Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Southfield August 29, 2016 City Council Meeting

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Work Is Way Smarter Than People Give It Credit For

So. I love Rihanna's "Work". I honestly think that it's one of the smartest songs we've had in a long time. And it irks me that while a lot of people like the production most are dismissing the lyrics which in mind make it one of the most clever songs about sex since "Kick/Push". (By the way that skateboard ain't a skateboard.

Evan Pushchak, The Nerdwriter, has already done a video essay about the style and influences of the song but I want to go deeper and talk about it's importance.

So part of the reason why I feel this song is important is because where it lies within' the context of other songs that came out around it.

So for the past few years people have been rolling their eyes at Iggy Azalea. Because of cultural appropriation. And before you start I know the sample in Rihanna's work is Jamaican rather than from Barbados but stick with me here.

Iggy's Work is all about establishing her roots but to a guy like me it comes across as a bit inauthentic. Yes because of her race.

I know next to nothing about Iggy Azalea and will be up front about it.

But still if you're going to have the came up from the bottom song you better sell it because very often in this rap game when people said they came up from the bottom and how they grew up flat broke they mean it.

And Iggy's Work doesn't.

And Rihanna's work very much seems to be a comment on not necessarily the song but the technique. She wants to drown you in the type of music she grew up listening to and show you where she came from as an artist.

Which is why she's putting on that accent. She's making a deliberate artistic choice and that deliberate choice has resulted in this.

You know what song everybody has  RIGHTLY dumped on.

The brilliance of  "Sexual Healing" and to a lesser extent "Let's Get It On" is they feel like songs actually about sex

And in media dealing with sex head on is haaaarrrrrd.

Oh don't get me wrong we can talk all day about sexuality. But actual two people doing the horizontal mambo and enjoying the experience that's something we have trouble with. And more over we also have trouble describing romantic complexity.

The idea that you might love somebody but not what they do. Or love somebody but not love them all the time. Or not want the same things they do.

Sex is complicated

Love is complicated.

People are complicated.

And that's what the lyrics of song are about.

It's basically about couples therapy mid-coitus. With both sex and the relationship itself acting as metaphors for each other as the characters Drake and Rihanna play in the song, "Work" it out.

P.S. How many times does she have to repeat the words, "Do me." for people to get it.

Northland August 23, 2016 Presentation at Southfield Public Library

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Remix Is The Spirit of Hip Hop: A The Get Down Review

So is The Get Down worth your time?

That is a boring question.  And The Get Down isn't a boring show. It would probably be enough if the show simply aimed to a recounting of the history of hip-hop but the series has a thesis of what hip-hop is and sets itself out to spiritually demonstrate it.

Hip-hop is the remix.  Taking something old and turning it into something new. The series seeks to not only say but demonstrate that the birth of hip-hop was the recombination of all of these other disparate cultural elements coming together to form something that people really hadn't seen before.

Historical Impressionism

To get to how it does this let me talk about what I call historical impressionism.

I'm pretty sure 10 years ago I read an essay regarding this in college but I barely remember it so I'll remix it into my own thing. That being said I don't know exactly who I'm riffing but this is an old conversation.

When talking about history one of the hardest things to communicate is the context of the story. We the audience are removed from yet familiar with what happened, It is hard beyond that to convey not what happened why? What contributed to the decision making of the people involved.

There is a difference between Truth and the truth. and it's up to the storyteller to decide which one has more value.

Enter Baz Lurhmann, who has consistently over his career chosen Truth.

When you're watching a Baz Lurhman production your always watching two movies separated by how you calculate his tics and style into the diegesis.

The plot as it occurs from our omniscient point of view and the plot as it is understood by the characters.

For instance people can and have argued that the vast majority of Mulin Rouge as we see it is taking place in the character's heads and all the weirdness we see is a translation of their emotional states. 

Are the characters actually singing a medley of the greatest loves songs of the last century?  It doesn't matter but that conveys how they feel at the time and explains why they do what they do in a way that the audience gets it.

Part of how this works is breaking the fourth wall and using our external context to communicate character's frame of mind.

Now this is Lurhman's schtick. If something has his name on it, you know that you're probably not going to get something to be taken literally.

But in the Get Down Luhrmann's style goes to the next level.

Let's Do The Time Warp
The Get Down is probably one of Lurhman's  more subtle works because this time he's remixing the 70's with.... the 70's or at least the 70's as pumped into the minds of the people who lived it via music, film and television.

The show uses costume changes that evoke everything from West Side Story, to Fame, to Grease, to Starsky and Hutch, to The Warriors, to Superfly, to Black Samurai flicks to show how the characters feel and who they are trying to be in that moment.

The same goes for the mannerisms of the cast as well as the sets.

The show is in effect a remix of the pop culture the time.

Yet it goes beyond mere references since in Luhrmann's style all of these things are meant to be communicative. All of the references add context to the action and dialogue in the piece, turning The Get Down into something of yet distinct from all its parts.

The Get Down is a filmic adaptation of the old school hip hop it's recounting. And that makes the point it's trying to make all the stronger.

What makes hip hop hip hop is the remix.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

My Patreon Page

I still need to make an intro video, and a thank you video wouldn't hurt either, but I decided to just go for it. And launch my Patreon Page.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Random Photos

I really need some channel art like yesterday. I'm probably going to modify my blog banner, but for a while I was tooling with idea of using some old photos so enjoy.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

What I Do and How Much It Costs.

Since Patreon Won't Leave My Mind

One of the reasons why I've been hesitant to do crowd funding is because I don't want people to think I'm scamming them. When I say give me money I want people to know exactly how I spent it. Fortunately, my year of doing this without crowdfunding has pretty much given me "books" of how I spend money and a decent idea of how I would spend it if I had more of it.

By the way, this is how my Patreon page more or less started looking and then I came to the realization nobody was going to read all this but I find it necessary and even interesting so if you do too knock yourself out.

What Do I Do

But before I even get to that here is what I currently do on this blog.

Current Costs (Generally Not Counting Tax and Delivery)

To keep things tidy I'm going to try as much as I can to use annual numbers for reoccurring costs. 

  • Laptop ($529.99)
  • Headphones ($29.99)
  • Wireless Mouse ($11.99)
  • Video Camera ($597.99)
  • Video Camera External Microphone (199.95)
  • 64 GB Flash Card ($24.21)
  • 16GB Flash Card ($9.99)
  • PC Blue Yeti Microphone ($129.00)
  • Tripod ($23.49)
  • Still Camera ($88.00)
  • SD Card Reader ($6.99)
  • External Hard Drive ($105.99)
Total  $1769.59

  • 24 Reporter's Notebooks ($18.75)
* I bought a lot of office supplies while I was subbing and am using that for now but realistically eventually that's going to run out and I'm going to have to get general office supplies.)

Total $18.75

Software and Computer Services
  • Skype Subscription ($167.88 for world) ($83.88 for U.S. and North America)
  • Adobe Creative Cloud for Teams ($839.88)
  • Dropbox ($99)
  • Microsoft Office 365 ($99.00)
  • Godaddy Hosting ($15.00)
  • Writer's Market ($39.99)
Total  ($1260.75/$1176.75)

*Pretty much all of these are annual reoccurring costs

* I transferred hosting from Google to GoDaddy slightly before I separated my business and personal  finances but it's still a business expense.

*I'm sort of running out of capital so I use skype monthly but I could save money if I ordered an annual subscription so that is the number I'm going to include)

*At the time I was worried about business licenses for software and I think that caused me to make bad decisions on the Adobe and Microsoft stuff and I'm considering downgrading

*Also I hardly ever use Microsoft Office since I use Evernote for most of my word processing, note taking, and other things so I'm considering dropping it once it's subscription comes up.

*In addition, I passed the 1tb limit for Dropbox and had to get an external hard drive so I'm also considering dropping it.

  • Ridesharing (Both Lyft and Uber)  ($570.63)
Total (570.63)

*I don't have a car so I use a combination of ridesharing and buses to get around. I use my personal bus pass so I'm not counting that. I think the easiest way to do this is to use my personal accounting software to chart how much I've spent on transportation regarding my blog in the last year but typically each video costs about $10-$20 in transportation

Interest and Financial Fees 
  • Interest ($239.27)
  • Paypal Fees ($7.62)
Total $246.62

Total...Total ($3866.34/$3782.34)

Actual From Software ($3728.78)

*I bought most of this stuff on credit so I have to pay interest. And I know it's going to suck.

Stuff I Don't Do or Haven't Done In A While But Would Like To If Given The Resources

  • Expand My Coverage Area - The further the stuff is the bigger the transportation costs. So no matter how important it is if it's more than 15 miles away I have to weigh it against missing a City Council Meeting.
  • Interviews and Deeper Coverage
  • Mini-Documentaries and Video Essays
  • Media Reviews
  • Longer Form Media Analysis- I want Bob Chipman's job. I want Lindsay Ellis's job. Hell, I want Evan Puchack's job. I want to do that sort of stuff. And I think some of my older blog posts come close but I haven't done it in a while.  Specifically, I would like to really dig into Lilith's Brood, but it's the type of thing that would take a long time and not necessarily immediately pay off and as such keeps getting pushed to the back burner. That having been said I do think I have something to add to these types of discussions. 
  • Character Retrospectives - Did I say I want Lindsay Ellis's job. I really do love Loose Canon, but I also realize that Lindsay Ellis is one person and she's probably not going to get to every character I want to see studied. And seeing as her show is her show she shouldn't have to. 
  • Reading stuff that's in the public domain- This is simply a why not thing. It's content I can put up pretty easy so why not. 
  • Podcasting - I kind of want to experiment with podcasting but I've been told that in its progenitor radio it's really hard to keep people's attention with one person and I don't want to do it until I have the resources to pay to bring someone on board to help me. 
  • Vlogging - Again I would like to experiment with it, but doing a good vlog on a regular basis is again a resource heavy time-consuming thing and between that and everything else I want to do I don't know if I can, especially with the resources currently have on hand. 

Specific Things I Want To Make My Job Easier (How I Would Spend Excess Money)

  • Lawyer/Accountant - First off I set up everything by myself and if I had the money would like to hire a lawyer and an accountant to make sure everything was on board. I have this fear that I filled paperwork out wrong or did my taxes wrong and it would make me feel better if I got that stuff taken care of by a professional, which I can't really afford to do right now but if I had some loose money it would be one of the first things I looked into. 
  • Quickbooks - I've been using Quicken for Home and Business and while it separates my business expenses... it really doesn't.
  • Salary - If I want to call this a job I need to make it a job and I want to set up a payroll account to pay myself and anybody else I might use. I want to be clear I want a regular salary that will be reviewed either quarterly or annually. I don't want that I love Lucy episode where she bounces money around.
  • Payroll and Commissions - Pretty much what I said about paying myself but with other people.
  • An Office/Studio - I'm kind of uncomfortable with the fact that I play where I work. It doesn't have to be much but after a salary, I would like to subsidize an extra room devoted to the blog where I can not only write and edit but also film if I needed to. 
  • Transportation Budget- Shoring up that war chest would be something off my mind.
  • FOIA Budget - I want to be able to send out Freedom of Information Act Requests without being scared off by costs. 
  • PACER Budget
  • An Event Budget - If I want to cover events that require tickets well there you go. 
  • Travel Budget - For some big ticket stories I would like to be able to travel.
  • Marketing Budget - As much as I grip I need new business cards and some google ads wouldn't hurt either. 
  • Storage Materials - I had a project a while back and I fell in love with bankers boxes and Sterilite totes. They just make things easier. 
  • Jackery Battery ($19) - I've been using my personal one and something about relieving yourself where you eat. Also with my camera, they are really easy to switch out without disrupting the camera itself. 
  • Review Material Budget - Especially if I start doing video reviews I'm going to need to start buying disks to get footage instead of streaming stuff I want to talk about and that's going to get expensive.
  • Larger Flash Memory Card ($44) Right now I can get 5 and a half hours of footage before having upload something to a laptop. There have been some events that have cut it close. 
  • Blog Cell Phone - If not having a professional/business cell phone can get Hillary Clinton into trouble it can get me into trouble.
  • Blog Tablet - I have a laptop but it's hard to be inconspicuous with the thing. A tablet would make reading minutes and taking notes easier. 
  • Skype Number ($79) - Michigan is a one party consent state which means I should probably be recording every phone conversation I have. Turning my computer into a phone will help with that,  and honestly, it makes interviews easier. 
  • An Office Chair - You don't know how much I want a new chair. This one is frankly an embarrassment. 
  • Evernote Premium - I have it for my personal Evernote account and want it for my business account
  • Amazon Prime - Second verse same as the first. 
  • Grammarly Premium - I suck at proofreading. 
  • Batchgeo GIS Software - You want to know what my favorite thing I ever did on my blog was. A map breakdown of the condition all of the city's roads. I want to do more of that sort of thing.  
  • A NAS Server - If there is one thing I will take away from my failed time at U of M it was the tech. Papa want. That being said the single biggest headache of my year has been digital storage.
  • AAA Batteries For My Microphone
  • Workstation

* Correction: I noticed after posting this that some of the items I listed include sales tax while others do not so please take the numbers mentioned as approximations.

Ideas for Patreon Videos

My last post was basically me saying I'm probably going to give up on all the "interesting" plans I had for a Patreon video and just film myself sitting in my chair vlog style sometime this week and say, "I'm running out of money and if you guys think that this blog is of any value whatsoever for the love of god please throw something my way or it will die on the vine."

But I thought that would be boring so here are some of the ideas I came up with.

Idea #1 The Montage
Basically a demo reel of all the footage I shot over the past year. Editing what easily tops 50 hours of footage into 90 seconds would be labor intensive and honestly I don't want to do it.

But less lazily it would probably tie up my editing computer up for a month so nothing else would get done.

This plan more or less went right down the tubes right around the time the RTA thing was happening and I was already pissed that it took me a couple days to get that meeting online and I honestly feel getting stuff out there fast enough so people can react to it is part of what makes it valuable.

I can't take a month off to get my shit together.

So timeliness is next to godliness.

Idea #2 Please Support Local Journalism

One of the things that vex me about this blog is that I do stuff that if I didn't do it probably wouldn't get done. And that's fine... for now.

But honestly sooner or later I'm going to move, or I'm going to want to do a bigger project and won't have time for the usual stuff, or somebody better equipped to do it is going to come along, or I may, in fact, run out of money and just have to not do it.

Part of me wants to just accept that and ask that if anybody who does local journalism well asks for support lend them an ear.

I don't know if I can say I do local journalism but at least for some things on this blog, it's what I aspire to.

You know, part of me wanted to be subtle about this but screw it.

Crystal Proxmire already has a Patreon and a reader support page and may very well be better at this stuff than I am. So please until I do my thing and maybe even after support her and Oakland 115.

Beyond that the more I thought about this approach the more I thought if it's something I really want to do it would make a better mini-documentary than a 90-second spot.

Idea #3 The Network Ident/Commercial 
In short, I would have to learn how to do a bunch a stuff which doesn't seem like that bad of an idea until we get back to that labor intensive, tying up my computer thing. Mainly how I wanted to do it involved moving typography with a sort of old-school noir feel (I have got to stop ripping off Moviebob) which is something I always wanted to learn how to do but didn't.  I would probably need a crash course in Aftereffects and Flash, both of which are programs I need to learn anyway ...eventually. But I barely have Premier under control so baby steps.

Idea #4 Voice Over Soothing Nature Imagery. 
Pretty much the same as the vlog idea except with well you know.

I really do have to stop ripping off Moviebob. 

Actually, now that I think about it's still not a bad idea and I don't particularly want to be on camera, but all the same I should probably show people my face if I'm going to hit them up for money.

I Have No Marketing Budget: A Rebuttal to Emily Best

I functionally quit my job as a substitute teacher in mid-April. There were a lot of reasons but at the time it felt like every day that month I had to read newspaper articles telling me why my job sucked and it got harder for me to hide how much I disliked it.

I don't want to do the thing where I complain out the  door though it is cathartic whenever I decide to break my own rules.

I spent pretty much most April and May knocked out. One of the reasons why I disliked my job  is that I had to wake up early,about 5:00 to get ready to go and be available to take the call, but didn't know if I was coming in or not and it would mess with my sleep schedule and it was getting to the point where I could feel it.

So for two months I would just randomly fall asleep. It pissed me off then and it pisses me off now but in retrospect, I needed the sleep because right around June I started getting ideas.

Actually getting enough sleep made me smarter. So that's why we do that thing where we waste a third of our day unconscious. Who knew?

Not only was I coming up with ideas but I was dusting off old ones.

I was more or less in the same place I was last year when I said I want to make my blog more professional.

I have mixed feelings about that. On the whole, I think I've only done about 2/3 of what I said I wanted to do but I'm still proud of what I think I've accomplished.

In contrast to what I was doing at my job my blog represents the sort of stuff I would like to do with my life so to a point anyway I'm fine with setbacks as long as it's clear that I'm making progress. Compared to what I was doing this time last year it's night and day.

But my great fear is that I am running out of resources in more ways than one. I do not want to stall out.

It's not a perfect solution as I don't think I have the numbers to really sustain what I want to do nor myself if I really set this out to be a life for myself. But for a long while, I've wanted to at least try Patreon and I get hung up on one thing.

The video.

Back in June, I started filling out Patreon goals and more and more it started to feel like the "business plan" I had laid out the previous year. I started to feel like instead of goals what I was doing was trying to justify to myself why this or that item would make what I wanted to do easier if only I could afford it.

A bigger sd card would let me shoot longer without having to upload things onto a computer.

A skype premium and a skype number would let me take calls from my computer better enabling audio interviews

And (at the time) not having an external hard drive that I solely devoted to blog stuff was a pain in the ass.

But all the same, putting words to all that stuff made me want to do it more. But I kept getting hung up on one thing that I've been putting off for about a month.

The video.

I saw this and it made me want to get ambitious.



She basically wants the pitch to be a trailer.

And for about a month. I thought I could do that.

Until it slowly dawned on me that it would take so much time, money and energy that I couldn't do anything else that I do for the blog which defeats the purpose. Especially considering that to get that type of editing I would need a new more powerful computer which ain't happening on my already stretched budget.

Watch some of the behind the scenes stuff for the more production heavyYoutube videos. Putting together stuff like that is a feat unto itself. 

The overriding theme of the rest of Film Courage is

It's going to be hard.

You will have to take your lumps.

But at the end of the day you're either going to do it or you ain't, and you know you want to do it so get off your ass and fuckin' move!

Getting hung up on the crowdfunding video seems to fit it the ain't box.

And the more I think about it the more I realize this isn't exactly a "new" problem.

How much time and effort should filmmakers put into marketing their films?

It's a complicated question which depends on a lot of factors. How early you are in development, what is the strength of the work that's already been done, And in my case can those dollars be spent actually making the finished project better.

Look if you're in the big leagues dealing with hundreds of thousands or even a couple million dollars yeah that's a pretty stupid way to market a project.

(Oh this is a whole other contention) But that's mostly not what Kickstarter or Patreon for that matter are.

I'm not going to pretend that not having good marketing materials won't help fund or sell stuff and all that may make for a better realization of vision. But that can't come at the expense of the actual finished "product."

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