Trust the Gene Genie

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Just turn your head and think of the Queen

So I've been thinking about rock bands lately. It's not that strange. And it's better than spending my days wondering if Lindsay is keeping her nose clean.

But I was thinking about the pantheon of great classic rock bands -- you know, the groups and artisits that laid the foundation for modern rock bands. I'll place a few of them in convient list form -- it's not meant to be inclusive:

1. The Beatles
2. Led Zeppelin
3. The Who
4. The Rolling Stones
5. Bob Dylan
6. Pink Floyd
7. The Band

You look over that list and something stands out. The majority of these bands are British. I would argue that, while an American invention, rock is simply done better by the Brits. Now, it should be noted, and I think this gives exponetial depth to the arguement, that the great British rock bands from the 60s and early 70s -- with the exception of Pink Floyd -- we're listening to and trying to imitate American blues men like Muddy Water and John Lee Hooker.

The point I'm tryin to make is for some reason the British are simply better at Rock and I don't know why that is. Is it the accent? The Queen? The stiff upper lip? If you've got any answers, don't be afraid to share. But think about it, you're never going to win any debates trying to argue that Lynard Skynard is a better rock band than The Who.

And the same holds true today. From The Police to U2 (Ireland is technically part of the United Kingdom) to Radiohead to the Arctic Monkeys. What have we produced on this side of the pond? Bon Jovi and Creed, that's who. There are exceptions of course. Bob Dylan, probably the greatest songwriter of the last two or three generations. And then there were a handful of bands from Seatle in the early 90s who turned the music world on its head.

But what's interesting is that the Brits never copied the grunge sound. Their response was Oasis and Blur. That's facsintating on a lot of levels. So, that's your food for thought for the day. Chew on it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

You're doomed

I'm really terrible at this. But it's good for both us. So, here's to more regular updates. I can do it. You know I can.
And I've got to give a shout to Philby and Ian. Glad you gentlemen have stumbled over here. And now on to the business at hand.

You know what's fun? The English language. And I'm not just saying that because I write for a living. In fact, I'm saying it in spite of that fact. Because English is most fun when it's misused. And no one misuses it better than four-, five- and six-year-olds.

A couple examples: Leigh, my endlessly comedic four-year-old, is the member of the family most eager to express herself. But, given the range and complexity of the emotions she must feel, she never quite seems to have the language skills to do it.

Like after dinner a few nights ago. Leigh ate seconds of most everything on the table but complained about the meal the whole time doing so. We stopped just short of forcing her to eat. Anyway, she left the table and went into the family room. I followed, still eating salad from the serving bowl.

She looked up at me and said something to the effect, "When I see you eating that, it makes me feel like I have to eat it, too." Of course it does.

Becky remided me of the best story. Both Claire and Leigh are useless when it comes to finding anything in the house. And when I say useless I mean completely inable to find anything at any time any where in the house. To this day we send them downstairs to put on their shoes and they call up from the doorway that they can't find them. We walk downstairs only to discover that the shoes are three, maybe four inches from where they're standing. In plain sight.

So, Becky and I have been known, from time to time, to use such phrases as "Open your eyes," "Use your eyes," "You have to use your freakin' eyes," "Freak! They're right here! Are you blind?" and other variations.

Well, some months ago Claire was searching for her shoes, getting frustrated that she couldn't find them and letting us all know that she was frustrated that she couldn't find them. Leigh, ever the dutiful and helpful younger sibling, turns to Claire and says, "Jeez Claire, you have to use your freaky eyes." Classic Leigh.

Claire, now a second grader, is learning how to be catty, jokey and sarcastic. Which can be a lot of fun as she tries to put these skills to use. Becky and I, of course, tease the girls a lot, saying outlandishly untrue things to which we get the response, "Is that for real?"

Claire is starting to pick up on that kind of humor and last week thought it would be funny to write these really mean insults in the window with these little Crayola window markers the girls have. Her first stab at irony.

But, she's only six and so she doesn't really know any really mean insults. So she came up with the three cruelest lines her little six-year-old brain could produce, perfectly acceptable to her:

1. I hate you.
2. You're mean.
3. You're doomed.

She thought she was hilarious. And I've got three new insults to use the next time I get really mad at someone.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The great album

Many are the ways you can judge an album. And I'm talking about albums, not songs, not bands, not singers. I was listening to Spoon's "Girls Can Tell" the other day when I realized I usually listen to the whole album when I play it. I realized I enjoy every song on the album, start to finish.

So today, rather than judge an album by quality, award-winningness or cultural relevence, we're going to take a look at those albums you can play start to finish and every song is as good as the last. Yep, the rule is you don't skip a single song. Which is a rarity in this day of iTunes purchases and iPod immediacy.

So off the top of my head, this is what immediately came to mind:

1. U2's "Achtung Baby" -- This is an entire album where not a note is wasted nor a lyric thrown away from beginning to end, from "Zoo Station" to "Love Is Blindness." It's amazing to think that just 10 short years later Bono would be singing about monkeys swinging from trees.

2. Sting's "Ten Summoner's Tales" -- This one surprised me. I stumbled over it the other day and realized it had probably been six of seven years since I'd listened to the album and going back over the tracks I was amazed that every one was just a really good song. It's follow-up, "Mercury Falling" doesn't have the same depth and from there I stopped buying Sting albums. I think I made the right decision.

3. Spoon's "Girls Can Tell" -- I was trying to decide earlier this year which album I thought was better, "Girls" or "Gimme Fiction" and that's when I realized I always listen to "Girls" start to finish. I don't ever do it with "Fiction."

4. The Push Stars' "After the Party" -- Another surprise for me. But of the four albums I have, this is the only one I'll listen to start to finish. It's also a great example of what the Push Stars do. They write great pop songs.

5. Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" -- There's a lot of classic rock albums that contain some of the greatest rock songs ever recorded and still they'll have the random two or three throw-away songs. "Moon" is a great example of an album where every song feels essential. It's hard not to listen to the thing start to finish.

6. Wilco's "Being There" -- This wasn't always the easiest album to listen to. The thicker country elements from the disc used to scare me off. But, as is the case with most Wilco albums, the more I listened to it, the more I heard and the more I liked it. And now I love the thing in all its sloppy entirety.

7. Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" -- Like "Dark Side of the Moon" this is an album that's hard not to listen to start to finish. Every song is like a link to the next. You can't not listen to the whole thing.

8. U2's "Joshua Tree" -- This goes up grudgingly, but even I have to admit that the album does not have a single weak spot. And, when you get past the first three songs, "Joshua Tree" can actually surprise you. "Exit" and "Mothers of the Disappeared" are two songs I can still listen to and hear things I didn't hear before.

9. Midnight Oil's "Blue Sky Mining" -- The album is surprisingly understated. And as you listen to it, you're continually surprised as each song comes up that you know it and that you like it. It's a great album. "One Country" is just an incredible song.

That's probably enough. Feel free to add your own. I'd be curious to see what albums you all listen to start to finish.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The great SJP debate

Like many from my generation, "Real Genius" holds a special place in my heart. In fact, much of my anti-authoritarian leanings displayed while I was in school can be traced back to this movie. Val Kilmer made it seem so cool to be a non-conformist smart-a.

Because it is cool.

And while he clearly makes the movie what it is, the yin to Kilmer's yang, the Felix to Kilmer's Oscar, the wind to Kilmer's wings was Gabe Jarret, the strange-looking, mildly effeminate kid who played Mitch, his roommate.

I'm going to get right to the point here. I've never seen Gabe Jarret and Sarah Jessica Parker in the same room together. In fact, after "Real Genius" I never saw Gabe Jarret in anything. But "Flight of the Navigator," which came out just a year after "Real Genius," had a young Sarah Jessica Parker. Coincidence? I think not. They're clearly the same person. I've posted their photos below. You decide for yourself.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Phil Collins is pretty cool

It's funny. The item that inspires me to get a post up on the blog after almost a month is not something cute the girls have done or some bold insight I've gained into the mysterious machinations of our life cycle. It's something that goofy little rock band I've been really into lately has done.

Wilco, which every-so-often streams lives shows on their Web site, has put up the audio for the Berkeley show Becky and I attended in August. You'll remember. It was really good. Well, now you all can hear for yourselves.

And since I'm here, talking about music, I'll mention something I wanted to get up last month. Phil Collins. I loved Genesis in junior high and even listened to them a bit in high school. But over the last decade, I thought Phil was just kind of an embarrassment to his previous self, starting with that soundtrack he wrote for Disney's Tarzan.

And then, a few weeks ago I was listening to "This American Life" -- which, really, everyone should do -- and, as often happens on the show, I heard something that really changed my opinion. Turns out Phil Collins is a really cool guy.

The segment specific to him is first on the show and lasts about 20 minutes. Do yourself a favor and just listen to it -- I promise you won't regret it. In fact you'll come back here and thank me you did. But in a nutshell, here's the story.

One of TAL's regular contributers goes through a break-up. She and her boyfriend during their relationship really got into Phil Collins, first ironically, then sincerely. They both loved the song "Against All Odds."

Then they break up and the girl immerses herself in torch songs, like "Against All Odds." Torch songs, the unrequited love songs of those who sing about taking back their significant other at any cost or wishing it wasn't all over or wishing they could go back to the way things were. She gets to the point where she wants to be one of these songs and comes to the realization that she needs to write her own torch song.

But she doesn't know how to go about doing it, she needs advice. Who to ask, she wonders. The answer is obvious. She pulls a few strings and gets Phil Collins on the phone. The conversation itself is surprising. Collins is really amusing, disarming, even touching and so with the advice she sets off to write her song.

She writes a bunch of lyrics, gets in touch with a friend who works for this little indie band in NYC and they decide which song to put to music. After some collaboration, they make their decision and the band records her song.

The surprise is two-fold. First, the song is pretty good. Then she calls Phil back and plays the song for him. The second surprise is his reaction. He's genuinely impressed. It was a great little radio piece, classic "This American Life." Trust me, just go give it a listen.

In other news, you all need to wish Becky a happy birthday. She turned 31 yesterday. I stayed home from work and me and the girls had a really good time making her feel special. It's fun to do stuff like that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sick and tired (mostly)

I'm back from the dead.

Not really. I wasn't really dead. I just felt that way for about 12 hours late Sunday night and early Monday morning. I puked violenlty a couple times and had the runs. I even fell asleep on the floor by the bathroom door for about 20 minutes in the middle of the night. Although it was a particularly bad strain of the stomach flu that took me down, I realize that drunks go through the same experience nearly every weekend. And so I come to the conclussion that I didn't miss much by staying away from the fire water in college. (Is it culturally insensative to use the term "fire water"? I hope not. Because it sounds funny when I say it to myself.)

While sick, Leigh, my 4-year-old who you may remember as being hilarious, told me she knew what germ I had. Intrigued, I asked her what kind. She said it was green and round and looked kind of like a grape. But uglier. Yes, they're learning about germs in preschool and obviously it has made an impact. You keep at it, Tiger.

So, Diana (Dinah), you were in San Francisco and then I was sick. Otherwise I would have called you more promptly for your birthday.

Also, Led Zeppelin is going to reunite for a single show in London later this year. As much as I respect The Who, this isn't like The Who, who reunite and tour on a fairly regular basis with progressively fewer original band members each time. I mean, after John Entwistle died a few years ago, it got a little disrespectful.

You have to understand, Led Zeppelin doesn't really reunite. Sure, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have gotten together a few times and done a few live shows. But they never billed themselves as Zeppelin -- though, they pretty much were. And now this reunion involves not just Plant and Page, but bassist John Paul Jones and, since John Bonham has died -- the reason the band broke up in the first place and decided not to continue on as Led Zeppelin -- Bonham's son will take his place. That's about as close as you can get to the original band.

And it's just one show and it's for charity. And that's cool.

So, don't be afraid to love Led Zeppelin, I guess is what I'm saying. They're out there doing it right.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I can't explain

I've got something to share. I rarely post viral videos on the blog simply because they're viral, which means you've already seen them 15 times by the time someone comes up to you and tells you should see them. Also, posting virals on your blog is this decade's equvilalent to last decade's crime of fowarding on those "Don't delete this if you love America" e-mails. Or, more recenlty, posting lolcats pictures.

But, I've got to show you this because it is absolutely without a doubt the most frighteningly disturbing musical performance I have ever seen in my entire life. You're right. It does involve Celine Dion.

Remember, I don't do this lightly. But it's something that simply requires viewing to be believed. It's also Exhibit A in the argument that Celine should be loaded aboard the next shuttle mission and jettisoned into space once the earth's gravitational pull has been broken.

So without further ado, here's Celine performing AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long." Her air guitar alone will make you want to rip your ears off your head and fashion them into a blindfold to cover your eyes. I'm not being dramatic. It's that bad. And watch for the smug, self-acknowledging nod she gives the audience at the 27-second mark. It sums it all up:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Good morning!

It's Sept. 11, which, I think, most everyone is aware of. (The above photo of Kissinger is there just to make you smile and to remind you, it's alright to have fun at the expense of public figures and/or old people.) Anway, I just had a thing or two I wanted to add to the national conversation. For all our sakes, I'll try to avoiding sounding maudlin or sanctimonious or self-righteous or glib or smug.

I just wanted to point out that Osama's still at large. And that we literally gave up the hunt for him to invade Iraq. And that Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. And that our invasion of Iraq has created new and angrier terrorists. As well as cost the lives of more Americans. And I know this comes across as such a cliche in today's political climate, but someone please tell me how Pres. Bush could have screwed up this country any worse. I think he's done wrong just about everything he could have done wrong.

And did I mention we never caught Osama.

Anyway, my point is, sometimes it's frustrating being an American.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Summer's all over

Well, Labor Day was yesterday and while, yes, the end of summer is still technically three weeks away, Poindexter, we all know the first Monday of September is the real end of summer.

And with it, the culmination of Rob Predicts the Future! The first thing we learned was that maybe it wasn't as fun as we initially thought. The second thing we learned was that I'm not very good at predicting the future.

In conclusion, here are the results:

1. Gas prices did not hit $4.50 a gallon this summer. Which is a good thing. The closest they got was around $3.15.

2. "Pirates" is No.2 -- right behind "Spider-man 3" as the summer's biggest blockbuster. It has indeed been labeled a shiny cinematic turd that cost waaaaay too much money.

3. "Transformers" was surprisingly good and vaguely bad -- in that over-wrought Michael Bay kind of way. I loved the "Bourne Ultimatum" -- it was awesome and I never got around to seeing the "Simpsons."

4. I did not lose 10 pounds this summer. However, I did lose seven. Not bad for the first time I've consciously tried to lose weight. I'm still proudly and contentedly eating junk food, just not in the same quantities. Which could explain why I didn't lose 10 pounds.

5. And, of course, Erick and I never formed our band. That being said, he still plays the trumpet, I still play the guitar and friend Mike Williams is a closeted violin player. Chances are still good that we form a band. We could be Arcade Fire with one-tenth the members and none of the talent. We'd be awesome.

I don't want to leave you empty-handed so I'll quickly make fun of Zac Efron. Seems the least I can do since my six-year-old has recently been exposed to and now become obsessed with "High School Musical." If only she had watched "Them!!"

Anyway, this was pointed out by a co-worker. It seems when the "High School Musical" gravy train has passed Zac by, he can market himself as a cheaper, low-rent Jodie Foster for the next film she passes on. Of course, he's going to have to work on those arms:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Disposable Dixie cup drinking

I've been trying to get this up since last weekend.

In short, the Wilco show was incredible. There aren't many bands that I've seen in concert that reproduce the feel and sound of their albums and music live as well as Wilco. The arrangements, the orchestrations, the timing, the musicianship -- it's all amazingly put-together. They just sound good in concert. (You can click on the photos to make 'em big.)

So let's take it from the top.

The show, as you know, was in Berkeley, a solid three hours from Redding. It was general admission so we figured if we got there an hour early -- 6:30ish -- we'd have a chance at getting pretty good seats. I mean this was Wilco, not U2, after all.

Becky's aunt and uncle had graciously offered to take the girls, Concord being only 20 minutes or so from Berkeley. We got to their place about 4 and had a chance to chat and eat. Never underestimate the kindness of relatives -- they had just returned home the day before from a two-week sojourn to Idaho. They really were very generous.

Anyway, we got on the road just after 6. We figured we'd be in Berkeley just after 6:30 and probably in our seats by 7 at the latest. That's when we hit traffic. You have to understand, by some twist of cosmic fate, every other trip we'd taken to the Bay area since moving to Redding had been almost completely bad-traffic-free. I guess we were due.

It took nearly an hour to go the regularly 20-minute distance. And winding through Berkeley was interesting experience. The Greek Theater, the show's venue, is on UC Berkeley's campus, so our drive there took us right through the heart of the university. An incredible campus, by the way. But with it being the end of the first week of school, it was the beginning of rush week and the road to the Greek goes right through Frat Row. So we saw a bunch of rushing frat boys, complete with one guy smashing a large-screen analog TV with a sledgehammer on the front lawn of a frat house, to the amusement of other frat boys.

Event parking was 20 bucks and like hell I was going to pay that, so we spent another 15 minutes or so driving around looking for parking. I had forgotten how bad parking can get in a college town. Anyway, we found a place on a big hill about a mile from the theater, jumped out and started our hike.

By the time we got through the gate and into the Greek it was almost 7:30 exactly. The place, surprisingly, was still filling up and on the floor in the front of the stage was a perfect spot, almost dead center and about 20 feet back. Becky and I slipped in and were ready to rock.

Until Bean Pole (just over Becky's right shoulder) weaseled his way over. You have to understand, Becky's pretty tall, like 5'9". But this skinny kid moves up, he's at least 6'2" and stands right in front of Becky, blocking the entire view of the stage. The opening act was still going through the paces, so no worries yet. But we knew we had to get him to move at some point. It's a Wilco show, so the passive-aggressive route seemed the more appropriate route to take. We talked kind of loudly at first about the audacity of it all, hoping he'd overhear and get the point. But it's a concert and already it was pretty loud. So that didn't work. He was standing so close to Becky that Becky could have breathed on him and he probably would have felt it. So Becky decided to breathe on him to see if he could feel it and then maybe move. She starts blowing at the little hairs on the back of his neck and nothing. He was either ignoring it or too stoned to notice. But she kept it up.

It was all good. The warm-up act finished their set and cleared the stage and Bean Pole at that point decided to move, so we were good.

After what felt like an eternity, the stage went dark and from the wings the band takes their places and immediately goes into "Sunken Treasure." They played most of the stuff from the new album, "Either Way," "You Are My Face," (hearing the entire crowd come in on the bridge and sing "I have no idea how this happens, etc." gave me goose bumps) "Impossible Germany," "Sky Blue Sky," "Side With Seeds," "Shake It Off," "Hate It Here," Walken" and "On and On and On."

It sounded great live. Even "Shake It Off," probably my least favorite track from the album, popped and crackled and just rocked by the end. Jeff joked a lot with the audience, which was fun. He even went on a rant at one point committing the audience to never using the phrase "I loves me some." It was pretty funny, but I couldn't help thinking that the folks that really needed to hear was a few blocks up the road at Frat Row.

And as funny as Jeff was, the two to watch were Nels Cline and Pat Sansome. Nels, an avant garde jazz guitarist who joined the band two years ago, was incredible. Each time he'd slip into one of his solos, he would start bouncing around (he's at least 6'6") and his hand would be moving so quickly it was a literal blur. The guy was nuts. It was awesome. Pat joined the band about the same time; he and John Stirrat are in Autumn Defense together. Anyway, you got the feeling he knew people weren't at the show to see him necessarily so he'd bounce around stage, pulling all these 80s hair-band poses with this guitar or shaking a tamborine, giving off an-almost Topher Grace-sarcastic vibe. It was funnier than it reads.

The band came on for a couple encores. They played "Outta Mind Outta Site" and it was electrifying. They also did "California Stars" which was really cool, considering we were in California. They closed with "Spiders" which I thought was going to be let down, but wasn't. That's another song that works really well live. I mean, by the end you just have this wall of guitars thundering through the song's main hook. It was pretty dang cool.

Disappointingly, they didn't play "Kingpin," which I knew was a long shot, but they also didn't play "Heavy Metal Drummer" or "The Thanks I Get," which I full-on expected.

So, all in all, the show was brilliant. If you can't get to a Wilco show anytime in the near future, you can go to the band's Web site where they're currenlty streaming the London show from the European leg of their tour this spring. It's all very professional, easily CD-quality sound. They'll also be on Leno tonight. But I don't recommend watching Jay Leno, so I'll leave that decision up to you.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What, pray tell, are knickers?

Lot's of pop culture talk lately, not a lot about the family. So, not unlike the real estate market of late, we're going to do a little correcting here on the Rob Report and fill you in on the latest family affairs.

The girls started school today. Everyone is excited. I can't believe Claire's in second grade. I remember second-grade. It wasn't that long ago.

In extended family news, my mom went into the hospital this morning for an operation on her ankle. It's a long, sordid tale that began nearly 10 years ago when she slipped on the garage floor of the mission home in Kansas City and broke said ankle. It's been problematic since and today she gets it fused. We're all kind of bummed for her and wishing her a speedy recovering.

Leigh, as you may recall, is hilarious. Still a doubting Thomas? Here's further proof. Every so often, while driving the girls around town, Becky will make a turn or come to a stop and shout the refrain, "Hold on to your knickers!"

Not exactly a Gene Genie-ism, but it gets the message out. I think, and Becky can correct me if I'm wrong, that the saying can be traced back to Marcus and his handling of the Grand Marq on the snowy, frozen roads of Gillette, Wy. while in high school.

So a couple weeks ago Becky was driving Leigh and her little friend Abbie across town, both strapped tight in their boosters seats. I'm not sure what manuever Becky was pulling, but, as is her wont, at one point in the drive she turns around and says to the girls, "Hold on to you knickers!"

Well, Abbie turned to Leigh and asked "What are your knickers?" And Leigh, ever the thoughtful one, simply responds, "They're these silver things on the booster seat." She then helpfully points to a couple of plastic, silver tabs on the arms of the booster seat. And then holds on to them as best she can, encouraging Abbie to do the same.

Update: Mom's out of surgery and is doing well. Apparently, the operation itself lasted about twice as long as they had anticipated -- Mom's ankle was pretty messed up. But the doctor said he was able to fix things up rather well, that the operation was a roaring success. Let's hope.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Summer Teeth

Hey, guess who got tickets to Wilco's sold-out Berkeley show? We did. Hooray for us.

You may remember my recent lament of my inability to make decisions. Well, unfortunately it appears that unhealthy character trait has been rewarded. We scored tickets to the show through ebay yesterday.

It's funny because we'd kind of given up on going. There's a big YM/YW activity that weekend and as hard-to-find tickets got more expensive it didn't seem like it was worth it. Most of the ticket prices on ebay were really inflated and there wasn't much up for grabs on craigslist.

But on a whim, Becky decided to check out what was on ebay a couple nights ago and sure enough there were a pair of tickets going for pretty close to face value. So we bid and 12 hours later we won.

Now, we just have to get a hold of Becky's aunt and uncle in the Bay area so we have a place to stay the night and leave the kids for a few hours during the show. So far, they've been incommunicado. So Amber, we may come calling.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bat's breath!

Who remembers the old '80s show "Voyagers"?

I don't know who in our household started watching it, but I can remember being 7 years old and sitting down every week to watch it and absolutely loving it. In fact, to this day when I hear the word "omni" I think if "Voyagers" first and the Book of Mormon second. It was a pretty great show.

Anyway, it's now out of DVD so Becky and I have been checking them out. Now keep in mind that I've dragged Becky along on these little strolls down memory lane before. You know, renting the shows you thought were brilliant as a kid to relive the childhood that's far into the past.

For every show that holds up to the test of time ("Greatest American Hero") there's 10 that simply suck on just about every possible level ("The Fall Guy" -- such a disappointment). So putting in "Voyagers" last week I didn't quite know what to expect. It could have been pretty bad.

I mean, the show is pretty high-concept for '80s television. Jeffrey, a 10-year-old orphan in 1983 finds Phineas Bogg, a guy in a vest and knee boots, who has just crashed through the window of his New York high-rise. Turns out he's a Voyager, a time traveller that goes around fixing history when it goes wrong. Using the omni device that flashes red or green depending on what needs fixed. Reluctantly, he takes the kid with him and off they go fixing history.

Well, the show has held up suprisingly well. And it's amazing what sticks out in your head 25 years on. Jeffrey's red and white striped shirt and white Nikes were instantly recognizable and the shot of Bogg and the kid flying through space when they time traveled was printed idelably on my memory. That image always stuck out. Wierd. And every episode ends with Jeffrey imploring the viewers to visit their local libraries and learn about the real history highlighted in the show. I'd totally forgotten about that but the second I heard it, it took straight back to being a kid. Crazy.

Anyway, as for the show itself, the acting is pretty bad and the producation values are understandably low, but the stories are a lot of fun -- not as predictable as you'd think -- and the chemistry between Bogg and the kid is surprisngly strong. It's been a lot of fun to watch. So, don't be afraid, go ahead and rent it. It shouldn't wreck any childhood memories.

Now on to something a little more current. Although, unintentionally this has something to do with time travel as well.

"Life on Mars." Ever heard of it? No? Well, that's about to change. It's a BBC 1 show that's getting an American remake for the upcoming television season. It ran earlier this year on BBC America.

Anyway, the show is absolute genius. It starts off in 2006 in Manchester. Sam Tyler, a hot-shot police detective is hot on the trail of serial killer when he gets hit by a car. When he wakes up it's 1973. The show's central mystery revolves around Tyler trying to figure out if he's in a coma in 2006 and just dreaming, has actually traveled back in time to 1973 or if he's just completely crazy.

It takes the tired old police procedural and completely turns the genre on its head. It's a lot of fun. Moreso because of Sam's boss in 1973, Gene Hunt. He just steals the show -- one of the most quotable characters in TV from the last 10 years. He's brilliant.

Anyway, I know what you're wondering. How can I see it? Producers have yet to release the show on DVD on the this side of the pond and it's completed its run on BBC America. Well, never fear. Thanks to YouTube, you can watch most of the show from start to finish. Like most British shows, it had a limited run -- two seasons. And each season is only eight episodes long. The guy that posted them all to YouTube gets lazy from time to time and you're left with only highlights of some episodes instead the whole thing. But most shows are intact and it's totally worth your time. But be warned. It's Brittish, which means the language can get a little rough. Although, they never drop the f-bomb. So that's something.

I'll get you started:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I guess it's August

Well, the unitentional hiatus is over. It's amazing how fast two weeks go by. Anyway, we have quite a bit of ground to cover. So I'll make this as quick and painless as possible.

First, the girls got their hair cut. Dramatically. This is the first time in their young little lives that we've done something this drastic with their hair and overall I think it works. They're both cuties.

Moving on, Becky and Claire spent last week in Richland, Wash. helping Becky's sister Kim recover from an especially difficult pregnancy and delivery. While they were gone, Jayson posted some thoughts last week on his quinteplets blog about service and how it seems to always be at work in some way or another in our lives:

A number of years ago, I discovered one of the secrets to true and lasting happiness. It is service to others. In serving others, we forget ourselves. We forget our own problems or recognize those problems in different ways that make them seem less formidable. I firmly believe that it is only through serving others (including our own family members) that we can really find true happiness.

Jayson feels one of the reasons they had the quints was to give those around them a chance to serve and to give himself and Rachelle a chance to accept help from others, something they admit to being kind of bad at.

And so the point I'm trying to make is I'm glad Becky had the chance to go help her sister and I'm glad her sisters were able to band together and ask for help when they needed it. I think it brings the family together and strengthens those bonds like nothing else can. You can say "I love you" all day long but until you actually sacrifice some of your own time and energy to help those you care for, you're not really showing much love at all.

And now I'll get off my high-horse. And talk about TV.

You know, on second thought, this might be a good place to stop today. Tomorrow -- yes, tomorrow -- we'll cover televsion. I just got done watching the first five episodes of "Voyagers." Oh, you remember "Voyagers." The omni is flashing green, kid. We're good.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Five more Wilkinsons in our world

For those keeping score, Jayson and Rachelle just gave birth to the quintuplets. I've written about it a couple times here and here. Anyway, you gotta go check out their his and hers blogs. Jayson already has video up and it's absolutely incredible.

You have to remember, this was a shaky venture at best. They weren't ever sure how many would survive nor what problems they'd have once delivered. But the birth was a success and the five babies -- three girls and two boys -- seem to be doing really well.

Congrats, Jays and Rachelle! Your babies are beautiful and they couldn't be coming to a better home.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Boy Who Was Always in a Bad Mood

Let's get this out of the way.

I finished the last Harry Potter book last night and had a few thoughts to pass along. Spoilers are ahead, so if you haven't finished the book yet or don't want to know what happened or simply don't care, just skip this post and be thankful you lead a healthy, normal life. For the rest of you who have read the book, don't care or wish to mock me, here's what I think.

The book was interesting and for the most part entertaining. Claire noticed me reading it over the past couple days and was intrigued that was I was reading Harry Potter. So I dug out the first book and handed it to her to read. Doing it, I noticed that it's been almost eight years since I read the first book and that Becky and I finished it in three days.

That was a long time ago. Eight years later I'm not quite as enamored with the books as I used to be. Around book five Harry became this grouchy, selfish and almost painfully unsympathetic character and stayed that way until about the last fourth of book seven. It got to be a real drag.

I wanted to finish the series, even as I enjoyed it less, because I was so intrigued by those first books, interested to know how it would all resolve, curious to know just how Harry had survived as a baby and how he would turn into this wunderkind wizard.

And now I know. And I'm kind of ambivalent about the whole thing.

At the same time, I've got to give credit to J.K. Rowling. She kept her characters human, obnoxiously at times. I remember reading all the Tom Clancy novels in high school and being left with the sense that Jack Ryan was this unbelievable, infallible hero who could never really make a mistake and always knew what do. By the time Clancy made him president, you realized that the author had slipped deep into hero-worship never to return. Jack Ryan became a god among men and a bad cliche.

Mercifully, Rowling never falls into this trap. In fact, most of the time, she took it to the other extreme. Harry was always in a bad mood. At times, he was woefully unsympathetic. He was mean, self-obsessed and fixated on his parents. There were times over the past three books that I'd wished he'd just get killed so he'd shut up and stop whining about himself and his his parents and focus on something or someone besides Harry Potter.

Rowling kept that up for a good portion of book seven. Luckily, Harry finally matures and becomes less annoying. In fact, the book's finale, when Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts to make their last stand was really, really good. Finally, the potential of the entire series comes to fruition and you see all the characters grow into who you wanted them to be.

Neville's my new favorite. He was Harry's mirror image for much of the series -- weak, goofy and unsure, but his parents destroyed by Voldemort all the same. But he came into his own at the end of "Deathly Hallows" and in a way was more Harry Potter than Harry.

Snape's big reveal was also really satisfying. Of all the characters in the series, this is the one Rowling gets right. She never went straight melodrama with him and made him substantially three-dimensional. It made his death that much more tragic. Fred died, which bummed me out and so did Mad-Eye, Lupin and Tonks. Those all felt kind of ancillary.

The one character I kept hoping would die, however, never did. Hagrid survived. There was a brief moment at the beginning of the book where it looked like he might have bought it and then another scene near the end. But no, he's left to annoy and distract for generations to come. I would have gladly traded his death for Fred's.

There was a lot of whimsy in the first books that was gone by the seventh. And I suppose that's understandable. The books get progressively darker as the characters mature and face more dangers. That being said, I wonder if the writing became more of a chore for Rowling as she went on and less of an enjoyment as it clearly had been in the beginning.

Book seven also alludes heavily to a Nazi-controlled Europe, with Mudbloods standing in for Jews and Death Eaters for the Gestapo. The whole quest for Horcruxes and then the subplot to collect the Deathly Hallows felt almost Dan Brown-ish. We've got secret societies, powerful talismans and a centuries-old conspiracy to keep them hidden. It didn't do much for me.

That being said, the book was gripping overall. Rowling wasn't afraid to put her characters in real peril and as a result "Deathly Hallows" was a true page-turner. And excluding the misguided epilogue, it ended smartly and satisfyingly.

Except for the fact that Hagrid didn't die. That would have made it completely satisfying.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Decider

I've never been very good at decision-making. I can walk into 7-Eleven and spend an hour trying to pick out a pack of candy. Becky will ask what I want for dinner and I go straight to the hoary old chestnut, "I dunno. What do you want?"

Sometimes, it's a great way to shirk responsibility. I've never been real comfortable with responsibility. And sometimes it bites you in the behind.

About a month ago, after Wilco had announced tour dates, Becky and I were trying to decide if we wanted to go see them. It's a big decision. The nearest show is in Berkeley -- about a three-hour drive from where were at. That means we'd need to figure out what to do with the girls, decide how much we were going to spend, plan the trip -- all this stuff you have to do when you live far from family and have an actual life you're repsonsible for.

Anyway, to budget the trip, Becky suggested the trip and the concert be my birthday present. So I was left to decide: is that how I wanted to use my brithday money? I couldn't decide. There were a few things I wanted to do with the money and I knew doing the Wilco show would be unforgetable but fleeting at the same time. It would be a gift I'd experience rather than keep.

Finally, last week I decided. I thought about how I was getting older, how it had been over three years -- THREE YEARS! -- since I'd been to my last real concert (no offense, Jim) and that if I had the chance to go see Wilco I shouldn't be giving it a second thought. So I told Becky I had decided that we should do the show.

She has an aunt and uncle in Concord, just a hop, skip and jump from Berkeley. We decided we'd leave the kids there, go to the show, stay the night and visit the Oakland Temple in the morning. It was such a convient plan, Becky thought it would fun to invite friends Erick and Jaylynn, aquaintences who were also pretty big Wilco fans. They were game, too.

That's when my weeks of indecision paid off. Erick called a couple days later saying he'd gone to Wilco's Web site to check out tickets only to learn that the Berkeley show had sold out.

The show had sold out.

You have to understand, as good a band as Wilco is, their shows rarely sell out. In fact it usually happens in the Midwest where they have a huge following. I took my time hemming and hawing because I figured I had the time to hem and haw. And, of course, I was wrong.

So we're left with precious few options. There's ebay of course, where tickets are selling for about double the original price. The next closest show is either Seattle or Santa Barbara. The Seattle show could work -- both Becky and I have family there -- but that would mean making the concert a full on family vacation. Neither of us really want to to do that. Then there's always the hope that they'll add a show somewhere in between. Both Berkeley and Portland sold out, so I suppose it's a faint possibility.

But the point is don't wait. Just make a decision and get on with your life.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Weight, weight, don't tell me

I still can't figure out a way to just put mp3s on the Rob Report so until I do let's talk about my weight.

You may recall last year when my weight hit the magical number 200. Yes, I was celebratory, but then the scale kept inching up. In fact, by the begining of 2007 I was already at 210. You have to remember, I'm a skinny white boy who came home from his mission weighing a skant 165. I was up to 175 by the time I got married two and a half year later. But even then, watching some of the wedding videos, I looked like Skeletor in a couple shots -- my face all bony and hallowed out.

And, almost nine years later, I've managed to put on an additional 35 lbs., wonderfully illustrated by that picture on the left. If you look closely (you can actually click on the photo to make it bigger, though, I don't know why you'd want to), you can see the beginnings of my double chin and my round, rosy, cherubic cheeks. And to be honest I don't think my weight gain is that bad. I mean, that's roughly three and a half pounds a year. My problem is that my weight is still on the increase. I figure, if I don't want to end up morbidly obese or even just a sweaty mouth-breather after climbing the stairs, I better staunch my free flow of girth.

Which is why one of my summer predictions was that I'd drop 10 lbs. by Labor Day. I don't want to be back at 175 and I certainly don't plan on giving up white bread and milk shakes and chocolate-chip cookies and Skittles and Hershey's miniatures because who wants to be healthy enough to live to 100 if you're miserable the entire time. That would be like having extra years added onto a prison sentence.

No, all I wanted to do was put more moderation in my diet, be able to wear the great leather belt I bought coming home from my mission (which I was still able to fit until the beginning of this year) and not huff and puff walking from my bedroom to the kitchen.

So I've cut out all snacking mid-meals. The only times I'm eating during the day is when I sit down to breakfast, lunch and dinner. I've cut out all ancillary sugar consumption, which means I'm no longer consuming pounds of candy at my desk all day and a bag of cookies in front of the TV at night. I'm not exagerating about that. And I've stop drinking soda. I'm also taking it easy on my white bread consumption.

Will this be permanent? Of course not, silly reader. Once I get down to a comfortable weight, I'll eat my unhealthy snacks again. But the goal, of course, is to not eat so much this time. I'm hoping I can learn a little self-discipline while I get my weight down and then exercise that self-discipline once I get my weight down to keep it from ballooning back up. I don't care if I gain a few pounds here and there, I just want to stop myself from subsisting solely on a diet of sugar. Which I love and will not speak ill of.

Some may find folly in my plan. I'm certainly not as militant about this as others who undertake similar challenges. And that lack of regimented commitment could ultimately be my undoing. I'm not so sure. Simply because I'm not trying to drop 50 lbs. or something. But mostly because it's more important to me to be happy than than to weigh a specific amount.

I may change my tune, though, when I weigh in next year at 220 and the doctor tells me I have heart disease.

But until that time, we'll see how my plan works. Because I'm only three days into it, it seems hardly worth mentioning, but I've been able to stick to my plan so far. I haven't had any candy since Sunday, any soda since Saturday and except for some cheese and whole wheat (ugh) crackers last night, I've only eaten at my three daily meals.

Now the sticky part. Becky's been trying to get me to do all this for a while. And she's been reasonably successful. I've gone off pop a few times and curbed my cookie consumption for a while last year. But this renewed effort came about after a friend, Bryan Hamblin, challenged a few of us to do it. I joined in 'cause I'd already predicted I'd lose the weight and plus it's nice to have that extra motivation. Whether or not I'll actually do it, well, that's a whole other thing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Kind of new and kind of improved

As you can see, the Rob Report has been tweaked a bit. We're trying out a few new features here and hopefully it will improve your Rob Report experience.

The most exciting, though, is that I've figured out how to place audio files on the site. That's right, crazy, tinkering Uncle Rob now brings you music. To celebrate, below you'll find a link to the crappy nu-metal cover of "The Transformers" theme song. Right click the link and just select "save file as" and you are good to go.

Transformers [mp3]

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Oh my heart, a back flip

This one's for H.L. And this has been a long time coming. He was prescient enough as a sophomore in high school to understand the nostalgia/irony value of certain movie that defined a certain age. I was the jerk who lost the movie a short time later. We can all thank Garrett for digging it up.

Cru (imitating Bob): Late again, Cru?
Cru: Oh, excuse me Blob, I don't have a watch.
Cru (imitating Bob): Bob, the name is Bob, not Blob. Smart-ass.

On a side note, visiting the film's IMDb page, I learned a very, very important fact about 1980s cinema. If it was a terrible movie released sometime between 1977 and 1987, it was directed by a man named Hal Needham.

"Cannonball Run"? Check. "Smokey and the Bandit"? Check. "Cannonball Run II"? Check. "Smokey and the Bandit II"? Check. "Rad"? Check. And the coup de gras? "Megaforce." Yes. "Megaforce" was directed by Hal Neddham. I learned that and all of sudden so many things in my life made complete sense.

In fact, I need to do a post just on "Megaforce" to properly deal with it's enormous level of suckitude. Something to look forward to. In the mean time, you can rest easy tonight knowing that one man is responsible for many of Me Generation's worst movies.

Send me an angel, Hal
Right now
Right now
Right now

Friday, July 06, 2007


Alright, we're a week into July, let's take a look at how my summertime "Rob Predicts the Future!" predictions are holding up.

My first prediction was that you'd enjoy my predictions. I can say almost unequivically that this has come true.

As for the others, well, time will tell.

1. Gas prices, mercifully, are still hovering around the three-dollar level where I'm at. I filled up the car this morning for $2.99 a gallon. Driving around town this morning, the most expensive gas price I saw was $3.18, a far cray from $4.50. That being said, Labor day is still two months off. I really think we'll still see it.

2. "Pirates" so far is in third place for the title of summer's biggest blockbuster, not first. "Spider-man 3" currently holds that place. But, rest assured, I haven't met a person yet who liked it. As such, it's still a massive waste of $200 million dollars. Seriously, stop and think about it. They spent $200 million on a movie that will sit on the shelf next to "Independence Day" and never get watched ever again. It's a great system.

3. I was vaguely disappointed with "Transformers" but not for the reasons I thought. It easily held up to my childhood nostalgia. But it was just kind of sloppy and poorly directed. I'm still eager to see "The Simpsons" and I still think I'll love "Bourne Ultimatum."

4. I have not lost 10 pounds yet. But I haven't gained 10 pounds either. So that's something. I suppose, though, that I better get working. The pop habit has been a tricky mistress to ditch.

5. Erick and I did not form a band and blow away the Boulder Creek crowd with our trumpet/guitar/6-year-old vocalists rendition of "Ring of Fire." The talent show was held during the day making it virtually impossible for us to participate. But, for the record, Erick worked out the trumpet part from the song by ear. Impressive.

So there it is. That's where we're at. We'll keep it going all summer, folks. So be sure to check back in.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Autobots are watching over you

The problem with taking something like "Transformers" and putting it on screen is that, well, you're taking something like "Transformers" and putting it on screen.

As I'm sure everyone knows, Transformers were toys launched in 1984 -- coupled with a cartoon -- that could change from vehicle to robot. Not to get all Gen X, but for a certain segment of the population at that time, Transformers were the end-all, be-all of toy and cartoon creation. Simply put, they ruled.

But like most of my generation, I almost forgot about Transformers as I reached adulthood. In fact, I had to Google most of the generation one toys just to remember the names of the Transformers I had -- toys that were in some respects as real to me as my friends at the time. A little sad? Probably. A little scary? Certainly.

I never got into the comic books and I never followed the toys after the late 1980s. But I remember finding out four or five years ago that the original cartoons had been released on DVD and getting very, very excited. And I threw them on the Netflix queue and sat down to watch them when they arrived. Needless to say, the experience was deflating. The cartoon itself was terrible -- everything from the animation to the storylines.

But hearing the music, hearing the sound effects and surprisingly hearing Optimus Prime's voice put me in a flashback -- not unlike the Vietnam vet that hears a truck backfire and is immediately taken back to his foxhole in the jungle fighting Charlie. Those sounds just took me back to a time when a concept like a car disguised as a robot could effortlessly and completely capture the imagination. And it surprised me. And all the love and fascination I had with these toys came flooding back.

Anyway, getting to my point, I saw the movie last night. I hadn't been this excited to see a movie in a long, long time. I was kind of skeptical at first, as I'm sure many were, when news of the movie broke and set photos leaked. But after seeing the second full-length preview back in May it all melted away. Especially when I saw Prime transform and it was accompanied by the the old school sound effects. They had me from that point on, hook, line and sinker.

So let's review the movie.

"Transformers" is underwhelming and exciting all at the same time. The first scene to show a Transformer actually transform -- from a Skiorsky military copter to a robot -- was incredible. All those of hours of imagining it in your head as you played with the toys as a kid, all those walks to school where you looked at the cars you passed by and wondered if they were Transformers and what would they look like if they transformed and then there it is on the big screen. Industrial Light and Magic's special effects, its computer animation, was photo real. I really don't think it could have looked any better. It was simply breath-taking. And as a credit to ILM it never really got old. It was fun watching the vehicles transform every single time it happened.

Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the two principle screenwriters, probably had as difficult a job as the artists and computer techs at ILM writing the script. They had to take a premise -- that originated as a half-baked backstory for the toys' marketing scheme -- and make it work in a convincing and credible way for the big screen. I mean, these are alien robots that come to earth and then take the shape of everyday vehicles and the good guys, despite coming from a planet that has no human cars, are called Autobots.

But, for the most part, they pull it off. And maybe a little too well. There was a lot of exposition in the movie, a lot of talk explaining every last detail about the Transformers' existance, motivation and history. Show, don't tell, boys. That said, the cleverest move by the writers was having Prime explain why they're called Autobots. In the film, "auto" is short for autonomous whereas for the toys and cartoon, it was obviously short for automobile. Pretty smooth.

The film's major flaw, and I'm sure this comes as no surprise to anyone, is Michael Bay. To his credit, he keeps the film fun and keeps the action moving. However, the film lacked a cohesiveness. It moved so fast it never had a chance to congele. Rather than feeling like it was the story that was sweeping you along, you felt like it was Bay, making sure you never stayed long enough in each scene to see him pulling the levers behind the curtain. Contrast that with a filmmaker like James Cameron who's known for his love of technology, his revolutionary special effects and the soul he can imbue even in mechanical creations and you realize in the right hands "Transformers" could have been much better, more "Terminator 2" than "Armegedon."

In fact, whether it was laziness on Bay's part or hubris, he references his own films many times in "Transformers" -- most notably a scene where Shia LeBeouf runs across a rooftop, flare in hand as fighter jets fly overhead a la "The Rock," the only Michael Bay film I really enjoy. I would have enjoyed seeing more interaction between the Transformers themselves, rather than just their strings of one-liners in the battle scenes. Yes, I'm complaining that there wasn't more character development for a group of transforming alien robots. And this may be the only fanboy complaint I have, but c'mon, only one scene with Megatron and Starscream together? At close to two and half hours, you'd think they could have at least worked one more scene.

Shia LeBeouf, the boy in the writers' boy-and-his-first-car story hook, does a convincing job acting with machines. There's a genuine sincerity there -- played against some amazingly dumb dialogue -- that keeps the movie from devolving into pure camp. Bernie Mac's cameo was also a refreshing comedic where many of the film's intended jokes fell flat. John Turturro was the billed comic relief and while he out-acted most every one on screen, too much what he put across felt forced.

The masterstroke, however, was bringing back Peter Cullen to voice Optimus Prime. It was the one voice that stood out in the cartoons, one filled with wisdom and compassion and heroism. It's surprising I know, but it was that gravity he brought to the character that made him so memorable to entire generation. Bring him back to voice Prime for the movie was just brilliant. Mainly because the writer's kept those character traits intact. It was the same Prime on the screen last night as the one from the cartoon 23 years ago.

Interestingly enough, USA Today picked up on that facet of the show's fandom. Last week they wrote that Optimus Prime, as the ultimate hero with that amazingly compassionate voice, served as a surrogate father to a whole generation of latchkey kids.

The movie is celebratory and wonderfully visual. It was a lot of fun and certainly easy to watch. My only regret walking out of the theater was leaving with the a sense that the movie could have been that much better.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Here's your failure pile

Your moment of Zen from Patton Oswalt -- or rather, from a profile of Patton Oswald in today's New York Times:

Nor is he likely to be hearing from the folks at KFC (at least not in a good way) after appearing on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and describing its popular Famous Bowl combo of chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy as “a failure pile in a sadness bowl” and “a wet mound of starch that I can eat with a spoon like I’m a death-row prisoner on suicide watch.”

Thursday, June 21, 2007


It's seems like it's been months since I've talked anything pop culture. It's like my family and life are important to me or something. Anyway, let's shake things up and talk about my latest entertainment-based obsession, shall we?

Battlestar Galactica.

Now, just wait. Before you stop reading and say, "What the crap is wrong with Rob?", let me correct that by informing you the proper way to express that sentiment is, "What the frak is wrong with Rob?" Much better.

Seriously though, give me three sentences to make a case for the show. Then you can move on to better blogs and such. First and, most importantly, it's not campy. Second, it looks slick and the writing is top shelf. Third, it's got plenty of action -- smart action.

Now, if you're still here, allow me to elaborate a little. If you remember the first BSG, with Lorne Greene and Face from "The A-Team," you know that the original show's stock and trade was camp. I mean, they all wore capes and the whole show was lit like a disco. It was pretty bad. And the last time I watched the first BSG was when it originally aired on TV, which means I was five at the time. If it didn't impress me then I can't see it doing anything for me now.

Which is one of the reasons I had no interest in seeing the update. I never thought the show was worth updating. And even if it was, I didn't see how it could be good. Look at all the bad sci-fi that's aired on television lately. You've got a thousand iterations of Stargate (someone explain that to me?) and Star Trek started it's nose dive right after Next Generation went off the air, leaving a dozen crappily written, acted and designed Star Trek knock-offs.

But a friend, who had turned me onto "Firefly" told me to check it out. I'm a sucker for good sci-fi and that's the main reason I don't watch sci-fi on television. It's never any good. But "Firefly" was. So, after mulling it over for a year or so, Becky and decided to throw them on the Netflix queue.

I was immediately surprised. Not only were the production values amazingly high -- we're talking near-motion picture quality -- the writing was phenomenal. The special effects, especially the dog fights out in space, are really well done. The cast is fun and I feel like the acting has gotten better as they've grown into their roles.

For me, though, the most enjoyable aspect of the show is the action, of which there's a fair bit, and the allusions to present-day American society. There's plenty of subtle and not-so-subtle references to the war on terror and and our own xenophobia as a country. And, as should be the case with good sci-fi, it's never heavy-handed or accusatory. It's simply there, giving you a new prism with which to analyze our current political climate. And did I mention the action was really good?

So there ya go. If you're looking for something new and different, check it out. You can thank me later.

And as a special treat for hanging with me through this interminable rant on televised science fiction, I'll leave with a stiff shot of "Arrested Development." It's Friday, you need the laugh. The following short video is a compilation of the chicken dance. Just click on it, I promise you'll laugh.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Chips ahoy!

This week sees me in an interesting place. I was calling for help on Monday and gushing today about a certain person who shall remain nameless until the next paragraph -- two thing I don't do comfortably or often. And yet, here we are. So let's soldier on.

Sunday was, of course, Father's Day and, as many of you know, not only do I have a father but also I am father. In standard Rogers fashion, we were up early Sunday morning because the girls don't ever -- EVER -- sleep in. Even when they do, they really don't. Anyway, Becky headed downstairs with the girls and I made to follow with the baby in tow. Claire called up and told me to wait just a few minutes, which I did. That, of course, was the clue that Becky was setting up my Father's Day spread.

I'll stop here to interject that I had a pretty good idea of what Becky had got me. She had hinted earlier in the month that she had decided to get me something more or less perishable rather than something that would stick around a while. Armed with that knowledge, I was pretty sure she had gotten me a box of milk chocolate pecan bark from Stahmanns because I love it and we'd often discuss it around holidays and birthdays. Besides, what else would I possible want that's edible and has to be ordered online?

The answer to the question was sitting on the kitchen table amongst colored cards and hand-made gifts from the girls. She'd gotten me Anchor's Food Finds Super Sample Pack of rare and regional potato chips. Not only was it a surprise, but it was genius. And it shows how good Becky's memory is.

The package included 25 small bags of chips of just about every variety imaginable. Everything from habanero-flavored to black pepper and ginger. The gift even plays to my rage-ahol addiction. I hate that in your average super market you can only get maybe six flavors of potato chips from two brands. I thought I lived in America, the land of excess. I get angry that it's near impossible to find a good dill pickle-flavored chip anywhere and that ketchup flavored chips aren't even sold in country. The sampler pack allows me to rage loudly and often about such things. Which may be the true gift.

So for the paper, I'm writing up little blurbs for the food page on each package I sample. I think it'll be pretty fun. I'll probably reprint them here and even expand on them a little bit.

Anyway, the rest of the day was crazy. Elsa had burned a 103-degree fever the night before and Claire was just getting over a double-ear infection. Becky had gotten maybe four hours sleep Saturday night. With Elsa's fever as high as it was and the fact that she'd been burning some kind of fever for the past three days, Becky decided to take her to the doctor's while I took the girls to church. By day's end we were exhausted. Regardless, Becky still prepared the lion's share of dinner and then made a chocolate pecan pie from scratch (crust included) while the girls and I watched "Mulan." It was incredible. And the pie was really good, too. Becky has an amazing knack of pulling off these types incredibly thoughtful and elaborate celebrations. Which is kind of a secret trait as she's the antithesis of the craft-making, fluff-worshipping, scrapbooker who stereotypically does things like this. She's the type of person who's happy with a stocking full of hardcore office supplies on Christmas morning.

Anyway, there's something else she does amazing well -- she can totally figure out machines and fix them. A few weeks ago our washing machine stopped agitating. You've got a number of options, the way I figure it, when something like this happens. You can kick the washing machine repeatedly, call in an expert or go to the store and buy a replacement (I would have gone with option one). Given the fact that it was a Saturday night or that we didn't want to use our savings on a new appliance, Becky just attacked the problem head-on.

She unscrewed the column from the washing machine, pulled it apart and discovered the little rubber teeth that make the column move or "agitate" were worn down and weren't catching the sides column any more. Monday morning, she went to the appliance store, bought the replacement parts and fixed the washing machine. Did I mention I would have just repeatedly kicked it? In short, woman is amazing.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Back in the saddle. And there's a lot to write about. We'll try and keep it interesting and we'll try to spread it out over the week so it doesn't get overwhelming. So here we go.

I was reading Jayson's father's day post this morning and was -- yet again -- amazed at his ordeal and how he's handling it. A quick refresher course for those of you who don't know, Jayson, an old childhood friend and father of two, is going to be a father of quintuplets. His wife is blogging about her singular experience here.

Anyway, I rarely shill for anything on the Rob Report. When I do, it's simply embarrassing. This, of course, is because I'm fundementally unable to shill for things, it's not in my genetic code. Hence my profession. In my mind there's nothing dirtier than a car salesman (sorry, Brent)or a PR flak. I remember my first summer in Utah and working at a burger stand at Lagoon -- Utah's preeminent amusement park. Most of the time it was just kids coming up buying a cheeseburger or an order of fries or parents buying lunch for the fam.

But I vividly remember the handful of folks who would come by to buy a lunch or dinner and clearly couldn't afford it. Clearly. You know the type, they've saved all year, maybe two or three, just to take their kids to this crappy, over-priced amusement park and use their last dollar to buy the theme park food. Obviously, there was nothing wrong with it -- it's how the system works. They knew what they were doing and no one had put a gun to their head and made them come. But there's just something monumently degrading and undignifying about taking someone's last dollar. It still makes me feel uncomfortable. It certainly showed me I wasn't meant to go into sales.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I don't shill for things very well. So I'm not going to. But that doesn't preclude me from writing a few things about Jayson, Rachelle and their family.

Normal pregnancies last 40 weeks. A baby, at the relative earliest, can be born at 24 weeks and still have a chance (with lots and lots of medical help) at making it. If you remember, Elsa was born at 34 weeks, which many doctors say is the threshold for a premie to be born and require the least amount of help immediately following the birth. Elsa was, of course, in distress while in the womb, hence the early arrival, and that complicated things somewhat. But we were still out of the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) four weeks later. It could have been much worse.

Rachelle's hope is to deliver her five twinners at the 34-week mark. It would give them the best chance for survival. If you go back and read her blog, you see that the odds of her making it that far are not in her favor. She had a less than 50 percent chance to make it to the 24-week bench mark. If you make it past that mark, most quints are born between the 26- and 28-week mark. Even then, there's only a 65 percent survival rate and of those 65 precent, only 40 percent are what doctors euphamistically call "intact" or born without defect or disability.

Steep odds, those.

She's been on bed rest for the past month or so in Arizona and is just about to reach 28 weeks. Jayson stayed back in Austin to take care of the other two kids and, remarkably, move the family into their new house. In other words, they've been dealing with everyday life while still trying to manage this incredible pregnacy two states apart.

And while I imagine it's been hard, the real hard stuff is yet to come. Not only is there the physically and emotionally draining birth to go through, the new babies will be living for months in the NICU. It's hard watching your child in that kind of environment. I mean, you know they're there because that's simply the only and best place for them to be. But that doesn't make it any easeir to leave at night. And to put the stay in perspective, Elsa's month-long stint in the NICU cost just under $150,000. Multiply that by five and then by the four or five months they'll be in the NICU and you get an idea of what kind of medical bills they'll be facing.

And, of course, as anyone who has kids knows, they ain't cheap. For the next two decades, Jayson and Rachelle will have to buy five times the diapers, five times the food, five times the clothes, five times the insurance and doctors' bills, five times the swimming and piano lesson, five times the college tuition and on and on and on. And that's great if you're a successful venture captalist at Bain. You know, shillin stuff. But Jayson, like most of us, is a working stiff trying to make ends meet and provide for his family.

That's where we come in. Go here and help these guys. And I'm not just talking money. They're going to need all they can get with just about everything. Like this, for example: Dr. Darrell Park at Buttercup Dental, volunteered to give the quintuplets dental care until they leave home for college or a mission. That's huge. And when big offers like that aren't an option for us, we can do small stuff and all of it will help. And whether it's the Golden Rule, Karma or mere humanity that you believe in, you know doing it will be good for them, but it'll be good for you too. Good for your soul.

So go on, give 'em a hand.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Joker

Here's a question for you. What did teenagers in the early '60s want? Now this is the early '60s, so this was before the counter-culture movement -- you know, hippies, psychedelia, free-basing, Woodstock. The Beatles were still singing about wanting to hold your hand and, as far as I can tell, Frank Sinatra was considered the coolest living thing on the planet.

Or so I'm told. I wasn't there.

Anyway, the answer may surprise you. William Dow Boutwell tells the story:

One noon hour not long ago a secretary put her head in my door and said, "There's a boy at the reception desk. He wants to talk to an editor."

The boy came in and untied a sheaf of folded brown wrapping paper. "This," he said, "is what teenagers want."

Any guesses as to what was in the brown paper wrapping? Some crazy new sounds from a young upstart named Jimmy Hendrix? No. The follow-up to Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"? No. Hash-hish? No.

It was a manuscript the boy had written entitled "101 Elephant Jokes." The teenagers of the era, apparently, were clamoring for elephant jokes. Let me continue the story:

"Elephant jokes have had their day," [Boutwell continued]. "Everybody knows them or will soon. Are these new elephant jokes?"

"You don't understand," said the boy. "Newness isn't important. The important thing to a teenager is this: if somebody says, 'Why does an elephant do' -- well, anything -- you've got to know the answer. That's why I've collected all the best elephant jokes. There are also some new ones my friends and I made up."

So apparently, in the early '60s, teenagers were under enormous social pressure to memorize and recite -- on command -- elephant jokes or be ostracised from their peers. Those were some dark times, my friends.

Boutwell at this time was editorial vice president of Scholastic Books and the kid, Bob Blake, was a member of the Teenage Book Club (and a 14-year-old comedy prodigy). He got his way and strong-armed the editor into publishing his manuscript. What resulted was 1964's groundbreaking "101 Elephant Jokes." Claire managed to get a copy last weekend at a garage sale. You can imagine the hilarity that has ensued since.

The jokes are what you'd imagine. Absolutely unfunny. All of them end with exclamation points.

First you have the obvious:
Q. What weighs two pounds, is gray and flies?
A. A two-pound flying elephant!

Then the absurd:
Q. Why is it dangerous to go into the jungle between 2 and 4 in the afternoon?
A. Because that's when elephants are jumping out of trees!

And then the vaguely racist:
Q. Why are pygmies so small?
A. They went into the jungle between 2 and 4 in the afternoon!

You get the idea. But as Becky and I spent almost all of Saturday with Claire three steps behind us asking us each joke in the book, we discovered there were a couple really funny jokes inside.

First, the set up:
Q. What's the difference between a plum and an elephant?
A. Their color!

Then the book continues and three jokes later on the next page:
Q. What did Tarzan say when he saw the elephants coming?
A. "Here come the elephants!"
Q. What did Jane say?
A. "Here come the plums!" (She was colorblind!!)

It may have been joke fatigue, but when Claire read those, both Becky and I died. We laughed really hard. Anyway, I was genuinely amazed to learn the book was aimed at teenagers. Something inside me wants to believe this was a marketing ploy to get elementary school kids to buy the book believing teenagers thought it was cool.

Regardless, we're hanging onto our copy of "101 Elephant Jokes." I don't want to take the chance of possibly being ostracised the next time someone springs something on me like "Why do elephants like peanuts?"

Friday, June 01, 2007


It's time to get caught up. It's amazing how quickly the days seem to pass -- I mean, it's already June 1. Insane.

Anyway, we've got plenty of ground to cover so let's get going. Not that this is a chore for me. Or you. Because it's not. This is fun, dammit!

First some photos:

This is from Monday, or if you prefer, Memorial Day. You don't see Leigh, my 4-year-old, because she's the one snapping the photo. Funny girl, that Leigh. And Claire's expression there is classic Claire. She's such a live wire and was an absolute trooper that day. So, back to Memorial Day. Here in Redding we live pretty close to some amazing outdoor attractions, one of them being the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. It's got a good-sized lake, a few "beaches" and some camping. It's also got a number of waterfalls and hiking trails. But for all of the park's natural beauty, it feels like a low-rent version of a real national park. Like if Wal-Mart got into the national park business, Whiskeytown is what you'd have.

On Monday, we decided to hike up to Brandycreek Falls but, because of the middle school art class-quality of the maps and handouts, we were never really sure where the trail -- which at times dumped you out onto one of the park's dirt roads for a quarter of a mile or so before winding back into the woods -- started or how long it stretched. According to the park, it was supposed to be three miles round trip. But after hiking a little over two miles with no end in sight, the girls exhausted and nearly two hours into the trip, we decided to call it a day. With Elsa on my back -- turns out she's an extremely cooperative hiking companion -- I decided to walk the road back down to the car and drive back to get everyone else. After going just under a mile a guy who had been prospecting for gold and fishing driving a red Jeep stopped and offered me a ride the rest of the way down. He just laughed at my tale.

As it turns out we started at the trailhead (I know, silly us) but the park's literature gives the distance to the falls from the end of the access road. Which is about three miles above the trailhead. Clearly, we forgot the cardinal rule of hiking local attractions: Talk to the locals first and ignore the park's information. Consider us schooled. On a side note, we were going to follow Thom G's excellent advice in this year's Rec Guide and hike to Boulder Creek Falls but decided at the last minute it would have been too long for the girls. Next time.

So here's another:

This is Leigh, who, once again, accompanied me on the annual fathers/sons campout. And once again, she was the only girl. Which surprises me. I'm not the only one in the stake with just daughters and no sons. Apparently, there was one dad who was foolish enough to ask the stake president if would be appropriate for him to take his daughter on the campout. He was told, "no." Silly, silly man. Leigh and I had a blast.

And we'll do a couple more:

This is Claire and Leigh on their first ever horseback ride. This is at the scout camp outside Willits, Calif. Becky's uncle is a professional scouter and his son, her cousin, is the caretaker for this camp. So in the off-season it's open to visitors. Becky's parents, who will soon be mission president and mission mom for the Orlando Florida Mission this summer (and for the next three years) came to town and we journeyed with them to the camp so Becky's dad could meet up with his sister and his mom. Becky's grandma is getting pretty old and this may be the last chance for her dad to see her.

Anyway, the camp has horses and after arriving the girls really wanted to do nothing more than hang out with the horses. Leigh would actually talk to them in coversational tones, standing on a fence trying to get them to come eat a handful of grass she had just pulled. Seriously, she'd talk to them like they were her equals and like they could understand every word. It was hilarious. Anyway, these horses are old. Like, at death's door old. They were bony and droopy and just looked tired. But the girls didn't notice and loved every minute of seeing them and being able to ride.

And one last photo:

This is Elsa all rearing to go hiking on Monday. She was the perfect baby. She would goo and gurgle as she was bounced around in the pack. But never once did she cry. That is, until I tried to take her out of the pack at the end of the hike and I was pulling and pulling on her unaware I had forgotten to unsnap one of her straps. Poor kid, if she survives me it'll be a miracle.

Now, one last thing before I leave you to your weekend. Not to be too self-serving -- although I suppose just maintaining a blog is self-serving by definition -- here's a few links to some more entertaining stuff I've written for my day job over the past month.

The first is an official review for Wilco's new album "Sky Blue Sky." It's not the best music critique I've ever written, but it's serviceable. It's a somewhat more polished up version of what I posted here in March.

The second is a little piece I wrote to laud "Veronica Mars" since it was canceled last month and critique the current state of television veiwership in this fin country of ours.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Behold, the future

I'm gonna post on the weekend we all spent outside Willits, Calif. on a Boy Scout camp there -- it was surprisingly fun. But I'm going to wait until I've got pictures I can add. Oh, you can pretend you're not excited for it, but you know you are.

In other news, I'm going to predict the future. This will be fun because we can come back to this post in the fall and see how wrong I am. We'll call the feature "Rob Predicts the Future!" and you'll have a good time (that's my first prediction).

1. Gas prices will hit $4.50 a gallon this summer -- At least. And I'm guessing they'll bounce up to five bucks a gallon if we have anything that even closely resembles a hurricane anywhere near the Gulf Coast.

2. "Pirates" will be the biggest blockbuster of the summer while simultaneously taking the title for most abysmal use $200 million of the year -- Seriously, they should have stopped with one. And that should have been trimmed by at least 30 minutes. And after the second one? I can't imagine how bloated and overwrought this one will be.

3. I will be vaguely disappointed with "Transformers" and "The Simpsons Movie" and love "The Bourne Ultimatum" -- Only because I'm really looking forward to both "Transformers" and "Simpsons." But I know deep down the "Transformers" can't match what I built it up to be in my head as a kid and the "Simpsons" just can't work as a motion picture.

4. I will lose 10 pounds this summer -- I imagine what I don't sweat off this summer I'll work off being out and about with Becky and with the girls. Plus, I'm off soda for the time being -- I rule -- and I'm cutting way back on my candy consumption. This makes us all happy.

5. Erick and I will form a band after blowing away the Boulder Creek crowd with our trumpet/guitar/6-year-old vocalists rendition of "Ring of Fire" -- That's if we can get it together. Because if we do that, there will be no stopping us. Unless we suck together. That might stop us.

So there it is. We'll check in over the summer and see were the predictions are at. And in a couple days I'll give you the run down of the Willits Weekend. Willits. I can't say it enough.

Oh, and a quick reminder. Wilco's new album "Sky Blue Sky" is out today, go pick it up -- you owe it to yourself. They'll also be on Letterman tonight.

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