Tag Archives: Star Trek

Taught by the past

There will always be one TV channel that remains in my heart. It does not matter how they go, what series they have and whether they stop existing. They had one thing right, the one thing above it all was their slogan ‘the story is everything‘, it still reverberates in my heart, and for years (when I had cable) they proved that they understood their own premise. The story was indeed everything and they stood by it. It should be the cornerstone in entertainment, but it is not (for some). Some have a setting that is nowhere near there. It does not matter how they go that journey, how they pass the time in their product, they forgot that one truth that makes all the difference.

This takes us to Eidos. I had a good connection there for the longest time, so when I got an early copy in the summer of 1996 to take a look at some game called Tomb Raider I had no idea what I was in for. I loved it, apart from the part that the hero was a woman, the game was new, it was different and we all wanted more, that would be delivered a little over a year alter and for the most we were all hooked, not merely because of Lara, little Lara, but the setting from the first to the second became a much larger leap. Even as the story for both was not the greatest, the levels, the design and the challenges made up for that. Over time we saw that the story become much more important and as we went through the stages, on PlayStation, PC, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One the story evolved and it became to some degree a real story. In all this there was an evolution (to some degree). Now we are confronted with ‘Tomb Raider – makes Lara Croft look boring‘. The Guardian gives us (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/sep/10/shadow-of-the-tomb-raider-review-lara-croft) “This game revels in its own beauty, but the plot collapses under the slightest scrutiny“, now first the important part. I did not play it myself, but I saw a large amount of videos. First the bad part, a few games back. When the definitive version on PS4 was launched, I became very upset. Not only was the game shallow, too easy (on hard) and way too small. It became the first game I ever returned to the shop. I had finished the game in hard mode under 10 hours. It was perhaps one of the most upsetting acts I ever did, mainly because my gaming experience with Lara Croft over 4 systems had been so good. When we look deeper into that game we see something that was perfectly placed on an island, the setting could have propelled in many direction and the graphics were amazing, even now I look back (in my mind) to that level when you arrive near the ocean and you see that large tugboat in the sea, I need to acknowledge that graphically it was an amazing feat, so when we see the setting where we could have had at least 20 hours of additional play, but the makers overlooked or ignored that opportunity. In a gaming sidestep, I realised the same with Assassins Creed Rogue, the remastered edition. What could have been nice story to side missions ended up being merely the setting of running to a marker and press the dig button or simply violently resolve it. All opportunities missed (in that case) by Ubisoft. So back to Lara, after that disappointing episode, I decided to give the second game a miss, something I partially regret now, because the third game (for hat I saw was a pretty amazing result). The graphics were still really good, yet the story is, as I saw it better and they took effort with the stealth part. A much better game overall (comparing to the first relaunched PS4 game). I liked Lucy O’Brien’s review in IGN giving us the parts that count (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdEfROL2Wx8). If there is one part that I personally do not like is the use of ‘scripted moments‘. I get it that it essentially needs to be there (especially in the introduction), but in the end, the best game does not require scripted events, or requires them to be minimised to the biggest possible degree. Even as the stories are better, we need to address the Guardian verdict. We see the first quote “Shadow of the Tomb Raider nails the former, with sumptuous South American locations to climb, dive and rappel around, ranging from ancient Inca cities and missionary crypts to modern-day Peruvian jungles and towns. But it does Lara a disservice, turning her into a deadly mud-camouflaged jungle warrior without much interesting to say, pushed along by a plot that’s more concerned with prophecies and supernatural artefacts than with its main character“, so was that not always the case? I personally like the entire stealth upgrade, but is that just me? It might be, I was merely in that setting of trying to figure parts out. Yet I saw too many references towards Uncharted and Far Cry 5, which makes sense and it is not a bad thing, yet when we look back at what was and what should be, going through the other titles is not what I hoped for. Still Tomb Raider for all I saw remains Tomb Raider, so why did the Guardian give me that jump?

There were two parts in that. The first was: “Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s series of amazing places is held together by a plot that collapses under the slightest scrutiny. The narrative is an incoherent mess that goes well beyond the usual action movie/video game suspension of disbelief” and “when Lara shows up in an undisturbed native settlement filled with people who have somehow avoided the outside world for hundreds of years, is she instantly welcomed into their midst and put to work resolving their disputes? How does she communicate fluently with them? At first, Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s narrative inconsistencies are ignorable, but with every new convenient riddle or magical artefact, pointless revelation or paper-thin character, my tolerance for nonsense wore thinner“. Now, I need to tell you that I do not always agree with the assessment of the reviewer Keza MacDonald, yet that level of disagreement is more about our preference for gaming. Keza is a good reviewer, hence her view matters to me, and I have absolutely no issue accepting her view on the Tomb Raider game. I like her two issues as I saw a similar setting as an optional solution towards Watch Dogs 3. Just like I designed what might optionally become Elder Scrolls VII (6 is being made now). My setting for my version of a new Elder scrolls would have been three times the size of Skyrim with optional story lines worth 150-200 hours of gameplay. In addition, if possible I could pull it off with Watch Dogs 3 as well. This is where the FX part comes in, the story is indeed everything!

So if I can add 100% to the first PS4 Tomb Raider, which merely took me an hour or so to come up with, why can some designers not do a much better job? In case of the new Tomb Raider, we see the optional shortage, but we also see that all the Far Cry games (3 and later) gave us similar parts and so did Far Cry Primal, and the less said on the story failings of Assassins Creed (except for Origin and optionally Odyssee) the better.

The setting is extremely important, as the current Shadow of the Tomb Raider could have been 90% instead of the 81% that Metacritic gives it now, and if we translate that to the three stars Keza rating, it would translate to an optional 70% at best. This gets us back to the story is everything, when we see that this translates to an optional 15%-25% more, ignoring that element is just too weird. It is to some extent the one element that Games and movies have in common. So if we translate that to the now, we see that the right story makes the larger impact. Merely see Dev Patel in Hotel Mumbai, rated by IMDB at 93% to see how the right story makes for the impact. This translates to games as well, the better the story, the better the game. It is visible on nearly every level. Yet, that is not the only part in Tomb Raider and We see the goods on the negative side of the game as Keza gives it to us with: “Salvaged outfits for Lara offer meaningless bonuses (“gain more experience for assault kills”), crafting materials are so plentiful that they are not an exciting reward, and new skills or weapons are seldom used. Oddly, items such as lockpicks that open up new treasure-hunting possibilities are sold by merchants, not earned through exploration. It is very weird that so much of this optional content is incorporated so badly“, as well as “The places Lara visits and the things that she does, especially when she doesn’t have a gun in her hands, are beautiful and entertaining. But it lacks a coherent plot or creative vision to hold it all together, and the opportunity to make an interesting character out of Lara Croft is squandered“, that does grasp the heart in a not so good way and it matters a parts could have been dealt with in a better story setting and parts would never have been better. That negative part is exactly the impact that Ubisoft missed with AC Rogue. There we run for Viking swords, crosses on the map, opening bars with thugs, merely points to run to, yet the ‘rescuing’ of a bar from thugs could have been the start of a side quest line and in all this, much more could have been reached, when one leads to the other, instead of running over the island, from chest to chest, glitch to glitch and sometimes doing a Prince of Persia for some pirate shanty, meaningless actions that could have been a dimension all by itself in the game, all options lost and even as both franchises have amazing graphics, we see that this alone does not hold a game. I wonder how many developers are revisiting the current setting of their game that is in development, because if they are not then it does not matter to anyone how many games are being released between now and December 2019. If they do not up the ante for their own game, they will merely release something that is good, not great and it sits on the shelf until the game retail store has a large sale and the game is up for grabs at 50% or less, or people merely wait for one of the producers to add it to the ‘for free’ subscription monthly download bonus, what a waste! Merely because the simplest of all lessons was ignored by too many; It all starts with a good story, not with ‘Lara needs to look cool (or different) in the jungle, how can we do that?‘, or ‘Where is the next Assassins Creed story? When have we not yet been?

 

That is the part given to us in complete contrast when we realise that with the end of God of War we were treated to: [CENSORED TEXT REDACTING SPOILERS]. When I saw that unfold on my screen, my jaw dropped on the floor. It was not merely some twist, it was the setting for at least two more games in a way I never saw coming and I do remember my Nordic mythology. It was brilliant, indeed the story was everything and Santa Monica Studio’s treated us to the perfect meal (listening to Bear McCreary was an added desert that is just too surreal).

In the end, I know that I am a goof, I am creative and I can weave a tale like no one in my mind at the speed of the Deep Blue Super Mainframe, but overall, I cannot fathom why the game makers are not better at this, I never got that, because until lately I never thought I was on their level, yet recently I was shown (confirmed by a few sources) that I am on their level and even higher, but I am not a programmer. So when I see the lack of a storyline, I merely get sad, when opportunities are missed I get frustrated and when too much scripted issues show up, I tend to get angry. I do get the fact that some part requires scripted events. A certain boss fight, the introduction to one is the setting that cannot remains unscripted, yet at times it is too scripted deflating the tense moments it had been built to and the first PS4 Lara Croft had that flaw too much (as well as the shortness of the game).

So how can they do it better? Well this is seen in several clips in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and you might have missed them. Consider an optional reality, a reality we missed in the Far Cry, Assassins Creed and other games. You pick them off one at a time, I get that part. What I do not get is that when you are on a patrol and You are in a team, when one falls away their nerves are up (like in the Arkham games), yet in the earlier games, often enough they relax and go to their old ‘relaxed’ setting. In reality, my nerves would be in the stratosphere, so there will be no lapse and even as you can get the drop on others, only the first one is ‘free’, the others need to be close to perfect or all hell breaks loose. That part was never learned correctly, not in one decade of stealth gaming, weird is it not? OK, Far Cry did get that part right (to some degree). And even as the setting evolves over an act, a larger level or a chapter in the storyline, we see that some opponents are harder, yet the overall setting no longer gets to be more complex, which is also weird. It seems to me that only Far Cry 3 got that part better the most other games and here too Lara had her lesson to learn, or better stated her opponents. So even as we see her take out the enemy, in most cases when other vanished nerves did not get that much bothered, a missed opportunity.

Even if this is the optional end of Lara Croft, we see that there was a lot more to be had and it was missed. Will that lesson not be learned? The story is everything, but how to set the story properly in the frame of it all. That part will remain a challenge and solving it, or finding some level of a better solution will aid the game makers as well as the player, a win-win for all. In this, the loss is already there, but not setting the in-game bar higher, we see what looks really well is merely a 70% game, yet with the insight that should have been there, it could have been a 90% game which makes me sad. Yet I do acknowledge is that this game is a good game, everything shows that there is positive growth in several places and in many ways (especially the underwater parts, they were awesome), yet I feel that it is steps short of being a great game, whilst it could have been a great game. It is hard to put my finger on it without playing the game through until the end, but all reviews do support my view, the story could have been better making it overall better, and this game is not the only one that had that ‘flaw’.

So, as we agree that the past is a good tutor we see that partially the past is used to make this game better, that is good, some of the levels and the natural view that these levels seem to give is always good and this game got to be better at it and that matters too. In the end, on everything I faced, I regard this to be a 80%-85% game, whilst I feel that the setting and upgrade of the game would have made it a 90% game at least, and they should have done better than I would have been able to be and that makes me sad, especially as it might be the end of the Tomb Raider games for now. It will not ever be the death of the Franchise; it is in comparison very much a better game than that first relaunched game and several other Lara titles, which is a good thing. In my personal views, after seeing the play parts, seeing the reviews and watching the cut scenes, I get to the end conclusion that this is not the game to buy on day one, especially with Spiderman PS4 available, yet on special, Christmas sales and at discount sales? Yes! At that point it will definitely be my game of choice.

What a difference a stronger story makes.

I wonder if the makers will catch up to that part down the line, because higher ratings turns that, down the track to buy outright and in the end, that is still the name of the game in gaming, and not merely gaming. There is in my view every indication that the entire Chris Pine mess (OK, mess is a perhaps too strong a word), is not entirely about the money (what some sources indicated), I believe that the story is part of that too. Do you think that some starts would have given any ‘eff’ (censored) on money if they had the chance of becoming a main player in The Usual Suspects, or Silence of the Lambs? You have got to be kidding!

Yes, you want some decent remuneration. When you are a lead player in MI-Fallout, costing $178M to make, whilst the return at present is $726,386,554, one would hope that their income is slightly better than $73,559 for their part. If you are an extra, then you need to shut up, when you carry the family name Cruise, Cavill, or Pegg the amount should be larger (I have no idea what they are making, and I personally do not care either). Yet if the story would have been a legendary one, would you care? That is the part that matters in the long run, because over time, we will forget the MI titles, however we will forever remember titles like Ghandi and The Usual Suspects and that can drive a career (especially in the beginning as well). Star Trek showed in the Movie Star Trek Beyond that it did not consider that part too strong (even as I enjoyed watching it, and it had fresh looks), it did fall short of Star Trek Into Darkness and that was a shame. I have no illusions, getting to the Wrath of Khan levels is not to be expected, yet the relaunch in 2009 did pull it off (based on Rotten Tomatoes), so in that it had options and started to fall flat after that, I believe that this is also part of the decision for some actors to feel worried, Star Trek (2009) opened door, yet I personally believe that Beyond started to close doors, even with Idris Elba upping the ante by a decent amount, also in my personal view largely the reason it got an 85% rating and not an 80% rating. So when the actor is the pillar and not the story, we see a much larger flaw in all this and even as I do have idea’s to fix it, they will need a specific person to fix that for them over two movies (as I see it) and get the rating back to 94%, the number that the 2009 movie pulled off. The question is can they afford him and more important, are they willing to stick their necks out? In my personal view they have the option of doubling the 2009 box office revenue twice over and with two movies the overall cost goes down as well making it even more appealing, but in the end, their saviour will not be special effects or merely a good cast, it will be the story, it will be everything. Are people like JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof willing to make that $250M splurge? In the end it remains an actual risk whether that $250M becomes $1.3B (hopefully better), and it the one factor is the one writer who can pull it off. It has never been done in any Sci-Fi ever, making it not merely novel, if it does work, will it be the game changer that brings 1,635% of cost (Jurassic Park), or an Iron Man 2 giving a mere 312%? Yet, what if we consider that it is like Gravity, ‘only’ 716%, yet regarded as the 4# best Science fiction movies of all time, would you still not do it?

How strong is the story in all that? I personally remain with the faith that the story will forever be everything, yet when it is all about the box office and $1 billion versus $600 million, what path would you take? In this games and movies are more alike than not; making it a fascinating setting, but also a very personal, and set on one’s own perspective. It is the ultimate objective versus subjective view and I am not sure what the best path is for either game or movie, making the setting for a movie of gaming score harder, not correct or incorrect, merely harder.

 

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Not seeing the hype come

I have been connected to gaming since the mid 80’s. In a time where only geeks were into games, where the average Joe was into booze and ‘pretending’ to have sex, games were not on his (or her) mind. The population would not see a surge into gaming until the PlayStation came and even then it was a slow boat to wherever. It took until the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 for things to change. I reckon the Gameboy also made a dent in that world, but the move to the masses did not truly start until 2005. It has now been 11 years and what was an ignored industry is now a 200 billion dollar market and everyone wants a slice. With mobiles evolving the way they have in the last 2 years, that device is now also more and more the gaming solution for those on the move, which has added a new dimension.

Here I missed one sign that I did not see coming. I saw how the predicted success Minecraft even outdid my expectations, I have seen games come, I have successfully predicted winners and especially losers and average wastes of time, yet last Friday I witnessed something I did not expect, in the same way I did not expect Skylanders to be the success it became.

There is a game called Pokémon GO, which was released this month and the amount of people I have almost literally tripped over since Friday is beyond normal. I have been a Pokémon friend since Sapphire and Ruby were released on the Gameboy Advance, yet what is shown all over Sydney now I did not see that coming. It is almost everywhere. On trains, in busses, sitting in the park, walking on the street and in the office, people are trying to catch them all. It is a little overwhelming to see this big a leap in interest, yet this is what happens. Even as we now know that No Man’s Sky went gold last Friday, which means that production of the shippable discs will be a reality soon, the fact that this game came from almost nowhere towards an IOS and Android release is more than just great. You see, it is not just that this game is a hype (for now), the fact that an established game can be vamped into a new mobile dimension is absolutely fantastic. It means that leagues of games could find their own evolution into the mobile industry and into the gaming minds for those holding onto their mobiles.

Another side has been illuminated by Forbes. Their quote “The best approach you can take is to make that impact positive by embracing the game and making the Pokémon GO experience a memorable one for both you and your potential customers” gives a first nod towards the use of “Pokémon GO has a purchasable in-game item called a “Lure Module” which attracts Pokémon to a particular PokeStop for 30 minutes. Those Pokémon it attracts? They’re visible to and attainable by everyone in the nearby vicinity. Use it during a typically slow period of your day to get more foot traffic, and then use your creativity to turn them into a paying customer“, which now gives retail another option besides ‘free Wi-Fi’. We will soon see methods of using gamers to lure groups of people towards any location, especially if this is a route towards legendary Pokémon’s from either a hatched or an unhatched egg.

There is one other side to all this. The fact that this game relies on movement (GPS linked) and being out and about is a first step to get some gamers from Couch Potato mode into the Go-Getter stream of an active population. I reckon that deserves a lot more merit than most people are giving this game. Although, with the speed that this game is finding itself towards mobiles is pretty amazing and it is about to become a global success!

So, what can we learn from this?

The fact that I missed a winner? True, I did, I have missed winners before and I will do so again. Because the public tends to be fickle and it has plenty of distractions pointed in their ways. They are equally influenced by others who tell them what is cool, what is worth trying and what makes a difference.

The growing Hype? Yes, there is a massive growth, especially amongst people who I know to have never shown any serious interest in Pokémon. The question becomes is it because it is on a mobile device, or is it the mobile nature of the game? For now, I feel that there is not enough information to give a clear answer, yet the fact that people are making detours into Hyde Park to get rare Pokémon’s gives value that the trendiness of mobile gaming is one that many are exploring. Giving the makers of this game a large advantage over other games for now.

Yet there is just one part that requires mentioning. You see, what bugged me a little was not that I have missed spotting a winner, but the facts that were shown in Forbes yesterday (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonevangelho/2016/07/10/pokemon-go-about-to-surpass-twitter-in-daily-active-users/#3f90dc517455). The quote “Data published today by SimilarWeb indicates that the mobile game may be poised to surpass Twitter in daily active users on Android“. Now consider that Twitter is global and that Pokémon GO has been in released in three countries. The US, where this game is installed on 5.6% of ALL Android devices (according to Forbes). In Australia where I passed 150 active users from Town Hall to the UTS building (I stopped counting at 150) and in New Zealand, where it is popular with the people and according to the gossip it is popular with roughly 3.4332% of the Sheep population, including a few Flaaffy’s and Mareep’s.

There is no doubt that this trend will follow through in other games. As soon as issues with batter drains is solved, this game will grow its user base even faster. Which beckons the call, are we all gamers now?

You see in the original Star Trek series, in the episode ‘Shore Leave‘ we get the quote ‘the more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play‘, which could be considered a truth in itself. Yet another lane in that road can be gotten from the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset who stated “tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are“, another truth, yet today, that might we one for debate as we see the user population shift all over the mobile field from Facebook to Tinder. In that regard, as we see our delusion that we can devour any line of data and responses into our brain, we are confronted with ego in a nasty way. We seem to lose direction and we seem to lose the ability to correctly sift what is cognition and what is noise.

So how does this apply to ‘Not seeing the hype come?‘ It is for the simple reason that market interpretation is not seeing the noise, but the ability to value the noise to the extent of what is actual data that should be regarded as ‘analysed factual events‘. I believe that the levels of play that Pokémon offers are interestingly simple, yet overall still a tactical challenge. Pokémon lives (as I see it) next to Minecraft when it comes to ‘simplicity of play’, yet the interactive and tactical side to the game makes it fun and challenging. You see, the foundation of the game remains to be a variant on Rock, Paper and Scissors. In the game, Fire defeats Grass, Grass defeats Water and Water defeats Fire. Yet Pokémon took it to an entirely different level as they have Normal, Fire, Water, Electric, Grass, Ice, Fighting, Poison, Ground, Flying, Psychic, Bug, Rock, Ghost, Dragon, Dark and Steel. Some have two elements (like Fighting and Psychic) giving additional tactical options. All this in a game that has been around for 20 years. The fact that we see new life into a game title through evolved gameplay shows that the 91 billion dollar gaming industry is still growing in several directions, all leading, not just towards additional revenue, but to additional forms of gameplay, which is what a gamer tends to like!

Here we see another level of gaming, which is why I mentioned No Man’s Sky, a game that has been 3 years in development. We were introduced to a hype and even though the hype ‘died’ many are still looking forwards to this game that is still destined (at present) to be released on August 10th. This game seems to embrace the simplicity of play through the size of the Universe giving us the option to travel to the centre of the universe again and again until the day we die, with the chance that most planetary visits will be unique experiences. Pokémon gives us ‘simplicity’ in another way, when we consider these elements (in light of Minecraft) that it is interesting how game designers seem to forget (or ignore) what an important element simplicity is in regards to gaming. We might want to ignore Space Invaders and Pac-Man as there were no games in those days.

Yet Galaga was not alone and is still regarded after 30 years as one of the best shooters. Now we see other Kickstarter projects come to life with shooters like Iridium, a very successful title in the golden age of the Commodore 64. It seems that some gamers are figuring out what the people need. A trait larger software houses changed into the premise of ‘we are offering the people what we think they need‘. Now, that premise is not unwarranted, because the gaming industry is to offer what they think the people seem to need. Yet certain failures in the past from more than one software house bring debate to that approach. When we see a ‘definitive edition’ of Tombraider which is graphically amazing, yet comes with a life cycle of 10 hours, we need to wonder whether the developer had thought it through. The fact that I was able to get through the entire game from Friday and finish it Saturday evening gives visibility to the flaw of the game. In light of time there is another game I want to bring to your attention, but in an opposite direction. It is Metal Gear Solid, Phantom of Pain. A game so large that many players have not finished it. Even the blogger Lawlordtobe (yours truly) with the history of gaming has not completed that game at present. So as value goes, it is by far the best bang for your buck a game like this has ever offered. Yet, as I spoke to a fellow gamer who literally stated ‘this game is just too big’, I have to wonder if it is the game or the gamer here? Have we been lulled into complacency by 20 hour games for so long that we no longer recognise the challenge that a real game like Metal Gear Solid V brings (without relying on non-stop repetition)?

I think that there is a balance between size and simplicity. Minecraft, Candy Crush, Threes, Angry Birds and Bejewelled are the most visible examples. Yet the other end of the spectrum does not seem to apply, the more complex a game, the shorter it can be. The fact that Tombraider, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Ryse and Mirrors edge were regarded as too short gives light that the equation is not entirely that simple. In the end, learning what game will actually hypes seems to remain in league with the ability to read tea leaves. You see, I have had a long time high score in predicting winners and I have made a few bad calls too. I did not see Pokémon GO to the extent I should have noticed it and this comes from a person who has been trying to catch them all since 2002. The game has been repetitive at times, yet it never bored me. The brilliance of interaction that the sets needed  with Ruby & Sapphire, Fire-Red & Leaf-Green, Black & White, X & Y and the soon to arrive Sun & Moon have given us fun moments to gaming.

And with all these versions, I still did not see this tidal wave of usage coming, because that is where I do not completely agree with a friend who told me that it was because it was free. IOS and Android have plenty of free games, this level of usage has not ever been seen before.

Niantic Labs is sitting on a home-run gold mine. Good for them!

 

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Slaves of a different nature

The sci-fi fan sees in his/her mind a woman, all green, preferably close to naked growing lust in their mind. It is the Orion Slave girl fantasy. This comes from a TV-series that is half a century old. In that universe created by Gene Roddenberry these green ladies were introduced in the original pilot of the Star Trek series in the episode ‘the Cage’, there they were depicted in a sexual context. This is not that kind of slave. Neither is it the kind that is forced to create products through prisons or work camps where they make license plates, or set up governmental mailings. Neither are they children under 18, forced into some kind of servitude. No, these are not one of the 5 forms that the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is illuminating, this is a sixth kind.

It is the kind of servitude that was once a calling, once a choice of life, which governments and insurers alike have been putting under pressure beyond any normal acceptance of labour. That part has been ignored for too long. People all believing in the wealth that a doctors and lawyers income brings. Later in a career that might have some level of truth when you ignore the elements on the other side of the scale. The fact that someone in IT will surpass the income of those graduates from the very beginning is often ignored. When I see some of my friends in health care, I see friends who are exhausted 70% of the time, some working in excess of 14 hours a day. So when I read ‘Nearly 60% of Scottish GPs plan to leave or cut their hours‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/28/nearly-60-of-scottish-gps-plan-to-leave-or-cut-their-hours), I am not overly surprised.

We all claim that we are against slavery and injustice, yet the governments on a global scale are seeing their health systems collapse and as such, hiding behind the false image of all doctors are wealthy, they have been cutting into the incomes of doctors and stretching the hours they have to make. Underfunding practices and making them work ungodly hours. What we see in Scotland is only the beginning. In the Netherlands we saw in 2014 that GP’s would work around 60 hours per FTA (Full Time Equivalent), making that 13 hours per day, whilst IT staff would get more for a mere 40-45 hours a week, 9 hours a day at the most.

So in all this, whilst health care workers availability are at an all-time low, we see the quote: “26% planned to leave general practice in the next five years“, so one out of four is stopping whilst one in 6 patients will at current pressure not receive the minimum level of care which will now get close to another 1.5 out of 6. This gives us 33% to 50% of the patients in a tough spot. One foot in the grave will get a whole new meaning soon enough when that comes to pass. Certain elements of these changes are already visible in France and the Netherlands, the United Kingdom is in a harsher place than the Netherlands, but I cannot confirm how France is set. Outside of the large cities the information tends to be sketchy and cannot completely be relied upon (read: my knowledge of French sucks big time). Sweden is heading towards a new economic crises on more than one side. Healthcare is one (but less visible), the issue that is visible is the economic drain that the refugees are causing, well over 100,000 have no place and no matter how obliging Sweden is. The refugees are confronted with language issues and a skill set problem. The latter one can partially be adjusted, the first one can be overcome by the refugees who truly want this, but it takes time, which is one side Sweden is having less of. Sweden is trying to recruit doctors in many ways and their approach might work, but it will work slowly and it will cost the Swedish government a fortune. The reason for focussing on Sweden is because for the most, Sweden is a social success. Sweden has made social changes that the nation accepted (including paying a lot more tax than there neighbouring nations). The refugees are changing this, a social system can only survive in balance, the refugees arrived in such massive amounts that the system cannot cope. The total refugees that recently arrived have surpassed the size of the Swedish city of Västerås, which by the way is not the smallest of places. With the banking in disarray and Sweden missing sales marks gives additional problems for Sweden and healthcare will feel the brunt as doctors are now moving to other non-Swedish shores. Sweden illuminates the required need for the UK, a need that the UK is unable to adopt at present. In addition, the approach that Jeremy Hunt is taking will not help any.

When we see the British Telecom News page, we see “But in a letter to the BMA’s junior doctor committee chairman, Dr Johann Malawana, Mr Hunt said: “It is not now possible to change or delay the introduction of this contract without creating unacceptable disruption for the NHS.”

As I see it, my response would be ‘Yes, Mr Hunt!‘ you had alternatives but you chose to ignore them. Focussed on a system that had collapsed, focussing on the approach of slavery, you saw in your school years the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, yet as we see the words from the English poet William Cowper (1785) as he wrote:

We have no slaves at home – Then why abroad?
Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free.
They touch our country, and their shackles fall.
That’s noble, and bespeaks a nation proud.
And jealous of the blessing. Spread it then,
And let it circulate through every vein.

 

Bankers are overprotected whilst being vultures, for not being held accountable for the mess they created (as it was not illegal), whilst at the same speed, junior doctors are reset with contracts that amounts to becoming an involuntary slave labour force. This to the degree that doctors are packing their cases and moving to Australia and other Commonwealth nations that will take them and with the shortage the world at large has, for them moving to Nassau and live by the beach with a small practice would be preferred to a city job with a mortgage they cannot pay off and working 60 hours a week. Jeremy Hunt dropped the ball. He did not do this intentionally. He was given a bad hand from the start, yet in all this instead of going on the same way, the NHS needed another direction entirely, that part was never really investigated.

For me, with whatever I have left?

If I had to go into healthcare, I would try for Radiologist position in Essex or something like that. I still have 15 years in me. For now, I have a nice idea for Google to grow their revenue by 3.5 billion dollars over the next 5 years, and gradually more after that and for £25M post taxation it is all theirs! For now, I am considering to do some teaching in Italy in the future. Teaching English in Catholic Public Schools near the Vatican. You see, this crazy merry go round we have in Europe now will collapse, there is no viable way to stop that at present as I personally see it. We must focus on what comes after. That part is now gaining visibility as we see the US President (read: Mr Lame Duck Obama) is quoted in Forbes “President Obama’s Implicit Message To Taxpayers: ‘I Own You’“. My response?

No, Mr President, you do not. You never did. Like a weakling you stopped taking taxation to a realistic level, you refused to do anything to stop greed. That part was clearly shown at the G-20 in 2013, three years ago. You might actually end up becoming the most useless president in the history of the United States of America

That would be my response!

When we look at Forbes (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/johntamny/2016/04/10/president-obamas-implicit-message-to-taxpayers-i-own-you), we see that the Obama treasury stopped one deal, one deal only. This is about a lot more than just that 212 billion dollar deal. You see, this is not about the Panama Papers, this is what they enabled. When we consider the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/may/06/panama-papers-us-launches-crackdown-on-international-tax-evasion), we see that same duckling state “the president will take executive action to close loopholes used by foreigners in the US and call on Congress to pass legislation“, how interesting that it is just about the foreigners, so how much is in Rothschild wealth management directly from foreigners and how much is arranged through American agents?

In addition we have “The Panama Papers underscore the importance of the efforts the United States has taken domestically, and the efforts we have undertaken with our international partners, to address these shared challenges”, which is an empty statement as I see it, because over the next 6 months too little will be done and it will be left to the next person in office. The final quote is “The problem is that a lot of this stuff is legal, not illegal”, which is something we already knew. Yet when we consider the change that could have been brought in 2013, he (read: the Democratic Administration in power) backed off, forcing a watered down version that was close to useless. This is the evidence I see as to the level of uselessness that the USA currently represents. Poverty levels are still at a high and in Europe that number is growing, this is the foundation that allows for the growth of what can be regarded as legal slavery. It is legal because it is governmentally arranged, it is slavery as the medical industry is pushed into a level of servitude of no-choice. In Europe, some are now claiming that the amount of people under the poverty line is now one out of four. That push is a great hammer for Jeremy Hunt to use to push for cheap contracts and ungodly working hours, but in the end, when doctors stop working, there is no NHS to continue to cure people (source: http://www.euractiv.com/section/social-europe-jobs/news/eurostat-one-out-of-four-eu-citizens-at-risk-of-poverty/).

There is no clear solution, but another path needs to be taken. The push from NHS and the deal that people get through what I call ‘deceptive insurances‘ and ‘skewed medicinal solutions‘ is changing the game. It now reflects back towards the change I was willing to make. What if we make hospitals self-sufficient? What if we take the insurance out of the equation and push for a self-sustaining level of hospitals on local foundations? You might think that the given logic forces us to look at Behemoths like the NHS and large medical corporations. I am stating that it is my belief that the medical gravy train is losing too much cargo on route. So it is our need to have a neutral solution. When medical suppliers start pushing on ‘how it will be too expensive that way‘, the people will have to push back. So that means that the UK hospitals start getting supplies from other sources, independent and possibly even non-UK sources. How long until greed driven corporations cave? They only need to fail 2 quarters of forecasting and THEIR nightmare begins! Trust me when I state that a merger making the board of directors over 200 billion means that their margins were really really good and via Ireland they were only getting better.

That is the issue and solving that is a first step in solving the slavery riddle, which is not a riddle, it is a mere puzzle that can and should be solved.

 

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When you lose a friend

I feel sad today, today I feel like I lost a friend. Leonard Nimoy has left this world at the age of 83. My ‘friendship’ began when I was just 9 years old. It was a Sunday, it was after watching soccer, we got to see Star Trek, the episode was “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and I was hooked! Like many others we were all about Mr Spock, Kirk was cool too. I was not one of those obsessive people where life was all about Star Trek and Star Trek alone. I loved Science Fiction, Fantasy to a lesser degree. Over the years I would see the voyager of the Enterprise and then again, but I would also see other things. So when after I long silence Star Trek, the Movie came out, I was happy as a little schoolkid. Leonard Nimoy was back! Mr Nimoy wold be back in a way that was a lot better than ever, you see it was not just as Mr Spock. There was Galvatron (voice only), then in 1987 he amazed us in other ways. He directed Three man and a baby, a remake from the 1985 movie ‘Trois hommes et un couffin’. The result was a masterpiece, putting Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson together gave it the zest that would make the movie a great success (it turned 11 million into 179 million). It was clear that there was a whole lot more to Leonard Nimoy, than just the Vulcan Spock.

In 1991 he did something that would cut into me even deeper than I imagined. He made ‘Never forget’. It is a drama that gives voice on the Holocaust, one that would stay with me for some time. The story is about Mr Mermelstein (played by Leonard Nimoy), a survivor from Auschwitz who stands up to the challenge when he is confronted by a hate group. We see another side. For me it was a strong piece, until that time I had never given any thought to those who ‘adhere’ to Holocaust denial. The movie shows the strong acting abilities of Leonard Nimoy, more so than Star Trek ever did.  He studied at the University of California, got his Masters of Arts from Antioch College (OH), and he ended up seeing many sides of the arts. Books, Photography, Screenplays, Poetry, Music, Directing and Acting. He would even appear in a music video from the Bangles and narrate in the video game (Kingdom Hearts). A man, born in Boston Massachusetts would become a well-known person to well over a billion people. I feel that I lost a friend today. He did not know me, we never met, and in this regard I am not alone. Millions of fans will feel the same way today. Some will only remember Spock, some will remember the photographer, the director, and some will remember him as a mentor.

An interview to see is one on Piers Morgan last year (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0K9qqFaSY0), it shows a health issue that will hit a lot more people that many would have thought. It would get him in the end. He never stopped being a teacher of life!

He had a huge impact on me and for now, I feel a little lost today, I know I am not alone with this feeling.

 

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A rare moment in time

I have been watching the news in several places, the papers (online), newscasts and other media. I saw how we see articles with issues that I predicted over a year ago. Now, let’s be honest, that what I predicted and that what now is not one and the same. I might have been lucky, that happens, yet that gave me the impulse to take a look into my mind (with some external support) and I got a revelation (odd how that happens).

There are moments in time that are chiselled to be with us forever, that part happens, a set of circumstances so unique that it passes the stress test of time.

It was 1976, I was in high school and I saw on TV something so unique that it would remain with me for all time; it is likely I will take the images into my grave. Even then there was a need for the direct in our eyes. This series delivered! I still regard it as the best Drama ever to be made. The series was called I Claudius and the fact that it is drenched in history and filled with flexible morals is what seems to catch us. Yet, is that enough? If we see TV series like Dexter, Trueblood and a few more HBO series. They seem to have the trademark on directness, so why did they not surpass a series made 38 years ago?

I believe that this is because that there is a lot more to the achievement. I think it was more than just timing. Derek Jacobi as Claudius, Brian Blessed as Augustus, George Baker as Tiberius, Patrick Steward as Sejanus, John Hurt as Caligula, Bernard Hill as Gratus, Ian Ogilvy as Drusus and who will ever forget Siân Phillips as Livia. It is not just the group of actors, but the fact that these actors would set new boundaries; some are even today regarded as the top of drama. I think that timing brought these people together and that part caused the effect that this was not a series with one or two diamonds in the rough, but we ended up with a series holding over a dozen exquisitely cut diamonds. A TV-series, which through timing has remained close to unmatchable.

I must of course mention that the book was an amazing piece of work, yet that is one factor we have all seen before, the fact that a book had been turned into such a vision by cast and crew was and has for the most remained a unique experience in TV series. It is ‘I Claudius’ that makes me appreciate how rare such moments are and hoping on regular repetitions such achievements are a waste of time.

When we see how productions are made nowadays, we see a shift from what was insightful towards what is to be expected. Now, the second part is not necessarily a bad thing as we avoid blunders, failures and flops, yet the opposite is also true, the chance of that 99.4% rated production becomes equally impossible. So do we set ourselves up for mediocrity? That is at the heart of the question, as we see movies, games and other forms of entertainment set into a matrix of ‘certain’ non-failures, we get just that, a non-failure, yet when we do that, we will endure a level of ‘entertainment’ that is not out there, that does not shift borders and that will not leave us in awe. Yes, we will get to some extent levels of originality. Waves of TV shows, like Gotham and a few others in the new millennia of comic book representation of TV shows, and some will prove to be good, expanding and even will become successes, yet, they will not get to the level that we got when someone had a vision, found the people and ‘I Claudius’ became a reality. Even the HBO version ‘Rome’, which shows life in those days, falls short. Spartacus, which was regarded as excellent and had a strong cast, but none gave the shine like Andy Whitfield, when he was lost to family and audience because of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, we got the cold reality of how large a jewel he was in that series. Lucy Lawless and John Hannah as well as a league of others showed an amazing performance, but the absence of Andy Whitfield became just too noticeable.

The link is the rarity, when we see series holding the New Zealand Actor Kevin Smith (as Ares in Hercules and Xena) and Andy Whitfield, we see that these rare treasures of charisma have a lasting effect on a series, losing them will hurt whatever series they are working on, which makes the overwhelming list of ‘I Claudius’ even more rare then we consider possible.

But is this just about casting? No, I think that the vision of the director is too often downplayed, as is the work the writers put into place. Should you doubt the latter, consider the massive success the West Wing was and the strength that the Newsroom and House of Cards are showing. In the name of the director, the scriptwriter and the players that are, we announce this series {insert fictive name here} to be a non-failure. It sounds almost deceptively mundane. You see, many of these series are ‘powered’ by what America considers and regards, so slow sales will get a series cancelled too fast. Star Trek, the original series is one of the strongest pieces of evidence, what was regarded as failure (and therefor cancelled), is still regarded as one of the strongest visions of originality ever to grace the TV screens. In that light we see similar issues regarding Firefly, what could have become a game changer was dropped before its time. Here too the trinity is almost a given. Joss Whedon is shown to be the new Steven Spielberg (a shared place with JJ Abrams) and he had a strong support cast. Nathan Fillion might be the number one player, yet the support Alan Tudyk, Gina Torres, Morena Baccarin and Jewel Staite are undeniable. A series shut down before its time to shine. It is not the only time that this happened. The same reception was given to Doll House, what is at the foundation a mind shifting cyberpunk story was again cut short by that what the American audience did not understand.

Here is where we see the failure: yes it is true that America, catered to Americans, yet at present it seems that these deciders are forgetting that the European population is twice the size of America, the EEC alone is 50% larger than the USA, now consider that The Commonwealth consists of a few more nations all looking at these American series. This is taken into another direction as we see that HBO seems to address those needs almost perfectly and they are gaining strength, whilst British drama is actually a little on the decline. It seems that these deciders need to take new looks at how series are continued or dropped. Doll House is less than 4 years ago.

So where is this going?

It seems to me that the deciders of ‘where to leave the coins’ are looking at prognoses and not at the places where real visionaries come from. This has always been true, yet most true and very much most visible in the entertainment industry. It is shown as we see the game Test Drive a year late, yet, the verdict is a mere mediocre (at http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/driveclub-review/1900-6415900/). Is it a fair verdict? Hard to say, I am not much of a racing fan, but I consider the rating of Forza (an XBox one game) at 88% well deserved, a game that was very playable and looked extremely good. So as we see more PS4 games end up with mediocre ratings, the question now becomes will it affect the console war? Sony seems strong here, but in the end, consoles will not survive without really good games, and at present exclusive games on the XB1 are (I am sorry to report) better than the exclusive PS4 games, and at present Microsoft has a few more exclusive releases upcoming. Yet it does not end there, we see new levels of mediocrity by Ubisoft as they locked Assassins Creed both at 900p, so 20% below the PS4 maximum. I wonder what will happen when the gamers are treated to a failing AI in 6 weeks. Is that a given? No! It is not, yet the quote “because we thought that this was going to be a tenfold improvement over everything AI-wise, and we realised it was going to be pretty hard. It’s not the number of polygons that affect the framerate. We could be running at 100fps if it was just graphics, but because of AI, we’re still limited to 30 frames per second” (source: eurogamer.net), yet when we see (if this happens) another AC game with iterated glitches as we have seen since AC2, then what will the audience cry? This will be at the heart of what will come next. We will know in a few weeks, yet the questions are rising all over the internet by gamers of all size and creed. They expect that a game will show the game at the maximum of possibilities of the console they chose, not what we at present regard to be some excuse of ‘parity’, time will tell how it is received.

I have accused Ubisoft before on the lack of vision, it is not all deserved as Watchdogs, even though not as great as expected did open new doors, not unlike the very first Assassins Creed and it must be said a few more are expected to come, showing that Ubisoft has vision, but these titles are yet to be released.

True vision, it is a rare moment in time when we face it, yet in this age of need, why do we not see more of it?

 

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Cody Wilson, 003½ with a plastic gun

It is not often we see innovation in a new light. We have seen innovations over time as people found something that was new, that was nice, and then they changed the world, they sometimes change it twice.

Some might have seen it, some might not. There is a ‘new’ novelty printer. This printer is different. It has the ability to print in 3D. It does so by printing plastic. As it prints layer by layer, it creates a 3D plastic model. I saw it in a novelty science store called ‘Professor Plums’ in Crows Nest (Sydney, Australia). As such I have seen small vases, holders and other small trinkets that seem simple, yet, when you consider that these are ‘printed’ objects, you would look again and think ‘How amazing!’.

A law student in Texas took that design to new level. Perhaps this man saw John Malkovic in the movie ‘in the line of fire‘, he put one and one together  and ended up with 15 ‘printed’ parts and that is how he made a plastic gun. You might think what nonsense it was; however, consider the second part of that equation as he added one part that was not printed. The bullet! Then he did what others stated was ‘Science Fiction’ and he fired the gun, making it a working success. The article is at “http://news.sky.com/story/1087396/controversial-3d-printed-gun-fires-test-shots”.

Innovation, an idea to break open the law and the most dangerous item you could ever consider, a gun that does not show up on metal detectors. No matter what he thinks in this regard, I am not attacking him for his convictions. Like him I believe that guns do not kill people. People kill people. The part he might or might not have considered is that the American Arms industry currently represents roughly $11B in 2012. This represents guns and ammo as far as I know, but now that revenue is in some serious peril. No matter how criminals get their guns, they do pay for it. Now, someone needs one 3D printer, plastic toner and the schematics. The result will be a collection of guns without serial numbers, without set bullet striations. I reckon that forensic evidence will never be the same again once these guns hit the streets in numbers. Consider in addition that plastic melts. Dump the used gun in an open fire and the option ‘Beyond reasonable doubt’ will now happily take a gander into never never land.

In the Sky News article it stated New York congressman Steve Israel view “Security checkpoints, background checks, and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser.

Congressman Israel is correct. This is a new day. When Jeff Maguire wrote his idea “In the line of fire” in 1993 he might never have considered that his idea could become a reality. Yesterday the news showed him that reality caught up with his imagination!

So should we blame Jeff Maguire? Seems hardly fair! Should we blame Cody Wilson? I think that his idea to put this on-line would be irresponsible, yet, proving that the idea worked was all it took. It now only takes a slightly clever person to re-engineer this concept. So perhaps we should consider that there is no blame. Perhaps in the US gun control the way they tried to pull off their political games in the last year is now clearly shown to be an utter mistake.

That is how I saw this then; this is how I see it now even more. The clarity remains that guns do not kill people, other people do that!

I am not turning this into a gun debate. This is the issue when technology and innovation catches up with us faster and faster. The fact that new and additional laws are needed gives us two issues.

1. More loopholes. Whatever changes or additions are made, once they introduce a new material, a new way to make 3D models, we will see more changes and more legal issues.

2. “Beyond reasonable doubt”. The plastic gun can too easily be transformed. How long until we buy a small glass container with an Isopropyl Bromide (or variant)? That would be one way to melt plastic. Soon thereafter the prosecution has nothing left. Nothing to work with and due process stops as the gun that was used no longer exists.

This means prosecution of another level. This is nothing compared to the countries where there is a ‘proper’ form of gun control. These nations now have the issue that a printer can get the people the firearms they never had to worry about. Unlike the Golden gun in the James bond film from 1974, these weapons are made from the cheap stuff and they do work.

So from the 60’s we had Star Trek and now we have the mobile phone (we’ve had that device a while), the 80’s we had Star Trek the Next Generation, and now we have the iPad. 1993 we got John Malkovic and his plastic gun, which is now a reality. What will we get next? More important, what laws will these innovations break (or not break as they are too innovative to cover)?

This brings me to the modern Jules Verne. Arthur C. Clarke had 3 laws of predictions. The third one was “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” He came up with that gem in 1962. Considering that into a legal frame I come to is “Any sufficiently advanced technology is not contained as illegal through law“.

This point has been proven in several cases.

Designer drugs. Often take too long to classify, giving the trendsetters an initial option to score large amounts of money, mCPP is a perfect example of this. (Criminal law)

Tying (product tying), in many cases, this practice is still (legally allowed) used widely in both Mobile and computer industries. Even though there is criticism against the existence of these laws you still see it used widely in getting a subscription with a provider and getting a ‘free’ phone. Also consider Microsoft and the merging of office software and the IE browser in the core of it all. (Competition law).

Digital piracy – Peer to peer sharing of movies and music (IP law)

– If we consider the events of LIBOR, Cyprus and the 2008 Bank crash, then we can safely say that banking laws are just not up to speed (especially as unregulated as they are now)

– Now printers that produce firearms.

Consider the next step, which is not that far away. In the movie ‘Ultraviolet’ we see a scene where a mobile phone is nothing more than a plastic mould, ‘distributed’ from a machine, just fold it and it is ready to use. How long until the plastic and electronic print board is just printed on any device. So jacking someone else’s phone is one step away. You will be paying for the ‘used by someone else’ costs. Not identity theft, but consumer technology theft.

From earlier and the last example we see that the law is not up to speed and a rewrite that allows for rules of evidence of another nature is becoming a more pressing matter then we realise, as we see that the law is increasingly running behind.

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