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Tag 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.

Sep 15

Watching television and eating dinner can be complicated

“If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners.” – Johnny Carson

The late Johnny Carson would be shocked to learn that the traditional frozen TV dinners he once joked about are not popular anymore. Instead, the American public seems to prefer the trendy “bistro gourmet entrees” that are made in the oven or as quick skillet dinners.

And, don’t we just love to eat our dinners and watch television at the same time even if Emily Post and our grandmothers would disapprove?

Grab those dinners, whatever they are, and go straight to the television set and settle in for a favorite show.

Trying to eat dinner in front of the television set, however, is not as easy as it sounds.

At the exact moment in time when one wants nothing more than to sit in a comfy chair, eat a simple meal, and watch one’s favorite show, a law of the universe kicks into effect. That law dictates that the cable television signal or quality of the picture will be disrupted. It is written somewhere. You will spend the rest of the evening fiddling with the set. Your dinner will get cold.

“Wonderful,” my husband said when this happened to us the other night, “Nothing to do now but call the cable guy tomorrow.”

Next day, to my eternal surprise, the cable guy showed up. After a long and valiant attempt to fix the problem, he timidly told me that he had no idea what was wrong and would have to bring a more experienced technician tomorrow.”

“Rookie,” I am thinking at this point. “They sent a rookie!”

The following day not one but two cable guys arrived. After nearly three hours of sweat and struggle both inside and outside of the house, they reported to me that they could not fix the problem. To make matters worse they meekly broke the bad news that all three television sets in the house were affected.

A surge was the likely culprit.

They kindly rigged the television we watch the most (its tuner was fried) so it would feed through the VCR/DVD player. However, we have to use that device’s remote control now to adjust channels and the television remote to turn the thing on and off and adjust volume. The big screen is damaged least of all with just two channels affected. The television in our bedroom can still be used if we only want to watch Nickelodeon.

Television watching is suddenly far too complicated in our household.

I have a good book and a bistro skillet dinner ready for tonight.

There is only one problem as Orson Welles once said, “I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts, but I can’t stop eating peanuts.”

Aug 12

In search of the ‘Golden Buckle’

Chasing our dreams is not unlike the old TV show of the 60’s, Stoney Burke.

For those of you too young to remember, its hero Stoney Burke (played by Jack Lord) was after one thing—the Golden Buckle, the crown of world champion saddle bronc riders.

On October first in 1962, the television show Stoney Burke debuted in black and white on Monday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC.

I was there along with sister Pat and friends Priscilla and Sue. So star-struck were we that soon we formed the Stoney Burke Fan Club. We began to wear tight blue jeans, crisp white shirts, and jeans jackets just like Stoney. I am guessing we even had cowboy hats and boots, but I don’t remember that part much.

What I remember is this. Our adoration was not for the television star Jack Lord, no it was for the mythical character of Stoney Burke. Although at the time, we did not think he was imaginary; well, at least, I didn’t.

To be fair to Pat, Priscilla and Sue, I must admit that I was just a tad more over the top on this than they were. As president of the Stoney Burke Fan Club, it was my responsibility to spread the word and sign up more members.

The task proved formidable as I began to realize that not everyone in the world was in love with Stoney Burke.

Sadly for our fan club, and apparently for a minute amount of other fans, the 60-minute western drama was short-lived, lasting only until May 20, 1963.

Before the fad died, however, our Stoney Burke Fan Club made a trip to a rodeo where Stoney Burke (Jack Lord) was billed as the featured attraction.

Stoney was to ride a horse into the arena at the storied Sidney Iowa Rodeo and greet his fans.

After pushing past small kids and older folks, this crazed teenager fought her way to the rail where she could actually touch the hand of Stoney Burke as he rode by on his magnificent steed.

Ok. In my sister’s version of this event, she says I knocked a few people down getting there, but don’t believe her.

Keep in mind that I did not think for one minute that I was touching the hand of Jack Lord.

To me, the bronc rider who touched my hand that night was the one and only Stoney Burke.

Stoney never lost sight of his goal, the Golden Buckle, despite numerous villains who set out to stop him, a few girls who distracted him, and thugs who challenged him to old-fashioned western brawls.

In the end, life dealt Stoney a blow that ended his dream. Stoney hit bottom in the last episode when he injured his hand and could no longer earn money to send his aging parents. He had to quit the rodeo circuit, apparently defeated.

Stoney took a job delivering horses to a slaughter factory where one of the horses turned out to be Megaton, the fierce bucking bronc that Stoney admired but could never master. Realizing that his life was no different than the doomed Megaton’s, Stoney rediscovered himself and set out in a completely different direction. Eventually, he would find his own Golden Buckle–fulfilling and purposeful work.

Decades later, as I ponder Stoney Burke, I realize that many of us are searching for our own Golden Buckle.

Often, we never find it, at least in its original form.

At this point in life, Baby Boomers know well that life deals us cards we don’t want and presents detours that slow our progress; yet, undeterred we somehow push forward.

Jack Lord did the same when his personal Golden Buckle dream died.

Defeated and embarrassed by his Stoney Burke debacle and the failure of his TV show, Jack sought to redefine himself.

In 1968, he starred in a new show, Hawaii Five-O, an instant hit that is still in rerun.
Playing the part of Steve McGarrett, fierce investigator in a tough special police unit in Hawaii, Jack Lord found his fame.

Sooner or later, all the bad guys on Hawaii Five-O, heard Steve McGarrett bark to his sidekick, “Book ‘em Danno.” Those famous words remain today as a part of our American speech and as Jack Lord’s legacy, his own Golden Buckle.

As a side note, after years of assuming that Stoney Burke was lost to me forever, I recently found him on the web. There I can watch a video of his old episodes, see Megaton buck him off, and view that prized Golden Buckle.

The Stoney Burke Fan Club might be back in business!