Well, I'm back--happy 2011, everybody!
Speaking of 2011, I saw or read (don't remember where, alas) someone begging us as a nation to stop saying "twenty-eleven" and start just saying "eleven," the way we did back in, say, '76. I have to disagree, though. I'll bet in the last century they went from saying "nineteen hundred and eight," or for the more daring, "nineteen-ought-eight" to, a few years later, saying "nineteen-eleven" without dropping the "nineteen" at that point. A decade later, maybe. Which we should perhaps do too--but only after "twenty-twenty," if only because it will be fun to say that and not mean either one's vision or a regrettably long-lived television program (can you believe that thing started back in '78?).
And since I've mentioned television: isn't it depressing that in 2011 so much TV is either reality TV, spinoffs of old cop dramas, or remakes of old British offerings? When I was young, TV programs often included exciting space shows which referenced man's conquering of the solar system or even the galaxy way back in twenty-something. Today, space shows are few, dull, and focused on relationship dramas instead of the power of the human spirit--unless, of course, they are remakes of old British offerings.
Remakes seem to be depressingly popular in the movie world, too. Honestly, was True Grit on anybody's list of top ten movies just begging to be remade? Luckily, the studio has pulled plans to produce True Grit II: Even Truer Grit in which the now-adult protagonist fights for women's suffrage, runs for governor, and wards off waves of killer robots attacking from the future.
I'm kidding, of course (at least, I hope so). I'm certainly kidding about the killer robots. Here it is, 2011, and we still don't have housecleaning robots yet. I've been waiting since I was a child for Rosie of the Jetsons to be commercially available: sure, she's prone to comedic technological malfunctions, but she's still a darn sight better housekeeper than I am. You would think the Japanese would be working hard on housecleaning robots instead of robots who sing and dance better than most reality TV stars (which isn't saying much), but so far--the only robots we have that do any housecleaning are these. And when I say "we," I mean people who have actually bought a Roomba (TM) which is not me--not yet, anyway. I'm sort of holding out for the model that will finish vacuuming the den, discover the kitty-litter box, climb up over the side, and proceed to remove the unmentionables which the cats fervently pretend had nothing at all to do with them in the first place; of course, a cat's idea of plausible deniability involves burying the unmentionable in layers of scented sand and then leaping out of the box with an outraged air and offended tail which clearly say, "Well, somebody--not me!--made a mess again, and as usual I had to go clean it up!" which is hardly effective. But the Roomba: Kitty Litter Edition probably will be available about the same time Rosie is, some long-distant year in the future when my great-grandchildren refer to the "Space Age" as a rather pathetic joke of the late twentieth century (though the retro fashions will probably be in style again).
At least flying cars are no longer a total myth. They're also still rather experimental, rather expensive, and require pilots' licenses to operate, which put them beyond the reach of most people. Eventually, I'm sure, both Microsoft and Apple will realize that people have plenty of rectangular computing devices in all sizes and shapes (and that there's really no market for, say, trapezoidal ones) and will start getting into the flying car operating system market. The goal will be to create a fully automated flying car that any ordinary person can use, provided tech support on the ground includes actual pilots who can remotely take over the operating system and land the plane in an emergency. The Microsoft flying car software will be very affordable (at the base rate, anyway) and will work with plenty of different flying car models. It will also require increasingly expensive annual software upgrade purchases, and will experience total system failure about every six hundred miles. The Apple flying car software, on the other hand, will be reliable and safe. However, it will cost three times the Microsoft version and work only on AppleCars which will be beautifully designed yet contain a number of annoying--if minor--
bugs and which will only be able to land at one of fourteen national iHangars; this, alas, might get inconvenient when you want to travel somewhere other than one of those fourteen cities (one of which is Palo Alto, California).
Maybe the computer software giants should branch out into robotics instead. One of them might come up with a passable version of "Rosie." Because if Rosie comes down with a computer virus, you won't fall out of the sky--you'll just have to go out for dinner.
I know, I know. That was a terribly "Space Age" thing to say. ;)