Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The First Hyperlapse of the Roosevelt Island Tram

Instagram released a new app today that lets you shoot time-lapse videos without the usual shakiness. It relies on your smartphone's gyroscope, rather than just trying to stabilize the video based on the images coming into the camera.

It's pretty cool, so I figured I'd use it on my commute home to take what I assume is the first Roosevelt Island tram Hyperlapse.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize until too late that it works in both vertical and landscape modes. As a result, I created a dreaded vertical video. Please don't hold it against me; it was my first Hyperlapse ever.

UPDATE: I made another video from other direction. And yes, it's horizontal.

This latest one has been shared by a few websites and now has almost 13,000 views.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Like a Bird Taking Flight

Elliot began riding a bike without his training wheels on Sunday and got the hang of it faster than I expected (well, he still has some trouble starting and stopping — is that important?).

I always imagined that teaching your kids to ride a bike was a seminal moment, but I didn't expect the rush of exhilaration. It's really like they're taking off right before your eyes. You realize that they suddenly have more freedom than ever before (as Elliot showed when he rode off and didn't stop until he crashed into a patio table), and it makes you scared and proud at the same time.

I suppose I'll experience something similar when he learns to drive a car — a thought that makes me hope we never leave New York City.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bringing Some Bling to the Family

Elliot doesn't turn 6 for a couple more weeks, but he got to pick out his birthday present today. His choice: a gleaming gold bicycle.

It's not an expensive bike (Kelly took him to Toys R Us to get it), but it's about as flashy as this family gets. It also lends support to the idea that gold is back in fashion with today's youth.

In any case, it will probably be slightly more fly once we take the training wheels off.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Parents in the 1800s Named Their Kids Odd Stuff

I've had a couple more guest posts on the Nameberry site in recent weeks. One looked at color names for boys, while the other addressed the popularity of using last names as first names.

In both cases, there's an overarching theme: If you think baby names today are crazy, the 1800s were even weirder.

So don't feel bad about giving a strange name to your child. People in stovepipe hats and corsets were happily naming their kids Green, Lawyer and Doc. (On the other hand, I'm not sure Nevaeh would have occured to them.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

I DIdn't Hear Ya, So I Suppose I Will Not Holler

Back in July, I was sad to hear that the Tupac Shakur musical was closing on Broadway just a month after it opened. Now it almost seems sadder still to be seeing the ads for "Holler If Ya Hear Me" on MTA buses a month later.

I realized too late that I was the ideal audience member for this musical. I'm a West Coast-representing New Yorker who came of age in the 1990s and loves both hip-hop and theater. How on Earth was I not there on opening night?

Instead, the musical went the way of Tupac himself — gone too soon. In fairness, it got lukewarm reviews and there may have been a better way to present Pac's work. The musical wasn't even about his life. According to the official description, it was a "a non-biographical story about friendship, family, revenge, change and hope."

I still feel like there's demand for a hip-hop musical, especially as more 1990s kids reach middle age.

Perhaps something about a teen from Compton who goes on to sell his headphones company to Apple for $3 billion? I could definitely see "Forgot About Dre" on a Broadway marquee.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

'Maine-ly Wonderful'

I created a video of our vacation to Maine, leaving out all the parts where the kids fought, cried or threw up in the car.

(That's why it's only 2 minutes long.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Is This a Monkey or a Dog? Actually, Neither

As I've previously stated, I like to take the kids out to see outdoor public art — in part because I'd never want to inflict my children on a museum-going crowd.

Over the weekend, I took them to see "Split-Rocker," the topiary work by Jeff Koons on display in Rockfeller Center.

The work triggered a lengthy debate over whether the animal was a monkey or a dog. Turns out, it's neither.

According to the Public Art Fund, "the inspiration for Split-Rocker came when [Koons] decided to split and combine two similar but different toy rockers, a pony belonging to his son and a dinosaur ('Dino'). The slippage or 'split' between the different halves of the heads gives an almost Cubist aspect to the composition."

The 37-foot-high "Split-Rocker" features over 50,000 flowering plants. That makes it a nice contrast with the more static sculptures around Rockefeller Center, including the famous golden Prometheus bringing fire to mankind.

"Split-Rocker" has previously been featured in places like Avignon and Versailles. I wonder if Midtown Manhattan is a bit of a crowded location for a thought-provoking work.

But Koons has said that the topiary sculpture is about "giving up the control.":
It’s in nature’s hands, even though you try to plan everything to make the plants survive. This sense of giving up control is very beautiful. The balance between control and giving up control reminds us of the polarity of existence.
In that sense, it's not so different than the sculpture giving fire to mankind.

Maybe Rockefeller Center is the perfect spot for this artwork.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Best Possible Place to See 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

While we were in Maine, we had a chance to sneak away from the kids and see a movie.

Now, Mount Desert Island is not known for its cinematic options. You have to either go to a pizza-parlor/theater in Bar Harbor that has limited choices or drive out to Ellsworth, which is just across the bridge leading off the island.

After reading the reviews for "Guardians of the Galaxy," we figured it was worth making the trip to Ellsworth.

What we found there was a delightful throwback.

The Ellsworth movie theater is inside a half-vacant shopping mall and looks to be straight out of the late 1970s or early '80s. No stadium seating here, friends. We're talking sticky floor, stained drop-ceiling tiles, fuzzy picture and warbly sound. I'm pretty sure adding cup holders was the theater's only upgrade since the Jimmy Carter administration.

I don't recall there being any previews before the movie started, and my ticket stub looked like this.

In short, it's exactly like the theater where I saw "Star Wars" the first time.

This was perfect for "Guardians of the Galaxy," a space opera that's charming in part because it's so retro. The film is a silly, over-the-top spectacle — much like the sci-fi movies from when I was a kid ("Time Bandits," "Ice Pirates," "Buckaroo Banzai"), but with far better special effects.

The film is a little hard to follow at first (it probably didn't help that we were sitting in the back of a theater with rowdy Mainers). But after you get introduced to the ensemble cast, it has great pacing, humor, a peppy pop-music soundtrack and the best tree-based character in cinematic history (yes, much funnier than the Ents from "Lord of the Rings"). I'm not sure how the franchise will fit in with the rest of the Marvel universe — or whether the film's Howard the Duck cameo will be properly explained — but I'm eager to see the next installment.

I give "Guardians of the Galaxy" a BuboBlog Rating of 3 asterisks (out of 4) — with one caveat: I'm not sure seeing it will be quite as enjoyable without a 1970s time machine.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Boston's Skyline Has Barely Changed Since I Was a Kid

When Boston's Prudential Tower was completed in 1964, it was the tallest building in the world outside of New York City. Even Chicago, which was home to the first skyscraper and a city perpetually obsessed with erecting the grandest buildings around, couldn't match Beantown.

A decade later, Boston added another landmark building, the John Hancock Tower. It was even taller (based on roof height) and helped usher in a new era of glassy skyscrapers.

Well, those glory days of Boston architecture are long gone. The city has rested on its laurels for decades, and its skyline is largely unchanged from when I was a kid. Sure, there are a few additions (such as 111 Huntington Avenue — the 2002 tower known as the R2-D2 building), but the John Hancock is still the tallest thing in the city.

This was striking last week as we drove through Boston. The skyline feels squat and unimpressive. The most exciting part is the Zakim Bridge, which opened more than 10 years ago. Boston's biggest marvel of recent years may well be the Big Dig, but a tunnel system is hardly a signature look.

Boston's Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge

When I lived in San Francisco, there were always complaints that NIMBYs would block any new construction. But a tower is now rising in San Francisco that will become the city's tallest, topping out at 1,070 feet when it's completed in 2017. In fact, seven U.S. cities have broken ground on 1,000-foot towers in recent decades. Boston is not one of them.

BuboBlog infographic (photo courtesy of Cushman and Wakefield).

I realize that most people don't obsess over skyscrapers, but you wonder if the proud city of Boston is embarrassed to be eclipsed by the likes of Houston and Atlanta.

It does call itself the "Cradle of Liberty." I guess cradles aren't designed to hold very large things.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Yes, Three Kids Can Fit in a Sedan

When we went on a family road trip last summer, I complained about the paucity of non-minivan vehicles that can fit three car seats.

Well, this year we did the same trip to Maine, and it was basically impossible to find any minivans or SUVs to rent anywhere in New York City. So we wound up with a Chevy Impala.

That meant we finally put the question to the test: Can three small kids fit comfortably in a sedan for a long car ride?

It was a bit snug getting three seats in the back (Elliot had to squeeze into the middle because he has a booster seat that takes up slightly less room). But we did it.

So don't let anyone tell you that having three kids means you must get an SUV or van.

Full disclosure: There's no room for any pets (even a goldfish would have been a deal-breaker). The kid in the middle may throw up — something we learned firsthand (the lack of window access is a drawback). And your children will most definitely be ready to murder one another by the end of the trip.

But it can be done...

Okay, fine. Just get the minivan.