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Five Cent Cine: Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

We censor sex, not killing

Katia Pascariu, as Emi, is expressive even when masked.

Hypocrisy in your face, bawdy sex farce, and excess, as in excessively long sections, and excessively drawn-out ideas. If this sounds appealing, then the latest entry from Romania’s fertile alt-cinema, which earned Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival, may be for you.

“Bad Luck Banging” (the Romanian title is more explicit and would be censored in the U.S.) comes in three distinct, labeled parts—a common cinematic device these days. Part 1, “One-way street” (once the somewhat censored sex acts are dispensed with) features the protagonist, Emi, a professionally dressed woman on a mission, walking the streets of Bucharest, Romania’s capital city of 2 million. These walks, in which she crosses busy intersections at least 6 times, foreground a decadent capitalist cityscape—cacophonous, unkempt, unpleasant and difficult. 

Foul-mouthed men blocking crosswalks with their oversize vehicles incur Emi’s anger, as she traverses the uncivil urban streets.

Emi’s attempts to chastise men parking their large vehicles so they block crosswalks (an indication of her attention to civil order and law) result in F-word responses. An older woman uses the C-word, gratuitously. An ad on a billboard says, “I like it deep.” A mix of perverse sexuality and intolerance fill the air.

The “dirty words” that permeate the city’s public space are part of director Radu Jude’s comparison of sex (good) to current and past social values and behavior (bad). He’s questioning what is in fact “dirty” as Emi, whom we now know is a grade-school teacher, meets with her headmistress to discuss the explicit sex tape, made with Emi’s husband and somehow (maybe by Emi herself) uploaded to the Internet.

Part 2 is titled “A short dictionary of anecdotes, signs and wonders,” a phrase that obscures this section’s didacticism and ideological focus. A multitude of short takes with labels such as “War,” “Kitchen,” “Jesus,” and “Poet,” assail Romania’s Fascist past as well as its macho, racist, hypocritical present. There are old photos of aboriginals posed with their colonizers, a video of former Communist President Ceausescu’s enormous palace, now a tourist site. Under “Church,” nuns sing of allegiance to the Fascists; under “Kitchen,” the slogan is “where women belong.” “Children” are presented as tools of authoritarian parents. Even Eadweard Muybridge’s 1878 horse film, last seen in “Nope,” shows up. Like Parts 1 and 3, Part 2 is over-the-top. And it lasts a long, long time.

Loathed former Communist President Ceausescu’s enormous palace is now a tourist site, as revealed in a brief episode in the multitudinous “signs and wonders” of lengthy Part 2.

Part 3 is yet another type of filmmaking, more typical, set in the school courtyard where parents gather to hear out the students’ sex-tape instructor/“porn teacher.” Emi is strong in defense of sexuality, privacy, and the right of adults to post on adult sites. The parents are equally vigorous in their criticism of her, although a few offer support with lengthy philosophical statements and quotations, drawn from their smart phones. The meeting devolves into shouting, verbal attacks (“kikes,” “gypsies”) and praise for a white-washed Romanian nationalism. Even Holocaust denial.

Katia Pascariu, whose screen bio is limited, is a self-confident Emi, and Claudia Ieremia the even-tempered headmistress. Character actors round out the cast, including Nicodim Ungureanu, the most accomplished of the bunch, as the Fascist military man. But the film is Emi’s, and Pascariu is up to the task. She can display power simply in her way of walking through Bucharest in Part 1, and express determination to defend herself through her eyes above the mask in Part 3.

Emi wouldn’t stand a chance in the U.S. today. The social media would erupt in condemnation, and she’d be fired without a hearing. Yet the polarization, moral extremism, and lack of civility as they are offered up here are clearly present in the U.S. in other forms: attacks on Critical Race Theory, laws mandating the teaching of only “positive” U.S. history, irritation with accommodating trans people, and book banning, not to mention the unyielding hostility of the anti-abortion contingent. 

Emi (Katia Pascariu) is a professional woman on a mission on the streets of cacophonous Bucharest.

Jude, who started as an assistant to some of Romania’s most prominent New Wave directors, knows how to use their techniques of neo-realism (Emi walking through Bucharest), farce (Parts 2 and 3), and unrelenting attacks on Fascism and neo-Fascism. Like his mentors (and like the Italian neo-realists after World War II who didn’t have studios and filmed on the streets of Rome), he uses what’s at hand—in this case the streets and the spaces available under the Covid restrictions during which he filmed. Emi and the parents meet in the courtyard because they must gather outside. Everyone is masked, giving the encounter an eerie overlay of stifled truth. The dysfunctional sex-obsessed society of Part I, where one simply observes Bucharest (and don’t think Bucharest is different from much of the urban U.S.), is the same society that is moralistic in Part 3, the two parts book-ending the killing, war and dictatorship that is literally on parade in Part 2.

Because of its exploration of current topics, its willingness to posit sexuality as an ultimate good (shades of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in their “bed-in for peace”), and its unrelenting attack on totalitarianism, clearly on the rise today, “Bad Luck Banging” is a worthy vehicle of social and political analysis. Its excesses and unsubtle, unrelenting didacticism make it less enjoyable to watch.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Babardeala cu bucluc sau porno balamuc)

Date: 2021

Stars: 2.5 (out of 4)

Director: Radu Jude

Starring: Katia Pascariu, Claudia Ieremia, Nicodim Ungureanu

Countries: Romania (filmed in Bucharest), Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Croatia, Switzerland, United Kingdom

Languages: Romanian, English, Czech, French, Russian, subtitled in English

Runtime: 106 minutes, although some U.S. screenings have had 20 minutes cut (for a total of 86 minutes), likely not the “excessive” parts we would cut

Awards: 4 wins, including the Berlin Golden Bear (Best Film) at the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival, and 16 nominations

Availability: Hulu, AppleTV, Disney (improbably), DirectTV, Vudu and Microsoft; see JustWatch here

Lead image: masked and convening a meeting outside in a courtyard (per Covid protocols), the headmistress (Claudia Ieremia) attempts to give Emi (Katia Pascariu), seated at the table, a chance to defend herself against the parents’ outrage at her sex-tape.

See all Five Cent Cine reviews by 2 Film Critics

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Delaware North funds “Nourishing Our Future” program

As a way to address food insecurity, Buffalo-based hospitality and entertainment company, Delaware North, has made a monumental donation of $250,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo. The funds are being directed to the “Nourishing Our Future” program that will provide for the delivery of more than 100,000 meals annually to Boys & Girls Clubhouses across Buffalo. The funding for the program will:

Provide better quality and more nutritious food to 500 children who attend Boys and Girls Clubs summer camps and 2,000 children who attend after-school programs each yearEnable the purchase of a catering van to deliver nutritious meals cooked in a central commissary to six clubhouses and one school site across the city, including the club site at the Eggertsville Youth and Community Center in AmherstAllow for the staffing required to the delivery of mealsHelp to cover additional healthy foods for the Boys & Girls Clubs’ pantry

As a way to further their commitment to the Nourishing Our Future program, Delaware North will also assist with culinary leadership that will help to transform the Boys & Girls Clubs’ food program. This will be accomplished with the guidance of Steve Forman, who is the Regional Executive Chef for Delaware North Sportservice. Forman will begin by efficiently setting up the Club’s kitchen, while reviewing and redesigning menus, which will transform the dated food program into a something that is more desirable for the youth, with more thoughtful meals that are conducive to their diets.

“Nourishing Our Future” commitment includes the purchase of van to deliver nutritious meals to 2,500 children at seven urban Boys and Girls Clubs.

And finally, Delaware North will “leverage the strength of its national purchasing relationships,” which will enable the Club to upgrade its own commissary equipment.

Delaware North CEO Lou Jacobs was joined by Boys & Girls Club CEO Shari McDonough, New York State Senator Tim Kennedy and Delaware North’s Regional Executive Chef Steve Forman to make the announcement at the Babcock Clubhouse.

“We jumped at the chance to partner with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo to launch ‘Nourishing Our Future,’” said Lou Jacobs, CEO, Delaware North. “Providing access to nutritious meals is a critical element in the clubs’ work to provide an enriching, safe space for our community’s youth, and Delaware North is honored to launch this latest initiative in our longstanding partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo.”

“We are honored and humbled to partner with Delaware North on this important project,” said Shari McDonough, CEO, Boys & Girls Club. “It is always a challenge to feed our young people, but to add the expertise and knowledge of the Delaware North associates and Chef Steve, we now know that our kids will have even more delicious and nutritious menu items delivered to them fresh and hot each day while they are safe and happy at the Boys & Girls Clubs.”

The Nourishing our Future van is expected to deliver more than 100,000 meals annually to Boys & Girls Clubhouses across Buffalo.

“The Jacobs family and Delaware North have done so much for our community by investing in outstanding organizations serving our youth,” said New York State Senator Tim Kennedy. “The Boys & Girls Club of Buffalo is a strong pillar in our community, and I’m grateful they’ve launched this new partnership with Delaware North to help feed children in our community.”

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Visiting the Erie County Fair with Kids

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South Buffalo Irish Festival Culture Circle (Fáinne Cultúrtha)

Open Workshops and Master Classes include Irish Music, Song, and Dance

Looking to unleash your inner Irish-ness? If that’s the case, then South Buffalo Roots makes it easy, as the group hosts the second annual South Buffalo Irish Festival Culture Circle (Fáinne Cultúrtha).

On Friday, August 26, from 4pm to midnight, the community is invited to partake in open workshops and master classes dedicated to Irish music, song, and dance. The event centers around “free cultural workshops, trivia, showcases, and jam sessions with festival main stage performers, culminating in a performance by The Spain Brothers and an open traditional Irish music session.”

The festival expands its cultural offerings in a commitment to providing an even deeper connection between the South Buffalo community and its Irish roots.

“We are thrilled to celebrate our South Buffalo Irish community more than ever this year by inviting our friends, family, and neighbors to explore our history and common culture through our new Culture Circle workshops,” said Kathleen Sullivan, President of South Buffalo Roots. “It’s a welcome addition to the South Buffalo Irish Festival, a day where we have always enjoyed bringing the South Buffalo community together while showcasing our unique heritage.”

The Culture Circle is the official kick off to the South Buffalo Irish Festival, held the next day.

Have you ever thought about playing the fiddle? Do you love Irish ballads? Have you wanted to try out a new dance routine? Well, you can do all of that, and more at this one stop shop for all things pertaining to Irish heritage. And if that’s not enough, the following day is the South Buffalo Irish Festival:

South Buffalo Roots presents the South Buffalo Irish Festival on Saturday, August 27 from 11:00am-10:30pm in Cazenovia Park. The free event showcases some of the top performers in the Irish music world including The Prodigals, The Drowsy Lads, and Kilrush along with beloved local bands including Crikwater, McCarthyizm, John Dady & Friends, Whiskey Thief, The Spain Brothers, Tom Keefer & Celtic Cross, The Blarney Bunch, Owen Ó Súilleabháin, Greater Buffalo Firefighters Pipes & Drums and the Rince na Tiarna School of Irish Dance. For more information, please visit www.southbuffaloirishfestival.org.

South Buffalo Irish Festival Culture Circle (Fáinne Cultúrtha) presented by South Buffalo Roots

Friday, August 26, 2022 from 4:00pm-12:00am

Buffalo Irish Center | 245 Abbott Rd | Buffalo, NY

FREE

The event is kid and family friendly, and open to all levels of skill and experience

www.southbuffaloirishfestival.org/copy-of-festival-kick-off 

Program

Sean Nós Singing Circle

Owen Ó Súilleabháin, song leader 4:00pm, GAAA Library

Come and learn to sing a song in the Sean Nós style of Irish traditional music with singer, composer, and storyteller, Owen Ó Súilleabháin.

Beginner Fiddle Workshop

Charlie Coughlin, fiddle 4:00pm, Claddagh Room

What’s the difference between the violin and the fiddle? It’s all in the way you play it! Learn the fundamentals of basic bowings and ornamentation in the Irish style with Crikwater fiddle player Charlie Coughlin.

Intro to Irish Solo & Ceili Dancing 1

Katie Cunningham (TCRG) & Glenna Rankin 5:00pm, BIC Dance Studio, 2nd Floor

Ceili dancing is one of the oldest dance traditions in Ireland. Like contra or even square dancing, the social aspect of this group dance is just as important as the footwork. Bring a friend or make a new one with this introduction to solo and ceili dancing led by Katie Cunningham and Glenna Rankin of the Rince na Tiarna Adult Irish Dance team. No prior dance experience required.

Upstate Crossroads: Fiddle Music from Upstate New York

Tim Ball, fiddle & Max Newman, guitar 5:00pm, GAAA Library

Tim Ball explores the Celtic roots of fiddle music in upstate New York, from old-time square dance tunes to the intricate Sligo/New York style of Irish-American fiddle playing. Open to musicians and non-musicians alike!

Tunes & Ballads Workshop

John Dady, guitar/vocals & John Ryan, tin whistle/button accordion 5:00pm, Claddagh Room

Rochester-based musicians John Dady and John Ryan explore the intersection between Irish tunes and ballads. Open to musicians and non-musicians alike!

Intro to Irish Solo & Ceili Dancing 2

Katie Cunningham (TCRG) & Glenna Rankin 6:00pm, BIC Dance Studio, 2nd Floor

Ceili dancing is one of the oldest dance traditions in Ireland. Like contra or even square dancing, the social aspect of this group dance is just as important as the footwork. Bring a friend or make a new one with this introduction to solo and ceili dancing led by Katie Cunningham and Glenna Rankin of the Rince na Tiarna Adult Irish Dance team. No prior dance experience required.

Irish Music for Classical Players

Leah Rankin, cello 6:00pm, GAAA Library

You’ve practiced, practiced, and practiced but the tune still doesn’t sound Irish! It’s time to take that hard-earned classical technique and turn it loose Irish style with classical-turned-trad cellist, Leah Rankin. Open to all instruments, ages, and skill levels.

Intro to Irish Accompaniment

Matt Sperber, guitar 6:00pm, Claddagh Room

Crikwater guitar player Matt Sperber teaches simple harmony and backing rhythms that will allow you to accompany any Irish tune.

South Buffalo Irish Trivia with TE Caulfield

TE Caulfield, host 7:00pm, Claddagh Room

Learn some fun facts about South Buffalo’s fascinating Irish history as you test your knowledge with a game of South Buffalo Irish Trivia, hosted by South Buffalo’s own TE Caulfield!

The Spain Brothers

8:00pm, BIC Pub

Enjoy a performance of traditional and contemporary Irish folk songs by Liam and Mickey Spain.

Traditional Irish Music Session

9:00pm, BIC Pub

Put what you learned in today’s music and dance workshops into practice with a traditional Irish music session, open to all ages and levels.

*Program subject to change. For the most up-to-date schedule of events, please visit www.southbuffaloirishfestival.org.

Artists

About Owen Ó Súilleabháin

Eoin “Owen” Ó Súilleabháin is a singer, composer and storyteller with a deep-rooted belief in the creative power of art. Music, one might say, runs in his blood. Owen’s mother Noírín Ni Riain is a leading sacred singer and theologian, and his father Mícheál is a pioneering national composer and founder of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Along with his brother Mícheál ‘Moley’, Owen writes songs that aspire to “lift and apprentice the human heart to generosity and gratitude”, and has released five albums of both ancient and contemporary music, the latest released by Sounds True, called Fields Of Grace – Celtic Meditation Music from the Heart of Ireland.

About John Dady

Originally from Rochester, NY, John Dady and his brother, Joe Dady, have shared their unique variety of Celtic and American folk music in diverse venues around the country and abroad for more than forty years.

Self-styled singers, multi-instrumentalist musicians and composers, John and Joe possessed a solid command of many folk instruments including, but not limited to guitar, pennywhistle, fiddle,

banjo, octave mandolin, harmonica, uilleann pipes, bodhran and ukulele. Their wide repertoire ranges from Irish Traditional and Irish and American Folk to original and contemporary Folk, Bluegrass, and Acoustic Blues. Always at ease with their audiences, they had a knack for finding humor in the moment and sharing it spontaneously.

In May of 2019, Joe lost his battle with leukemia. John continues to carry on the music, performing solo or with a number of close friends. In 2020, the Dady brothers were inducted into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame.

About John Michael Ryan

Growing up in the busy Irish music community in Rochester, New York, John Michael Ryan cut his teeth as a young teenager playing tin whistle and bodhran in the city’s many traditional jam sessions, absorbing countless tunes from Clareman Martin O’Keefe (fiddle), Kerry’s Jim Finucane (button accordion), and Galawayman Brian Clancy (whistle, sean nos singing)

This devotion to the old tunes and regional styles of playing carried over once John picked up the button accordion at the age of 17. Since then he has shared the stage with such Irish legends as Kevin Burke, Oisin Mac Diarmada and the Scahill and Howley Brothers (of We Banjo 3 fame). He can be found performing with John Dady, as well as sessions all over the region.

Rince na Tiarna Adult Irish Dance Team

Katie Cunningham (TCRG) has been Irish step dancing and teaching adults competitive and non-competitive Irish dance since 1980. Her dancers, including Glenna Rankin, have gone on to win gold at the Mid Atlantic Oireachtas in both solos and team dances as well as countless top placements at the North American Irish Dance Championships. Adult Irish dancers range in age from 18-65 with various levels of experience, some having danced since childhood and others learning to Irish dance for the first time. With a shared love for Irish culture and tradition, Katie and her team of adult Irish dancers joined the Rince na Tiarna School of Irish Dance in 2022. RNT promotes a welcoming, accepting community for dancers of all levels with classes that are composed of both competitive and noncompetitive dancers and offer both solo and ceili (group) dancing. Find out more on Facebook at @RNTIrishDance and @RNTadultirishdance, and online at www.irishdancewny.com.

About Tim Ball & Max Newman

After 20 years performing in Celtic and contra dance bands and a lifetime of playing traditional fiddle music, Tim Ball takes center stage with his upcoming solo release Upstate Crossroads. His playing breathes new life into nearly-forgotten tunes and old favorites from all corners of New York State, drawing repertoire and inspiration from the surrounding Irish-American, New England, Canadian, and Bluegrass traditions. From these deep roots in dance tunes and folk songs, Tim’s music tells stories about hard work, immigration, community, and simple pleasures.

Max Newman will join Tim for the South Buffalo Irish Festival, playing guitar, piano, and mandolin. A member of the nationally-known contra dance band Stringrays, Max’s playing is refreshing, fun, and creative, and has allowed him to collaborate with a great variety of traditional musicians. He’s made several albums with the Stringrays and others, and has also been profiled in Flatpicking Guitar Magazine. When not on the road, Max can often be found at his local contra dance in Concord, Massachusetts.

About Charlie Coughlin

With a brand new expression and expansion of folk music, Charlie Coughlin brings new life to old music and old sounds to new tunes. Born in Buffalo, New York, Charlie grew up playing violin and Irish fiddle from a young age. He now draws inspiration from the folk tales of Irish tradition, Old-time, and modern artists such as Kishi Bashi and Arcade Fire to create new Post-Trad/Indie Folk music.

Charlie Coughlin has played the fiddle/violin for over 10 years. He also sings in the sean nós Irish style and plays various other instruments including guitar, mandolin, button accordion, and whistle. As a solo artist and with groups like The Brothers Blue, Crikwater, and more, he has played venues and festivals including the Town Ballroom, Sportsmans Tavern, Duende at Silo City, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Old Tone festival, An Beal Bocht, Folkfaces Fest, the Buffalo Irish Festival, the South Buffalo Irish Festival, the Hornell Irish Festival, and other great locations and festivals. He has also taught master classes at SUNY Plattsburgh, Honeoye Highschool, the South Buffalo Music school, and more.

About Matt Sperber

Matthew Sperber has been instructing guitar in the Buffalo area since 2005 and is currently on the faculty at The Castellani-Andriaccio Guitar Studios in Snyder, NY where he teaches students of all ages in Suzuki and traditional guitar methods. He attended SUNY University at Buffalo where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music History in 2006 and a Master of Music in Guitar Performance in February 2010. There, he studied under world-renowned guitarist and teacher, Joanne Castellani. Matthew is guitarist and singer in Western New York’s premier Irish group, Crikwater. In addition he is a part of the group, Normal St. Entrance with members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Amy Licata and Brett Shurtliffe. They have performed on multiple occasions with the orchestra and were featured on the PBS special, “Live at the Kate” with Owen and Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin.

About Leah Rankin

Having recently relocated back to her hometown of Buffalo, NY from New York City, Leah Rankin is one of the leading cellists playing traditional Irish music today. Since studying cello performance with Alan Harris at the Eastman School of Music, and with renowned Celtic cellist Natalie Haas, she has played alongside some of the most reputable musicians in the Irish music world and has appeared on close to a dozen albums in a variety of genres. Notable live performances include The Ferryman on Broadway, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Irish Arts Center, The American Irish Historical Society, NYC Irish American Writers & Artists Salon, NYC Tartan Week, BB King Blues Club, Rockwood Music Hall, Fairport Music Festival, Dublin Irish Festival, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and all three stages at Carnegie Hall where she worked for nearly eight years.

About TE Caulfield

Thomas E. Caulfield is a lifelong South Buffalo resident and a charter member of the South Buffalo Irish Festival — formerly South Buffalo Irish Feis. He earned an MA in Irish Studies with a concentration in Political Conflict and a doctorate in Public Administration completing a dissertation in non-violent resistance in nationalist Northern Ireland during the Troubles. After a career working in both corporate America and local government, he keeps occupied working as a volunteer for various non-profit organizations. He is quick to acknowledge the joy of sharing an appreciation of Irish language, music, and culture with his wife, Nancy, his two children, Liam and Lauren, and the community at-large.

About The Spain Brothers

Liam and Mickey Spain are second generation singer / songwriters from the mill town of Manchester, NH. They grew up in a household steeped in folk music and musicians. Their father, Mike Spain, was a well known folk singer performing Irish and American Folk songs throughout the New England area. Mike, not only inspired the boys to perform, but he introduced them to the work of a myriad of artists, and educated them on the folk song tradition and its importance in society. The brothers have recorded with folk icons such as Tom Paxton, Noel Paul Stookey, Roger McGuinn, Dave Mallett and Bill Staines to name a few, and host an annual concert held in Liam and Mickey’s hometown called the NH Folk Extravaganza. Find out more about The Spain Brothers at www.spainbrothers.com.

Photo courtesy South Buffalo Roots

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Inaugural River Rock Run

Are you a fan of Black Rock and Riverside? Do you like to run? If you checked both of those boxes, then you will want to take part in the inaugural River Rock Run – an event that supports the BRRAlliance.

This 5K run will be very unique, in that runners will get to enjoy an incredible vista along the Niagara River. Participants will gather at Riverside Park at 8am, before embarking upon the Shoreline Trail run. It’s a wonder that a run of this nature has never been held before, especially with the magnificent Niagara River as the backdrop.

Inaugural River Rock Run

Saturday, September 24, 2022

8am

Riverside Park (Buffalo, New York) | 1 Hotaling Drive | Buffalo, NY 14207

The BRRAlliance is proud to bring you the first annual River Rock Run, with the help and support of Highmark of Western New York and Feel Rite Fresh Markets. Giveaways for the event will include free t-shirts for all participants and medals to be handed out to race finishers.  All proceeds from the 5K will go to benefit the BRRAlliance and its community mission. For more information on the River Rock Run including how to register for the event, please visit the River Rock Run Eventbrite page.

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Welcome to ZIZO, and the future of Corporate Gamification

ZIZO Technologies – a company that is headquartered in North Buffalo – is in the business of developing a technology platform that turns work into a game. I’m not kidding.

If that sounds too good to be true, then you should meet ZIZO founder, Jimmy Chebat (lead image), who developed the original iteration for his gamification platform in 2010, when he was looking for ways to professionally modernized his accounts receivable business (a call center). He hated the culture that surrounded the industry, and felt that there was an opportunity to take his business to a different level – an elevated level. That’s when he began to ponder the possibilities of creating a gaming atmosphere at the office, where employees would be incentivized to work, and rewarded for their accomplishments.

With a background in technology, Chebat set out to develop the software that, he felt, would revolutionize the workplace. It just so happens that as he was selling his call center, to concentrate on ZIZO, the pandemic hit. According to Chebat, that turned out to be a bit of good fortune for the fledgling company, as people began to work from home. Employers were finding it more difficult to hold their employees accountable, even with ZOOM video conferencing. Chebat realized that ZIZO was the solution to many of their problems.

If you’re not familiar with gamification software, just think of some of your favorite companies – like Starbucks – that offer rewards to their customers. Drink coffee, get rewarded. Or the Apple Watch. Walk a certain number of steps, and get a badge. Or Peloton. Chebat told me that the company took the stationary bike “as a coatrack” and turned it into a billion dollar brand… by rewarding users. Could this same sort of reward system be applied to companies around the world? Yes.

ZIZO, which stands for “Zoom In Zoom Out,” is in the business of adding game mechanics to non-game tasks.

“We have designed a tool that makes work fun,” Chebat explains. “It’s based on recognizing and rewarding employees’ performances, especially now when so many people are working from home. There’s no better time to shift and modernize workforce management. The application gamifies work. Think about the business objective – to bring in revenues, for example. Then identify the indicators that drive the sales… making outbound calls, getting prospects, drawing up proposals, and landing contracts. ZIZO rewards the employees for showing up to work on time, working hours, and making sales. It tracks and logs the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and identifies the rookies and the pros. There are the employees that conduct the minimal work expected, but what does a unicorn look like?”

ZIZO helps employers set up daily challenges for employees to hit their targets, by playing a game. Even the interface is designed to mimic their favorite games (Candy Crush Saga, for example), which means that the software is immediately intuitive. Those who hit their targets are rewarded with the likes of, say, a day off, a gift certificate, or any other company perk that is prized by staff. There might even be a reward of upgrading an avatar, to let everyone know that someone is moving up in the ZIZO world. Employers can also arrange contests and tournaments for individuals or teams. Awards are handed out for tasks that range from fulfilling daily duties to reeling in a big fish. There’s even a rewards store to cash in points! The idea is to make it competitive, fun… and rewarding.

Not only does this gamification process make work more interesting, it also creates an allegiance with the employer, who is able to better engage with employees.

“ZIZO develops a gamification culture at the workplace,” says Chebat. “It’s a highly effective tool. It impacts performance and curbs attrition. This is going to reshape and revolutionize the way we work. Up until recently, gamification was a buzzword. Now it’s the lexicon. It’s the future of incentivizing people to work, no matter where they are working.”

ZIZO is now in growth mode, and is looking for some talented people to join its team. Chebat says that he’s happy to be headquartered in Buffalo, as he grew up on the city’s West Side.

Chebat waves the Buffalo tech flag

“As we shift into our ‘Growth Stage’, we’ve begun to focus on our Mission, Vision and Values and aligning our leadership team to help carry these core components of our organization into all aspects of our business.  As part of this process, we have made some key HR decisions that will help lead our organization into the next chapter.  We recently hired a new Director of Sales, Gabby Hager, who will help develop our sales department and prepare it for growth. In addition, we’ve promoted one of our key employees, Megan Kelly (formerly Megan Baldi), to COO.”

It looks as if ZIZO might be another innovative Buffalo company to watch, and even work at. And if you’re reading this and you’re looking to move to Buffalo, this could be a good opportunity for you to join a team that is redefining what it means to be a team player.

Get connected: playzizo.com

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Chicken Strips: The Trials and Tribulations of Becoming a Garage Band

A feel good film about garage bands, bullies, and first loves

Chances are, we’ve all thought of subject matter for a film, at some point or another. For fledgling film producers Colin Taylor and Louie Visone, it took a pandemic for them to realize their dreams of writing a monumental film script and producing a feature film, which was recently shot in Buffalo.

While Taylor studied writing, directing, and producing, Visone dedicated himself to theater. Together, the two wrote the script for Chicken Strips: The Trials and Tribulations of Becoming a Garage Band, which was loosely based on Taylor’s own high school band (Chicken Strips) that never made it out of his parent’s basement.

The movie is a PG-13 rock-comedy, being a mix between Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Hot Rod.

The self described feel good film touches upon the anguish of being bullied, and whether we ever truly forgive those who have bullied us in the past. It’s also about the dream of being a rock ‘n’ roller, while balancing young love.

In order to pull off the feature film (an hour and a half), Taylor and Visone took full advantage of the pandemic, and the downtime that occurred. That downtime allowed them to write every day, which meant that the script was continually getting bigger and bigger. And since there were not a lot of other films being written, and in production, the duo amassed a significant sized production crew and cast, especially considering that the size of the budget was just under $10,000 (not including post production).

In order to procure the funds, Taylor and Visone launched a crowdfunding campaign that raised around $7500. 90 people ended up donating to the campaign, which was not only significant, it was also a testament to the project.

“When we saw that people were donating, it’s when we first realized that we really had to do this,” said Visone, who was unsure from the start if they could ever pull off the film. “Every time we would get notified that someone had donated, we would get excited, because we would be one step closer. It motivated us, knowing that people believed in the film. We also got a donation from The Cheesy Chick food truck, and ended up putting some of our own money into it too. I had my doubts at the start, but Colin was always determined, and pushed for it. Somehow we manifested pulling it off.”

As for the band in the film – Chicken Strips – it turns out that all of the band members knew how to play their respective instruments, but the actual sounds that are captured on the film are that of a local band by the name of Fluse. The members of Fluse (friends of Taylor and Visone) were given the sound palette to work with, and came back with a fitting soundtrack that was completely distinct from their own style of music.

Along with Taylor and Visone, and the band, came the cast and crew, many of which were wholeheartedly welcomed into the Chicken Strips family as Chicken Strippers. The producers mentioned that for many of these young people, the film was their first shot at being part of a feature film production (and post production). And with the pandemic in full swing, many people donated their time and energies in order to make the film a reality. It is these people – the Chick Strip family – that Taylor and Visone say they owe so much.

Being part of a new extended family is one thing. Being able to chase your dream is another. That was the takeaway from Taylor, who obviously identifies with the lead character of the film, as the part is loosely based on his life.

“People will relate to the characters,” said Taylor. “It’s about chasing dreams, versus facing reality and growing up. The main character doesn’t want to grow up. But growing up doesn’t mean that you have to be miserable.”

The biggest lesson? Feel free to chase your dreams, because that’s the only way you will ever be able to realize them.

“When was the last time a bunch of twenty year olds from Buffalo made a full length feature simply because they wanted to?” asked Visone. “Even without the right resources.”

It turns out that the right resources are reliable friends, who eventually become part of an extended Buffalo family.

SLP Entertainment will be premiering its full-length feature film called Chicken Strips: The Trials and Tribulations of Becoming a Garage Band at the North Park Theatre this September, from the 2nd through the 8th. 

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Big Deal: Clarence New Build Sells for Over $6 million

A new residence in Clarence sold yesterday for $6,530,361.53 yesterday.  The sale shatters the area’s previous record sale of $3 million for a residential property in Hamburg.  The 7,000 sq.ft. home at 5439 Waterlefe Drive in the Spaulding Green subdivision off of Goodrich Road was built by Tesmer Builders.  The buyer is hiding behind the STM 5439 LLC and is registered to a law office in the Brisbane Building.

Meanwhile for one quarter the price, 161 Middlesex Road sold today for $1.425 million (below).  The 5,836 sq.ft. home was built in 1936 and has eight bedrooms and seven baths.  161 Middlesex LLC was the buyer.

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Buffalo Lighthouse Association awarded a Preserve New York Grant

The Buffalo Lighthouse Association has been awarded a $14,000 Preserve New York grant to fund the Historic Structures Report for the fog signal building at the 1903 South Buffalo Light Station. This is welcome news for the preservation team that has been fighting to restore the light station/fog signal building, which will one day be a unique destination for boaters, as the grounds can only be access by water at this point.

To get a better understanding of the site, and its preservation and restoration needs, I took a tour of the Light Station a couple years back (see here). The funding for this new study will, in essence, create a roadmap that will make it easier to understand the preservation process moving forward.

“We are excited about this opportunity to turn our attention from the South Buffalo Lighthouse itself to the even more historic fog signal building on the breakwater light station,” said Buffalo Lighthouse Association president Mike Vogel. “We are nearing completion of efforts to restore the exterior of the lighthouse, and this study will be the basis for the next major stage of our million-dollar preservation project.”

The historic breakwater light station is located at the south entrance to Buffalo Harbor, where it once helped to guide ships to the ore docks at the former Bethlehem Steel plant. Eventually, modern navigation technology, including an automated light (1962) at the once-manned station, signaled that times were a changin’. Unfortunately, without someone tending the station, Mother Nature had her way with the structure. The good news is that the bones of the structure are still intact, as are a number of the coveted aesthetic and mechanical features.

Since stepping up to safeguard the station a decade ago, the Association has managed to raise over $650,000, with support from the Buffalo and Erie County Standing Committee of the Niagara River Greenway, and from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Legacy Funds. That funding has been directed towards restoring the tower, which is almost complete.

Now, it’s the fog signal building that is the task at hand. According to the Association, “The building once served as the U.S. Lighthouse Service’s fog signal testing station for the Great Lakes as well as the support building for a Marconi tower that was the Great Lakes region’s first radio station.”

Along with other repairs, the compromised roof of the fog signal building must be addressed, as it supports 11-foot reflectors and trumpets.

The Historic Structures Report, being conducted by Clinton Brown Company Architecture, PC, will hopefully open some additional funding doors, including New York State and Federal Historic Tax Credits. The report will also help with ongoing station work by the nation’s leading lighthouse engineering firm, locally based ICC Commonwealth.

This latest funding development is thanks to The Preservation League of NYS and their program partners at the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

To keep up with the progress of the South Buffalo Lighthouse and Fog Signal Building, be sure to tune into this Facebook page.

The Preserve New York program is a regrant partnership between the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the Preservation League, made possible with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

Get connected at preservenys.org, facebook.com/preservenys, twitter.com/preservenys, and instagram.com/preservenys, and youtube.com/c/PreservationLeague.

BUFFALO LIGHTHOUSE ASSOCIATION, INC.

P.O. Box 206, Buffalo NY 14240 / buffalolightshines@gmail.com

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Catch the Polka Buzz at Batavia Downs

Mark your calendars for THURSDAY, AUGUST 25 and catch the “Polka Buzz” at Batavia Downs. Enjoy this fun night of dancing to live music from “The Buffalo Touch”! WBBZ will be LIVE recording 4 tapings this evening, so give your best performance! Must be 21+ to attend.

Tickets are $10 & include $10 Free Play.

A $69 hotel/Free Play deal is also available to ticket holders! An amazing deal with $40 worth of Free Play, a hotel room, and two show tickets that include $10 of Free Play each. This means your total cost is only $9!

In order to book this amazing deal visit www.bataviadownsgaming.com, click “BOOK NOW” on the home page, enter rate access/corporate code: POLKA

Doors open at 6pm and the show begins at 7pm.

Front desk: 585-815-7000

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