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Talk About Boldly Going

Warning: Spoilers!

JJ Abrams has very, very boldly gone where many, many others have already gone before him. So much so that I'm not sure I'm as interested in where he's gone, or where he might go, as with just how damn boldly he's gone there.

To get some housekeeping out of the way, there are some positive things to note about the latest Star Trek film. It has obviously expensive visuals. An excellent job has been done to make these almost too-familiar characters resemble their origins from the 1966 series. The film is a competently and professionally-assembled action/science-fiction flick.

That said it also suffers from flaws that seem to have more to do with how films are made these days than with what is has done with the franchise. First Pike, and then Kirk, seem to be captaining the USS Lens Flare rather than the Enterprise; either that or Starfleet is now sponsored by Adobe and running Vista with all the Aero goodies on full. A moment with nothing exploding, being shot at, being hit, punching, running, flying seems to be a moment wasted in the filmmaker's opinion, so the film doesn't have many of those at all.

Rebutting The Ultimate Halo Game

Gravemind put all his ideas about what would be the ultimate Halo game. I thought I'd take a look at some of those elements and see which I liked, which I didn't, and why:

Historical Perspective On Boston-Montreal Playoff Series

So I'm watching the Bruins-Canadiens playoff series and I'm much gratified to see the latest incarnation of the Big, Bad Bruins having their way with (so far) the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, even up in Montreal. Pushing Montreal to a game 7 last year was a great effort but there's been tremendous progress this year, with the two teams reversing their positions; Boston now first in the East and favored to win over the eighth-seeded Habs.

A lot of columnists have, of course, dug out the history books to talk about this storied rivalry; how the two teams have met more in the NHL playoffs than any two other franchises (32 times including this year) and how in the 31 series to date, Montreal holds a commanding lead (24 to 7 all-time) and how Montreal won the last three in a row (2002, 2004 and 2008) even though last year's was by the skin of their teeth in a series that nobody expected to go to seven games against a Boston team that was not quite as deep or as talented as this year's club.

However, what few writers seem to have pointed out is exactly how much of those stastics are ancient history, from a time when none of today's players or coaches were even alive, when the equipment, the players, the buildings, and the game were all substantially different. Compare videos of today's game to footage from Boston's last two Cups in the early 70s and you'll see what I mean; it's the same game only in name and in the grossest possible sense.

So let's look at those historical results courtesy of Wikipedia.

Boston won the first series back in 1928-29 but Montreal won 20 of the next 21, 14 in a row, to compile a 20-2 record from then up until 1987. Of those meetings, seven of those were before divisional realignment and were actually Stanley Cup Final games. So while Montreal certainly had an edge in those days, there is little to be ashamed about in being the second best team. It may not be enough, it may not be something to brag about, but certainly the gap between winner and runner-up is not the same thing as the gap between winner and DNQ.

However, this is all ancient history. 1987 was 22 years ago. For a fair comparison of the two franchises in the playoffs, let's just look at the last 20 years, in which the teams met ten times (including this year) of which Boston has won five series (1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1994) while Montreal won four (1989, 2002, 2004, and 2008's 7-game squeaker).

If the B's go on to win one game in the next four chances, they'll take a 6-4 edge in the series' last ten meetings.

What ghosts?

Welcome To The Desert Of The Real

At Edge Online, N'Gai Croal in his blog discusses some interesting issues relating to realism, verisimilitude, and detail, many of which echo some of my own experiences.

OnLive Is Dead

I'm not sure how dead you can say something is when it was never really alive and is most likely just fraud, but let's give it a try.

This is the claim for OnLive's technology that is supposed to let you play AAA game titles without an expensive computer as long as you have a fast Internet connection:

Latency through the algorithm is just 1-ms instead of the 0.5- to 0.75-second lag inherent in conventional compression algorithms used in corporate video conferencing solutions, for example.

Now, let's ignore the overlap between people with expensive computers and people with very fast Internet connections. Obviously this business only has an audience if those two don't overlap too much, as ideally you want people with very fast Internet (5Mbps or so) but either don't have PCs capable of playing new games or simply don't want to invest in upgrading CPUs and GPUs as needed to keep up with new game releases.

So, for that to be an attractive proposal, the subscription fee would have to be less than what those upgrades would cost over a similar time frame. If you don't want to be cutting edge, but want to stay current, you could easily do so buying one new video card a year and paying about $200 for it. So that amount, plus the cost of however many games you'd be playing, has to be more than a year's subscription. So that proposition largely comes down to how many games will be available on the service, compared to how many games people plan on buying (or, rather, people's perceptions of how many games they are willing to buy, compared to how many they are prepared to give up-- presumably the service will offer a subset of all available games).

So the more games you'd be willing to buy in a year at $60 a pop-- three, four, or more-- it starts to look a bit better. Except you don't own those games; like subscription-based music and movie services, once you stop paying the fee, you lose everything and you've nothing to show for what you've spent so far except your memories.

Like Newspapers, The Associated Press Is Dead

I'm amused by the Associated Press' attempt to invent a new legal complaint-- "misappropriation"-- to defend the business model that they have so far failed to sufficiently change in order to adapt the company to the current market.

What's interesting though is that they invented that new concept eighty years ago:

In 1918, the AP was involved in a case called International News Service v. Associated Press. Like current competitor All Headline, INS didn't actually copy AP's stories. Instead, they'd snatch AP's hot wartime scoops off the wire, have a hired hack rewrite the story in his own words, and put out their own version of the breaking news without having to bear all the overhead (not to mention the considerable risk) of sending trained reporters to a war zone. It wasn't quite copyright infringement, but it sufficiently offended the justices' sense of fair play that they developed the doctrine of "misappropriation" to cover the immediate copying and dissemination of "hot news" by commercial competitors of a news organization. If such "free riding" were allowed, the judges reasoned, the parasites would always be able to undersell their hosts, to the detriment of journalism in the long run.

I'm not sure how you call this "free riding" since in order for INS to have access to the wire at that time, they would have had to have been subscribers. This is, in fact, what just about every newspaper that carries AP content in its print and/or web editions does, except that sometimes the hired hack doesn't really need to work that hard-- after all, they have the rights to run AP content for their markets, so they're just editing it for space.

INS of course was attempting to ape the AP, probably by paying one fee to the AP for access to the content, and then splitting that fee (plus some margin) to their own subscribers, undercutting the AP's own rates. What they are calling "misappropriation" is actually illegal sublicensing. Perhaps AP's client agreements at that time were insufficiently precise.

To drag this concept out of the muck to deal with aggregators, bloggers, and services like Google News is just ignoring the basic fact: the AP's business model is broken because the business model of their primary source of income, newspapers, is broken. It is broken in a way that cannot be mended. It has been broken now for nearly two decades, it has merely taken this long for the process to advance to a point where people are able to see it clearly.

The Portal Strategy Is Dead

I say it is dead but what I really mean is that the game is over. For many Internet users there is only one portal: Google. There were really only two candidates for the job, based on differing philosophies: Google and Yahoo. Yahoo built its model on categorization, banking on the idea that the Internet may not have been like newspapers, but it was like magazines: not arranged on geography but on subject matter.

It was a reasonable assumption, but breaks down because of the effort required for categorization and cross-referencing, as well as the sheer number of categories and subcategories. Google made its bet on keywords and indexing, eschewing discrete categories. Ultimately I think it is fair to say that this model has mostly triumphed.

So when I look at the fight between Google and the Associated Press, it's hard not to see the perspective of the AP and its subscriber/contributer newspapers as a throwback to the early days of the World Wide Web.

Everybody proclaimed that it was a revolution; it would change everything. No longer would freedom of the press belong only to those who owned one; the hegemony of large media companies would be forever broken, and censorship would henceforth be impossible.

When that failed to happen within a few short years, the web was declared a failure; an incremental improvement in technology that posed no threat to Business As Usual.

Both analyses were right and both were wrong, just at different times.

Battlestar of Africa

I suppose it's strangely fitting that in its finale, the remake of the late '70s space opera "Battlestar Galactica" should live up to the humorous pseudonym we gave it in our household: Battlestar of Africa. It made little sense then, just a play on the sound of words.

It makes even less sense now, as an epic struggle for survival ends in dogmatic ignominy, in Africa.

There are many better reasoned and more detailed critiques of the show's finale elsewhere (skepchick, slashdot) and as much as I am tempted to I will, in the interest of my blood pressure, resist the urge to go down that same path. Instead, some bullet points:

Newspapers Are Going Away

This article at Clay Shirky I think has hit the nail on the head when it comes to what the Internet is doing-- or rather, what it has already done-- to the newspaper business:

Merrimack 3, Vermont 1

Chris Barton scores the eventual game-winner in the second period against the Catamounts. Vermont's goaltender, Rob Madore, seems displeased.