Saturday, February 27, 2010

Crime Fighter/Personal Shopper

I'm sure this is a worthy charity, but I'm a little puzzled by the "Shop with a Deputy Sheriff" foundation. (I pass this billboard every day on the way to work.)

Apparently the idea is to let needy people go shopping with a police officer.

Is this odd? I wouldn't think a deputy sheriff would be the ideal person to have along during a shopping spree. That is, unless you were looking for handcuffs and mustache wax (actually, that might be considered a pretty valuable service around here).

Also, why only deputies — are there no actual sheriffs available?

I've decided to come at this from a different angle. Please donate to my new foundation: "Arrest Criminals with Fashion Expert Tim Gunn."

Friday, February 26, 2010

New York Times Attempts to Make Haverford Even More Obscure Than It Already Is

The New York Times ran a story this week about a long-ago stolen René Descartes letter that was discovered at Haverford College (my alma mater). The writer clearly tries to make it seem like the college is some kind of Siberian outpost:
One of those purloined letters has turned up at a small private college in eastern Pennsylvania, providing scholars with another keyhole into one of the Western world’s greatest minds.

"A small private college in eastern Pennsylvania"? (Haverford isn't mentioned by name until the fifth paragraph.) That description is technically true, but the "eastern Pennsylvania" part is where the writer really tips her hand.

Haverford is just outside Philadelphia. You may not be familiar with Philadelphia, but it was the largest city in America until the late 1700s.

Would you ever describe Columbia as a private university in southeastern New York State? How about that public institution located at longitude 34.052234, latitude -118.243685, otherwise known as UCLA.

It's not like anyone has heard of Haverford College as it is, but it doesn't help when the Times tries to make it seem like the kind of backwater locale where you'd never expect to find a stolen René Descartes letter.

When I was there, we were swimming in stolen René Descartes letters! Okay, not really, but we were just a short SEPTA ride away from where they signed the U.S. Constitution (have you heard of it?).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Alien Baby

I have to admire this father-child costume, courtesy of the FailBlog...though I wonder if an "Avatar" outfit would have been more topical. (Thanks for the tip, BuboBlog Richmond District correspondent Amie.)

It's much more disturbing than my (now-banned) "The Jungle"-inspired turn-of-the-century meatpacker costume.

Monday, February 22, 2010

'Babies with Laser Eyes'

I don't know why it's taken me so long to link to this blog: "Babies with Laser Eyes!" But it's worth checking out.

I've asked Kelly (a Photoshop expert) for help in adding laser beams to all of Elliot's pictures, but she's not too gung-ho on the project.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Piano Man

Do you like atonal piano music, played very loudly?

Well, then you'll love Elliot's musical stylings. (Bonus: He's self-taught!)

A word of caution — he may try to eat the sheet music.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I Have Terrible Taste in Cities

Remember when I listed the top 20 cities in the United States (some readers questioned my inclusion of Milwaukee).

Well, now Forbes has a list of the 20 most "miserable" cities in the U.S. And guess what? Six of the cities are on my list.

Just to recap, here's my list — and while I compiled this in 2004, I'm not sure I'd make any changes today (maybe Seattle would be higher...West Siiiiide). Click here to see my thinking in making my choices.

Top 20 Cities
1. San Francisco
2. New York
3. Chicago
4. Los Angeles
5. Boston
6. Philadelphia
7. Seattle
8. San Diego
9. Washington, D.C.
10. Portland, Oregon
11. Denver
12. Minneapolis
13. Miami
14. Atlanta
15. St. Louis
16. Baltimore
17. Austin
18. Providence
19. Cleveland
20. Milwaukee

And here's the Forbes list of 20 Most Miserable Cities:
1. Cleveland
2. Stockton, Calif.
3. Memphis, Tenn.
4. Detroit
5. Flint, Mich.
6. Miami
7. St. Louis
8. Buffalo, N.Y.
9. Canton, Ohio
10. Chicago
11. Modesto, Calif.
12. Akron, Ohio
13. Kansas City, Mo.
14. Rockford, Ill.
15. Toledo, Ohio
16. New York
17. Sacramento, Calif.
18. Youngstown, Ohio
19. Gary, Ind.
20. Philadelphia

I have to say, I'd rather live in Cleveland or Philadelphia than Louisville, Colo., or Chanhassen, Minn. — the "best places to live in the United States," according to Money magazine. Maybe I'm just in the misery-loves-company mindset.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sprint Gets Ad Idea From Horror Movie

I'm probably not the first person to notice this, but a recent Sprint Nextel commercial has the same exact premise as the movie "Frozen," which is currently in theaters.

In both the ad and the movie, three skiers get stuck on a chairlift. How they handle the situation is slightly different, though. The Sprint skiers use the time to check Facebook and look things up on Google.

The "Frozen" skiers scream about how they "DON'T WANT TO DIE UP HERE" while wolves circle below, waiting to pull apart their hypothermic corpses.

Here's the Sprint ad...

...and the trailer for "Frozen."

I'm hoping other carriers will take a similar tack with their ads. Maybe Verizon could make a commercial based on "Saw 6."

Now that I think about it, Luke Wilson is the pitchman for AT&T. Would he be willing to reprise his role from the 2007 horror film "Vacancy"?

As you no doubt recall, his character was forced to use a pay phone in that movie, in an attempt to call for help (unsuccessfully).

Maybe in the commercial, he could escape the killer by accessing AT&T's 3G network?

UPDATE: It looks like someone has made a Sprint-"Frozen" mashup video.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Teaching a Lesson: With Fists!

I forgot to mention the real value to taking your children on Bay Area public transit: They'll learn how to fight.

There was this scuffle on a Chinatown Muni bus last year.

And then more recently, a fight broke out on an AC Transit bus in the East Bay. The winner of the fight is now being referred to as "Epic Beard Man." Someone even did a "Mortal Kombat" mashup of the video.

Maybe the real lesson is to start recording any disagreement early, so you can get a nice YouTube clip out of the bargain.

Is Muni Intolerant to Kids?

The Chronicle's Mommy Files blog had an entry today claiming that Muni is intolerant to children.

The writer cites an experience on a J Church subway-streetcar line, which mostly ferries yuppies between Noe Valley and downtown:

What is it with people on Muni? They love to growl, grumble and glare at children. I want to say: Lighten up. Crack a smile. Have a heart. But I just ignore their grumpiness and never speak up...well actually my mom did once.

When my daughter was about 3-years-old, the three of us went to the Nutcracker at Civic Center. We had a wonderful, yet long day and by the time we boarded the J Church to go home, my toddler was exhausted. I'll be the first to admit that we pushed my daughter too far. About three stops from our condo, she started to whimper and then cry.

A man sitting next to us said that the crying was annoying and advised us to get off the train.

I said I was sorry and got up to move to a different seat. My tactic is always to ignore those who complain and avoid confrontation, but my mom couldn't hold back. She was furious and told the man that he had no right to speak to us that way. And before I knew it my mom and this random guy on Muni were screaming at each other. Not exactly a comfortable situation, but I couldn't help but be proud of "grandma" for challenging a grouchy Muni rider.

I have to say, we've had very few bad experiences with Elliot on Muni. There was the time when we were chastised for breaking "federal law." But in terms of fellow passengers, there's never been a problem. In fact, most are thrilled to see Elliot.

I chalk it up to the fact that we take Muni lines where babies are uncommon. Aside from a few immigrant families, there aren't many children on the 12, 14, 19 or 47 — the lines that cut through our neighborhood. (Here's him playing with the seats at the No. 12 bus stop on a rainy day.)

If, on the other hand, you're coming to or from Noe Valley, you're going to have to deal with baby fatigue. (I've made this broader point before.) Strollers and children are rampant in that neighborhood, and your baby is much more likely to be perceived as a nuisance.

The moral? If you want people to be nice to your baby, live someplace where there aren't any babies. Your fellow riders will be temporarily stunned by seeing a tiny human — at least long enough to keep from saying something mean.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BuboBlog Reviews 'Up in the Air'

(I'm trying to catch up on Oscar contenders this month. Thanks to some grandparent-provided babysitting last weekend, we were able to see one Best Picture-nominated film that's still in theaters: "Up in the Air.")

I have to say, director Jason Reitman is on an impressive trajectory: Every one of his films is less overrated than the one before.

"Thank You for Smoking" (2006) was well-received, but it was hard to tell why. The film was just spinning its wheels in the second half, and few of its ideas were especially original or nuanced.

"Juno" (2007) was better, but suffered from a flawed beginning. The first 20 minutes worked so hard to give every character idiosyncratic dialogue that it was impossible to tell one person from the next. Was Juno a precocious teen who uses her wit to cover up her insecurities, or were we witnessing a universe where it's perfectly normal for everyone to say things like, "This is one doodle that can't be undid, homeskillet." (Really this was maybe more an issue with Diablo Cody's script than Reitman.)

Fortunately, "Juno" found its legs and turned into much more than a pop-culture-reference quirkfest. It was a funny, touching story about growing up, growing old and growing apart.

Now comes "Up in the Air," which really shows Reitman's maturity as a director. It has almost no false notes, and while it's not as funny as "Juno," it delivers the same moments of poignancy. This time we're dealing with Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) an extreme-frequent flyer who zooms around the country firing people. His personal goal: becoming the eighth person to gather 10 million miles. Bingham has no roots, no possessions, no family — he doesn't even have his own apartment. The film reaches its emotional climax when Bingham goes to his sister's wedding and realizes that he wants to build some kind of connection (but is it too late?).

"Up in the Air" also serves as a zeitgeist for our uncertain economic times. The film intersperses clips of real laid-off employees among the scripted scenes — something akin to what "When Harry Met Sally" did using interviews with real-life couples. It works well, even if you don't realize that the people are real (I didn't).

It's also hard to dislike a movie with this message: If you're offered a job in San Francisco, take it.

BuboBlog Rating: 3.5 asterisks (out of 4)

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Visit to the Children's Section

Remember when I ribbed the author of "Daddy Kisses" for her limited range as a writer?

Well, she's making no attempt to hide that she's essentially writing the same book over and over. Witness this box set of her work that I came across at Bookshop Santa Cruz over the weekend. "Daddy Kisses," "Daddy Cuddles," "Mommy Hugs" and "Mommy Loves" all in one package.

I thought, "What a shameless attempt to squeeze as much money as possible out of an idea by exploiting the children's-book market."

No wait, that's what I thought when I saw this book sitting on a nearby shelf: "Kabbalah for Teens."

I was disappointed to see it wasn't written by Madonna.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Feminist Teachings in Bath-Toy Form?

Elliot loves this bath toy, but I wonder about the message.

I think it's: "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, and this fish DEFINITELY don't need no bicycle 'cause it got four-wheel drive, fool."

Maybe Ms. magazine should give these away with every subscription.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Battle of the Island Prisons

The movie "Shutter Island," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is opening this month. It depicts a fictitious mental hospital for the criminally insane, located on an island that bears no small resemblance to San Francisco's own Alcatraz. (It's also set in the 1950s, when Alcatraz was still going strong as a prison.)

This got me thinking: How does Alcatraz measure up against the greatest island prisons captured on film? Well, let's take a look.


This is the island prison featured in the fictional "Count of Monte Cristo," but it's the real-deal-holyfield — located about a mile off shore near Marseilles.
Opened: 1531
Size: 30,000 square meters
Famous inmates: Edmond Dantès (aka the Count of Monte Cristo) and a bunch of Huguenots
Screen time: Dantès was most recently played onscreen in 2002 by James Caviezel, in a non-Jesus role. The island also appears in "The French Connection" (1971).
Awesome Index (out of 100): 85


This Bronx facility holds about 14,000 prisoners, most of whom are pretrial detainees. That's why it features prominently in "Law & Order."
Opened: 1932
Size: 413 acres
Famous inmates: Sid Vicious, a crapload of "Law & Order" characters
Screen time: Aside from being mentioned regularly on every Dick Wolf show, Rikers hasn't been spotlighted in many movies (here's one called "Shackles"). Maybe its sweeping view of Queens isn't picturesque enough.
Awesome Index: 60


Welcome to The Rock, an island prison so bad-ass that Michael Bay, a Creed concert and millions of Fisherman's Wharf tourists haven't managed to sully its reputation.
Opened: 1934
Size: 22 acres
Famous inmates: Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, Robert Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), John Patrick Mason (played by Sean Connery), Frank Morris (played by Clint Eastwood)
Screen time: "Birdman of Alcatraz" (1962), "Escape from Alcatraz" (1979), "Murder in the First" (1995), "The Rock" (1996)
Awesome Index: 90


Erehwon ("nowhere" backwards) is a secret prison hidden inside an off-shore oil platform off the California coast. (If we built more of these, we could solve the state's revenue and prison-overcrowding problems in one fell swoop!) Warning: Erewon Penitentiary doesn't abide by the Geneva Conventions, and you might wake up one day with someone else's face.
Opened: Unknown
Size: Secret
Famous inmates: Castor Troy (played by Nicolas Cage)
Screen time: "Face/Off" (1997)
Awesome Index: 100

Sorry, Alcatraz — it's hard to compete with Erehwon's magnetic boots.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

We're (Pa)Jammin'

I had enough trouble convincing Elliot that it's not okay to walk around pantless. Now I have to worry about the corrupting influence of China's pajamas-in-public epidemic.

Apparently it's quite popular these days for people in Shanghai to go out in their jammies. According to the BoingBoing site, "with the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai just three months away, city officials have launched a public etiquette clampdown targeting the unseemly practice."

Thank you, Chinese officials. Elliot is just looking for an excuse to wear his pajamas outside. I'd hate to see him watch the 2010 World Expo (as he's wont to do) and get the wrong idea.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

'Drink Liquor'

You have to admire this liquor store in the Inner Richmond, which is called "Drink Liquor."

I wish more neighborhood establishments were this direct with their names. For instance, our corner store should really be called "Pay $1.50 for a Snickers."

The Shell gas station could be renamed "Subsidize Foreign Dictators." And the main branch of the library would be "Homeless? Come Look at Porn on Our Computers."

Friday, February 05, 2010

Ad Shamelessly Targets Mayans

It's not right when corporations exploit the most vulnerable members of society for financial gain. Clearly, the Pella company aims to trick Mayans into buying new windows and doors with an offer that doesn't require payment until after the world ends.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Thank You, Google

By the way — because of my recent post — if you enter "Chaucer" and "R. Kelly" into Google, you're only headed one place, friend, and that's RIGHT HERE.

I practically OWN that search result!

(Now if only I could find a way to monetize it.)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Golden Gate University's 'Shine' Ads

You've probably seen the "Shine" advertisements for Golden Gate University. They're posted all over downtown San Francisco.

The ads always make me think of the movie "Shine," which featured Geoffrey Rush's Oscar-winning portrayal of a brilliant-yet-mentally-unbalanced pianist.

To be fair, the Golden Gate ads are a little different than the movie poster. (As you can see in the top picture, the man has a necktie.)

Still, it got me wondering if the ads are meant to reference the movie. That would be a bold choice, given the fact that the main character was insane.

So I did a little digging. It turns out "Shine" wasn't the only slogan that Golden Gate University considered.

I've obtained a few mockups of their earlier ad ideas...

All things considered, "Shine" was probably the best choice.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Stardate 2010

Captain's Log: I appear to be dressed in a Star Trek uniform onesie.

The tricorder indicates that my parents are complete dorks.

At least they didn't dress me in a red uniform.

Monday, February 01, 2010

While We're at It...

What's up with Australian country artist Keith Urban singing about Fourth of July and Northern Hemisphere summer?

Dude, have a little pride: Australia Day is in January.

You need to keep it real.