Wednesday, May 28, 2014

More Thoughts on Hazel and 'The Fault in Our Stars'

I did another guest blog on the Nameberry site, where I expanded on my earlier post about Hazel. I examined whether the excitement surrounding "The Fault in Our Stars" would do for the name what "Love Story" did for Jennifer.

The short answer is no.
...but it should give a bump to a name that’s already enjoying a renaissance. In the just-released 2013 Social Security data, Hazel climbed fifteen spots to No. 157. Not bad for a name that until the late-1990s had fallen out of the Top 1000 for two decades.
You can read the whole thing here.

As for "The Fault in Our Stars" movie, I'm not sure if I'll actually see it or not. Frankly, the trailer makes it look like a Nicholas Sparks film.

After reading "The Fault in Our Stars," I didn't come away with the notion that it was a literary classic. But it was thought-provoking, moving stuff — far better than typical young-adult fiction. (The title turns a line from "Julius Caesar" on its head: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.")

The casting and look of the movie doesn't seem to fit the book's edgy sensibilities. But I do give them credit for not ridding Hazel of her nasal cannulas.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Shake Shack vs. In-N-Out

When I first tried Five Guys Burgers in 2012, I wrote a post comparing it with In-N-Out. At the time, I tried to express what was so special about the In-N-Out burger, since a lot of East Coasters don't seem to get the appeal.
There's something about the way an In-N-Out patty melds with the sauce and cheese to create a transcendent experience. It's more than the sum of its parts — it's a succulent delicacy that goes beyond mere burgerdom.
Well, I've now eaten a few times at Shake Shack, and I have to say, it comes very close to matching the In-N-Out experience.

The burger is a similar size and the cheese/burger/sauce "melding" factor is comparable. The Shake Shack burger is a bit more oily, but BuboBlog's fellow taste tester (Kelly) described this as "juiciness."

Shake Shack's titular shakes are delicious, and the place serves beer. So that beats In-N-Out in the beverage department.

The fries seems to be the Achilles' heel for all of these chains (In-N-Out and Five Guys included). Shake Shack fries are okay — probably a bit too much like Five Guys, in that they were overcooked. (In-N-Out has the opposite problem, though you can solve that by asking to have them double-fried.) It's sacrilege to say this, but McDonald's probably beats them all in the fry department.

But when it comes to burgers, Shake Shack is about as close to an In-N-Out substitute as you're likely to get on this coast.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Wall-Decal Mania

While I'm on this interior-decorating kick, I thought I'd spotlight the cool decals that Kelly has put up in the kids' rooms.

They're a great way to add pizazz to a child's room, without going through the time and effort of doing a mural. (Kelly had actually started painting a mural in Alice's room in Berkeley. After a 3,000-mile move and a third child, I think we're all less inclined to embark on these kinds of projects.)

I really like this city scene (below), which looms over the kids' bunk bed.

The irony is, it's right next to a window showing a real-life city scene.

Maybe we should put up a wilderness decal to provide a little contrast.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Springtime: Inside and Out

This year's spring came in fits and starts, but we've definitely entered a pleasant phase. The last few days have been downright California-like (warm enough for a T-shirt, but not humid).

Continuing last year's tradition, Kelly and the kids decorated the apartment to mark the arrival of spring. That included creating butterflies out of coffee filters and pipe cleaners (sorry, I guess I mean chenille stems).

Kelly also put this decal on the wall and outfitted it with paper leaf cutouts.

This is a good way to decorate a drywall partition that can't support hanged artwork.

A friend once said that our apartment looks like a preschool. (She actually said, "a classy preschool," but I'm pretty sure she was just being nice.)

Anyway, I guess that's better than a dorm room?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Giant Looms in Our Midst

I've been watching the construction of a tower from my living-room window. At first I didn't think much of it, assuming it was just a run-of-the-mill office building. But when it soared past its neighbor — 731 Lexington Avenue — I figured I should investigate.

731 Lexington (left), 432 Park (right).

It turns out this is 432 Park Avenue, and it's no run-of-the-mill building. By the time it's completed in 2015, it will utterly dominate the Midtown skyline.

In fact, 432 Park will have the highest roof height of any building in New York, reaching 1,398 feet. (One World Trade Center will remain the tallest tower in the city, but only because of its massive spire.)

Photo courtesy of Architecture Beast.

The building was designed by architect Rafael Viñoly to pay homage to "the purest geometric form: the square." I now recall reading about this tower in the past, but it's quite different to watch it rise up in front of you. 

I wonder what the reaction to the building will be, now that it's moving beyond the realm of real-estate blogs and becoming impossible to ignore.

One57, which is currently the city's tallest residential tower, seems to be universally disdained — based on what I read on Twitter. It's seen as a little wacky, and the proximity to Central Park has raised hackles. Personally, I like that its designer, French architect Christian de Portzamparc, at least tried to make a bold statement. (He apparently doesn't give a crap about the pureness of squares.)

One World Trade Center, meanwhile, is still settling in to the New York skyline. I occasionally see it pop up in unexpected places — like the backside of the Roosevelt Island tram station.

One thing is certain, if you like tall buildings, this is a wonderful time to be living in New York. We may no longer be the envy of the world, but the city hasn't seen this kind of building boom in my lifetime.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What It's Like to Take Care of Three Kids by Yourself

As the father of three children, I can honestly say this Lowe's ad in no way depicts my experience. For one, the genders of the kids are wrong.

Okay, fine...the rest is accurate.

Monday, May 12, 2014

If Your Family Is Going to Be Overrun by a Cultural Phenomenom, It Might as Well Be This

I probably shouldn't reveal this, but there's a movie I've seen more times than "Pulp Fiction," "The Big Lebowski" or "Inception."

That movie is "Frozen."

Like many American households, we have been completely steamrolled by the Disney film. The kids have seen "Frozen" countless times, and the entire family has discussed the movie ad nauseum.

There have been endless conversations over which "Frozen" character each of us would be and what our favorite song is. (It's generally agreed that our family song is "Let It Go." The kids seem unaware that anyone else in the world also likes this song. Picking it feels like a gutsy choice to them.)

Plot points are rehashed over and over. The clues leading up to Prince Hans' betrayal have been analyzed more exhaustively than any film school has studied "Rashomon."

The other day I came across Alice in our bedroom. She had taken my iPhone and was secretly playing/singing "For the First Time in Forever" to herself. (I think I've discovered the source of my iPhone's battery drain.)

All this is a bit unsettling. I don't want my family brainwashed by a Disney cartoon.

And yet, we really could do worse.

"Frozen" is about two sisters helping each other (one of the reasons it resonates in our household). Neither of the girls feels compelled to get married at the end, and they don't need a prince to come save them. They rely on each other.

This is how Alice described the film after seeing it for the first time: "It had two sisters and they save each other and hug at the end."

Also, Elsa has one of the best mic drops in recent memory.

It's a sweet movie that strikes a chord. I joked recently about reading the Golden Book of "Frozen" on the subway, but what I didn't reveal is I got kind of emotional at the time. Even Elliot (the non-sister among our kids) gets so overcome during the scenes when Anna gets hurt that he has to leave the room. This is powerful stuff.

Think about it: If you start singing "Let It Go" in a crowded room, you'll probably get half the people to join in. When is the last time a cartoon musical had a universally recognized song? "Lion King" (1994)? "The Little Mermaid" (1989)? It's been at least a couple decades.

So if your family is going to be obsessed with a movie, "Frozen" really isn't so bad.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Guest Appearance on Nameberry

On the topic of baby names, I have an exciting announcement: I'll be doing some guest blogs for Nameberry, one of the most popular sites devoted to the subject.

My first post, which appeared Thursday, delved into something near and dear to me: whether parents should choose names based purely on their charts (spoiler: the answer is yes).

Eleanor: a fine name with a fine chart.

I've become somewhat of a baby-name aficionado over the past five years, and it's nice to be able to share my deranged ramblings with a broader audience.

If I accomplish nothing else, I'll at least introduce "elephant charts" to the world.

Friday, May 09, 2014

The End of an Era for Jacob? Noah Way

The Social Security Administration released its 2013 baby-name data this morning, so it's been a pretty exciting day for naming enthusiasts. (Basically, this is Christmas for me.)

The biggest shock is the end of Jacob's 14-year reign at the the top of the boys' chart. Noah is now No. 1, helped less by the new "Noah" movie (which didn't come out until March) than by a broader shift toward Old Testament names.

The top 10 for boys...
1. Noah
2. Liam
3. Jacob
4. Mason
5. William
6. Ethan
7. Michael
8. Alexander
9. Jayden
10. Daniel

Perhaps the larger surprise is that there has been so little turnover at the top of the boy's list. As Nameberry notes, "Noah becomes only the seventh name to EVER make Number 1 for boys, and only the third name at the top of the boys’ list in 60 years. Michael held the top spot for boys from 1954 until 1999, when Jacob took over."

On the girls' side, there were fewer upsets this year. Sophia remains No. 1, and the rest of the ranking is similar. (Somehow Madison is still on the top-10 list.)

1. Sophia
2. Emma
3. Olivia
4. Isabella
5. Ava
6. Mia
7. Emily
8. Abigail
9. Madison
10. Elizabeth

Harper, meanwhile, continued its rocket ride to the top. This name barely registered a decade ago (it didn't hit the top 1,000 until 2004) and yet it's now 16th. Amazing.

Naming purists should rejoice: There are really only three names on either top-10 list that raise any objections: Mason, Jayden and Madison. As I've said before, America mostly exhibits very good taste in names.

Think about it: Abigail is holding tough at eighth, roughly the position it's held for a dozen years. A generation of girls named Abigail in circa-2014 America — how awesome is that?

And Khaleesi, which has attracted some parents, has yet to reach the top 1,000. Whew.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

My Decorating Tips Are Only Fit for Dorm Rooms

Remember my decorating suggestion in March to frame pictures using tape?

Well, Real Simple presented the same idea last month, saying it was a good option for dorm rooms.

We can debate who did it best, but one thing is clear: My ideas are only appropriate for half-stoned college students.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Once More With Feeling

It's hard to imagine I was ever worried about San Francisco losing its allure as a target for celluloid destruction. Once again the City by the Bay is getting obliterated by Hollywood — this time in the new "Godzilla" movie.

The film looks like an improvement on the 1998 version with Matthew Broderick, in which Godzilla focused his wrath on Manhattan.

Still, this geographically challenged poster gave me pause (the Golden Gate Bridge is in Twin Peaks!).

Maybe Godzilla picked the bridge up and moved it.