The Humanoids: It’s June. Puck Off!

We’re over two weeks into the month of June and just handed out the Stanley Cup. I can’t be the only one who thinks that hockey has no place in the summer months, right? That’s not the only June thing that I have a problem with. I also have problems with Apple and video game industry trying to steal my money as well.

Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that the NHL season doesn’t end until June?

I would hope not but sometimes I swear that I’m the only person who thinks it’s ridiculous that a winter sport like hockey would award its most valuable prize in June. Canadians mark the unofficial start of summer as the Victoria Day long weekend. Victoria Day was the third Monday of May which was exactly three weeks before the Stanley Cup was handed out. Sure, NHL beat the official start of summer by 10 days but I haven’t seen an outdoor rink for almost two months.

Rather than throw a list of dates at you, I’ll just give you a quick summary. The earliest a Stanley Cup has been won since the lockout was June 4 when the Red Wings won the Cup in 2008. The playoffs started on April 9 of that year. The latest a cup was awarded was on 2006 (the year after the lockout) when Carolina won on June 16, though the playoffs started on April 21. Since the lockout, the playoffs have taken roughly two months to complete. While the length of time that the playoffs take increase the difficulty and prestige of winning the Stanley Cup, it’s still utterly ridiculous that a winter sport is played through into summer. You’d have to go back to 1991 for the last time a Stanley Cup was won in May. None of the players in this year’s NHL Entry Draft will have been born when the last time the Cup was awarded in May.

The problem is that there isn’t anything reasonable that the powers that be in the NHL will do to change this. For some reason, the NHL, its team owners, the TV partners and the players are happy to play hockey into summer. There are three ways to fix the length of time of the NHL season. You can compress the season a la the Olympic year schedules where two weeks are booked off in the middle of the season but omit the break so the season ends two weeks earlier. Assuming that nothing else changes, that would mean that the playoffs end in May. You could start the regular season on the first day of fall. This season started on October 6th. Starting around September 21st would move everything back by two weeks. The least likely fix would be to drop games from the schedule. A reduction of six games would take two weeks off the length of schedule. That’s the least likely because of the revenue that all involved in the league would lose from dropping six games.

The good news for hockey fans is that the current schedule format means that you only have to wait three months until the start of training camps.

Is Apple just a massive marketing machine that sells pretty looking products?

Apple had a great idea with the new iPad (colloquially called the iPad 3). They put a really high-resolution screen on it, beefed up the processor so it could run graphics at that resolution and sold a shitload (that’s a technical business term) to people who already had iPad 2s. There wasn’t much new to the new iPad but it was shiny and Apple put the might of their marketing machine behind it so it sold like hot cakes.

Apple products sell at a premium compared to their competitors who have similarly spec’d products. I don’t recall seeing a 13″ Acer or Asus ultrabook going for $1,200 unless it was as good as their above mid-range notebooks. A 15″ MacBook Pro for $2,200 is ridiculous. Sure, it has an Ivy Bridge processor, Kepler build Nvidia graphics card and a retina display but with most other laptop manufacturers rolling this out as well, the only thing giving Apple the ability to put a premium price on their products is that half-eaten apple on the back of their products. Historically, Apple products are priced at a premium and even the $100 price drop on laptops doesn’t threaten to change that.

Since the introduction of the iPod, Apple products stopped being having cult popularity and became a cult. It’s really a cult of personality led by whoever the current Apple CEO is. Showing off an iPod, iPhone or iPad is aligning yourself to a cult whose membership is predicated on owning a status symbol. Apple has managed to use advertising to make iProducts appear young and hip. That made it easy to market to young people. Apple almost seemed anti-establishment compared to the overwhelming presence of Windows and Microsoft everywhere.

In a stroke of irony, the real geeks (not pseudo-geek nerds but proper tech geeks) are looking at Windows 8 as the revolutionary product of the near future. You’ll get cheaper and better performing computers with an operating system that looks better and should be easier to use than Apple’s OSX once you get used to the change. I’ve even read reports that it’s Windows 8 is less resource hungry than Windows 7. But Microsoft isn’t cool so the hipsters will carry on with Apple. I’m going to be anti-establishment and happily get a laptop with Windows 8. If they get more apps, I might even get a Windows Phone.

Jackie couldn’t have been more right. MasterChef on Fox is horrible.

I know that’s a statement rather than a question but it’s my column so I shall introduce a new topic as I see fit. In this case, I’d like to talk about the generic drivel that MasterChef has become. The show is in its third season but it seemed to find a good rhythm in Season 2 after trying a few different ways of eliminating contestants in Season 1 that didn’t necessarily involve the contestants cooking.

This season, however, looks to be on a crash course to cancellation thanks to changes to make it more of a network reality show rather than a cooking show. The first two-and-a-half episodes of this season were the traditional audition episodes in which the contestants cooked one dish to lock into the second stage of the competition. The second half of the third episode marked the beginning of the downfall. To get to the Top 18, the contestants had to cook a dish using ground beef. After cooking time ended, the contestants were split up into three groups of 12. One group was sent through to the Top 18 and another was sent home based on how they looked cooking. The judges never tasted any of those 24 dishes. The remaining twelve were brought up 4 at a time for tasting with the judges advancing six more in total as they tasted each dish.

If this was MasterChef Australia (or any other cooking competition show I’ve ever watched, for that matter), all 36 dishes cooked in the Top 36 round would have been tasted and the Top 18 dishes from the 36 would have been advanced. Instead, we got contestants’ fates decided based on how they looked cooking and what their dish looked like. Anyone can plate a dish that looks good or awful. In a cooking competition, it should come down to taste. If the show was on the Food Network, the food would have been tasted.

The fourth episode of the season went downhill further. The opening challenge, a mystery box challenge (contestants must cook a dish using only ingredients in the mystery box), saw an elimination for the first time ever. After calling three contestants to the front, the judges announced that anyone could be eliminated at any point in time. Normally, they’d call the top three dishes up but they called the bottom three up and eliminated the worst. The winner of the mystery box challenge was selected based on how the dish looked. No dishes other than the bottom three were tasted. For the invention test (contestants cook a dish based on a selected theme or core ingredient), all dishes were tasted but contestants were subjected to humiliation if they didn’t cook up to the judges’ standards. It was a travesty that the guy who didn’t clean his mushrooms was eliminated instead of the guy who cooked a rice dish with nuts and berries rather than a risotto which was the challenge. However, the nuts and berries risotto cook is gearing up to be a better villain (and anti-Hispanic based on his conversation with another contestant while waiting the judges to make a decision) so no wonder why he’s through to Episode 5.

When you’re trying to sell a reality show on network television, you need to have conflict and villains and other characters to root for and against. The cooking skills being tested by the competition are being portrayed as secondary. Sadly, nobody on Twitter seemed to catch on to the hidden message of the judges’ criticism of the contestants. It’s not that the contestants are bad cooks. It’s that the judging system being employed has allowed sub-par home cooks into the MasterChef kitchen. The fact that the judges are berating home cooks is bad enough. It’s too bad that what they call bad cooking can be blamed on the judges letting these people through without tasting half of their dishes. It wouldn’t make for a good show if the judges were held accountable for dropping the ball on their end.

Could Nintendo kill the next console generation before Sony and Microsoft launch their next gen consoles?

Nintendo’s E3 preview/launch of the Wii U was massively underwhelming. A new Mario game and Pikmin 3 were announced as the big exclusive lauch titles for the Wii U. There are plenty of titles available at launch from third-party developers but none are exclusive to the Wii U and a good number of them have already been launched on other consoles. The console itself looks confusing. Gone is cool looking WiiMote and in is the WiiPad which looks bulky and potentially difficult to use. It’s slightly more powerful than the PS3 & 360 but they’re also seven years old.

The problem with the Wii U wasn’t the fact that it wasn’t as revolutionary as the Wii (it never had a prayer to live up to that) or that it doesn’t have a great launch lineup (though it doesn’t). The biggest problem I have with the Wii U is that it’s the first console of the next console generation to be launched and it’s barely better than the PS3 which is the most powerful of the current console generation. The XBox 360 was the first console of the current generation and showed what was possible from a graphics and gameplay standpoint. The Wii U does nothing to set the tone for the PS4 and XBox 720.

The question now becomes is if it’s possible for the Wii U to harm the home console market. The 360 got people excited for that generation of consoles. There is no excitement for the Wii U yet. If it flops on launch, we could see Sony and/or Microsoft drag their feet on the PS4/720. They’re already dragging their feet as Sony is rumoured to be launching the PS4 in 2013 (a seven-year life cycle for the PS3) and Microsoft is rumoured to be launching the 720 as late as 2014 (making a nine-year life cycle for the 360). With few developers pushing out new IPs or anything else revolutionary as this generation reaches the end, people could become apathetic to the games industry if there’s nothing new to get excited about. Look at this year’s E3, it was full of sequels and people called it the worst E3 ever. If the consoles don’t let games make the next leap forward, the games industry Will be turning off paying customers.

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