Hawaii Five-O Observations

I have mentioned in the past about watching classic TV on Netflix and singled out Hawaii Five O as endlessly entertaining.

jack-lord-4Lately, I have swung back into that series, and I have a few observations:

  • 12 seasons – how on earth did that show last for 12 seasons? Seriously, by the 4th season it was becoming tiring to watch, and the plots have become super predictable.
  • Rain in Hawaii – Knowing that the islands get a pretty consistent amount of rain, it is remarkable that there are almost no scenes where they are prancing around policing in the rain. But every trip McGarrett takes to the mainland? You guessed it, he is under an umbrella. (it takes until season 8 before they are chasing a suspect and it is raining.)
  • Tourism Promotion – I get it, the show is a thinly veiled tourism promotion vehicle (as well as a way for Jack Lord to get paid to live in a garden paradise). But all that crime? Oy vey, according to Five-O, the islands are awash in gangs, prostitution, gambling, and Chinese spies. Not a very inviting place to vacation, eh?
  • Gunplay – The quantity of shootouts is truly staggering. I believe every episode has gun battles with bad guys being gunned down by the righteous agents of Five-O. In the real world, far fewer police actions involve firing their weapons. I get that it is the late 1960’s in the show, but holy hell, do they shoot a lot of people.
  • Drugs – One persistent theme is the scourge that is illicit drugs. In many of the episodes, there is the specter of LSD, marijuana, and even methamphetamines awash in the island. I know it is a sign of the times, but the portrayal of the strung out dopers is hilarious.

I know my parents looked forward to the weekly exploits of McGarrett and Danny Williams. 30 years on, meh. Give me the Rockford Files any day of the week.

Classic TV – The Rockford Files

With the recent passing of the legendary James Garner I have once again tossed the hit TV series “The Rockford Files” onto my Netflix streaming list. I had gone through the series a few years ago, reminiscing about my childhood, but this time it was to honor the memory of James.

It is astounding how well the stories hold up to time. Written and filmed in the mid 1970’s, the stories are timeless, and entertaining today. Yes, technology is better, and a lot of the tricks of the trade employed by the main character wouldn’t fly today, in all it still makes for amazingly entertaining watching.

One fixture in the show, is Rockford’s trailer, parked on the beach. Unassuming from the outside, and remarkably spacious on the inside, it is a comforting prop to the show.

Of course, now that I am looking for a house here in California, and I might slip down into “manufactured home” territory (thanks to my shitty relocation company) I look on Rockford’s trailer with envy. Great location, and boy, how spacious is it inside.

Answer: far more spacious than it really is. Alas, the interior filming was done on a sound stage, the main reason why the trailer shots aren’t cramped.

Still, a man can dream.

If you have Netflix streaming, I highly recommend tossing this on your list, and watching a few episodes. You will be sucked in and enjoy the time spent.

Mission Impossible (the series) Observations

I love Netflix streaming. Now that I finally hooked it up to my XBox 360, and it is a much better integration than the Tivo series 3 box.

One of the shows I have been watching is the original Mission Impossible series. I enjoyed it when I was growing up, and I still enjoy it.

Although, there are some gaping holes in the plots, and miraculously, even when they are deep in eastern European communist countries, or communist countries in South America, everybody speaks english. The signs are all “readable”, and the sets are all hokey.

But I still enjoy the shows. I can’t wait until I break into the Peter Graves episodes (still in the Stephen Hill episodes.) All cheese, but it is a tasty cheese.

What I am reading: 1984

With all the buzz lately about the NSA revelations by Edward Snowden, and the surveillance state, I thought I would pick up my copy of 1984 and re-read it.

Set in the year 1984, it is a masterful piece of fiction that is remarkably prescient in many of its predictions, given that it was published in 1949. The two way telescreen is particularly poignant, with the amount of listening that is apparently being done by BB.

I didn’t read this, or its other kin when I was in High School like most people. I picked this up in my 30’s, along with Animal Farm, and Aldus Huxley’s: Brave New World. So I didn’t have a literature teacher guiding us through the analysis, so I was free to take my own views.

First, the world is different from the time when George Orwell wrote this. At that time, it appeared that “socialism” would sweep the world, and that there would be three major centers of socialism, Ingsoc (or english socialism), eastasia, and eurasia, that would be perpetually at war with each other. Like the Russian and Chinese form of socialism, society has been structured into two halves, the proles (proletariat) making up about 85% of the population, and the “party”; the apparatus that keeps the proles in check. Within the party, there is the inner circle, who don’t have much privation or limits on what they can do, and the rest of the party, who lives in a state of fear/hate.

The protagonist, Winston Smith works in the records department of the Ministry of Truth (minitrue), “adjusting” prior published facts to ensure that the official party line from today matches what was said yesterday.

There is a whole group who works on newspeak, a language that is used to communicate to the party. New-speak phrases like “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY” are the mantra of the party, and talks about the double speak.

While I don’t think that we have devolved to a society where common household goods are rationed, and there is a black market for things like coffee and razor blades, it is hard to not see the parallels with the modern state. A significant amount of history revision is common in the political class (both parties are equally guilty), and the policy makers /  “aristocrat” class seem to become ever more isolated from the plight of the common man.

I am also reading a detailed history of Europe from the middle ages to the present, and much of the societal structure outlined in 1984 is aligned with typical European societies in the past. Of course, the mechanization of production, and the shifting of power to labor, and now back to capital, is part of the shifts in society.

Along the way, Winston starts doubting the world order when he comes across incontrovertible evidence of fraud in the ruling class. From that point on, he begins with small rebellious behaviors, and escalates.

The story is a great tale of fighting the system.  If you haven’t read it since your secondary school, I would highly recommend picking it up and reading it again.

What I am reading – Catcher in the Rye

I had read it a long time ago.  I think I bought a used copy at one of my trips to Powells in Portland, but a recent re-run of a South Park episode, “Scrotty McBoogerballs” caused me to pick it up again.

Certainly one of the best works of the 20th century.
Certainly one of the best works of the 20th century.

I am talking of course about Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. A story told from the eyes of the main protagonist, it is alive with the references and language that a troubled teen would use. When I was in high school, the words were different, and I didn’t go to a boys only prep school, but we used the lingua franca of the times in our daily conversation, much as Holden does in Catcher.

I did not read it as a teen, because at that time it was prohibited from the library. But had I, I would have identified well with Holden. Perhaps not as brusk or abrasive, but, like many, High School was a tumultuous time for me.

The premise of the South Park episode is that the boys are assigned the book, and told it used to be banned.  Thinking that it was filled with foul language, sexual innuendo and other titillating tidbits, the boys are disappointed in how tame the book was.

Likewise, my original thoughts on reading a “banned” book, the first time I read it I was looking for the causes of that banishment, but failed to “get” the whole point of the story.  This time through, I am reading it carefully, enjoying and savoring the experiences of Holden Caulfield, and his recounting of his experiences. It is both entertaining, and thought provoking.

If you haven’t read it, or read it a long time ago, I highly recommend picking up this classic, and re-reading it, perhaps a few times, to truly grok its fullness.

What I am reading: Stranger in a Strange Land

(Well, re-reading really)

A classic, "must read" science fiction novel. It propelled me to read lots and lots of SciFi
A classic, “must read” science fiction novel. It propelled me to read lots and lots of SciFi

My memory is foggy, but I think this is the book that someone tossed at me in my sophomore year of high school. Written by Robert Heinlein, and originally published in 1961, it is one of the “must reads” in the SciFi genre.

The premise is fairly simple. A manned expedition to Mars meets with tragedy, and the only survivor was an infant born shortly on their arrival. Orphaned, he was raised by the Martians as a (strange) martian. When a follow-on mission arrived, they expected to not find any survivors, but instead found the child, now in his late teens (early 20’s?  It is never mentioned how old he was directly), who has never had contact with his race. The story of Valentine Michael Smith, the first interplanetary bastard.

They bring him back, and a wild ride begins. He is early on involved with some intrigue and political interplay, but is soon spirited away to the compound of one of the central figures, a cantankerous old man named Jubal Harshaw.

From there, many formative episodes are lined up in short order to integrate him into humanity, but, like the boy who was raised by wolves, the integration is never quite complete. Indeed, the introduction to the concept of ‘religion’ is through a cult like church called the Fosterites (after their founder, whose name was Foster). Preaching a gospel of be happy, don’t worry, and all will be good.  The services include interesting dance, and other traditions that you would not associate with “church”.

Michael takes from this a “badness”, but senses that at a deep level the concept of god is “goodness”. The martian in him leads him to declare that “Thou art God”, that is me, you, the blade of grass, my greyhounds etc.  Every entity has some element of god in it, and by learning the Martian language, you can learn to control both your body as well as physical things around you.

Of course, the established religions view this with disdain, and run the “nest” (as the church is called) out on a rail.  The ultimate confrontation is where the Fosterite congregations whip up a mob mentality, and Michael takes their abuse, violence and even gunfire in a calm, peaceful manner, uttering as his last breath a “Thou art God” to the grashopper by his head as he expired (discorporated in the parlance)

I thoroughly enjoyed the book when I first read it in high school, and have re-read it a few times over the years. It started me on a quest to read and enjoy SciFi, and I have relished in it. When the book was written originally, it had some 320K words.  The editors in 1960 thought that was too long, ans asked for 70K words to be edited out.  That was the official version until Heinlein’s widow discovered the original manuscript, and had it re-published.  The extra words do much t help the story, and I am glad to have read both versions.

The other thing this story did was cause me to look at religion from the outside.  I was not brought up in a family that went to church, and apart from tagging along a few times with neighbors, I had little exposure to organized religion. The theology of Michael and the Fosterites was intriguing, from an intellectual point of view. I got the impression (many years later) that the Fosterites was a swipe against L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. Perhaps, perhaps not (what I have learned about scientology gives me the creeps.)

If you are a fan of science fiction, and haven’t read this, I highly recommend it. If you aren’t a fan, but are interested in the genre, this is actually a very readable book that will entertain on many levels.