Un Digging a Few Things

I didn't like the performance of Digg so I went ahead and took out the Digg badges from the JayceLand home page blog entries although I left the customized ones in the sidebar. You can still find the badges present on the blog pages, though since they integrated better into WordPress.

I also removed all but a text-link for the Amazon.com advertising. So in all, things should be just a little faster.

Winning Comix Cafe Tickets

I just got a call from someone claiming they were from Comix Café (3450 Winton Pl.) saying I won tickets to an upcoming show in a contest. I've heard stories about the place — like that they ban comics who perform at other local venues or that they have an excessive table minimum. I asked how I got into the contest, since I don't remember signing up for anything in at least a few years. The person on the phone said I was "on a list". She tried to hard-sell me "free" tickets to an upcoming performance. I asked, "is there a drink minimum or anything like that?" and she said there was: six dollars per person!

What a fucking scam.

I just said, "no thanks, then."

Searchers 2.0 will be a cult movie

I went to see Searchers 2.0 at the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) I really didn't know what exactly to expect — it was billed as a tale of two actors who are determined to confront a screenwriter who mistreated them many decades prior. In essence, that's what it is: two guys get together and discover that both of them are movie trivia buffs, both were in the same movie as child extras, and that both were abused by the director for no apparent reason. They do what any one of us would: they get on the road to seek out the aging director and beat the crap out of him.

The movie itself was made on the cheap and it shows, giving it a Clerks-like feel. Writer/director Alex Cox was obviously a film-buff himself and paid homage to more films that I could identify — his characters believe themselves to be experts in cinema yet are often wrong in their details.

But it's the aura of the experience that makes it so memorable. I got the feeling that it wasn't edited (neither script nor film) all that much which is why it channels a very pure idea — one that isn't necessarily accessible to the audience. There's the idea of a long-dead need for vengeance — and the whole unnecessary-ness of it all. There's also a romantic view of the solitude of the road trip shared among its participants. And, of course, a love of movies and movie-making.

Anyway, producer Jon Davison was there in person — a jovial character who was ecstatic to see his film with an audience, and who temporarily suspended his retirement to make this film. After the screening, he was joined by Jim Healy and Alex Cox (by telephone [which actually worked pretty much fine, much to my surprise]) for question-and-answer. There really wasn't much in the line of questions — Searchers 2.0 doesn't leave one with questions.

It's just more of an uneasy feeling that maybe you should go back and watch what you saw one more time … not for any specific reason, though. And for that reason, I think Searchers 2.0 is going garner a cult following.

Yes, Robert Lamm, you can digg it.

As you may have already noticed, I took one more step to modernizing this site: I added buttons to go to digg. It's a way to share site rankings between people so someone else can find something they want. I set it up to have links off the JayceLand home page and associated archives as well as to individual blog entries with the deliciously vanilla digg IT.

For now I'm not sure of the ramifications of digg aside from bragging rights when that "1 digg" I entered becomes 2 — meaning that at least one other person clicked the button. If this works out, I don't think it should be too hard to additionally include things like del.icio.us.

Of course, a major rebuild of the whole site is in order — that's why the digg links are positioned so poorly on the JayceLand home page. Although I like the idea of maintaining compatibility to the dark ages of Netscape 3 and such, I also have a rule that the site maintenance should be easy: this ancient compatibility is starting to get in the way. And besides, even I can't get my Mac SE to successfully access anything on the Internet anyway: neither MacWeb 2.0 nor NCSA Mosaic beta work anymore.

In related news, I added a more harsh Amazon.com advertisement to the right sidebar of the home page. I personally have the scripting for that feature blocked (using NoScript), but it seems pretty neat to be able to see the most recent "hot" deals. Then again, it's not like I really make any money that way so I wonder if it annoys people too much.

SoundRabbit at Boulder Coffee

I went to Boulder Coffee Co.MySpace link (100 Alexander St.) to check out SoundRabbitMySpace link. The place was dead with just a few musicians, myself, and the slowly building crowd for the Open Mic Comedy. It's too bad there weren't more people because SoundRabbit is a nicely rhythmic, expertly proficient acoustic-driven band. Several times they reminded me of Paul Simon's acoustic solo stuff, but maybe with a country twang. They teeter right on the edge of "jam band" but without the annoying vapid repetition of the latter — they reminded me more of The BuddhaHoodMySpace link than any of a billion Grateful Dead wannabes.

During the show Russ (the lead singer) was having problems with the sustain pedal on his keyboard — it seemed to be stuck. It got so bad he just unplugged it in the middle of the song and tried to hold notes manually — given the staccato style of most of the song it appeared to work. Between songs I dashed up to see if I could fix it. I didn't even make it back to my table when I noticed it had a switch on the side so it would operate as either momentary or push-on/push-off and it was in the undesirable position. They were all very appreciative that I had "saved the tour" (although I think they'd have figured it out somewhere in the van on the road before their next gig) and gave me a free CD.

Afterward I talked with them a little bit before they had to get going — the odd Sunday Rochester stop was a convenient one between Chicago and Boston. Since I've been to Denver quite a few times I'm familiar with Boulder a little as well so we talked geography a bit. Several of the band members are from Massachusetts originally so they were doing a stop at Mom and Dad's for the night.

Anyway, we also talked a little about the RBT Backstage program. Basically they invite fans to join the backstage program for $20/year and in exchange, they get access to all the music recorded that year (and presumably before) to download along with other perks — if you're "in" the backstage, then you get access to everything, and if you aren't, then you can go to shows and buy CD's like anyone else. What they then do is to donate their merchandise sales to charity rather than trying to scrape out a tour on the often not-so-deep pockets of people at the shows. I imagine it makes for a more relaxing tour — they said the travel money was mostly already budgeted with a few major college shows to cover the rest — so it's never an issue of selling enough stickers and T-shirts to fill the van with gas.

I'll probably send them a message tipping them off to the idea of Creative Commons licensing so they can make a (theoretically) legally binding agreement that their works are copyright by them and they license their works freely under certain circumstances — like to share in a non-commercial setting or to remix the works given the same license is provided.

Two most excellent years with Ali

Today is Ali's and my second anniversary together.

To celebrate, we decided to go to Rooney's Restaurant (90 Henrietta St.) for a fancy meal. I was fortunate to have discovered a postcard under the computer that reminded me they had a special chef coming for the week so I made reservations a few days early. [Can you imagine that?: reservations. A few days early. In Rochester. Who knew?]

The guest chef was from Brasserie Georges Lyon (30, Cours Verdun Perrache, Lyon, FR) and had set up a special French menu. We started with the Lyonnais salad — a mesclun salad topped with chopped bacon and a poached egg, perfectly matched to the mild vinaigrette dressing. For dinner, Ali had the beef tenderloin over mushrooms with mashed potatoes — the beef was spectacular and the potatoes were deliciously prepared with a massive amount of cream. I ordered the Lyonnais pike quenelles — essentially puréed pike made into a soufflé and floated in a puréed lobster-and-mushroom bisque. Although the word "purée" doesn't sound all that appetizing, the meal certainly was. We even got dessert: Ali the crème brûlée and I the flourless chocolate cake. Both were amazing.

Afterward we headed back home. Unfortunately this was the start of a flu-like illness that kept Ali home all weekend, so I was left on my own while she rested.

In the end, though, I wonder how we can keep having such great anniversaries. After all, we have a lot of them to come.

Terrible service at Hogan's

Ali, her friend Emily, and I headed to Hogan's Hideaway (197 Park Ave.) for dinner. Ordinarily Ali and I have excellent service and food overall. There is one server, however, that we've had terrible luck with and that happened to be the very one who served us tonight.

We ordered a carafe of house wine and he managed to spill a bit on Emily when he poured it. Rather than apologizing he quipped that her animated ways caused him to get all worked up — peculiar and unto itself not a big problem. Emily also happened to notice lipstick stains on mine and Ali's glasses so she asked that he get clean ones. He returned with two fresh glasses and left before I noticed that the new glass I got had a stain as well … I just wiped it off, but come on!

Ali had ordered the quiche of the day (ham and cheese, I think) but what she got was something different (artichoke and roasted red peppers). Even though he returned to the table to confirm what she wanted, he didn't bother to mention they had switched quiches. By now we all had our meals and he just said that "they must have run out" and offered to put in an order for something else ,but Ali decided it was good enough rather than waiting 20 minutes for another dish.

Next, Emily found a piece of eggshell on the bottom of her sandwich. When she inquired with our server, he said (and I might not have the quote exactly right but it's pretty close), "I assure you that eggs are one of the ingredients when making the rolls". The way it was stuck on, it was obviously not baked in but collected from being set upon the eggshell. He said, "well what do you want me to do?" Before we could answer, he headed back to the kitchen then returned and offered to remove the item from the bill. Emily asked to see a manager and he said there was nobody available. She asked, "well, who's in charge?" "I guess I am," he replied. In the end, she decided to eat the sandwich with no bun, hoping to avoid getting sick. We snagged someone busing tables and asked, "hey, is that guy really in charge?" and they said he wasn't and laughed incredulously.

When we got the bill, he had removed the sandwich but had added a salad we didn't order. We told him and he removed it. He came back and in his haste of busing the table, he managed to dump several items on Emily. He didn't say a peep — I had enough of him and I almost told him to just leave everything until we were gone.

We ended up leaving a 10% tip. In retrospect we should have gone with our original plan to dine-and-dash, stiffing them with the whole bill.

After all, it's not like there was a manager on duty to chase us down.

Traveling through 7 states and one district

On Saturday the 5th, Ali and I got the station wagon packed up and we hit the road toward Pennsylvania. We stopped for a breakfast snack along the way and got a couple of the breakfast wraps from Subway. They were entirely awful and expensive relative to the modest amount of food and low quality. The bacon was chewy like a dog treat, the egg was flavorless, the cheese tasted fake, and the tomato pieces I got on mine had so much dye to make them red that a few drops stained my shirt. What a way to start the vacation, eh?

Fortunately we stopped for lunch at Selin's Grove Brewing Co. (121 North Market St., Selinsgrove, PA) for lunch. It was excellent. We had a buffet of assorted appetizers — all of which were coincidentally vegetarian. Next stop was American Vintage Bed and Breakfast (5740 Thompson Rd., Stewartstown, PA) where we were staying for the night. We planned to relax in the hot tub but ended up talking with the proprietor for a few hours instead on all sorts of things. It was great fun. We were in the area for Ali's niece's and nephew's Baptism and we went to her brother's house later on. We got back to the B&B late but got into the hot tub anyway and had a relaxing soak. I guess technically it's a "spa" which is different from a "hot tub" and different from a "Jacuzzi" — it had water jets and a pump but the water temperature could only go up to 104°F which was fine by me.

Sunday started with an excellent homemade breakfast at the B&B. Then it was off to the Baptism so we went to church for the morning service. It was a "progressive" church so they had a rock band that wasn't bad, although like every other Christian rock band I've ever seen, subtlety and metaphor apparently do not concern the songwriters. The service itself was pretty good although a bit light-handed when it came to encouraging people to be more like Jesus. We were all quite amused at the suggestion to embrace the Holy Spirit by "sucking face with Jesus". I guess it's not just Barack Obama's preacher who says some peculiar things.

Monday morning I managed to squeeze in a barefoot run around the neighborhood. It was hillier than where I usually run and I think that running down a hill is how I ended up with a blood blister on the ball of my right foot. Thankfully it didn't hurt much at all. Later that day we explored an antiques store in the nearby town and went to Brown's Orchards and Farm Market (8892 Susquehanna Trail South, Seven Valleys, PA) which is a neat, sizable farm market.

Tuesday we headed out from there and went to Washington D.C. to visit with my brother, Adam. He was still at work but set us up with parking at his apartment building. He suggested we check out Lindy's Red Lion (2040 I St. NW, Washington, DC) for lunch. We took the metro — the stop is a block away from Adam's apartment — to the Foggy Bottom stop near George Washington University Hospital (2300 I St. NW, Washington, DC). Lindy's had great food at cheap prices. I had their hamburger topped with with fried onions and ranch dressing … so good. From there we started walking.

We passed The White House (1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC) which I found to be a bit creepy because of the security — I had the feeling that everyone was treated like an enemy of the state. Maybe if it was guarded more like a national treasure than like a military compound then I'd think differently. In any case, we headed around the corner and got to the National Mall. Even though it was only an hour before closing, we decided to visit National Air and Space Museum (Independence Ave. SW at 6th St. SW, Washington, DC). There's a lot of cool stuff there — often with descriptions that are just as cheesily written as at any other museum — but the items are things like real moon rocks and actual airplanes.

We headed out from there and went to a few bars with Adam once he got out of work. First was The Big Hunt (1345 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC) which was having a chicken wing special. For some reason, D.C. chicken wings seem to be boiled or roasted and then covered in Red Hot … at least they weren't terrible, just unusual. I was amused at the menu because — along with all the other domestic beers — a Pabst Blue Ribbon was $4. Anyway, we stayed out late and headed back to Adam's to sleep.

We left around noon or so and decided to head back through Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania to I-88 to get to my parents' house. The idea was to avoid rush-hour in New York and instead we got to Binghamton around 5 and as such, saw no appreciable increase in traffic. Ali finally got to eat at Jumpin' Jack's Drive-In (5 Schonowee Ave., Scotia) — a locally-run fast food joint that's a de facto Capital District landmark.

Thursday we got going around noon again and headed through Vermont and New Hampshire for a scenic tour to get to see Jan and Shannon in Dover, New Hampshire — right by the little bit of coastline that separates Maine from Massachusetts. Visiting them was the highlight of the trip — it really has been too long. We headed out to a fantastic dinner at The Dunaway Restaurant (66 Marcy St., Portsmouth, NH) that night before returning to go to bed.

Friday we got up and Jan gave us a tour of downtown Dover. A charming little town … although the New Hampshire political climate of "spend nothing, ever" showed. We went to Newick's Lobster House (431 Dover Point Rd., Dover, NH) for lunch. They serve some great seafood: they're right on the bay where it comes from. The place is also huge and looked like it could seat 500 people — and it apparently does quite often.

We left early on Saturday (well, around 9:30 anyway) and headed back through Massachusetts. We stopped by my parents' place one last time before finishing up the long haul back to Rochester. In all it was about 1,500 miles of driving (for the whole trip, silly).

Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlesome Bells and City Harvest Black at the Mez

I stopped by The House of Hamez (389 Gregory St., formerly Daily Perks) to check out the show. I didn't find it all that different from Daily Perks (which was the last time I visited the place, so it's been quite a while). Naturally the architecture wasn't any different, but the decorating gave it a different feel. I was disappointed to find there were even fewer places to sit. The guy working wasn't particularly cheerful, either, but I'll give that a pass. I have heard people calling it "The Mez" but I still didn't get a feel that was anything but an artificial nickname — the website still reports "House of Hamez".

Anyway, starting out was City Harvest BlackMySpace link who did a great job with looped noise and quasi-intelligible voices drawn from found sources. It had the feel of a meditation on the sounds of the subway and really hit its mark. I also stuck around for a bit of The Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlesome BellsMySpace link. I was interested in seeing them because I thought I'd really like them. As it turned out … well … I think I'll need to give them another chance. The style was that of heavy, metal-sounding guitars and drums, some bells now and then, and vocals that were bright but kind of off-key. I think I'd like the whole thing if I was more open to the idea. We'll see.

Monotonix, Handsome Jack, and Blue Spark and Flame at the Bug Jar

After having dinner with Ali, I headed out to The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) later on. When I arrived, Blue Spark and FlameMySpace link was just finishing their set. They sounded great: loud and powerful, like rock should be. I didn't realize, but Handsome JackGarageBand linkMySpace link was on the bill too. Their set was very good, but the last time I saw them, I liked them better — the chemistry just wasn't perfect in the whole thing tonight.

Finishing up was MonotonixMySpace link who blew everything away. They opened up with a flaming drum kit (paper, lighter fluid, and flames, that is). The lead singer Ami started running around and even did a bit of crowd surfing. He grabbed my half-full beer out of my hand before I realized that was where he was getting all the beer I got sprayed with minutes earlier. The guitarist stayed mostly out of the blast radius, but the drummer had his kit moved around by Ami during songs. Half-an-hour in, there's this guy who pops into the fray, moshing with his pants around his ankles. It wasn't long before he was streaking in his socks and being molested by the singer using the microphone cord.

Now that's a show not to miss.