Wintry Mix and Spin

Ali and I headed to The Blue Horizon Restaurant (1174 Brooks Ave.) for breakfast. The place is definitely an ideal diner. Anyway, this morning it snowed a little — maybe an inch or so — and we didn't think it was a big deal, so we decided to drive out to check out gas fireplaces. Ali mentioned a place on Hudson [which I think is Fireplace Fashions (1936 Hudson Ave.)] and we also wanted to head out to Pettis Pools; the waitress helped us out and found the address in the phone book and we decided to try and find Pettis Pools and Patio (1186 Manitou Rd., Hilton) first.

We headed out on 390 and noted that we were at the Blue Horizon when the big car crash happened that closed it back in February of this year. I was driving the Roadmaster and when we got to the turn onto 490 West, I slowed way down, expecting that there might be ice as it was exactly 32°F outside. The turn was pretty clear, though … until I went to accelerate onto 490. The big wagon started fish-tailing but I managed to reel it back in and avoid either spinning out or hitting anyone else. The highway was pretty much wet with a slushy mix, but there was something wrong: there were dozens of cars spun out and off the road.

The mystery was solved on the first bridge we came to as the wagon fish-tailed a bit again. Since it was straight road and only for 50 yards or so, it wasn't hard to keep things under control.  We forged ahead, but saw more and more cars spun out. Apparently every single bridge was covered in solid ice, albeit giving the illusion that it was just more wet slush. We decided to give up our quest and get off at the next exit, but there was one more surprise.

A Honda Pilot started to go out of control in front of us on the next overpass.  It swerved left then swung right and ended up skidding sideways down the road and slamming into the right guardrail, coming to rest right in our lane.  Ali wanted me to stop, but I was on the icy bridge and was just barely touching the brakes until we cleared the overpass and I braked hard, stopping in time to avoid T-boning the poor guy.  The driver of the Pilot got it out of the way and I decided to just run over the piece of plastic bumper laying in the road.  Unfortunately it was dragging under the car.  Fortunately we ran it over when I got onto the shoulder and we got the hell out of there.

We were passed by a car going far too fast and then likewise by a charter bus (which was also half into our lane, the prick).  The exit to Rt. 386 was next and I couldn't bear to watch the bus careen across that overpass — and, naturally, also couldn't avoid watching.  However, they successfully slowed down for the cars that had already spun out.  The trip home was much slower and safer — amusingly taking us right past the Blue Horizon once again.

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Watching The Exiles with Ali at the Dryden

Ali and I went to the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see The Exiles. The description given in the Eastman House calendar was tantalizing, as the film has almost never been screened for 50 years, and it documents Native Americans living in Los Angeles in the 1960's. Sprinkle in phrases like, "seamlessly mixes documentary and narrative techniques" and "deeply emotional and personal achievement", and I'm sold.

Our reaction to the film, however, was one of grand disappointment. It's an arduous film to watch full of interchangeably unlikeable, apathetic characters. In addition, the dialog was dubbed in the studio and loses all of its emotional expression in the process — in fact, according to the program notes authored by K. A. Westphal, the entire soundtrack was meticulously recreated long after shooting was completed [definitely read it for some unbelievable trivia]. In total, though, the film completely neglects the audience and instead slowly stews in its own world.

As such, the film is considered a masterpiece — in part because it deliberately rejects a serviceable narrative, and simply documents the lives of people who are essentially unremarkable jerks. As other reviewers noted, this undesirability of the characters seems to work against the cause of helping Native Americans. However, I took away the point that it was far too late — even in the 1960's — for the Native American cause. The people depicted on screen are the walking dead of a lost civilization. They drift from heartbeat to heartbeat, resigned to a purposeless fate: their entire culture having been wiped from the earth in what amounts to a mass genocide.

So in a way, I agree that it is a masterpiece. It spoke of the situation of recently-displaced Native Americans (who have been generationally displaced to boot) and what happens when you do that to someone. However, it's akin to experiencing the beauty of a sword by having someone slice your arm open with it. You can appreciate the workmanship and detail, but its true function is to cut and to kill, so what better way to truly immerse yourself in its beauty than by taking part in its primary function? The amoral, artistic side of me understands that that would be the pinnacle of sword examination, but the rest of me, well, doesn't really want to get cut.

And so, with my mighty blog and website and stuff, I set forth a demand to appeal to the audience. [And by that, I mean that I know that there are some Eastman House employees who will read this, and might consider bringing it up at a programming meeting, if the mood suits them.] My friends and I have had this kind of experience many times before: when a film is considered "great" or "important" for reasons other than how well it is appreciated by the average audience, but is noted for being altogether brilliant in its cinematic quality. I, personally, tend to enjoy these films too, but I need to be mentally prepared for them, and when I'm unprepared and end up getting blindsided, I find myself alienating the Dryden. I seek other avenues for entertainment … at least for a while. And I always end up coming back, and hopefully sooner than later.

I propose, therefore, that the Dryden begin offering "audience appreciation" films. This is different from "popcorn movies" which offer purely an experience of entertainment; rather a delineation of cinematic masterpieces that overlaps the "popcorn" genre. It's movies where the filmmakers consider the audience to be the most important part of the process.

Understandably, it's a difficult aspect to divine — after all, The Exiles had the audience at the forefront of its production as much as any other movie, and perhaps even more for respecting their knowledge and wisdom. Consider how different it is from Encounters At the End of the World, though: it's as if the audience is a cherished friend invited to explore something new and fascinating rather than colleagues already insatiably interested in the topic at hand.

Put simply, there's a difference between "cinematically important" and "enjoyable".

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Frownland at the Dryden

I headed out to the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see Frownland. I was reluctant (and, in fact, Ali passed on it entirely) because we had both seen The Pawnbroker the night before. The Pawnbroker, while a powerful movie about the lifetime of suffering the Holocaust caused, it fell a little flat as I had already explored those issues; so in other words, if I had seen the movie at an earlier time in my life, I would have been blown away, but now it was just an exercise in excellent movie-making. The Eastman House calendar seemed to imply that Frownland would be similar to The Pawnbroker — largely because the central characters in each movie is at best unlikeable, and at worst, intolerable.

I was glad to be pleasantly surprised. While I guess it's not incorrect to describe Frownland's central character, Keith as a "chain-smoking, stammering, excessively needy, terribly annoying, yet fascinating nobody," I gravitated toward the more concise description that he's the personification of insecurity. He's cripplingly so, in fact, yet not through any definable mental illness — while he'd most certainly benefit from some form of psychological therapy, he appears to be only circumstantially dysfunctional. What I mean is that he would probably be able to function if it weren't for his antagonistically unsympathetic roommate, his door-to-door job, or the simple fact of being so unavoidably exposed to people by living in New York City.

Filmmaker Ronald Bronstein was there to discuss his film. He's a remarkably articulate guy — particularly when it comes to his understanding of his own work on this particular movie. He was drawing from his own insecure times in New York, and from the insidious nature of insecurity. He gave the analogy to hunger: that hunger's solution — eating — is not blocked by being hungry, whereas insecurity's solution — self-confidence — is blocked by insecurity: you're unable to develop meaningful relationships with others and ultimately it's only through innovative lateral thinking that you can build self-confidence.

So in a way, it's kind of a horror movie: a man trapped in an insecure mental state and who seems to be permanently so. Curiously, Bronstein worked on Frownland for 6 years whenever he was able to afford more film, and he found it challenging to keep touch with the very idea of this constant state of insecurity.

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Back to a "Full" Run

Since I got diagnosed with plantar fasciitis (damaged tendons on the bottom of the foot) last month, I've been taking it easy on running (and yes, still barefoot). I've added the calf-muscle stretches and have been building up my runs — both in duration and in frequency. When I was first diagnosed, I was running about a mile once a week. I've since built that up to twice a week, and today I went out for my "normal" run of about 2 miles.
My bad foot hurt a bit, but it didn't flare up as it had originally. It's a bit sore, but in that stretching/healing kind of way rather than the damaging/tearing kind of way. So far so good … hopefully I'll be back to 3 times a week before the snow flies

Oh yeah, and I had to go back and edit this because I forgot the reason I thought to post an entry in the first place: that I find it so amusing that I make a wake in the air, causing the leaves to rustle behind me as I run past.

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Shout-Out for Cheese

I've been planning to make French onion soup sometime this week, and I finally got out to run some errands. Since The Rochester Public Market (280 Union St. N.) was open, I figured VM Giordano Import, Inc., European Cheese Shop (6 Public Market) would also be open. Alas, this is not the case.

But fortunately, the owner [or, more properly, some guy I presumed to be the owner or one of the owners] was picking up some mail at the time. Everything was packed away, but he was nice enough to grab some Gruyeres from the cooler and sell me half-a-pound. He said that they are open Saturdays during Market hours, but they are no longer open on the other days — except during the holidays when they're open more. Also, he invited me to call if I had a specific item I wanted so we could arrange a time to pick it up.

Definitely the benefit of a locally-owned small shop.

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E-Z Pass Hyjinks

I heard a rumor that if you drive too fast between exit plazas when using E-ZPass, they would calculate your average vehicle speed and issue a ticket. Snopes has an article where they claim this is untrue — partly on grounds that a moving violation ticket can only be issued to a driver, not to a vehicle (although apparently, red-light enforcement cameras are in use in New York State, and they would be just as illegal). A few years ago it dawned on me (if tickets are indeed issued automatically) that when we go off Daylight Savings Time, the computers might be tricked into thinking I was exceeding the speed limit during the switch. Of course, if that were indeed true, then there must have already been erroneous tickets issued, and the problem would have likely been corrected.

Regardless, I thought I'd try it myself and this past weekend I finally got out to do it. Ali came along for the ride and we got on the Thruway at Victor at around 1:55 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. We traveled west, stopping for a snack at the Ontario Service Area, then getting off 50 some-odd miles later at Pembroke at about 2:02 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. According to The Wikipedia New York State Thruway article, the distance from Victor to Pembroke is 50.73 miles.

Traveling from Exit 44 at 1:56:05 a.m. to Exit 48A at 2:01:41 a.m.

Traveling from Exit 45 at 1:56:05 a.m. to Exit 48A at 2:01:41 a.m.

Well the transaction finally came up on the E-Z Pass website and indicated that we got on at Exit 45 at 1:56:05 a.m. and left at Exit 48A at 2:01:41 a.m. That's 50.73 miles in 5 minutes 36 seconds for an average speed of 544 miles per hour. Counting all our dawdling and the actual elapsed time, our actual average speed is only 46 miles per hour.

I look forward to receiving the ticket — and presumably, the instant suspension of my license for reckless driving.

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Feeding the Chickadees

Ali and I went to Mendon Ponds Park (Pond Rd., South Entrance) to find the bird trail there. She said you can feed the chickadees right out of your hand — and, with enough patience this early in the winter, you actually can. The bird sanctuary they have there is quite impressive, too. Several volunteers were showing off some owls, and they had everything from a bald eagle to a crow in captivity (all of the birds are rescued: usually either hit by a car or with some kind of disability, although the crow was simply illegally domesticated). Once on the songbird trail, we eventually succeeded in coaxing the tiny chickadees to eat from our hands. I guess it's much easier in the middle of winter when food is much more scarce — but definitely a fun thing to go try.

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