Friday, July 23, 2010

The Tropics of Northern New England

When you're experiencing the coldest summer in 40 years (by some measures, the coldest summer in 135 years), where do you go for vacation?

Why, northern New England, of course. It's been at least 10 degrees warmer there all summer, and often much more.

That's why I'm taking my family to Maine for the next week. We're looking forward to lounging by the water, playing badminton in the languid heat and drinking iced cocktails.

Be back in August.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Additional Year Elapses

I was looking forward to my birthday entry this year, because I thought I had finally outlived Ol' Dirty Bastard.

Turns out ODB died just before his 36th birthday, so I actually passed him *last year*.

It's pretty sad when you become older than deceased people who had the word "old" IN THEIR NAMES. (Well, technically "ol'.")

I guess we can take solace in the fact that ODB never lived to see the title of his seminal album parodied by a knitting site.

Anyway, I'm grateful for another year on Earth, and I will pour out some liquor today for everyone who died too soon.

Another Missed Opportunity to Educate

It's funny that I should mention Flavor Aid yesterday, because the Chronicle ran a letter to the editor today complaining about the phrase "drank the Kool-Aid."

The writer says:
I would really like to see the elimination of the expression "drank the Kool-Aid" and its variations. After the Jim Jones People's Temple mass suicide, I find it appalling that people would use this expression to describe any situation, personal or otherwise. Many people in the Bay Area had relatives who died there, and I can only imagine what kind of pain that expression revives for those who lost loved ones there.


He makes a good argument, though I had hoped the writer would point out that the Jim Jones cult drank Flavor Aid and not Kool-Aid — and that people should at least be accurate if they're going to use this expression.

This isn't the first person to complain about the insensitivity of the phrase — it's sort of a regular thing in the Chronicle. (I blogged about a similar letter back in 2008.)

You would think that Kraft Foods Co. (the maker of Kool-Aid) would take it upon itself to correct this widespread misconception. Maybe they're concerned it would lead to consumers actually learning that Flavor Aid exists.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trendy Baby-Name List Sounds Like the Members of a Terrifying UFO Death Cult

I lobbied for a more unusual name (unsuccessfully) when we had Elliot, if only because we have such a common last name.

But even I was a little taken aback by this list of the fastest-rising baby names.

Taken as a whole, these names are downright frightening. They sound like the character list from one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' lesser-known novels. I can't tell if the names are futuristic or antiquated — I only know if I were in a room with these people, I would expect them to wear robes and pass around a goblet of Flavor Aid.

Fastest-rising boys names
1. Castiel
2. Bentley
3. Eoin
4. Easton
5. Lucian
6. Aarav
7. Zion
8. St. John
9. Kaiden
10. Sterling
11. Callan
12. Leland
13. Harper
14. Mikah
15. Dashiell
16. Eliah
17. Dawson
18. Kayden
19. Lennon
20. Dorian

Note: There are some individual names here that I like (Lucian isn't bad). But it definitely sounds like the roster of a penal colony on the planet Maltec-4.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Langton Street Party a Success

Our little alleyway held its first block party on Sunday (we even got permission to close off the street).

We were celebrating the restoration of the "Frisco's Wild Side" mural, which extends most of the block. If you've never seen it, here's a slightly jerky video I shot.



Elliot was confused and exhilarated by being able to run around in the street without having to hold a trusted adult's hand. In fact, he went so berserk, he ran directly into a wall. (Fortunately, he recovered pretty quickly.)

Someone brought this tricked-out Barbie-themed Big Wheel, which Elliot wasn't above riding around. Not that his feet could reach the pedals.



It was a pretty low-key affair, and yet, two different candidates for District 6 Supervisor showed up. Best of all was when celebrated San Francisco eccentric Frank Chu made an appearance. You know your event is something big when he drops by.



This photo is from the SoMa Photowalk, a group of shutterbugs that came through and shot pictures of the event. (I hope they don't mind me co-opting this photo.) Chu is pictured in front of Langton's other famous mural, the Mac Dre tribute.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

PSA Is Just a Random String of Meta Tags

I saw this public-service announcement inside a 14-Mission Muni bus.



Apparently real life imitates the Internet so much now that we no longer need sentences — just a series of meta tags (the words that allow search engines to find websites). Here we have: "Latina...family...smiling...no cavities...I am." No matter what order you put these words in, they don't really make sense.

Maybe I just don't get it because I'm no longer in the demographic coveted by advertisers (especially in this case, since I'm not a Latina child).

Friday, July 16, 2010

'Knitta Please'

I don't know anything about knitting, but as an avid tracker of both low-impact graffiti and puns, I was delighted to find this blog: "Knitta Please." (Thanks for the tip, BuboBlog Berkeley correspondent Lynn.)

It spotlights the burgeoning trend of yarnbombing — that's where people knit cozies and other adornments for public objects. (There's also a blog called Yarnbombing.)

You may recall that some East Bay "guerrilla knitters" foisted their handicraft on a sculpture earlier this year.

I can only imagine what the world would be like if everyone expressed themselves this way. For one, a Footlocker in Oakland would have a nice window-sweater right now.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

BuboBlog Reviews 'Toy Story 3'

If you see Pixar's "Toy Story 3," you may wonder whether to pay extra for 3-D. The value of the surcharge isn't immediately apparent. Even though the movie was designed from the start to take advantage of the format (unlike "Clash of the Titans," which had a last-minute 3-D conversion), the effects are so subtle as to be barely noticeable.

I was halfway through the movie before I realized why seeing it in 3-D was worth it: The dark glasses make it hard for people to see you crying.

If you're a parent, "Toy Story 3" is a devastating film. Pixar uses the plight of the toys (which have to cope with their owner Andy going off to college) as a conceit for the anguish of parents dealing with their children growing up.

It's so poignant and sad — in ways that will likely fly right over the heads of children — it's hard to consider this a kids' movie. More like a film for adults that may appeal to children.

"Toy Story 3" begins with the toys devising a last-ditch effort to make Andy play with them. He's 18 now, and they've been barely acknowledged for years, stowed away in a chest. The plan fails, and Andy tosses the toys in a sack bound for the attic.

The toys wind up a daycare center, which at first seems promising (there's a never-ending supply of kids to play with them). But it soon turns out to be a concentration-camp environment run by the sociopathic bear Lots-O'-Huggin' and a disfigured doll named Big Baby. (Despite being terrifying, Big Baby is available for purchase.)

The movie isn't afraid to get dark in the second act, including a tragicomic origin story for Lotso in classic film-noir style. When the toys seem inexorably bound for a fiery death in a landfill incinerator, I began to wonder if the whole thing wasn't a little too intense for kids.

Fortunately (spoiler alert), a deus ex machina spares the toys, giving them one last chance to play with Andy — before having to resign themselves to life without him. The film ends on this bittersweet note.

In real life, you get about 10 years to play with your children, and maybe another eight of them living in your house. Make the most of them.

BuboBlog Rating: 4 asterisks (out of 4).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Milpitas, Home of the Rich and Single?

The folks at CNN and Money magazine compiled a list of the best places to be rich and single. (I'm hoping they'll tell me where I can be poor and married, but that's apparently still forthcoming.)

Attention statisticians, here's a sign that something has gone disastrously wrong with your methodology: Milpitas ranks somewhere on your list.

In this case, Milpitas came in sixth. That means it's the best place in Northern California to be rich and single. This has to be news to anyone in Milpitas, which mainly appeals to people who think Fremont is too cosmopolitan.

Seriously, the only destination of any kind in Milpitas is the Great Mall of the Bay Area, and I believe the mall's staff is contractually obligated to use air quotes whenever they say the "Great" part.

"The River's Edge" (starring Crispin Glover and Keanu Reeves) was based on the true story of a murder in Milpitas. But they shot the movie in Sacramento, because apparently that was a more interesting setting. Nuff said.

I came across this list because the Santa Cruz Sentinel did a story on how Santa Cruz also made the rankings (thanks for the tip, BuboBlog Monterey Bay correspondent Papa Jeff).

The Sentinel interviewed a few people who seemed confused as to why their town was included, since Santa Cruz isn't really about flaunting wealth. They should be even more embarrassed that they ranked so far below Milpitas (coming in at No. 25).

Is it because Santa Cruz lacks a Dave and Buster's?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Surviving 'Ho Watersports'

Oddly enough, this life preserver is designed for "ho watersports."



I was going to stop pointing out "ho" puns, but the fact that they combined it with a urolagnia reference was more than I could ignore.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Metreon Sign Overly Optimistic

Considering it's July, it seems unlikely that the Metreon relaunch is going to happen in "early 2010."



The idea is to revive the retail complex with lots of new restaurants and shops (and possibly a Target). I guess the delay shouldn't be a big surprise — there were reports as long ago as November that the plan was behind schedule. An easy fix would be to add an "s" to the sign: "early 2010s." They should be able to meet that goal.

I wonder if the idea of putting Target in the Metreon is no longer in play — now that the chain is in talks to open its first San Francisco location on Geary in the Richmond. (There also were discussions about a Target in the proposed CityPlace complex in the mid-Market area.)

In the meantime, the Metreon food court is pretty quiet. The upside: It's a great place for toddlers to run around.



Compare that with the jam-packed Westfield San Francisco Centre food court. The last time we went there, Elliot bumped into countless people, shrieked at diners and startled a service dog.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

(Name) Tagging

Using stickers as graffiti is nothing new (the artist known as "BNE" got famous that way).

But I've noticed more and more SoMa taggers using "Hello, my name is..." stickers lately.

Here's one on a bicycle rack on Fourth Street near Folsom.



I also spotted a cluster of them at our neighborhood playground...





...and on our well-decorated (if defunct) ATM around the corner.



Whether you think this is art or vandalism, at least they're fairly easy to peel off.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Rise of 'Chuman Lit'?

We may still be years away from creating a chuman, but the amount of literature devoted to the topic appears to be growing. Three years ago, I reviewed a Michael Crichton book called "Next," which depicts a young humanzee boy trying to adapt to life with an American family. Now a new book called "Lucy" tells the tale of a humanzee girl doing the same thing.

In this case, the child is created by a Dr. Frankenstein-type character named Stone. He pulls off the feat by artificially inseminating a genetically altered female bonobo (a bonobo is a type of chimp famous for its propensity to get freaky).

The book, written by Laurence Gonzales, got a pretty tepid review in the New York Times. The reviewer compares "Lucy" unfavorably with another Crichton work:
Mr. Gonzales, who is best known for such nonfiction books as “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why,” has done a lot of research into bonobo culture and the nonverbal communication of animals, but he doesn’t manage to lend Lucy’s back story even the veneer of plausibility. In comparison, Michael Crichton’s account in “Jurassic Park” (another Frankenstein-ian novel about the wages of scientific hubris) of how dinosaurs were recreated through the use of recovered DNA reads like a report from a respected scientific journal. Not only does Mr. Gonzales fail to explain how Stone might have managed the unprecedented feat of cross-species breeding in the middle of the jungle without any real laboratory or medical facilities, but he also sidesteps the question of why Lucy’s looks are so utterly human and why her bonobo genes are evident mainly in traits like her unusual physical strength and highly acute hearing.


I'm glad to see that the New York Times, like me, was looking for more of a how-to guide.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Escape from 'Heatpocalypse'

We had a great time spending Fourth of July in the Atlanta area, but it sounds like we left the East Coast at just the right time. Atlanta was bracing for what the news radio station was calling a "scorcher" (and when the locals say that, you really have to be afraid). Meanwhile, the Northeast is slogging through the so-called Heatpocalypse, with temperatures climbing into the triple digits.

When it gets that hot, you're better off in Atlanta than New York. At least Atlanta is set up in a way that lets you avoid having to go outside.

In New York, the whole point is to walk everywhere. And even if the subway trains are air-conditioned, the platforms aren't. It basically destroys everything that makes New York such a wonderful place.

It's perhaps a shame that the greatest city in the United States is located in an often-miserable habitat (both summer and winter). But what can you do — it's an accident of history that the country was colonized East to West. And maybe it helps New Yorkers keep their edge.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Mixed Messages

Life Isn't Fair

Hang on, you're telling me that I can't make an Internet meme to save my life. And yet, other people are creating them by accident?

You may have seen this thing about how July 5, 2010, was the date that Marty McFly and Doc Brown visit in "Back to the Future." The "fact" spread quickly via Twitter, with people ruminating on how we haven't progressed as far as expected in the 25 years since the movie came out (to wit, we don't have banana-peel-powered flying cars).

It turns out the date isn't in the movie. The people at the British website TotalFilm got confused and started the online sensation because they didn't adequately fact-check.

From the Telegraph:
...the celebrations were muted after the claim was unmasked as a hoax and aficionados pointed out that they had got the wrong date.

In the 1989 sequel Back to the Future Part II, McFly – played by Michael J Fox – travels forward in time in the hope of altering events to save his son from being jailed.

With his friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) at the wheel of their DeLorean time machine, they set the vehicle’s time circuits to October 21, 2015.


So I guess we can still have this whole thing happen again in about five years. In any case, why won't the good people of the Internet embrace one of BuboBlog's many available memes? "I declare him an outlaw"? Cutie Bagel? C'mon!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Maybe Avoid Flying This Month

Elliot only has two months and three days left before he's 2 years old. When that happens, he can no longer fly for free.

So of course we're taking two cross-country flights this month. I apologize in advance to the third person sitting in a three-seat row with us, because Elliot is getting WAY too big to be a "lap baby."

Even though I'm benefiting financially from Elliot flying for free, I wonder if airlines shouldn't cut off this perk at 18 months...or maybe earlier.

Having Elliot fly as a lap baby is like giving piggyback rides to Andre the Giant.