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SciFriday: It’s Not A Good Time For A Writers Strike

I put off writing my column this week as long as I could, hoping that there might be a breakthrough and a strike from the Writers Guild of America would be averted. But it doesn’t look like that’s happening. As I write this, Hollywood writers are getting ready to stash their pens in their drawers, […]

I put off writing my column this week as long as I could, hoping that there might be a breakthrough and a strike from the Writers Guild of America would be averted. But it doesn’t look like that’s happening.

As I write this, Hollywood writers are getting ready to stash their pens in their drawers, log out of their word processors, and vacate offices as we seem to be heading into the first work stoppage in Hollywood since before I hit adolescence.

Since it’s the writers walking out and causing us to possibly endure rerun after endless rerun beginning early next year (that’s about how long it would take for the production cycle stoppage to catch up to us), it’s easy to cast them as the bad guys. But to be honest, they’re not.

There are some very difficult and important issues on the negotiating table, a lot of it having to deal with residuals from DVD sales, as well as how writers are compensated for work that appears in new media, you know, like that pesky thing called the Internet. And that’s not the only new things that have happened in the last 19 years, there’s also a huge influx of reality programs. And while we might want to call reality television “unscripted,” it’s actually not. I mean, do you think Jeff Probst just makes it up as he goes along?

I don’t want to see a strike, and to be honest, I don’t think the writers want to see a strike, either. These are people who really love their jobs, they love what they do, and the money doesn’t hurt either. But the studios have done little to nothing to really get these issues resolved, and they’ve practically had years to do it. I don’t know why they are being so stubborn. It’s not like better compensating writers would break the bank.

At the same time, however, studios are scared that if the writers start getting paid too much, then the other crafts like directors, best boys, even actors, will start demanding higher compensation levels as well.

If a strike does begin in a few days, which it seems like will happen, I do hope it’s short. Some shows really may not be able to survive a stoppage. And not just new shows like “Bionic Woman” and “Chuck,” but even some more established shows like “Heroes,” which has already suffered a ratings hit in its second season, and a long break may not help it very much at all.

We just have to wait and see. If nothing else, a strike will definitely give both sides greater motivation to finally getting these issues resolved.


I know I promised a SyPod this week, but because I was holding the column waiting to see what the WGA would do, I didn’t get a chance to finish it. I thought about doing two different ones based on two different outcomes, but sheesh, how much time do you guys think I have? Oh, that much time? Well, maybe you’re right.

Either way, however, SyPod will likely return at the end of the month.


Why the end of the month? Well, our assistant news editor Alan Stanley Blair is going to fill in for me over the next two weeks. Don’t treat him like that substitute teacher you don’t like.

Ok, let’s take a look at letters this week.

I wish this could be a “suck-up” letter. Thanks for posting your frustrations about J.K. Rowling. Just a few things, though.

The reason some people don’t want kids reading the book is that since their brains are not developed adequately (brains do not fully mature until age 21), they are more apt to be influenced by stories than adults. Now must of us grew up with the likes of Narnia and LOTR, and have come out relatively OK. And there will be some children who take it for what it is … a good story. But some kids, especially those with limited or no guidance from adults, will be apt to take the fantasy to the next level. And although Narnia and LOTR do not exist in our world in any shape … witchcraft is alive and kicking.

— Melissa

I am doing something I have never done before … I am interrupting a letter. Sorry about that, Melissa, I’ll let you continue in a minute. But I just have to stop you here and do a double take.

Where the heck are you seeing witchcraft? I just looked up, and I don’t see any broomsticks flying in the air, or people carrying magic wands that are not toys. Sorry, but there is no more witchcraft than there are wardrobes that lead to magical worlds filled with talking animals and human-goat hybrids.

Ok, please continue, Melissa.

Per the gay comments, the scientist in me has a hard time with J.K. and our society promoting homosexuality as intrinsic. Although it may not seem to hurt anyone, it does hurt those who are gay (and I know this may sound old school), they are suffering from a gender identity disorder, and need our help and compassion, not our hatred or dismissal of it.

— Melissa

Sorry, stopping you again. I hope that scientists in your world know how to read. The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental disorder back in 1973. I would think that is a long time ago, but anything before when I was born is a long time ago.

Ok, carry on (as Tim Gunn, who apparently also is suffering from gender identity disorder, would say) …

If you check out the science and the history of the APA, the matter of bringing back homosexuality as a GID is still hotly contested within the profession, which I am currently a part of. Only 30 percent voted to take it out back in [1973], thus there are now many psychological associations who are committed to researching the causes and treatments.

— Melissa

I’ve been pushing the APA to actually consider believing that what you read in fiction is real, too. I wonder when that will become a disorder …

OK, another e-mail, and this time I promise not to interrupt.

Yes, I know you have not offered, but I would like to volunteer to be the Airlock Alpha winner to be sent to Seattle to see ‘Battlestar Galactica’ on the big screen. I will need a hotel room and five airline tickets (my kids are too young to be left overnight). As a loyal Airlock Alpha reader, I will be happy to accept this prize.

— R. Murray

R., I’m sorry to say, but Melissa just wrote back to let me know that you suffer from a condition called Airlock Alpha Contest Winner Identity Disorder. Please, go get help immediately.

I’ve been reading Airlock Alpha for a long time now, and I must say I really enjoy the content and the fact that your spoilers are clearly labeled.

I have really enjoyed the second season of “Heroes,” but so far, there hasn’t been an episode that has really pulled out all the stops for the whole episode. That is until now. While all the episodes have had great writing, directing and acting, this episode [the Oct. 15 episode, by the way] just felt far better than the previous three. Unlike ‘Lost,’ where you may get revealing of a big mystery dangled in front of you for a number of episodes, you got two big reveals straight after each other, and the acting of Adair Tishler — who plays Molly Walker — was absolutely superb, when the camera zooms into her eyes after the second big reveal, it sent shivers down my spine.

— Brian McNamara

I hope it’s getting better. I’m about a month behind on all my shows since life has been hectic, but I have to admit, I have not been too excited about catching up on “Heroes.”

Send me a letter, and if you’re lucky (or you suck up enough), it could appear right here! Just e-mail me at

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Have a great week, and don’t be a stranger!

Michael Hinman, a 22-time winner of the British lottery and heir to three Nigerian fortunes, is the founder and site coordinator for Airlock Alpha, writing out of Tampa, Fla. He can be reached at

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Could they be a Rut-ro! Shaggy
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