The King of Comedy at the Dryden

Christina and I headed to the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy. Jim Healy gave the introduction and said he had seen this film probably the most number of times of any film he's seen (and I fully believe he has seen a great number of films). The gist is that Rupert Pupkin played by Robert De Niro plays a stand-up comic who attempts to get the fame he thinks he deserves by kidnapping a TV host Jerry Langford played by Jerry Lewis.

The beauty of the film is in its portrayal of Pupkin as the fanboy inside me (and presumably most people) that just goes too far. For the sake of filmmaking and the story, Pupkin's fantasies intermingle with reality — disastrously. For instance, he has a fantasy of having dinner with Langford where the star begs him to take over the talk show — despite that Langford actually does not see any refined talent in Pupkin, and far from the degree that Pupkin's fantasy lays out.

When I set my mind adrift and daydream of an encounter with some famous person — be it a consistent legend like Randy Newman or a cute-girl-du-jour like Kate Micucci — some event happens where I get to meet them by chance, and for some reason they are interested in me or thankful for something … basically, what Pupkin does. Only in his world, this is the way things actually happen: these absurd, unlikely, coincidences are believed to play out because the fantasy person does not have a real existence. In other words, I realize that famous-person-in-fantasy has, in real life, their own existence that simply does not include me whereas Pupkin does not have such a realization. He fully believes that fame makes the real person disappear — that the celebrity is no longer real, or that celebrity can completely obscure that reality.

The movie asks, in part, how do you handle a person like Pupkin? How do you handle someone who has disposed of your value as a human being? I believe it is the same haunting psychology that leads to stalking, rape, genocide, and any human-on-human atrocity: if you can convince yourself that another person is not a human being (or that they are simply a thing) then your mind is freed to do anything to them without remorse. And if you are on the receiving end of such behavior, all you can do is either change your mind so they are no longer human and you can do what you want with them, or save your own humanity, do what you can to educate them, and wait for them to realize that you are a valuable person too.

Ramen-off at the Krown

Ali and Christina each made a dish for the "Ramen-Off" at Monty's KrownMySpace link (875 Monroe Ave.) I tagged along although I didn't make anything — but, heck, a tasting and a couple beers was just a few bucks. All the dishes were surprisingly creative, although most were based on substituting ramen noodles for other kinds of pasta. Nonetheless, the Thai-peanut dish that Jeff brought was the crowd favorite among the 14 entries. Judges, however, chose Ali's "Lucky Sombreros": baked spicy ramen wafers topped with chicken, guacamole, and sour cream (not that Ali's weren't popular: her dish was the first to be emptied). So congratulations, Ali and Jeff! We'll look forward to next year's competition.

Ghostbusters and Gremlins at the Dryden

Ali, Christina, and I headed to Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House (900 East Ave. to see the double-feature. Well, Christina and I committed to the long-haul while Ali only wanted to see Ghostbusters.  The first feature, as such, was just as good as I remember from the last time I saw it as well as times past.  The movie tends to hold together as a comedy and as a thriller … for instance, the apperarance of the final enemy was as disturbing and humorous as it was when I saw it in 1984.  Of course, the film is also pretty seriously flawed with continuity and special-effects problems (not so much the datedness of optical effects, but more the problem of concrete bouncing gently off wooden police barriers).

Ali smartly left because Gremlins was awful.  "Awful" like "one of the worst movies I've ever seen".  I remember seeing bits and pieces of the film in the past, and I apparently always turned away from it as it got boring.  I never did see it when I was young, and, admittedly, I probably would have been extremely entertained as a teenager.  But as an adult, it's just excruciating.  Christina noted that it was like an episode of Amazing Stories — something that could have been a clever tale at 20 minutes.  Unfortunately, the film was padded an additional 86 minutes (of which, the only redeeming moment was Phoebe Cates hilariously deadpan delivery explaining why her character hates Christmas).  The lesson is to have extremely low expectations if you're going to make an attempt — or better yet, if you liked it as a kid, don't even bother revisiting it.

The Lobster Quadrille and Daryl Fleming and the Public Domain at the Bug Jar

Ali was really sad she couldn't make it, but Christina and I forged on to The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) to see The Lobster QuadrilleMySpace link play. Opening up was Daryl Fleming and the Public DomainMySpace link who did a fine job. They spun some lyrical, interesting, groove-rock-ish country/folk/rock … if that's any help at all. The Lobster QuadrilleMySpace link really did a great job too. They brought their Gothic satirical gospel back to the Bug Jar, and even had a bunch of toy instruments so the audience could join in too. Their new CD is — like many bands CD's — an idealized studio form of their live work, but it gives us fans a chance to learn all the words.

To Live at the Dryden

I went to the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) with my friend Christina to see Huozhe (To Live). She had seen it before (at least the latter 75%) and liked a lot.

It was one of the most beautiful, serene movies I've ever seen. It's about a family that stays together through record-setting turmoil. Or it's about redemption. Or it's about life being change. Or it's a critique of communism. Or it's about luck. Or it's about beauty all the time. Or any combination or all of those things.

But if you're willing to be receptive to it, you'll feel some of those ideas.

Taking the Bus

I've been working on migrating my travels to alternatives to the car — as you'll recall, I took my Civic off the road (so now I've got our Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon and Ali's Saturn, neither of which I want to rely on for day-to-day tasks). Tonight was The Rochester Speculative Literature Association (R-SPEC) meeting at Barnes & Noble (3349 Monroe Ave.) so I thought I'd try taking the bus. I've used the buses on rare occasions in the past, but this was the first trip that required a transfer and that I didn't really have a backup plan (aside from calling Ali, even though she loaned her car out to our friend Christina for the day).

The meeting was at 7 p.m. so I wanted to get there a bit early. According to The Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA)'s trip planner on the website, I should take the #24 bus at 5:56 p.m. downtown to Court and Clinton, then take the #7 bus to Pittsford Plaza at 6:40 p.m. — total trip time: 43 minutes. I did my own analysis of the schedules and decided instead to take the #19 bus at 5:38 p.m. to 12 Corners then take the #7 bus to Pittsford Plaza at 6:09 p.m. — total trip time: 31 minutes. I arrived early enough to get some dinner at Benucci's (3349 Monroe Ave., in the Pittsford Plaza) … nothing particularly exceptional, but still perfectly fine.

So after the meeting, the RGRTA trip planner suggested I leave on the #7 bus at 8:54 p.m. (or a similar trip starting at 9:38 p.m.) and take it to — get this — Irondequoit Plaza (2133 Hudson Ave.) to get the #5 bus back to my house at 11:51 p.m. — total trip time: 2 hours, 57 minutes. I analyzed it myself and determined I could take the #7 bus at 8:54 p.m. (or an identical trip starting at 10:02 p.m.) to Clinton and Main then hurry to meet the #5 bus going south at St. Paul and Main and get home by 9:37 p.m. — total trip time: 43 minutes.

As it turned out, the meeting ran a bit long and I stayed to try and find that book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbuilt which they did not have. I took the 10:02 bus which arrived pretty much on time. I made it to the #5 which didn't leave for a few minutes anyway and made it home fine.

All told, it worked out okay. I bought a "Freedom Pass" which gets you rides for a day for $3 (as far as I could tell, I would have had to pay $4 for the 4 bus trips … there's probably a secret to transfers or something, though). The bus stop nomenclature is confusing — for instance, the stop nearest my house for the #19 bus is "Crittenden and East" which identifies an intersection. There are 2 stops within 20 yards of that intersection and I wasn't sure which one was right. The trick is that the first street is the main street and the second is the cross street, so it would be much clearer to say "Crittenden at East" but once you get used to it, it makes sense. You also have to know which direction your bus is going — for instance, there are 4 stops at the Elmwood and Mt. Hope corner.

It's also annoying that the stops have advertising on them rather than information: the bus stop signs only specify how much the trip will cost. If only one route uses a particular stop, the sign will identify the route number, but if the stop serves multiple routes, it will just say that it serves multiple routes and not specify which ones. There are no maps or clues as to where to go or when.

But it's that routing system that is the worst. What good is it if you can do it yourself and get better results — and with relative ease at that? The biggest obstacle is to get the bus route information from the site as it is no longer available as tidy PDF's of the route tables, but as dynamically generated pages where you can specify your stops. It would make much more sense to, say, get all the bus route tables for stops within a few blocks of your starting and ending points and figure it out from there.

It's too bad that RGRTA has a government sponsored monopoly because with a little competition, it wouldn't be hard to come up with a better system. One thing that I've been toying with is the idea of a "superway" — a system that's like a subway, but instead puts buses on the network of highways to cover the large distances quickly. So, for instance, there would be stops along each exit on 490, 590, and 390 with buses running frequently along those routes. I could walk 15 minutes to 390 and East Henrietta Rd. then take a bus to the Monroe Avenue exit off 590 in 3 minutes (maybe more like 6 minutes counting a stop at Winton), finishing up by walking the remaining 19 minutes to Pittsford Plaza. All told, it would take about about 40 minutes but I could do it pretty much any time I wanted to; the walking time on my trip out there added 10 minutes for a total of 41 minutes on the way out and 53 minutes on the way back and also limited to the whims of the bus schedule. Throw in a few extra routes to cover the parts of the city farther than a mile from a highway exit, and you're in business.

Anyway, the bus is now an alternative for me to use. But once I get a bike ready, I can cover the 5 miles to Pittsford Plaza via the canal path in about 20 minutes or so. And do it any time.

Eating at the Standing Tall…Standing Strong Black History Month Celebration at City Hall Then The Thing at the Dryden

Since Ali had other plans, Christina and I decided to head to City Hall (30 Church St.) for the city's Standing Tall…Standing Strong Black History Month celebration.  Well, actually we went because we knew there would be a food tasting featuring homemade dishes from City employees.  As in past years, there's a huge line … and since we got there late, all the [presumably heavenly] macaroni and cheese was gone.  We were both very impressed by the Firehouse Meatballs by Carlos Manns and the Lasagna with Turkey Meat by Jeffrey Medford.  Everything was great, though.  Plus you can't beat the price.

Unfortunately we had to leave early to get to the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see The Thing by 7. We got there a little bit late, but there was a huge line. Christina suggested we just watch it off her housemate's Netflix box so we did that instead.

She maintains the film as one of her favorites, but I was not particularly impressed. I guess the whole futile, frenetic activity against an unstoppable force was just too much. I mean, what was the point of watching these people run around killing one another and stuff when their plight was beyond hope? Perhaps as a parable: how can you fight an enemy that can look and act exactly like you do? In that sense, I think the original version, The Thing from Another World, made more sense in the context of McCarthyism when your otherwise unsuspecting neighbor could be your sworn enemy.

Trouble the Wat … er … I Mean The Pool

So Ali and I went with Christina in her recently-formed couplehood with Dominic to see Trouble the Water at the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) As it happened, my Palm Pilot [Palm Pilot Vx from 2001, thanks for asking] decided to wipe its memory earlier that weekend, presumably from my pocket trying to hack into its password protection. While it was in memory therapy on its cradle at my house, I didn't have access to it or its wealth of information that includes the events from JayceLand. So we went at 7 p.m. which is when I though the movie was to be shown.

Well, as Jim Healy began introducing the film, it became slowly clear that this was not that movie. "What does he mean, 'characters'?" "I had no idea this was filmed in India." "I wonder if he means 'pool' as some kind of metaphor." Indeed, we had arrived in time to see The Pool instead.

As it turned out, the movie is very very good. It's about a couple kids from Goa, India who eek out a living in odd jobs on the street. The elder Venkatesh is fascinated by an unused swimming pool at what appears to be the home of someone unimaginably wealthy. He weasels his way in to helping the owner with his garden. Then he befriends the man's daughter and the three youngsters spend the pre-monsoon afternoons together. Ever so gradually — with the editorial precision of a surgeon — the film reveals why the pool stays unused.

In retrospect I found it to be a brilliantly paced film. Ali was enchanted by it — much to our surprise, as it could very well have been the kind of Céline et Julie vont en bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating) experience culminating in a "when are they going to get on the fucking boat?" somewhere around the 3-hour mark. But it was very warmly received … I guess I'll have to get Ali to write up a summary one way or another.

No Country for Old Buffet

Ali, Christina, and I decided to take a trip to Old Country Buffet (1512 Ridge Rd. W.) — coupon-in-hand — for some pre-drinking grease-soak. As it turned out, the food was considerably better than my extremely low expectations. In future visits, I'll be sure to stick to the simple stuff like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. But a discount is the way to go as $12-per-adult can get a little pricey, although drinks and dessert are included, although there are no alcoholic drinks — so taken all together, it's about as expensive as a hearty trip to the diner. But maybe a little better if you have food A.D.D. or something.

Plus — and let's be honest here — how could I avoid writing this when I had the whole "No Country for Old Buffet" title in my back pocket? I knew you'd understand.

Stuff White People (including me) Like

My friend Christina pointed me to a site — a blog, actually — that has been the bane of my existence. It's Stuff White People Like (as well as a like-titled book by Christian Lander) and, to my self-reflective, obsessively analytical brain, it's a nightmare.

Well, first, I was reading along and thinking, "gosh, that's funny" — each item, one after another, actually did reflect things that I liked or that I recognized that most people I know [and most of them are white, I might add] liked. It's amusingly written as a guide to non-white people on how to assimilate into white culture — a sort of field-guide or cultural travelogue. Christina mentioned it because it's as if white culture were invisible — assumed by default — so there aren't really anthropological studies of it … at least that either of us could recall.

But then about page two, and 35 or so entries in, I started to panic. Was there anything unique about myself at all? I mean, here it was: a definitive list of all things I was, with only a 10% miss-rate. At least "White people like to claim understanding of what it's like to be a minority by reading 'Stuff White People Like'" was not (yet) on the list — despite tangentially-related topics like "#20 Being an expert on YOUR culture" and "#62 Knowing What's Best for Poor People".

I'll have to contact the author.