Thursday, April 28, 2011

Elliot: the King of Gratuitous Exposition

Anyone who's written a screenplay has likely heard this rule: avoid exposition as much as possible in dialogue.

Don't just have a character explain the story or say directly how he feels ("I'm angry"). That's not how people talk in real life, and audiences won't buy it. Instead, characters should show how they're feeling, and the script's story and relationships should gradually emerge over the course of the screenplay.

From the John August screenwriting blog (one of my favorites):
Always ask yourself: Would the character actually say this, or is he only saying it because you need the audience to know some fact or detail? If the answer is the latter, you’re writing exposition and not dialogue. That’s not good.

August recommends listening to speakers around you for cues on how to write good dialogue.

This brings me to Elliot, who's a terrible example of "realistic-sounding" speech. Everything that comes out of his mouth is gratuitous exposition.

Here are some phrases he utters on a daily basis:
1. "I'm awake!" (yes, I figured that out when you jumped on me)
2. "I'm having fun."
3. "I'm hiding!"

That last one is both expository and self-defeating, since it usually gives away his position.

So I guess the lesson is, keep your ear out for good dialogue but avoid small children.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thank You for Not Using a Definite Article

There's a series of Bank of America ads that attempt to make local references (perhaps to help people forget that this San Francisco-born company is now based in Charlotte).

Photo credit: Language Log via SFist

Last year, they created a stir by referring to BART and Muni as "the BART" and "the Muni." Anyone who's lived in the Bay Area awhile knows that we hate definite articles. We say, "Take 280 to Palo Alto. There's too much traffic on 101." (Unlike people in Southern California, who put a "the" in front of all their freeways.)

Apparently BofA got the message, because check out their ads now.

No definite article!

UPDATE: Click here for more.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One Step Closer to My Edible Restaurant

As loyal readers know, it's my longstanding goal to open a restaurant where you can eat everything (the plates, the utensils, the glasses and the napkins).

My main challenge is finding suitable drinking containers — an issue I last discussed in December. But it's good to know there's a bevy of choices for the utensils, including these forks from the French boulangerie and patisserie Poilâne. (Thanks for the tip, BuboBlog Philadelphia correspondent Guy.)

From a description on the Cool Hunting site:
The curry-flavored forks are made from rye flour and parmesan and pair well with hummus or Indian appetizers like mint yogurt or mango chutney. For a charming way to stir espresso, as a garnish for vanilla ice cream or for any number of other creative uses, try the shortbread cookie spoons.
If only they made a knife...

UPDATE: Sorry for not using the correct term for these: "food rakes."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

CSI: Ektorp Sofa

Ikea continues to get more creative with their showcase rooms.

Apparently this one helps you imagine what your living room might look like after a violent crime.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

You're Not a Robot, Alice!

I'm finally trying to post some Alice videos, even if I probably won't be able to match the filmography devoted to Elliot.

My fear is Alice will someday be like the girl in that "Twilight Zone" episode, where she figures out she's a robot because there are no baby pictures of her.

Look, future Alice: Here's a sweet video of you as a baby. Evidence!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

'Dat Not Working, Daddy'

My laptop's hard drive crashed so catastrophically that even a team of highly trained clean-room engineers at DriveSavers weren't able to recover a single file.

Elliot's application of a Dora Band-Aid also failed to help.

The really tragic part: I was halfway through ScriptFrenzy — the script version of National Novel Writing Month. I lost everything.

Now I only have 10 days to write a 100-page script. Not sure I'm going to make it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Questions Best Left Unanswered

Elliot and I came upon a roly-poly bug yesterday.

Unsurprisingly, it rolled up in ball when he touched it.

"Daddy, where's its head?"

"Up don't want to know."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Laziest Movie Tagline Ever?

I've been seeing these posters for the new "Thor" movie all over the place.

The tagline is: "the god of thunder." Wow, that's really what they're going with?

If you look up "Thor" in the dictionary, "the god of thunder" is the first four words you'll see. In other words, that's not a tagline — that's a job description.

What if other great films had used this approach to market themselves?

Oliver Stone's "JFK" (1991)
Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" (1992)
Gus Van Sant's "Milk" (2008)

Here are some better suggestions for a "Thor" tagline, just off the top of my head:




As always, my consulting services are offered free of charge.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dude, It's a Sandbox

Whoever wrote the packaging copy for this plastic backyard sandbox was trying WAY too hard.

Is this a contemporary look in today's neighborhoods?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Elliot Memes

We've all heard of Internet memes — the sayings or concepts that spread quickly online until people just as quickly grow tired of them.

Not my birthday
Well, our 2-year-old has his own memes. He repeats them dozens of times a day, to the point where I assume everyone else is saying them too. That's how I know I'm slowly going insane.

Anyway, just so everyone else can get on board with Elliot's memes, here are five of the top ones in rotation right now.

1. The ever-present threat of ticklebugs
2. "I'M HIDING!"
3. Putting Band-Aids on stuffed animals
4. "Happy birthday, daddy" (it's not my birthday)
5. Why is a tiger chasing us?

Out of rotation:
"No baby in dere."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Boy-Girl Combination Found Lacking by Study

A British study found that having two girls is the optimal family arrangement, beating out one girl and one boy.

According to a Mommy Files story on the study, "two girls are rarely noisy, help around the house, and play together nicely."

But the one-each situation isn't too bad: "One boy and one girl, which many people assume is the ideal situation, was the second-best combination. Nearly 90 percent of parents with one of each said their children were true friends and fights between the two are rare."

So far, we've had a pretty wonderful experience with one of each. The big shock has been how sweet Elliot has been to his sister. Occasionally he roughhouses a little too close to Alice, but most of the time he's gentle. He'll even give her kisses, hold her hand and nuzzle her. And while we aren't promoting gender roles — this is Berkeley — it will be nice for Alice to have a big brother to protect her.

But back to the study. Here's the twist: Having four girls is the absolute WORST situation — below four boys even (hard to imagine). From Mommy Files: "Four girls fight and argue all the time, ignore each other, and are difficult to put to bed. Parents of four girls said that they deal with an average of four fights or arguments a day."

Here's the full lineup:
1. Two girls
2. One boy and one girl
3. Two boys
4. Three girls
5. Three boys
6. Four boys
7. Two girls and one boy
8. Two boys and one girl
9. Three boys and one girl
10. Three girls and one boy
11. Two boys and two girls
12. Four girls
Apparently the double-X chromosome is best enjoyed in small doses.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Just Wonderin'

If the Giants had won the Bay Bridge World Series 21 years ago...

...would the ring have featured the Bay Bridge instead of the Golden Gate?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Alice's 'Wonder'-ful Blanket

As I've said before, I was never too into "Alice in Wonderland" as a kid. I found it to be a bit creepy (I realize that was kind of the point).

But I'm a big fan of this "Alice in Wonderland" baby blanket that we received as a gift for Alice. The artwork is especially charming.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Definitely 'Off-Label Use'

Thanks to our generous supply of hand-me-downs, Elliot has come into possession of a pair of FUBU jeans.

This automatically puts him into the running for "whitest person ever to wear FUBU without any sense of irony."

I don't think a product has strayed so far from its intended use since kids began huffing nitrous oxide from whipped-cream canisters.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

What's Going On Here?

I'm not sure what this sculpture being installed near Drumm Street is supposed to be.

But it feels a little naughty.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Tot Talks: Conversations with a 2-Year-Old

Elliot has a growing vocabulary, and yet, talking to him is increasingly like trying to have a conversation with Tracy Jordan. Here's a sample.


Elliot was out playing in the backyard, and repeatedly called "HELP! HELP!" because he touched a prickly rosebush or got a piece of gravel in his shoe.

"Elliot, have you heard of the boy who cried wolf?"


"A boy kept saying a wolf was going to eat him. But it didn't."

"Why my eat a wolf?"

"No, you wouldn't eat the wolf. The wolf would eat you."



"Elliot, we can't have an egg hunt now. Easter is three weeks away. Do you know how long a week is?"


"How long?"

"A dog's poo."


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Spotted on the Embarcadero

I saw this sign in a trashcan near the Ferry Building.

The front...

...and back.

I hope it served its purpose well — whatever that was.

Friday, April 01, 2011

'Write the Wrap': the Aftermath

Well, the Giants lost their first game last night.

Perhaps they weren't motivated enough by the lackadaisical slogan chosen by the Examiner's "Write the Wrap" contest.

The winner, "Repeat the feat," was probably the best choice among the finalists. Still, I have to wonder how inspiring "Mutton Champs" would have been.

Maybe I can still take this to a Kinko's.