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.

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