Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cities Visited: 2012 Edition

Santa Cruz (photo courtesy of Wikipedia).
This is my seventh year of compiling a list of cities I've visited  an idea that came from fellow blogger Anh-Minh. (She has become a more prodigious traveler than me over the years, though a less frequent blogger. I'm pretty sure those two things are connected.)

The rule is you can only count cities where you stayed overnight, and you can't include your current place of residence. (I think it's OK for me to include New York in the 2012 tally because I didn't live here when I visited the city earlier in the year.)

My low-water mark was 2011, when I only had five cities on my list. (At the time, I remarked that even Ted Kaczynski probably traveled more than this.)

This year I managed to eke out eight, thanks to a couple of business trips and a summer vacation.

Here's the list, in chronological order of when I visited:
1. Santa Cruz, Calif.
2. New York
3. Boxboro, Mass.
4. Northeast Harbor, Maine
5. Scituate, Mass.
6. Waterloo, Ontario
7. Toronto
8. Kansas City, Mo.

It's worth noting that I haven't traveled anywhere since our third child was born in October. In fact, other than crossing the Roosevelt Island Bridge once on foot, I haven't left the borough of Manhattan in months.

If I stay on this trajectory, my total for 2013 may be zero.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Roosevelt Island's Role in 'The Dark Knight Rises'

We finally saw "The Dark Knight Rises," the third installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. The film provides a fitting ending to the series, even if it suffered from the same problems as the earlier movies  an overstuffed story, excessive running time, and a fluidity between scenes that make you feel like you're watching a long, unpunctuated montage (BuboBlog Rating: 3 asterisks out of 4).

Anyway, I was excited to see many New York landmarks in the film. In fact, it was a little too easy to spot New York landmarks, considering the city is supposed to be a mythical Gotham. (In the previous movies, Chicago stood in for the city, so suddenly switching to the Big Apple seems a bit sloppy.)

Some exteriors were also shot in Pittsburgh and downtown Los Angeles, which serves surprisingly often as a substitute for East Coast cities. has a great rundown of all the places featured in "Dark Knight," including Wollaton Hall in the English Midlands (serving as Wayne Manor), the Trump Tower entrance (Wayne Enterprises), the JPMorgan Building (Gotham's stock exchange) and Jodhpur, India (the outside of Bane's underground prison).

I was most interested in the parts of the movie shot around Midtown, the Queensboro Bridge and our own humble Roosevelt Island. In this scene, you look across the bridge toward Manhattan, with the Citigroup Center (now known as 601 Lexington Avenue) and the MetLife Building visible in the distance. The Empire State and Chrysler buildings are over to the left side, though blurry enough to look like generic towers.

Below is a shot facing the Upper East Side. It appears that the Roosevelt Island tram has been erased digitally, or at least they filmed the movie in a way that obscured it. I feel like if Gotham really existed, it would have a tram (they're kooky like that)  though it probably wouldn't be a friendly shade of red. (Spider-Man, who lives in the real New York, battled the Green Goblin on the Roosevelt Island tram in the first of the Sam Raimi films.)

Warning: spoilers ahead. Here, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is helping kids flee "the island" of Gotham (Manhattan) to escape a nuclear bomb. The island is said to have a population of 12 million people, which would make Gotham MUCH larger and more densely populated than New York. (Manhattan has 1.6 million residents and a daytime population of about 3.7 million. Brooklyn has 2.5 million residents.)

Here you get a nice view of the Bat plane flying past Roosevelt Island and the Con Ed power plant in the Long Island City area of Queens. The Roosevelt Island bridge has been destroyed, though the rest looks largely untouched. You can see my apartment complex midway down the isle.

In the distance, much of Queens and the Bronx has been digitally removed, letting the East River open up into the ocean, or "the Bay" as it's referred to in the film. (This photo gives you a sense of what was removed.) That allows Batman to dump the nuclear bomb a few miles off shore. Here you can just see the mushroom cloud on the horizon.

No one seems to worry about all those radioactive isotopes washing up on Gotham afterwards.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How Not to Use an Umbrella

I created a video documenting our first Christmas morning as a family of five.

Among the bevy of gifts was the one thing Elliot requested from Santa: an umbrella.

We realized too late that giving umbrellas to children is a terrible idea.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tradition, Tradition

This was our first Christmas away from my parents' house and the first time since the mid-'80s that I've spent the holidays outside of California. Let me tell you, there's something odd about waiting for Santa in a town that doesn't have "Santa" in the name.

As we found with Thanksgiving, having the holidays at our house means being able to create new traditions  and discarding some of the old ones.

We have a new set of stockings that Kelly bought. They're very cute, even if they have approximately the same capacity as a child's tube sock. (This is still America, right? I require a larger stocking.)

I also was sad that we're no longer honoring my family's long-held practice of saying, "This is the worst Christmas ever" at some point during the holiday. (The perfect moment this year would have been during the Netflix outage, but I held off.)

Kelly did manage to find one of these spinning angel chime things. This object was a mainstay of every Christmas I can remember, and it added some continuity and nostalgia to our family's first solo Christmas.

For me, at least.

Elliot asked if it was a menorah.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Subway Ride...THROUGH TIME

On Sunday we set out to find the MTA's Nostalgia Train, an old-fashioned subway train that travels between Queens and Manhattan during the holidays.

The concept is similar to San Francisco's F streetcar line, which consists of vintage trolleys from various cities around the world. (San Francisco also has cable cars, of course, but those seem to be in a category by themselves.)

The Nostalgia Train features subway cars that were in service between 1932 and 1977.

From the MTA site:
Ceiling fans, padded seats and incandescent light bulbs were state-of-the-art when these cars were first placed in service. Many New Yorkers bear fond memories of the trains, which served the lettered lines throughout the system.
We waited to catch the train at the Lexington and 53rd Street station, which has enough grime and chipped subway tile to feel like it still could be 1977.

The outside of the train we rode (the top picture) had almost a military look to it. I'm not sure what era it was from exactly — the 1940s? — but it was delightfully austere.

Inside, light bulbs dangle from the ceiling (the lights flicker in between stations — something that's so reminiscent of old movies it almost feels like an affectation).

And you can see why the Nostalgia Train only runs during the winter. There's no way modern New Yorkers would ride around in the summer with only these ceiling fans to cool them. (It rarely gets hot enough to need air conditioning in San Francisco, so the F line doesn't have this problem.)

The vintage advertising is a highlight. I learned about Scotch cellophane tape and a chewing gum with a "different" and "fascinating" new flavor. It was called Juicy Fruit.

Apparently there also was a promotion to get people to take local trains instead of the express. I guess it was an effort to alleviate crowding? Still, kind of weird.

Some people there were dressed in period costumes. We didn't quite go that far, but I did wear my New York Giants hat.

That would have been perfectly at home in the 1940s — setting aside the fact that no grown man would walk around wearing a baseball cap.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Seven Days of Christmas

I've written before about the Empire State Building's lights and our family's fixation on them. Currently, the building is lit up for Christmas and will stay that way until Dec. 27.

The lights will commemorate Christmas for seven straight days, which is better than the treatment Hanukkah got  despite the fact that it lasts eight days.

The building was lit up in Hanukkah colors for the first two nights of the holiday. Then it switched over to honoring Human Rights Day, the Nobel Peace Prize, Hurricane Sandy relief and the Ryder Cup (??) before finishing with three more Hanukkah days.

I was OK with celebrating human rights and Sandy relief, but the Ryder Cup? I did a little checking, and the Ryder Cup was held in Illinois in September and AMERICA LOST.

We probably shouldn't be commemorating that.

UPDATE: It turns out the lights switched back to Christmas colors on Dec. 29, and they'll stay that way until Epiphany on Jan. 6. So that's a total of 18 days.

The reason for the interruption: The building was lit up in Syracuse and West Virginia University colors on Dec. 28 to celebrate the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, an event held at Yankee Stadium.

Nothing says the holidays like, "New Era Pinstripe Bowl."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Santa Stays in the Picture

Yesterday I pondered why children go along with the whole Santa thing (even kids as young as Elliot), since it seems to run counter to everything else they hear in life.

Christmas cheer

Well, here's someone who refuses to perpetuate the Santa hoax at all. Andy Hinds, a stay-at-home dad and blogger, shared his thoughts via the HuffPost Parents site:
Defenders of the Santa tradition cite the joy and wonderment of children on Christmas morning as justification for duping their kids. But is the joy and wonderment of opening presents from "Mom and Dad" rather than from a mythical figure really that much different, and that much less intense? 
I'm not casting judgment on parents who do the Santa shtick, but as for me, I can't even play a prank on my kids for more than a minute without feeling a little guilty, no matter how cute their reactions are. So, while it's probably mostly harmless, I don't know why we feel the need to inject the ambiguity of a benevolent figure who may or may not exist into the already complicated lives of children. Between books and movies, video games and social media, I'm anticipating years of helping my kids sort out what's real and what's not. So why would I want to add to the confusion by trying to convince them that, while Spiderman is just pretend, once a year there will actually be an elf creeping around the house while everyone's asleep?
I share some of his misgivings, but I do think the Santa experience is more intense for kids than getting presents from "Mom and Dad" (especially in our case, since I give the kids soap and expired transit passes).

I think in his heart of hearts, Elliot already knows that Santa isn't real. What we're doing here is just a very long session of make-believe.

And when you're play acting, ALWAYS STAY IN CHARACTER.

Basically, we all become Daniel Day Lewis for the holidays. I'm playing the dad who tells crazy Santa stories, and the kids are playing children who believe them.

When Daniel Day Lewis played Abraham Lincoln, he refused to respond to anyone who didn't call him Abraham Lincoln. He texted people as Abraham Lincoln. When he starred in "In the Name of the Father," he stayed awake three days so that he could more plausibly appear confused. (I require no preparation myself, but I admire the dedication.)

Is concocting a scarcely believable story about Santa  — and sticking with it  — more "intense" than the alternative? Yes.

Do gifts from "Mom and Dad" bring joy and wonderment? No.

Has Daniel Day Lewis ever played Santa Clause? I'm not sure; I'm going to check IMDB now. (He should!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Elf in a New York Apartment

I guess this is the drawback of a smaller living space: It's only Dec. 19, and we've already run out of good locations for our Elf on the Shelf.

I've resorted to giving him Lego accessories to keep it interesting.

Not that I have to work very hard to maintain the kids' excitement. If anything, the daily hunt for Fred (that's what we call the elf) is getting more thrilling each morning.

When Elliot saw Fred on a Lego horse yesterday, he started shouting, "FRED MADE A HORSE! FRED MADE A HORSE!"

Unfortunately, I may have put Fred a little too close to Elliot's level. That meant he was able to really study him for the first time, with his eyes at least. (Kids aren't allowed to touch the elf  that's one of the first Elf on the Shelf rules. It's kind of like a strip club.)

After a couple minutes Elliot said, "Fred looks kind of fuzzy." Then a few moments later: "Fred looks like a toy."

Kelly had to do some quick thinking and told him that Fred builds toys and that's why he looks like one. Elliot seemed to accept this.

I can understand why Elf on a Shelf is so popular  it's an easy way to build excitement about Christmas while simultaneously keeping your kids in line  but it also makes the whole Santa narrative even less plausible.

Fred is clearly a doll, not a living thing that can fly to the North Pole. Doesn't Elliot see that? And how does he even believe in Santa at all? I'm continually telling him that vampires, ghosts, monsters and unicorns are make-believe. I won't even allow him aliens. (Sorry, Elliot, there's no compelling evidence that intelligent lifeforms have ever tried to contact humans.)

And yet now suddenly I'm saying that a fat guy in the North Pole is going to slide down our nonexistent chimney and deliver gifts? How does that pencil out?

But as with all faith, Elliot believes because he wants to believe. And I guess that means looking through a few holes in the plot.

If he's willing to go along with it, so am I.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Is This the Blandest Landmark in New York City?

The New York Times' F.Y.I. column did a piece last week on Roosevelt Island — specifically, the evolution of the isle's name.

Roosevelt Island's Blackwell House, with the smokestacks of the Con Ed substation in the background.

From the article:
The island was inherited by Captain Manning’s stepdaughter, Mary Manningham Blackwell, and was deeded by the early 1700s to Robert Blackwell, Captain Manning’s son-in-law, who lived and farmed there. A farmhouse built by one of his descendants, James Blackwell, dating from 1796 to 1804, still stands on its original site just south of the Queensboro Bridge. A city landmark owned by New York State, it was restored in 1973, deteriorated in the 1990s and is being re-restored, according to the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, which hopes to use it again as a community center.
The city acquired the island in 1828, but the name remained Blackwell’s Island while the city operated a prison, a lunatic asylum, a charity hospital, a smallpox hospital, a workhouse and other Dickensian horrors there. The Blackwell farmhouse was used as a residence for some penitentiary administrators. 
The city renamed the notorious place Welfare Island in 1921 and began a series of reforms: creating new hospitals, moving the prison to Rikers Island in 1935 and developing a residential community with a new name, Roosevelt Island, starting in 1971. It fulfilled that name’s promise this year when a memorial park to Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened at the island’s southern tip.
You often hear that the island was home to a mental asylum and smallpox hospital (perhaps because the buildings that housed those institutions still exist). But I'd forgotten that it used to be a prison as well. I suppose living on Roosevelt Island is a bit like living on Alcatraz. (Should I add it to my list of coolest island prisons?)

As for the Blackwell House (pictured above), it's probably one of the least remarkable landmarks in New York City. Yes, it's more than 200 years old. And yes, it's odd to have a farmhouse surrounded by high-rises. But it's also wholly unremarkable; you'd see entire neighborhoods filled with these homes in a typical New England town, often with more of their original details.

But now that I know it was the residence of former prison wardens, maybe that makes it a little more exciting.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

For Santa, a Truly Modest Proposal

Elliot sat down to write a letter to Santa (well, he dictated the letter to us and then signed it).

The end result is something that's heavy on pleasantries and chitchat but light on actually asking for stuff.
Dear Santa, 
How are your reindeer doing? How is your week going? I love Santa. I love snowflakes. Grandmama is going to come for Christmas. 
I was good this year. I helped put the Christmas tree ornaments on. I was a good big brother. I would like an umbrella. I like tigers. 
Love, Elliot
Unless he's actually requesting a tiger for Christmas (I'm not entirely clear on that), the "ask" portion of the letter is pretty modest. If you're going to butter up Santa, you might as well get something out of it.

Anyway, I think we can probably make this umbrella thing happen.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas-Tree Height Inflation

I mentioned that I was surprised by the size of the Christmas trees for sale in Manhattan. Eight-foot trees were common, despite the fact that they're difficult to transport without a car and difficult to display without a large home.

Well, New York's most famous Christmas tree  the one at Rockefeller Center  also has gotten bigger over the years.

This week's New York Times Magazine had an infographic on the size of the tree by decade (for some reason, the feature is not available online).
Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, in feet
1930s: 65
1940s: 64
1950s: 72
1960s: 67
1970s: 64
1980s: 71
1990s: 78
2000s: 78
2010s: 76
The height has come down a bit this decade, but the tree remains much larger than it was in most of the 20th century (even during the 1950s, at the height of America's economic power).

No wonder New Yorkers have unrealistic expectations for their trees.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ignorance Is Bliss

Today's school shooting in Connecticut was heartbreaking enough; I was grateful not to have to explain it to my kids (since there's no actual way to explain it). I agree with the sentiment of the Preschool Gems Twitter feed.

I was afraid Elliot might hear about it at school, but he was totally unaware when I got home tonight. Then I thought, "Well, of course. How would a 4-year-old learn about such a thing anyway?"

Then I remembered that some of the victims in the shooting were only a year older than Elliot.

There's no surefire way to protect children in our society. All we can do is assure kids that they are loved and that we're doing everything we can to keep them safe.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What Is the World's Most Easily Lost Object?

Like many people, I often have to hunt around for my keys or the remote control. But usually these things turn up eventually. I'd like to talk about another category of objects: ones that seemingly vanish from the Earth with no trace.

Take pens. No matter how many pens I stash away in my shoulder bag or jacket, I never seem to have one when I need it. They simply disappear. I can't recall the last time I had a pen run out of ink — I never seem to hold on to one for that long.

Then there are socks. They are continually disappearing, and always one at a time.

Baby socks are the worst because you can practically lose one in your fat rolls (especially if your static electricity is high that day).

But it wasn't until we had Alice that I discovered the most easily lost object of all time: the pacifier.

Elliot didn't use a pacifier, so it took until our second child to experience the mixed blessing of these things.

On one hand, they do pacify the child   some truth in advertising there. Alice can't go to sleep without hers, which she calls a "bobo."

On the other hand, when Alice can't find her pacifier, she FREAKS OUT. And that happens. A lot.

I can't tell you how many times I've woken up to hear Alice screaming, run to her crib and then found that her bobo had somehow dematerialized. I end up crawling around in the dark for several minutes trying to locate it, to no avail.

When it's 3 a.m. and I'm in this situation, I always say the same thing, "Why don't we just buy a hundred bobos and strew them around the apartment? Like EVERYWHERE."

But I'm not sure it would make a difference. Bobos vanish by the dozen. They're like reverse-Tribbles. And now that Lulu has begun using a pacifier too, the problem has only gotten worse.

These pacifier clips are helpful, but unless I can find one that is surgically implanted into the child, they aren't really a solution.

Where the hell are the pacifiers going? This is a mystery on the order of "Lost" (seasons 1-5, not 6). I'm pretty sure I'm going to open a door one day and be crushed to death by a tide of missing bobos.

But at least I'll die happy, having unlocked the universe's greatest secret.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Say Hello to My Little Friend

For several years now, it's been a popular holiday activity to get an "Elf on the Shelf," a small doll that you move around your house each night as your kids await Christmas.

It's kind of like an advent calendar  only more work for parents, with less chocolate.

The idea is the elf lurks around your home and spies on your kids, making sure they're being nice. Then every night he spirits away to Santa's home in the North Pole to report on them. When he returns by the next morning, he's in a new location (the parents are in charge of moving him while the kids are asleep).

From the "Elf on the Shelf" book, which accompanies the doll:
Have you ever wondered how Santa could know
if you're naughty or nice each year as you grow?...
At holiday time
Santa sends me to you.
I watch and report
on all that you do.
Great, so the elves are kind of like Santa's Schutzstaffel. Thanks for making the Santa narrative even more disturbing than it already was. (I kid. Our family loves the little guy, who was a gift from the kids' great-aunt.)

Anyway, we began the routine this week. After moving the elf last night, I woke up this morning to find Elliot ransacking our home in search of the doll. I had placed the elf on the shelf above our kitchen counter, but apparently that was too challenging a hiding place.

Let me tell you, the kids don't need another excuse to trash our apartment.

But when I pointed out the elf's location to Elliot, his face lit up with joy. That made the whole thing worth it.

Now it's just a matter of remembering to move him each night.

UPDATE: Huffington Post had a sweet story about a boy who talks at length with his elf (in part because no one else will listen). Like our elf, theirs is called Fred. Are we seeing a glimpse of our future?

Monday, December 10, 2012

This Intersection Is Twice Blessed

This is kind of old, but the Travel + Leisure site did a slideshow on the "World's Funniest Signs." (Thanks for the heads up, BuboBlog San Francisco correspondent George.)

One of the entries was "Stop...Hammertime," an old favorite that we've spotted in both Oakland and Berkeley.

Photo courtesy of Travel + Leisure.

But this one wasn't in the Bay Area. I googled the address (7300 West Franklin) and discovered it was in Los Angeles near West Hollywood.

The best part: The same intersection also has a "Stop...Collaborate and Listen" sign. (Thanks, Google Street View!)

If only someone could take care of this four-way stop's other two stops signs, it would be the GREATEST INTERSECTION OF ALL TIME.

My suggestions: this...

Courtesy of danmartell on Twitter/Instagram.

...and this.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

C'mon, Los Angeles. Let's do this.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Christmas Tree Shopping in Manhattan

A year ago, I marveled at how much Christmas tree lots have changed since I was a kid (they now have bouncy slides and petting zoos).

Well, now we live in New York and there's none of that here. In fact, they don't seem to have Christmas tree lots at all. People sell trees in the narrow strip between the sidewalk and the curb.

Oddly, we found that 6- to 8-foot trees were most common. You would think in a city of apartment dwellers, smaller trees would be the norm. How does anyone fit an 8-footer on the subway?

We managed to find a reasonable-sized fir that we lugged home, via the tram and the bus. (When I asked the bus driver if it was OK to take a tree on board, he said, "As long as you don't smoke it." Touché.)

I made a video of the experience.

The next challenge: explaining to the kids how Santa gets into an apartment with no fireplace.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Do Dads Need to Shop to Be Progressive?

The New York Times reported this week that dads are doing more of the shopping these days, especially when it comes to Christmas toys.

"Consumer surveys show that men are increasingly making the buying decisions for families, reflecting the growth in two-income households and those in which the women work and the men stay home," the Times says.
For the first time in Barbie’s more than 50-year history, Mattel is introducing a Barbie construction set that underscores a huge shift in the marketplace. . . . 
With the selling point that it helps girls develop spatial reasoning, the Barbie set, a joint effort of Mattel and the toy company Mega Bloks, is also meant to pique fathers’ interest. 
“Dad is a bigger influencer in terms of toy purchases over all, and this sets up well for that, because the construction category is something Dad grew up with and definitely has strong feelings and emotions about,” said Vic Bertrand, chief innovation officer of Mega Brands, Mega Bloks’ parent company.

A dad writing on Slate also weighed in:
Once upon a time, of course, dads were terrified of shopping: We would stare in helplessness at window displays, cut ourselves clipping coupons, and flee in terror at the approach of the perfume-sample lady. Or we were too busy working to bother. But now, thanks to the welcome but gradual disappearance of what one quoted media executive called the “befuddled dad” stereotype, manufacturers and retailers are realizing that I am buying just as many of my daughters’ Christmas gifts as my wife is.

Wow. I guess I'm really holding up the rear of this societal shift. I have three kids, and I don't recall ever buying them a single birthday or Christmas gift.

But I don't think I'm an old-fashioned "befuddled dad." It just seems to me like our children's toys spontaneously generate on their own. I'd prefer not to add to the clutter, especially given the fact that we live in a not-so-large apartment.

Why can't the kids just play with found objects? A stick, some gravel, a loose paving stone. Don't these things teach "spatial reasoning"? (For instance, how close the stick is spatially to one's eye socket.)

Moreover, our kids are young enough to be pleased with almost any kind of gift. I came home from a business trip and gave them some soap from the hotel. They loved it! (In fairness, it was cool, leaf-shaped soap.)

I recently gave Elliot an expired MetroCard. He was thrilled.

These kids aren't going to be so easily satisfied for long. I need to take advantage of it while I can.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Let's Take This Show on the Road

I wrote yesterday about the "Discovering Columbus" exhibit, which gave a fresh look at a polarizing monument perched high above a bustling plaza.

Those same ingredients exist in San Francisco's Union Square, home to a statue of a trident-wielding woman called Winged Victory.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Like the Columbus statue, Winged Victory is more than 75 feet in the air. That means no one ever gets to see her up close.

Photo courtesy of FoundSF.

And just like the New York statue (which honors a man who ushered in centuries of devastation for the Native American population), the Union Square monument commemorates an arguably shameful event in our history.

From the FoundSF site:
At the turn of the century the Square underwent a major design change, largely due to San Francisco's role in the Spanish American War of 1898. At this time the city became a major naval port and the embarkation center for troops sent to the Philippines. After the war, there was a movement to erect a monument commemorating the destruction of the Spanish Fleet in Manila Bay by Commodore Dewey's squadron on May 1, 1898. 
Designed by sculptor Robert I. Aitken and architect Newton J. Tharp, the Dewey Monument consisted of a 79-foot-tall granite shaft, surmounted by an 18-foot-high pedestal adorned with a bronzed figure of a woman dubbed "Winged Victory." In one hand she bears a trident, the symbol of Poseidon and of naval victory, and in the other hand, a laurel wreath, also a symbol of victory.
Victory over the Spanish led to the U.S. annexing the Philippines, which turned our nation into a colonial power  something America had no business being.

I would guess that most San Franciscans are wholly ignorant of this statue and what it signifies. That's why it would be great to give it the "Discovering Columbus" treatment.

To encourage artist Tatzu Nishi to bring his idea out west, I'm even done a mock-up of what it would look like.

Here's a more decorated version.

What do you say, Tatzu? Let's make this happen.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Goodbye, Columbus

Yesterday was the last day of an art installation in Columbus Circle that placed a contemporary living room around the city's 120-year-old Columbus statue.

The exhibition, by the Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, required visitors to mount six flights of stairs and step into a room 70 feet above the swirling traffic.

The idea was to give people a close-up view of the statue, which is taken for granted as part of the New York landscape and yet never seen up close (it's normally too high in the air for anyone to get a good look).

The living room had couches, a bookshelf and even a television.

The main purpose of the art (and art in general) was to get you to view the world in a different way. In that goal, the installation definitely succeeded.

But you couldn't get too cozy with Columbus, as Elliot learned from an irate guard. "No touching!"

Columbus may be surrounded by pink wallpaper, but he still has his dignity.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Person Who Created Advent-Calendar Nutrition Label Doesn't Understand How Advent Calendars Work

In the end, we didn't purchase the fully edible advent calendar from Dylan's Candy Bar. Kelly opted instead for this one from the Vermont Christmas Company.

It has chocolate behind each door, along with a line from "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (better known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas").

The kids love it, but I was momentarily shocked by how many calories the chocolates had (200).

Then I realized that they expect you to eat the 24 chocolates in two massive binge sessions.

Binge eating is a big part of Christmas, but I don't think this nutrition label quite gets the point here.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Roaming Roosevelt Island: Meditation Steps

(The second installment of a new feature documenting our adventures in and around Roosevelt Island. Click here for the full series.)

And now for your moment of zen...

One of Roosevelt Island's biggest selling points is its unobstructed view of Midtown and the Upper East Side. So it's not surprising that someone decided to build a place to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Welcome to the Meditation Steps, which were constructed sometime in the late 1960s or early '70s  no one's quite sure when. (Anyone creating meditation objects back then was probably stoned out of his gourd, so the exact timing may be lost to history.)

The Meditation Steps were renovated this year at a cost of $359,000, according to the Roosevelt Islander blog. They're now sporting Brazilian hardwood — strong enough, we hope, to survive a New York winter.

The view itself is pretty, though not the best Roosevelt Island has to offer. You can see FDR Drive with a mid-risey portion of the 60s in the background.

Bringing children to the Meditation Steps doesn't lead to much meditation. Mostly they use them for running, shrieking, nearly tripping down the stairs and hugging random objects.

But kids always live in the moment. It's hard to get more zen than that.