Trust the Gene Genie

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.

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