month or so I've had my dander up because there are two plans. One by the State senate and one by the house. I view the one from the house as nothing but foolishness but for a lot of reasons when the two compromise it will probably be closer to the house bill. And that's going lead to me pissing and moaning about our broken political system for months to come
  • Regional Transportation - So RTA is doing a thing at Lawrence Tech on Tuesday. I don't know what they are going to say but it's got to be better than what we got. 
  • Bathrooms - It's been brewing for a while but I was hoping Michigan would maybe possibly be smart enough to not get into a stupid fight about transgender bathrooms. I was wrong. Horribly horribly wrong
  • Budget Time - We're heading into the end of the fiscal year so almost everybody, states governments, municipal governments, school boards, organizations, is making budgets and the budget is more or less a statement about what all of these folks actually want to accomplish in the next year. 
  • The Mackinac Conference - Love it or hate it everybody is going and they're livestreaming it this year so I might as well pay attention. 
While I'm At it Might As Well

Thursday, May 26, 2016

I Love The Mask of Zorro

You know I love Zorro.

Like really long stretches will go without me getting my Zorro fix and then I'll sit down and watch Mask and go.

"Oh my God that was the greatest movie I've ever seen in my life."

Part of what makes me think it's great is that it is a movie movie. From top to bottom everything about it screams that it's a story designed to please a crowd rather than a representation of reality. It knows what it is and is one of the best god damn versions of what it's trying to be.

Almost every frame of that movie is about re-enforcing that. Nothing in that movie happens that doesn't make the story better.

And what's all the more interesting is that in that time and in that place they didn't make movies like that or at least hadn't in a long time.

Zorro is a lark. And nobody was doing larks anymore.

It was the 90's. Goofball corn was for kids.

Which brings me to what I want to right about that opening and it's role in the movie.

The movie introduces Alejandro, our eventual hero, as basically an excited kid watching a big budget version of old school Disney Zorro.  Now that's one step to telling the audience what's up  but the real kicker is that he's ultimately our main character. The movie takes you by the hand and goes. "It's okay. I know you think this is cool and I'm not going to suddenly call you stupid or childish for it because I do to. We're all in on this. We're all around the fire. So let's have some fun."

It invites the most jaded of us to sit down and enjoy the Spanish Fox for the old school pulp hero he is.

It even literalizes that as Alejandro's entire arc. Can this scruffy scoundrel find it in him to be El Zorro, the classic hero.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Clone Wars Somehow Managed to Fix the Prequels

Okay. So for a while I've believed that the Star Wars Prequals actually have made some positive introductions to the Star Wars Universe.

Wait. Wait. Come back.

I never said those introductions were well executed. I just meant that certain ideas had good story opportunities sure the movies may have wasted them but you know what didn't.

Having sat through most of Clone Wars I can say the stories it told justified a lot of the previously thought stupid stuff people had to sit through the prequels. Oh and I generally think of Star Wars Rebels as basically being the same show but with a time skip and updated character designs. So everything I say about Clone Wars goes for Rebels too.

So let me go through a run through.

Anakin Skywalker
Okay one of the worse crimes the prequels made was taking one of the all time greatest movie villains and turning him into a whiny teenager.

But I could see where they were going with this.

Anakin is one the most talented force users who ever lived. But he's also a hot blooded little bastard. Which is worrisome to the guys upstairs because he'll disobey orders in a second if he feels like it's for the greater good. He's unable to divorce himself from a situation and look at the bigger picture. Which makes him unpredictable at best and unstable at worse. And considering how much power and influence The Jedi Order has he scares the crap out them. One day he's going to fly off and do something stupid no matter how hard of a no they give him.

He's Starbuck.

The movies are good at showing the drawbacks of a personality like that. Anakin is an arrogant bastard that takes everything personally. So good that they make you forget why you might want to have somebody like that around.

Anakin is not going to let The Jedi Order put strategy over people. He's not going to just let them walk away when they could save a life. And his habit of doing that has turned him into a hero.

In both Clone Wars and Rebels you see the tragedy of the fall. In the original trilogy they have to keep the past of Vadar a secret for ONE OF THE ALL TIME BEST MOVIE REVELS.

But here you see how hurt everybody that knew him is by his betrayal. He was the best of them. And in Clone Wars specifically. You see it.

He and Obi Wan are each other's ace in the hole. When ever an episode or arc focuses on one the other will be their to get his ass out of the fire by the end of it.

In the movies when he complains about how despite all the stuff he's done The Jedi Council still treats him like a red-headed step child you understand what he means.

Politics, Amidala and Satine Kryze

I'll say it Amidala is too good a character for the prequels. And I don't mean that in the prequels are bad. I mean that in another movie the basic concept of her character would be made of win.  And one of the reasons why is because after the fanboys complained about C-span in space her roles were more and more diminished in the sequels.

Taken as a whole despite what all the marketing said Star Wars is not the story of Anakin Skywalker but about the rise and fall of The Galactic Empire.

Amidala is the only person in the entire prequels who saw the dissolution of The Galactic Republic coming and was in a position to do something about it, to save the Senate from itself.  

We get to see more of that in Clone Wars.

But what really redeems her is Satine Kryze. Who is more or less a incontinuity character reboot showing the audience how cool Amidala could have been if we had just given her half a chance. She pretty much has the same basic plot, personality, and backstory as Amidala the story just treats her differently.

And she is awesome.

The Clones
Everything about the clones as envisioned in Attack of the Clones is blatant fanboy pandering. They are there only to make the prequels feel more like Star Wars by being a callback to an offhand comment by Obi Wan in the original trilogy as well as to a character that somehow became superpopular despite not getting all that much screen time, and they gave the series an excuse to bring back storm troopers.

And that sucks because the clones are a pretty big element of the story they are trying to tell. Without the clones there is causally no Star Wars. Nothing after episode one in that logic chain happens.


For starters the show makes clear why they are so hyped up as being better than droids. In Attack of the Clones and to a lesser extent Revenge of the Sith Lucas favored spectacle over narrative.

Lots of explosions but you can't see worth a damn what's actually going on.

Compare to this. Where its much clearer who's doing what and why.

You get it.

Droids are computers. Computers that can mimic human interaction but still need to be told to do every damn thing. Which makes them slow and stupid in the field. Troopers on the other hand can improvise. They can survey a combat situation, react to it and create a tactical plan.

And the focus on platoon level action fixes another problem.

The clones are actually treated as people in this. One of the big questions left unanswered by the prequels is how do the clones feel about everything. They are the heroes of the clone wars yet still bring the destruction of The Republic they fought so hard for.

Order 66 is dumb. 

About the only way you could make that work is if all the clones were some how mind controlled to kill their Jedi Commanders. OH WAIT!

Okay but back to that treating the Clones like people thing. The clones actually manage both being clones and having distinct character personalities. Seriously this is brilliant voice acting as the guy can't do any of the normal tricks to disguise he's playing different characters because in a way he isn't.

Furthermore the designs make it clear that these are all genetically the same guy. They might have different body language, musculature, hairstyles, or battlescars but when you look at them you can tell they are all brothers of the vat.

And doing that in way where they are all distinguishable from each other took a hell of a lot of creativity.

Moreover the series later managed to distiguish between Clone Troopers and Storm Troopers undoing one of the things that made them kind of suck by having the balls to tell the fanboys, no Clone Troopers are trained from birth to be soldiers.

The Empire with it's constant expansion and use of force discontinued the clone program BECAUSE it doesn't have enough time and money to fully train its cadets so concentration on ninjutsu is in full effect.

And that actually manages to fix some fridge logic in the orige trige.

Oh and clone armor is just plain cooler than Storm Trooper Armor.

Ashoka Tano
I don't want to so much get into Ashoka Tano's character as much as talk about her inpact on the pre-original plot.

Stuff that happens in the series furthers the split between Anakan and the Jedi Order so that when Palpatine asks who who's he's going to believe it's more plausible for him to think, "Oh not again".

So his betrayl of the Jedi Order doesn't just come out of nowhere.

And having a mentee around let's Anakan show off a little. The change in framing turns  him from being a whiny teenager to being a cool big brother.

AAAND it adds another fully realized character who knew him before the fall creating greater pathos than just Obi Wan and Yoda. Speaking of which.

Warrior Jedi
One of the things that bugs people about the prequels is how martial the Jedi, Yoda in particular are. One of the reasons why this thing stuck around so long is that the Jedi kind offers an outlook on life. And part of that is that force, not THE force, is generally to be avoided, that peace comes when you are comfortable not being certain of the outcome of a course of action. That's kind of what makes a Jedi a Jedi.

Not the force, not light-sabers, but serenity. (By the way Anakin's lack of that is why he bugs them so much and is the flaw that leads him to the dark side.)

Forcing the universe to bend to your will is kind of a Sith thing.

Hmmm. Let's make that a thing and call out the prequels on one of the BIGGEST THINGS THEY GOT WRONG ins a way that actually give them more pathos.

My Thoughts on Ascension (Spoilers)

In a nutshell Ascension for better or worse is another attempt by ghhhaaa Syfy to replicate Battlestar Galactica for better that actually manages to get why Battlestar Galactica was good. It has compelling characters and an engaging plot and setting to put them in to bounce off each other.

And fails because it tries to hard to stick to the model.

Specifically Battlestar Galactica was piloted as a miniseries to test the water. But while the BSG miniseries is more or less satisfying on its own, it ends in place that's open yet complete, Ascension doesn't leaving almost every major subplot incomplete.

Which is a shame because other than it's probably the best high concept stuff I've seen in a long time.

So there is a big twist in the middle of the series that turned a lot of people off. But for me it was the good type of twist. The sort of twist that not only shocks opens story opportunities for other less obvious stuff to happen.

So here we go. In the 1960's the United States government commission a ship for intersteller travel knowing that it would be an intergenerational journey buuuuut not really. Instead the ship is fabricated with its occupants being unaware that it is all a highly elaborate experiment in controlled human evolution and sociology.

That's a really interesting place to take it and before we event that far we get exposed to a lot of interesting characters. Gault the executive officer of the ship who moved up the ranks from the less affluent lower decks is a guy who its hard not to like.

Revelations about Christa upend everything about the story yet its also clear she's more than just a minimaguffin.

Denniger and who am I kidding Six, Make a machiavellian couple who despite being kind of slimy are probably the most competent people when it comes to running the day to day operations of the ship.

Mostly I'm bummed that the most obvious thing that could happen that I think would probably make a good series in and of itself didn't and was close to happening in the finally that I could taste it.

The facade is revealed and all of these people have to adjust to life outside the jar.

Well The 4400 is close enough.

Man that show was so good.

Mostly Me Just Rambling About TV But I Swear There Is Point To Be Made

This is going to be one of those you have been warned.

So I just finished Ascension and feel annoyed. Not because it's bad but because by the end of it it's really really clear that is essentially a really good, really well produced pilot that's didn't get picked up.

And that frustrates the hell out of me. It's good and would have been great only if they weren't holding out for series status and had been paced like a miniseries.

Syfy eghhh... has been accused of hitting the science-fiction ghetto and Ascension was supposed to be it's thrown bone to all the fanboys who wouldn't shut up about the glory days. ...

So let me vent about the glory days.

And a brief aside.
Look as much as it bugs me I very much understand why cable networks (Cartoon Network, MTV, Sci-fi, Tech, Tv-G4, History, The Learning Channel) tried to expand thier brands at tail-end of the oughts. The internet coming into its own, especially with online video had started cutting into their audiences and revenue models and so they needed to get more eyes for the ad guys.

I get it.


The part of me that is not made up of Vulcans thinks that those networks for a long time had a good thing going and is sad that it all had to end.  Well at least we had a good run.

Now Back to the Show
There isn't a subtle way to say this. The Golden Child of the network was Stargate.

Okay let me back up. Sci-fi made a name for itself mostly by playing reruns of classic  series or other more recent science fiction shows that couldn't standout on larger networks.

If a show was good enough they might pull an Adult Swim and order another season of it leading to.

The killer app. The Anchor Show. Cartoon Network had Dragon Ball Z and Sci-fi had Stargate.

You know. In the current nostalgia-fest that is the internet I am vexed at why more people don't reference Stargate. I mean it had a 10 season run. And its one of those series that's overall pretty consistent.

It meets my Southpark test of consistent longevity. If I wanted to (and I have) I could watch an episode every day and by the time I run through all the ones I like it would have been long enough that I could repeat the process forever.

By the way thats what in my mind separates a good show, from a classic show worth examination, from a bonifide pop culture institution that even the grand kids will recognize.

Good lord, I watch too much TV.

Anyway, Stargate was the network's flagship by which all its other programming was judged. Kind of light but with a certain amount of genre savvy.

Then the middle of the oughts saw a resurgence in high concept television science fiction. Seriously compare Heroes, Lost, and Battlestar Galactica to what was coming out in the 90's especially the early 90's and its night and day. Not that those other shows were bad but a lot of them didn't take themselves or their own premises all that seriously. And all of a sudden shows did.

Speaking of which. BSG.

Battlestar Galactica became and for the most part still kind of is the model for television science fiction. For a long time everybody (except Eureka) was trying to be Battlestar Galactica and a lot of shows still are, in tone and pacing at least.

BSG was an epic. It had ambition. It wasn't a show just trying to give you your weakly dose of hi-jinks. It wanted to make you think about stuff.

And it mostly worked.

Thus leading to the current landscape of high concept television sci-fi.

Left Turn
Normally this is the part about how Sci-fi network diluted it's brand and abandoned its fans except I won't for a couple of reasons. First off that's mostly an exaggeration ...that they had coming because the executives said and did a lot of stupid stuff.

But if I really think about it I can't think of a period of time when the network truly had nothing to offer O.G. science-fiction nerds.

I think it's really audiences dealing with something that has had network execs in panic mode for over a decade.

With streaming, and time shifted television watching it matters less where a show airs and more so who bankrolled and produced it in terms of branding. Think Williams Street/AdultSwim, Comedy Central, HBO, and all those anime studios.

If you're a cable network who's old branding was mostly based off of syndicating shows (or music videos) so they wouldn't go out of rotation you were basically a curator and current technology allows for people to be their own curators or at least have a bot point them in the direction of stuff they might be interested in.

By the way FX gets points for actually making the transition.  Seriously that network doesn't get enough credit for putting out a consistent stream of entertaining content. Since Oz in the 90's  HBO has been doing the cinematic television thing. And AMC only really had a handful of consistently good stuff but FX has been the workhorse of the TV revolution and considering in the 90's it was mostly a network of syndication on cut for cable movies that's kind of a miracle.

But back to my point. In an era where few and fewer people are watching via the cable box who gets the credit for show aren't the guys that aired it but the guys that made it, and the guys who bankrolled it.

And that puts a lot of the networks in a precarious position if they can't crank out original programming they can slap their name on.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Do You Really Want Schools To Out Kids

So we're back to the bathroom thing.

Do you really want schools to out kids?

Let's back up.  So the Michigan Department of Education drew up a series of proposals to make school life easier for LGBT youth that I pretty much support.

One opposition to those proposals is that it cuts parents out of that aspect school

And I need to rebut that.

Do you really want schools to out kids?

In a perfect world every parent would be perfectly fine with thier kids gender/sexual orientation. We don't live in a perfect world. We live in a shitty world. A world where outing kids could complicate what is already a pretty complicated time in their lives.

Do you really want schools to out kids?

Oh and X-men 3 blows.

May 13, 2016 Southfield City Council Meeting (2016-17 Budget)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Also With the Snap Backs

While I'm at it I also hate Once Upon a Time's characterization snap backs.

Characters will go through an arc that fundamentally changes them in a way that makes sense based on thier previously established motivations only for them to snap back.

The biggest example of this is season 2 Regina.

After season one she is in a position where she can't be feared and she isn't all that respected. She has to come to terms with the fact that it's her own damn fault. That she can't force people to love, admire and respect her which of course is her character motivation.

Do whatever it takes to make people treat her better even if that means crackin' a few skulls.

Season 2 is all about her becoming comfortable not forcibly controlling i.e. coercing people into giving her the respect she feels she's due. That's a big damn leap of faith for her but one she ultimately finds more rewarding.

You can't pay the iron price ...for people.

And almost every season sees her at some point snap back. Triple dodeca agent my ass.

She should have been important to that villianess arc in season 4 but it took her way too long to "Go this is stupid. You all are stupid. I'm going home." When her entire arc was about out-growing her I wish everyone would treat me as if I were a hero phase.

Speaking of which.

Ditto for Rumpie's role.  What the hell man.

All of season three was about him coming to terms with the good he ironically could do as head bad guy in charge.  He couldn't stand being a mouse so was going to be the town's resident evil motherfucker but he was going to be their evil motherfucker.

Then in season four he was scheming to be a plot mandated cape.

Hell I'll be honest if the show ended with Pan's death I would have been happy. It came full circle. You had this Wreck-It-Ralph type deal where the villains had come to terms with the basic personality traits that had designated them as villains and had learned to use them to protect everyone else instead of you know, carving out a territory to do the overlord thing.

Rumpie's still the same basic guy he's just playing for the home team.

Until season 4.

What the hell.

Once Why Did You Make Magic Evil?

So this is like my 4th or 5th time talking about Once Upon a Time a show I can't quit. I'm in one of those periods where I'm behind and thinking about taking it up again.

My problem is that Once never really left that flawed but with room to grow period.

I'll cut a relatively new show I'm interested in a lot of slack because as a serialized format the writers can learn on their feet. But it seems like every season there is a moment that proves to me the writers on Once aren't. We are five seasons in.

Which is a shame because I honestly believe there is a good show in there.

The biggest mistake I can think of is how the show treats magic.

In seasons 1 through 3 roughly the villains were the best thing going. They had what I called the Swearengen  effect. Sure they might be rat bastards but they're rat bastards who know what they want and how to get it. You kind of have to admire the competency if nothing else.

And thier reliance of dark magic was more of a metaphor than anything else. Magic didn't make these guys evil, it was just that their use of it symbolized their inability to let go of the stuff that made them villains.

For instance. Rumpelstiltskin is basically a coward always in search of a bigger gun. Magic just so happens to be that bigger gun. If it wasn't that deal to become The Dark One it would have been something else.

Regina feels she's owed a certain amount of respect. In a better world that would have made her a hero. She didn't grow up in a better world. She grew up in a shitty world and she's found the best, sometimes the only way to get that respect is to make sure everyone is scared shitless of her. Going back to a world where people feel free to ignore and disparage her just so she can gain a few lightside points is pretty damn scary SO FUCK THAT NOISE!

Cora is basically Rumpelstiltskin without self awareness. He may be a rat bastard but at least he'll cop to it and occasionally try to reign it in. Cora on the other hand thinks that she is just the best at playing the game.

Pan's traditional quest for youth is interpreted as a life free of responsibility or consequence regardless of who he has to screw over to maintain it.

So in the later half of season 4 when Rumpie starts acting out of character and the writers go oh it's because he's being corrupted by magic I thought it was major character derailment. And the same goes with Swan and Hook.

With or without magic Rumplestilskin is the same guy with the same fatal flaw it's just magic is something external other characters can point to to make points about how he does stuff, and the same goes for most of the other villains.

It's also why I thought Swan's turn was kind of dumb. Does she have issues that could corrupt her? Hells to the yes but by season four she mostly had them under control. The show literally had no better way to generate conflict then to magic her into evil. No character motivation for the turn magic made her do it.  Good lord.

Not only that but it extended to Hook who when he wants naturally has it in him. It's a continual struggle for him not to just stab dudes to solve his problems.


And more to the point he's a hedonist. Give him a three day bender and a time gap and that's all you need.

My point is by making magic the reason for evil the show shot itself in the foot and took away one of it's greatest strengths. The strong motivations and characterizations of its villains.

Brain Droppings May 14, 2016 and Flower Photos

  1. Fury Road rules.
  2. On the other hand X-men 3 is still the most disappointing movie I've ever seen. 
  3. I have declared life long enmity with Kevin Cotter. He knows what he did.
  4. And while I'm at it Trump is dragging me whole hog to the left. I don't like it but what am I going to do?
  5. You know when I get pissed about anything I tend to take it out on the government... but is that a bad thing, I mean the government kind of has has it coming more so than any other poor sap who tends to be around when I blow.  
  6. I can't watch or even talk about Inside/Out without crying. So it rules but I can't sit through it again or else I'll spend the next 3 days after as a blubbering blob of jelly
  7. The good guys on Once Upon a Time tend to suck but the villains are brilliant.
  8. That villain thing doesn't extend to Swan who can't handle being evil
  9. Alice was pretty bad ass though
  10. And Ruby tends to kick some ass
  11. I kind of dislike that Disney is replaying their greatest hits, but yeah I'll probably get around to watching Jungle Book eventually.
  12. That said Princess Mononoke does what the 60's Jungle Book was trying to do better.
  13. Spider-man should have been in Daredevil. I don't know how but Spider-man should have been in Daredevil. 
  14. Funimation finally decided to stream Yu-Yu Hakusho. Good times. Good Times
  15. Adult Swim and Toonami are starting to get good again. 
  16. But man did they have their years of suck.
  17. Ghost in the Shell rules.
  18. But Arise is nowhere close to as good as Stand Alone Complex which ironically stands alone even without the movie as a must watch.
  19. You know while the Star Wars prequels are pretty bad there are a lot of good ideas in them. 
  20. Which are almost all done better by Clone Wars.
  21. Speaking of which Last Exile is pretty much Battlefield Earth without the stupid. 
  22. Lilith's Brood rules. 
  23. Animorphs rules. 
  24. Durarara rules but its second and third seasons are kind of pointless.
  25. But that Shizou alley speech makes up for a lot
  26. I should read American Splendor, and Ms. Marvel, and Silent Spring, and just get on that upgrading of my library thing in general.
  27. Route 66 would rule if I could ever get it out of my head. 
  28. You know a lot of good post Motown music has come out of Detroit. Town gets no credit
  29. I like Gate but damn that show is military propaganda
  30. And it kind of pisses me off that the show treats everybody who doesn't use an attack chopper to solve all problems as an idiot. 
  31. But I think it's fun all the same. Which scares me
  32. With all the trapped in an MMO shows coming out I still say .Hack//Sign holds up pretty well being one of the few that actually takes its premise seriously and holding up on a lot of the wink wink nudge nudge fanservice/ marty stu stuff. 
  33. That said Overlord was pretty damn fun. 
  34. And so was Gangsta. I like it but last year was so good I kind of fear it got lost in the shuffle. 
  35. Speaking of which Fate/Stay is back to being better than Fate/Zero again though both make up the show I wish Once was. 
  36. On another note to be honest 12 Kingdoms is the best damn trapped in a fantasy world story I've ever seen and I can't see any of this season's up and comers topping it. 
  37. One Punch Man rules. 
  38. And Daria is the Queen Mother of the Universe. 
And I might as well upload some photos I took

Sunday, May 8, 2016

For the Love of God Don't Turn Me Into A No Good Dirty Scab

Okay I think I need to come clean about one of the unspoken things that bugs me about the school stuff.

Like I said. I'm a substitute which means they call me when regular teachers can't or won't come in. Yes technically striking is illegal, all the same there have been a lot of times I've felt scabby. Teacher turnover is an issue and very often I will fill in for classes that lack permanent teachers. I've been on the end of that a couple of times as a kid and it was one... well two of the worse classroom experiences I've had in my life, which by the way culminated into one of the worse fights I had either but that's another story.

Furthermore I've heard horror stories where I can't fault a teacher for saying they got to go even if it hurts the kids.

In those situations I fault the powers that be. A general lack of support for the boots on the ground who in a lot of cases are too scared for their jobs to talk. Chris Christie is right with Kevin Cotter on my list.

And a lack of willingness to properly fund education, to pay for things that make the school environment better for both teachers and students.

What I worry about is all this school choice talk is really just code for the powers that be to lower teaching costs that need to be paid. Wages and training. And since I work as a sub in charter schools I feel somewhat personally guilty. Especially since charter school staffing companies use at will, i.e. nonunion staff for a lot of stuff. So while normal teachers and staff have a tool albeit an imperfect one to bring up a lot of stuff and figure out what to do if say a student hurts a teacher (it's not unheard of in high schools), a teacher wants more professional development, or there are issues with supplies or in the obvious example pay a lot of that doesn't exist for charters.

And as such I can't get on board the House's ideas about how charter schools would better serve Detroit schools than public ones when my experience has involved what feels a lot like playing blind monkey.

P.S. This by the way is way the idea that lowering certification standards to make up the talent that may not take jobs with lower wages or specifically deal with all the crap current DPS teachers have to deal with sticks in my craw spectacularly.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

While I'm At It

Also here is something else I've kind of wanted to get off my chest about about the State and schools. Right now Michigan's version of the LGBT bathroom controversy is largely a response to a set of Board of Education recommendations to make school a little better for students who identify as LGBT.

I can't go more than about two hours without hearing the word gay used as an insult in middle and high schools and I get how for students struggling with sexual or gender identity that really really sucks especially at that age where life experience may not have taught you that it gets better.

So my point is don't be a jerk to kids who already have it pretty rough is not asking a lot and we shouldn't act like it is.

Rock Meet Hard Place AKA The Boss AKA I Kind of Hate Kevin Cotter

I substitute teach in Detroit area charter schools.

This has been a wild month  for me. Even without the DPS stuff.

So much so that I think it's long time I got out. I could do the professional thing, keep doing my job and then silently move on at the summer, but the thing I want to do with my life is speak truth, and like I said I kind of wanted to get out for along time anyway for a lot of reasons. So even if it might piss off the bosses something needs to be said loud and clear to the state legislature.

Charter schools are not a magical cure all to education in Detroit. A lot of the charter schools I've been to have the same problems for the same reasons. Students are unprepared to work on grade level, many have challenging home backgrounds, parents have to balance real financial and work difficulties with tending to their children's educations. Teachers are paid to the point where financially even they have to balance other life priorities with all the stuff they do off hours.

Heralding school choice is not going to change anything unless standards are put into place and resources are put in, which given the current political environment isn't going to happen.

Look I'm a sub so I'm not going to even pretend I get the full blast of it. I can come and go as I please, I generally don't have to check papers. All the same almost everybody I meet seems overworked and underpaid and yes it must be said even though I also fit that bill under-trained, especially when it comes to how to handle students with special needs.

It seems to me that this is another case where the people of Michigan embodied by our legislators don't want to pay the cost for services we have come to expect.

Being the democrat (lower case) I am, if that's what the people want so be it. I've made my peace with it.

But I do feel the need to raise my hand.

Even if I sometimes feel stuck even I know we don't live in our little fiefdom. Michigan as a whole and Detroit as a city has to compete with the rest of the country, nay the rest of the world for talent, investment money and all that good stuff.

And not being able to get the barebone basics rolling, schools, roads and pipes we send the message to all the people in control of those resources that if they want to do anything they want they'll have all of that against them where if they choose some where else they might not, (hint hint nudge nudge I'm getting out of here if and when I get the cash

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May 2, 2016 Marie Donigan Mass Transit Presentation

On May 2, 2016 Marie Donigan, Transit Coordinator for the Harriet Tubman Center gave a presentation on the importance of Mass Transit for South Eastern Michigan at the Southfield Public Library.

Facebook Comments

Note: These Comments are from all across this blog.