Thursday, April 29, 2010

Now That's More Like It

In preparing my last post, I found an even classier photo-booth shot from 2005.

Kelly and I had this taken in Rome, shortly after the death of Pope John Paul II. (I think we needed to break a 20-euro bill for the subway.) A fitting tribute?

Hey, they wouldn't let you take a sacrilegious photo in Rome, right?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Demand a Refund!

Years before Elliot was born, Kelly and I came across a photo booth at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It promised to tell you what your children would look like.

The booth took pictures of both of us and then used sophisticated technology to determine the exact appearance of our offspring. After whirring for a few minutes, the machine spit out a photo, which seemed to indicate that we would give birth to a sullen Latina girl.

Now that Elliot is getting older, it's becoming increasingly obvious that he will probably never look like this. (It doesn't help matters that he's a boy.)

Unfortunately, some fine print may thwart my attempts to sue the Boardwalk for damages. As you can see, it says, "For amusement only."

Apparently there was concern that the Boardwalk photo booth would be used for family planning.

Monday, April 26, 2010

BuboBlog Confused by Clothing Labels

I bought these jeans on sale at the Gap over the weekend. They were about $30, marked down from almost $90 — so a pretty good deal.

But I was confused by the tags attached to the jeans. One says they're "extra durable and designed to keep the fabric from unraveling."

The other one says they're "intentionally designed to fray and tear." (Click on the photo to enlarge.)

I thought this was funny, so I sent the picture to the Consumerist blog.

Some of the more than 40 commenters indicated that I didn't really understand the way clothing works. The SEAMS are durable, but the rest of the jeans are not.

I guess that means even if the jeans completely fray, they won't fall off your body like stripper pants.

Riding in Style

Elliot is mostly a Muni customer, but he's ecumenical when it comes to Bay Area transit. Check out his new BART-themed shirt!

Apparently the people who designed the shirt didn't actually get the licensing rights, because it says "Baby" where it should say "BART."

Still, the design is instantly recognizable to anyone who's ever visited the Bay Area.

Elliot also has a new Muni-inspired shirt, which is still a little too big for him.

Elliot is such a transit expert he can already tell the difference between bus lines. When Golden Gate Transit pulls up, he may wave, but he knows that's not his bus. When the Muni shows up, he squeals with glee.

Maybe he already understands that when a Muni bus actually shows up, it's cause for celebration.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

iPad Cash Register

The new Sightglass Coffee on 7th Street has an iPad cash register with a custom-built wooden stand.

The downside: If you use a credit card and want a receipt, they have to e-mail it to you. There's no printer.

I questioned whether having to give an e-mail address would annoy people who like to live "off the grid," but Kelly pointed out that they probably shouldn't be using a credit card anyway.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Child Labor: Not All It's Cracked Up to Be

Elliot is obsessed with grabbing the broom and trying to sweep.

This might be a big help around the house, if he weren't so terrible at it. He mainly just pushes the dirt around.

Elliot makes a strong statement against child labor: incompetence.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Street Knowledge?

I always assume that taggers have pearls of wisdom to share when they deface a wall or billboard. But sometimes the message is hard to decipher.

When I saw this a few months ago at our local playground, I assumed it was a literary reference to Junot Díaz.

But maybe it's just someone who can't spell very well.

More recently, someone did this to an iPad ad at our neighborhood bus stop. As you can see, they scrawled two dates at the top of the page.

Clearly, they're telling us to look up the New York Times on those dates: Dec. 7, 1941, and Dec. 7, 1956. This is like the start to a bad Nicolas Cage film! [Delete "bad" before "Nicolas Cage"...redundant. —ed.]

The first date is Pearl Harbor, of course (no research required). But what about the second date?

I don't see any big news, but it appears to be Larry Bird's birthday. If his birth is equivalent to Pearl Harbor, maybe the tagger is a Lakers fan?

UPDATE: This one, of course, will mystify anthropological scholars for millennia.

Friday, April 16, 2010

BuboBlog Reviews 'Clash of the Titans'

BuboBlog fans from the Czech Republic, rejoice — for I have FINALLY seen "Clash of the Titans"!

Kelly and I managed to get a babysitter Thursday night, allowing us to catch a showing down at the San Francisco Centre. Sadly, none of the 3-D screenings was feasible, so we saw it in 2-D. This was a disappointment, but I'm going to pretend it was intentional. After all, that was how the movie was originally meant to be seen, right? [Way to keep it real. -ed.]

Let's get one thing out of the way right now. Bubo does appear in the movie — for less than five seconds! Perseus pulls him out of a bin and another character tells him to leave the owl behind. What kind of "loving cameo" is that? More like an insult, I'd say. But I'll let it go.

Really, the Bubo snub was the least of the problems here. Maybe the movie is just paying homage to the campy charm of the first "Clash of the Titans," but I can sum up the experience in one word: "ludicrous." The scenes on Mount Olympus are silly, there's way too much exposition, and the film takes even more liberties with Greek mythology than the original.

The setup of the movie relies heavily on narration and flashbacks. You might think, well, at least I'm learning something here. But since it has little correlation to actual Greek mythology, you're not going to be able to impress any classics professors with what you pick up in this film.

As with the earlier "Clash," the story centers on Perseus. And in both films, he slays Medusa and uses her head to vanquish the Kraken and save Andromeda. But in this one, the writers felt that the love of Andromeda was insufficient motivation for wanting to slay the Kraken, so they cook up some story about Perseus' adopted family getting killed by Hades. That leads Perseus to vow revenge on the gods.

The problem is, Perseus' family is killed by accident during a skirmish between Hades and the soldiers of Argos. His family was more like innocent bystanders, so it seems like insufficient motivation for Perseus to go on a jihad against all gods. Even worse, Andromeda is no longer the love interest of Perseus. The writers randomly bring in Io to serve that purpose (Io and Perseus had no connection in actual Greek mythology). When Perseus rushes to save Andromeda at the end, it's like, who cares? He barely knows this girl.

The theme of the movie also is muddled. Is this film trying to make a case for humanism (mankind doesn't need the gods; it can rely on itself)? Because that idea isn't carried forth very faithfully. When the people of Argos turn their backs on the gods, they're severely punished. (It's also possible they were punished for their men using too much mascara.) Ultimately, Perseus succeeds by relying on Zeus' help — not by breaking free of the gods.

Io's presence also is troubling for mythology purists. In this movie, she has a curse where she never ages. In real mythology, she was turned into a cow. Did the writers think that would make her less attractive as a love interest? I would have enjoyed Perseus marching across Greece with an amorous heifer by his side.

The writers' interpretation of Hades character is far out of step with the spirit of Greek myth. Hades was not some devil character, trolling the underworld in search of ways to prey on man's weakness. Greeks didn't regard the underworld as a hell; it was just the place you went when you died. There was suffering there, sure; death is sad. But it was more of a neutral place than the Christian hell.

When Hades appears, he comes in a swarm of dark smoke and winged demons. It's a bit distracting that the character is played by Ralph Fiennes because the whole thing is reminicent of Voldemort (also played by Fiennes). The filmmakers probably should have anticipated this and cast against type...perhaps Mo'Nique would have been better for the role.

Another odd choice: What was with the two crafty Semitic mercenaries that join forces with the Argives soldiers? The film paints them as vaudevillian Jews and uses them as comic relief. And when it comes time to go to the underworld, they announce that they can't go there and disappear. Is that because Jews don't believe in hell? Very strange.

Sam Worthington plays Perseus, reminding the viewer of his role in "Avatar." This time around, they let him keep his Australian accent (more or less), since it's pretty much an accent free-for-all here. Seeing him tame Pegasus, meanwhile, is a bit too similar to watching him learn to ride the Na'vi horses — if only because you remember how much better a movie "Avatar" was.

Liam Neeson plays Zeus, of course, and it was a thrill to finally hear him say those immortal words: "Release the Kraken." I began clapping, assuming the rest of the theater would follow suit. They did not, and Kelly quickly told me to stop.

BuboBlog Rating: 2 asterisks (out of 4).

UPDATE: If you trust Kelly's opinion, which is probably much more reliable than mine, she gave it one asterisk (out of 4).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In Search of Jacob

On "Lost," the character of Jacob is a shadowy figure. He appears to command allegiance, and yet, few people have ever seen him. He is more of an idea than a man. And his influence extends well beyond his physical presence.

The same could be said for the name "Jacob," which is one of the great demographic mysteries of our time.

Jacob has been the most popular baby name in the United States for the past 10 years, according to the Social Security Administration (every single year it's ranked No. 1). And yet, has anyone ever seen a baby named Jacob? I sure haven't.

I take that back. I have encountered ONE Jacob. It was on the playground a few weeks ago. He was probably five or six, and his parents appeared to be Dominican. But surely Dominicans can't be single-handedly setting the baby-naming agenda in this country?

What the heck is going on here? Is this some kind of massive coverup by the SSA — on the order of the Kennedy assassination or the fake moon landing?

When "Michael" reigned supreme from the 1960s to the 1990s, it was very evident: I know a ton of Michaels. You can't swing a stick at people born during that time without hitting one.

These days, I would say the most popular baby names are the following (based on our social circle, at least):
Boys: Jack
Girls: Sophia

We know four or five parents who have named their kid Jack, and I've encountered three or four Sophias. No one I know has even entertained the name Jacob.

Where are all the Jacobs?

UPDATE: We had a Jacob sighting at Yerba Buena playground today: a boy about Elliot's age.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lost Marketing Opportunity

Tonight's demolition derby/officer-involved shooting on Folsom Street happened right in front of the new Radius restaurant.

Sadly, Radius didn't get any promotional benefit — possibly because they never took down the old Julie's Supper Club sign.

From the CBS story:
San Francisco police said an officer opened fire on a woman who tried to run him down with her car after smashing into several other vehicles in the city's South of Market area.

Police maintained the officer had no choice but to shoot the driver when she ignored an order to stop, threw the vehicle into reverse and tried to ram him in front of Julie's Supper Club on Folsom Street between 7th and 8th streets.

This story is leading all the newscasts tonight. Radius could have gotten their name front and center.

The moral: If a high-profile crime occurs in front of your business, be ready!

And don't be afraid to use a gorilla.

UPDATE: It's worth noting that Radius' building was already the scene of a very high-profile crime. According to neighborhood lore, it was one of the places the Symbionese Liberation Army used to hold Patty Hearst captive in the 1970s. They supposedly kept her in the basement, where she was brainwashed. Coincidentally, the laundromat-cafe directly across the street from Radius is called...Brainwash.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Law & Order: Folsom Street

Police shot an erratic driver this evening on Folsom Street, right at the end of our alley.

I encountered the scene on the way home from work, when police tape prevented me from getting through to our street — even on foot. A crowd of men in suits were huddled in the middle of the road (it turns out the police chief was one of them). I actually thought it was some kind of publicity event at first, until I saw a bunch of smashed-up cars.

I finally sneaked through the oil-change place and then bolted toward the other side of the tape. An officer yelled at me, and I yelled back that I was just trying to get home. I think I may have even tried to use a tough-guy accent — I felt very Bronx, circa 1970s.

When I got to our apartment, homicide investigators were knocking on doors. (I don't think it's a homicide, though, since the person who was shot may possibly pull through.) In any case, my instincts honed during hundreds of "Law & Order" episodes kicked in.

Two rules are crucial to any interview with homicide detectives. One: Have something to hide. Two: Act super busy, forcing the detectives to follow you around while you check inventory or do your laundry.

Unfortunately, they asked to talk to Kelly (since I mentioned that she was actually home while the incident occurred). Then Kelly made me go watch Elliot while she spoke with them. Hello, she could have at least used Elliot as a prop to confuse and distract them from her evasive answers!

Actually, she didn't know all that much, other than hearing a shot and the sound of a car crashing. We had to get the lowdown from this story in the Chronicle. (The photo at top is also from the Chron, since I was too scared to take a picture after the cop yelled at me.)

Kelly spoke to them for about five minutes and then they thanked her for her time. She could have at least unloaded the dishwasher while they talked. Amateur.

UPDATE: Based on the 10 o'clock news (lead item!), it sounds like the erratic driver is expected to be okay. So that's good, considering my blog didn't treat this incident with sufficient gravitas.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Back-of-the-Leg Test

As I've mentioned before, Elliot is prone to danger and bruising. So invariably when we take him to the doctor, he'll have an assortment of bruises, scrapes and cuts — especially on his face and shins (the two major impact points when Elliot launches himself at the world).

Since doctors and nurses know how rambunctious toddlers can be, I didn't think they would ever suspect us of abuse. That is, until I discovered they were doing the back-of-the-leg test on Elliot.

Apparently it's not alarming for a child to have bruises on his shins, but you really don't want bruising on the back of the legs. That tells the doctor that the injuries are no accident.

So every time Elliot comes in for a checkup, the medical staff takes one look at him and then checks the back of his legs (where, fortunately, he does not have bruises). Kelly only discovered what this meant recently when she asked the nurse and got an explanation. I wasn't there at the time, but I certainly hope Kelly responded by saying, "Oh no, you dih-n't."

The lessons here: (1.) Doctors trust no one. (2.) Parents shouldn't let their children walk backwards. If the kid injures the back of his legs, Child Protective Services will be making a visit soon.

Friday, April 09, 2010

BuboBlog Makes a Political Statement

Folks, I've been meaning to comment on this for some time: Our federal government has enacted sweeping legislation that leaves hardworking Americans like you and me in the lurch.

They're reneging on on past promises and extending programs that were meant to be limited in scope. This is not the America that you or I grew up in.

This is an America that does not honor our wishes or plays by the rules. And I'm shocked and disappointed that President Obama, a man I voted for, would preside over this travesty.

Of course, I'm referring to the Commemorative State Quarters program.

It was only meant to last until there was a quarter for every state in the U.S. Then they extended it to territories, such as Guam.

Now, God forbid, they're putting out quarters for national parks??

Jesus, it was hard enough for me to find all 50 state quarters. This is supposed to be Elliot's family heirloom and I've completely run out of spaces in his keepsake quarter case.

Please...for the love of God...stop.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

In the Box

When I was Elliot's age, I loved to play inside this plastic box.

My mom recently found it in the garage, so Elliot got a chance to take it for a spin too. The verdict: After 35 years, it's still just as fun.

Of course, times have changed in some ways. My first thought was whether the plastic was BPA-free. (I guess if it's not, that explains a lot about my stunted mental development.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Nice Playground = Annoying Parents?

The Chronicle's baby blog had a post last week about the best playgrounds in the Bay Area.

Their picks:
1. Koret Children's Quarter (San Francisco)
2. Magic Mountain Playground at Coyote Point (Burlingame)
3. Adventure Playground (Berkeley)
4. Julius Kahn Playground (San Francisco)
5. Giorgi Park playground (Healdsburg)

To select the playgrounds, they eliminated any parks that charge admission. Other criteria: "Run-down bathrooms were a negative. Nice views, big trees, proximity to a carousel and concrete slides were positives."

I can't really find fault with their picks (I've actually never been to any of these places), though I do think there's something that isn't captured here: the other parents at the playgrounds.

I'll be honest: At nice playgrounds, the dads tend to make me look bad. They're always fully engaged in their kids' activities. They're encouraging the children to grow and learn. And they're usually teaching them about three languages at the same time.

Conversely, when I take Elliot to parks in SoMa or the Civic Center (where the views are scarce, the graffiti rampant and the bathrooms are most definitely "run-down"), it's pretty easy to compete with the other dads. Often, they don't exist. And if they are there, they're on the phone with their bookies.

That's the kind of environment I prefer — it makes me look awesome. Maybe I'm not always as engaged as I should be. Maybe I check my BlackBerry occasionally. But it's not like I've ever abandoned Elliot so I could go hotbox my Honda Civic across the street.

This goes back to a broader dispute that I've had with Kelly. She compares me with the dads in our social circle (that's tough competition!). I would prefer to be compared against all dads in the world, including countries with weak child-labor laws. Actually, I would prefer to be compared against all dads that have ever lived in human history. By that measure, I'm pretty sure I'm in the top 0.1 percent of dads.

Unless I lose points for never teaching Elliot how to hunt or gather berries — then I'm screwed.

Monday, April 05, 2010

On the Hunt

Elliot had his first Easter egg hunt in Santa Cruz yesterday — the same day he turned 19 months old. I was surprised by how quickly he figured out the concept.

I mean, we didn't really hide the eggs — they were all in plain sight — but I didn't expect him to immediately know to take his basket and gather them up. He barely needed any guidance in finding all of them. Maybe I've underestimated the tyke.

We were careful to hold the egg hunt indoors. As I've discussed before, we're trying to teach him to stop picking up trash in the street. Holding an outdoor activity where we seemed to be encouraging him to do exactly that would probably undo all our hard work.

Colored eggs = good. Cigarette butts = bad.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

BuboBlog Reviews 'The Ghost Writer'

I'm sure I really disappointed my Czech fans this weekend. I had a chance to see "Clash of the Titans" and provide a review; instead, we went to "The Ghost Writer." Apparently Kelly wasn't impressed with the 31 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating assigned to "Clash." (She also doesn't seem to care that my site is a noted resource for "Clash of the Titans" news among Czechs.)

With that said, I enjoyed "The Ghost Writer." It was one of those intense, yet slowly paced thrillers that hark back to the 1970s. The twist is pretty easy to predict, and I found the ending a bit flat. But frankly, that's also a hallmark of 1970s thrillers (watch the end of "French Connection" and it's like, "Oh, I guess the movie is over now.").

The film is mostly set on Martha's Vineyard, though it was actually shot on the German island of Sylt. The director, Roman Polanski, is a fugitive from U.S. prosecution, so filming on location wasn't an option. Oddly enough, the movie is about a former prime minister who uses the United States as a sanctuary from international law. (Since I'm sure others have noted this irony, I won't dwell on it.) I was surprised in some ways by how much Sylt looked like a Northeastern U.S. island, though it actually seemed a bit more like Southampton than Martha's Vineyard. I found it harder to suspend disbelief when the main character (played by Ewan McGregor) travels to Belmont, Mass., where my aunt and uncle live. Belmont looks much more rural in "The Ghost Writer" than in real life. Maybe they should have just made up a town name.

One plot point hinges on a batch of old photographs that McGregor's character finds of the former prime minster (played by Pierce Brosnan). The photos show a young Brosnan, and they were so poorly Photoshopped that I was sure it was going to be addressed by the film. But no, they just needed to get a better prop department.

Another quibble: Kim Cattrall's terrible British accent. I'm not sure why they didn't just make her character American. Or perhaps come up with a backstory where she suffered a blunt head trauma and couldn't speak properly. Meanwhile, Sir Tom Wilkinson plays an American. You wonder why they didn't just switch places.

As I remarked earlier, there is little to no writing going on in "The Ghost Writer." At the end of the film, the main character (who is never named) merely thinks about writing the book and then we cut to a shot of it spinning off the printing presses (books spinning off printing presses — another cinematic device that hasn't been used since the 1970s).

BuboBlog Rating: 3 asterisks (out of 4).

Friday, April 02, 2010

Boy Cries Because He's Not a Single Lady

You've probably seen this viral YouTube video about the boy who cries during Beyonce's "Single Ladies."

I'll only weigh in on the controversy to remind everyone (again) that Elliot was way ahead of exploiting Beyonce's music.