Oh, iPad 2, now you’re starting to creep me out | Street Jazz

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Oh, iPad 2, now you’re starting to creep me out

Posted By on Tue, Sep 20, 2011 at 11:15 AM

I’ve been seeing the commercials for the new iPad2 lately, the latest gadget I absolutely must have or my life will have no meaning. But I have to tell you, after I got that Kenner Give-A-Show Projector when I was a kid, that was pretty much it, as far as getting stuff that gave my life meaning.

It’s still hard to beat something as cool as that.

But anyway, dragging myself back to the 21st Century, now we have the wonderful world of Apple products. Now, I’m not gonna disparage Macs in any way. My first computer was a Mac, and we bought two last year. They are indeed lovely creatures.

Of course, I still have some affection for my old Gateway, which actually still works fairly well over ten years since I took her out of the box. And even the cranky old Dell (much younger than the Gateway) tries hard.

I’m not one of those who are mesmerized by the latest technology, ready to whip out my credit card at the drop of a hat when a seductive voice tells me how I should ditch everything else and grab onto the new. And as for cell phones? Well, if I don’t like to use the phone in my house, why would I use a cell phone any more often?

The ads for the iPad2 are fascinating, though, especially when the narrator (Peter Coyote?) says that I could go on Twitter when I am nowhere near my followers.

It took me a few dozen times of listening to the commercial before it sank in, but once it did, it just sort of stuck there, like a bad dream you can’t forget, or a rancid piece of beans on toast stuck in the back of your throat.

I’m not sure about the folks (such things always seem to be written by committees now, don’t they?) but either they were sharing a sly joke, or they were written by drones who live in a cupboard, who don’t know much about Twitter - say, much like me only a short while ago.

Now, I personally don’t have a lot of followers on Twitter, but I’m pretty sure I’m not anywhere near any of them when I Twitterize. Otherwise, I could just invite them all in for, I don’t know, a conversation? One where we could all speak in long paragraph-length passages if we want to, and someone isn’t going to say, “You have used too many words/letters.”

The sort of conversation where if someone had the bad taste to use an emoticon others in the room would chase them around the house with broken off pieces of furniture.

I’m also pretty sure that those I follow really don’t want me skulking around in their front yard, hiding behind bushes and pretending to be a garden gnome while they compose their thoughts before sharing them with the world.

I mean, really, aren’t we all paranoid enough as it is?

I know that I am.

******

Bang! Bang! Boom! Boom!

I recall the night in early 1984, just after the CBS premiere of Airwolf, a friend called me excitedly and asked, "Did you watch it?" I told him I had, and, like the geeks we were, we spoke in rapturous tones about the new show.

What a difference a couple of decades makes. There are shows - like The Twilight Zone - that can still entertain many years after they were produced. Others are barely remembered, no matter how big a splash they made at the time.

Airwolf ran from 1984 through 1987, and featured the adventures of a Mach One military helicopter. Every week the crew would take on assignments for a mysterious agency known only as "The Firm." The series was firmly grounded in a Cold War world.

The motion picture Blue Thunder had been released some time before, and plans were made at ABC to produce a program based on the movie. When asked if they were worried about the CBS venture, the Blue Thunder producers dismissed the very notion, explaining that in the public's mind, Blue Thunder was the symbol of attack helicopters.

Sad to say, the Television version of Blue Thunder, starring James Farentino, was pretty boring, and only lasted a handful of episodes. Though the writing quality on Airwolf declined as the series went on, it still lasted three years on CBS, and then on to a fourth season on the USA Network.

The program was created by Donald Bellisario (NCIS, Magnum PI) and featured Jan-Michael Vincent as Stringfellow Hawke, a Vietnam war veteran who had become a recluse since his older brother had become an MIA in that same conflict.

The pilot episode deals with the creator of Airwolf stealing the attack helicopter and going to work for the Libyan government. Who else to send in after it but this anti-social recluse and his buddy, Ernest Borgnine. While the mission to retrieve Airwolf is a success, sending Hawke after it may not have been the smartest move the government ever made.

Not giving it back, he declares. Not until you guys help find my brother. I'll just hide it in the desert, and I'll even work for you - when I'm not feeling too surly - as long as you help me find my brother.

That's actually kind of the problem with the series. In a world in which we were not at war - at least not openly - how are you going to come up with new and different ways to use the helicopter? The obvious strain shows in the first few episodes of that 11 episode season, in which the plots are mostly pedestrian.

Crooks who want to rob a train, internecine rivalries at "The Firm,” the CIA-type outfit that Hawke sort of works for. Ho-hum.

It's not until the last few episodes of that season that the show comes alive, with stories about ex-Nazis (always good for a storyline), African civil wars, and mind control.

But even these last episodes can't hide the essential weaknesses of the series. Most of the aerial combat footage used in various episodes was from the pilot movie, and no matter how stirring the music, even the most fanatical Airwolf fan had to admit to himself that the same planes and helicopters were getting blown up on a regular basis.

And, sad to say, Jan-Michael Vincent couldn't act his way out of a paper sack. He was regularly acted right off the screen by Ernest Borgnine and Alex Cord. Cord played a character from The Firm, whose code-name was "Archangel." Archangel had a fetish for all-white suits, and his female assistants also dressed completely in white.

Several years after the show was canceled, the USA Network picked up the series, choosing to cast Barry Van Dyke as Hawke's newly rescued brother from a POW prison camp in Vietnam. The production was moved to Canada.

In fact none of the original cast was in the new series. Vincent's drug abuse problem was so bad at this point (he had reportedly slapped a female reporter), that he was declared persona non grata by the Canadian government, and his few scenes in the first episode of the new series were shot in the U.S. According to some reports, both Borgnine and Cord refused to be in the episode if Vincent were involved.

Science fiction fans might take note that even though the USA version was done on the cheap, many science fiction elements were introduced into the stories. Dick Van Dyke as a killer android? Yes, indeed.

So rent Airwolf, or check it out of the library. It really isn't worth spending money for a DVD set with only a few watchable episodes. Take it from someone who actually spent money on this.

Trivia note: the helicopter used for the series crashed into a mountain in Switzerland in the early 1990s, when it was owned by an air ambulance service. All on board were killed.

*****

Quote of the Day

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. - Thomas Jefferson

rsdrake@cox.net

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