Sunday, 26 June 2016

Chasing the Money - Money Monster


Honestly, I not even all that sure as to why I'm writing a blog post on this movie - it isn't as if it was any good. Okay, it is one of those movies that is trying to make a point and forcing people to think about the house of cards that the modern financial world has become, however I personally don't think that it succeeds - at all. The thing is that Money Monster is what you would call a 'Hostage Taker' movie - some guy bursts into a room and takes everybody hostage, and through the movie the hostages and the hostage taker begin to develop a close relationships.

Classic Stockholm syndrome stuff.

Only that I tend to find these movies really boring. Money Monster, as far as I'm concerned, is no exception. So, the question that is being asked is 'why am I writing a post about a movie that I have admitted that I really didn't like?'. The thing with blog posts is that I generally don't spend the time, or the effort, in writing a post about a subject that I find boring - such as this movie. However, while the movie may have been boring, the ideas behind the movie aren't.

However there is a problem. The movie deals with the finance industry, and the thing with the finance industry is that there is a very fine line between what is, and what is not, financial advice. In Australia, to write about financial products, even in a general way, one needs a financial services license. This is pretty sneaky because what this suggests is that one can't actually write about the Finance industry, or aspects of it, without it being construed as financial advice (unless you make multiple statements along the lines of 'this is not meant to be taken as financial advice'). In a way it is actually a form of censorship because one can't actually criticise the markets, or aspects of the markets, without being licensed to do so.

But I'm going to do it anyway. However, before I continue here is a trailer of the film:


The Synopsis

Honestly, I probably don't even need to write a synopsis about this movie because everything you need to know about this film pretty much comes out in the trailer. However, since I do like to include a synopsis every time I explore a film I will include one here (despite the fact that I have probably said everything that I needed to say about the film in the introduction).

Money Monster is about a television celebrity named Lee Gates who hosts a financial advice show called Money Monster. The thing with investing is that it can be a really dry and dull subject, though Gates, who happens to be a bit of a character, does his best to make it interesting and entertaining. In fact his television show is what you would expect from your typical television show - all glitz and glamour and little substance. However, a number of weeks previously he recommended a stock which he described as being better than money in the bank. It turned out that he was wrong and the share price collapsed when the company lost hundreds of millions of dollars.

So enter Kyle Budwell, your average guy on minimum wage who had come into a bit of money and decided to follow Gate's advice and invest it all into this one company. Well, you can guess what happened - he lost the lot of it, which resulted in him pretty much losing all of his money. This of course upset him no end, and instead of realising that he was the one to blame, decides to take matters into his own hands, grabs a gun and a couple of bombs, sneaks into the television studio, and holds Gates hostage in front of a live audience.



The movie pretty much spends the rest of the time in the studio, with the exception of the end when they decide to leave and confront Walt Camby, the CEO of the investment company, over what exactly happened. Mind you, most of the movie involves digging up information as to why the stock crashed, revealing that 'the glitch' was simply an excuse to put to the media to cover up some rather nefarious deals that were being made behind closed doors.

The Lure of Financial Advice

Back when I was young the stock market was really the domain of the professionals, and a handful of very keen enthusiasts. Back then you only found out about the price of a stock from the newspaper - if you wanted up to date information you had to go into the stock exchange. So, the average person would rely on term deposits and high interest savings accounts (which gave some pretty handsome returns back then). When it came to investing they would usually go to some professional fund or their bank and let them do all the had work. However things have changed - a lot.

First of all interest rates are at record lows, meaning that if you simply park your money in a bank you pretty much get absolutely nothing back. The other thing is that computer technology means that even the average punter can get up to date information. Also, by using an electronic platform (that pretty much every bank offers these days), one can actually skip the middle man (though you can be assure that there is a broker hiding behind the scenes). However, the stock market can be a very mystifying beast with its own terminology, and it actually takes an awful lot of work to actually make it work to your advantage - work that many people aren't all that interested in doing - meaning that they go and seek out financial advice.

The problem is that people want this advice on the cheap - financial advice, especially good financial advice, costs money, money that the average punter rarely has. As such shows like The Money Monster have a luring appeal. Here is a character that is entertaining, and also offering advice on how to become rich. The problem is that this advice is free - which means that there is no skin off his nose if a trade goes wrong. In fact it is not too hard to find free financial advice, which in my opinion is worthless, by searching on the internet.

However there are dangers, and an awful lot of them. For instance a lot of advisers have their own interests before that of their investors. Some will take commissions off companies to flog off their shares, others will purchase shares in a stock and then recommend it to all their clients, which has an effect of pushing the price of the stock up (especially if it is what is called a Micro-cap stock), despite the fact that there is absolutely no value in the company, and then sell out before the truth is revealed. Then there is the lure of the investment firm promising above average returns, and it is to this that we will now turn.

The Opaque Investment Firm

I'm sure many of us have heard of the infamous Bernard Mardoff, the one person who actually went to gaol for his role in the financial crisis. In reality he was nothing more than a scape goat, however what he did reveals the dangers of investing in an opaque firms. His firm was known as a ponzi scheme - a scheme where he paid out current investors with money coming in from new investors. This works wonderfully right up until a time that the current investors all want their money back - the problem is that all of the money that was invested has already been paid out as dividends.

This is one of the big problems with investment houses - it is very difficult to actually see what is going on inside. This isn't the case with every company mind you - companies that actually provide a service, such as manufacturing, mining, or retail, tend to be a lot more transparent than a company that deals entirely with investing. The problem with an investment company is that you can only go on what they tell you - there isn't any physical that you can see or touch. A supermarket is easy because you can just walk in through the doors to see what is happening, and you can look at the price of commodities to understand the profitability of a miner, however all you can see with an investment firm is based upon what they tell you after the fact.

The other thing with these firms is that the process of them making money is becoming ever more fancier. Originally an investment house simply purchased shares in a company and monitored the company to make sure that it was profitable and that it was producing a return. However these days we have firms that play around with some of the most confusing financial instruments it is mind boggling. There are companies that buy and sell options over shares that they own, companies that dividend strip, and companies that make their money purely by shorting shares. If there is one thing that the Global Financial Crisis should have taught us (and failed to do) is that the more complex the financial instrument, the greater the risk that there is that things will go wrong. A part of me is surprised that a company hasn't appeared that simply makes money by going into a casino and betting on the roulette wheel.

Which brings me to my next point - the algorithm.

The almighty Algorithm

Investors have been trying to work out how to beat the market for as long as there has been a stock market, and the more advanced the market becomes, the more sophisticated the methods become. Now, I'm not talking about shonky schemes here, but advanced mathematical methods that people use to try to predict the long term (and short term) direction of the market, as well as which stocks are a buy and which stocks are a sell. The problem is that in the end it all comes down to speculation and educated guesses.

I once read a book about value investing (actually I've read a couple of them), which is a method of buying undervalued companies knowing that in the long run they are eventually going to rise to their full value, or even become overvalued (a time when it is a good time to sell, if you can work it out that is). The thing is that in the end it all comes down to maths, to knowing the strange language that is used in the financial world, and educated guesses. In fact a number of the equations use a value that is called the 'future value' of the company, as if the value of the company in the future was something that could be known for sure.



However, like all methods in attempting to predict the movement of the market, even the most advanced algorithm is at the mercy of unforseen events (known as Black Swan events). For instance, in the 1990s an algorithm was developed to determine the future price of options, and the mathematicians that created this algorithm one a Nobel prize for doing so. However, while the algorithm was working when the market was behaving as it was supposed to, it didn't predict the black swan event that was the Russian sovereign default. What happened was that the company, Long Term Capital Management, had to be bailed out to the tune of billions of dollars by the US government (which is a serious problem in an of itself - profits are privatised and losses are socialised).

However, not surprisingly, nobody has learnt from their mistakes (namely because the government keeps on bailing companies out) and the algorithms simply become more and more sophisticated. These days we have super computers engaging in what is known as high frequency trading - trades that occur at a millionth of a second to take advantage of even the most minute mispricing of a security, or the so called dark pools, places where shares are traded off the market in such an opaque manner that nobody knows what is going on. The problem with this is that it so distorts the market that it is almost nigh impossible to actually know what a company is worth.

Being Rich and Famous has its flaws

I want to finish off with an interesting thing that Lee Gates talks about in the movie, and that is how being rich and famous isn't all it is cracked up to be. This is something that I have known for a while, but for some reason people don't seem to realise the truth behind it. One of the biggest problems with being rich and famous is that you have absolutely no privacy. This isn't the Edward Snowden the NSA is listening to all of your phone calls type of no privacy, this is the everybody in the world knows what you are doing type of no privacy. While being rich and famous may seem wonderful, in reality not being able to walk down the road without a horde of adoring fans chasing you sort of creates a bit of a downer.

Lee also tells Budwell how he has had three marriages, and three divorces. He doesn't know his kids, and every divorce becomes ever more expensive. In the end he has lost the ability to be able to have a deep relationship with anybody because every time he forms a relationship his ego ends up getting in the way. Sure, he has lots of money, and goes without want, yet the things that he does want - a real relationship - simply cannot be bought with money. I think the story of Harold Hughes is a classic example of this - a millionaire (at the time, he would have been a billionaire today) who ended up spending his life alone in his mansion simply because he had lost the ability to be able to relate.

This movie also captures this idea brilliantly.


In the end, it is better to be surrounded by friends and family who love and care for you, than to be surrounded by money and living a life alone.


Creative Commons License


Chasing the Money - Money Monster by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Orphan Black - The Dark Side of Science


It took me a while to get around to watching this series, though I must admit that my TV watching habits have been pretty sparse of late (probably because there are a lot of other things that I would prefer to do than sit down and stare at the idiot box after I get home from work). Okay, I am watching TV as I write this, but it happens to be a football match and my team is getting absolutely smashed so I doubt I will be watching for much longer (though for some reason, whenever we are watching a sporting match a part of us seems to have this belief, however misguided, that our team will do something extraordinary and pull the mother all all comebacks).

Anyway, this isn't a post about how bad my football team happens to be playing in this game (or even for the season) but rather a look at Orphan Black, a sort of techno-thriller than has been running for three seasons now (and it looking at going for its forth). Mind you, I had heard about it a few years back, namely because a friend of my recommended it to me, however it simply sat at the back of my mind until recently when I decided to sit down and watch all three seasons (though not all at once).

Anyway, here is a Youtube trailer (for the first season):


Pull TV

I've probably mentioned this in a previous post but TV series seem to be going the way of the old soap operas these days. I say this because when I was growing up a TV series would simply be a collection of forty to forty-five minute episodes in which the story was confined to the one episode. However the soap operas differed because the story would stretch over multiple episodes, or even multiple series. Mind you nothing all that much happened in these episodes meaning that if you missed one then you didn't miss any important plot point (because there weren't any plot points).



However as the entertainment industry has evolved so have the nature of series. These days series have gone from self contained episodes to a point where the entire season composes of the story and the individual episodes aren't necessarily self contained, but simply are a part in the entire story (with cliff-hangers to keep you coming back). One of the reasons for this is because the medium have become much smaller, such as the DVD where an entire season could simply sit in a box the size of a small book. Another reason is the development of the internet, meaning that one can simply stream the entire season down from a site like Netflix.

This development is what is known as Pull TV. Pull TV is where the viewer gets to choose what they want to watch as opposed to Push TV, where the TV networks dictate what you are to watch. Mind you, what the networks play isn't necessarily determined by the network but rather by the viewership, which in a way is quite democratic, however that tends to mean that the less popular shows tend to relegated to late at night, or dropped all together. However, these days one doesn't have to stay up late to watch their favourite shows.

Mind you, entertainment has been moving this ways since the development of the home video recorder. What the video recorder meant was that if there was nothing all that interesting on television (and is there ever) then one can either go to the video store, or even go to the collection on their shelves, and watch something else instead. However, with the rise of Pull TV, despite the rise in the number of TV stations on offer, people simply do not want to be dictated what they are to watch anymore.

Synopsis

As I mentioned at the start this is what one would call a techno-thriller, however the series begins as sort of a mystery. Mind you, as the series progresses more and more becomes revealed to the point that by the time you get to season two a lot of the mystery has been revealed and it simply begins to settle into one of those dark science-fiction thrillers where the protagonists are trying to either stay one step ahead of the angonists, or simply trying to live a normal life. Mind you, it wasn't as if it was a bad show - I did watch the first three seasons, and will probably watch the next one - it is just that there wasn't much about the show that made it any different from similar shows I have seen in the past.

Anyway, Orphan Black begins when the protagonist, Sarah Manning, gets off a train in an unnamed city (though I suspect it is probably either Montreal or Quebec City (the trains look like the ones you see in Montreal). Anyway, after trying to unsuccessfully tee up a meeting with her daughter (she had run away, leaving her daughter with her adopted mother Shoiban) she see a woman that looks remarkably like her, who places her handbag and jacket on the ground and proceeds to jump in front of a train. Seeing an opportunity, and also noticing that everybody on the platform seems to be a little distracted, takes the handbag and promptly disappears.


What Sarah discovers is that Beth, the woman who committed suicide at the railway station, is actually her sister - sort of - they are clones. Soon enough she begins to be introduced to the other clones, expect there is a problem - somebody is killing them off. However the show then progresses as her 'Clone Club' begin discover that they are being watched over by people in the pay of a large biotech corporation, and they find themselves at odds with the corporation as they attempt to free their lives from it's clutches). However, it doesn't end there because they then discover that a further experiment, one in the military, involves male clones.

Since the series has been going for three seasons now I will look at how the show progresses through each of them:

Season One: Sarah's Mystery

As I mentioned, the show begins with Sarah witnessing the suicide of a clone named Beth, and since Sarah has a few enemies in the city she decides to take Beth's identity (particularly since Beth looks exactly like her). However it turns out that she may have bitten off more than she can chew since it quickly becomes apparent that not only is Beth a cop, but she is also in the middle of a disciplinary hearing. However, it isn't just Beth's partner that is interested in here because she is also being contacted by the other clones - one a German who appears to be sick, but doesn't last long because she is shot by somebody.

The first season basically sets the scene, but also brings out the some of the major protagonist. Mind you, Beth's partner Art is one of those cops that seems to be very dogged in his determination to get to the bottom of any mystery, and this mystery is one big mystery, especially since it starts to become obvious that there are multiple people who have the same fingerprints that Beth has. Mind you, Sarah can't keep her secret for too long because it is pretty clear that she is not Beth, and soon is found out not only by Beth's boyfriend Paul, but also by Art.


We also meet Helena, another clone who grew up in a convent in the Ukraine, but has been trained to be a professional killer. In fact she is in the company of an unnamed priest who is encouraging her to kill the clones, people he considers as abominations. However despite Helena's demeanour, and the fact that she is a cold killer, she develops an attachment to Sarah, whom she refers to as her sister. Mind you trust is not a huge commodity when it comes to Helena, but we begin to see this develop as the show progresses. Still, there is something sitting at the back of our mind that makes us wonder if she will, at some point, revert to her old ways.

Season Two - Dyad and the Prolethians

Okay, the themes that are developed in this season began in the first season, and that includes the biotech corporation that happens to be behind the clones - Dyad. The corporation has let the clones out into society but under the watch of some minders. Mind you, the minders have no idea what they are doing, or who they are watching - all they know is that they are involved in some sort of experiment. However as the season progresses more begins to be revealed as the minders are exposed to the reality of the situation (though I don't think Donny realises what he is involved in until season three).



Much of the season involves the clones attempting to escape from the clutches of the Dyad Corporation, though there is a side plot and that is the religious group known as the Prolethians. This is interesting because most religious groups that appear on television tend to be decisively anti-tech. However the Prothelians don't fit that mould. In fact they are not only embracing the cloning technology, they are attempting to reproduce them through their own methods. However it is Helena (no doubt due to her religious connections in the past) that becomes a prisoner of the Prolethians. Mind you, through this season there is this guy, Mark, that seems to stand silently in the background but becomes more important in the next season.

Season Three - Male Clones

At the end of season two it seemed as if everything had been sorted. Helena has been freed from the Prolethians and their laboratory has been destroyed. The mover and shakers at Dyad are either dead, or incapacited (though from what we understand they are dead). Mind you, even though Rachel has been neutralised and Dr Leaky has been killed (quite by accident mind you), we hear of another group within Dyad called Topside who happen to be the real movers and shakers. However, even though everything seems to be sorted we then learn of another group - Castor - who have been developing the male clones, and are a sector of the military.



So, what we have is the clone club going up against the military, but since Helena was kidnapped by Castor much of the season has Sarah attempting to rescue her. However we are also aware that the female clones suffer a genetic disease that originates from the lungs, while the male clones suffer from a similar disease that originates in the brain. As such they are attempting to locate the original subject which they believe holds the key to curing the clones, but also continuing the experiment.

One interesting thing is that the book "The Island of Dr Moreau", does play an role in this series, though that probably has a lot to do with the idea of creating genetic creatures, and improving the human race through such experiments. In season two we had met one of the scientists that was heading up the original experiment, and he was one of the keys to attempting to solve the genetic problem that has resulted in Cosima developing a potentially fatal disease.

Clones

I probably should spend some time looking at the various clones, which are all played by Tatiana Maslany. Mind you, the way technology has developed has made such as show possible where the main actor plays not just two characters, but multiple characters who will appear in the same scene at the same time. Mind you, ever since the eighties where they were creating twin movies starring the same actors, using the same actor in multiple roles has sort of become second nature, but Orphan Black seems to have gone quite a ways beyond that.

Anyway, each of the clones has their own story, and their own plot lines, so it would probably be good to look at each of them individually (though some I have already dwelt on it a bit so will try not to go other the same ground I already have).

Sarah

We've probably said a bit about Sarah already, namely because she is the main character and, at least in the first season, most of what happens is seen through her eyes. Anyway, she is unlike the other clones in that first of all she didn't have a monitor namely because she was smuggled out of the program as a baby and then handed over to Soibhan, who appears to be some sort of Irish revolutionary. If anything she is the black sheep of the family, getting caught up in the criminal underworld when she had grown up and also having a baby. However this is the clincher - she has had a baby. As far as anybody was concerned the clones were all infertile, however this doesn't seem to be the case with Sarah. I'm not sure if it has been made entirely clear why she is different to the other clones (though I probably missed that bit), but she definitely is.

Helena

It turns out that Helena is Sarah's twin sister, which is probably why she developed a strong attachment to her early on in the show. As it is revealed, Sarah's mother had twins and gave one to the state and one to the church. Like Sarah, Helena is also one of the forgotten clones and had slipped under the radar of the Dyad group. Also, like Sarah, she didn't have a monitor. However, having grown up in a different environment she is vastly different to Sarah. Interestingly she seems to always have these dark shades under her eyes. Also she happens to be an incredibly ferocious warrior, yet it isn't really revealed where she learnt to do what she does.

Beth

Beth only appears for a brief period right at the beginning, but unlike the other clones that only have a brief appearance, Beth's character has an impact long after she is gone. In fact as the first (and even second) season progresses we actually learn quite a lot about Beth. For instance we know that she had been seeking out the other clones to assist her in fighting Dyad, but we also know that she had been investigating the Prolethians, despite the fact that her partner Art had very little idea as to what was actually going on (though due to his doggedness as a detective he ends up uncovering the secret). We also learn that her boyfriend Paul is also her minder. The other interesting thing about Beth is that it becomes pretty clear that she is quite unstable mentally, taking a cocktail of prescription drugs to keep her functioning (which inevitably doesn't work). Mind you, this isn't surprising considering that not only is she a cop, she is also trying to work out this situation with the clones in her spare time. The one thing that isn't answered is where she got that $70,000 from.

I should touch on a couple of people that are initially in Beth's life but then jump over into Sarah's life (especially since she has stolen her identity). The first is Art, Sarah's police officer partner. The thing with Art is that it becomes clear that he is quite trustworthy, especially when he uncovers the truth about the clones. Not only is he one of those cops that always seems to be able to dig out the truth, he is also very loyal to his partner. This is probably why, in the later episodes, everybody who is attempting to get in contact with the clones turns up at Art's place unannounced.

Paul is Beth's romantic partner, though it becomes apparent that their relationship is on the rocks. Mind you, this puts Paul into a bit of a bind considering that he is also her minder. However, like the other minders, he doesn't know the full story, he only knows that he is being paid to keep an eye on Beth and to report back to Dyad, for whatever reason. Okay, Paul isn't the type of person not to ask questions, except that they have something on him - he was a mercenary in Afghanistan and got into quite a lot of trouble. Paul is one of those characters that we are not really quite sure whether to trust or not. At first he seems to be onside but then suddenly it is revealed that he is also in bed with the antagonist. Further things are also revealed about his past, and who he really is, as the show progresses.

Cosima

Cosima is the geneticist of the group and the one who tries to translate all of the science-techy part of the show into a way that we, the average sci-fi geek, can understand. She begins as a university student who is lured by her monitor, Delphine, into a group known as the neolutionists, a group of scientists that believe that they can through genetics they can push humanity's evolution. Their entry into the show comes through a scientist who heads up the Dyad group known as Dr Leaky. There is also this guy that has grown a tail, however his participation in the show is relatively short lived has he finds himself on the wrong side of Helena's fury.

Cosima is also gay, and this comes to the fore when she makes a move on Delphine, and Delphine is then ordered to take advantage of that. Okay, Cosima knows who Delphine is and why she has taken an interest in her, but it is clear that her emotions have overwhelmed her common sense. However, this relationship provides Cosima an entry into Dyad so that she can continue her research. Of course it isn't always a two way street, and it is clear that Dyad always holds the upper hand. Even when Rachel is put out of the picture, there are still forces within Dyad that keep us on our toes.

Alison

The plot line involving Alison and her husband/monitor Donny seems to produce some form of comic relief. She is the house-wife that lives out in the suburbs, and even has two adopted kids to create the impression of the average American middle class family. Mind you nothing is all that average about this family since they are involved in the illegal genetic experiment involving the clones. However the events that seem to be playing out in Alison's suburbia (and once again we are never actually told where they are, just that this is suburbia) seem to be a world away from the conspiracies that are unveiling in the inner city.

In a way Alison seems to provide some sort of escape from the horrors of the innercity, yet suburbia never seems to be too far away from what is unfolding elsewhere. The drug barons still have their claws reaching out here, first with Victor and then with Alison buying Ramone's business off of him. Sure, the monitors play their parts, however we are never actually sure who the monitors are, and this creates a sense of paranoia that hangs over the place for at least two seasons. It is clear that Alison is the reluctant participant as she simply wants what most middle Americans want - to live a quiet life in the suburbs raising their families.

Yet there is something really likeable about both Alison and Donny, if only for the comic relief. It is out here that the mistaken identities really come into play. Sure, Donny is eventually let in on the secret, but the community that Alison has built around her means that she is much more out in the open than some of the other characters, yet she has to keep this dark side of her a secret. As such the comedy of errors, in true Shakesperian fashion, really comes into play here.

Rachel

Rachel is one of the antagonists of the show, and in a way seems to be one of those people that always comes back. At one point we are lead to believe that she has been dealt with, however it becomes pretty clear that she is still lurking around, yet has succumbed to part of society that punishes weakness. This is one of the ideas of the modern world where power is strength and strength is power. Sure, she might be a woman, but she is an incredibly powerful woman sitting at the head of the Dyad group. Yet all isn't as it seems in the murky world of the military-industrial complex. While one may sit at the head, they are other shadowy figures that seem to be able to wield and awful lot of influence.

Another way that Rachel is different is because she was actually raised by the scientists that originally headed up the experiment. In a way she was raised as their daughter, and has many memories of this time as their daughter. However she is also sterile like the other clones, which sets Sarah and Helena apart from the others. However, despite this cold hard exterior, the exterior of the modern corporate ladder climber, it is those family memories that soften that exterior.

Biotech - The Dark Science

For some reason biotechnology has always been pictured as one of those dark sciences, one of those places that humanity shouldn't tread. Sure, you can study it at university, and there are a number of companies out there that are working in the field, but unlike other sciences there seems to be this limit that many of us feel that we shouldn't cross. For instance when the first sheep (Dolly) was cloned the American government under Bill Clinton immediately enacted a ban on human cloning. Yet there are other areas, such as invitro-fertalisation and cancer research that receive significant amounts of funding.

I suspect that one of the reasons that we shy away from this science is because of the idea of messing with the building blocks of life. Genetically altering babies can be considered a huge breach of the law because we are messing with the lives of people who have no way of saying no. Then there is this idea of eugenics, where the scientists selectively breed humans so as to create a stronger and more capable species. This has an effect of scaring us since it has the potential of creating a master race. Star Trek has explored this idea in the two incarnations of Kahn, a human that had undergone eugenics treatment and had then gone to war against the unaltered humans in the belief that he was superior to them.

Yet there are other areas of science that we seem to be blindly charging into without any concern as to the effect that it might have on the world around us. For instance genetically altered crops could have a significant impact upon the security of our food supplies. If GE crops are created that are infertile, and that the only source of the seeds is through a company that means that the company has a monopoly on our food supply. However, if cross pollination occurs (as it does) it means that it could end up wiping out the fertile strains leaving us with no way of growing these crops outside of the company (and what happens if they run out of seeds).


Then let us consider computing power. The question of AI and machine learning makes us wonder whether we are blindly heading towards a time when machines will rise up against us as they did in the Terminator series. Sure, Isaac Asimov postulated the three laws of robotics, however then suggested that these three laws could end up working against us with the machines, who are charged to protect humanity, decide to become humanity's overlords. While the movie I Robot may have completely butchered Asimov's original books, it still raises the idea that a robot charged to protect humanity will suddenly decide to become a dictator that controls humanity all for the purpose of protecting humanity.

This of course doesn't even take into account nuclear power, a spectre that has been hanging over us ever since the first bomb was detonated in the New Mexican desert. For the first time in history we suddenly had the ability to be able to complete annihilate ourselves (though the black plague did a pretty good job), and the problem hasn't gone away with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In a way it seems to have become worse, especially since there is always the threat of some radical insurgent group that could get their hands on one. Okay, some say that the whole idea of possessing nuclear weapons is as a deterrent, yet that doesn't mean that one day somebody might actually use one.

Separate Identities

One final thing that I wish to touch upon is the idea of clones being identical. Another idea the show explores is that while the clones may have all come from the same batch, each of the clones have their own personality. There is some idea that clones mean that when we die we can have an exact duplicate come and take our place so that we can continue living. That obviously doesn't take into account the idea of our consciousness and that once we die our consciousness goes with us (meaning that it won't be transferred over to the clone). However the other thing that is suggested is that our identity is not just determined by our genetic make up, but also by our environment.

All of the clones have an identical genetic make up yet the female clones were all released into society, with monitors present to record how they develop, and they have all developed differently. Alison is the middle class housewife who is drastically different from Cosima, the PhD candidate, who in turn is different from Beth, Rachel, Helena, and Sarah. Sure, Rachel knows her identity, and maybe that had an affect upon her cold exterior. Yet, once again that is all apart of the experiment. All the others worked out they were clones, while Rachel was told about her origins right from the beginning.




Creative Commons License

Orphan Black - The Dark Side of Science
by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Thoughts on White Privilege


White Privilege is something that one hears bandied about every so often, yet many of us write it off as some sort of conspiracy theory that is screamed about by the left that is little more than an over-reaction. In many cases a lot of us write it off because governments (at least in Australia) seem to do a lot for the minorities and pretty much leave the White Male Anglo-Saxon to fend for themselves. In a way I've found that to be the case in my life, seeing all these special benefits that go to Aboriginals and the like, and me pretty much being left to fight my own battles. Further more concepts such as affirmative action begin to make me feel as if the fact that I am a white male is becoming to be a disadvantage.

However, with the current furore over the sentencing of Brock Turner, I have suddenly come to realise that White Privilege is alive and well, and that I have experienced it in my own life. In reality, my denial of white privilege, at least where it applies to me, has been little more than a selfish reaction based on the idea of 'why can't I have all those goodies as well'.

The Stanford Rapist

I first heard about Brock Turner when all these memes began to appear on my Facebook feed of a well dressed teenager with the words 'This is Brock Turner, he is a Rapist' over it. I am not one to share these memes, especially since I am not in the business of demonising people. Now, I am not saying what he did was right - by no means - however the saying of Jesus 'he who is without sin cast the first stone' applies in this situation. While not everybody has heard of this (a friend I spoke to the other night seemed to be completely oblivious), I have provided a link to the Wikipedia article above so won't go any further into the background of the case.

Before I comment on the prison sentence I want to say a few things about Turner's future prospects - there are none. This single act that he father so callously described as a '20 minute action' has pretty much destroyed his life - and so it should. First of all his name is going to be listed on the list of sexual offenders - no teaching job for Turner. In fact no job, voluntary or otherwise, which involves working with children or disadvantaged people will be open to him. In fact his career prospects, especially in the days of social media, are going to be incredibly limited. Also, the left wing media have also ignored the fact that he was kicked out of Stanford and kicked off the swimming team for his actions.

Yet the six month gaol term is a classic symptom of the privilege that wealthy white people seem to get. The minimum gaol term for rape in California is four years (though we should remember that he wasn't actually convicted of rape, probably thanks to the advocacy skills of his legal team), yet he manages to escape that sentence because it was seen as having an adverse effect upon his future prospects (whatever those prospects happen to be). I remember a similar case in Australia where the son of a property developer shot a milkman in the early hours of the morning because a couple of girls told him that the milkman was stalking them. He got a suspended sentence. This caused such an outrage that the Director of Public Prosecutions was forced to resign, and the government stepped in to force a retrial (which was grossly overstepping their constitutional authority).

The thing with Turner's sentence is that it started making me think about my own life, and how I have actually had advantages that many non-white people simply do not have.

How I Have Experienced White Privilege

I won't go into to much detail about my past, with the exception of saying that in my teenage years I got caught up with the wrong crowd, got into an awful lot of trouble, and found myself making my way through the court system. However, I was effectively given a slap on the wrist, made to do community service, and pretty much told by the judge not to appear in front of him again (however I did, as I will get to shortly). Since that time I returned to school, got a law degree at university, and was subsequently admitted to the bar as a barrister and a solicitor (which is why I say that I did reappear before him). I now have a steady job with a regular pay cheque and live a comfortable middle class life.

Many of my friends and family attribute this to being able to successfully turn my life around and actually making something out of it. However, after the furore that arose over Brock Turner's sentencing, it made me realise that being a white male also had quite a lot to do with it (as well has growing up in a middle-class Christian household). It made me ask the question: if I happened to be black would I be in the same position as I am today - most likely not.

Some have suggested that Australia doesn't have the same issue with race that the United States does, however I am inclined to disagree. The truth is that we also have our issues, especially when it comes to the native Australian Aboriginals. Pretty much, in Australia, if you are an Aboriginal born into an Aboriginal family then you are pretty much going to be starting off behind the eight-ball, and spending your entire life there, despite all of the helping hands that are given to you. The sad thing is that, like America, the number of Aboriginals in custody far outweighs the number of white people, and if you happen to be black then the chances of you landing up in gaol at a young age is much higher.

While there is a furore over Turner's sentence, it is not so much the sentence itself, but what he was sentenced for, and the message that it sends out to the world.

Rape: Culture

A part of me believed that in our enlightened age that the whole rape culture had been put behind us and that men and women could be treated as equals. Sadly that is not the case, as is not only evident with the Brock Turner trial, but also with the countless reports that one reads about life on university campus even today. I've been to university, and I've lived the university lifestyle (though I wasn't aware of any rapes occurring during my time there, even though I was privy to a lot of information - none of my male friends ever found themselves up on rape charges, at least as far as I know).

When I was in law school we studied rape, and I was also privy to a couple of cases during work experience in a criminal law firm. The sad truth is that a lot of rape (around about 90% I understand) goes unreported. One of the main reasons that this happens is because of the torment that the victim has to go through during the trial, not only having to face her perpetrator, but also having to be grilled by the defence, and having her entire story being pulled apart piece by piece. The term that is used for this is Gaslighting. While the term generally applies to somebody living in an abusive relationship, this also occurs during the trial, which sadly is a key aspect of our criminal justice system.

I have finished reading The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesteron and one of the interesting things that he proposes at the beginning of the book is the idea of the caveman. I'm sure we are all familiar with this image:


This image, it is sad to say, typifies the status of women even in our society - that is as an object to be possessed by a man. It is not a question of seduction, it is a question of possession through violence. Sure, we may look at this picture and laugh, believing that this is typical of a more barbaric time, however this picture actually has a subtle effect upon our own consciousness - what it tells us is that a woman is a possession, a possession that needs to be taken by force, a possession that is not a human and has no rights

However there is another problem with rape, and that is the question of consent. Okay, maybe we have come a long way from when the definition of rape was simply sexual intercourse without consent (meaning that the penetration of the vagina by anything other than a penis wasn't considered rape), however the definition of consent is actually quite broad. If a woman is persuaded to give consent through fraud then consent has been given and thus it is no longer rape. This is a classic example of the seduction technique, where the other party is persuaded through fine sounding words to consent to something that maybe they wouldn't have given it if they knew the truth. How many times have we ended up buying something that we have later regretted because we have been charmed by the words of the salesperson? This is why we have cooling off periods. Further, consent given while one is intoxicated is, sadly, still consent.

This is one of the big problems with our society - the advertising and fashion industries pummel women with the belief that they must dress well and look beautiful, and when a woman is raped, a part of society then turns around and blames the victim for dressing in a way that has caused men to desire her, and if she didn't dress in such a way then maybe she would not have been raped. Can one blame the advertising industry for this? To an extent yes, but while the modern marketing machine has a lot to answer for, in the end it is not society that should be held accountable, but those who believe they can get away with it.


A Question of Entitlement

The baffling thing to me is why would a man, who had everything going for him, think he could get away with having sex with an unconscious woman? Was it the case that Brock Turner, a member of the Stanford Swimming team, could not have consensual sex? Maybe that was the case - I personally don't know and don't want to make any assumptions. However, and as suggested with the cartoon above, there is also a suggestion of entitlement. Our media seems to constantly blast the idea that if one is rich and successful then one can have whatever they want. However what if somebody says no? Well, I guess the belief is that people shouldn't say no, and if they say no then they must be persuaded otherwise. If that doesn't work then the cultural norm suggests that one should then take out a club.

The problem with the WASP culture is that it is a culture of entitlement, especially when it comes to sex - moreso in marriage. Up until recently it was actually believed that if one was married then that was considered to be implied consent, which meant that rape could never happen in a marital relationship. As far as I'm aware, at least in Australia, this has changed, however we still come across the problem of being able to prove that a rape has occurred in such a relationship.

However, on the question of entitlement I believe that this meme sums it up beautifully (though I still believe that there are some things that the population should be entitled to - healthcare, housing, food, and a good education, but that is another topic):



A Complicated Matter

I asked my pastor tonight if there was such a thing as white privilege, and his answer was yes, but with a caveat - it is a complicated matter. There are a lot of things that actually go into this idea. Sure, if we have a poor white family and a poor black family then the black family is probably going to have a lot more difficulties than the white family, however this is painting a purely black and white view of the world, the the world actually doesn't exist in that dichotomy, namely because we have a variety of people inhabiting our lands - Asians, Indians, and Middle Eastern people for instance - yet we still seem to see it in a very black and white view.

I believe that it boils down to the fact that the black/white divide exists because both races are native to the same continent (and I am speaking of Australia here because my knowledge of the United States comes mostly from Hollywood, though I do read a lot of independent articles on the internet). The thing is that there are actually three layers here in Australia - the original inhabitants, the British colonists, and the immigrants. With regards to the Aboriginals they are considered a defeated and conquered people - out of mind, out of sight - however in many ways are similar to the Afro-Americans - a greater rate of incarceration, a lower standard of eduction, generally living in poverty et al. However, with Australia there is also the question of immigration, and it has changed somewhat over the years.

Back in the 50s and 60s, when my parents were growing up, it was the southern Europeans who were flocking to Australia and were the target of racial vilification. When we head into the 80s, and the South-East Asians begin to arrive, they become the target. These days it is those from the Middle East and the rampant Islamaphobia. However, they don't necessarily attract the same attention as the Australian Aboriginals. My theory is because many of them have come from relatively stable countries. A Chinese pulled over by the police is probably going to be treated the same a your average Anglo as opposed to an Australian aboriginal. It is not that they aren't exploited - the 7-11 scam is a clear indication of that - however the fact that immigrants seem to eventually establish a comfortable lifestyle in Australia while the Aboriginals still live in abject poverty suggests that there is still something very wrong in out society.


Thoughts on White Privilege by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Controlling the Story - The Adventure Game



As a kid I loved to explore - though I admit that as an adult I still love to explore, which is probably why I seem to spend most of my leave anywhere but home, and also have a lot of difficulty being stuck for too long in one place, unless that one place happens to be my home. Thus it is probably not surprising that when I was introduced to my first adventure game - Adventure Land - I took to it like a fish to water. Here was a computer game where I could actually explore a mysterious world, and in fact as a kid my intentions wasn't so much to try to complete the game, but to rather get into every single location in the game, which meant that the more locations a game had the more interesting that I found it.

It was adventure games that ended up getting me involved in Dungeons and Dragons - I remember reading one of my Dad's computer magazines which was talking about Dungeons and Dragons and referencing an adventure game known as Colossal Cave. At the time I believed both where one and the same, and when we were at a toy store (or I should probably say Toy Warehouse), in the back corner I discovered the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Box Set. Needless to say that my Dad ended up buying it for me, and when I got home I opened the box and pored over the game, believing that this game and Colossal Cave were one and the same - it turned out that it wasn't, but that is another story.

The First Adventure

You're probably wandering what this Colossal Cave that I'm talking about is. Well, come to think of it if you are reading this post you probably already know what it is all about, but that is beside the point because I'm simply reminiscing on some of the games that I loved when I was a kid. Mind you, despite my fascination with this particular game it was quite a while before I actually managed to get my hands on a copy, the reason being is that the computer my Dad owned didn't have a version that was compatible with it, which meant that I wasn't able to play it until much later (when we finally got a Commodore 64). Okay, while I would suggest that back in those days cross compatibility was something that owning a computer that nobody else owned made it really difficult (and expensive) to get games, I feel that much is the same today - I'm sure there are games that are available on the X-box that aren't available on the Playstation, and if you own a Playstation then I know that you can't play X-box games.

I guess because I owned a Commodore 64, and then when the PC became a games machine, cross-compatibility was not a problem because pretty much all of the gamers I knew owned the same computer that I do (and I have a feeling that one doesn't use a Mac to play computer games). Anyway, once again, and as usual, I've gone off track, so I better get back to my story - Colossal Cave.

Colossal Cave Adventure
The beginning of Colossal Cave

So, the question probably comes about: what is an adventure game, or more precisely, interactive fiction. Well, to put is simply an adventure game is a game that is like a story where you are the protagonist. While these days adventure games have taken many and varied forms, and are more in line with interactive movies, traditionally an adventure game was purely text based, though some of them would have a picture of some, or even all, of the locations, which is why these days that are referred to as interactive fiction.

The original adventure games were purely text, and this had a lot to do with computing power back in the late 60s and 70s. In fact the first adventure that used graphics was for the Apple II and known called Mystery House. This game was actually produced by a company called Sierra Online, a company that we will visit again later in this post, however here is screen shot of the beginning of Mystery House.

Mystery House Screen Shot
Yep, that's what the graphics were like back in the very early 80s.

Colossal Cave

Colossal Cave actually has a very interesting beginning. It first appeared in 1976 and was developed by a couple of engineers, William Cowther and Don Woods, who ironically were working on ARPAnet Routers - and anybody who knows anything about the history of computers will recognise the ARPAnet as being the fore-runner of the modern internet. These guys were Dungeons and Dragons tragics, and it wasn't going to take long for a couple of computer programmers to look for a way to bring the game into the world of computers. The other interesting thing about this game was that when it was completed it is was placed onto the ARPAnet to be downloaded by anybody who wanted to give it a shot - so long before the internet became a commercial phenomena computer games where accessed simply by longing on to the fore-runner of the web and downloading it onto your computer.

As I have mentioned, Colossal Cave was a purely text based game. You simply pictured the locations using your own imagination and instructed the computer through text based commands. In fact I remember one of my friend's mums loved adventure games because she believed that they had immense educational potential, especially in assisting children in learning how to spell, or even learning basic grammar. She actually forbid her children to use the three letter shortcuts (you could enter commands using only the first three letters of a word) an insisted that they type in the entire word.

Colossal Cave Text
Not as fancy as World of Warcraft
The game involved you exploring a cave network (which was based on a network of caves in the author's home state of Kentucky) solving problems and collecting treasures. You would then bring all of the treasures back the hut where you started and drop them, and once you had found and returned all of the treasures then you would win. Mind you, later adventure games went out from simply finding treasures and returning them to a specific location, however in reality it didn't matter whether it was finding parts to fix a spaceship engine, collecting evidence of a murder, or simply stealing some secret plans, this basic concept of collecting the treasures and bringing then back formed the basis of  many adventure games for most of the 80s (it was only when computers become more powerful that they began to morph into stories).

Colossal Cave Map
A pretty good attempt at mapping the Labyrinth
Mind you, it wasn't long before the concept that began with Colossal Cave started to see commercial success, and even the original game was taken by one of the gaming houses, spiced up and had graphics added to it, and then released onto the market.

Zork

Well, this is one of those games that have become a staple part of the culture of the geek world. While many of us outside may not understanding the phrase 'you might get eaten by a grue', many of us geeks who grew up in the eighties know exactly what that phrase refers to (and for those who don't, Grues were monsters that existed only in the dark, and if you wandered into an area without any light then you would, pretty quickly, find yourself becoming a snack). The thing with Zork, despite it being essentially a massive treasure hunt, is that the creators placed it in a fairly developed world. The game itself is split into three parts (though the original game was only one game, and it became three for expediency reasons), and the goal is to essentially become the dungeon master. While two of the parts are basically treasure hunts, the game is well known for some really nasty problems (such as the bank vault and the baseball diamond in Zork II), as well as the ever present grue and the phrase "Hello Sailor".


Zork is purely a text adventure, though it took it to another level in having some incredibly detailed descriptions of a number of the rooms, as well as allowing commands that extended beyond the simple two words (though it wasn't hugely complex). One thing that I do remember I would do as a kid was type profantity to see how the computer world react, and of course some of the games did have some rather cute responses to such words (including ending the game).

As for Zork, as far as I'm aware, the original trilogy was never released with graphics. In fact all of Infocom's adventures where known for their complexity and their detailed descriptions. However later releases (such as Zork Zero) began bring graphics and the use of the mouse into them, and the appreciation of the traditional adventure game began to wain.

Zork I Forest Map
A map of the forest
If you are interested in finding out more about this classic game, I found this interesting article while perusing the internet.

Scott Adams Adventures

As I mentioned above, my first experience with adventure games were two of the Scott Adams adventures - Adventureland (which is basically a treasure hunt), and Pirate Adventure (which is also a treasure hunt, but a little more complicated, and is actually based, very loosely mind you, on Peter Pan). I believe there ended up being twelve games in all (not counting the Marvel Superhero adventures that were written for the Commodore 64). The games themselves were very, very basic. The rooms would be described in one or two sentences, and you explored the world using two word commands. The treasures would also be identified with the items having two asterixes to either side, so you knew if you had encountered something important.


Pirate Island Opening
Probably a pretty expensive flat at that, though I doubt it is in Mayfair
Scott Adams did borrow a number of the ideas of his games from popular culture at the time, which included a game based on Mission Impossible, where you had to prevent a nuclear reactor from melting down (and I remember you got into the reactor by throwing a cassette player through the window - as if that was going to work), one in which you had to hunt down Count Dracula, and another where you went to the wild west. As well as that, other games had you exploring (and looting) one of the pyramids, looking for a way to repair your spaceship (after discovering a stargate that allowed you to jump through to different worlds - though you did have to watch out for the black hole), and two where you landed up on an island and went out to discover the origins of humanity - pretty cool for some incredibly basic games (and the puzzles, while, weren't incredibly difficult).

Count Dracula
Meet the Count
Hot on the heels of Scott Adams adventures were the mysterious adventures, written by Brian Howarth. In many ways they are very similar in structure and style to Adam's adventures, and the thing is that they didn't require huge amounts of effort to actually write (I was able to write a few by myself - unlike games today which take an ensemble almost as large as that of a major movie to create). As such one could churn out adventure games pretty quickly, though of course quality control also comes into play.

Another series of adventures that I remember where the Mountain Valley Adventures. Like the others I have mentioned, they were pretty basic and used the simple two word commands. However, unlike others, the thing that made these particular games stand out was that they used very simple graphics that could be generated simply be pressing a couple of buttons on the Commodore 64 keyboards. However, despite their simplicity, the graphics were actually quite well done, and the games really enjoyable.


Sierra Online

The next stage I will look at are the games that came out of the Sierra studios, in particular a series of games known as Kings Quest, Space Quest, and Police Quest. These games were set apart from the earlier adventure games in that not only were they more graphical than their predecessors, but they also used a lot of animation. In fact instead of moving your character around the world through the use to two word commands, you would move the character using a controller. However for more complicated things you ended up resorting to the standard two word command (such as collecting and using objects). The problem that I found with the games was that you didn't necessarily know what was in the room because the games relied a lot more on graphics than on text. The other thing about these games was that they were really, really hard.

Kings Quest
The king outside his castle
Honestly, I never played many of these games, namely because they were written for the PC as opposed to the Commodore 64 (the Commodore simply was not powerful enough to be able to run these games). However, what I can say is that Kings Quest was a series where in the first adventure you had to become king, and then for the rest of the series you simply played various members of the Royal Family.

Space Quest was supposed to be comedy (though I never found them hugely funny - the ones I played that is, which I believe was a grand total of one). The other series, Police Quest, was actually developed by a former police officer, and it wasn't simply a detective adventure where you had to solve a murder, you actually played the role of a police officer, and had to follow all of the protocols to boot.

Police Quest
Now which car do I use?

Oh, I almost forgot, a video - here's a play-thru of Kings Quest V (though it is pretty long):


LucasArts

Which finally brings me to LucasArts - yep, the same George Lucas that was responsible for the Star Wars trilogy (and the not so appreciated Prequal Trilogy). Well, it seems that there wasn't a segment of the entertainment industry that Lucas didn't have his figure in, especially since pretty much every movie that came out of Hollywood (and then some) would have some connection to his special effects company Industrial Light & Magic. However this isn't about George Lucas per se but rather about the games that came out his his studio, including the very popular Monkey Island series.

Monkey Island Tavern
The Tavern from Monkey Island
In many ways LucasArts games were similar to the Sierra games, though LucasArts did come about later, with their first offering being Maniac Mansion (which appeared on the Commodore 64) - in this game you controlled six characters and you explored a haunted mansion complete with a mad scientist. Where as many of the Sierra games were serious (with the exception of Space Quest), the LucasArts games were crafted more like cartoons, which worked very well in that it made good use of the graphic capabilities at the time. They also differed from many of the other adventure games on the market as they were purely point and click - at no point did you need to actually type anything in (though I believe there may have been the occasional need for a keyboard interface).

Maniac Mansion
The first LucasArts Games
Not surprisingly, within a short space of time, LucasArts began to produce games that were connected with the LucasFilm studios, which included offerings from the Indiana Jones franchise. While I haven't played a huge number of these games, I have, in the past, spent hours on some of their games, including Sam and Max Hit the Road, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and of course the Secret of Monkey Island. However, my favourite LucasFilm game by far would be none other than Zak Mckrakin and the Alien Mindbenders, where you play Zak, and ordinary guy who ends up getting caught up in some extra-ordinary adventures, which concludes with a trip to Mars (by combi-van no less - yep, that is what you could expect from your typical LucasArts game),

Anyway, here is a video:


I was going to finish this post off with a look at interactive fiction today, however after the LucasFilm phenomena I never really followed on with any of the new releases. That didn't mean that I didn't play any adventure games - in fact I would go completely retro and play many of the games from my youth (though with cheats, because I really don't have huge amounts of time to actually work the problems out myself). Even more, I've discovered archives on the internet where people still upload games that they have written (though most of those games are pretty shocking).

If you are interested in some of these games, especially the classic text only games, you can always search the Interactive Fiction Archive, or the Commodore 64 Archive c64.com. However, as with all downloads, don't do it blindly and make sure your virus scanners are up to date.



Creative Commons License

Controlling the Story - The Adventure Game by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.