Here's the scoop: March 27, 2013

Just like old times
Unfortunately, I am banned this week from using a three-letter work that begins with “s.” Since I can’t write about the raw material from which maple syrup is made, I have been hard-pressed to think of another topic. My brain is kind of sapped (six letters), I guess.

The good news is that the other morning, while enjoying a leisurely breakfast of French toast smothered in a perfectly sweetened all-natural product made from the juice of our own trees, I was also checking out the latest “news” on the Internet. I was very pleased to see that “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is being made into a movie. I checked and the word “spy” is not on my list of banned words for this week’s column.

My memory is a bit foggy on many things, but I vividly recall being a huge fan of the U.N.C.L.E. TV show. In truth, I don’t remember many details, other than I thought the series was really cool. Napolean Solo and Illya Kuryakin were the “good guys.” And they had some neat technology at their crime-fighting disposal.

If fact, being a true fan of this series (originals aired from 1964-68), I was among those swept up in the marketing frenzy that resulted in gullible fans purchasing the “authentic” attaché case chock-full of the plastic version of the tech toys utilized by the spies on the TV show. I thought I was really cool. I now realize that I was “buying into the hype.” Hey, it was still fun.

Had to look it up
To refresh my memory, I did some research on the show. U.N.C.L.E. stood for “United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.” The fellows representing this group spent a good deal of their time (when they weren’t scoring babes!) trying to overcome the bad guys from THRUSH (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity). Can you blame them?

To achieve these goals, the U.N.C.L.E. fellows had to employ plenty of technology of their own. The high-tech attaché case that I had been so eager to purchase contained an assortment of these products. Apparently I missed out on a lot of other goodies such as board games, card games, spy magic kits, walkie-talkies with the U.N.C.L.E. logo.

In a bit of double-duty genius, I learned that the boxes used for shipping the U.N.C.L.E. miniature cars (I didn’t have one those either) were designed to fold out for use as advertising displays in retail stores. Neat.

As I continued my U.N.C.L.E. merchandise research, I learned that the Marx Company sold a Counterspy Outfit Trench Coat. This vinyl outerwear included many secret pockets, perfect for allowing secret agents to easily conceal items like cap-grenades and other nifty spy-thwarting equipment. One review I read cited a small problem with the coat: the low-quality vinyl didn’t stand up to the rigors of crime-busting for very long. Soon the coat turned into T.R.A.S.H.
With the big-screen version of U.N.C.L.E. in the works, and Tom Cruise set to star, it shouldn’t be long before a whole new generation is exposed to an avalanche of marketing materials. The good news is, vinyl quality is much improved in the last 40 years. It’s time to update my wardrobe.
— Brian Sweeney