Trust the Gene Genie

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Let's get small

First a Christmas gift to the readers. I offer another selection from everyone's favorite Show and Tell Music. Let's hope gems like these are never forgotten.

Says SaTM about this record: "Great working class pride LP dedicated to 'all men who operate heavy machinery.' Tracks include 'Mechanic's Theme,' 'Caterpillar Man,' 'When a Fellow Is out of a Job,' 'I'm an Operating Engineer,' and 8 (delicious) others."

On a more personal note, I'm actually kind of excited for Christmas. I know, stating it like that implies a sense of surprise on my part. But you have to remember, I'm in California, which means no snow, no cold and when compared to the Rockies, no real mountains. And I know what you're saying, "Rob, you're feelings for Christmas shouldn't be so wrapped up in your sense of weather and place. That's not what the season's about."

And you may be right. On the other hand, that's just how I feel. I want Christmas to be cold and snowy. Not wet and warm. Anyway, despite it all, I'm excited for Christmas. The girls are to the age where they understand what's going on and they're exctied for the big morning and Becky and I, maybe picking up on that, maybe just happy with all the festivities we have planned, are excited too. It's interesting how you can dread the season because it feels so far removed from childhood (which is really what's going on with me) and yet once it's here you still feel -- excuse the cliche -- the Spirit of the season. That's pretty cool.

And so I'm excited about our big dinner Christmas Eve. Excited to have company, read the Christmas Story out of Luke and act out the Nativity, put presents together after the girls go to bed and wake up a few, short hourse later and watch as they tear them open. I'm excited to do it as our own little family, excited that I'm doing this with Becky, who gets excited too and brings this wonderful energy to everything. There's something peaceful and reassuring about spending those quiet hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with the love of your life.

Anyway, I'm getting dangerously syrupy. This is starting to sound like a Hallmark special, so I'll stop and change tacks. Following Christmas we'll be headed up to Washington to see Becky's parents, spending a good week with family. What I've discovered this week is you don't necessarily have to be together to have a classic family battle royale. So, knowing I'm probably not the only one who'll be with extended family this weekend, I'll offer a word of advice. Don't get in the middle of spat between two sisters, especially if you're a man and especially, especially if you're an emotionally stunted, immature manchild in-law.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Up with people

It's a Christmas Miracle -- you're getting another post this week. And this one will be the most entertaining of the year. Well, probably not, but we're going to make it fun.

First, an iPod update (past editions here and here.)

Gigabytes used: 8.2
Number of Songs: 2094
Number of Podcasts: 2 (I dropped Nightline now that Koppel is gone.)
Most random recording: "Muskrat Love" by Captain & Tennille. Oh yeah, it has studio sound effect muskrat chirping. It's one of the strangest things I've heard.
Most eclectic recording: "Story of Isaac" by Suzanne Vega. It's Vega doing Leonard Cohen, so right there that should be enough to qualify it, but the song itself, Cohen's version of the Bible story about Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice is just kind of strange in its own special way.
Favorite recording currently (as always, this is subject to sudden change): Jools Holland's jazz interpretation of "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" with Bono doing the vocals. It's stunning. His imagining of the song is a revelation, not least of which because of Bono's relaxed, playful and completely unrestrained take on his own lyrics. It's the coolest. The cooly coolest. I mean it really swings.
Most embarrassing recording: Earth, Wind & Fire's "Let's Groove." It's disco by way of "Buck Rogers in the 23rd Century." It was on the "Waterboy" soundtrack and that's how it ended up on the ol' iPod. It's especially embarrassing because I hate the song and yet, there it is.
Number of U2 songs: an even 300
Number of Elton John songs: 1

Although it's pretty much common knowledge now, I feel I should at least mention Bono's recent listing as one of Time magazine's people of the year. Here's an excerp from the article. Go ahead, roll your eyes. I'd probably do the same. And then I'd read the following, maybe grudgingly at first and then with perhaps a little growing interest. By the time I'd finish up, I'd be dabbing at my misting eyes with a hanky:

"Although it's tempting for some to cast his global road show as the vanity project of a pampered celebrity, the fact is that Bono gets results. At Gleneagles--where Bono and his policy-and-advocacy body, DATA, met with five of the eight heads of state at the summit--the G-8 approved an unprecedented $50 billion aid package--including $25 billion for Africa--and pledged near universal access to antiretroviral drugs for almost 10 million impoverished people with HIV."

You have to admit, it's kind of impressive. And to close, a quote from the crazy little leprechaun himself:

"The only thing that balances how preposterous it is to have to listen to an Irish rock star talk about these subjects," says Bono, "is the weight of the subjects themselves."

You want one more, I'll give you one more. On religion:

"I try to live it rather than talk about it because there are enough secondhand-car salesmen for God," he says. "But I cannot escape my conviction that God is interested in the progress of mankind, individually and collectively."

We'll leave it here for today. But with schools out, my beat has effectively shut down for the next two weeks. Which means, of course, more posts from me. Given the holidays and what that all entails, expect a rant on relatives before the end of the week. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The minidisc miniseries

Well, it's been, what? Two weeks since my last post? Believe it or not, I have very little to write about tonight.

We can start, though, with the results of my meaningless milestones contest. Yes the deadline was nearly a month ago and given the number of submissions this seems wholly pointless. But I'll plug on valiently regardless. Yes, you guessed it, I recieved nary a one. Which I just can't understand. Not only do ones and twos of people read this site EVERY MONTH, but I was giving away USED minidiscs! I don't know how else I could have sweetened the pot. It's your loss, World Wide Web. Your loss.

OK, on to the short cuts for not having a thing to write. It's time for another installment of The Perfect Song.

The Connell's "'74-'75" -- It's the perfect pop song, really. A sweet little confection with enough hints of melencholy to keep it from becoming treacly, the song about longing, better times and friendship has a gorgeous melody and a catchy chorus: "I was the one who let you know/I was your sorry ever after/'74, '75". It evokes something lost, something gone while at the same time leaving you feeling optimistic about life. It's a bit of a highwire act, but it's pulled off beautifully making the song transcendent.

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' "El Matador" -- First the band. They're cool because they're Argentinian, they effortlessly mix ska, rock, reggae and Latin grooves into most of their songs and they've got a killer horn section. And "El Matador" showcases them at their best. The song just moves and it makes you want to move. And even if you don't speak Spanish you still find yourself singing along: "Santa Maria de los Buenos Aires si todo estuviera mejor/Matador, matador/Si todo estuviera mejor/Matador, matador." It's impossible not to like this song.

The Push Stars' "Opening Time" -- Chris Trapper's penchent for catchy melodies and narrative lyrics is showcased brilliantly with "Opening Time." It's a catchy, jaunty little number about being a band on the road and playing the little local clubs. But Trapper turns it, ever so subtlely into a quasi-love song to the girl who just doesn't seem to love you as much as you love her. "I'm just a thought in the back of your mind/I watch you as you drive away/You don't look back as I'm waving goodbye/Seems like I'm always asking why/And hey it's okay it's opening time/Butterflies and beer cans and blues on my mind."

If I don't post before the weekend, a Merry Christmas to all. If I do post again this week, well, think of it as a little early Christmas gift for you all.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Chit Lit

We've been talking children's books lately. Oh, don't worry, you'll do it too once you have kids. And if you don't, you're not good parents. As any writer will tell you. The chitlins right now like the books with pictures. And I don't disagree, I like books with pictures.

Anyway, for the past five years, we've had the tradition at Christmas of getting the girls a children's book Becky and I loved as kids or one that we felt was of high enough quality to warrant a gift-giving gesture. For example, last year we got them "The Little Red Light House and the Great Gray Bridge" of which, Becky's favorite line is still, "Those boys, those boys. This will never happen again." The year Leigh was born we got them the only two children's book Umberto Eco has ever written, "The Bomb and the General" and "The Three Astronauts." I'm pretty proud of that one.

Well, Claire is now in kindergarten and in a couple years will graduate to semi-picture books or even non-picture books. It got Becky and I talking about those books we remember reading or remember being read to us as elementary school students. For Christmas this year, we decided we would start with the granddaddy of the them all and buy them "The Chronicles of Narnia." But not the new Harper-Collins edition. Which, we all know is a crime against humainty. Yes, I'm one of those old-school types who believes H-C's decision to republish the series IN A DIFFERENT ORDER is akin to treachery. Oh yes, they betrayed children everywhere. And, to add insult to...another insult, the new books don't look that good. So Beck and I went online and found the old MacMillan paperback editions and bought the whole set for the girls. The artworks pretty cheesey in that neo-late 70's cartoony way, but if it was good enough me, well, it's good enough for anyone else.

Of course, the girls will open them Christmas morning and quickly discover the books have no pictures, which will be funny to us, but I'm sure will not excite Claire and Leigh. But that's the thing, we started with "The Chronicles of Narnia" because, at least "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," was the first novel I ever read. Or rather, had read to me. We used to sit around as a family on -- Saturday nights? Sunday nights? I don't recall -- and listen while my dad read the books and we munched on popcorn and drank little bottles of soda my mom had bought from the local dairy. I can't remember the name of the company, but the pop came in these little 8-oz. glass bottles. It was pretty cool. Anyway, I wasn't much older then than Claire is now. So we figure, within the next year, we could probably start reading them to her and she might actually enjoy it.

It also got me thinking about the books from elementary school. Some of the greatest children and young adult fiction around. Books like "The People in Pineapple Place," "The Eggchild," "Sign of the Beaver," "My Brother Sam Is Dead," "Black and Blue Magic," and even "Hitler Stole Pink Rabit," even though the protaginist is a girl, were just good books that totally captured my imagination.

Anyway, the girls certainly won't be short on things to read as they grow up, and that, of course, is a good thing. What you won't find on their shelves? "Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites." Or "Charly" since I have girls. Poo-poo on you Mr. Jack Weyland.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Perfect Song

I was having a conversation with an old editor and the idea of the perfect song came up. You know, the idea that for the listener there are a handful of songs that don't have a wasted lyric, a missed note, nothing. They are perfect. It got me thinking about (some of) my perfect songs. And now I will share a few. Oh yes, sit back and enjoy. And don't worry, I'll update this thread frequently. Because I know every last one of you is eager, eager, eager to know what songs out there I consider perfect.

Wilco's "Red-Eyed and Blue." First, the song is melencholy without being suicidal, (hello, Elliot Smith) and still manages to end with this happy whistling solo. Oh, Tweedy totally pulls it off. And the more you listen to the song, the more you find there. The lyrics are wonderfully, deceptively, simple: "We got solid state technology and tapes on the floor and some songs we can't afford to play." And Tweedy's voice, his emotive, half-mumble, resonant barritone is just so suited to the music. It moves you.

U2 "If You Wear That Velvet Dress." There are, obviously, better U2 songs out there ("Ultraviolet" and "Stay" for example) but "Velvet Dress" is one of the most rich, atmospheric and haunting songs I've ever heard. I love the lyrics. Bono just doesn't write like this any more: "Do you really want me to/Be blue as you/It's her daylight that gets me through" and "It's okay, we struggle for things not to say/I'm not listening to you anyway/I've got my own hands to pray." I mean, c'mon! And Edge's simple, quiet guitar riff that backs through most of the song blows my mind.

Anyway. Something to think about.

And I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to remind youthat tomorrow is the last day of free minidisc give-away contest. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Get those submissions in.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Take the test

It's the day after Thanksgiving, so hopefully you're having a lazy day lounging around the house eating leftovers. I'm at work. And Becky, well, she's at home with two crazy girls.

Anyway. To spruce up your day I'm pimping for one of my least favorite U2 fan sites. Well it used to be one of my least favorite U2 fan sites. That was before U2log got all uppity, lost its sense of humor and started posting items like once every two weeks. So became my default fan page. Anyway, they're conducting a survey of the online U2 fan community. So, if you're online and you like U2 -- or hate them and need a place to voice that -- hop on over here and take their little survey. It's actually pretty thorough and kind of fun. But you only have until Wednesday.

And while I'm at it, here's an iPod update for good measure (and here's where you can see the last one):

Gigabytes used: 8.2

Number of songs: 2087

Number of pocasts: still 3

Most random recording: "Holiday for Strings" by Walter Schumann and his orchestra

Most eclectic recording: "Taki Rari" from the original "ultra Lounge" compelation. I think you could argue anything from that album is eclectic.

Favorite recording currently (it could change at any moment): "The Two Sides on Monsieur Valentine" from Spoon's latest album, "Gimme Fiction"

Most embarrassing recording: Joe Satriani's "Always With You Always With Me" from "Surfing With the Alien." What? Cheesey as hell, sure. But I love it, o.k.? It's so 80s power ballad and without words. Without words! So sue me.

Number of U2 songs: 299

Number of Aaron Neville songs: 1

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

G vs. E

It's the great debate. Is there such a thing as good music and bad music? Of course there is, you say. And I would agree. However, one could argue that there's simply music people like and music people don't like; that good and bad are labels much too objective to use when describing music. Obvioulsy in a theoretical sense this is true. So the debate then becomes this: there's good music for me and there's bad music for me.

Good music for me: Wilco, U2, Led Zeppelin, Spoon and the like.
Bad music for me: Alan Jackson, Creed, Styx, the Carpenters and the like.

While so much of that is subjective -- to use the cliche one man's trash is another man's treasure -- one man's mind-blowing rock band is another man's stupifyingly rote pop group. I would argue there are groups or artists, a handful at the most, that rise, like cream, to the top of the pop music milk jug. Groups that defy subjection and, based on their work can truly be judged as good or bad, not just good for someone or bad for someone.

But to prove the point, you need a few objective measuring sticks, like time. It stands to reason that if a band is good -- or rather -- of a qualitative substance it will out last music that isn't good or of quality. For example, the Beatles are still highly regarded and widely praised while Herman's Hermits -- the Beatles contemporaries at the time -- have gone the way of the dodo.

Of course, time as a measuring stick isn't fool-proof. Given the nature of media in a technological age, if it was produced and released, it's gonna be around forever, somewhere. You'll always be able to find someone in some corner of the world who's still (seriously, not ironically) listening to the BeeGees. And while a Herman's Hermits song may pop up every so often on the golden oldies radio station, you don't hear as much about them as you do the Beatles.

But here's the point. Fifty years down the road, I think more people will be listening to Lyle Lovett than Toby Keith. Time simply favors quality because the passing years quickly erode the marketing flash that attracts people to poorly written and rapidly produced, throw-away songs. That leaves to the spotlight well written and well produced music. It's why Creed has already started to fade and groups like Pearl Jam (of which Creed is merely a rip-off) get better and more respected with age.

Critical praise could certainly be another measuring stick, but it's much more fallible than time. Even the best critics buy into the hype and marketing of certain bands and differing types of music sometimes. Who didn't talk up Jewel when she first hit the scene? And who remembers her now?

On the other hand, when the majority of mainstream or major market critics uniformly praise a band or a musician, it's a good bet there's something more going on there than with other middle of the road artists. Easy examples might be Johnny Cash or the Rolling Stones or James Brown.

Which segues into what the last measuring stick might be: influence. Great music influences while bad or even mediocre music does not. Creed exists on this principal alone. The group is almost a tribute band -- but probably more aptly discribed as a rip-off -- to the grunge rock acts that paved the genre before them; acts like Temple of the Dog, Alice in Chains or Soundgarden. These groups are generally conidered good -- especially in the case of Temple of the Dog -- because they influenced nearly every rock band that came after them for a decade.

The same can be said of The Band, The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, certainly the Beatles and then blues artists like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker which launched classic British rock, like Cream, Led Zeppelin and of course the Rolling Stones. Influence certainly isn't as objective as time, but it certainly shows how strong music and memorable bands rise above thier peers.

But I've gone on long enough. So as your Thanksgiving dinner talk turns to music, go ahead, bring up the good vs. bad debate and see what happens. If it doesn't end in a stuffing and potato sling fest, you haven't defended your position with enough gusto.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Koppel

With Ted Koppel leaving the air tonight, I thought a word might be in order. And I can almost hear Cody shaking his head, thinking, "Koppel, the rat jackal of the liberal media pack."

But I would argue that Koppel is a journalist's journalist. He did what good journalists do and that's question the establishment, be it Republican, Democrat, corporate or public. And he did it always with professionalism -- emotional diatribes or off the handle accusations or way-out-from-the-left-field conspiracy theories never ever appeared. He merely asked the tough questions to whomever he was sitting across from. (He was famously prickly with Maureen Dowd, one of the funniest interviews from recent memory.) Anyway, the profession needs more Koppels and less Coopers, Williamses and O'Reillys.

And since I've opened this so-boring-it-makes-me-want-to-read-a-newspaper can of worms, I'll go on to say, once again, that a liberal bias in today's mainstream media is an illusion. Fox News is the highest rated cable news network, most stories (on any news network) deal with missing white twentysomething girls or "crazy" celebrities or crippled airplanes still in the air. And that's because these are the stories that draw the demographics that appeal to networks' advertisers. It is so much more about money than politics its just plain frightening and disturbing.

Sorry. Had to get it off my chest.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The month of living dangerously

Yeah, so it's been almost a month. I'm awesome. An awesome blogger. The best there ever was. Anyway. Let me bring you all up to speed (I keep pretending I have an audience outside of Becky).

Spent last week in Washington, D.C. visiting my folks. We did Thanksgiving Dinner on Friday with my older brother Dan and my little brother H.L. It was a blast. My folks' place is pretty small and it got a little crowded at times, but it was fun to chat it up with my brothers and see my girls play with their cousins. Best of all, though, was my mom taking the kids on Wendnesday so Becky and I could just have the day to ourselves. Aside from me botching lunch, the day went well. But just so you know, the next time the temple cafeteria is ever an option? Take it. It's always the solid bet.

But the most important news, of course, is U2 related. An old high school friend of mine just sent me almost 15 GB of U2 concerts in mp3. It's from a little Web site he discovered that has made its mission in cyber-life to compile recordings of every live U2 show ever staged. You basically wait in line to gain access to the site and then, once granted permission to enter, you have seven days to download everything you can get your hands on. My friend's computer crashed a month or so after he got in and as a result lost the url for the site. He's been searching for it ever since. I know, sounds like some wierd 80s TV drama. Anyway, he came away with, what he guesses, is a third of the content on the site. He sent me like 3,000 or 4,000 songs. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that.

In other music news, I have not listened to the Creed CD. It may take me some time.

And last but not least, you guessed it, I have not received one entery in my MiniDisc contest. Needless to say, I'm very disappointed. These MDs are not going to just give themselves away, people. I've got to get rid of them somehow. So I'm instituting a deadline. Entries must be in my inbox no later than Nov. 30. So get cracking.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Meaningless milestones

Wow, 500 hundred whole hits. I realize most blogs hit that mark about every 30 minutes. But, alas, my faithful three readers simply don't have that kind of time to spend. Three readers, you ask? Yes, that probably is being a little generous.

Anyway, it's still a benchmark and that means we need to celebrate. In honor of the big 5-0-0, I will give 15 heavily used (but recently erased) MiniDiscs to the person who writes me about their latest and most meaningless milestone. Since no one has a MiniDisc player anymore, I'm hoping the 15 MDs will be as useless and meaningless as the milstone they share. I, of course, will act as judge and chose the winner from what I'm sure will be countless entries.

Send your submissions to u2 disco at gmail dot com, subject line "Meaningless milestones."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Letterman is King. Long live the king.

I'm still seething over a post I lost yesterday bceause my crappy computer froze up on me. I don't know that I'll try to rewrite, maybe when I'm done here, I'll give you all the gist. But, I'll tell ya, nothing's more frustrating.

Anyway. Letterman. He's slowly becoming my generation's Carson. And he's not as vital to our culture as he once was. For starters, there are no longer three main networks. Then you have Jon Stewart. Genius. And of course Conan. Genius genius. Somewhere on this list there should be Craig Kilbourne. But Kilby lost something when he moved to CBS. And he never got it back. Which is kinda sad.

But I was talking about Letterman. I would have been a Conan guy had I had a semi-normal childhood. Conan is my generation's late night host. He came on when I was in high school and got huge when I was in college. That is his demographic, those are his people. And I love Conan, it just took me a while to come around.

Because I watched Letterman. Almost religiously when I was in junior high. And for some reason I was the only one of my friends who did. When I was a young'un, my older brother would come home from college or come home from his night job and turn on "Late Night With David Letterman." I would either sneak out of my room with my little brother and watch it from behind a corner (putting myself in excutiating pain as I tried to stiffle huge belly laughs) or, if I was feeling brave, plop down on the couch beside him.

The NBC shows were hilarious. Letterman was silly and still had this ascerbic sarcastic bent that made the comedy seem anything but light-hearted. I had no idea who Malomar Khadifi was as a 10-year-old kid, but man if he showed up in a Top Ten list, it was dang funny. And after watching for a couple years, you figured out who these people were. I made fun of New Jersey. I've never been to New Jersey in my entire life and as a junior higher I made fun of New Jersey. Because Letterman made fun of New Jersey. Sometimes my friends would just stare at me. I'd make a crack about John Ghotti in my social studies class and maybe, MAYBE my teacher got the joke. Because of "Late Night" I got Chris Elliot, I fell in love with Penn and Teller and adopted my healthy, cynical attitude about life I carry with me to this day.

It was Letterman. I keep the first book of Top Ten lists at my desk today. The one that came out in 1989. With the straight-faced Foreward relating the 1980 Olympic US hockey team's Miracle on Ice. As though the book in your hands were the book about the Miracle on Ice. That's funny. Anyway, we used to sit around during my eighth-grade GT class and read the lists out loud, hardly being able to talk because we were laughing so hard, tears running down our cheeks. I had no idea who Robert Bork was or what his beard looked like, but I knew "Chin Slinky" was hilarious.

I bring it all up because a colleague of mine was called in for jury duty this week. It happens a lot here. Becky was called in over the summer and we've only lived here a year and a half. Of course I hear jury duty and the first thing that pops into my head is Letterman's Top Ten list on how to get out of jury duty (3. Respond to every question, "Let me talk to the little man who lives in my pants.").

I couldn't find the list because it acutally showed up in Letterman's second collection of Top Tens, not the first. Anyway, looking online for the list, I learned that the classic NBC Late Nights rerun on Trio. My first reponse was instant nostalgia. How would it be to have the old shows on my TV nightly? It'd be like I'd died and gone to late night TV heaven.

Of course my second emotion was dread. You can't go back. And having the old shows that accessible seems so tasteless. No longer are they precious childhood memories, enshrined in the pink haze of youthful bliss, but just another creaky slot filler for some two-bit cable channel. By becoming so accessible they cease to be special.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't buy a DVD collection. So I say long live the Monkey Cam. Long live Larry "Bud" Melman. Long live stupid human tricks and Rice Crispy suits. Long live the door-to-door visits to Long Island and the impromtu gift baskets to GE's office building that don't get past building security. Long live Letterman working the drive-through window at McDonalds. Long live Letterman.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Cai- Cai- Cairo

Well, now that the new Bond has been officially named, I thought it would be a good time to make a list. 'Cause lists are fun.

The Bond films, of course, have been around for 40 some-odd years and there's 20 features -- not counting "Casino Roayle" (spoof and non-spoof) -- in the collection. Opinions vary on the best, the worst and the most laughable of the series depending on why you watch the Bond films. But here's what I think:

Best Bond film: 1964's "Goldfinger" -- I think it's one of Sean Connery's best performances and, as far as world-domination plot's go, the storyline for "Goldfinger" is pretty dang original, far-fetched though it may be. Not to mention the swinging theme sung by the incomparable Shirley Bassey and probably the best Bond girl name of the franchise, Pussy Galore. Talk about sqeem-factor watching that with your parents as a kid. Anyway, "Goldfinger" is Bond at the height of what is truly James Bond.

Worst Bond Film: 1979's "Moonraker" -- Make no mistake, there have been some stinkers. And I was never crazy about Roger Moore. He certainly should have stopped long before the '80s began. But of the series, "Moonraker" stands out simply because the premise was so weak, the special effects were so poor and Moore was at his worst. 'Though it would be hard to argue he was ever at his best. And it's not to say "The World Is Not Enough" and "Tomorrow Nevre Dies" aren't bad, because they are. But Brosnan was a far surperior Bond compared to Moore.

Sentimental Favorite: 1971's "Diamonds Are Forever" -- If memory serves, this was the first Bond film I ever saw. Shirley Bassey was back for the killer theme song and it had those freaks Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint. The scorpian scene always creeped me out as a kid and I loved Connery's swagger. I used to imitate at school (this was like fourth or fifth grade) while standing in line the way he stood while waiting for Blofeld on the off-shore drilling platform thinking it made me as cool as Bond. Anyway, I still dig that movie.

Unexplicable Critic's Favorite: 1969's "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" -- It has Telly Savalas.

Most Undeservedly Maligned: 1987's "The Living Daylights" -- I had no problem with Timothy Dalton as James Bond. And I think "Living Daylights" is one of the best of the series. The story holds up really well, Dalton actually acts, which may be what turned some people off and the movie never feels half-baked, a chronic Bond film ailment. It's a great film. However, '89's "License to Kill" is another story.

Best Sean Connery Bond Film: Well, "Goldfinger." But we all know, with the execption of the terrible, terrible remake "Never Say Never Again," you can go with any Connery era Bond film and do well.

Best Roger Moore Bond Film: 1977's "The Spy Who Loved Me" -- Like I said, I'm no fan of Moore, but "Spy" was, all around, a pretty decent film. His first, "Live and Let Die" is another solid choice, but, with the VooDoo and the bayou, it gets a little hokey, even for a Bond film.

Best Timothy Dalton Bond Film: See above.

Best Pierce Brosnan Bond Film: For me, it's a straight up tie between his first and his last, 1995's "Goldeneye" and 2002's "Die Another Day." "Goldeneye" literally ressurected the franchise. It was explosive, exciting, well-acted, well-plotted and just flat-out entertaining. But it hasn't aged well, surprisingly. "Die Another Day" had the exact same effect to the franchise after film quality had become really stagnant with Brosnan's two middle films. "Die" was fresh, doing things a lot of other Bond films had never done, like using real geo-politics, successfully finding a darker tone without drowning the Bond swagger and encorporating serious character development.

So, "Casino Royale," the new film with the new Bond. I think producers are doing it right. I'm excited. I think it'll be good.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


The artwork is out (unofficially) and this is what the "U2: Veritgo '05 Live From Chicago" concert DVD will look like. I'm excited, even if it does kind of look like the Elevation Tour DVD. But, I guess, on retrospect the ZOO TV and Zooropa tours were similarly linked in theme and look.

But before I completely start to sound like a nit-wit, no-life fanboy, I'll change the subject. Except to say this. The tour, the U2 machine will be making its Oakland stop next month. For those of you not Northern California geography inclined, Oakland is the closest stop to Redding the tour will be making. It's three hours southwest of here. Needless to say, on a reporter's salary and no one to leave the girls with overnight, Becky and I will not be going. A first for me since joining the U2 bandwagon in earnest in 1993. And to be honest, it was something I had pretty much resigned myself to. Until last weekend.

On Thursday, me, Becky and the girls traveled to Oakland (for the first time since living in Redding) to meet up with Becky's parents for a wedding on Saturday. The weekend was awesome. We spent all of Friday in San Francisco seeing the sites and having the time. All thanks to Becky's very generous and gracious parents. But the hotel we stayed at in Oakland is pretty much right across the street from the arena in which U2 will be playing. The place, of course, had the lighted, flashing electric screen marque proudly announcing the Vertigo Tour stop in November. The realization that I was so close (it was a surprisingly quick three-hours), yet still so far away (I'm a poor man) came crashing down like a load of stage prop Trabbies.

Anyway. Such is life. And as much as this may age me to say, family, interestingly enough, is more important. So, on the evening of Nov. 8, Becky and I will sit down and watch "Rattle and Hum" which she has yet to see all the way through. Something about hi-res DVD and Bono looking very hairy and very, very sweating through-out.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Band Bites Back

I suppose it was inevitable. Some of you may remember my brother-in-law Dave and the little face-off we had about the virtues of U2 vs. his band Creed (I've said it before and I'll say it again, who seriously still listens to Creed? Who ever listened to them in the first place? How is it possible for a band to suck so bad and yet be so popular?).

Well, cue the Strings of Impending Doom, the Creed CD came in the mail over the weekend. I haven't even come close to putting it in the stereo. But I know I'll have to. That was the deal. And he did, reportedly, give my U2 CD a good three listens. Kimmy, his wife and U2 fan, told me there were tracks on the CD even she wasn't crazy about. If you recall the story, Dave's last U2 taunt was something along the lines of U2 not knowing how to rock. So I included some of their rockier tunes. But I guess I should have followed the logic: if he likes Creed, that means he probably likes radio-friendly or at least pap-pop garbage and should have included some of U2's more well-known, radio-friendly stuff. But I'm a geek, if you haven't figured that out yet, so I didn't figure it out.

I'm trying to remember now, but I think I threw on stuff like the new mix of "Gone" and classic "Bullet the Blue Sky." Nothing crazy. I did throw on a live version of "Last Night on Earth" and "Love is Blindness." I don't know. But as soon as I'm done listening to his CD we'll compare notes and see what happened. It's all very junior high and all. But in a way it's fun, because who makes mix tapes anymore? It seems the age of creating personalized song compilations is over.

Friday, September 30, 2005

iPod: Week two

I know no one cares, but I figured since no one really reads the blog, I could go ahead and give an update on my second week as an iPod owner. So take heart brave reader and soldier on. It'll be fun, I promise.

Gigabytes used: 7.84

Number of Songs: 1967

Number of podcasts: 3

Most random recording: "A Fifth of Beethoven" by Walter Murphy -- it's the infamous disco-fied version of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It speaks to me.

Most eclectic recording: "Guadalajara" by the Mariachi Mexico -- it sounds like it was recorded in the early 40s and is just awesome.

Favorite recording currently (it could change at any moment): "Bring on the Night" by The Police

Most embarrassing recording: "Are You Lonesome" an Elvis cover by Bryan Ferry. It's pretty bad.

Most embarrassing artist: Linda Ronstadt

Number of U2 songs: 283

Number of Neneh Cherry songs: 1

So there it is. A snapshot of Rob's iPod. Good times, good times. Enjoy your weekend, I know I will. I'm coming home, Becky! I'm coming home!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

They're magical

It's all about the album art. Well, it used to be. You see CD jewel cases are considerably smaller than LP album covers. I don't think people pay attention to album covers as much anymore. Well, for some, that's a good thing. I was recently direceted to a little Web site called Show And Tell Music -- it's mind-blowing in its thoroughness. Some guy with an album collection to match the Library of Congress has scanned in thousands of LP covers from his collection that he deems to be some of the most abominable album covers known to man. They're absolutely hilarious. I've provided a couple of examples. I'd like to think Laverne is what happened to Nick Andopolis 10 years after high school. Anyway, check out the site when you've got some time. You can thank me later.

On another note, "Veronica Mars" premiered last night and it was brilliant. Exceeded all expectations. Becky and I got hooked on the show during the summer when UPN was playing the reruns. Hands down, it's the best drama on TV right now, UPN be damned. Do yourself a favor and check it out. Trust me.

And as long as we're talking television, "don't talk nonsense to Bob Loblaw." If haven't watched "Arrested Development" then you don't know what it means to laugh. Another great show that really shouldn't be missed.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Old friends

Now that I've got my iPod, I'm trying to decide what to do with my minidisc player. I got it back in the late '90s when every showboater with some cash and a shallow yet loudly professed love of music was buying CD burners. I would smuggly tell them minidiscs were infinitely re-recordable, that they could be edited and programmed and that they were so much cooler than burnable CDs. They still are, by the way.

Anyway, that ship has sailed. Now, we all now, if your music isn't an electronic file, you're the new dope. I love my minidisc player. I've got dozens and dozens of candy-colored minidiscs with sonic treasures all over the place. They used to get us through the long road trips from Roseburg to Salt Lake, from Salt Lake to Richland and even from Portland to Sharm el Sheik.

In fact, because my MD player was also a recorder, I used to plug into my computer's headphone jack and record all sorts of soundfiles from various Web sites -- bootlegged U2, Wilco radio interviews and even NPR stuff. Before we took long road trips I used to go to the This American Life homepage and record three or four shows to listen to while we traveled. For a while my MD was a part of the family.

But, I'm afraid, the little guy is obsolete. The mix MDs I spent hours making are now playlists on my iPod. Most of the jewels, the really rare stuff I found back in the Napster hay-day, I've either found elsewhere or is now available on iTunes. My Md player and MDs are literally obsolete. So do I sell it? I can't imagine there's a market for them and mine is very used. do I bury it in the backyard, with a ceremonial bagpipes and canon fire? That doesn't seem right. Maybe I'll just pack it away, hold on to it for a rainy day, when the iPod breaks down or itself becomes outdated and I need a little something something. Maybe I'll have it bronzed and hang it on a plaque on my wall. At any rate, the time has come to bid it a fond farewell.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

30 is the new 18

Three weeks just seems like a good time in between posts. Not really. I'm lazy. Have I mentioned this before? Anyway. Yesterday was the big day. I turned 30. No longer in my 20s, I feel my youth is officially over. But, even so, it was an amazing day. And, lucky for you, I'm going to tell you all about it.

The day started early. The girls, it seemed could feel the electricity in the air signaling that the 21st of Septemeber is a special day and just couldn't stay in bed. Not unlike Christmas. Anyway, they came bounding into the bedroom and Claire, who had been aware that my birthday was coming, asked me if I was now old. She then told me I didn't look old. It was kind of funny.

At that point, we hear the strains of "Las Mananitas" floating up the stairs and I realize: the day is here. Becky had gone downstairs and started the music. The girls and I came down and we decided, after a little deliberation, to open my big gift there and then. Yes, it was a brand-new 20gb iPod and it is glorious. But, believe it or not, the good stuff was still to come.

Becky slipped into the kitchen and started breakfast. She made pecan-stuffed waffles -- a new recipe we've discovered -- and they were awesome. Don't worry, for the waffle part of the recipe -- which actually calls for frozen waffles -- we use mom's classic waffle recipe. So after dawdling for an hour or so with my iPod, I decide to actually go to work.

As I walk in -- the employee entrance brings you in near the back of the newsroom -- I see people kind of up around rather than sitting at their desks and then I notice that it's over some commotion near my desk. Three balloons floated above my computer and stuck to every free surface are 30 red, construction-paper hearts that open to reveal heart-shaped snap shots and little messages detailing the 30 reasons why Becky and the girls love me. It was better than the iPod. Really.

The reaction from my co-workers was classic. A few are married, but even today, I'm still getting comments about how amazingly sweet and considerate the gesture was and how lucky I am to have someone who would do that for me. I, of course, remind them that they're just as lucky to have me. But they just laugh at me. Seriously though, it was something else. Being a newsroom, our photo editor was there so he gabbed his camera and got shots of the whole scene as it unfolded. That was pretty cool, too.

Later that night we had dinner, opened cards and my last gift, sang the three verses of the birthday song and had chocolate suicide tort with gaunache. It was stellar. I thought 30 was going to be a hard birthday, but this was really, really good. I certainly have no doubt about how much Becky loves me.

Friday, August 26, 2005

iPod, youPod

Yes, I took the plunge and bought an iPod yesterday. I've been aching for one for a couple of years, but as we all know, they're really dang expensive. It's been a long, difficult journey for me. When the U2 iPod was released last year, I thought I would die. For $350 I could be the ultimate U2 fan and have an iPod. But the price tag killed me. Last winter, with my combined Christmas money -- mostly because of generous in-laws -- I probably had enough to get one. But when it actually came down to buying it, I couldn't spend $300 for what is essentially a very hip, very pretty Walkman. But the desire was insatiable. By February, I had signed up at in a pathetic attempt to get one, hence the link on the right side of the page. By June, I had sold my XBox as a means of generating funds to buy one. I sold books and DVDs on to bring in more cash.

Then last month, the next generation of iPods was released. The photo models with the color screen. They look great. A co-worker got one just last week and it's been the envy of all the newsroom. Yesterday, I got back on to to drool a little more over the virtual iPod I had sitting in my wish list. Yeah, that's wish with a capital "W." Anyway, the older generation iPod, the one with the b&w screen had dropped about $60 in price. If I ordered it through Amazon, and signed up for the Amazon Visa, I could get the iPod for $209. It was a big dilema. I mean, who doesn't want the new one, the fancy color screen one, the latest on the market? And I still had that hope in the back of my mind I could somehow get the U2 version. But Amazon, in it's description of the b&w screen iPod, used the ultimate selling tool, "while supplies last." And I knew it was true. At the most these things were selling for an unbelievable $239. With the Amazon Visa discount, $209. I knew they would go fast.

So I conferred with Becky, decided I could always upgrade if I ever had the money, and bought the iPod. I'll use some birthday money to buy it, so, even though it comes Sept. 6, Becky's making me wait until the 21st to open it. But hey, I've waited this long, what's another few weeks? I'm hip already, right?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Back to School

I've been neglecting my blog. Because I'm lazy. "Tell me something I don't know," many of you are thinking. And correctly so. If I weren't lazy, I would be my brother H.L., clerking for a hot-shot judge in the DC circuit court. The only way to best a clerkship like that is to actually clerk for the Supreme Court. Actually, I probably wouldn't be a lawyer if I wasn't lazy. I've be ... a better reporter? I dunno. Sometimes I think this isn't the profession for me, but I always come back to how perfect the job fits my likes and passions. Maybe if I weren't lazy, I'd just be freelancing on the side for big-time magazines or writing a book.

Anyway, I'm making no sense. The real news is this: Claire started kindergarten yesterday. That's it. I'm old enough to have a child in the public education system. It will only be a matter of time before she's graduated high school and left for college. It's so surreal. Part of it, I'm sure, is my inability to accept my station in life. In my mind's eye, I'm still a 21- or 22-year-old.

But what surprised me about taking Claire to her first day of school was realizing that I was relenquishing control of her life. She is now in someone else's hands, for better or for worse. That's hard. But I know this is the best thing. It would be infinitely worse to home-school her, stunting her emotional and social growth by never giving her the chance to get out on her own. Parenting blows my mind. I think that's the only conclusion I can come up with.

Age is a weird, slippery thing. I turn 30 next month. I used to be dreading it, actually, for the same resons I can't believe I have a child in school. I've been dreading it for the past three years, actually. And because of that, as my birthday approaches I've become more comfortable with it. But it's still weird. Weird because there are memories fresh in my mind from elementary school that make my childhood only seem like momemts ago, not decades ago. I always thought that when I got old I'd feel old. But that's not the case so I'm not sure how to deal with it. I'm guessing the key is to not deal with it, but to just go with the flow -- just keep trucking down that road of life and don't look back too often. And I guess that's my problem. I like to look back. I'm unhealthily nostalgic.

It's all so strange. And I have a canker that won't go away.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

This is classic. I was clearing off my desk today and came across a stack of hand-written thank-you notes from a class of junior high school kids. I was at their school in May for career day and spoke to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders about journalism as a career. Most of the notes were short, some were insincere and a few made no sense. But one was classic:

To: the Journalist,

Thanks for coming to our school. Most of the kids probably thought your presentation was boring but I thought it was o.k. Even though I don't want to be a journalist I still wanted to find out what it was like to be one. Maybe it isn't as bad as it sounds.
Anyway, thanks for coming.

From: Leine

p.s. I have a newspaper class I have to take and it's really boring. But your job sounds neat.

So there it is. What's funny is I left that day totally convinced I rocked their little junior high world. Guess not. Anyway, I'll throw one more in for good measure. Should give you some confidence in our public school system:

Dear record serchlight resechor

I whold like to say than kyow.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

This may be a little self-serving, but it's so entertaining it's hard to deny. This is basically Skutch defined. Follow the links, one by one, to watch the story unfold:

Skutch, a group ... of students. The Skutch reference appears about two-thirds of the way down, next to the pictures of the rafters.

Skutch in the news. The debate starts at Message 20. You'll have to scroll down a bit.

Skutch defined. Cody clears things up.

And here, of course, is Cody's creation.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

It's been a long week. My Dad and Mom came to visit last Tuesday and just left yesterday. It was a lot of fun giving them a peak of Rogers life in Redding. But it's still kind of wierd to have your parents visit you rather than the other way around. It took a good two days before everyone was relaxed and acting pretty normal. I'm not sure why. We loved having my folks there but it seemed like it took them a while not to feel like they were invading our space or shaking up the routine. Anyway. It's easier going to visit them. Which we'll be doing in November when we fly out to Washington, D.C.

It's funny, I never realized how little there is to do in Redding until I had to entertain guests for a week. Maybe that was the problem -- I thought of my parents as guests I had to entertain rather than, well, my parents. Anyway. We took them on a tour of the Shasta Dam. We had to kill time. And admittedly it was pretty interesting. We took them to Whiskeytown Lake, which was pretty fun. Though neither wore swimsuits or got wet. Anyway. They're off to Seattle to visit my sister and her family and we'll see if they have a better time there. I'm guessing they will. It's Seattle.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

In honor of John Bolton's new job, I wanted to offer my hearty congratulations:

"Senator George Voinovich, the Ohio Republican who became one of Mr. Bolton's strongest critics, said yesterday that he planned to send the new ambassador a book on how to be an effective manager. It couldn't hurt, but this may be the first time a world superpower has used its top United Nations post as a spot for the remedial training of a troublesome government employee."

Like the New York Times' editorial page, we here at the Rob Report send our best to John Bolton in his new job. Keep those staplers on the desk, John!

Friday, July 29, 2005

It's Completely Useless Information Friday. To get the ball rolling, here's a link to a fully interactive map to Mexican Highways circa January 1955. It's a gentle reminder that Pemex is the combustible of champions.

Feel free to add your submissions to Completely Useless Information Friday below. I'll throw in one more, a personal favorite: Lilek's Gallery of Regrettable Food. Who thought snarking old cookbooks could be so funny?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I think an update is in order. A few months ago, my brother-in-law Dave and I got into a bit of a tussle over U2 and Creed here, arguing which was the better band. I'm still scratching my head -- I really thought Creed fans died out with the 90s.

Anyway, to my point. We agreed we'd swap CDs, compilations of what we thought were the best or at least the most approachable of the two bands' masterworks. We'd both listen and give summaries of each individual song. That was the deal. I sent mine off, he never his.

Anyway, his no show essentially forfeits him from the contest which means the argument victory goes to me. Not only does this speak to the quality of Creed fans, it speaks directly to the quality of music they produce. The obviously underwhelming desire to share can really only mean that their music inspires nothing in the listener. In so many words, they suck. They've always sucked and it doesn't matter what they do in the future, they will forever continue to suck. And then be forgotten. If there's any mercy in this universe. Did I mention they suck?

I mean really, who in their right mind argues Creed is a better band than U2? I can see backing Radiohead or making a case for Weezer. But Creed? Are you listening Dave? Go home and listen to your Neil Diamond. Go turn on your heart light and talk to your chair. Then, when the tears have dried, give me a call and I'll help you establish some legitimacy as a music lover.

Monday, July 25, 2005

I'm trying to use the photo feature more because, as a reporter, I know nothing makes big blocks of text easier to read than having a nice, colorful photo nextdoor.

So, the following is a shout out to that special breed of dog that populate(d) the streets of Mexico while I and my fellow compatriots were there -- the mangy, bald, disease-ridden mutt of Northern Mexico. This photo has actually been making the rounds, but our A&E editor actually came across it on the AP photo service wire. If that doesn't make it legitimate, I don't know what does.

Friday, July 22, 2005

It all comes back to Utah. If you're Mormon, you're going to be connected in someway to the state, whether it's through a relative you have, by a pilgrimage you took or in photos from the temples-of-the-world calendar you have hanging in your kitchen. But when it comes down to it, there are really only two kinds of Mormon -- those born and raised in the Beehive state and those born and raised outside the state.

The distinction comes up here because Becky and I have some friends who have recently decided to move back to Utah. Both were born and raised there and the year they've spent here in Redding is the first time either -- with the obvious exception of Dave's mission -- have lived outside of their hometown. And a year here was all it took to convince them Zion was where they wanted to be.

It highlights the classic tet-a-tet in the Mormon culture. Those who are from Utah seldom leave and if they do, leave to find a way to return to remain in the state permenantly. Those who are Mormon and grew up outside the state -- with the exception of those from Idaho (more on that later) -- at first don't understand the Utah draw and then once they get an inkling of it, resent it and disparage it.

I grew up in Colorado and moved to Utah when I was 16. By that time, I knew the state pretty well. We visited Salt Lake and Provo at least once a year. It's a great place to visit. But it was wierd. Whole cottage industries based on theological tenets of the church existed in the real world there -- like stores specifically designed to outfit missionaries and clothing boutiques which sold all-white suits and dresses. And it all existed in a world that assumed everyone watching TV, walking down the street or reading the newspaper was Mormon.

Obviously, you grow up anywhere else and you know you're different because you're Mormon. In Utah, you grow up knowing you're the same as everyone else. You're high school chemistry teacher makes Relief Society jokes during class. The local news has a Conference watch. As an outsider, you begin to see and think of Utah Mormons as insulated and closed-minded, taking for granted their religion and making it completely commonplace. It was surreal then and it still is today.

So obviously a huge disconnect exists between Utah Mormons and mission field Mormons. As our friends prepare to move, Becky and I argue that they can do more good for the church outside of Utah than in, which I think is the central argument between those who live in and those who live out of the state.

Recently my Skutch ( friends talkedabout who was living in Utah, who was living out of Utah and who was planning to stay and/or return. Of course, everyone but me is either there now or has plans to return in the next five years. The desire to return to Utah, the desire to stay is, second only to the strange commonplace religion-infused culture, the one thing Utah Mormons are attacked for more than anything else.

In a religion that esteems missionary work as one of its three reasons for being, why do so many chose to live in a state that is three-quarters Mormon? In a religion that instructs you to stand out from the crowd, to be a beacon on a hill, why would you want to stay where you're the same as and almost indistinguishable from everyone else? Well, obviously, I have a few ideas.

With our friends who are moving back, as with, I would argue, the vast majority of the state, I believe it's the comfort zone. It's comfortable to live in a place you know, around people with whom you're familiar. It seems everyone wants to live within 15 minutes of their parents. Dave has openly stated that he wants to move back so that he can be mothered by his mom.

For those who never leave, I believe its still the comfort zone issue but mixed with a little ignorance. There's the undeniable sensation when you visit Utah that most people believe nothing exists beyond the borders of thier state.

Now, these are broad generalities, mind you. I knew while I lived there in high school and I know now Utah Mormons who clearly don't fit that mold. But I would argue these people are in the minority. But the point I'm trying to make is simply this: Utah Mormons are abnormal and unhealthy. Hahaha. I jest. No, seriously, more Mormons should spread their influence, prompt some personal growth and live outside the state of Utah. That's all I'm trying to say.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

It looks like it was Karl Rove. I know, big surprise. What's a little national security when your man's future is at stake? Or not. As a favorite blogger of mine put it, "What's really scary is that this is how Rove behaved when Bush was had a 62 percent approval rating. Who knows what kind of stuff he's pulling now?"

Here's Newsweek's story:

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Since Bush announced he'd speak to the nation tonight to shore up support on the Iraq debacle, I've been thinking about what bothers me most about the war, the public's reponse to it and the current administration.

For me, it comes down to ideology. It's not about facts, it's not about quotes, it's not even about right and wrong. Since the beginning its been about ideology and the idea that America can and should police the world and promote freedom where it seems best by whatever means seem best.

Now that the smoking gun has been revealed, the world knows the Bush administration fixed the facts to build the case to go to war. But a lot of us don't care because if we buy into his ideology it doesn't matter that he took the moral low-ground there. The country can and should do what it wants to protect its interests abroad. We don't need an excuse.

It's the same reason his administration can paint those who oppose the war as anti-American. Those people clearly don't buy into the adminsitration's ideology and thus don't buy into the administration's America (nevermind that essentially what makes us American is the ability to question our government's actions and motives).

And clearly the Iraq invasion was supposed to fit under the war on terror. But that doesn't hold water anymore because we know Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, didn't have WMDs, nor did he sanction al Qada within his borders. So the administration has gone on to use the excuse that reform in the Middle East will turn the tide on the war on terror and has to start somewhere so what better place than a free and democratic Iraq. I won't argue with that.

But. Like Tom Friedman has argued time and again, if the U.S. was really interested in reforming the Middle East, on Sept. 12 Bush should have created an energy policy that completely reduced our dependency on foriegn oil. Where do you think these people get their money? I mean really. Even Billy Madison could figure that out. But on Sept. 12 Bush was instead talking about invading Iraq.

So, now we find ourselves in a mess clearly of our own making. If we don't stay and see that it gets cleaned up then we really do have a threat to our national security. But look at what our misguided, fumbling attempt to exert our power and authority in the world has done and what it will almost certainly continue to do: weaken our country's economy, Army and national unity -- the three things that really do make us vulnerable to outside attacks.

Friday, June 24, 2005

And here's me at the piano with my oldest, Claire. She's an increbible piano player.

Well, now that posting photos has become so easy, I'll post a few of mine. First, the fam.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The time to return to Mazatlan has come. It's been far too long, with far too many excuses. The time to go is now. When I was learning Spanish down there, all the members and my investigators would tell me, "tienes que hablar como un perico" and "querer es poder." Well speaking like parrot has nothing to do with this current situation but the fact that wanting equals being able to do, does. I will find the money, I will arrange the trip, I will make it work because I want to go back. It's been too long. And I don't wnat to hear that it won't be the same, that everything will be different now doesn't matter. It's Mazatlan and I want to go back.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Only because I love Frank Rich. Rich wrote about Watergate and drew the obligitory parrallels to the current administration and its regard for the media. Here's a couple quotes:

"In the most recent example, all the president's men slimed and intimidated Newsweek by accusing it of being an accessory to 17 deaths for its errant Koran story; led by Scott McClellan, they said it was unthinkable that any American guard could be disrespectful of Islam's holy book. These neo-Colsons (White House counsel for Nixon) easily drowned out Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, both of whom said that the riots that led to the 17 deaths were unrelated to Newsweek. Then came the pièce de résistance of Nixon mimicry: a Pentagon report certifying desecrations of the Koran by American guards was released two weeks after the Newsweek imbroglio, at 7:15 p.m. on a Friday, to assure it would miss the evening newscasts and be buried in the Memorial Day weekend's little-read papers."

But here's my favorite:

"'The fundamental right of Americans, through our free press, to penetrate and criticize the workings of our government is under attack as never before' was how the former Nixon speech writer William Safire put it on this page almost nine months ago. The current administration, a second-term imperial presidency that outstrips Nixon's in hubris by the day, leads the attack, trying to intimidate and snuff out any Woodwards or Bernsteins that might challenge it...

"The attacks continue to be so successful that even now, long after many news organizations, including The Times, have been found guilty of failing to puncture the administration's prewar W.M.D. hype, new details on that same story are still being ignored or left uninvestigated. The July 2002 "Downing Street memo," the minutes of a meeting in which Tony Blair and his advisers learned of a White House effort to fix "the intelligence and facts" to justify the war in Iraq, was published by The London Sunday Times on May 1. Yet in the 19 daily Scott McClellan briefings that followed, the memo was the subject of only 2 out of the approximately 940 questions asked by the White House press corps, according to Eric Boehlert of Salon."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

For those who saw, last week when the Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot reviewed U2's concerts in the windy city, he gave the band an essentially solid review but got on them for selling out, more or less. He said they've started to go the way of the Rolling Stones, not taking risks and going for the easy road. Bono took offense. So much so that he requested a face-to-face interview with Kot to make his case for why U2 is as good as its ever been and why rock needs the support of music critics.

What came out of the interview is intriguing stuff. One could argue Bono almost bushes the boundaries of fan loyalty. Turns out he doesn't think much of prog rock. If rock's going to survive and compete it has to be radio friendly and prog rock isn't. But it was his comments on U2's own experiments and fan-fave "POP" that caught me nearly off-guard (I argue Bono can never completely catch you off-guard because you always know he's going to say at least one thing completely half-assed).

Says Bono, "We had 10 years of experimentation. We decided to rope it in, and tie ourselves to only one thing. And that's the only discipline. Is it a great song? Is it fresh? Experimenting in rock is at its best when you dream from the perimeters and bring it back to the center.

"We did our 'Zooropa,' we did our 'Passengers,' even our 'Pop' experiment. 'Discotheque,' we viewed it as our response to Peter Gabriel experimenting. We wanted it to be our 'Sledgehammer.' Imagine if 'Discotheque' was a No. 1 pop song? Now that record makes sense. We didn't have the discipline to screw the thing down, and turn it into a magic pop song. We didn't have the discipline to make 'Mo Fo' into a loud concoction of rock 'n' roll, trance crossover. We learned from that album. We'd become progressive rock! Ahhh! It's on us!"

To which Kot (and really the rest of U2's serious fans) groaned: "You're killing me now. I thought those '90s albums were great. I didn't understand 'Achtung Baby' right away. But after seeing the tour, I realized it was your best album. I still feel that way. And I loved 'Zooropa' in that way, and 'Passengers.' I even liked 'Pop.' To me, you guys were showing us how it should be done. You were [screwing] with our heads and making great music. You were doing those weird ballads from 'Pop' as an encore at Soldier Field [in 1997]. I loved that you were so far out on a limb with saw in hand, and you were trying things, pushing things. And now you never play songs from those albums anymore. What happened?"

And that's when Bono dropped the bomb. Five or six years ago this would have gotten me really excited. I love "POP" -- by far the most underappriciated album of the group. But we've all heard the story of how the band was rushed to finish it because of the impending tour and the resulting album was really considered unfinished by the band. I would have loved the idea of them going back in the finish it. But not now. Not after reading what Bono said, not after the last two staid albums they've released. It makes me worry what will happen to the music. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's the bomb Bono dropped:

"There is still talk about the band going back in and fixing 'Pop,' actually going in… because the bones [of a great album] are there. It didn't communicate the way it was intended to. It's my daughter's favorite U2 album, and people are warming up to it now. But it was supposed to change the mood of that summer [1997]. An album changes the mood of a summer when you walk out of a pub and you have those songs in your head. And you hear them coming from a car, an open window. It changes the mood of the season. Instead it became a niche record. And I know you're a man who appreciates the niche. And I'm glad you appreciate that one, but that's not what it was intended to be. With 'Pop,' I always think if we'd just had another month, we could have finished it."

So there it is. It's post-structuralism at the fringe. Can you go back and tinker with your creation once its already been consumed by the masses. I guess George Lucas has answered that question for us. It'll be interesting to see what U2 does.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Well, I saw it. Here's what I thought.

I guess a little like Luke redeems his father at the end of "Return of the Jedi," George Lucas' last "Star Wars" lovechild "Revenge of the Sith" redeems him from the past two mistakes he made, "Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones."

The film is far from perfect. Dialogue is still woody, plot holes (believe it or not) abound and Jar Jar still shows up (although, this time he has no lines -- Lucas must be learning something). But the action is satisfying, the effects are breathtaking and the movie leaves you feeling like maybe Lucas does care about "Star Wars" afterall.

The final showdown between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker was wonderful -- all except for the very end, but more on that later. For the first time, Lucas makes you feel like Obi-Wan really may be the powerful Jedi we see in the original trilogy. Anakin shows how anger, rage and jealously can truly eat you away from the inside out.

Yoda was wonderfully realized, 'though I always felt like I was watching a CGI character -- I think Gollum is still the gold-standard. But I enjoyed little CGI Yoda on screen so much that I didn't care. When he spoke of going to lead clone armies to battle on the Wookie home planet because he had a special relationship with the wookies, I believed it. The scene with his final battle with the Emperor were some of my favorite from the film. However, those two items also led to some of the films -- and I think overall -- some the of series biggest flaws.

As I see it, the lingering problem with Lucas's prequals is the characters and their development. The final scene between Padme and Anakin for example has Padme proclaiming that she doesn't know Anakin anymore, that's he's completely changed. Unfortunately for us, he still seems like the same old Anakin, only this time he's wearing a black cloak, not a brown one. And that leads to what I thought was the biggest problem of all: Anakin's embrace of the dark side. I thought the motivation was there, doing it to try and remove what he percieved as a threat to Padme's life. But to make it believable, at least for me, spend some time on it. One minute he's chopping off Mace Windu's hand, the next he's swearing his undying aligience to the Emperor. I think you can connect those dots, but take the time to do it to make it believable.

Then there's all the gaps in the story's narrative logic. Obi-Wan telling Anakin the fights over because he, Obi-Wan, has the high ground. What was that all about and why didn't Darth Sidious use that argument on Yoda when they were having their final showdown in the Senate chamber (I still loved that fight scene). And Yoda threw in the towel pretty quickly, too, didn't he? And why put Chewbacca in the movie. Are we really supposed to believe that after becoming a revered warrior on his home world he spends his twilight years playing second fiddle to Han? I think it also would have made more sense to have the Jedi actually hunted down and destroyed -- maybe over the course of a couple decades -- than to have them all offed when some Clone trooper gets Code 66. I mean, they're Jedis. I would argue it's not good movie making to throw events into a film to keep it moving when they have no internal logic with the storyline.

And I know all this sounds like fanboy nitpicking, but even a casual veiwing of the six films will readily reveal the flaws. So I'll bore you only with one last harp: the time element. In the Star Wars universe, 20 years transpire from the end of "Sith" to the beginning of "Hope." Ewan McGreggor, who plays Obi-Wan in "Sith" looks more than 20 years younger than "A New Hope's" Alec Guiness. Alec Guiness, in speaking to Luke in "Hope" makes it sounds as though the Empire has ruled the universe for at least a couple of generations, not for a couple of decades. Not to mention Obi-Wan's line, "Obi-Wan, now that's a name I've heard since before you were born." Not anymore. All of this kind of took away from the movie.

So, greatfully, we'll always have "Star Wars: Clone Wars." We'll always have the original trilogy. And when all that is exhausted, I'll pop in "Revenge of the Sith" and dig on all the action.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Well, I got my ticket for tomorrow's 12:35 showing of "Revenge of the Sith." I've never considered myself a huge "Star Wars" fan. In my mind I was always a more run-of-the-mill "Star Wars" fans. You know, I saw watched the original triology a ton growing up. I thought the Millenium Falcon was the coolest space ship in the galaxy and I had a few of the toys.

In high school, back in the (gulp) mid 90s, I even went to the theater to see the entire triology play back-to-back-to-back after LucasFilms remastered in THX the sound and image of all three films. That was pretty cool. My friend OJ even airbrushed us T-shirts for the occasion. Anyway. I saw the special editions when they were released in theaters in the late 90s and even got pretty excited for the prequels when those announcements were made.

I never dressed like a character to go see the films. I never camped out for tickets. And after I saw "Phantom Menace" I was dissapointed, but not really surprised. I never even saw "Attack of the Clones" in theaters. In fact over the last four or five years I'd almost forgotten about "Star Wars," relagating it to that same place in my brain reserved for movies like "The Last Star Fighter" and "Kafka" -- movies that were good once but kind of forgettable.

And then Lucas announced he was releasing the original trilogy on DVD. I'd never purchased the triology on VHS and when Lucas announced the DVD plans, I didn't think I'd buy them, either. But then the hype built, the magazine published their gushing recollections of those heady days in the late 70s and early 80s and I bit. I bought the DVDs the day they came out and was swept up all over again in the "Star Wars" affection of my youth. Yeah, the DVDs had their dissapointments -- Han shot first Lucas, deal with it. But overall it was really, really good. And then Lucas got Genndy Tartakovsky to do "Clone Wars" and being the mad "Samurai Jack" fan that I am, I was actually getting excited about things "Star Wars" again.

And then I saw "Clone Wars" and wondered how a collection of 20, 3-minute cartoons could be better than the last 4 hours of "Star Wars" films Lucas had shot. Oh yeah, Lucas wasn't really involved. That explains that. "Clone Wars" was everything I wanted the new "Star Wars" motion pictures to be and weren't. It was exciting, thoughtful, insightful and just plain exhilerating. They were awesome. And before I knew it, I was pretty geared up to see "Revenge of the Sith." I'm still not getting my expectations up too high. I know if I expect it to be anything more that "Return of the Jedi" I'll be dissapointed. All I need is for it to be better than the previous two and I'll be happy. I'll feel like it was money appropriately spent.

So there it is. I go see it tomorrow at 12:30. I'll let you all know (all one of you) what I think.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

It's a lazy man's post -- in a way -- because I'm essentially filling out a form letter and calling it content. But, I'm a music fanatic and this form letter was fun:

1. Of all the bands/artists in your CD/record collection, which one do you own the most albums by?
Easily U2. Including bootlegs, I have 33.

2. What was the last song you listened to?
"I'm not Your Baby" - U2 and Sinead O'Connor

3. What's in your CD player right now?
U2 "Pop"

4. What song would you say sums you up?
Today? I'd say Billy Bragg's "Stetson Kennedy"

5. What's your favorite local band?
Bitner -- but HotQua comes in a close second. The Umpqua Valley would be lost without Joe Ross.

6. What was the last show you attended?
It's been a while, what with the reporter's income and two young'uns -- It was REM and Wilco in Vancouver, Wash. two years ago.

7. What artist do you consider to be very underrated?
Joe Ross -- seriously underrated. The guy plays a dulcimer like you wouldn't believe.

8. What's the worst band you've ever seen in concert?
I saw Iron Butterfly open at classic rock concert when I was in high school. They were pretty bad.

9. What band do you love musically but hate the members of?
I know it's hard to hate the members of the Beatles. And I don't hate them all -- George Harrison was a king among men. But as talented as John and Paul were, they were both kinda pricks.

10. What is the most musically involved you have ever been?
I used to go to this guitar jam that pretty cool.

11. What show are you looking forward to?
U2's Vertigo Tour

12. What is your favorite band shirt?
It's toss up between my PopMart concert T and my Wilco bombs-away T.

13. What musician would you like to hang out with for a day?
Jeff Tweedy would be too depressing. Bono's too ADD and Larry's too mean. Maybe the Edge, probably Adam. I'd love to hang with Elvis, post-comeback 70s Elvis. That would be awesome.

14. Metal question- Jeans and Leather vs. Cracker Jack clothes?
Cracker Jack clothes?

15. Sabbath or solo Ozzy?

16. Commodores or solo Lionel Ritchie?
Hmmmmm.... Neither.

17. Blackjack or solo Michael Bolton?
Sweet merciful crap! Michael Bolton?

18. The Eagles or solo Don Henley?
Don's got great solo stuff but I love early Eagles, too. I'm torn.

19. The Police or solo Sting?
Police. But I can't deny Sting's first four albums.

20. Doesn't emo suck?
Not really

21. Name 4 flawless albums.
U2 "Achtung Baby"
Pink Floyd "Dark Side of the Moon"
Wilco "Being There"
Beatles "Rubber Soul"

22. Did you know that filling out this survey makes you a music geek?
Really? Oh no! I'm screwed!

23. What was the greatest decade for music?
It certainly wasn't the 80s, even if Rolling Stone named U2 band of the 80s and Time called them rock's hottest ticket in 87. So much came out of the 70s. I'll say the 70s.

24. How many music-related videos/DVDs do you own?
U2 "Rattle and Hum," U2 "Under a Blood Red Sky," U2 "Best Of 1980-1990: The Videos," U2 "Best Of 1990-2000: The Videos," U2 "Elevation: Live From Boston," U2 "U2 Go Home - Live at Slane Castle" and Wilco "I'm Trying to Break Your Heart."

25. Do you like Journey?
Not since 1989.

26. What is your favorite movie soundtrack?
"Grosse Point Blank" is good. "Singles" was a classic. I really enjoy "Henry V" as pompous as that may sound.

27. What was your last musical "phase" before you wised up?
When I was a sophomore I listened to mainstream, middle of the dial radio country for about four months. I thought the songs told great stories. Now, when family or old friends bring the phase up I either hang my head in shame or emphatically deny it. I mean, I was listening to Reba and Randy Travis, not to mention Garth "omni-present in the early 90s" Brooks.

28. What's the crappiest CD/record/etc you've ever bought?
Since I'm usually scrounging up any money I spend, I'm usually pretty careful with it when I use it on music. I could have done without that Howie Day CD, but that's by no means embarrassing. I actually bought a .38 Special tape when I was in junior high. I certainly wouldn't do that today.

29. Do you prefer vinyl or Cd's?
Vinyl's fun, but CDs are more verstile.

30. What is your guilty pleasure CD, that being the CD you love but would be ashamed to admit you have in your collection?
Some people laugh a my Billy Joel "Glass Houses" CD. I'm not proud of my ELO "El Dorado" record. My Emerson Lake & Palmer "Black Moon" tape is kind of embarrassing, too. It's so earnest and about 15 years past it's time.

So there it is. Feel free to add yours.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Maz

I've been missing Mazatlan a lot lately. It's just, for me, spring is kind of synonymous with the place. It was Spring 1995 when I first started to feel comfortable there and it was spring 1996 when I returned and felt like I had come home. To give you an idea, I checked out a map of the city's bus routes and could just about feel myself there again, imagining the city as I rode through it, remember the sites, the landmarks, the neighborhoods and even the street names. Part of the problem is my tendency to indulge nostalgia. Mazatlan was great and I dwell on that, wishing there was a way I could recapture the time I spent there, the things I felt there, all that stuff. It's only compounded by the fact that if I went back to visit, it would be as tourist. I'd spend maybe a week there and come home. There would be no way to get back what I experienced there 10 years. I guess that's why people say you can never go home again. You can't. The past has passed. But I'd like to think I could live there again someday. It seems the only way, in my mind, to reconnect with the city, the culture, the people, the members, is to live there. Then I could troll the markets, eat the food, visit the members, go to church, introduce Becky to everything wonderful about the city, give my girls some culture. I'll keep dreaming, keep wishing I was pulling in seven figures a year so I could buy a little bungalow in downtown Maz and eat all the sweet, sweet Mexican food I wanted. I guess I better write that book.

Friday, April 01, 2005

I've been accused of being a music snob. As you can see, I've clearly come down hard on Dave for being a Creed fan and as such negate most of his music opinions because he's a fan.

I should say, I've always tried to keep the attitude live and let live. When it comes to music, listen to whatever floats your boat -- I won't judge.

But I draw the line at people who have scienfically provable bad taste in music yet 1. claim they have excellent taste in music and 2. scorn others for that they deem as their bad taste in music (And I know this is where I teeter on hypocrisy).

But don't get the wrong idea. I'm really not this anal. And I'm a big fan of the guilty pleasure -- you know, typically bad music you like regardless (I've been known to crack out the Enrique Iglesias and Huey Lewis and the News from time to time). But by very nature of being a guilty pleasure, you're acknowledging the music is bad. And that's the problem, it would seem in Dave's case, there's no guilt. He's arguing the music is good to begin with.

And, in the end I wouldn't care about any of this. Exept that he continually tries to argue the point that U2 is a sucky band, when obvioulsy we can all see this simply isn't the case. I easily acknowledge there are people on this planet who don't like U2 or can't stand Bono, but most of those people fess up to the fact that the band is dang good at what they do. Start arguing something else and I'm gonna come down on you like a ton of Barry Manilow records.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Who said anything about crap?

The problem with trading music is that you have to trade. A promise to indulge someone else's taste is of course the only way to get them to take in your own. No news here, I'm a huge U2 fan. I feel like I'm validated in my love of the band by the critical response they get, the huge following they have and of course my own response to their music. It's almost like you could scientifically prove they're a good rock band. Which is another way for me to say my opinion is right and if you don't agree you're clearly in the wrong.

Anyway, I have a brother-in-law, a few years younger than me, who is a huge Creed fan and clearly in the wrong with U2. We go at it every now and then arguing over the stregnths and weaknesses of both bands. In the end we all know Dave's life would be better if he stopped listening to Creed and learned to love U2. I feel justified in my position because you could throw a rock in the air at a music critics conference and have perfect confidence that it would land on someone who has written Creed off as a soulless, monotonous, talentless waste of music recordings. And that's the fun thing about music. He would argue the same thing about U2.

So last week, talking about the upcoming U2 tour, I suggested he could go -- a live U2 show has converted countless -- and he suggested that all thier music was dull and boring. I in turn suggested I could burn him a mix that was anything but. He said he'd take my mix -- and listen to it -- if I promised to do the same with Creed.

So knowing that I want him to give U2 a fair chance, I feel like I have to give Creed a fair chance which I most painfully don't want to do. But I will. Hoping that it will convert him into a believer. And he's of course hoping the same for me. And that leaves me with two abhorent fears: 1.) I'll end up liking Creed and 2.) he'll lord it over me for the rest of my life. I don't want to like Creed. No one wants to like Creed, but they were one of the best selling acts of the new century for a reason. I would like to think its because the average American has terrible taste in music (yes, I'm one of those types of music fans). But I have guilty pleasures too. I like AC/DC, I like Huey Lewis and the News. I even like John (Don't call me Johnny Cougar) Mellencamp. Waht if I develop a similar taste for Creed. I stand against everything they are -- water-down homogenized, generic grunge rock. What could be worse? Nickelback? Yes. But Creed's running a very close second.

Anyway. I'm dreading listening to the CD and feeling hypocritical because I know Dave's feeling the same way. But I'm telling myself it's different with Dave because it's U2 he's going to be listening to. It's scientifically proven that they're a good rock band, right?

Friday, March 18, 2005

There's a lot of reasons I love U2. Here's another. It's from the band's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Monady. Say what you want, but the band has perspective.

“It’s so hard to keep things fresh and not to become a parody of yourself,” Edge told the audience. “If you’ve ever seen that movie ‘Spinal Tap,’ you’ll know how easy it is to parody what we all do. The first time I ever saw it, I didn’t laugh, I wept. I wept because I recognized so many of those scenes.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Two posts in one day, I know this foreshadows something cosmic. But then maybe not, since I'm the only one who reads this. Anyway, I just read that the Jayhawks have decided to call is quits. It's been 20 years so I guess its understandable. But man, what a great band. It kind of makes me sad. So go check out "Rainy Day Music" or "Smile" or "Hollywood Town Hall" and think to better days.
I'm wondering why America has to be a superpower. Or why we can't let other countries become superpowers. I really think that's what the EU is trying to do, become a superpower. But I don't think there are many around here who are excited about it. So I'm wondering, is it really all about the power? Why can't we be a more normal global power like Britain. Why does it have to be super? It sure seems like it would be cheaper. And maybe safer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Some friends and I have been talking about music taste and realized much of it came from within our group while were in high school. What didn't rub off from friends was forced on us by older siblings. It's been fun to look at why I listen to what I listen to.

Pre-Joshua Tree U2 -- My bother Dan (I argued most of my junior year that I only liked early U2 -- oh how foolish I was.)

Post-Joshua Tree U2 -- Ben, Norm, Jentz and that Zoo TV tour video OJ lent me.

The Samples -- Rob Gillespie

John Denver -- Greg

Billy Joel -- Dan

Midnight Oil -- Cody-I also break out "'74-'75" every so often. I'm sure that came from one your incredible mix tapes, Cody.

Sting -- My sister Janelle

Wilco and/or Uncle Tupelo -- Dave Anderson

The trifecta of the Who, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd -- all came from Dan.

Never took Michael Jackson seriously until I started hanging out at OJ's house. I still regularly break out "Billy Jean" in the shower.

REM -- Pete and I'm sure everyone else that listened to them.

Neil Young -- Jentz - at least, I remember listening to "Harvest" at his house and getting hooked.

I also owe Tom for lending me his audio tape recording of the film "Rattle and Hum." For the longest time after that "Bad" was my favorite U2 song.

Jeff Buckley -- John Lameroux. He also got me to check out Supergrass, Gomez and the Afghan Whigs.

Push Stars -- Danny Anderson.

And then there's the stuff I started listending to because of U2: Johnny Cash, John Coltrane, B.B. King, the Corrs, the Sterophonics, P.J. Harvey and the like. So there it is. Good times.
Here's the poo. I stumbled across an article in Wired magazine last week about those free iPods ads and banners splashed all over the internet. There are scams aplenty offering free iPods, but the Web site -- according to Wired -- is legit. If you and five friends sign up for some kind of service from the companies they shill, they'll send you the iPod.

Here's the link to the Wired story, if your curious:,2125,64614,00.html

I want to do it, but it feels so NuSkin/Amway that I'm hesitant. But then again, I'd be getting my iPod. So I started the process; we'll see what happens. Anyone's eligible of course. So the five people I find would automatically start the process for their own free iPod, or you can just start on your own without my referral. Or you can quiety shake your head and say, "What happened? Rob used to be so sensible. When did he turn into such a sucker?"

So, if you're willing to let me exploit you, here's the link to the Web site:

Or if you simply want to check it out on your own, you just go to

And please, feel free to tell me I'm insane.

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