Long Story Short: Snap, crackle, pop
In the spirit of Independence Day fireworks, two very different stories exploded over the past week.
The first involves Congressman Chris Collins, who as pretty much everyone knows, is under indictment for insider trading along with his son. On June 27, the Buffalo News reported that a bunch of other Collins associates dumped the Congressman-endorsed biotech stock, just before the public knew it was about to tank, strongly suggesting that there are others that benefited from loose lips.
A day later, shrapnel from that explosion spread to the Erie County Executive race. To get some political mileage out of the scandal, Mark Poloncarz announced that his Republican opponent’s campaign consultant, Christopher Grant, had also been involved in insider trading, and therefore had committed a crime.
This was a bit of a leap from the News story, which said Grant—a close associate of Collins—had unloaded his stocks at the same time as others who have been indicted. Sure, it looks bad, but Grant hasn’t been charged.
Lynne Dixon, who is running against Poloncarz, responded by spotlighting the County Executive’s clay feet, including his acceptance of over $10,000 in campaign donations from a businessman who is also embroiled in the Collins’ investigation. Accusations and counter accusations flew back and forth like Roman candles in the night.
Like most political fireworks, this too will fade away.
On June 21, Marcus Rosten tweeted about a fourteen-inch goldfish he found two years ago in Black Rock Canal. He came across the orange leviathan while he was working for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, but today he works for Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper (BNW). Rosten theorized that the fish had been flushed down a toilet at a time when the sewers were overwhelmed with flood water, and excess household wastewater went into the lake. Many sewer systems discharge directly into local waterways during flooding, as they were designed to do in the 1800s. So anyway, the fish lucked out and ended up in the river. Apparently, finding such a fish is not all that uncommon. Goldfish in the Great Lakes number in the tens of millions, says Waterkeeper.
The story detonates
It’s hard to say why any tweet goes viral, but within days of the posting, Waterkeeper was fielding calls from around the world. Media outlets as far away as Japan published the story, usually mistakenly claiming that the fish had been recently found by BNW.
The Waterkeeper folks figured, why not turn this into a fundraising opportunity? On its website, the organization offers a Responsible Flushing Society membership for $5 a year, entitling members to a sticker with the Waterkeeper crest. You do have to pledge that you will not flush anything down the toilet that doesn’t belong there. BNW provides a list of unflushables, which, somewhat incongruously, includes sunglasses. All this from one ill-advised flush.
Big Buffalo building brings back business
In 2012, when HSBC announced that it would be vacating Seneca One Tower, leaving a nearly empty hulk, this critic facetiously suggested it was time to implode this Brutalist wind-tunneling Main Street barrier.
Fortunately, no one listened, including Washington DC developer Douglas Jemal. He bought the monolithic monster—Buffalo’s tallest building—in 2016 and has since been transforming it into a more user-friendly mixed-use complex, including retail, restaurant, hotel, office, and apartment components. He’s investing $120 million in a building that cost $12 million. The optimistic developer even added 20,144 square feet of welcoming ground-level commercial office space, in an effort to warm up the bleak edifice. Jemal now has a growing waiting list of apartment tenants, but that leaves a lot of empty space in need of an infusion of vitality.
In June, M&T Bank announced that it has plans to create 1,000 new technology jobs over the next five years. Of course, it needs space to do this, so it also announced that this new technology hub will be housed in eleven of Seneca One’s forty stories and two additional ground floor spaces. This might be exactly what’s needed to kick-start a renting frenzy. The nonprofit organization of regional business cheerleaders known as Invest Buffalo Niagara sees this as another opportunity to promote downtown—a complete reversal from when the Wall Street Journal listed Seneca One as a “zombie building.”
A man with consuming ambitions
When thirty-year-old US Army veteran and pro wrestler, Ronnie Hartman, moved to the Buffalo area to do IT work for New Era Cap, who knew we were inheriting the eighteenth-ranked competitive eater in the world! Formerly from North Carolina, Hartman now considers Buffalo his home.
The wrestler/eater/tech-wonk says he has signed a “major eating contract” (which we didn’t even know existed). He goes by the competitive eating moniker Megabite Ronnie and he got into the “sport” five years ago, after placing second in an Atlanta city qualifier, a few days after returning from active duty in Afghanistan.
Hartman bills himself as the "Hungriest Man in Buffalo," and he’ll be representing our city July 4 in Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney. That’s right, Hartman is vying for the Mustard Belt.
This is Hartman’s fourth Nathan’s dog-eating contest. He wolfed down 29.5 in ten minutes to qualify. “I’m looking to try to do fifty hot dogs next year and I’d like to be ranked in the top 5,” he told WKBW news. That won’t be easy. He’ll be up against some of the best pro-eaters in the business, including eleven-time defending Nathan’s Champion, the #1-Ranked Eater in the World, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut. Click here for the entire lineup.
You would be forgiven for thinking Hartman must be something of a pot-bellied porker. In fact, at six- foot three inches, he’s a lean and chiseled 225 pounds. As a wrestler, he’s been training and working his way up the ranks within Nickle City Wrestling. At one point, the aspiring professional glutton tried to change his nickname to “Dizzle-Flex,” but it didn’t stick. Somehow Megabite seems more fitting.
Film Festival honors local filmmaker
Film festivals were once the sole province of major global centers like Cannes, Berlin, and Toronto, but with the proliferation of independent filmmaking, every city can have one or more. Buffalo has several, and among the most unpretentiously entertaining is the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival (BDFFF), now in its seventh year. Its goal is to bring indie genre films to Buffalo from around the world, while spotlighting local film artists. The 2019 BDFFF will run from August 23—29, at the Dipson Eastern Hills Cinema.
A filmmaker honored
In conjunction with the festival, organizers have named Greg Sterlace as Filmmaker Of The Year for his low budget film, Catcher in the Rye with Diamonds (reviewed here in 11/5/18). The movie reimagines J.D. Salinger’s novel, Catcher in the Rye, with Mark David Chapman in the Holden Caulfield role. The fictional character and infamous John Lennon murderer share a surprising number of things in common. The film is unique because it was produced without copyright consent (particularly problematic with the Salinger dialogue included), so Sterlace cannot market the film commercially. He only presents it at free showings.
Who is Greg Sterlace?
A festival press release includes the following: “A fixture in Buffalo's punk rock scene in the 1980s, [Sterlace] moved into cable access television in the 1990s with the long running Greg Sterlace Show. He has directed such microbudget films as Ross & Gwen, Failure, and Sweet Jesus. His books include The Beatles: Having Read the Book, Trump: Unhinged, and the just-published Movies 365: A Good Movie for Every Day of the Year.
LSS asked the local auteur what this recognition means to him and his wife and creative partner, Paula Wachowiak.
“It means I'm one step closer to my dream of having dozens of strangers watch and enjoy the movie,” says Sterlace, in his customary self-effacing manner. But the recognition does validate his and Wachowiak’s efforts, he says. “I was gratified that you, [Hallwalls Director] Ed Cardoni, [local critics] M Faust, and Jeff Simon liked it,” he adds. He’s also grateful to award winning author, filmmaker, and festival director Greg Lamberson for bestowing the honor upon him. The festival is “like the local Oscars,” he says, “It will be exciting.”
Buffalo makes another “best” list
When there aren’t enough celebrity couple split-ups or runway “who wore it best” photos, and no one in Royal Family is getting married or having a baby, there’s always a Top 100 list. And so, on June 20, People magazine released its 100 Reasons to Love America in 2019.
Buffalo is a fashionable new darling among trend lists, so it’s no surprise that we made People’s list. Yessiree, we’re right up there with Goat Yoga and Beyoncé (you get no argument from us about the latter).
So, what do they say about us?
“A rust-belt city having a renaissance. Spectacular late-19th-century architecture provides a backdrop for a busy restaurant and bar scene.” (Note the word “renaissance,” the relative appropriateness of which we’ve debated in this column.) Buffalo is number 19, but it seems unlikely that this list is arranged in ascending order. Can Kacey Musgraves and the Modern Women of Country, really be the number one reason to love America? I think not.
Another local attraction makes the list
Jamestown’s National Comedy Center—which we reviewed last week—comes in at number 85. “The country’s first museum devoted to comedy is worth the trip to Jamestown, N.Y., Lucille Ball’s hometown,” says People, echoing what we wrote.
We wonder just how ernest the People Magazine brain trust is being here. L.L. Bean Boots? Sure. But Dr. Pimple Popper, Pool Floats, and Wrestlemania? They seem to have written down whatever popped into their heads. “Let’s brainstorm to one-hundred and called it a day.” Is Ring Doorbell (number 48) a reason to love America, or product placement? Don’t ask us.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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