I was in L.A. last summer and was leaving a restaurant with my friend and former Stargate cohort Marty G. when  I asked him if he was going to catch a cab back to his place.  He threw me a look that seemed to say: “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard!” and informed me that he was going to make use of something called Uber.  I told him I’d never heard of Uber which elicited a look that seemed to say: “That last thing you said is now the SECOND craziest thing I’ve ever heard because this one is now in first place!”.  He explained that Uber is an app that allows you to instantly connect with drivers.  Instead of waiting forever for a taxi, you simply tap a button and the closest Uber-approved driver will be there within minutes.  And that’s what it was – literally – minutes, from the second Martin tapped SEND to the second a car pulled up and whisked him away.  Fantastic, I thought – and then thought nothing more of it until I came across this article today:

Uber claims its cars attacked by cab drivers in France

Apparently, cab drivers in France aren’t taking kindly to Uber moving into their territory.  And cab drivers in Los Angeles aren’t fond of the popular app either: last summer

What’s the problem?  Well, bottom line: the service is too damn convenient.  Crazy as it sounds, customers actually prefer the convenience of getting somewhere quickly without having to wait around.  And, as a result, established taxi companies are losing business.  What to do?

Well, the obvious answer would be for the taxi companies to move past their antiquated systems and catch up with the current trends.  Incorporate similar technology into their dispatch structure that would allow cabs to reach customers just as quickly.

Or, they can take Vancouver’s lead, a city notorious for its shitty taxi service.  Here, the taxi mafia is so strong that the merest whiff of putting more cabs on the street is met with protests forceful enough to send the current Mayor ducking for cover.  So what happened when Uber attempted to enter the market here?  Why, the city – in the interest of all Vancouverites – responded by setting regulations in place that, in their mind, “levelled the playing field”.  And by “levelled the playing field”, I mean required a minimum wait period between the time a call is made and driver can pick up a  customer, and forced Uber drivers to charge limo price minimums of $75 a trip regardless of how far the customer was going.

Uber town-car service shut down in Vancouver by B.C. Passenger …

Ah, good old Vancouver, always looking out for its citizens.

Speaking of catching up with current trends, there was this article over on deadline.com:

TCA: Lost Ad Revenue Biggest Challenge To TV, Says FX Networks Chief John Landgraf

Here’s the problem: People are not watching television like they used to.  More and more people are downloading, waiting to watch their favorite shows, and skipping commercials when they do.  As a result, broadcasters must find alternate ways of monetizing their product.

Wait.  What’s this you say?  This has actually been an issue for well over twelve years now?  That even earlier, everyone – especially consumers – warned that this was the way things were headed.  And this is suddenly news?!

Yes, please work on finding alternate revenue streams.  Also, go ahead and sell that Betamax stock.

Well, hey, check it out.  It’s the cover to our friend (editor extraordinaire) Lou Anders’ upcoming book:

1It hits the shelves in August.  A possible Book of the Month Club pick?

Congratulations to Alex Levine who has been nominated for a Canadian Screen Award in the category of Best Writing in a Dramatic Series for Orphan Black – Unconscious Selection.  It’s hard to believe that only nine years ago, he was an up-and-coming-writer working as a script coordinator on Stargate: Atlantis, cutting his teeth on a season 5 clip show and trapping the feral cats that inevitably wandered into our offices over hiatus.

Some writerly advice.  From the gang at cracked.com?! The 5 Best Pieces of Writing Advice I Didn’t Get in School

Before you start work on that novel, you may want to read this: Software Accurately Predicts Books’ Popularity By Analyzing Their Sentences | Popular Science

Be not ashamed!  Great article by Kameron Hurley for you scifi enthusiasts: Making Excuses for Science Fiction

28 thoughts on “January 14, 2014: News of note!

  1. Was I reading somewhere that there were some weird insurance implications with the Uber service, as well? (Found it: http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2014/01/08/big-liabilities-for-uber-sidecar-and-lyft/ ) Still, it does seem like a cool idea.

    If you think Vanc is bad for taxis, apparently St. John’s, NF is pretty crazy. A taxi driver there was telling me how many of the cabs are run by one company, owned by a guy who is pretty ruthless. “Predatory” fare grabbing (zipping an and taking a fare who is already waiting for a different cab) is pretty commonplace. Just dirty business.

    LOL at the sudden realization that the historic advertising financing model for production just may not be in keeping up with the times. Maybe they’ll have it figured out in a couple of decades, or so?

  2. So, if Vancouver had had this quality of leadership all along, the horse and buggy industry might not have met such a tragic fate.

    I actually watch commercials more now that I watch stuff on Hulu. When I was watching TV, I’d run off and do other stuff during commercials and if I missed something because I didn’t get back from the break early enough, that was water under the bridge. Now that I watch Hulu, I still run off often, but I can avoid missing anything by pausing the show. But I can’t pause the commercials. So, I’ll have to watch at least some of the commercials more carefully so I can pause when they are over.

    Even better, the kids have to watch the commercials with me because they ask me for stuff and I say, “wait for me to get a chance to pause it”.

  3. Hey Joe
    I have a feeling that broadcasters and production companies are going to have to go with some kind of product placement or something. On the bright side it won’t be long until an hour show will be an hour!

    Elminster

  4. Yay for Alex!

    So out of all the writing hints you’ve dropped on us here, what are your top 5?

  5. human nature never changes. I imagine that if they had rental chariot service in Rome, that one company would use caltrops or whips to drive off competitors. A shame that to this day such things continue to happen. I haven’t heard of this app, but I will definitely keep it in mind in the future. Thanks for the info.

  6. It seems like every show has a “musical” episode where the actors suddenly launch into song and a dance number… the latest being Psych.

    Why didn’t Stargate ever do that?!

    (And, before I get a ton of hate mail, I never did like those episodes. Thanks for not doing it.)

  7. @Joe on lost ad revenue:

    Industries don’t change willingly unless they are led by innovators, but I wouldn’t put the current crop of entertainment producers and distributors in that category. Take as an example the current ABC lawsuit against Aereo:

    http://www.deadline.com/2014/01/would-the-supreme-court-upend-the-tv-business-if-it-sides-with-aereo/

    You would think that they would be happy to have more eyes on their ad-content, after all, that is what the advertisers pay for. But it seems if they (the broadcasters) can’t control the delivery channel from soup to nuts, then they must destroy it (I remember when VCRs first came out there were legal battles to try to make recording live television illegal).

    If the broadcasters were true innovators, they would have been developing such internet based delivery systems themselves, instead of shooting down everyone else who comes up with what the market wants.

    It will be interesting to see what happens at the Supreme Court, but even if the SC rules against the broadcasters, I’m sure they’ll have their lobbyists in congress writing new legislation or pressuring the FCC to ban the Aereo technology shortly after the ruling.

    Still, the broadcasters control the majority of the content right now, but how long will it be before an internet broadcaster starts making some in-roads? Time will tell.

  8. Before you start work on that novel, you may want to read this: Software Accurately Predicts Books’ Popularity By Analyzing Their Sentences | Popular Science

    there’s some comment to be made regarding the twilight novels, but i can’t think of a good one.

  9. If you provide a shitty or expensive service you can guarantee that someone will come along with a better and cheaper alternative. If you look throughout history you’ll see the same thing happening over and over again. Governments will try to legislate against the new alternative as a result of lobbying from the incumbents (q.v. MPAA, RIAA, the Copyright Term Extension Act, taxi cartels) but they are all doomed to failure. As Princess Lea says, “The more you tighten your grip the more worlds slip through your fingers.”

    I probably watch equal amounts of YouTube videos compared to “traditionally” created content and my YouTube watching is increasing all the time. There’s some quality shows on there.

    If we don’t start hearing about large TV networks shutting up shop within the next 10 years (definitely 20) I’d be very surprised. It’s already happened with several movie studios and the writing is on the wall for broadcast TV. They can try to fight the change in the courts (doomed to failure) or change their business model (hard, almost impossible, for a monolithic corporate entity) but there will always be someone coming up with a cheaper and better alternative.

    Goodbye, TV, it’s been a fun 70 years.

  10. Re: the Canadian Screen Awards – along with Alex, Michael Shanks also got nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series for “Mr Hockey – The Gordie Howe Story” along with a couple of other nods for the drama including one in direction for Andy Mikita…There are other Stargate-related noms for Claudia Black and Colin Cunningham too as well as Michael’s new TV Series Saving Hope for getting 5 “Craft” noms…

    Congrats to them all…I hope they win!!

  11. @ BoltBait – Stargate Atlantis: The Musical? If they ever did something like that, they’d have to resurrect Steve just so he could sing…

    I feel pretty,
    Oh so pretty,
    I feel pretty and witty and bright!
    And I pity
    Anyone who isn’t me tonight.
    I feel charming,
    Oh so charming,
    It’s alarming how charming I feel!
    And so pretty
    That I hardly can believe I’m real.
    See the pretty male in that mirror there?
    Who can that attractive Wraith be?
    Such a pretty face,
    Such pretty tresses,
    Such a pretty smile,
    Such a pretty me!
    I feel stunning
    And entrancing,
    Feel like running
    And dancing for joy!
    For I’ve fed
    On a pretty wonderful boy!

    🙂

    das

  12. Wow, way to look out for your people, Vancouver! I’m sure no one’s pockets were puffed in that debacle.

  13. I wonder if the company will try suing Vancouver. Maybe via NAFTA.

    Nice to see the writing award for Orphan Black.

    For some reason I keep calling it Orchid Black. They say memory is the first thing to go. Or is it the knees? I can’t recall. I wonder when Orchid Black is coming back on? April 19th. I’ll put it on my calendar.

  14. LA cab service is hellish; so hellish that on my last vists I’ve just used the metro, which is more like purgatory and therefore more bearable. Next time I’ll try Uber.

    Alex Levine, I don’t know you, but if you had anything to do with Orphan Black then I love you. I want Felix’s apartment. Are you serious about the feral cats?

  15. When did Cracked.com change from MAD MAGAZINE’S competition to a “feature” article site?

    In San Antonio news:
    I HATE MOUNTAIN CEDAR ALLERGY SEASON.

    That is all.

  16. Forgot to mention: “5 Best Pieces of Writing Advice” struck home, primarily because I’m reading a lot of amateur, online fiction. I come across some gems online, but sometimes I waste hours on a serialized story that has far too many installments.

  17. @ Deni – 😀

    Hey, you’d appreciate this…

    Last night hubby peeled a carrot – I don’t know how he did it, but he managed to practically shred the thing (it wasn’t the peeler since I had just used it on another carrot and it worked fine). I took one look at it and just blurted out, “Good thing you’re not a mohel.”

    🙂

    das

  18. Oh das, you had me singing along there, thanks.
    My old hometown, won’t let another cab company start up there,well the commisioners i guess wont approve it, someone is getting paid under the table I bet, and the taxi svc they have is spotty and takes forever and the drivers are a bit questionable,,.Uber sounds like a good idea..

  19. I read the “5 Best Pieces of Writing Advice” too. The biggest problem I have with writing is getting past the five to ten pages mark. At that point I find it more and more difficult to maintain a semblance of order, cohesion and plot. The blonde becomes a red head, characters names change and it all becomes kind of rambling and directionless, which is when I throw my hands up in disgust at the dreck I’ve created.

    Perhaps my problem is I would much rather read someone else’s writing then write my own.

    I finished listening to Red Country last night, as a case in point. While it’s not Shakespeare, it was a very enjoyable book. On the other hand, I never really enjoyed reading Shakespeare.
    I picked up “The Blade Itself”, the first in the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie in hopes that it will be as good.

  20. Hey Joe

    Look what I found…

    AKA
    A serialized drama about a woman with the perfect life – and a dark secret that could change everything.
    Attached:
    • Thunderbird Films
    • Paul Mullie and Joeseph Mallozzi (STARGATE SG-1)

    Elminster

  21. @PBMom

    Really happy to hear something is happening with Echoes it seems like its been around forever. All of their hard work paid off it seems.

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