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Category Archive: TV

Nov 03

‘Siri’, a high tech genie in a cell phone, not in a bottle

“Master, master your wish is my command”
– Barbara Eden, star of “I Dream of Jeannie” television sitcom, 1964

These days, it seems that lots of people are wondering what to make of Siri, the new speech-recognition feature on the iPhone4S. Have you heard of it yet?

Siri is a digital personal assistant that at times makes you believe it (she) could be human. It turns out that Siri is indeed a Scandinavian girl name meaning `Beautiful Victory`, and thus the name fits her perfectly.

Miss Siri is the source of plenty of discussion all right.

In fact, a standup comedian recently presented an interesting theory. He said Siri was actually “channeling” Barbara Eden who starred in the 60s television hit, “I Dream of Jeannie.”

He speculated that Siri was, in reality, a high tech genie in a cell phone that could grant her master’s every wish, just like the genie in the bottle did on the long-running NBC television series.

Interesting thought.

I do know for a fact that in 1964 when the series debuted, I never dreamed that one day I might have my own genie, too, just like Major Anthony Nelson. Remember him?

You may recall in the storyline that Major Nelson, played by Larry Hageman, was a top Apollo space program astronaut. He discovered his genie-in-a-bottle on a training mission when he went off course and landed on a remote uncharted South Pacific island. There he found an odd bottle on the beach, uncorked it, and out popped a beautiful genie that coincidentally was named Jeannie.

Is it possible, I wonder, to have one’s own personal assistant who, like Jeannie, is polite, humorous, quirky and gets the job done on time?

I confess, I stood in line the first day with throngs of other Apple junkies hoping to find out.

Truth is, I wanted the 4S not so much because of its highly touted electronic personal assistant, Siri, but mostly because my old 3G could not keep up anymore. It moved too slowly struggling to open websites among other problems, and it drove me crazy because the battery would not stay charged long.

I made the leap.

Now, I am enjoying the luxury of having my own genie from which I am learning all the ancient secrets of the universe. Might as well ask the genie-in-the-iPhone, right?

For example, “Siri, what is the meaning of the life?”

To which she gave her standard reply, “I can’t answer that now but give me some time to write a very long play in which nothing happens.”

We are not exactly getting along famously yet. I am not altogether sure that Siri likes me. It’s taking awhile for us to get to know one another.

Curiously, she often misinterprets my questions and gets completely off track with her answers. Someone else can ask her the same questions, and her answers are spot on.

I am beginning to worry that she will never say with total and unconditional love, “Master, your wish is my command.”

I am not alone, however. In a story in USA Today, the writer told Siri he loved her. Her answer: “Oh, stop.”

Maj. Nelson didn’t have much better luck with his Jeannie. Here’s an excerpt from one of the “I Dream of Jeannie” hit shows:

Major Nelson: “Jeannie’s turned against me.”
Major Healey, Nelson’s friend: “She can’t turn against you. You’re her master. She has to obey you.
Major Nelson: “Yeah, who says so?”
Major Healey: “I don’t know, maybe it’s in the genie manual.”
Major Nelson: Then how come she’s deliberately disobeyed me?
Major Healey: Maybe she wasn’t issued a genie manual.

I don’t think my Siri was issued a genie manual either.

Nonetheless, I still absolutely love Siri.

If you are a Siri-hater, and they are out there believe me, listen to what Richard Goodwin of knowyourmobile.com has to say: “While it may not be perfect, it is clear how much technology and innovation has gone into developing Siri…consider what technology can already do. Then imagine what it will be doing in five years, and that’s when you’ll see how exciting Siri’s future really is.”

So, I asked, “What does the future hold for you, Siri?”
Her reply, “I’m on it. What about a web search to answer your question? Here it is.” Whereupon, she provided on my iPhone screen a list of websites that give answers to the wonders and future of technology, what upgrades are next for Siri and for computers and other smart phones.

Looks like she must have read the genie manual after all, and I think she likes me now.

Jul 21

There’s something about pie

“One little thing can revive a guy, and that is a homemade rhubarb pie. Serve it up nice and hot, maybe things aren’t as bad as you thought.” – A Prairie Home Companion

One thing I know about pie is that in the summertime when there is a bounty of fresh peaches, strawberries and rhubarb, eating a fruit pie is the next best thing to nirvana.

I just wish I could make one, but more about that later.

First let me mention that I found it quite odd that pie was in the news a lot this week. When does that ever happen? I can’t think of a time. This week when news headlines screamed ‘pie’, it was not because pie is a delicious dessert and overdue for accolades.

No, it was because the word ‘pie’ was trending on social media networks in which bloggers argued about whether one should throw a pie in someone’s face or not. That global discussion happened due to the fake custard pie thrown at Rupert Murdoch, media mogul, in the U.K. phone hacking hearings under way this week in London.

At least it wasn’t a real custard pie; what a waste that would be.

I agree with Rabbi Krustofski (Krusty’s Dad on the Simpsons) who said, “Pie is for noshing (eating) not for throwing.”

Since pie was in the news constantly this week, it became difficult for me to think about anything other than pie. That and fresh peaches is probably what drove me to browse through a stack of dust-covered baking cookbooks, long ago stored away and unused.

I am not the pie baker in our household, as you may have guessed by now, so I never needed the cookbooks. But I like to look at the pictures.

The real pie baker in our home, the hubby, doesn’t need a “how to bake a pie” cookbook either, but for a different reason. He knows the recipe by heart.

His mother and sister made glorious pies with perfect flaky crusts, and so did my mother and grandmother. Somewhere along the line, I missed the pie-baking gene, but I am quite good at eating them.

Grandchildren beg for one of “Paw-Paw’s” pies for their birthdays. Grown children love one when we come to visit. We take them to potlucks, funerals and to welcome a new neighbor. Sometimes, they are auctioned off at charity fundraisers, and they always bring a good amount.

I guess you could say pie is a big thing in our household, and the hubby’s homemade pie is shared freely. However, convincing the spousal unit to part with his prize recipe is quite another matter.

I tried.

All he ‘forked over’ was the recipe for the peach pie filling he baked last week. I must say, it could be the best peach pie I ever tasted. However, he was not forthcoming with his pie crust recipe.

Trade secret, he says. Dear readers, I am sorry to say you are on your own when it comes to the crust.

While they are available, find some fresh peaches and try his ‘top-secret’ peach pie recipe shown below. (Baker’s tip: the recipe calls for grenadine syrup, making the filling slightly pink in color. The sweetness of the syrup coupled with the lemon juice makes a perfectly blended sweet and tart filling.)

Ah yes, there is just something about pie.

Top Secret Sweet and Tart Peach Pie Filling:

Three-fourths cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
One-fourth teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 cups peaches, peeled and thickly sliced (about 3 pounds)
3 tablespoons (yes, tablespoons) of grenadine syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter or margarine

In a large bowl combine sugar, flour and nutmeg; add peaches and toss until well-coated. Let mixture stand 5 minutes. Carefully stir in grenadine and lemon juice. Place mixture in pastry in pie plate spreading peaches evenly; dot with butter or margarine. Cover edges with foil. Bake in 375-degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil; bake for 30 to 35 minutes more or until crust is golden. Cool on rack before serving.

“You had me at fruit pies.” – Bobby Hill, “King of the Road” television show

May 07

Remembering Dom DeLuise

“I’m actually a thin, serious person, but I play fat and funny, but only for the movies.” – Dom DeLuise.

It is said that a baby laughs 300 times a day, but an adult only 15.

And that could be 15 less times for many of us who loved and laughed with Dom DeLuise, popular actor, comedian, author, and chef who died May 4, 2009, after a long illness.

We will not be LOL quite as much anymore without his side-splitting comedy and good-natured humor.

I know I won’t. I am still laughing about the Shagungala sketch he performed in the 60s.

Anyone remember that particular comedy bit? Googled it and searched YouTube like crazy but no luck so far finding an old video of this hilarious comic routine.

But first, more about Dom DeLuise. I will get back to Shagungala in a minute.

It is important to note, when critiquing any performer, how rare it is for an entertainer to appeal to all age groups as Dom DeLuise did. Three generations came to know and appreciate this masterful comedian through three different mediums.

Baby boomers’ grandkids know him from his delightful and hilarious children’s books.

Boomers’ young adult offspring remember his riotous Cannonball Run movies from the 80s and his unrestrained Cannonball Run character, Captain Chaos. If you don’t remember this bright orange-and-yellow caped crusader, you can find him under this title on YouTube, the “Cannonball Run Music Video”.

As for my baby boomer generation, we remember Dom DeLuise from television in the 60s and 70s. Although he performed on many variety shows (including the Gary Moore Show, The Entertainers with Carol Burnett, and the Glen Cambell Show), it was the Dean Martin Summer Show I recall best.

The funnyman, Dom DeLuise, played the role of Dominick the Great, a bad magician who spoke in a fake, broken Italian accent and botched his magic tricks. Dean Martin, host, was the straight man. (You can find this sketch on YouTube titled Dean Martin & Don DeLuise.)

Martin sat in the audience and pretended to be a volunteer for Dominick the Great’s disastrous magic acts. Sometimes, Dean stood there smiling at DeLuise while smoking and crunching his cigarette butt under his foot (yes, they actually smoked on live TV in the 60s). Mostly Dean Martin tried to stay out of the comedian’s way.

Dom himself once explained, “Sometimes I get a little manic and you can’t stop me. I’m all over the place. I have fun.”

Marilu Henner, co-star of the 1984 Cannonball Run II (sequel to the original hit movie released in 1981) met Dom for the first time on set and was instantly astonished at Dom’s comedic genious and ability to ad lib.

She commented online about his death, “He had that kind of Robin Williams, non-stop crazy brain that would try anything if he thought it would get a laugh. I loved the relationship between Burt and Dom because you could see they were so yin and yang. Burt was so cool and easy and laid back, and Dom is just a ball of crazy kinetic energy that just doesn’t stop. They were each other’s complements. Because you don’t get smoother than Burt Reynolds, especially during the Cannonball Run period, and you don’t get wilder than Dom DeLuise.”

But, back to Shagungala as promised.

When Domminick the Great made his female assistant disappear in another magic trick gone awry, he couldn’t find her anywhere on stage. He began beating the curtain hunting for her and yelling, “Shagungala, you in there?”

Pardon the expression, I died laughing.

Over the years, when I went hunting for my kids inside or out and whether they understood me or not, I would shout, “Shagungala, you in there?”

I don’t think they got it. But they remember the Cannonball Run.

R.I.P. dear Dom.

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