Trust the Gene Genie

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmastime is here

I've been meaning to blog for weeks but this has prevented it. However, as I look around, I see I'm being shown up by just about everyone. Thom is blogging almost daily and even the Scogg has new content. It's time kick it in.

So with the holidays here, let's talk Christmas movies. I'm a sucker for 'em, I'll admit. But I also fancy myself a cinephile, which means, I'm picky about the holiday-kissed treacle I consume. That means avoiding like fruitcake anything with Tim Allen and a December release date. And I honestly wonder why the crappy almost-straight-to-video films ("Deck the Halls," anyone?) and made-for-TV fare (what the crap is that Rob Lowe one? "A Perfect Day") is still produced year-in and year-out. It seems those movies are glaringly, obvioulsy awfull and always tank in at the box office and in the ratings. But for some reason they just. keep. churning. them. out.

So here's my short list of picks and pans. I'm sure you'll see nothing surprising or new. But, you'll at least get the satisfaction of knowing that special movie you watch every Christmas has the Rob Rogers seal of approval. Or disapproval. It can go both ways.

In no particular order, the Christmas movies I like:

"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" -- Not only did NL producers have to take the "Vacation" franchise and make it (almost) family-safe, they had to find a way to make a third "Vacation" movie funny. Which, obviously, they did, thanks to John Hughes of all people --a near Herculean effort that still pays off. Becky and I watched it last week and the movie totally stands up after all these years. It's endlessly quotable ("Every time Catherine would turn on the microwave, I'd piss my pants and forget who I was for about half an hour") and the gags are still brilliant.

"Die Hard" -- Remember, it takes place on Christmas Eve and runs its beginning and end credits to Christmas songs. For me, it's the ultimate, escapist Christmas film that reminds us all we'll have peace on earth forced down our throats if John McClane has anything to do with it. And the movie, infinitely better than the sequals and man-against-everyone genre films it inspired, is parts funny, romantic and heart-warming. What more do you want in a holiday film? Exploding rooftops and gaping gun shot wounds? Well you're in luck. It's got those, too.

"A Christmas Story" -- The New York Times refered to it as our generation's "It's a Wonderful Life" (more on that film later). And I suppose it is. It's really come into it's own these past few years and Becky and I make sure we watch it every Christmas Eve. But for me, what makes the movie is Darren McGavin, the Old Man. He owns the movie, even though it seems its most memorable parts are the tongue-on-the-tetherball-pole, overstuffed-snowsuit and pink-bunny-pajamas gags. The funniest scenes in the film, from the lamp to the Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant, are all indebted to the cantankerous, riley Darren McGavin.

Honorable mention: "Mr. Krueger's Christmas" -- It plays more like a Christmas film on an acid trip. I mean Jimmy Stewart is having dreams inside of dreams and he sings with the Mormon Tablernacle Choir. But that right there has got to make it at least as good as "Wonderful Life."

Now, in no particular order, the Christmas movies I don't like (that I've seen, otherwise this list would probably go on forever):

"It's a Wonderful Life" -- Don't get me wrong, it's a good movie. But why on earth it's a perennial Christmas favorite is beyond me. Only one scene (please, correct me if I'm wrong) takes place at Christmas. So maybe I'm raging more against the strange, qualified status the movie has rather than the movie itself. At any rate, I've seen it once and that was enough. In reality, if you've seen one Frank Capra film, you've seen 'em all.

"Miracle on 34th Street" -- I can't even make it all the way through this movie. But it was bad enough to inspire a made for TV Brady Bunch Christmas movie loosely based on it. That right there condemns it to depricated status. Let's be honest, it's just a creeky old movie that doesn't play real well.

"Christmas With the Kranks" -- Just so it's not all b&w on the list, I'll throw in "Kranks" because I've seen it and it can thus stand in for every other crappy Christmas movie made every year. It's as bad as you imagine it is. People who watch these kind of films during the holidays get the Christmas they deserve.

So that's it. Somewhere between the two lists is "Ernest Saves Christmas." I loved it as a kid, even saw it in the theater, but I'm sure if I watched it now I'd ruin it forever. Anyway, you've got Christmas movies to watch, so get going.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wax on, wax off

Yeah, it's been a while. Thanks for the reminder, Thom. So we'll take care of a little housekeeping first. If you look to the right, you'll notice I've updated my links. Surface Tension now has its official welcome mat.

Second, it's time to add to the Perfect Pop Songs Vol. 2 list. Refresh your memory here and here. This one's got a chip on its shoulder. Some of you out there -- I won't name names -- turn your nose up at indie bands because you claim it's just too inaccessible, too hard to listen to. So, in this pretty-much all indie installment of the Perfect Pop Song I give you three tunes that are such stellar examples of pop songs it's likely they'll all be stuck in your heads for months.

Fujiya & Miyagi's Collarbone: F&M is a band from across the pond that has yet to get its debut album "Transparent Things" released stateside. I can't remember where the "Fujiya" comes from, but, yes, "Miyagi" is a shout-out to Mr. Miyagi. They've got a serious groove, and mix style, beat and crazy guitar hooks with very slick production. "Collarbone" is probably the perfect sum of all the band's influences and talent. It's got a killer beat and an insanely addictive bassline. Not to mention they work in the ol' nursery song, "Footbone's connected to the anklebone/the anklebone's connected to the shinbone" and on up the skeleton. Does this song have a proper title? Anyway, it's fun little number sure to get your head nodding.

Grand National's Talk Amongst Yourselves: The song is a track from the band's 2004 "Kicking the National Habit" and features an unrelenting, driving beat matched up with this low-key, understated vocals. The band, like so many that would come after in 2005 and 2006 to midling success, takes '80s pop new wave and updates it in a way that's pretty hip and little surprising, evinced in the song's 20-second electronic pulse opening. Once the guitars come in and the vocal start, it's hard to shake the song. "I made it all myself/'cause I can't anything down/Anything down/However hard I do try." It's a cool track.

Jarvis' Black Magic: Jarvis, who is Jarvis Cocker, is another Brit who's recently come out with an album that has yet to find a distributor stateside, but has killer pop and rock instincts. He's been around since the late '70s when he fronted a pop-punk band called Pulp as a 15-year-old. Anyway, he's soloing it now and producing some very cool music. "Black Magic" is pop song for sure, but it's dark and velvety and very rewarding as it gets better after each listening. And like all good pop songs, is about anything to which you apply it. Is the titular black magic a perfume, a lady-friend, a favorite liquor or maybe actual black magic? Who knows and who cares, the song just grooves. "You only get to see the light just one time in your life/Black Magic/That blows you mind away/And takes it somewhere that you want to stay." Jarvis' voice is deep and full, giving a lot of his songs this twisted Elvis/Johnny Rotten feel. Trust me, it works.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Cougs Win! Cougs Win!

Well what kind of Cougar fan would I be if I didn't post something about their stunning win over bitter rival Utah on Saturday. It was seriously a game that will go down in the history books as one of BYU finest wins.

Like any great game, more was at stake than just a win. The BYU/Utah rivalry holds up to any of the great rivalries in college football and for the past four years BYU had lost. Not a single BYU player had beat Utah, and with BYU coming into the match undeafeted in the Mountain West, it was the one win everyone wanted to see happen.

The drama, or course, really began late in the fourth quarter. It was three quarters of back-and-forth when finally with a 1:16 left in the game Utah scores a touchdown to take a four-point lead. At that point, I was sure the game was over and the Cougars had lost. Short of returning Utah's punt for a touchdown, I didn't how BYU could get all the way down field -- and score -- in just over a minute of playing time. Well, John Beck, who's been a middling quarterback at best over his last three years and even during quarters 2 and 3 in this game, showed his true colors and got the Cougs down to the 12-yard-line with three seconds to spare.

Beck takes the final snap, and for what feels like hours, looks and looks for an open receiver. With time well expired, Utah defenders finally break through and rush him. Running to his left, he throws right -- across his chest -- and gets the ball to receiver Johnny Harline, all alone in the far rightside of the endzone. Touchdown, with zero seconds on the clock, and BYU wins 33-31. It was unbelievable. So unbelievable, you have to watch the highlight reel to believe it. Here ya go:

Monday, November 20, 2006

You can run on for a long time

Some of you may know, I picked up Johnny Cash's last album a few months ago and it's a powerful record. Most of the songs are hit and miss -- and that's understandable. The man recorded almost all the tracks four and five months before he died. It makes for a heavy, intense little album. Anyway, one of the standout numbers is a track called "God's Gonna Cut You Down," a funeral dirge of a song. It's now got a video, that for the most part -- I think -- is pretty cool. I haven't done video for a while here on the Report, so consider this an early Christmas gift.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The top of Elsa's head smells like freedom

So, I've been listening to the new U2 single, "Window in the Skies" and having mixed feelings about it. In fact, I've been having mixed feelings about U2 for the past few years now -- feelings with which I've already bored you, faithful readers, in past editions.

But strap back in, because we're going for another "what's wrong with U2 these days" ride around the park.

First, "Windows." The song itself isn't too bad, although it takes the band about three minutes to really pull it all together. But listening to it again today, I think I finally put my finger on what's bugging me about the song. Like the whole of U2's two previous albums, "Windows" is unrelentingly upbeat. Bono literally rhapsodizes about love. Which is great, it's fine, it's the perfect thing about which to rhapsodize in song form. But man, is it bland. It's really got no depth, no bottom, as they say. It makes you smile and feel happy the first couple times you hear and then it just gets dull.

Which, to me, is the problem that has plagued the band since 2001, when they released "All That You Can't Leave Behind." The band has simply lost their edge. Every album U2 put out, from "Boy" to "Pop," had U2's characteristic upbeat, optimitic take on life. But they also had darkness, a little hardness around the edges, which acted as a great ballast for what comes to them naturally, I think. I mean, can you imagine the band recording and releasing something like "Love Is Blindness" now? Every song since "Beautiful Day" has been a celebration. And again, there's nothing wrong with that, if you balance it out with the rougher stuff, too.

It's the rougher stuff that made the band great -- t's what gave them depth, sensuality and texture. But instead, since "All That," everything has become frightenly one-dimensional. That doesn't mean there hasn't been good songs. I would argue "Beautiful Day," "A Man and a Woman" and (as sick of it as I am) "Vertigo" are as great as anything they've done in the past. But there's nothing there to balance out the hope and optimism. And, yes, you need something to balance it out or else you've eseentially produced a 60-minute Hallmark Card.

I mean, "Boy" has "I Will Follow" and "A Day Without Me," songs that essentially deal with suicide. "War" has "Surrender" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Seconds." Going down the list on the next albums, you've got "A Sort of Homecoming," "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "Mothers of the Disappeared," "God Part II," "Love Rescue Me," the entirity of "Achtung Baby," "Dirty Day" and "Some Days Are Better Than Others," "Gone," "Mofo" and "Wake Up Dead Man." And it's not like these songs are Elliot Smith dark. Clearly they're not. But they're certainly not exultations of charity and friendship, like "Miracle Drug" or "Walk On."

On their last two albums, the closest thing you get to dark is "Peace on Earth" on "All That" and maybe "Crumbs From Your Table" and "Love and Peace or Else" from "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb." Just about everything from those last two albums are celebratory songs about the wonders of life, love and happiness. And "Windows," to me, wraps it all up in a nice little bow.

Is it so wrong that I want a little more "Until the End of the World," a little more "Bad" a little more "Please"? And I know Bono has gone to great lengths to explain that the band now isn't in the same place emotionally or psychologically as they were in the past, in their youth; that they're in their 40s and singing about the themes and issues you deal with in middle life; that their outlook now is more grounded, more mature, more at peace. What I want to know is, does that mean the fire's gone? Does that mean everything from here on out is going to be psuedo-psycho self-help songs? Because if it does, I may need to retreat to the past and pretend that the band's last album was "Pop" and that someday U2 will return to the studio to record their great follow-up.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Two-fer Wednesday

By most accounts, it's a good morning. Not only will there now be a check on our mindlessly block-headed executive branch, but U2's new single has been making the rounds online after KROQ played it a couple times yesterday. I managed to get a copy of it and it's really, really cool. So if you want me to email it out to you, just let me know in the comments.

Other than that, good riddance Rick Santorum and Crazy Conrad Burns. Let's hope a little bi-partisan power can get the country's direction back on track. You know, so we can actually fight terror instead of expanding executive power and deal with dictators who actually have WMDs.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Drop D metal bands

Halloween was a raging success. We've got candy coming out our ears. Surprisingly, though, no Slow Pokes. But I've got a Sugar Daddy, Thom, and it'll be on your desk when you get back to the newsroom.

But let's get to the business at hand. Another edition of Perfect Pop Songs. I realized last week that I've never posted a completed list of the songs from the first volume. So you can find that here, if you were curious. Anyway, on to the matter at hand.

Spoon's Sister Jack: Spoon is an incredible band from Austin that's been around for about 10 years. I think they've always kind of flown under the radar but with their last album "Gimme Fiction" it seems they're getting a little more attention. And mostly from the song "Sister Jack," as perfect a pop song as you've ever heard, complete with hand claps. The lyrics, like many of the songs from "Gimme Fiction" seem to make sense only to Brit Daniels, the band's lead singer and principal songwriter. But, still, they sound cool, which is almost as important as saying something. "Always on the outside/Always looking in/I was in this drop D metal band/We called Requim." It's one of the best songs on the dics -- and certainly the most approachable.

Wilco's The Late Greats: Wilco excels at writing and performing songs that come at you from left field. You hear them once, maybe twice, and never expect them to be catchy or even good and then three hours or even three days later, you find yourself humming the tune, unable to get the song out of your head. In a good way. Anyway, "The Late Greats" is the last track off the band's last album "A Ghost Is Born" and is a fun, jaunty tune that mocks in its own little way, aging hipsters and indie music lovers who always seem to be trying to one-up each other by pledging alligence to one band more obscure than the last. "The best band will never get signed/The Kaysettes starring Butchers Blind/You can't hear it on the radio/You can't hear it anywhere you go." The song's amazing. And a lot of fun.

Coldplay's Til Kingdom Come: Supposedly the song is Coldplay's ode to Johnny Cash. Well, it works for me. The song, appearing as a bonus track on "X&Y" is anchored by straight-up accoustic guitar, completely different in tone and feel from the rest of the album. That said, what makes the song work so well is the perfect meld of melody and lyrics. The song is really just a quiet little tune of longing and love and the mellencholic, aching melody reflects it perfectly. "Let me in/Unlock the door/I've never felt this way before."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Hoodoo Voodoo 7-21-2

Halloween's tomorrow. The holiday's just fun on so many levels. Free candy, happy kids and free candy. What's not to love? The morning after, you say? Yes, the morning after. That's not to love. It's always ugly.

I remember the hardest thing about Halloween when I was a kid was that no matter what day of the week Halloween fell on, the following Sunday would always be fast Sunday. Which of course meant you couldn't take your candy to church. I don't know about other folks, but I love taking candy to church. I've always loved it. You know, it feels a little contraband, keeps you awake during those dry elders quorum lessons and gives a certain air of priviledge.

So having a sack full of candy and having to keep it home was always hard that first Sunday in November. And, of course, after a week of school, you never had anything left for the following Sunday. Maybe a package of Smarties, a few jawbreakers and a handful of those awful orange and black peanut butter taffy things with the real peanut butter in the middle. But, obvioulsy, there's a reason those are the last pieces of candy left in the trick-or-treat bag. So, you're a kid and probably the only time during the year you're going to have mass amounts of candy in your possession, you're effectively barred from taking it to church. I call it the Halloween Tragedy.

Other than that, it's good to have things up and rolling. We'll have another installment in the Perfect Pop Song Vol. 2 list. (Jens, the qualifiers are few. It really just has to be -- in probably the broadest sense -- a pop song. Tracks from Sting's new 16th century lute-fest album probably won't reach the qualifying bar. But then again, they might. We like to play things fast and loose over here. And it's so nice to hear some love for "Velvet Dress." The song is so underrated.)

As for tomorrow, Claire is going out as an "Egyptian Princess" -- we'll call her Nefertiti to avoid all those unwanted Liz Taylor comparrisons. Leigh will be a witch. Should be fun. And, because I know people are screaming for them, I'll post photos of the grand night out later this week.

If you're curious, I'll probably go out as a reporter. Becky will go as a recovering post-op emergency c-section patient with accompanying baby. I've seen the costume and it's impressively life-like.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

We want pop!

So, I've been meaning to do this for two weeks. Better late than never, as the cliche goes. So without any further ado, Perfect Pop Songs, Vol. 2. Allow myself to quote ... myself. Here's how it works:

I make a list of perfect pop songs, the idea being that for the listener there are a handful of songs that don't have a wasted lyric, a missed note, nothing. They are perfect. I'll post two or three at a time, updating this thread frequently. Because I know every last one of you is eager, eager, eager to know what songs out there I consider perfect.

Now, once the list of songs is (what I deem to be) complete, I throw 'em all on a CD and mail it out to a handful of lucky, lucky winners. So, onto the list.

The Push Stars' "Back to the Party" -- The Push Stars do two things very, very well. They write pop songs that sound at once familiar yet new and different. And they effortlessly blend melancholy sentiments with bright, happy-sounding songs -- melancholy without which the band's music would be unlistenable, syrupy messes. "Back to the Party," of course, is the perfect example. I love the song's opening line: "Boy and girl, you're not the same any more." It's like some throwback to those cheesy intro-to-puberty film strips you watched in elementary school. The tune itself is a love song, in a sense, that's upbeat, fun and dark around the edges, very cleverly making the point that the fear of following your heart just leads to regret.

INXS' "Disappear" -- INXS was a band I was never that into. I never heard a song from the band that was just OK. I either loved them or hated them. There was never any middle ground. "Disappear" obviously is one of those song that I just loved. The unjustly maligned Ethan Hawke vehicle "Mystery Date" put the song to great use. Anyway, the song, at its heart, is a fun tune about how the right girl can make all your insecurities, fears and doubt go the way of the dodo. Plus it's got a killer groove.

Tom Petty's "Saving Grace" -- It's the first track from his latest album "Highway Companion" and it absolutely rocks. Petty is just an amazing songwriter and "Saving Grace" showcases the talent in spades. "I'm passing sleeping cities/Fading by degrees/Not believing all I see to be so." The song is puncuated by this relentless, driving guitar that almost sounds like a semi cruising down the freeway. The song builds and builds until by the end you've got this wall of sound and a tune that's rocking at full bore. It's great for the road. "There's a guard on every door/And a drink on every floor/Overflowing with a thousand amens."

Alright, the first installment of volume two is sealed in blood. So keep on keepin' on.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Regime change starts at home

Whoever is running this blog needs to get on top of the posting. Two a month is unacceptable!

But seriously, it's time to get this place rocking again. First an update on the baby. Elsa came home from the hosptial two weeks ago and is doing great. She's putting on the pounds like a pig, she's awake longer during the day and is happiest when she's eating. We've even taken her out. In public. Crazy, you say? Not as crazy as this: When Elsa was discharged from the NICU (that's neonatal intensive care unit for the uninitiated) last month, we asked the doctor at what point we could take her outside the protective walls of our home. You have to remember, just to get into the NICU you had scrub up to your elbows for two minutes and wear a hospital gown. We were scared to death that if we breathed on her too much, she'd end up with consumption and loose the use of her legs or something. The doctor replies, in that nonchalant voice doctors muster up for the most important of news, that we can take her out in public whenever we want. Just don't let the crazies touch her.

Claire and Leigh, meanwhile, have adjusted. At first, Elsa was like the new toy, a little dolly for them to cuddle and love. Now Leigh, after living a potty-trained life the past two years, is wetting her pants again. Someone explain that to me.

Mom and Dad came and visited last weekend. They took off yesterday and it was a really good visit. It's fun to connect with your parents as adults and as parents yourselves. And they spoil us when they visit. And that's always fun.

In other news, it's time to start up a second round of Rob's perfect pop songslist. Winners of the last volume applauded the selection simply fueling my ego and driving my desire to come up with a companion list. 'Cause really, when you think about it, the world is filled with pretty pop songs.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Parting Shot

It's a good thing I don't do this professionally.

Today, I'm retiring a Rob Report regular, the iPod Update. Because frankly, it was never that cool of a feature and it's a year old this month. That makes it a good time to put it to bed. So, without any further ado, the last installment of iPod Update (some of the earlier entries are here, here, here, here, and here):

Gigabytes used: 11 GB

Number of Songs: 2,896

Number of Podcasts: 4

Most random recording: "I'm Still Here," a song by Kristy Eliason, who was once Kristy Tew, yes, that Kristy Tew -- a past friend and one-time ballroom dance partner in high school. Random because she's just started recording music with her brother and so some mp3s of her stuff popped up on the Web site my old Davis buddies maintain. And especially random because 10 years after high school, apparently, she's still here. Eerie.

Most eclectic recording: "Grumpus" by a band called Lambchop. Really, the whole album, a disc called "Nixon," is pretty eclectic. And "Grumpus" gives pretty good feel for what it's all like. It's really mellow stuff, kind of alt-country by way of loungey R&B. It's really pretty good, but definitely out there.

Favorite recording currently (as always, this is subject to sudden change):"Satellite" by Guster. If you haven't checked out this band, you owe it to yourself to do so. It's just solid indie pop and for the past week, I haven't been able to get enough of their song "Satellite," a hip little love song off their album "Ganging up on the Sun."

Most embarrassing recording: "Heaven Help my Heart" and "I Know Him So Well" from the "Chess" soundtrack. The songs' titles speak for themselves. I mean, the whole album is kind of a guilty pleasure for sure, but really, kind of fun. Except for those two songs. They're just embarrassing.

Number of U2 songs: 449

Number of the B-52's songs: 1

So let's break down the numbers. Over the course of a year, I've added 929 songs, using three full gigabytes. I've added 166 U2 songs to the original number I had on there and I'm only listening to one more podcast than I was a year ago.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

No Whatchamacallit for you!

Long time, no post.

Most of this is old news, but we'll go ahead and throw something up on the Rob Report. Becky delivered little Elsa Luana at 5:03 p.m. Friday. She was six weeks early and completely tied up in her umbilical cord. There was even a knot. Crazy. But Elsa is doing remarkably well, considering how she came into the world. The Lord really has been watching over us.

Becky is recovering. She comes home from the hospital this morning. After a crappy nurse giving her some crappy meds on an empty stomach (see "crappy nurse" comment) she crashed pretty hard and had a migrane for like two straight days. The headache lingers but she's feeling much better and will be coming home today. Elsa, of course, will be in ICU at the hospital for the next few weeks.

ETA -- Reader and all around cool guy Thom G pointed out that none of you get the Whatchamacallits. Way to go, guys. All you had to do was come up with "Elsa."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Back to the lab again

Long time, no see. But the next time someone asks you if Rob is lazy, you can proudly respond, "Yes. Yes he is."

But let's jump right into things. There's a fun little music website I check out from time to time. They posted a New York Post interview with some musicians, asking them to offer up perfectly good songs they once loved that had been ruined because of the circumstances under which they heard the song. The musicians' answers were boring. The stories related by readers in the comments section were hilarious. The best by far was this one:

"'The One Thing' by INXS... granted it's not the greatest song, but it WAS my favorite song (that wasn't by Prince) when I was 14.

"But that was all ruined a year or two later when I discovered a video tape of MY MOTHER STRIPPING TO THE SONG."

I can't top that. But it's great item for discussion. What great song has been ruined for you forever?

For me, it's a tragic tale. In an apartment across from ours, there's a group of guys, beefcakes we call them, that spend most waking hours working out in their garage. They literally all look like Kevin Federline on stereroids -- you know, hip-hop, urbanite wannabes. Anyway, they've always got their techno Eurotrash dance club music booming out the garage while the work out. Well, one day, a couple weeks ago, I came home from work and what song was blaring from their so-large-it-may-be-componsating-for-something-else soundsystem? Rev. Al's "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart." I loved that song. It was Al Green at the top of his form. And now I hear it and think of a couple beefcakes working each other out in their garage.

I know you've got your own story. Feel free to share it here.

A couple more things to pass along. Bono confirmed on Sarajevo television that a new U2 album would come out in 2007. So look for the disc to be out sometime in late 2008.

And, saving the best for last, is a link to one of the driest, funniest, most satiric websites I've recently come across: Joe Mathlete Explains Today's Marmaduke. If you're like me and hate, and I mean absolutely loath with every cell in your body, insipid, pointless, smaltzy, lazily written and stupidly concieved comics like "Marmaduke" (or "The Family Circus," "Rose Is Rose," "Dennis the Menace" and "For Better or For Worse" just to name a few examples) than this site is for you.

But just a quick warning, of the 50 or so "Marmadukes" explained, a couple have some salty language. Here's one of my favorites.

Anyway, life is good. Claire and Leigh started school this week and both seem to really enjoy it. I'll get some photos up with a couple good stories later on in the week. You know, to prove to you all that I'm a good father.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

T-shirts are cool

Let's have some fun. No more boring U2 posts or talk of politics. I'm a T-shirt guy. If I could, with the exception of my guayaberas, I'd wear T-shirts all the time. Of course the coolest are usually the most expansive or hardest to get a hold of. So, the following is a list of cool T-shirts that I'm sure I'd buy in bulk and pass out like Milk Duds if, like Tevya, I were a rich man. Keep checking back, I'll probably add to the list over the next few days.

First, my own ode to Jeopardy. Answer:

Question: Who's Alex Trebeck?
Next, a shirt that proudly proclaims "I understand the digestive system!":

Here, a statement of my undying affection for Shatner:

How about this one for proclaiming pure truth. Seventies sci-fi was all about the hexigons.

This is good for now. Post your faves in the comments, or, if you've got recommendations, pass those along, too.

Friday, August 04, 2006

News you can use

Well, so far, no one's getting any Whatchamacallits. And Becky and I are no closer to naming the baby. Get cracking, people!

Believe it or not, I do have some intriguing news from the U2 front. The band, which spent all last year touring, have been off the road for most of this year. And lately they've been at their digs in the south of France, apparently recording new material. But that's not the real news. The real news is some very enterprising fans, standing outside the band's house, managed to get close enough to get some recordings of the rehearsals. Don't get me wrong, it's not high quality stuff. It sounds like it was recorded by someone standing outside a house holding a taperecorder. But, it's pretty clear, all things considered, and you get a pretty good sense of what the band's doing.

It's also another blow for what was once my favorite U2 fansite, (now just a hollow shell of itself). Neither u2log nor the embarassingly earnest posts the news of the recording on their sites. Sanctamonious jerks.

There's also rumors that, with the band's release of the Zoo TV concert DVD and their new band history "U2 By U2" in Septmeber, there'll also be a new single released. That would be pretty cool. Maybe. A little while ago I found a review online of the band's last album, "Atomic Bomb," that for me, summed up perfectly what was wrong with the disc:

"'How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,' like 'All That You Can't Leave Behind' before it, is so classy and classic-sounding that it's utterly boring. Bono and his childhood pals still make competent, sturdy records, and they still sell in bundles. But these albums are also oddly neutered, so polished and vaguely rousing that they don't challenge you in the least. The idea of U2 as adventurous, searching, sometimes pretentious souls trying to take over the world? Well, they've done that already, I suppose. And now they want the peak to last as long as it can. Which means you won't ever ever hear another 'Pop' again -- or even a 'Zooropa.'"

The critic has a couple great points:

"Mortality has replaced lost love and spiritual hunger as U2's reason for being."

"Beyond "Vertigo," precious little else on HTDAAB rocks or rolls or breaks much of a sweat. Instead, we again find ourselves elbow-deep in stately mid-tempo songs, blithely pretty but missing the indelible moment that great U2 ballads always possess ... By comparison, U2's last two records are probably their most sonically conservative, recycling the same solid riffs and melodies we've come to expect from them. Maintain the brand, maintain the brand."

Then he closes with this, which I thought was great:

"Don't call the album awful or terrible or anything so harsh. Be objective and say that HTDAAB is a solid if unsurprising U2 record, another of their late-period attempts at consensus and craftsmanship. But if this is a throwback to 'classic' U2, which '80s record of theirs does this sound like? 'War' was more violent, 'The Joshua Tree' more bracing, 'Rattle and Hum' more weary, 'Boy' more yearning. No, HTDAAB longs for a past U2 has long since outgrown. It's all right: Their fans have too, and if the band won't say anything, they won't either. At a time when Radiohead are too 'weird' and the White Stripes too 'loud,' U2 are getting dangerously close to Sting territory -- comfort music at a high level of sophistication. And, hey, who doesn't love the idea of Sting?"

Saturday, July 29, 2006


We are -- or I should say, Becky is -- in the final trimester of the pregnancy. You may remember, it's a girl. And three months out from the day of delivery, we still haven't picked a name. And it's not that we just haven't picked a name, it's that we're having a hard time finding one that we both like and we both feel fits our family. It's like it gets harder every time you have a kid.

I've got a couple favorites that Becky hates and Becky has a couple favorites that I hate. I really dig the name Harper, unfortunately the name reminds Becky of Nell Harper, you know, the mom on "Gimme a Break" played by Nell Carter. I also like Harely Jane. However, I really doubt I could convince any woman to name their daughter Harely Jane.

On the other side, Becky really likes Grace and Esther. Ironically enough, U2 has ruined Grace for me, so I can't name a child that. Not to mention children named for virtues has always been a minor pet peeve of mine. You know the type: Charity, Chastity, Individual Worth, Personal Growth, etc., etc. And Esther just sounds ugly to me.

So I'm opening the playing field. You think you've got a good name for a girl, post it below in the comments. What's your reward, you ask? Besides the boasting rights that you got to name a child that wasn't yours, if we pick your name, I'll mail you a case of Whatchamacallit candy bars.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Loblaw

Some random musings today -- mostly of the entertainment variety.

On the music front, buckle in. Apparently some fans were hanging out around the beach houses that U2 keeps in the south of France and overheard the band working on new material. You better believe they recorded it. has five surprisingly good clips on the stuff.

More web nuggets? Chew on this, (yes, I'm excited) all 53 episodes of "Arrested Development" will be streamed on MSN's Web site sometime in the near future. Really, if you've never bothered to check out the show, do yourself a favor, watch it. If you don't laugh you clearly have no sense of humor.

More on the TV front (and like anyone really cares about any of this) Becky and I have been watching the "Homicide: Life on the Street" DVDs. I never saw the show when it was on, but you know it's kind of held up as the gold standard of TV police dramas so I thought I'd check it out. Anyway, I was really kind of surprised at how good it really is. I mean, Becky even likes it. We've started with season one and we're six episodes into it. Don't worry, I'll keep you updated on what I think.

And as long as we're talking TV, watch "Veronica Mars." While you still can. Oh, it's not being cancelled or anything. It's moving to the CW, a new network that WON'T BE BROADCAST IN MY AREA. Unless I cough up 50 bucks a month for cable. I'm angry.

And finally, Becky and I saw "Superman Returns" on Monday and we both really liked it. I don't that it was good enough to make up for how badly Brett Ratner screwed up "X-Men 3" but it was entertaining enough. The action set pieces were solid, intense and looked really slick. I liked addressing the question of does the world need Superman. I think that was a smart way to jump start the franchise. Brandon Routh as the Man of Steel was great and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luther was brilliant. Kate Bosworth on the other hand was good, but she seems really really young to be Lois Lane. The theme of Superman as savior was laid on maybe a little thick for my liking but other than that, I think the film was really good.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Thursday, July 20, 2006

We are fighting terror, right?

I've tried to avoid it, but I'm afraid there's no longer any way around it. I have to post some politics.

It's occured to me that the Bush Administration never was fighting a war on terror. If you look at what's happened since Sept. 11, I think it's fairly obvious. Rather than go after terrorists and terror regimes, the Bush White House's no.1 priority became expanding presidential powers.

Stay with me, because I promise this will make sense. Think back to those days immediately following the terror attacks in New York and Washington. We were a nation united like it hasn't been since World War II. I mean, Democrats and Republicans alike. All of sudden, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda became national punching bags. I mean, bin Laden's face was put on toilet paper and sold at novelty stores. But in all seriousness, he's the man responsible for the deaths of 3,000 innocent American civilans. Civilans. People like you and me. And it seemed like everyone was united in bring this man and these poeple to justice and stopping terror once and for all.

So you'd think the thing to do, at the very least, is capture bin Laden and bring him to justice. But instead our president resolves to go to Iraq, pulls troops off the search for bin Laden and other terrorists in Afghanistan and devotes resources to a war that has no real, tenable connection to fighting terrorism. Earlier this year the CIA even dissolved it's bin Laden task force. We are officially no longer looking for bin Laden. And I'm not suggesting that capturing him ends terrorism -- I don't think anyone believes that. But he should at least be held responsible for the attacks on our country. We as Americans, and certainly those families, deserve it.

But somehow, Iraq became the national priority and we trumpet the capture of Saddam Hussien, a man who had nothing to do with 9/11 and nothing to do with terrorism. We give up the fight against terrorism and instead invaded Iraq, spending billions of dollars that could and, really, should be used to secure our ports, our railways, our border crossings and our national landmarks here at home. Those aren't the actions of an administration serious about fighting terror.

Probably the most glaring example of that is the fact that were in Iraq. Because you have to think about terror on a more basic level -- like why were we attacked in the first place and what needs to happen to improve our image with Muslims around the world. Going to Iraq has, in effect, played right into bin Laden's hands. Everything he ever preached about America to his followers is now essentially true. Look at the serious mistakes some of our soldiers have made (like Abu Ghraib), look at the unrest and flat-out security issues for the common people in Iraq. And all of sudden you have Muslims thinking maybe the crazy guys like bin Laden are right. Because before 9/11 bin Laden and al Qaeda were still extremists in the Middle East who enjoyed very little popular support. The Bush Administration's handling of the "War of Terror" since 9/11 has effectively reversed that. More and more Muslims sympathize with men like bin Laden, men who are preaching that America is dangerous and America wants to destroy Islam. And as a result, rather than "taking the fight to the terrorist" we're simply creating more terrorists every day. And Iraq has become the place where al Qaeda can very, very effectively train them. (Most of these conclusions were released a couple weeks ago in Foriegn Policy Magazine -- about as serious and reputable a publication on international afairs as there is). The point is, if the Bush Administration were set on fighting terror, they've done it in about as wrongheaded a way as you can do it.

But what makes me mad is how this administration has dragged America's image through the mud. Think of what we did in WWII and how afterwards we truly were the world's shining beacon of freedom. I don't think anyone outside the Republican party thinks of the country that anymore. Inside or outside the United States. Our human rights abuses in Iraq and at Guantanamo on an international stage, the disolve of personal privacy and other civil liberties here at home, we're not the great country we used to be. Because the current admisnitration is more interested in expanding its powers than keeping its people safe and being an example of freedom and tolerance to the rest of the world. What was it Bruce Wayne told Ducard? It's important we hold onto our compassion because that's what makes us different from our enemies? Something like that.

Anyway, I could go on. And on and on, probably. So I'll stop now. And it'll be back to fun, frivolity and lists next week at the Rob Report. I swear.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Yes, he wants you to jump in his car

Yes, it's been over a week. And so I can only make up for my abscence by offering goodies. In fact, we'll call today, Goody Monday.

First, for those of you, who, like me, just can't get enough Spoon, try this link. It's the band's label and they let you listen to all sorts of Spoon tracks for free. And you even get to see the strange, yet somehow pleasing, video for "Sister Jack."

Another goody to pass along: I've been trying to convince Becky for a couple weeks now that a Transformers movie is a good idea. She's having none of it. But somehow Blogger is onto me. They sent me here one day and now I know where to go when I'm wondering how production for the movie is going. I learned Bumblebee will be the new Chevy Camaro and Optimus Prime as a semi will look different too. Producers wanted to give him more mass.

For those of you curious about what an amateur Shawn Colvin may have sounded like and/or what Kristy Tew is doing these days, you can go here. It's actually pretty good stuff. Certainly better than social guitar. And absolutely better than Colors. Why won't they go away?

See it's not all about U2 here. Click on the video and get taken to a wonderful, psuedo-Europop dreamland where David Hasselhoff is your guide and you can ride in his car. Yes, KITT. If you don't live too far away. 'Cause if you do, you'll have to get out and walk. Really, it's the Hoff's own descent into his heart of darkness. We're powerless to stop him. It's astonishing.

Want more? Of course you do. He's on iTunes Australia. And if you really can't get enough of a depressing aging C-list celebrating trying to milk every last ounce of fame from sub-par accomplishments acheived 15 or 20 yers ago, just let me know. There's plenty more where that came from.

Oh, here's a plug for Apple.

Friday, July 07, 2006

No soy pedoro

We'll start out today with an addendum to my family reunion write-up. We've learned through Claire that Laney -- her 6-year-old cousin -- can burp the alphabet but cannot fart the alphabet. I just thought you all should know.

Second note, Becky and I have finished watching the entire series of "Firefly." A little late to the game, maybe, but I'll tell you what -- the show is pretty dang good. Yeah, it suffers a bit from cheap production values and some of the characters never really got off the ground, but overall the show is surprisingly entertaining. The dialague -- as you'd expect from a Joss Whedon creation -- is witty, smart and believable. The idea of meshing western and sci-fi genres works really, really well, mostly because anytime you do sci-fi with less sci-fi, you're on pretty solid narrative ground. And for "Law and Order" fans, Richard "Paul Robinette" Brooks shows up in the last, and one of the best, episode. There are only 11 episodes in all, so it's not a huge time commitment. If you do Netflix, throw a few discs in your queue. You got nothing to loose.

And lastly, it's Friday. So here's an iPod update -- it's kind of the strange covers version (it's been a while). Some of the earlier entries are here, here, here, here and here.

Gigabytes used: 11 GB

Number of Songs: 2,759

Number of Podcasts: 3

Most random recording: "The Lonely Goatherd." A few year's ago, Harry Connick Jr. put out an album called "Songs I Heard" which was basically a disc of Harry and his band covering children's songs from famous musicals. Some of it's funny, some of it's bad and some of it's just strange. Like his cover of "Goatherd" from "The Sound of Music." The original, if I remember right, is a polka. Harry takes the song and makes it all New Orleans swanky. It's ... interesting. Other strange tracks include "Oompa Loompa," "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" and "A Spoonful of Sugar."

Most eclectic recording: "Comfortably Numb." The Scissor Sisters made kind of splash when they released this cover of the mighty Pink Floyd standard a couple years ago. It's this kind of disco-fied, euro-club take on the song that almost feels like it was beamed from a different planet. It's a bizarre little track and has maybe only gotten weirder since its initial release.

Favorite recording currently (as always, this is subject to sudden change): Spoon's "Sister Jack." It seems like I've been on this six month Spoon binge. But the more I listen to these guys, the more I dig 'em. "Sister Jack" is probably the most accessible track off of the band's latest, "Gimme Fiction" but I've just recently really gotten into it. So much so that I almost can't get enough.

Most embarrassing recording: Abba's "Dancing Queen." Really, no man should have "Dancing Queen" on his iPod. And yet here it is. But I do have a disclaimer. One, I have a hard time listending to the song and 2, it's part of the playlist I keep for my 3- and 5-year-old daughters.

Number of U2 songs: 437

Number of Book of Mormon chapters: 248 -- that's right, I downloaded the Book of Mormon to my iPod. It's actually really cool to think I've got the whole thing right there. And I can listen to it on shuffle.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

No, please, not more U2

I'm sorry. But I feel compelled to say something....

The Underground Online has been posting all sorts of Top 11 songs lists lately -- like the top 11 songs about God, the top 11 songs about Satan, the top 11 catchiest songs, the top 11 songs you've never heard and on and on. Well, I'm a sucker for lists and after reading the U2 lists, I thought, "Maybe I need to get in on the action."

Last week they had a list of the 11 greatest U2 songs and then this week a list of the 11 worst U2 songs. The author who compiles them and writes the commentary is a good writer; he's really funny, he obviously knows his U2 and he holds "Joshua Tree" in no special esteem. You have to like him for that.

But, then he screwed up. Big time. To whit, he left "One" off his greatest list and had "Bullet the Blue Sky" on his worst list. I think most folks -- even the most casual of U2 fans -- would agree this is just crazy talk (and I know Dave is somewhere saying to himself right now, "I can name a lot more than 11 lame U2 songs" and I've made peace with that).

Anyway, enough talk, on to a more definitive list.

Rob's 11 Greatest U2 Songs
11. "Pride (In the Name of Love)" -- undisputedly classic U2. The song moves, it sounds big and it effortlessly, and I mean effortlessly, moves between themes of politics, religion and love like nobody's business.

10. "The Sweetest Thing" the B-side not the single -- Plays opposite to the big anthems and political statement songs that are, of course, signature U2. It's a fun, bouncy pop song about painful love.

9. From a long time ago "Stories for Boys" -- Half of the "Boy" album should probably be on this list, but "Stories" rises to the top. Simply an amazingly catchy song on teenage angst, growing up and trying to figure out life.

8. "Beautiful Day" -- It's almost paint-by-the-numbers U2. But what ultimately saves it and makes it great is the huge guitar riff and killer melody.

7. "New Year's Day" -- Another song that is simply U2 at their finest. And you listen to the live version from the '83 Red Rocks show and you hear Edge's guitar just blister with sound. It's pretty intense.

6. "Bad" -- When I think U2 live, I think "Bad." A lot of people might argue "Streets" is U2's signature live song. And maybe it is. But for my money, "Bad" encapsulates everything that makes U2 great.

5. "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" -- You can't do a list like this and just regurgitate their great hits. "Velvet Dress" has long been a favorite of mine simply because it's one of the most subtle, beautiful and atmospheric songs the band has ever recorded. It's only surpassed by...

4. "With or Without You" -- As overplayed as it is, as worn out as it is by junior high school dance DJs, this song still hits all the right emotional cues. It's just an amazing piece of work.

3. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" -- This one doesn't even need commentary. "Wipe the tears from your blood shot eyes."

2. "One" -- An absolutely amazing song. It has a simple, wonderful melody, it hits all sorts of big themes and ideas and it's just beautiful to listen to. Easily one of the greatest songs anyone has ever written.

1. "Stay (Far Away, So Close) -- The greatest song U2 has ever written? That's what I'm saying and not just because Bono agrees. The song is like a well crafted puzzle. It takes the individual strengths from all four members of the band and becomes something that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. The lyrics are deceptively complex and wonderfully descriptive. The melody is emotional and bittersweet. The band came together and produced something they have yet to surpass.

Rob's Worst 11 U2 Songs
11. "The Refugee" -- H.L. really digs this song, and I would argue it could easily reside on both the best and worst lists. For the simple reason that the song is so bad, it's good. But in the interest of time and simplicity, we'll just call it a really bad song and throw it on this list. The song itself is the result of a collaboration between U2 and the Clash's producer Bill Whelan. And the result is clear: don't mix U2 with the Clash. It's like eating Doritos with chocolate milk.

10. "The Playboy Mansion" -- I know, another one H.L. likes, so again, I'm sorry. But I can't stand this song. A great example of Bono just trying way too hard. "If O.J. is more than a drink/And a Big Mac bigger than you think" and on to the gates of the Playboy Mansion.

9. "Original of Species" -- Cool title, great concept. I want to like this song. I really do. But I just can't, hard as I try. "I'll give you everything you want/Except that thing that you want." I'm sorry. I can't excuse that.

8. "Stranger in a Strange Land" -- "October" has a handful of sub-par tracks and this is probably the biggest offender. It's starts off really strong and then just as quickly goes absolutely no where. Kind of disappointing.

7. "Summer Rain" -- An out take from the "All That You Can't Leave Behind" sessions (man, this album really takes a hit) the song just infuriates me. Listening to it is the sonic equivalent of spinning around forever on one of those playground carousels.

6. "Unchained Melody" -- A cover from the "Achtung Baby" era. I've never really liked the song, well, I've always kind of hated it, and U2 certainly gives it nothing new. It's a bad cover of a bad song.

5. "Miami" -- I used to kind of dig this song. But the more I listen to it, the less I like it. It's awkward, tries to paint a picture of something, American culture? Floridian culture? A young boy's love of all things kitsch? It's just not very good.

4. "Wild Honey" -- Witness these lyrics, the opening stanza from the song: "In the days/When we were swinging from the trees/I was a monkey/Stealing honey from a swarm of bees." 'Nuff said.

3. "New York" -- They got the song to kind of work in the live show. But there's not really anything you can do to make it good. It's a mess of lyrics with no real melody.

2. "Angel of Harlem" -- I've hated this song for a long time. "Rattle and Hum" has some great tracks on it and U2 does some really cool stuff experimenting with old school rhythm and blues. But "Angel" is not one of them. Even if it was recorded at Sun Studios. It's obnoxious, it's grating and I just can't stand the horn section. That doesn't mean U2 can't have a horn section. "Red Light" off of "War" is a great song in large part because of the horn section. Anyway, I could go the rest of my life and never hear "Angel" again and be very happy.

1. "Grace" -- I've never been able to listen to this song all the way through. It's so stupid it makes me angry. Mainly, it's looking at the lyrics to the song and comparing them with anything else the band has written. It makes you want to bang your head on something hard. "Grace/It's a name for a girl/It's also a thought that changed the world." It's a nice sentiment. But man, talk about crappy execution.

So there it is. I know this is way too long and if you've read this far you deserve some kind of a special treat. The Rob Report will reward you for it. But first I have to get out the Perfect Pop Song Cds. That's right, I haven't forgotten. I'm just out of burnable CDs.

When the family gets together

That great summer event, Family Reunion Days, has ended. Back in Redding, the heat is oppresive. We returned from Aspen Grove -- just up the road from Sundance in Provo Canyon (that's Utah) -- where temperatures were in the balmy mid-70s to sun-baked Redding, where, rolling down the windows as we drove in to town, we were blasted with 114-dergee wind. The next day, temps climbed to 117. Who chooses to settle in places like these?

"Well Henry, we've made it all the way from St. Louis through wastes of grasslands, scorching deserts and unforgiving mountains. The Donners ate themselves on their way here, but we made it. So after all that we could settle over there in the forest, where the air is cool and the land is fertile and there's plenty of vegetation and animal life on which to subsist. Or we could set up shop here at the top of the valley where it's so hot I can hardly breath and there's no trees, shade or real signs of life."

"Sounds great, John. If this journey has taught me anything, it's that life just isn't fun unless it's miserable."

I imagine something similar happened in Phoenix about 150 years ago. Anyway, facing the Redding heat upon returning from the Utah mountains was the perfect metaphor for returning from the freedoms of vacation to the oppression of regular life. That's not to say regular life is bad. It's just not as carefree and frivolous as vacation life.

We did four days with Becky's family in this huge vacation rental in Heber, which you can read all about at The Scogg. It was a lot of fun -- plenty of room for everyone -- kids mostly -- to run and be free. We spent the mornings watching the World Cup and the afternoons and evenings eating and talking and singing karaoke.

The vacation home had a theater room with eight leather recliners, a projector and wall-size screen. It was something to behold -- and something, on retrospect, we probably should have used more. Like the good little boy scout I am, I came prepared. I had U2's latest concert video on hand and put it in maybe 30 minutes after arriving at the house. It was like actually watching the show. Everything was life-size and the 5.1 surround sound made it sound astounding. I got chills watching it. For that alone I need to thank Becky's parents for making the reunion happen and Becky for finding the place.

We left Heber Saturday morning and headed down to Provo for my family's reunion at Aspen Grove. The Grove, as I like to call it, is run by BYU's alumni association, and is kind of like your classic summer camp, except it has classes and activities for adults as well as the kids. All in all it was pretty great. The kids split up into groups everyday leaving the adults to do as they wish. You eat in a cafeteria (more on that later) so there's no cooking and cleaning up afterwards. It's not a bad way to do a family reunion.

In fact there's so much provided that Becky and I left feeling a little guilty. We didn't do any of the little classes and only participated in a handful of the activities -- not the best way to get your (parent's) money's worth. Or maybe we did. I discovered a handful of Ian Flemming novels in one of rooms at the main lodge and decided I borrow them for a while. I certainly plan on returning them, and in the meantime, well, I am a BYU alum and I pay my tithing, so either way I'm covered.

Anyway, for me, vacation is about doing stuff you don't normally get to do day to day. Lounging around doing next to nothing is something frankly I don't get to do enough of. So for that, the Grove was worth it to me.

And having the meals provided seemed worth it for the first few days. But after about Tuesday, everything started to taste the same. On Wednesday you noticed you had a slight stomach ache after finishing you meal. By Thursday, the pine cones and aspen leaves seemed more appetizing than anything off those buffet tables. Thank goodness for cereal every morning and all the milk and juice you could drink.

The best of course was just being able to see family. Living in California we don't see much of anyone too often. I have sisters in Arizona, Washington and Utah and brothers in Indiana and D.C. So the reunions are definitely a way to reconnect and just enjoy your siblings.

It's also a reminder of how old you're getting. Becky's family did a tribute to Dad Darrington who's turning 60 next month. And we did a little to-do for Dad Rogers who just retired after 40 years with CES. If our parents are getting that old, we must be getting old. Dan, my olderst brother casually reminded us that in 10 years he'd turn 50. And everyone gasped.

So reunions are good. You realize your nieces and nephews are a lot of fun and your siblings and their spouses are cooler than you remember and you own kids aren't so annoying when their gone eight hours a day. You leave feeling maybe family is alright.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Goodbye Linus

Well, it looks like little Linus will have to wait. Becky and the girls and I just got back from the doctor's and it appears we're having ...

A GIRL. But it's not a done deal yet. Apparently there was an umbilical cord and some legs and other things obstructing the view. The doc said, probably a girl but not 100 percent, and she'll tell us for sure next month. We're not sweating it. We're used to having girls -- it's like it's become our family identity. Claire on the other hand isn't so sure. last night she told us a boy would be great, but that she was okay with whatever Heavenly Father sent us. "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit," she said.

Well that went right out the window when the doctor told us it was probably a girl. "But I didn't want a girl," she said. It was great. Anyway, the problem now, of course, is coming up with a name. Maybe we'll let the girls choose. Claire would name her Diamond Sparkle and Leigh would probably name her Purple. Hmmmm. Purple. I kind of like that.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Of bees and zeds

Well, it's been a lonely walk through the wilderness, but I'm back. Washington, D.C. as always was a blast and the bee was pretty insane.

I'm a little disappointed as a matter of fact. I was kind of hoping to blog a little bit during Bee Week just because you see such insane stuff going on. But the days were busy and my Internet connection was about as reliable as a Ryan Jensen. Which is to say, not very.

So I'll give you the cliff notes version before I hit the sack. As it's been widely reported, ABC Sports broadcast the event for the first time in prime time. ESPN has carried the event for the past 12 years, but the 2006 bee was the first to be beamed on network TV.

In years past, the only time you'd see the TV cameras -- and even most of the reporters -- was during the actual days of competition, Wednesday and Thursday. But with ABC involved, cameras were every where, all the time. It was pretty crazy. And, believe it or not, the bee kids ate it up. I don't know if it's because they're starved for attention or feel a crushing desire to prove to the world they're normal just like everyone else. But the spellers played to the camera every chance they got, whether it was studying in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt or mugging for the cameras at the barbecue. They were all over it.

In fact, the cameras caught me a couple of times. At the barbecue, I was eating with Maheen's brother when the ABC camera man shows up and starts filming the two of us eating. We make a couple jokes to ourselves about it being bad enough to have people watch you eat, but to have a camera in your face, too? Anyway, I figured why not mock this guy in my own little way. You know, let him know I'm not dying for the attention. So I turned, looked into the camera and then picked my nose. And I mean I just started digging like I was going to find gold if I tried hard enough. I don't think Ahmad saw and I certainly didn't get a reaction from the camera man. Needless to say, it didn't make the barbecue montage ABC put together later that week. I probably screwed Ahamd's chances of getting on national TV.

And a word about the spellers themselves. They're a fun bunch. I would say a good two-thirds are your stereotypical spelling bee contestants. Just straight up, unabashed nerds. They revel in their geekiness and when they all get together, it's like they form some kind of hive. The core group of these kids are a collection of about 20 who keep in touch online during the off-season to help each other study and prepare for the next bee. The same groups spends the majority of bee week in the hotel lobby sitting on the couches and chairs, simulating the spelling bee. The alpha male of the group controls the computer and reads the words which the other kids then have to spell. They get knocked out when they misspell -- just like in the real thing -- and sometimes they even ridicule eachother. It's pretty funny. They're like 11, 12, 13 and 14 years old and they all act like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

And the lobby of the Grand Hyatt is about as wide open as lobbies get. It's open all the way to the glass-windowed ceiling with twelve floors of rooms on either side looking down. Everyone who walks in, checks out or heads to the ballrooms sees these kids sitting and studying. So, I was a little surprised, but equally entertained, by one speller -- a favorite who had already participated a couple years -- who sat studying most of Tuesday morning in his pajamas. But not pajamas like you'd think a teenager would wear -- this kids is 13, I believe. He had matching white pajamas decorated with little colored snowboarders. You know, like pajamas you see a 6- or 7-year-old wear. It kind of creeped me out after a while.

My favorite moment of speller geekdom, though, occurred when the Canadian speller -- the one who ended up taking second -- spelled a word that ended with the letter "z." Being from Canada, she of course said "zed" not "zee." All the little spellers sitting around me guffawed and snorted qas soon as they heard it, and said things like, "she did not just say 'zed'" or "I can't believe she said 'zed.'" It was classic.

So there's my week at a glance. I got to see H.L. and Randall, and H.L. and I even went out to lunch at this little dive across the street from the Department of Labor's building. It was pretty cool. Saw Mom and Dad off. They were actually going to stay with me Tuesday night (for some reason, each year the paper has booked me for the bee, they've stuck me in a room with two beds). But they ditched me at the last minute for the comforts of their almost empty apartment. It appears I'm not as cool as I used to be.

And on a final note, congrats to H.L., Steph (I'll get up to see you and Travis next year, I swear) and D, for winning a copy of The Rob Report's Perfect Songs Vol. 1. That's just exciting.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Did you ever

I was going back lookng at my Perfect Song series and realized my first post only listed two songs while the rest include three. So today is the Perfect Song Vol. 1 bonus edition. You can catch up with the past editions here, here, here and here.

The indomitable spirit of The Rob Report remains. That's the way we work around here. While the first response was overwhelming, I must soldier on. So once again, the first three folks to merely respond in the comments get a free copy of The Rob Report's Perfect Songs Vol.1, which will include today's bonus song. C'mon, free goods, it's what the internet exists for.

The Samples' "Did You Ever Look So Nice": The Samples spent their entire career on the cusp of making it big. For some reason, complete commercial success always eluded them and they've since kind of faded off into semi-obscurity. But back in the '90's, they were constantly turning out material that shimmered and rang and stuck in your head for weeks on end. In a good way. One of the finest examples, and probably one of the simplest, purest pop songs out there, is their fourth track from "No Room," "Did You Ever Look So Nice." The song is pure Samples. It's upbeat and catchy and wonderfully melodic, almost shiny. Like a lot of the band's songs it hides a sense of nostalgia and longing behind this happy, bouncy ode to a beautiful girl. "Growing up was on our faces/I remember yours so sweet." In true Samples fashion, the lyrics don't completely make sense, "And if we make through these changes/To find that nothing was in store/But the plans of our exchanges/Did they ever look so nice/Did you ever you ever look so nice." But that just adds another layer . If this song doesn't make you smile by the end, you have a heart of stone.

And so, here, the complete track listing of Perfect Pop Songs, Vol. 1 (the links at the top of the post will take you to my praise-tastic write-ups of each song):

1. The Sample's "Did You Ever Look So Nice"

2. Wilco's "Red Eyed and Blue"

3. U2's "If You Wear That Velvet Dress"

4. The Connell's "'74-'75"

5. The Push Stars' "Opening Time"

6. Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' "El Matador"

7. U2's "Big Girls Are Best"

8. Midnight Oil's "The Dead Heart"

9. Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out"

10. Spoon's "Everything Hits at Once"

11. U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)"

12. Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah"

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A word on that one band

I guess we need to put this to bed once and for all.

Dave very aptly pointed out that I've never really stated what it is about Creed that sucks, I've only said they suck. So let me see if I can quantify just what it is about this band I really don't like.

For me, I guess it comes down to two things: lack of any creativity and possessing no originality. To my untrained ears they sound like a bad Pearl Jam cover band. I listen to their songs and it's like they all hit this kind of emotional short-hand. The big power chords, the simple melodies, the generalized lyrics. They make an immediate sensory impact on the listener. It all adds up to Creed being the Smarties of the rock world -- music that's sweet and immediately palatable and then gone as quickly as it came. To me, as a listener, that's lazy and insulting. And I get bored of it really quick.

Had they not sounded like every other grunge rock band that came before them, had their big singles not been played into the ground, had the Evangelical Christians not latched onto the band, I might have given them more of a chance.

The thing is I like music that challenges me. It doesn't have to be indie, it doesn't have to be obscure. It just has to challenge me. That's everything from Queen to Elvis Costello to Wilco to U2. I don't get sick of it, I always hear something new when I listen to it and it entertains me. Creed simple didn't do those things for me. You've heard one Creed song, you've almost literally heard them all.

To be honest, Dave and I may have gotten off on the wrong foot. Creed and U2 are two different groups, appealing to two different people for a variety of different reasons. I will say that as I clumsily tried to make my point about U2 being a better band, in some respects I may have simply been comparing apples to oranges. The issue is moot at any rate. Creed is no longer together and U2 has been inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame.

One more point, before I put away the pen. I often fall into the trap of pegging people by the music they listen to -- because I define myself by the music I listen to. That's a fallacy. Not everyone defines themselves by their music. So I'll just say, bear in mind U2's the best band on the planet and everything will be right as rain.

Edicion familiar

Here's the update; I've been meaning to do this since Saturday. The fathers/sons was a blast. Leigh, for the most part, did really well. The weather had us nervous. It was pouring in Redding and the further east we got the more constant the rain became. But Leigh and I decided we weren't made of surgar -- we could handle a little rain. The foritude paid off. About 20 miles from the campground the rain stopped and the skies cleared.

Anyway, we got there, set up our tent and Leigh immediately wanted to jump inside, get on her pajamas and crawl in her sleeping bag. It's about 7 at this point and we hadn't even eaten dinner. But, who am I to argue with a three-year-old? She got changed, got into her sleeping bag and after 5 minutes, decided that was good. We were up and out to dinner. She chowed on potato salad and then sat by the fire once it got dark and roasted a couple marshmallows. Fire and surgar. She was in heaven.

It wasn't nearly as cold at night as last year's campout and Leigh managed to sleep pretty much through the night. Except for one point at like 2 in the morning when she decided she wanted to crawl into my mummy bag. Yeah, it didn't work. We bundled her up and got her back to sleep without incident.

After breakfast we went and climbed this gigantic rubble pile of volcanic rock that's like 300 feet high. The whole way up it was, "Daddy? We climb mountain?" over and over. It was fun.

Comments about her being the only girl at an all-boys event were relatively few. One obnoxious 9-year-old, known in the ward for being the primary's most pious know-it-all (that maybe a little harsh, he's pretty funny most of the time and helped me put the rain fly on my tent) told me I probably shouldn't have taken Leigh and that we should charge girls to come to the fathers/son.

I asked him what are fathers who have no sons to do? He responded, "take a non-member." You can't argue with that. I told him once Leigh was too old to take, that's what I'd do -- if he promised to do it as well. I didn't get a definite reponse.

In other news, I've taken my brother-in-law Scott's advice and told the rest of the family about the Rob Report. So, welcome family. Sit back and enjoy my pointless, meandering writings.

And to you Luker, a special shout-out. Lucky bastard has a disease named after him.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

It's all brand new

The time has come, as Peter Garrett once said. After two years and more than a thousand hits, I'm updating the look of The Rob Report. So I give you the generic blog template SnapShot Sable. If I were somekind of savy computer guy, I could maybe design my own page. As such, we'll make do riding on the coattails of Blogger.

It's late May. That means the annual Fathers/Sons Campout is coming. It's an interesting tradition, if you stop to think about it. To commerate the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, fathers take thier sons and head for the hills. Describing it like that almost makes it sound fundamentalist. It's not really like that. Mostly, it's an excuse to go camping and hang out with your familiars. And if your ward is doing it right, the event will include a short, concise, campfire devotional on the Aaronic Priesthood.

Anyway, the Fathers/Sons is tomorrow. We'll be heading up to Hat Creek, which is a pretty nice area to go camping. I bring it up because I have no male offspring, just two beautiful, crazy daughters. Two years ago, when we first got to Redding and Claire was just 3, the ward was making a push to get all the priesthood holders to go, sons or no sons. I thouht it would be alright but thouhgt it wouldn't really be fair to leave Becky alone with two crazies for a weekend while I went off camping, so I took along Claire. And we had a blast.

Anyway, she's closing in on 6 now and these days really kinda sticks out as a girl at an all-boys-and-men event. But Leigh (there on the right), well, she's 3 now. I can take her. So yeah, I'll keep the family tradition alive and take a daughter to the Fathers/Sons. And it should be a good time. Leigh is hilarious. She's a total goofball 3-year-old and if you can placate her mean streak (and it is a serious mean streak), she's a lot fun to hang out with.

Monday, May 01, 2006

I'm Resting

I'm resting on my laurels. Now that I've passed that magical threshold of a thousand hits, it's like I've got nothing left to do. I know, I know. My reader (singular) is clamoring for more. So I post on. Actually, I might be embelishing a little bit. No one's really clamoring for more. Except my pride. It's clamoring for more. It should be put in its place.

Anyway. There's a little bit new to write about. I finally picked up a copy of Passengers -- U2's 1995 experimental electonica album they recorded with Brian Eno. I've, of course, heard it before. Some of it was pretty freakin eclectic. And listening to it now, well, nothing's really changed. It's almost obtuse. But still kind of fun.

So my brother-in-law Scott has started his own blog, called the Scogg. I know, pretty awesome. Anyway, he's easily the funniest and more gregarious of all my marriage relations, so I'm looking forward to reading all his musings. Well, maybe not all of them. He's a city manager too. If he goes off on urban planning, I might fade off.

Which presents an interesting dilema for me. I purposely didn't tell the family I created my blog, because in those early days I used it to kind of rage against those family members that bugged me. I know, it's very passive aggressive of me. But everyone needs an outlet. Anyway, the Report's been pretty family friendly for a year now. So I'm left with the dilema, Do I tell the fam about the Rob Report, or do I continue on writing for my audience of two -- sometimes three -- readers? Or do I go back and expunge the offending material and then go public? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

It's at times like these I'm grateful for Show and Tell Music. And more specifically for the Mystery Singer. He makes life just a little more sweet. If only we knew who he was. Seriously. If I ever put out an album, this is how I'm doing it. Show and Tell is going through a redesign, so most of its album art archive is not available. But there's still a pretty good amount of stuff there, enough to keep you plenty entertained for hours. Go check it out. You'll thank me later.

And, as one final note, go support your local immigrant population. It's them with us that makes America truly what it is. Por este razon, yo digo, Viva Mexico. Y viva el obredor. Tienen derechos tal como tu y yo. Y deben poder llegar a ser ciudadanos de este pais si quieren. Hizimos lo mismo por tus abuelos.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Our Achtung Baby

I know. It's something only the people who have some kind of affectionate relationship with my children will find funny. But I'm still gonna post it, because I think it's pretty funny. Some quick background.

We listen to a lot of U2 in our house. We also watch a lot of the concert videos. The latest to make the rounds is the Vertigo show from Chicago. My daughters' favorite part is the encore when the band goes into "Zoo Station" and the drawing of the kid that appears on the cover of "Zooropa" pops up on the big screen and starts crying. It's officially known as the Achtung Baby, which I insist the girls call it. Anyway, life is predictably crazy with Becky still dealing with morning sickness, but the girls are excited that Becky's pregnant and they love talking about what we're going to name the new baby. Claire, my 5-year-old, who's oldest and thus thinks she's the third parent in our family, is always quick to offer the serious, authoritative opinion. So on to the story.

I picked up Claire from school today and so I was asking her the usual questions. How was class? How was show-and-tell? All that good stuff. Well, she starts telling me about her friend whose turn it was for sharing and how she interupted her. I asked Claire why she interupted and Claire told me she announced to the class the newest name for our little bun-in-the-oven. I asked her what name is that. And she said she told the class she thinks we should name it the Achtung Baby. She said we could just call it Achtung. For the record, I'm all for it.

Then tonight, before bed, she wants to tell us a joke. She does the usual chicken-crossing-the-road-bit and then tells us we have to tell a joke, too. So I do one of my favorites about a guy lost in the desert and dying of thirst who comes across a McDonald's and thinks he saved. So he goes inside and orders a peanut butter sandwich (it's really all in the telling). Anyway, Leigh tells a joke and then Claire tells us she's got another she wants to tell. So she starts up about a girl lost on the beach, dying of hunger and thirst who then sees a Chucky Cheese. At this point she stops to tell Becky and me that her joke is just like mine. Then she continues. The girl gets into the Chucky Cheese and, in a parched voice that Claire imitates, orders a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats. For some reason that was just hilarious. Becky about died laughing. And that's that. Child rearing can be fun.

Friday, April 14, 2006

I'm nearly great but there's something missing

Alright, I give. It's clear a daily post from me is never going to happen. You win, world. It's back to being a quitter for me.

Speaking of sloth (that's the periodic table of sloth to the right), I got on the scale Sunday night and I've finally hit the magic number. I weighed in at 200 lbs. It's like breaking the 4-minute mile of weight, expect in reverse. By my reckoning, that offically makes me a middle-aged American male. I couldn't be prouder of myself. And I know my country is proud of me too.

In other news, I've been on a raging U2 kick lately. The shuffle function on my iPod is a glorious feature. I've been listening to the 440 some-odd U2 songs I've got on my little machine through shuffle and it's like I've gone sonic exploring. I can't get enough. You hear the songs in strange juxtipositions and listen to tracks you'd almost forgotten about. It's like regular shuffle but magnified.

It's been compounded by this (you'll have to scroll down to the third graf), as I'm still discovering material. Anyway, with H.L.'s birthday coming up, I thought I'd send him a copy of everything. Who wouldn't love that? No one, my friends. No one.

And that's Friday for you. Stay close and watch as the counter rolls over to 1,000. It could happen any second! I'm gonna go get a life. Later.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Becky's curious condition

It's been just over three months now and while we're still not out of the woods yet, it's probably safe to comment more specifically on Becky's curious condition. Which continues. She's pregnant with our third child. It was planned. But I'll tell you what, she gets morning sickness something fierce. We're not sure why she's so lucky, but I'd like to think it has something to do with her super sense of smell. I'm serious. If she were one of the X-Men, her mutant ability would be sense of smell. In times of normal, non-pregnancy health, she can smell trace amounts of anything from a hundred miles away. It's pretty impressive. Anyway, pregnancy comes with its nausea and food aversions and her sense of smell is suddenly heightened to cosmic levels. She can smell things no other human smell. It's kind of like a dog whistle for smells.

But in another week or so she'll be through the worst of it. Then it's just being great with child during the long summer months of Redding. The long, 110-degree summer months of Redding. She may find puking every other day in the cool April rain maybe isn't so bad. But probably not. This nausea is pretty awful. And, as pregnant as she'll be, she'll at least be able to swim to beat the unforgivable summer heat. Although, not until she waits an hour after she eats. Or she'll puke.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Did I say every day?

Okay. So the whole posts-everyday-plan didn't quite work out. I'm lazy. Tell me something I don't know. So we'll say, starting today, it's posts everyday until we hit 1,000. I'm so on it. Grab the signs and hit the streets, the revolution starts now.

First off, the last installment of my Perfect Songs Vol. 1 list. You can catch up here, here and here. A friend of mine had the brilliant idea of burning the perfect songs onto a disc and giving them out to whoever replied in the comments sections. That's right, all you have to do is reply. The first three people get a copy of Rob's Perfect Songs Vol. 1. Free swag! The Web is such a wonderful resource.

Spoon's "Everything Hits at Once": It's the first cut from their 2002 kind-of-come-back album "Girls Can Tell" and, while nearly every song off this album could be considered perfect in some way or another, "Everything Hits at Once" grabs you first. It's a sonically dense, bright but dark around the edges little pop song, complete with a piano break and lots of "oooos." It shimmers with minimalist lines like, "Don't say a word/The last one still stinging" and "I go to sleep/But think you're next to me." In the end the song's about tragedy and lost love, but it's brilliantly rendered with an upbeat rock swing and a catchy melody.

U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)": Sure, it's probably one of the band's top three overplayed, way-too-well-known songs, but it has that status for a reason. The song simply doesn't miss. The guitar riff that backs it is easily one of the best the Edge has ever turned out and the lyrics beg to be shouted out at the top of your lungs. It comes together on every single level. You find yourself unconscienciously tapping your foot when the song starts and by the end you're ready to take the front lines in the fight for civil rights. It's simply U2 at their best, doing what they do best. It's a perfect song, a perfect anthem.

Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah": Most of Buckley's songs are brilliant. But his cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is flawless, absolutely the definitive version of the song -- and it's been covered by the likes of Bono and Rufus Wainwright. It's moody, sweeping, sorrowful and joyous all at the same time. Because of Buckley's unsurpassable vocals. It's like the song was written specifically for his voice. He hits these beautiful Irish tenor highs and breathes intimacy into some of Cohen's bolder phrases. Like most of Cohen's songs, it's dripping with Biblical imagery and Buckley is makes it work on various levels. From the opening line, "Well I heard there was a secret chord/That David played and it pleased the Lord/But you don't really care for music do you" to the line "And I've seen your flag on the marble arch/And love is not a victory march/It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah," Not a single note is wasted, not a single line is thrown away. Buckley makes it his own and it's a prefect song because of it. At some point in your life you will listen to this song and it will make you cry.

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