Trust the Gene Genie

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.

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