Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Best Unintended Cross Promotion Ever?

I already mentioned how ads for the "Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" have taken over the bus stops in our neighborhood.

But I was delighted to see that they're also on Muni's "Owl" night-bus line.

This is probably the best use of Muni ad space ever.

Photo courtesy of Octoferret.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

German Motors Gets All Gangsta

German Motors, a SoMa body shop devoted to BMWs, Mercedes and other high-end imports, commissioned this cool mural on the side of its building.

The mural is tucked away in a tiny alleyway called Berwick (off of Harrison, between 7th and 8th), so you really have to seek it out. I'm wondering if the bear is supposed to represent California, Germany (a bear is the symbol of Berlin) or — it being so close to Folsom Street — another kind of bear.

In any case, I like how the German Motors logo looks like a gritty street tag.

I'd like to see other luxury businesses follow suit. Are you listening, Gump's?

Monday, September 20, 2010

The World of MLK Boulevards

A while back, I gave Portland a good-natured ribbing for having the least-black Martin Luther King boulevard and the least-Latino street named after Cesar Chavez.

Well, thanks to BuboBlog D.C. correspondent Liz, I've discovered a site devoted to MLK boulevards. So now you can compare and contrast lots of cities.

There are a lot of great photos on the site — many of Oakland and D.C. The one pictured here is in St. Louis (photo credit: pasa47).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Day at the Office

I'm not sure if I should be concerned, but Elliot appears to be her secretary. (Photo courtesy of Sophia's mom, Misty.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Are Canadian Kids Smarter?

Elliot was enjoying Franklin Square Park (a recently refurbished playground at 16th and Bryant) when I noticed this disclaimer posted on the play structures.

“Designed for children ages 2 to 5 years (18 months-5 years for Canada).”

Say what? A Canadian child is able to handle this thing six months before an American kid?

What's the message here? Are Canadian tots smarter or tougher, or are their parents just less litigious?

In fairness, this all-American toddler seemed to think the best way to ride it was to climb onto the platform in the middle.

I'm not sure he's the best representative of his country.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hello, Dolly

I've never rented storage space before (I've always been more of a cram-it-or-can-it guy). But with another baby on the way, we've begun moving some of our things into a storage place on Mission Street.

Going in, my only frame of reference was the storage facility in "Silence of the Lambs," so I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was.

There's climate control, impressive views and each of the units is "individually alarmed" (that's certainly better than being "collectively alarmed," which would describe Poland in the summer of 1939).

Check out the view from our floor.

I had figured people would just use these places for storing things. But there's a lady with a space near our unit that has an office set up inside (not sure where her power source is coming from).

I was inspired to turn ours into a man cave.

Unfortunately, Kelly kept giving me more boxes and it got a little cramped.

While I was moving in, another guy was camped out in his storage area. He was unpacking stuff from Safeway paper bags while listening to Journey on a tiny boom box.

He said he had to leave his apartment in a hurry because he was offered a $50,000 buyout in order to move out of his rental. (Wow, in this economy?)

He was very excited about how the units were individually alarmed, because he needed to store his 27 guitars and his 30 pounds of silver coins. Question: Is he a musical pirate?

We didn't have anything that valuable (aside from the synthesizer)...but that turns out to be a good thing. When we tried to lock our unit, we didn't actually close the latch. The facility called to inform us of our error a few days later.

Frankly, if a thief agreed to steal our things, we would probably be better off. No storage fees.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

'AOL Readers Tell Us Where They Hide Money'

There have been recent stories about burglars using Facebook to pick robbery targets. Maybe they should be checking AOL instead — its users are a lot more direct!

UPDATE: My main strategy for deterring burglars is to blog about how crappy our stuff is.

I'm pretty sure no one is going to break in to our home for this TV...

...or this crib...

...though the "Fantasy Island" oil paintings may be tempting.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How Times Have Changed

I was giving Elliot his bath when he grabbed the liquid soap and ate some of it. I sat back and waited for the look of disgust, figuring this would be a good teaching moment.

To my surprise, Elliot wasn't disgusted at all. In fact, he wanted to eat more.

So then I tried the soap. It tasted pretty good. It turns out the main ingredients include water, sodium, glucose, sunflower seeds, rice milk and mallow. That sounds like a delicious snack.

In my day, we made our soap out of lye. [Citation needed. -ed.]

Don't these new-age soap companies realize they've taken all the power out of threatening to wash your child's mouth out with soap?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Free Advice From a Toddler

When you walk down Folsom Street, the marketing for the new 3-D owl movie is inescapable. It's overtaken the Muni stations and there's a giant billboard near Fifth Street.

I realize it's based on a series of children's books, but I'm skeptical of any film with such a long name: "Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" (especially when it's the first installment of an untested movie franchise).

In this case, Elliot has managed to whittle down an eight-word title to a far-more-managable phrase. When he sees the poster, he just says, "Hoo Hoo."

Are you listening, Hollywood? There's your title.

What's Wrong With Sheila?

Since finding out that we were having a girl, I've asked some people what names they would choose.

It seems everyone either wants fresh/trendy names or names that sound like they were last used by a 90-year-old woman.

Yet, despite the fact that everybody is drawing inspiration from the same sources, they seem upset that they're all choosing the same names.

Here's a tip for everyone: If you want a truly fresh name, find a 45-year-old and take hers. Julie, Sheila and Sharon are totally free.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

BuboBlog (Finally) Reviews 'Inception'

(When "Inception" opened on July 16, I estimated it would take me six to eight weeks to get a babysitter. It took seven. Folks, that's called setting realistic expectations. Anyway, here's my belated review.)

Hullo, what's that I just tripped over? It appears to be a glove-like object. I wonder why it's on the floor.

I'll tell you why: "Inception" has thrown down the gauntlet as the greatest movie of the 2010s. It blends the best elements of science-fiction tale, heist film and psychological thriller — and rivals "Memento" and "The Prestige" as writer-director Christopher Nolan's crowning achievement.

"Inception" dares to be dizzyingly complex, delving into dreams within dreams within dreams. And yet, there's a clear set of rules to its universe — one that is explained to the viewer in easy-to-digest chunks. The exposition is a case study for screenwriters: It gradually reveals everything you need to know, and no more, without slowing down the film's pace. (Compare that with "The Matrix," which takes a long break after Neo reaches the Nebuchadnezzar ship so that Morpheus can explain the world to him.)

The premise of "Inception" is now well-known, so I won't belabor the details: Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is hired by a Japanese businessman (Ken Watanabe) to break into the dreams of an energy-industry heir and implant an idea. Cobb assembles a team to help create and manage the dreams, including Ariadne (Ellen Page) as the dream architect. But Cobb has a problem: His dead wife (or a manifestation of her in his subconscious) is running wild, trying to sabotage his best-laid plans.

As labyrinthine as the film becomes, it all feels measured and calculated. It's the opposite of a movie like "Primer" — the low-budget time-travel film that's become a cult classic. "Primer" is smart and fascinating, but it's also muddled and amateurish. With Nolan, you feel like you're being instructed in econometrics or linear algebra by a seasoned professor. Yes, it's complex, but he never lets you feel lost.

And there are so many nice touches: the M.C. Escher paradox staircase; the rumbling trombones in the third act playing a slowed-down version of the song in the first act (keeping with the theme of time being slower in dreams); the creepy clink of broken glass under foot when characters enter a wrecked hotel room.

Some reviewers have complained that the film lacks enough of an emotional core. I can see this argument to an extent: It's not "Brian's Song." But the movie centers on Cobb coming to terms with the death of his wife — that's pretty heavy stuff. And it gives it as much weight as a film like "Inception" possibly could. The story is far too complex to give anything more, and that's a good thing.

The subplot with Cobb's wife bears no small resemblance to "Memento," another story of a man coping with the death of his wife. As with "Memento," it's unclear whether the protagonist was responsible for the death until the end. And in both films their guilt both drives the men forward and holds them back.

"Inception" deftly handled the old problem of adding life-or-death stakes to a scenario in which characters are dreaming. The cliche (perpetuated by "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "The Matrix") is if you die in the dream, you die in real life. In my review of "Avatar," I praised that film for avoiding this trope. Well, "Inception" also finds an original way to raise the stakes: Dying in the dream will send the characters to a state of limbo, where their real-life brains will slowly turn to mush.

Naturally, I have some quibbles:
1. The way that dreams were architected wasn't really explained. Maybe this is best left to the imagination, but it seemed like a gap in fully understanding the world Nolan has created.
2. With Watanabe's character, I had trouble understanding his dialogue. I don't feel like he was so hard to comprehend in other films ("Batman Begins," "The Last Samurai"). But this time, he was in Lou Ferrigno territory.
3. I have no problem with Marion Cotillard's forehead mole, but the fact that her character was called "Mole" made it especially distracting. (Okay, technically her name was "Mal," but it was hard to tell that from how it was pronounced.)
4. I wondered about the role of gravity in the film. When dreamers are in zero gravity, they experience the same sensation in the dream. But then, shouldn't the same have been true one dream level down as well? (This question won't make any sense if you haven't seen the movie.)

These are pretty small points — a testament to how near-perfect this film is. The nature of "Inception" also made it tough to find any continuity errors or filmmaking gaffes. When most of the screentime is used to depict a dream, it's pretty hard to tell what's an error.

As the film barreled toward the ending, I expected a final twist or reveal. Instead (spoiler warning), Nolan does the opposite. He uses an ambiguous ending, leaving us unsure if we are back in reality or just another dream. Now, normally I think ambiguous endings are a crutch for filmmakers who can't figure out how to finish things properly. (Yes, David Chase, I'm talking to you.) Endings should always surprise and delight, even if they don't supply a twist.

In this case, the ambiguous ending was brilliant. Never has a spinning top been imbued with such meaning. It forces the viewer to step back from the film's frenzied machinations and examine his own reality: How do I know this isn't all a dream?

BuboBlog Rating: 4 asterisks (out of 4).

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Guerilla Anti-Marketing

I was walking down Folsom the other day and snapped this photo. Apparently the neighbors above the Schmidt's restaurant aren't happy with the arrangement. They've posted a "Bad Neighbors" sign, with a helpful arrow.

I don't know the details of the dispute, though I assume the upstairs neighbors knew they were going to be living above a restaurant when they moved in.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Parenting Year Two: Lessons Learned

When Elliot turned 1, I wrote about the surprises I encountered as a new parent. Since he turned 2 this weekend, I thought I'd share some lessons about having a toddler.

1. Toddlers are very materialistic: Elliot is obsessed with possessions. In addition to saying "MINE" whenever he wants something, he'll describe objects based on the person they belong to. The iPhone, slippers and purse are "Mama," the BlackBerry, laptop and briefcase are "Dada." (A beer is always "Dada" too...I'm not sure what that says about our household.)

Now, you could turn this on its head and argue that Elliot is less concerned about objects, and more interested in the people associated with them. I guess that would make him less materialistic. But that's probably giving him too much credit.

2. Toddler boys are walking stereotypes: We haven't tried to impose gender roles on Elliot, but he adores trains, construction equipment and other heavy machinery. (Then again, he also loves his baby doll, so he still has a shot of becoming a sensitive male.)

3. Toddlers are narrow-minded: Every woman he sees is a "Mama," and every man is a "Dada." Sometimes when Elliot sees a couple of women together, he'll try to figure out who the Dada is. For a San Franciscan, he has a surprisingly conservative worldview. Human beings should not be defined by reproductive roles, Elliot.

4. "MamaDada" also can be an expletive: One time Elliot fell down and I heard him exclaim this as if it were a curse word. (I guess that's no worse than Monday-to-Friday.)

5. When it comes to the awesomeness of vehicles, the hierarchy goes something like this: Rocketships are most awesome, followed by helicopters, planes, boats, trains, construction vehicles, buses and cars. In the animal category, birds and sea creatures are locked in an epic battle for supremacy — the winner depends on his mood that day. (That's why ducks will always be awesome.) Elliot still hasn't really discovered dinosaurs, which I'm sure will trump everything else.

6. Words with repeated syllables comprise 90 percent of his language: We made an effort not to use baby talk with Elliot, and yet half his vocabulary consists of terms like "numnums" (food), "baba" (sheep), "hop-hop" (bunny rabbit), "yaya" (his blankie), "night-night" (pillow, bedtime) and "she-she" (urination). Why do toddlers have to say everything twice? To make things more confusing, his words for monkey and owl are both "hoohoo."

7. Toddlers are obsessed with water: If there's a puddle, Elliot has to stop and stomp his feet. If there's a fountain, he has to splash around in it. If we're at the beach, he has to run down to the waves. This isn't a shock, of course — who doesn't like water? But as an adult, the level of fascination seems extreme. "It's a puddle...keep walking."

8. Toddlers love pretending to go to sleep, but not actually doing it: Any time of day or night, Elliot will gladly engage you in a round of "night-night." He'll put his head down on the nearest surface and insist that you and his stuffed animals do the same. Beware of actually trying to sleep, though, because his next move is usually to headbutt you.

9. Toddlers want to help you — they're just not very good at it: Elliot loves to feel like he's contributing, whether that means sweeping up, pushing the stroller or putting away his train set. It's touching that he already feels a strong sense of wanting to assist others. Unfortunately, his incompetence just creates more work for everyone. The other day he was using a glass to help water the plants. Then he dropped the glass and it shattered. Not helpful!

10. They understand a lot more than they're letting on: Elliot seems to have a limited vocabulary, so I'm amazed when he listens to fairly complex instructions and follows them exactly. Or when I ask him to point out certain animals or objects, and he can do it with no problems. He just lacks the will or ability to vocalize much of it. Most of the time, he can get by fine with his 20-plus favorite words.

Side note: Sign language is very important to a toddler, even if he's not using the official version. Even now that he can talk, Elliot still likes to say "duck" by doing this.

I recently learned that the real sign for "duck" is to put your hand on your face and pretend it's a bill opening and closing. Frankly, Elliot's version seems clearer.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Elliot Turns 2

Well, there go the free airline flights: Elliot turned 2 years old yesterday.

He got a brand-new tricycle, had a play date with his friend Sophia, ate cupcakes and went to the zoo with all his grandparents. In other words, the greatest day a 2-year-old can expect to have.

I'm surprised he didn't go hoarse from all the shrieking.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

License to Litter?

I came across this pile of Tater Ware biodegradable cutlery on San Bruno near 16th Street.

I wonder if someone would have done this with regular plastic utensils.

Does biodegradable stuff make littering guilt-free?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Elliot in 'Baby Time'

Elliot's latest video documents his exploits with "Baby," a doll my parents gave him last Christmas.

Elliot loves Baby, though sometimes he has a funny way of showing it.