Monday, May 30, 2011

Beware the Wiggle Wall

The Wiggle Wall (at the Habitot children's museum in Berkeley) teaches children how to navigate a network of claustrophobic tunnels. I can only imagine it was designed as a secret training program for Mexican drug mules.

It's not uncommon for children to get stuck. (And in fact, Elliot's friend Lila had to be extracted not long after these photos were taken.)

Elliot was able to make his way out without assistance.

Juárez, here we come!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Spotted in the Mission: 'Cable TV'S'

Oh, Eula Hotel on 16th Street.

I get that you're proud of having cable TV. Given the appearance of your establishment, offering even basic cable seems above and beyond expectations.

But why the S? And for Christ's sake, why is it an apostrophe S (capitalized no less)?

Does the entire hotel belong to Cable TV?

Perhaps it was one of the lesser-known assets acquired by Comcast in the NBC Universal merger.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is It an Icelandic Volcano or Metal Band?

A couple years ago I challenged readers to distinguish AC/DC song titles from those of Spinal Tap ("Love Bomb"?). You can check out that quiz here.

Now here's an even more challenging test from Vanity Fair: "Icelandic Volcano or Death Metal Band?"

If Only They Kept the Name Secret Too

By now you've seen this story about the Canadian parents who are keeping the gender of their baby secret — at least, until the child is ready to reveal it to the world themselves. The baby is named Storm.

Baby Storm (right), with older brother Jazz (Photo credit: Toronto Star).
From the article in the Toronto Star:
When Storm was born, the couple sent an email to friends and family: “We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place? ...).”
I can understand the value of downplaying gender roles, though this seems a bit like a publicity stunt for attention-hungry parents (and I say that as someone with a parenting blog).

Mainly, I wonder about the names of their kids: Storm (four months), Kio (2 years) and Jazz (5 years).

Regardless of gender, those names are pretty much going to limit them to two jobs: (a.) exotic dancer (b.) American Gladiator.

(The fact that American Gladiator was canceled — and probably doesn't take Canadians anyway — is an extra hurdle.)

If the parents are basketball fans, that might give a clue as to the child's gender. The Jazz is an NBA team: male. Storm is a WNBA team: female.

Did I crack the code?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reach Out and Touch Someone (Sort of)

When my wife is out of the house, I'll often walk into a room and find Elliot talking to her on his phone.

The phone isn't actually connected to anything, but it does have a prerecorded message from her: "Hello, Elliot. I love you."

UPDATE: Just to show you how quickly a heartwarming story can turn sour: Before Elliot went to bed tonight, he said he needed to make a "quick phone call."

When Kelly asked who he was talking to, he said, "Another mommy."


Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Guess They Got Lucky This Time

You might say the Chronicle pulled a "Truman Defeats Dewey" with its Sunday editorial section today. It put Harold Camping — the Oakland minister who predicted the May 21 doomsday — in its "Bad Week" column (even though this section was put to bed long before the 6 p.m. Rapture was supposed to happen).

They must have felt pretty confident he'd be wrong.

If things had gone differently, I could imagine Camping holding the Chronicle up Truman-style.

As it is, he's holed up in his house, refusing to answer the door.

Oh well.

UPDATE: Looks like Camping is talking now.

Gangsta Rapt'-ers

The Rapture may have been a letdown, but it gave us an excuse to hold our book club on the roof yesterday (we didn't want to risk hitting our heads when we ascended!).

No Judgment Day is complete without a Rapture cake.

And a Rapture piñata...

...not exactly sure why it was a clown.

At 6 p.m., I looked out toward Sutro Tower, hoping it might blast off. But the beautiful day went on uninterrupted.

Given what the piñata looked like at the end, I guess it was more of a Rupture theme.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

More Rapture Fun

Slate published a slideshow of Judgment Day billboards from around the world, showing a broader selection of ads than I had in my previous post.

Even better was this sampling of Rapture-inspired artwork on the Laughing Squid site.

Happy Rapture, everybody!

Follow-Up: Judgment Day Ads Not Disappearing

The other day I noted that the Judgment Day ad on our corner had disappeared.

But I keep seeing the ads on BART cars, so it's not as if they've vanished altogether. (Though it has been noted that BART doesn't have a great track record for replacing out-of-date ads. I'm pretty sure there's a few "Step Up 3-D" posters around.)

Maybe when the Rapture comes on the 21st, all the ads will be spirited away to heaven. One can hope.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My God, Is That What We Did to Osama?

The past few days, some version of this has been running at the bottom of many stories on the Chronicle's website.

No wonder Diane Feinstein doesn't want us to see the bin Laden photos — he looks disturbingly like Rob Lowe.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

'BART' (BRAT?) Food — Not What You Think

Either due to exhaustion or neglect, Kelly allowed me to take Elliot alone to the doctor.

Now, I almost never take the little guy to the doctor, so I was determined not to seem like a bumbling dad (you know, the kind who can't make pancakes). I tried to appear as with-it as possible when talking to the doctor.

But then she busted out the jargon: "Until Elliot's stomach settles, you should keep him on the BART foods" (no explanation given — she said it like I should know what "BART foods" are).

I played it cool, but I was pretty confused. In my world, you're not allowed to eat food on BART. And if you do manage to sneak some Doritos on there, it's certainly not going to settle your stomach!

After some Internet sleuthing, I figured out that BART foods are: bananas, applesauce, rice and toast.

But it took a while. I finally found it on an eHow page devoted to "How to Avoid Fatty Foods After Food Poisoning" (what the hell kind of eHow advice is that, by the way?).

Anyway, I have to say this to anyone in the medical profession: "BART food" is definitely not a household term.

At least get a character on "Grey's Anatomy" to say it before testing it on the rest of us.

UPDATE: Apparently this is better known as the "BRAT" diet (thanks, anonymous commenter!). Now that's a term I could have found quickly on Wikipedia.

The doctor didn't have an accent, so I don't think I misheard. I wonder if she avoids saying "BRAT" because it would offend parents?

"You need to put this kid on a BRAT diet. That's exactly what he needs."

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: I suppose the more dangerous thing would be to confuse the "BRAT" diet for this.

That seems highly unlikely to settle your stomach.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Billboard Gone — Judgment Day Averted?

Hark: The "Judgment Day" billboard on our corner has been taken down and replaced with one for 76.

What's going on here...if the Rapture is really coming in six days, couldn't they at least have paid to keep the billboard up the full month?

I've been looking around to see if other billboards have come down too. I wonder if there's an effort afoot to mitigate the humiliation if nothing happens on the 21st.

Of course, people in Berkeley think oil companies like 76 are hastening the end of the world anyway. So maybe it comes to the same thing?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

We're Back, Baby (as an Object of Destruction)

Back in 2009, we discussed how the Golden Gate Bridge is continually destroyed in movies.

The Bridge after it was attacked by the Breen on "Deep Space Nine."
Later that year, I was upset that the bridge was omitted from the mayhem in "2012," despite at least seven major landmarks behind obliterated in the trailer alone.

Well, it appears the bridge is reclaiming its status as Hollywood's favorite monument to screw with.

Check out the trailer for the new "Planet of the Apes" reboot, called "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

Click here to skip ahead to the bridge scene.

In fairness, there's no evidence that the bridge gets destroyed. But that looks like a pretty nasty backup. Those drivers probably wish they had taken the ferry.

Update: Mariah Carey's Husband Responds

Nick Cannon, aka Mr. Mariah Carey, has responded to questions about his children's names, Monroe and Moroccan Scott. Apparently he was surprised by the online "controversy" (no doubt generated by this blog).

According to an interview on the PopEater site:
Obviously, my wife has always been inspired by Marilyn Monroe...she bought her priceless piano and all that stuff. And I just like the idea that is was more than just naming our daughter Marilyn. I think that would've been a little too cliché. Monroe is a very strong name — it sounds really elegant.
I guess it's "cliché" to name your child after the first name of someone you respect.

But this only spotlights the missed opportunity. Who wouldn't want a beautiful baby girl named Mortenson?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Are We Seeing a Real-Life 'Prestige'?

First of all, a massive *SPOILER ALERT* here, because I'm about to ruin the movie "The Prestige," which as loyal readers know is the fifth-best film of the 21st century's first decade.

Anyway, if you've seen the movie, you know that it involves twin brothers going to extreme lengths — including chopping off fingers — to remain identical.

Well, it looks like we have a real-life example of that. There are twin brothers in San Jose involved in a murder case, and one of them is posing as the other to try to beat the homicide rap.

They have similar tattoos on their chest and arms, because apparently they've seen the movie and know what to do. (Perhaps one brother wasn't that into tattoos but had to go along with the plan.) I hope they've also taken pains to grow the same facial hair.

But wait, according to the story, the suspect has a distinctive "N" in the middle of his chest tat. It's giving him away. (Geez, did you learn nothing from Hollywood?)

UPDATE: The good news is, this post lets me revive my "Kooky Schemes Gone Wrong" label.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Are Celebrity Parents Engaged in Naming Brinkmanship?

I have to wonder if Mariah Carey threw down the gauntlet last week when she named her kids Moroccan Scott and Monroe, because now we're hearing about celebrities with equally weird (if not weirder) names.

Alicia Silverstone named her baby boy Bear Blu, and Bryan Adams has a daughter called Mirabella Bunny. (If the magazine Mirabella still existed, I suppose a Mirabella Bunny would be the cover girl.)

I also read recently that Taboo (one of two lesser-known members of the Black Eyed Peas) named his son Journey. Was "Bad Company" taken?

It says something that the least controversial recent choice was a baby boy named Meredith (Nikki Cox and Jay Mohr's son). I admire their effort to take back a boy's name, since so many are lost forever (I fear that Elliot will be a feminine name in 50 years — think "Leslie"). Meredith will be a challenge, though. It's been more popular for girls for about a century, and we all know that only NFL quarterbacks can reclaim girls' names.

Still, I'm not worried about any of these kids. I mean, who better to bear a name like Bear than a celebrity child? Will Journey be teased on the playground? I'm sure he'll be too busy trying to convince the other children that his dad is actually in the Black Eyed Peas.

Mainly I just want to know if there's a high-stakes crazy-name contest going down, and if so, who won?

Big Kids in Strollers: a Secret Controversy?

According to Salon, via the Mommy Files blog, people are annoyed by parents putting older kids in strollers.

There's even a blog devoted to the issue: It features pictures like this.

I had no idea this was an issue. And in fact, I suffer from the opposite problem.

When I take Elliot somewhere, like a store, I have to chase him around while he threatens to destroy the place. I always think: "Why didn't I bring the stroller?"

On Sunday I took him to the Walgreen's to get a prescription for an antibiotic (he has an ear infection). They took 25 minutes to fill the prescription. Meanwhile, Elliot ran around the aisles, rifling through the vitamin bottles and asking if I could buy him a "Dora" video (oddly, Walgreen's still sells VHS tapes. I don't think Elliot knew it was a video — he just thought it was a nifty-looking box with Dora's picture on it).

Then he threw up, resulting in a "Clean up on Aisle 6" announcement (I didn't realize people actually said this).

Trust me: Everyone at Walgreen's — especially the staff — would have benefited from me strapping him into a stroller.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Late-Night Tactical Ops

We're hoping Elliot is finally getting better after his weeklong bout with flu-like symptoms. I feel bad for the kid, but also, he's pretty much ruined all our bedding.

We're so scared he's going to throw up again that if I hear the least bit of coughing, I leap up, dash into his room and yank him out of bed immediately. Then at least he can only throw up on the floor.

It's like I'm in a highly trained Chilean death squad.

So far, the approach seems to be working. Or maybe Elliot is just so terrified that he forgets what he was doing.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Worst Mother's Day Ever?

We have pretty low expectations for Mother's Day in this household. After all, THIS was the last one.

Even so, it's probably not a good sign that Kelly asked repeatedly today if she could abandon her family and start a new life.

During happier times

Some of the highlights:
—Elliot's repeated vomiting kept Kelly on the phone with the nurse until 2 a.m. last night.
—The little guy decided to kick off today with explosive diarrhea around 6 a.m.
—After Kelly asked for French toast this morning, I had to admit that I've never made French toast. Then I had to admit that I'd also never made pancakes. I inquired as to whether they're available in refrigerated-log form, so I could just cut a few off. Apparently they are not.
—We gave her a gift certificate for a massage. But due to a computer error, it was printed to look like a $5 off coupon. ("Did you give me a Groupon?")
—Alice decided today would be a fun day to start rejecting the bottle.
—We moved Elliot to our bed, and he threw up again.
—There are no pillows in our house that aren't soaked with vomit.
—Why don't they sell pancakes in log form? Seriously, people would buy it.
—Alice refuses to take a nap or eat or do anything but scream.


Update: Kelly left the house several hours ago. I *think* she's coming back. If not, I don't have much time to learn how to breastfeed.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Jacob Continues Its Reign

I didn't set out to write about baby names all week, but there's been a lot of material lately.

The Social Security Administration released its list of the top 2010 names yesterday, revealing some surprises.

Well, maybe not too many surprises. The most popular boy's name remains Jacob (yes, the mystery continues), followed by Ethan, Michael, Jayden and William. The leading girls name are Isabella, Sophia, Emma, Olivia and Ava (the same five led in 2009, in a slightly different order).

Alice leapt from No. 258 to 172, while Elliot lost ground (what?), falling to 301 from 297. I thought Elliot was poised for breakout success — I guess not.

Elliot is only one notch higher than Frank. When's the last time you met a baby named Frank?

For boys, the fastest climbers were Bentley (despite being recently named as a "hated" name), Easton, Mason, Kellan and Grayson. For girls: Maci, Quinn, Khloe, Kinley and Giuliana.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Which Scott? You Know, Moroccan Scott. Oh Right, That One

Hot on the heels of the "Most-Hated Baby Names in America" list, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon have released the names of their new twins.

The girl is named Monroe, while the boy is called Moroccan Scott.

From People magazine:
Monroe was named after Marilyn Monroe, who has been an inspiration to Carey, 42, while Moroccan comes from the top-tier of Carey's New York City apartment, which features Moroccan-inspired décor and was also the site of Cannon's marriage proposal.

Be grateful they didn't have Ikea furniture, or one of the kids would be named EKTORP TULLSTA.

Now, you might think someone who wanted to honor Marilyn Monroe would name their daughter...oh, I don't know...Marilyn. But that would have been too obvious.

I wonder instead why they didn't go with Norma Jeane or Mortenson. Nobody would expect that.

I have similar thoughts whenever someone chooses a name inspired by "To Kill a Mockingbird." Everybody wants to call their daughter either Harper (after Harper Lee) or Scout (after the book's main character). But Harper Lee's real name is Nell, and Scout's real name was Jean Louise. Wouldn't it be more clever to use one of those? Nell is VERY available, people — not even in the top 1,000 of names. (I think maybe this didn't help.)

As for Moroccan Scott, it just makes it sound like someone knows a lot of guys named Scott and there needed to be a way to distinguish them. Fat Scott, Moroccan Scott, the Scott with a goiter.

I always had that question about 1990s rapper Black Rob (famous for the hit, "Whoa!"). Was he one of many Roberts in a multi-ethnic group growing up, and he needed to make it clear he was the black one?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Baby Names People Love to Hate

I haven't been checking the baby-name sites the way I used to, but I did come across this post on the Baby Name Wizard blog: "The Most-Hated Baby Names in America."

None of our finalists were on the list, though maybe it's because we chose names that no one had any strong feelings about. The most-hated name for girls was "Neveah" — "Heaven" spelled backwards (hey, it's more common than you might think).

Elliot and Alice: safely uncontroversial

Here are the complete rankings, with a brief description of the reason.


1. Nevaeh: "a landslide winner."

2 (tie). Destiny: "stripperish."

2 (tie). Madison: "grating."

4. Mackenzie: "low class."

5. McKenna: "see Mackenzie."

6 (tie). Addison: "boys' name used for girls."

6 (tie). Gertrude: "ugly."

6 (tie). Kaitlyn: "made-up spelling."

6 (tie). Makayla: "see Mackenzie."

10 (tie). Bertha: "see Gertrude."

10 (tie). Hope: "name implies virtue."


1. Jayden: "backlash against -ayden names."

2. Brayden: "see Jayden."

3 (tie). Aiden: "ditto."

4 (tie). Kaden: "ditto again."

5. Hunter: "should only be a last name."

6. Hayden: "see Jayden."

7 (tie). Bentley: "trashy."

7 (tie). Tristan: "fakey," "unlikeable."

9. Michael: "too common."

10. Jackson: "way too trendy."

Funny that "Michael" / "Jackson" are holding up the rear. I guess the King of Pop's death didn't give a bump to these names.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

'The Bible Guarantees It'

Most people seem to agree that the best part of the judgment-day billboards is the claim, "The bible guarantees it." (Note to "Thor" marketing team, you could have used these guys to help with your tagline.)

I like that it's on a foil seal, as if the phrase was bestowed by a literary book award. (I'm also kind of impressed that they spelled "guarantees" correctly — it's a hard word!)

I was excited to learn that the same message is on billboards in other parts of the country, and they use different approaches.

This one (below) is in Los Angeles.

I guess people in L.A. are less impressed by literary-award seals. But they do love scheduling meetings!

This one (below) is apparently in Sacramento.

Nothing's official until it's stamped in red we learned from "Top Secret."

Monday, May 02, 2011

Another Exercise in Feeling Old: Current Events

Back in 2009, I wrote a post called "An Exercise in Feeling Old." It was a thought experiment: How "current" would certain songs feel to Elliot (a newborn at the time), compared with how I would perceive them?

For instance, Beyonce's "Single Ladies" (2008) feels fairly recent to me. But to Elliot, it's the equivalent of Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train to Georgia" (1973).

Now that we have an even newer member of our family, Alice, I'd like to conduct the same thought experiment on the topic of historical events.

Sept. 11, 2001, feels fairly recent to me (especially given the events of the past few hours). And yet, to Alice, it was something that occurred a DECADE before she was even born. Think about that for a moment.

That means, for me, it would be the equivalent of the JFK assassination (1963) — something that always felt a little abstract.

To Alice, the outbreak of World War II occurred almost 72 years before she was born. That makes it equivalent to the assassination of President McKinley (1901).

The Great Depression started 82 years before she was born. That makes it like the year Thomas Hardy published "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" (1891).

I'd like to put a positive spin on all this. Sept. 11, World War II, the Depression — these are all terrible things. If Alice goes through life thinking it's been a long time since human beings were so depraved as to do any of this, that's a good thing, right? We're past this.

I hope that's true.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Ah Yes, But What Time?

As everyone in the Bay Area knows by now, the world is going to end on May 21.

I get a daily reminder, because of this billboard around the corner from my house — conveniently located across from the Bi-Rite Liquor.

These ads are everywhere, sponsored by an Oakland-based Christian group called Family Radio. The group also has hit the road to spread the word across the country.

All I can say is, thanks for the heads up! But can I get a specific time?

My bookclub is meeting that night, and I want to know if I should bother reading the book or not.