Movies in July, 2015 including The Wicker Man, Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, and Amy

  1. Me & Earl & the Dying Girl at the Little, July 1: Jenn, Ali, and I thought this would be an okay film to check out. It's a smart teen movie (that is, quite enjoyable by adults too) about Greg, whose mother forces him to visit a dying classmate, Rachel, but all he really wants to do is to make short films with his friend Earl. The thing I think was most pleasing is that Greg is a clumsy teen who makes painful-to-watch mistakes. The relationships between the three seem pretty organic and natural and the story is interesting enough. Oh yeah, the beginning … with its Greg-centered exposition, is not so hot … but it gets much better after that.
  2. Shorts Made for the Theaters at the Dryden, July 15: Jenn and I both enjoy short films. This program was treasures from the Eastman House archives which were designed for a cinema audience. Kicking off, Popeye Makes a Movie was quite hilarious. Then Paramount News Review 1938: A Year of Contrast was a laden with U.S. nationalism as WWII began. This Theatre and You, the later Let's Go to the Movies, and History Brought to Life were each slightly boring essays on how movies work and are made—the latter being borderline offensive in its claim to historical realism in fictional films.  The History and Development of the 35mm Projector was an interesting history lesson on early 35mm projector development.  The Film That Was Lost was an interesting early film promoting motion picture preservation—I'm still not clear on the 20-year lifespan of cellulose-based film and how we have originals from way more than 20 years ago. Finally, Dancing in the Street was a production made by Kodak that was a cringe-worthy 1980s music video for the version of that song done by Mick Jagger and David Bowie for the Live Aid benefit concert.
  3. Trudno byt bogom (Hard to Be a God) at the Dryden, July 14: Jenn and I were both interested in this film touted as being made by "legendary Russian auteur Aleksej German". It's ostensibly about an Earthling scientist who lives on the planet Arkanar, stuck in a parallel to Earth's middle ages except without the benefit of a Renaissance on the horizon. As Jurij Meden noted in his introduction, the film is a parable for life under communism in the Soviet Union, and, lacking a linear story, it is more of an experience. Once Jenn and I had enough of the experience—a mere hour into its 170 minute runtime—we left. It was indeed an impressive work but we didn't feel the need to stay for the whole thing.
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road at the Cinema, July 20: I kept hearing good things about this so I figured I'd hit up the double feature. It's an entertaining action movie with lots and lots of driving going on. What I found most impressive was its ability to handily pass the Bechdel/Wallace Test as even the somewhat minor "damsels in distress" characters are well thought-out and not simply interchangeable trophies as is too often the case.
  5. Lambert and Stamp at the Cinema, July 20: Following that, I stayed for the documentary about the managers for The Who, Kit Lambert and Christopher Stamp. As I'm not a huge Who fan, the documentary seemed to ramble a lot, especially toward the end. And it probably could have been better called "Kit Lambert and the Who" as it was largely about Lambert (who died in 1981). Unfortunately, the archival footage seemed to be rather sparse, so lots of reminiscing filled the bloated 117 minute running time.
  6. The Wicker Man—Final Cut at the Dryden, July 25: Jenn went to revisit, and I to see for the first time this genre-improving horror film. It's about a devoutly Christian police officer investigating the reported disappearance of a 12-year-old girl on a remote island inhabited exclusively by Pagans. The officer tries to retain his composure but is horrified by the nudity and sexuality of the islanders, and especially their willingness to allow children to witness their natural lives. The film's conclusion is a potent capstone to an amazingly interesting story. I got the impression that we were to strongly empathize (er … empathise as this is a British film) with the Christian morals of the cop. The 1973 original date could be rooted in conservatism or in hippie liberation, and a bit of searching the Internet didn't reveal any original critics' reactions so I'm not sure.
  7. Amy at the Little, July 28: Jenn and I went to see this because it looked kind of interesting. I knew very little of Amy Winehouse save for the mocking she received from comedians in the early 2000s for her drug and alcohol abuse. The film offers a heaping of empathy through the spectral glimpse we can see in archival and personal footage. Her singing style was unique, and her commitment to music was unparalleled, making her seem like one of those people who are just ablaze with talent. I got the impression she tried to show a composed, controlled demeanor, but the veneer was particularly thin and her opinions easily punched through it. She was also not quite ready to be in the spotlight; the hounding by paparazzi was disheartening, especially the glimpses of the worst of a thousand photoflashes rendering the night a stroboscopic minefield. In the end, I guess the film reminded me to never make fun of people you know nothing about.
  8. Grey Gardens at the Dryden, July 29. Jenn had already seen this so I went by myself … it's about aging Edie Bouvier Beale, and her elderly mother Edith Bouvier Beale who live in a mansion in East Hampton. Albert Maysles, and David Maysles were to make a documentary about their wealthy relatives, but when they found the two during research, they changed plans. The most common and roughly-fitting adjective is "eccentric" as the mansion is in a decades-long state of disrepair and the two appear to solely live on the property along with numerous cats. Despite outward appearances, they seem to be content with their lifestyle. As documentary subjects, they didn't have much to say—but that didn't stop their domestic banter, making for a virtually surreal viewing experience.

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Ten More Movies: January 2014 to March 2014

So here's the last 10 movies I watched …

  1. Inside Llewyn Davis at the Little, January 29: Jenn and I got a chance to see this with her mom. Jenn was looking forward to the latest Coen Brothers' movie and I thought it looked good enough. It's another great film if you like live music. And if you are an artist or know artists—musicians particularly—you'll certainly recognize the duality of their lives: to others, they seem to be ego maniacal jerks, and within themselves, they suffer the (socially acceptable) indignity of having their creative vision treated like some kind of worthless communal property.
  2. Bettie Page Reveals All at the Dryden, January 31: Jenn and I saw this together as we were both interested in Page's life, but as a documentary, I found it lacking. Perhaps it was because, while I think Bettie Page is pretty and I think she's unique in being the canonical example of a pin-up girl, I don't think of her as some sort of magical being outside the realm of humanity. Unfortunately, the filmmakers were dazzled by her. So I guess if you're dazzled by Page, you might adore the film more. Anyway, both Jenn and I were fascinated by Page's central interview. I couldn't help but think there was something she was omitting. It wasn't until much later that I realized it was her: she never spoke of her own aspirations or motivations, only about what happened to her, as if she were simply a passive party to her own life. In some ways, that's the most interesting thing about her as a person, and something the documentary makers seem to have ignored.
  3. Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? at the Dryden, February 11: Ted, Jenn, and I went to see this animated feature by Michel Gondry as he interviews Noam Chomsky. Although I admire Chomsky, I often find his densely intellectual sentences daunting. Gondry plays against this—plays the fool if you will—to great effect, slowing the flow of Chomsky's wisdom into digestible pieces.
  4. The Straight Story at the Dryden, February 20: Overall I enjoyed this (true) tale of a man who travels by riding lawnmower to visit his estranged brother. I'm not sure if it was solely perception, but I noticed David Lynch's cinematic affectations very much at the beginning of the film (e.g. slowly tracking to a window on the side of a house) but by the end, I didn't notice them at all (e.g. frighteningly aggressive-seeming vehicular traffic).
  5. Trouble Every Day at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, February 22: Jenn, her friend Heather Wetzel, Ali, Ted, and I saw this on a group trip to Columbus. As I was watching, I was acutely aware of the feeling I was going insane. Jenn compared it to Possession which I found to be a similarly impenetrable film, somewhat about an abusive relationship. It's got the methodical, deliberate pacing of a French (or Italian—see La grande bellezza, below) film as it outlines a bizarre condition or illness that causes people to behave, ostensibly, like vampires.
  6. Jack Goes Boating at the Little, February 28: This was the only one of the films in the Little's Philip Seymour Hoffman Tribute series that I went to see, and lo, I had seen it before—when it was released, actually. Nonetheless, it was interesting to watch it one more time. It's the story of a couple middle-aged people mired in each of jeir own neuroses who try to date, mirrored against the seemingly "normal" relationship between Jack's friend John and Connie's friend Lucy.
  7. Her at the Cinema, March 1: Jenn and I went to see this together and since the double-feature totaled well over 4 hours, we opted to watch this as a matinée. In case you haven't heard the rough plot outline, it's about a writer who falls in love with his computer's new, artificially-intelligent operating system. There are so many ways this could have gone terribly badly—as a movie, I mean—but Spike Jonze managed to avoid all the many possible pitfalls in both his writing and directing. The operating system, named Samantha, is amiable and its relationship with Theodore is downright believable. Even the conclusion is as reasonably satisfying as can be expected.
  8. La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty) at the Cinema, March 4: I had been looking forward to seeing this since before I missed it at the Dryden. I've been trying to describe it for some time now. What seems most satisfying is that it is a methodical meditation on what it is to look back on one's life. It's about a man named Jep Gambardella who looks back on his life where he became the epicenter of nightlife in Rome. It's punctuated with numerous expansive, loving shots of the city.
  9. A Foreign Affair at the Dryden, March 13: Jenn and I headed out to see this together on faith that Billy Wilder would deliver an entertaining movie. While it was truly entertaining, it's more evocative as a time capsule, as it's one of the only films I know of that is shot in Berlin shortly after the end of World War II, and it deliberately uses the bombed-out backdrop and opportunistic American GIs to move the plot forward.
  10. Dead Man, March 14: Jenn and I had both seen this before—she's far better versed in the other works of Jim Jarmusch than I (and has introduced me to Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and Broken Flowers, both of which I liked.) I wrote about this a while back and my comments still hold, but I'll add the film holds up well after repeated viewings. I think I made a stronger point to notice the respectful and un-romanticized view of Native Americans, and of the un-glorious view of killing and of life on the Western frontier.

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Rochester Movie Makers' "Mind2Movie Challenge" Screening at the Cinema

Ali, Ted, and I met with Jenn, and Jenn's mom at the Gatehouse restaurant for dinner. After that, we all headed to the Rochester Movie Makers' Mind2Movie Challenge screening at the Cinema. They screened last year's winner and the 19 entries then had an awards ceremony.

If you recall from the post introducing the Mind2Movie challenge this year, the gist was to try and include three elements in our story: a character, an object, and a scenario. We were scored based on how well we used our character, our prop, and our situation, the storytelling, and the film technique.

This year's winner was team "Claydogh" with its sole member, Ben Doran. (2014-Feb-18 update: You can view "Ed" on Vimeo now.) His film received a score substantially higher than any other team. They said the next 5 teams were differentiated by only 6 points (out of a possible 200). I seem to remember them being in the 140-range; we got 135, and a few people said they really liked ours (including the MC, Mike McFadden.) We're all very … umm … curious about the surly judge who seemed to like nothing about what we made, but three of the four judges thought it was quite good in all categories.

Ted uploaded our film to YouTube and you can watch it there, or you might be able to watch it below. The film is called "The Singer" and was to include an entertainer, a communicator, and a scenario in which the communicator is stolen. Ted plays The Singer, Jenn plays The Photographer, I'm The Conjurer, Lucy is The Singer's Dog, and Maia is The Photographer's Dog. (That's right: we decided to make a movie with two dogs!)
Continue reading

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The 2014 Rochester Movie Makers' 72 Hour Mind 2 Movie Challenge

I read about the Rochester Movie Makers' 72 Hour Mind 2 Movie Challenge on their website and really wanted to give it a try. So when I mentioned it to Jenn, Ali, and Ted, they jumped at the chance. Ali and I went to the RCTV Studio on Thursday evening to get our packets. We had to make up a team name and after a few minutes, we settled on the pun "For Fools". (And, if there are any judges reading this, well, you should probably stop now to keep our team's entry as anonymous as it can be.) Continue reading

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Screenplay Reading of Citizens Band

Last year I wrote a screenplay titled "Citizens Band". I thought it was pretty good so I have been fiddling with it. I tried to get friends to read it, but only a couple did, and I got positive feedback from each one. So I continued.

I sent an e-mail to someone I met at a production company but jee never got back to me. That was about three days before the submission date for the BlueCat Screenplay Competition. But I waited because you can submit early and they will review your submission, then you can submit again for the contest and be reviewed again.

I thought the next logical step was to host my own screenplay reading. I sent an e-mail to a major local theater but never heard back. The MuCCC was supportive but alas booked solid for the year. I got started a bit with one person but jee dropped out for jeir own project so I got in touch with Phil Frey of ShakeCo: The Shakespeare Company who agreed to direct the reading.

Over the course of the last few months, I reformatted the script as a stage play (essentially adding a "Narrator" character who speaks the action.) I was looking into having copies printed but it would have cost close to a hundred bucks for 10 copies. Since I already have a [used] HP LaserJet 4000, I finally gave in and bought 3-hole punched paper for it. Unable to find recycled paper, I went with sustainably-grown eucalyptus paper. Over the course of 800 pages or so, it affected the paper feed mechanism and I had to hand-feed the last 40 pages to finish the set. But I digress.

Phil got hold of some actors, and we did a rehearsal on April 13. I was surprised to find so many errors — I thought I had edited pretty well. It was good to hear it out-loud for the first time (although I had to read quite a bit of it myself to fill in for missing actors.) In the end, I changed 45 of the 88 pages. (And I figured out to clean the RF5-2490-000CN Feed Roller [on pages 8-52 and 8-53 of the service manual for those reading at home] with a homemade vinegar-citrus cleaner despite the advice to only use water.)

April 20 was the official reading at the Flying Squirrel. I didn't realize when I scheduled it (I actually didn't have much choice to fit everyone's schedule) but it overlapped the closing night of the High Falls Film Festival which may have prevented a few people from coming. Anyway, I had no idea how many people would show up so I made a lot of food. In the end it was only five people: just a few friends of mine. We were even short on actors and I had to read and my friend Ali read as well. Once again, it was good to hear it out loud and the feedback I got was very valuable even if it was kind of all over the board.

So now I need to go back and edit again. This time, more substantial changes to the structure of the story. One suggestion about gender roles led to a realization to let go of my love for the characters and to make sure their actions are for the interest of each one of them and not due to my love of the outcome. I also want to make some changes to get them on the road quicker (eliminating unnecessary exposition), and I'll move a local party to a destination along the way.

And here I thought it was pretty good already. Well, I still think it's pretty good. I just need to make it excellent.

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Some Smoothies are More Equal than Others

Last night I had a hankering for a fruit smoothie, and I decided to swing by Equal=GroundsMySpace link (750 South Ave., formerly Hunt's Hardware). I got a mixed berry with mint — ordinarily I'd go with blackberry with mint, but "mixed" is really black+rasp, so it was a pretty acceptable substitution. It was perfect: so full of flavor that any more would have been too sweet, and blended so smooth it all fit through the straw.

Contrast that to tonight when I stopped by Starry Nites Café (696 University Ave., formerly Moonbeans) for a light dinner before the movie. Although the peach smoothie was acceptably flavored, the chunks of ice were too big to fit through the straw, leading to the unpleasantness of ice jams.

I tolerated the ice jams worse than average because Ali had called that Lucy (the dog) was getting stitches after having been bit by a Rottweiler. The other dog had a sketchy past and had broke its collar; its owner was horrified and shaken. Lucy will probably be fine: she got bit pretty good in her front leg, but they managed to pull off the Rottweiler before it did any mortal damage.

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I Have a Dog Now

Last month I saw an ad for a dog to a good home. I replied and got the new dog, Lucy (Ali's and my dog), and Pumpkin Pie (my gray American short-hair cat, named by a crazy cat lady) all together and they seemed to get along acceptably — I know things would be rough, but the behavior of the new dog was key.

So last Monday the 23rd I got "Tieson" (the etymology of which I still haven't inquired about). He's a Jack Russell terrier who's 9-year-old (as of today, actually).

The first day I had him his behavior was better than I could have expected. Pumpkin was very patient and only a few skirmishes broke out. His previous owner said he had bladder issues when home alone, and I presumed it was due to separation anxiety. In fact, when I went to Genesee Bakery (1677 Mount Hope Ave.) for all of 10 minutes, he soaked a pillow pretty good. He only had one such "accident" so far.

That night, I let him sleep in my bed. During the night, I noticed he started to intensely regard the vacuum cleaner. After an hour or so, he decided that it was, indeed, an infernal machine and must be barked at. I turned on the light and he was startled to see me, transferring his agression to me. Before I could get him out of the bedroom, he managed to bite me pretty hard on the hand. Being kind of aggressive, I have learned this particular Jack Russell is happiest if he's kept in his place (e.g. lower than eye-contact with people.)

The next day went well as well. I learned some things he didn't like and mostly avoided them. However, when returning from a walk, I expected him to get bite-y when I toweled off his wet belly so I put on leather gloves and, when he inevitably did snap at me, I pinned him down firmly to show that I was "alpha". I didn't like doing it, but it didn't hurt him, and I had to do it again later when he snapped at me on my bed. I gather it's not harmful, per se, especially if used sparingly, but I don't want him to have an "alpha dog" relationship with me. It should help that I signed him up for obedience class at Dogs At Play (75 Howell St.)

By Thursday we were running together in the morning. Jack Russells are known for their speed and endurance: he kept up for all 4 miles or so. During the day, cat-dog relations had a setback when I picked up Pumpkin to pet him and Tieson, apparently jealous, seemed curious to see what I was doing and then he decided it was a good idea to bite Pumpkin's tail. I ended up with a couple scratches on my face and on my hands from the ensuing body launch.

Today he was thrilled to "go for a ride" and was even thrilled to visit the vet at Penfield Veterinary Hospital (1672 Penfield Rd.) for all his shots and more. Now he's all set for his dog license, so he gets to be a real little dog.

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The Little Burning Man that Couldn't

Thursday night I got to Amtrak (320 Central Ave.) about an hour early for my pilgrimage to Burning Man. Earlier in the day, I had to use a Zipcar to get my farm share from Mud Creek Farm (McMahon Rd., Victor), and to take Ali to pick up her car from getting brake repairs. Little did I know this was a mere warning shot of things to come.

I had packed into two Rubbermaid totes, a large suitcase, a smaller bag, and a backpack. I made a custom cart to carry the totes along with the additional luggage tied on: the totes contained my to-be-filled water bottles, and the cart was to make it easier to navigate around Burning Man, particularly to get to a place to get a ride when I left. I was quite impressed as I ordinarily required the bulk of a car to carry everything I needed.

Two totes, a suitcase, a smaller bag, and a backpack

Everything I need for Burning Man 2011

Anyway, I figured I could check the large suitcase and two totes, and carry the backpack and smaller bag onto the train. I was told I couldn't check totes (a.k.a. harbinger number two) so I did some quick thinking and swapped the contents of the smaller bag with the equivalent volume from one of the totes. I checked the smaller bag and the large suitcase instead. (In the future I'll make canvas boxes for the totes with zippers and hide them inside, giving the illusion of "real" luggage.)

While waiting for the train (which was an hour and a half late from Albany no less — that's three) I met a guy who was trying to get to Cleveland. He didn't have much (if any) money but he was going to try and sweet-talk his way onto the train. I was quite sure it wouldn't work, at least not on such a busy route — if it had been quieter, he would have been able to board without a ticket beforehand then at least made it to Buffalo before being kicked off. I looked into just paying for his ticket but it was too expensive so I just gave him a few bucks to see if he could make it to Buffalo or beyond. He went to the ticket counter then disappeared. Then when I was boarding, he reappeared and tried to be my "porter". Alas, he was indeed denied entry to the train.

I finally boarded the westbound Amtrak Lakeshore Limited at 12:30 a.m. By 9 a.m. we were partway through Ohio.

view from the Amtrak window just west of Bryan, Ohio

Just west of Bryan, Ohio from the Amtrak window

We arrived in Chicago a little late around 11:30 a.m. when I was confronted with this:

2:00P California Zephyr to Emeryville: CANCELED. * NO ALTERNATE TRANSPORTATION, SEE AGENT *

The moment I knew Burning Man was not-to-be this year.

My jaw dropped and my heart sank as I read — as if a personal message to me about my whole trip — "Cancelled. No alternative transportation". That was when I really surrendered. Momentum allowed me to continue to the long line at the ticket counter as there was a possibility of leaving a day later — perhaps an engine had failed and needed to be moved. Alas the worst: the eastbound California Zephyr struck a piece of construction equipment and derailed, injuring 22 people. Service was not expected to resume for several days at the earliest.

I was to meet some friends for a ride on Sunday to arrive on Monday when Burning Man started, so although I might have been able to figure out how to wait 24 hours, several days was out of the question (service was still disrupted as I write this, so at the earliest, I'd have left Sunday, arrived in Reno on Wednesday, then have to beg for a ride). Not to mention I couldn't afford to stay at a Chicago hotel for that amount of time, and it would disrupt my whole experience significantly. Cost prevented me from getting a rental car as well, and flying was not an option because of the amount of stuff I had with me. The mandatory American experience of taking a bus across the country will have to wait [for another lifetime].

So I exchanged my existing tickets and bought one to return to Rochester at 9:30 p.m. I also ran into two burners in the station (which I deduced from their fire-enhanced hula-hoops and fur-covered bikes). I didn't get their names, but asked what they were going to do. They opted to take the train to Portland, San Fransisco, and east to Reno, arriving a day and a half later. I probably could have done that, but like I said, I was getting a lot of signs to quit. I gave them my Burning Man ticket, and hopefully they could get it to someone who could use it (it might even help them get a ride).

I got a little into Chicago but had to tote the cart of totes around so I didn't get far. I went to Beggar's Pizza (310 S. Clinton St., Chicago, IL) which was excellent. The Chicago style was so good that if it wasn't textbook-perfect, they should rewrite the textbook.

For the remainder of the evening I hung around the station. I met a woman who came from Indiana to go to her brother's childhood friend's funeral in Iowa but she had to turn back too. And on "commiseration corner" of the fountain we also met a guy who went to boot camp for the Navy only to be rejected on a medical discharge and had to absorb the bittersweet experience of watching his campmates graduate in full dress uniform.

And even on the way home, things got complicated: Amtrak stopped service at Albany because of Hurricane Irene. Thankfully this didn't affect me because I only needed to get as far east as Rochester. As things had gone, I fully expected them to suddenly stop service at Buffalo, though.

9:30P 48/448 Lake Shore Limited to New York/Boston, **DUE TO HURRICANE IRENE, TERMINATING IN ALBANDY, NY** NO ALTERNATE TRANSPORTATION PROVIDED.

Thankfully I was only going to Rochester!

Obviously I'm really bummed. This was apparently the year of too-little, too-late. Earlier I had failed to get the Tadpole Trike finished on time. Then I hustled to get everything done to go by alternate means, but bigger and bigger roadblocks kept appearing. In both cases, I refer to a phenomenon I call "tractor-pull mode". In a modern tractor pull, a sled is used with weights over wheels that are slid forward causing the front to drag, so as Wikipedia puts it, "as the tractor travels the course, the weights are pushed forward of the sled's axles, pushing the front of the sled into the ground, synthetically creating a gain in weight until the tractor is no longer able to overcome the force of friction." Hence, the further I got, the more resistance I experienced.

At least I can look forward to the things I would have missed in Rochester. And I can look forward to FrostBurn and put some effort behind it. In any case, next year I will be much more committed. Or else I'll need to be committed.

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Another Usual Crazy Night

I decided to go out and visit Ali at Genesee Valley Park (Hawthorn Dr.) at her kickball game with The Kickball League of Rochester. The game is relatively simple and goes by fast, so I only caught a couple innings. Ali went home but I decided to go with the team to the bar. Their pick: J. D. Oxford's Pub (636 Monroe Ave.) I haven't been there in years. It wasn't bad — $4 pitchers of uninteresting domestics was a good deal — and I got to chat with some cool people on the team. Plus the team's pizza arrived really late so I decided to take Ali's share (I suspected she was very hungry.)

Afterward I was going to head to Lux but I thought I'd check out 140 Alex Bar and Grill (140 Alexander St., formerly Nasty D's) as they changed names. There were only a few people outside so I was going to skip it, but I had to stop for the intersection and ended up talking about my tall bike with them a little. One of them mentioned I should go inside because Felipe RoseMySpace link (the Native American in The Village People) was signing autographs. Well, as serendipity would have it, I had literally just listened (as in hours earlier) to a podcast of Wait Wait … Don't Tell Me! from April 10, 2010 which featured Rose as a guest. I went in and got to say hi and tell him about it. He was busy promoting a show at The Erie County Fair (5600 McKinley Pkwy., Hamburg) and was a little distracted, but thought it was kind of funny.

Then I went to Lux LoungeMySpace link (666 South Ave.) I was hanging out by the pool table for a bit when this guy comes in with one of the other new tall bikes around town! His name is Matt and he and some of his friends are working on custom bikes. Finally! It's not just me!

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Dinner at Rocco with Ali

Ali and I went to Rocco (165 Monroe Ave., formerly The Olive Tree) for dinner and it was fantastic. We dropped in without a reservation and were happy to eat at the bar. Ali got the ziti with a side of meatballs which she loved — if I remember right: I was overwhelmed by the quality of my thick-cut pork chop special with parmesan cheese and a chili-spiced red sauce. Drinks, too, were excellent: the Stormy Monday was a great choice.  Ali even liked it despite that she otherwise hates the taste of bourbon. As it ended up, we were too full for dessert.

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