24 March 2009

An open letter to The Sci Fi Network President Dave Howe

Dear Mr Howe:

I find it difficult to express in words how ridiculous your decision to go from The Sci Fi Network to "SyFy" is, but I'm going to try.

First of all, let's start with brand recognition. You know what you're getting when you see the Sci Fi network. Sci Fi is a long-established abbreviation for the genre of Science Fiction, and despite your inexplicable decision to air wrestling from time to time, you generally deliver the goods. You've got excellent original series like Eureka, Dresden Files, and Battlestar. You make your own B-grade movies. You've done some innovative miniseries like The Lost Room and Tin Man. It's all good stuff, and it's all science fiction. Personally, I'm really looking forward to Warehouse 13, Caprica, and some more Eureka.

The Cartoon Network airs cartoons. The Comedy Channel shows comedy. The Food Network...well, you get the idea. You're a niche network catering to Sci Fi fans. I imagine it's pretty lucrative given the prominent 18-49-year old male demographic. If you don't want to embrace it, I don't know why they installed you as CEO.

Now let's explore why SyFy not only is laughable, but why it seemingly seeks to abrogate, invalidate, and otherwise obviate the relationship you have with your viewers.

First, phonetically, SyFy is a disaster. If you pronounce it using standard English pronounciation rules, it's Siffie.

Second, spellingwise, it's an abomination. You're a major cable network, not Kwik-E-Mart. Why intentionally mispell an abbreviation so long-established it's practically acceptable in Scrabble?

Third, you've got a great tagline with "Imagine," and your little vignettes are top-notch. What the heck does "Imagine Greater" even mean? At least "Imagine More" would be meaningful. "Imagine Greater" is a disaster. Greater than what?

In essence, you're saying, "We don't like Sci Fi." I don't care what your admen and advisors and whatnot telling you to change for change's sake are telling you, but simply by going from SciFi to SyFy, you're saying Sci Fi isn't any good, we can do better.

Well I like Sci Fi. I read the books. I watch the TV shows. I buy the Blu Ray discs. I'm a 35 year old professional with a professional wife and a son who will be force-fed a steady diet of Star Wars (by me) and Star Trek (by the wife) until he's totally indoctrinated. He deserves to grow up watching either classic programming or new and exciting programming on your network.

If you really want to spend some money, don't waste it on a poorly concieved and ultimately futile rebranding campaign. Trust me, you will change it back, or your successor will. Go out and get the rights to Babylon 5, Firefly, Farscape, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, MST3K, Hercules, Xena, and the old Doctor Who, and start airing them in order, in HD. Extend your relationship with the BBC beyond Doctor Who and Torchwood (both excellent shows) and bring over some of the best SciFi the Brits have to offer. Make sure the new Star Trek series is on your network -- whatever it costs -- the ratings will be insane for cable TV. Start filming the works of RA Heinlein and PK Dick and A Bester into premiere mini series instead of shlock Bird Flu movies. Put Bruce Campbell on retainer and do whatever he tells you to do.

Not all of it will turn into ratings gold, but some will work out quite nicely. I guarantee your odds are better than they will be with a name change.

That is, of course, unless you really don't want to cater to Science Fiction fans. Then by all means go forth with your rebranding, and good luck to you.

You'll need it.

12 March 2009

Gervais + Elmo = Hilarity on 'Sesame Street'

Talk about entertainment for me and Alex....well, me mostly.

10 March 2009

Illinois Legislature Restores Pluto's Planetary Status

Well, I'm glad that's been settled. After the IAU's demotion of Pluto a few years back, I've been waiting for this. The floodgates of formal opposition have opened. The dam has burst.

First up was the trailblazing New Mexico Legislature, back in 2007, which passed the following:
WHEREAS, the state of New Mexico is a global center for astronomy, astrophysics and planetary science; and
WHEREAS, New Mexico is home to world class astronomical observing facilities, such as the Apache Point observatory, the very large array, the Magdalena Ridge observatory and the national solar observatory; and
WHEREAS, Apache Point observatory, operated by New Mexico State University, houses the astrophysical research consortium's three-and-one-half meter telescope, as well as the unique two-and-one-half meter diameter Sloan digital sky survey telescope; and
WHEREAS, New Mexico state university has the state's only independent, doctorate-granting astronomy department; and
WHEREAS, New Mexico state university and Dona Ana county were the longtime home of Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto; and
WHEREAS, Pluto has been recognized as a planet for seventy-five years; and
WHEREAS, Pluto's average orbit is three billion six hundred ninety-five million nine hundred fifty thousand miles from the sun, and its diameter is approximately one thousand four hundred twenty-one miles; and
WHEREAS, Pluto has three moons known as Charon, Nix and Hydra; and
WHEREAS, a spacecraft called New Horizons was launched in January 2006 to explore Pluto in the year 2015;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that, as Pluto passes overhead through New Mexico's excellent night skies, it be declared a planet and that March 13, 2007 be declared "Pluto Planet Day" at the legislature.
Second up, the Illinois General Assembly, which has enacted the following text into law:

WHEREAS, Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of the planet Pluto, was born on a farm near the Illinois community of Streator; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh served as a researcher at the prestigious Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh first detected the presence of Pluto in 1930; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh is so far the only Illinoisan and only American to
ever discover a planet; and
WHEREAS, For more than 75 years, Pluto was considered the ninth planet of the Solar System; and
WHEREAS, A spacecraft called New Horizons was launched in January 2006 to explore Pluto in the year 2015; and
WHEREAS, Pluto has three moons: Charon, Nix and Hydra; and
WHEREAS, Pluto's average orbit is more than three billion miles from the sun; and
WHEREAS, Pluto was unfairly downgraded to a "dwarf" planet in a vote in which only 4 percent of the International Astronomical Union's 10,000 scientists participated; and
WHEREAS, Many respected astronomers believe Pluto's full planetary status should be restored; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, BY THE SENATE OF THE NINETY-SIXTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that as Pluto passes overhead through Illinois' night skies, that it be reestablished with full planetary status, and that March 13, 2009 be declared "Pluto Day" in the State of Illinois in honor of the date its discovery was announced in 1930.
Personally, I'm a fan of the hydrostatic equilibrium (i.e. spheroidal) definition which results in 13 planets currently and likely more than 100 eventually, since any other definition which includes Jupiter and Mercury (not to mention Earth), is flawed in some way. That said, simply using hydrostatic equlibrium would not exclude any spheroidal moons. There was a fun debate on this at Mike Brown's blog last September.

In the end, I think the unsaid part of the planetary controversy is the desire for Earth to be a capital-p Planet, and not a "minor" or other adjectively-modified flavor. As long as there's big gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn out there, that'll make things difficult.