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Daniel Crofts's blog

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 8:46 am

'The Vac Shop' owner passionate about vacuum cleaners

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, business, The Vac Shop

Bob Youll's business sucks -- in a good way.

A lifelong Batavia resident, Youll has been running "The Vac Shop," at 329 Ellicott St. in the city, since 1991. He attributes the longevity of his business to perseverance, word of mouth and steady business.

"Off the top of my head, I'd say I get between 30 and 50 regular customers," Youll said. "Though it does fluctuate from year to year due to people moving, changing jobs, etc."

Youll will take care of anything from major motor repairs to changing belts and cleaning out clogging.

From time to time, he will repair other household items -- such as blenders, lamps and heaters -- as well. He also sells used and rebuilt vacuums, as well as the occasional new vacuum.

Formerly employed by a Batavia catalog store (now closed), Youll got his vacuum repair training from The Vac Shop's former owner, Joe DeFazio.

"Joe taught me about basic vacuums," he said. "At that time, most of it was self-taught. You would get a machine, take it apart, and see where everything was. Now the Internet also helps in locating parts and the like."

Basically, Youll approaches his work not only with a view to the customer's immediate need, but also with the average consumer's perspective on vacuuming in mind.

"Vacuuming is usually an afterthought," he said. "People want to get it done, and quickly. (When working on repairs) I try to set the machine up for that use."

He also knows the extra details that are better to take care of right away -- such as putting a new belt on the machine -- so that the equipment will not need to be sent back at a later date.

Store hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. For more information, call 343-7754.

Photos by Howard Owens.

Friday, July 11, 2014 at 9:10 am

Batavia pastor speaks at candlelight vigil for Batavia woman

post by Daniel Crofts in candlelight vigil, domestic violence, YWCA

City residents gathered at the front lawn of the YWCA Thursday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of Nicole Sheehan. Sheehan, a former Batavia resident, was murdered by her boyfriend in Chautaqua County in June. She was 29 years old.

Roula Alkhouri, pastor of Batavia's First Presbyterian Church, called Sheehan's murder a "senseless loss" in her address to the crowd.

She noted that domestic violence is "ancient," and cited victims mentioned in the Bible -- including Dinah, the daughter of the patriarch Jacob, and Tamar, the daughter of King David.

Additionally, she called attention to the need for more awareness of domestic violence in our own times by sharing some startling statistics. According to Alkhouri, research shows that one in every four women will become the victims of domestic violence.

"How many relationships begin as stories of love," she said, "and then become stories of fear."

But she also had some words of hope -- and a call to action.

"Yes, there is ugliness and cruelty in the world," she said. "But the goodness and love in the community often outweighs this."

As the candles began to die out, Alkhouri encouraged everyone to "keep the candles lit in (their) minds, because bad things can only hide in the darkness."

"It's in changing who we are as a community that we'll make a difference in the world," she said.

As an example of the "light" she was talking about, she mentioned the YWCA. She expressed gratitude that Genesee County has a "safe place" where victims of domestic violence can come to hear that they are cared for, that it's not their fault, and that there is hope.

In addition to Alkhouri's address, the night included some brief comments by YWCA Executive Director Jeanne Walton and Domestic Violence Crisis and Prevention Services Director Cindy Earl, as well as some music and light refreshments.

For more information on the YWCA and its services to victims of domestic violence, call 343-7513 or visit their Web site.

Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 9:44 am

Spaghetti dinner and raffle set to help Batavia man, father of four

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Ascension Parish, cancer benefit

Adam Figlow is a single father of four and a maintenance man at Ascension Parish in Batavia. Fellow parishioner and parish volunteer Sue Hartrick describes him as very humble, quiet, and "an extremely hard worker."

"You can ask him to do anything and say it doesn't have to be done right away," Hartrick said, "and then you turn around and it's done in a half hour."

But he has fallen on hard luck. In December, Figlow was diagnosed with a rare form of soft tissue cancer called spindle cell sarcoma.

Figlow said he first knew something was wrong one day in late summer, when he noticed a strange growth on his left arm.

"It never hurt or anything," he said. "It was just cosmetically annoying."

Since being diagnosed, he has undergone two surgeries and radiation therapy. His aunt and uncle, Kathy and Nick La Farnara, drove him to all of his appointments and stood by him through the surgeries, for which he expressed deep gratitude.

Figlow is set to return to work next month, but will have been out on disability for six months at that point. New York State disability payments have not been enough to keep up with Figlow's hospital bills and everyday living expenses.

That is why Ascension Parish will be hosting a spaghetti dinner, theme basket and 50/50 raffle on Saturday, May 31 from 5 until 7 p.m., with theme basket and raffle drawings starting at 7 p.m. The event will be at the parish's Slomba Hall, at 17 Sumner St. in Batavia.

Each meal will include spaghetti, meatball/sausage, salad, bread, dessert and a beverage.

Presale dinner tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children, or $8 at the door. Takeout will be available.

Hartrick, who has spearheaded the event from day one, has been overwhelmed by the generous response.

"I thought it would be fabulous if we could get 30 baskets (for the basket raffle)," Hartrick said. "As of now, we have 79 baskets and 33 gift cards."

A variety of theme baskets -- including dog and cat, camping, gardening, children's toy and lottery baskets -- have been donated by individuals and businesses in and around the Batavia area.

"We've gotten more generosity than I could ever imagine," Hartrick said. "I was hoping the parish would rally around Adam in his time of need. They have not rallied...they have soared."

"The heart of Batavia and the parish community is unbelievable," Figlow said. "I can't thank them enough...I'm just so appreciative of everybody."

Basket ticket costs are as follows:

  • 25 tickets for $5 for the less expensive baskets
  • 25 tickets for $10 for the more expensive ($25 or more in value)

Additionally, someone donated a handmade quilt depicting an outdoor scene. It has a value of about $200, and will be the object of a 50/50 raffle. People can buy tickets $2 apiece or three tickets for $5.

For more information, call Hartrick at 786-8198.

Figlow is pictured with his sons, Joe (13) and Noah (5). His daughter Ashanti and son Nicholas were unavailable for a photo.

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Genesee, Monroe County dancers to perform at nationally televised event

post by Daniel Crofts in dance, fundraisers, Suzanne's School of Dance

On New Year's Day, 26 lucky young ladies will ring in the new year in the Outback -- that is, in the stadium at the Outback Bowl half-time show in Tampa, Florida.

All 26 girls, ages 8 to 18, are students at Suzanne's School of Dance at 33 Center St. in Batavia. Most are from Genesee County, though there are a couple from Monroe County as well.

Sponsored by Outback Steakhouse and always held on January 1, the Outback Bowl is an annual, nationally broadcast college football game featuring teams from the Southeastern and Big Ten Conferences. The 26 dancers from Suzanne's will be representing Genesee County and Western New York in a performance featuring around 500 youth from all over the United States.

If this is an exciting opportunity, it is also going to be a test of skill and focus. The girls will spend a week in Tampa leading up to the big game, and their schedule will be packed with daily rehearsals to coordinate their choreography with the other 500 dancers.

Each participant faces a cost of about $1,300 for room and board, so the group is asking individuals and businesses in Genesee County to help offset the expense. Various fundraisers will take place over the next several months, and private donations are welcome as well.

According to Jennifer Vislay, the mother of one of the participants, the girls were selected as a result of an audition video that they wanted to do as a group rather than individually.

"They do everything as a team," Vislay said. "The older girls help the younger girls...it's just a very team-oriented project."

The first fundraiser will be a chicken barbeque this Sunday. It it set to start at 11 a.m. in the parking lot across the street from the studio, and will continue until sold out. A bake sale, basket raffle and 50/50 raffle will be included.

For more information, call Vislay at 737-5314.

The 26 dancers are, in alphabetical order by first name, Alexis Vasciannie, Allison Kropf, Alynn Franclemont, Amber Fitzsimmons, Ashley Johnson, Ashlyn Puccio, Aubrey Puccio, Cianna Kusmierski, Elizabeth Barcomb, Ella Bridges, Emilee Schroeder, Emily Thompson, Emily Verdaasdonk, Emma Richardson, Gyna Gibson, Haley Sweet, Kali Markek, Katie Raziano, Kendall Senko, Lily Senko, Maddie Phillips, Megan Currier, Micheala Misiti, Mikey Lullo, Mollie Heale, Rylei Odessa and Sarah Whitehead.

Photo taken by Jennifer Vislay

Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 9:26 am

Bone marrow drive for Pavilion firefighter to be held Tuesday

post by Daniel Crofts in charity, firefighters, Pavilion

Bill Kegler, left, spent 22 years in the military and has been fighting fires since he was 18. Now he is fighting a different enemy, and hoping his winning hand gets dealt next week.

Kegler is a Pavilion resident and six-year member of the Community Fire Company; he is pictured above with Vice President Nick Wright. He is battling myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a disease that causes poorly formed or dysfunctional blood cells.

"I found out that there was something going on with my blood through the (Batavia) VA back in 2011," Kegler said. "They told me to see a hematologist (blood doctor), who diagnosed what I had through a bone marrow biopsy."

He has since been receiving treatment -- first from the Batavia hematologist who diagnosed him, and now at the Wilmot Cancer Center at Rochester's Strong Memorial Hospital. In addition to chemotherapy, his treatment includes experimental drugs that are part of a national clinical test.

"I get chemo treatments every month," Kegler said. "It lasts for seven days straight, and then I'm off for 21 days. Then it starts all over, and that will go on forever until they find a bone marrow match."

To that end, at the instigation of Secretary Kathy Wright, the Community Fire Company is hosting a bone marrow drive for Kegler from 5 until 9 p.m. on Tuesday. It will be at the Pavilion Fire Department Hall at 11302 Lake St. in Pavilion.

Anyone age 18 to 44 and in good health is encouraged to participate. There is no cost, and it only requires a few moments of people's time and a mouth swab.

"I would be very grateful to anyone who comes out," Kegler said.

Until then, he stays in high spirits.

"I think the biggest thing is all the support and prayers I'm getting from everybody I know," he said.  "And people I haven't even met are coming up to me and saying they have me on their prayer lists. My own spirituality is also going a long way in keeping me on an even keel."

Originally from Alden, Kegler has resided in Genesee County for more than 40 years. He and his wife raised their six children in Batavia, sending their two oldest to Notre Dame High School and the younger children to the Batavia City School District. Kegler has also lived in Oakfield and served as a member of the Oakfield Fire Department.

For more information, call Nick Wright at 813-1288.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 9:00 am

BHS students and faculty show off talents in annual show

post by Daniel Crofts in Batavia HS, education, entertainment, music, schools, Talent Show

This is Batavia High School student Ross Chua busting out with his beatboxing talent at the 2014 "Batavia High School Talent Show" last night, which aimed to raise funds for Thomas Ackley, a former student of the Batavia City School District who is fighting cancer (see April 7 article).

Masters of Ceremony Amanda Schelemanow (member, BHS chapter of the Tri-M Music Honor Society) and Spencer Hubbard (Mr. Batavia 2013) introduced 16 entertaining performances by students and faculty. Here they are (all performances are vocal unless otherwise specified):

Tim Martin and Lauren Dunn, piano/vocal performance of "Little Talks"

Steven O'Brien doing yo-yo tricks (which the event's faculty supervisor, BHS chorus teacher Dan Grillo, called the best he has ever seen in person).

Darneisha Thomas, "Bound to You"

Mason Russ, "Boss of Me" (theme from the TV show "Malcolm in the Middle")

Nephy Williams, "Beautiful"

Kesa Janes, "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" (from "The Phantom of the Opera")

Justin Baiocco, "My My, Hey Hey" (from the Neil Young album Out of the Blue). Baiocco's talent consisted not only of the vocal performance, but also his ability to play the guitar and the harmonica at the same time.

Laura Guiste, "Hallelujah"

Marissa Carbonell, "Oh! Darlin' "

Andrea Gilebarto, "Nightingale" (vocals and piano)

Hannah Bluhm, "If I Die Young"

Dan Grillo, "Good Bye Yellow Brick Road" (piano and vocals)

Rachel Flint and Ashley Williams, "There You'll Be"

McKenna Dziemian, "Set Me Free" (sung in both English and Korean)

And finally, there was the "Faculty Dixieland Band" playing "Down By the Riverside" and "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue"

Dan Grillo (drums), Stuart McLean (bass)...

Sean Krauss (clarinet), Brandon Ricci (trumpet) and Jane Haggett (piano)

Monday, April 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm

'BHS Talent Show' aims to help ailing child

post by Daniel Crofts in Batavia High School, music, pediatric cancer

Thomas Ackley, pictured right, was one of the younger students in Debra Wolff’s kindergarten class at Jackson Primary School last year. He was a little bit smaller than most of the other kids, and it took him a bit longer to catch onto the lessons. But his determination left a deep impression on his teacher.

“Once you showed him how to do something,” Wolff said, “then he wanted to do it all on his own. It was an absolute joy to see his spirit.”

So much of a joy, in fact, that Wolff presented Thomas with an award for his determination at the end of the year – even though he and his family had moved to Akron in March.

Something else happened toward the end of the school year as well. In late May, Thomas was diagnosed with cancer.

Thomas has Stage 4 neuroblastoma. He is now in remission, but has about six months of treatment ahead of him to make sure the cancer does not return. Emotionally and financially, he and his family continue to struggle.

That is why Batavia High School students, under the supervision of chorus teacher Dan Grillo, are giving all the proceeds from their upcoming Talent Show to the Ackley family.

The Talent Show, which features performances from both students and faculty, will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Batavia High School auditorium. The school is located at 260 State St. in the City of Batavia.

This annual event is run by students from the BHS chapter of the Tri-M Music Honor Society. 

“They’re the ones who run everything behind the scenes,” Grillo said.

According to Grillo, they run it like a musical – complete with a stage crew, a tech and lighting person, escorts for the performers, etc.

Each year, the Tri-M students aim to raise funds for a different charity or cause.

Grillo’s son, Sam (pictured with Thomas above), was good friends with Thomas. Knowing about the Ackley family’s situation, Grillo suggested them to his students as this year’s beneficiaries.

“They (the students) liked the idea,” Grillo said.

Most of the performances will be musical/vocal in nature; but there are a few surprises as well, including someone who plays the guitar and harmonica at the same time and a young man who does what Grillo calls “some pretty amazing yo-yo tricks.”

“I’ve never seen anything in front of my eyes (with yo-yos) as good as this young man is,” he said.

At the end of the night, everyone involved hopes to have raised enough funds to give Thomas some much needed help in his ordeal.

“He is a fighter,” Wolff said. “And he does it with a smile – it’s incredible to me.”

The show is open to the public. A donation of at least $3 is requested from each attendee. For more information, call the high school at 343-2480, ext. 2000.

Photo submitted by Dan Grillo

Monday, March 10, 2014 at 6:03 am

Former news anchor debuts first children's novel

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Lisa Scott, Local Authors

Pictured Lisa Ann Scott with her children, Jack (13) and Riley (10)

It all started with a conversation with a 5-year-old.

Lisa Ann Scott, of Batavia, had just lost her job as a news anchor for Channel 4. Understandably, she was very upset.

With a determined look on her face, Scott's daughter, Riley, came into her bedroom to talk to her.  The conversation went something like this:

"Mom," she softly said, "you need to stop being so upset. This is just a job."

"Yes, but it was a job I really loved," Scott said.  "I kind of feel like I was in a party bus, and they kicked me off without food, water or a map."

"I'll be your map."

"All right, 'map,' what do we do?"

"Go chase the bus."

"Honey, they don't want me on the bus."

Riley had to think about that one for a minute, but then she shrugged and said:

"Wait for the next bus."

Then she patted her mom on the head and said:

"Put that in your imagination and dream about it tonight."

Today, Scott describes these as "just the right words at the right time."

"She made realize, 'Of course this is not the end of my life. Something else that's great is going to come along.' "

That "something else great" turned out to be writing fiction. HarperCollins recently published Scott's "School of Charm," a novel for middle-grade readers.

"School of Charm" follows Brenda "Chip" Anderson, an 11-year-old girl who has recently lost her father, as she adjusts to a new life in Mt. Airy, N.C., after relocating from Upstate New York with her mother and two sisters. As an outdoorsy, nature-loving, tomboy explorer "in a family full of beauty queens" (quoted from the book's front flap), she is struggling to find a sense of belonging. 

Her fortune changes when she stumbles across Miss Vernie's "School of Charm," an unconventional beauty school, in the middle of the woods.

Scott answered questions about the book at her home:

Tell us about your protagonist, Chip.

She's an 11-year-old girl, and she's always been daddy's girl. She and her father always went on adventures together and played in the woods, whereas her two sisters are more girly-girl types who hang out with their mother. 

Chip is definitely the odd one out; she's not certain how she fits into the family. In fact, she trains in secret to enter a beauty pageant because her family is so convinced that she's not a pageant girl.  That's why she goes to this unusual school she finds. And the lessons she learns aren't quite what she thought they were going to be.

Can you talk a bit about the book's setting?

I picked Mt. Airy because it's where the Andy Griffith Show was filmed, and it's supposed to be the best little town in America. Chip is super unhappy about being there, because she doesn't want to move. So it's sort of ironic that she's moving to the "best little town in America." Plus I have a writer friend who lives there. After reading some of her work set in that area, I fell in love with it vicariously. I just loved her description of the area.

I also wanted Chip to have to face a big change, you know, a totally different setting, where they have Southern accents...something very different and unsettling from where she had lived.

Tell us about your first inspiration for the story.

I woke up from a very vivid dream of this elderly woman, with a knowing look on her face, in this woodland setting where she was holding class with these girls. I think that if you're a writer, when something intrigues you, you can't stop thinking about it -- what it means, what these people are doing there, etc. And so I just kept thinking about it and thinking about it, and it grew into "School of Charm."

Nature and the outdoors play a huge role in Chip's life -- how realistic do you think that will seem in a time in which children do not play outside as much?

That's why I chose to set "School of Charm" in the 1970s. I did a lot of exploring when I was a kid.  I grew up in Marilla, NY, which is in Erie County, and I was in the woods a lot of the time. When I imagined this girl out exploring and finding this school, I just couldn't conceive of it...kids really don't play outside too much, and they certainly don't get to disappear for the whole day like we did when we were kids. So I knew I needed to set this story in a different time and place. And I picked 1977 because there are a lot of unique things about that year...one of them is that Chip is expecting something magical to happen on July 7, or "7/7/77."

But the outdoors are really big in Chip's life. She looks for signs in nature -- she's looking for a "sign" from her father that everything is going to be all right. Plus a lot of the School of Charm's lessons are held outside in the woods.

Your first children’s story was turned down. What did you learn from that experience?

I only sent that one out a little bit. It didn't get any interest. When I took another look at it, I knew it had a lot of plot problems that I just wasn't sure how to fix. The next shiny idea is always more interesting than trying to fix what you've written that isn't working.

I've been to a lot of writer's conferences and groups, and I've read a lot of books, so with time I've understood more about plot, how a character needs to change over the course of the story, and how the story really needs to be propelled by the characters' choices rather than by the things happening to them.

Did you borrow either from yourself or from anyone you have known for the character of Chip?

I guess there's a little bit of me in her. I used to catch turtles all the time and run around in the woods. 

When I'm writing a book, I go on really long walks. I think about the story and who the characters are, and they slowly reveal themselves. As a writer, you start to understand why your characters are a certain way and what they want. 

What are you hoping readers will carry away from this story?

I would hope that after reading this and seeing Chip's strength, they will think, "Do I have this strength too?" Also, throughout the book I've tried to leave little wisps of magic to sort of make you look at the world differently, (to see that) magic is all around us if you're looking for it. I like to think that it's a book filled with hope and heart, and I just hope that when somebody closes the cover on the book their heart will feel full and happy.

Scott plans to hold book signings and appearances, but the details of those are still being worked out. People can keep up to date on this by visiting Scott's Web site, www.lisaannscott.com.

"School of Charm" is Scott's first children's book. She is the author of a self-published romance novel and a number of romantic short stories for different magazines. She also works as a voice actor.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 11:34 am

Free concert brings spirit of the holidays to Genesee County

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Christmas, concerts, first presbyterian church

Batavia's First Presbyterian Church will be alive with rousing holiday spirit when "Christmas with Vox, a Festival of Carols" comes around on Friday, Dec. 20.

"Vox Lumine," a professional chorus group made up of 25 members from all over Western and Central New York, is performing for the public free of charge at the church, at 300 E. Main St. in Batavia.

Ann Emmans, minister of music at First Presbyterian, says this is going to be "the church's gift to the community."

"We had ('Vox Lumine') at the church for a concert in May," Emmans said, "and it was delightful.  We thought, 'What would be more wonderful than to have them back for Christmas?' "

Costs are being covered by the church's memorial donation funds from the last few years.

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and will probably run about an hour and a half, according to "Vox Lumine" first tenor Mark Ross.

A reception with Christmas cookies and punch will follow in the church's fellowship area.

The performance will feature 17 Christmas songs, including classics such as "Carol of the Bells" and "Joy to the World" and lesser know works, as well as pieces with different ethnic backgrounds (including Polish and Italian).

Emmans stressed that the music is "non-commercial" and has a "sacred character."

"It's more about the joy of the season," she said.

"(The Christmas season) is a time when people appreciate music even more than they normally do," Ross said, "because it's associated with the events of the holiday."

"Vox Lumine" was formed in March 2010 by founder and director Brandon Johnson, D.M.A, director of choral activities at Houghton College.

Ross, of Batavia, said they have done concerts as far east as Ithaca and as far west as Orchard Park.

Because members live in scattered locations (the member living at the farthest distance from Batavia is from Syracuse), Johnson sends the music to each of them individually. They will come together in two rehearsals between now and Dec. 20 to "meld" (in Emmans' words) what they have learned together. So each will quite literally bring his/her own voice to the performance.

A Houghton graduate, a member of First Presbyterian Church for 41 years and currently commissioned lay pastor at Stone Church Presbyterian in Bergen, Ross is very happy to be a part of the upcoming performance. It coincides with his retirement from New York Central Mutual Insurance, where he worked for 27 years as an insurance adjustor.

"It's a wonderful combination," he said with a smile on his face.

For more information, call the church at 343-0505 or e-mail Emmans at [email protected].

Pictured Emmans and Ross at the First Presbyterian Church sanctuary.

Top photo submitted by Mark Ross.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Batavia man and library present 'Batavia Community Chess Club'

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, chess, Richmond Memorial Libary

Batavia resident and avid chess player Kevin Larsen has had some free time on his hands lately, so he decided to start a chess club in Batavia.

This comes just as the game of chess seems to be making a comeback. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the game lags in popularity in spite of a record number of players worldwide -- possibly due to the absence of an appealing personality to represent it.

A promising candidate is 22-year-old Norwegian player Magnus Carlsen, who is the top-ranked chess player worldwide. Larsen has not followed Carlsen too closely, but he agrees that an appealing personality as the "face of chess" might, in part, be what the game needs.

"If people see someone young and cool playing chess," he said, "they might be more interested."

Furnished with United States Chess Federation regulation boards, clocks, and scorebooks, the "Batavia Community Chess Club" is for novices and chess buffs alike. 

"As long as people have fun with it, it's fine with me," Larsen said. "But I do hope to get people who are interested in coming every week and want to get better at chess by studying and competing."

He would like people to use clocks so that competitors have equal playing time, as well as scorebooks so they can keep track of their progress in the game and discover what they need to work on.

So far, 13 people have said they will come to the first meeting this Thursday from 6 until 8:30 p.m. at the Richmond Memorial Library, at 19 Ross St. in Batavia.

Club meetings will take place every Thursday during that time frame. All ages are welcome, but young children should be accompanied by their parents.

Larsen said it will be easier if everyone who is interested comes at the same time, since otherwise people might have to wait 30 minutes to an hour for someone to play against. But people are welcome to walk in at any time between 6 and 8:30.

Because "Batavia Community Chess Club" is being run with the support of the library, it is open to the public at no cost. However, Larsen said he will accept any donations to pay for equipment upgrades, clocks, and funding for the NIOGA Library System so they can purchase more chess-related books.

Chess has been touted as a tool for helping people to sharpen their concentration, build patience and perseverance, develop critical and analytical thinking, and improve planning and management skills.

Larsen rejects the stereotype that you have to have a high IQ in order to do well at chess.

"It helps," he said, "but if you have a good teacher and are willing to study, you'll do fine. I've read scientific literature about people who had below-average IQs but were high-ranking chess players."

Right now, Larsen has only a couple of volunteers helping with the club. When he gets more, he would like to have people available to teach the game.

For more information and to contact Larsen, visit www.bataviachess.org.

Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Vegas-style casino event honors Reis family, provides BBHS scholarships

What if you could enjoy Vegas-style casino games without having to leave Genesee County, for only a small fraction of the cost, without risking any money, and all for a great cause?

Friends and relatives of the Reis family, who lost their lives in a tragic fire at their home in Byron in 2008, invite you to "Reis Family Memorial Casino Night" on Saturday, Nov. 9.

The event will be held at Polish Falcons, at 123 Swan St. in Batavia. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the casino will be open from 7 until 9:30 p.m. Drinks and hors d'oevres will be included.

Games such as blackjack, craps, and Texas hold 'em will be played. If you don't know how to play, the dealers will teach you.

Players will be "cashing in" for Chinese auction tickets instead of money. The Chinese auction will take place at the end of the night and include baskets donated mostly by local restaurants -- although there are some surprises as well, such as a flight for two around Letchworth State Park.

"That's one of our high-roller gifts," event organizer Brendan Lougheed said. "We're hoping for others as well."

Lougheed said there are about 60 tickets left. People can buy them at the door, but are encouraged to pre-order.

Tickets are $65 each. While this seems like a lot, Lougheed puts the cost in perspective.

"You can learn and play new games that would cost a lot more at a casino," he said. "You get to enjoy all you would enjoy in Vegas for less money and without having to worry about losing your money."

Proceeds will be used to fund the scholarship created by the Reis kids' grandparents in honor of the family. It is awarded each year to multiple Byron-Bergen High School students who plan on attending two- or four-year colleges, are involved in the community, and are in need of financial assistance.

Unfortunately, the funds for the scholarship have diminished. That's where "Reis Family Memorial Casino Night" comes in.

Lougheed was a classmate of Emily Reis, one of the children. Through her and her younger brother, he became close with the family.

"They were wonderful people all around," he said. "They worked very hard (since they were raised by a single mother). And their grandparents are the sweetest people in the world."

To pre-order tickets or request more information, contact Lougheed at 721-8955 or e-mail [email protected].

Photo courtesy of Brendan Lougheed.

Friday, October 25, 2013 at 7:14 pm

GCASA program presents theater performance of 'Pass It On'

post by Daniel Crofts in announcements, GCASA, GCC, theater

Press release:

In celebration of Red Ribbon Week, Genesee County Drug Free Communities Coalition, a program of GCASA, presents the North American tour of the new hit stage play “Pass It On…An Evening with Bill W. & Dr. Bob.”  The production is a dramatization of the early history of Alcoholics Anonymous, delivered with a message of hope, help and the miracle of recovery.

This highly acclaimed two-man show comes to Batavia for a one-time engagement on Tuesday, October 29th at 6:30pm, at the Stuart Steiner Theatre at Genesee Community College.

This unique, inspirational and often hilarious theatrical production celebrates sobriety and serves as the centerpiece for an international recovery education project, raising awareness about the solution to North America’s number one public health issue – the disease of alcoholism and addiction.

“Pass It On…An Evening with Bill W. & Dr. Bob” has created excitement among audiences and recovery communities.  The show travels across the United States and Canada, appearing in such cities as Phoenix, Sacramento, Tucson, San Antonio, Delray, Ottawa, Little Rock and now Batavia.  Audiences experience an unforgettable evening of inspirational entertainment that aims to enhance recovery, inspire hearts and reach people who cannot be reached in any other way.

The show transports audiences to the late 1940s to meet Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the beloved cofounders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  They tell their stories, share their experiences, strength and hope, and dramatize key events – such as their legendary drinking sprees and the extraordinary night they met in Akron, Ohio in 1935.

Audiences will be regaled with fascinating and hilarious yarns about the early history of AA – including the writing and publication of "The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous," the creation of the "12 Steps," and how the protagonists overcame tremendous obstacles as they struggled to develop their new recovery program and pass it on to others.

Reservations are suggested; call Diane at 815-1883 or e-mail [email protected]  A $5.00 donation is recommended.

Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Counselor helps facilitate recovery through art

post by Daniel Crofts in art, GCASA, recovery

Lynette Gawron, clinical supervisor and licensed creative arts therapist at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse (GCASA), proudly presented clients' artwork at the "Fall Recovery Art Show" on Saturday.

Organized in groups of eight people or less, art therapy sessions focus less on the finished product and more on the creative process. For this reason, Gawron likes to meet with people individually before they start. She says people sometimes come into it with the misconception that it is "arts and crafts" or training in how to be a better artist.

In reality, the process is quite different.

"It's about getting in touch with your true self," Gawron said, adding that the "true self" tends to be suppressed by addiction.

Gawron said art therapy helps to bring the unaddressed problems and issues that fuel or are suppressed by addiction to light.

"The emotional bubbling-up can be overwhelming," Gawron said. "(Art therapy) can be a way to channel that."

Samples:

The artist made this to show how her faith in God is helping her to "pick up the pieces" of her life and move forward.

Another made and showcased three masks:

One representing lovableness and happiness, but with memories of his/her deceased father, uncles and grandmother on the inside...

...another with various colors symbolizing the artist's hopes, fears and mistakes throughout the years...

...and a third depicting a calm exterior with "chaotic" emotions inside that come out "a little at a time."

This poster reflects the unidentified artist's anger at what addiction has done to his/her life.

Here is the bottom half:

Here is the artist's own description of this work: "This is about Light on the face and a path like the 'yellow brick road.' I look through the windows on my path at new things as I make choices in my life."

The artist who made this was present at the event. She said this represents, at the same time, the oppression of her addiction and the freedom (symbolized by the butterfly) of her recovery.

Other projects in which the clients are involved include:

1. Altered books...

...such as this one containing tiny drawers, pockets, pictures and other items. Gawron described it as a kind of journaling. Each page might have a separate theme relevant to the artist.

2. Writing about all the negativity in one's life, painting over the writing and overlaying it with positive words and/or imagery.

For more information, call Gawron at 815-1850 or e-mail [email protected].

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Cain's Taekwondo Academy to host tournament in Batavia

Cain's Taekwondo Academy is proud to introduce "Refuse 2 Lose Martial Arts Classic," a tournament for competitors age 4 and up from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Canada and elsewhere.

Event organizer Nick Cain said competitors include black belts as well as novices, all equipped with martial arts training plus an average of six months of practice for the tournament.

The competition is set for Saturday, Nov. 23 and Sunday, Nov. 24 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. It will take place at the St. Joseph School gym, at 2 Summit St. in Batavia, and is open to the public.  Anyone who knows martial arts is welcome to take part in it.

Cost of admission is $10 for children and $12 for adults.

Cain, of Batavia, said this is his first time running a tournament in Batavia, though his parents have done it before.

"It's a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization I'm starting," he said. "(The nonprofit) is a martial arts team that will travel around to teach."

At age 21, Cain himself has a great store of knowledge to draw from. The son of taekwondo parents (his father, Ron, founded Cain's Taekwondo Academy in 2001), he has been taking taekwondo since he was 4 years old.

For more information, call 344-4414 or 245-1443.

Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 4:23 pm

VFW Ladies Auxiliary to host D.C. trip in honor of fallen veterans

post by Daniel Crofts in road trip, veterans, VFW Post 1602

VFW Ladies Auxiliary District Treasurer Marge Buckley and Post 1602 President Maura Dibble are proud to introduce their first trip to Washington, D.C., for "Wreaths Across America." It will be the local debut of a national event honoring our nation's fallen veterans.

Open to men, women and children of all ages, the trip is being coordinated by "1st Choice Educational Tours." People from outside of Genesee County are also invited to participate.

The bus will depart from VFW Post 1602, at 25 Edwards St. in Batavia, at 6:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 13, and is estimated to arrive back in Batavia around 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15. Additional pick-up locations may be added for groups of eight or more.

"Wreaths Across America" is a ceremony in which wreaths are placed on the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery as well as other cemeteries throughout the country.  Travellers on this trip will get to be a part of the ceremony in Arlington at 8 a.m. on Dec. 14.

Dibble said it gives her "goosebumps" to see many of the wreaths on these graves, especially since some of them belong to unknown soldiers whose families and friends have passed on.

Buckley assures participants that they "will not be riding a school bus." Round trip transportation will be provided on a 56-passenger deluxe motor coach with a built-in restroom.

Price of admission also includes:

  • a two-night stay at the Courtyard Marriott Pentagon South
  • two breakfasts
  • two dinners
  • a lunch voucher at the Ronald Reagan Food Court
  • a Night Illuminated Monument Tour in Washington, D.C.
  • time to explore the Smithsonian Museum
  • a 90-minute tram tour of Arlington Cemetery
  • a two-hour guided tour of the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pa.

Cost is $399 based on double occupancy, $359 on triple occupancy, $339 on quad occupancy and $525 on single occupancy.

There are 15 seats still available. For more information, call Buckley at 344-1663 by the middle of this week.

Friday, September 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Photos: 'Umtoo' grand opening

Today was opening day for "Umtoo," a new outreach of Batavia's First United Methodist Church (see Wednesday's article, "'Umtoo' to serve city residents in need," for more info).

According to volunteer Sandy Kramer, they had a total of 34 visitors between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. -- 21 were church members and the people they invited, and 13 were non-members.

Here are some pictures from the event, including some "sneak peaks" at free stuff and what Umtoo will have to offer:

Will and Julio (musical entertainment)

Volunteers Doug Niebch, Dorothy Taylor and Kramer

Some free snacks

A jar full of Bible passages for people to pick out at random.

Night lights

Fiction and nonfiction books on a variety of topics

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 2:51 pm

'Umtoo' to serve city residents in need

Batavia First United Methodist Church volunteers John Fox, Sandy Kramer and Grace West spent time Tuesday setting up the church's new walk-in mission dubbed "Umtoo," on the corner of Ellicott and Liberty streets in Batavia.

"Umtoo," according to church pastor Pam Klotzbach, is a cryptic re-spelling of "UM-two," which stands for "United Methodist two."

Klotzbach said Umtoo will be a place for the unemployed, homeless and underprivileged of Batavia's Southside to come and enjoy free coffee, tea, juice, wrapped food, fellowship, conversation, games such as checkers, and also get help with computer skills, job hunting, homework, laundry and other needs.

For those unsure of how to get the assistance they need in other areas, Umtoo will provide referrals and even, in some cases, make calls on their behalf.

They also hope to start a weekly Bible study in the next couple months, as well as informal worship services.

"Our intention is to show Christ to people in a non-threatening way," Kramer said, adding that they plan on getting to know the people and then tailoring their approach to the needs of the community.

Klotzbach had this in mind when she first introduced the idea.

Previously a pastor in Fillmore, Klotzbach was moved to Batavia by the Upper New York State Conference of the United Methodist Church. The Conference assigned her to the local church at 8221 Lewiston Road after seeing how involved she was during her pastoral tenure in Fillmore. She was not afraid to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty.

"(The church) got bounced out of the City of Batavia during the urban renewal days," Klotzbach said. "It used to be near the YMCA. Without sidewalks near us or buses (for transport), we have to come to where the people are."

She has been amazed at the eagerness and generosity of church members, who have put a lot of time and effort into building up and preparing Umtoo.

Umtoo will host its grand opening for the public on Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Coffee, tea and snacks will be provided, along with entertainment from Will and Julio. It shares a space with "Amy's Fluffy Friends" pet grooming parlor at 238-240 Ellicott St.

Mission hours will be:

Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Friday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Sunday, noon until 5 p.m.

Call 343-4708, ext. 11, for more information.

Sunday, September 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm

East Bethany man earns a living with woodworking talent

post by Daniel Crofts in art, east bethany, small business, Woodworking

Michael Bow has had a pretty good year professionally -- and, knock on wood, it will keep getting better.

Bow, 27, runs "Bow Original Woodworking" out of his home in East Bethany. He builds furniture, cabinets, and other things per client request. Clients come to him from throughout Genesee County and as far away as Massachusetts.

Here are some samples of his work:

Originally from Attica, Bow has lived in East Bethany for two years. He started his own business in October 2012, around the time his mother became ill.

"I had worked in a couple different shops," Bow said, "Then I received a lot of requests for work, and my mom got sick. It seemed like the right time to go off on my own so that I could spend more time with her without affecting anybody else."

He learned woodworking on the job as an employee of Eurostyle Woodworking in Colorado. He credits the owners, Doug Stahl and Marco Dehm, with helping him to develop the skill level he enjoys now. They were not only his employers, but also his mentors.

"They're geniuses," Bow said. "They could touch a board and make a piano."

At one point, he got to travel with Dehm to the latter's native Switzerland and get a firsthand look at his training ground.

"When I saw how the Swiss learned," Bow said, "and what 16-year-old first-year woodworking students were doing, I was humbled by how advanced they were. I know guys here (in the United States) that have done woodworking for 30 years, and there's no way they could do what the kids are doing over there."

The following interview was conducted at Bow's home:

How would you describe woodworking for the layman? How is it different from carpentry?

Woodworking is a very in-depth trade. I think that's what I love about it. You have so many different ways to do so many different things. And then you've got so many styles. There's a European style, a Japanese style -- the Japanese are phenomenal craftsmen. There's so many different ways, for example, to build a cabinet, to set a door, and to join everything. Even after 30 or 40 years you still won't know anywhere near everything about woodworking.

There are different aspects of woodworking, but it generally involves more of a finished product. To me, when someone says "I'm a carpenter," I think they're more of a framer, more of a rough builder. And that's definitely respectable. These are just two different disciplines.

Is there a typical request you get from clients in terms of what they want?

Something cheap. (laughs) My slogan is "Design & Function." People usually want something for a specific purpose. Like if it's for an entertainment center, they'll want something that can hold a flat-screen TV, space for books or a DVD player, etc. So obviously it's designed around a specific need -- that's the function in "Design & Function." You can't have one without the other. If you've got the function and there's no design to it, what good is the function? And if you've got a good design and there's no functionality to it, then what good is the design?

How do you decide what kind of wood to use for your products?

Generally, it depends on what people want. If they want a painted product, usually I'll use either soft maple or poplar. If someone is looking for a certain kind of grain, I'll offer one type of wood. If someone is on a budget, I'll offer another; cherry generally stains very well -- and it's fairly cheap. It's pretty much about what the customer is looking for. Usually when I first meet with somebody on a job I'll tell them to get on the Internet, or get a magazine, and show me what they want.

Where do you get the wood for your projects?

It depends on what work I'm getting. Usually I don't need a big quantity of wood. I go through Attica Mill most of the time. I get some specialty hardwood from someone in South Warsaw, too. And then sometimes some of the customers will have wood that has been dried, cut or milled up, and I'll take it.

How did you get started in woodworking?

(When I was a kid) my uncle, Keith Bow, was always doing something with wood. He's a genius. I always would see his work and think, "Wow!" And I admired that "wow" factor.

My dad is kind of a hobbyist; he's a good craftsman. And my brother is a woodworker down in Florida. It's just in our blood, I guess.

I think the biggest thing (I enjoy) is that "wow" factor -- especially having my dad look at something I made and say, "Wow, that's cool."

In my late high school years, when I started realizing what I wanted to do, I went that route (toward woodworking). I was fairly confident with my skills and ability and knowledge, because I have the drive.

What are some of your hopes going forward?

My hopes are to always progress, always become more efficient...basically to strive for perfection. I want to become better at what I do. I want to be able to do more unique projects and constantly do something that is "one-and-only."

I don't expect to make a million dollars a year, but I would like to get to a point where I make enough money to live well and, here and there, take a few days off to do something outside of work.

Right now I'm busy, but not swamped. It's hit and miss (from week to week). Sometimes I might be working 60 hours a week. But I love what I do -- it's an addiction.

For more information, contact bow at 409-8127 or e-mail [email protected].

Sample photos courtesy of Michael Bow.

Monday, July 22, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Foodlink reaches out to community with 'SNAP' outreach clinics

post by Daniel Crofts in employment, food, Foodlink, social services

If you struggle with poverty, Foodlink invites you to SNAP out of it.

SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and it is available to Genesee County residents through SNAP E&T (Employment and Training).

Jerome Nathaniel, SNAP outreach and assistance coordinator, is offering outreach clinics to Genesee County families on the last Monday each month at a Foodlink partner agency.  The next one is Monday, July 29 from 9 until 11 a.m. at the Salvation Army, at 529 E. Main St. in Batavia.

According to Nathaniel, this is a change from how Foodlink -- which provides food and nutrition education to 450 agencies in 10 counties throughout Western and Central New York -- has done things in the past.

"We received a grant from the Walmart Foundation in January," he said. "Because of that grant, we have been able to add direct service as a major component (of our mission)."

Prior to this, Foodlink had been working with Genesee County through AmeriCorps Vista, which does not allow workers to engage in direct service. For the past two years, they have focused on providing training to partner agencies (shelters, soup kitchens, etc).

A press release from Foodlink described the SNAP outreach clinics as "a bridge between the Department of Social Services and those applying -- all in an effort to make it easier for all parties involved."

If you can't make it to the outreach clinic, don't panic.

"If you're from Batavia, you can actually just give me a call," Nathaniel said. "I've pre-screened most people more recently over the phone, as a matter of fact."

For able-bodied people between the ages of 16 and 59 who work less than 30 hours a week, the requirements of SNAP E&T are similar to those for receiving unemployment. Applicants must work at least 20 hours per week, and they must be able to provide proof that they are applying for jobs.

At this time, according to Foodlink's press release, 900,000 New Yorkers are eligible for SNAP services and don't even know it.

"A lot of people I've pre-screened have already applied for SNAP benefits in the past," Nathaniel said. "The problem is that the income guidelines are constantly changing. I pre-screened someone in Batavia who applied seven years ago, and this person was certainly eligible this time around."

But changing income guidelines are not the only factor behind the above statistic. Nathaniel points out that many people suffer from "circumstantial poverty as opposed to generational poverty."

"A lot of times," he said, "(there are) people who worked their whole lives and suddenly something changed. They used to have a certain income, and they were used to a type of lifestyle that required a certain level of income. And suddenly, someone in the household got laid off; or suddenly, they've retired and their retirement plan wasn't what they thought it was."

People in this type of situation, according to Nathaniel, would never imagine themselves as being eligible for a government program. But, in fact, they could be eligible for SNAP benefits.

In addition, there are a few misconceptions about the stated criteria. 

"A major mistake people make is that they don't understand what a household size is for SNAP purposes," Nathaniel said. "Ordinarily, you think of a household as meaning just whoever is under your roof -- so five people, for example. But when you're applying for SNAP, what they look at is whether or not those five people share the grocery expenses and share food. So you can have as many as five different SNAP applications in one household. That's five different SNAP households under one roof."

The gross monthly income requirement for SNAP E&T is $1,211 for an able-bodied adult under 59 and without disabilities, plus $429 for each additional person in the household.

For someone over 59 or disabled, the requirement is $1,852 plus $660 for each additional person. Medical expenses (including out-of-pocket premiums), utilities, rent and mortgage are also taken into account for this population.

For more information, call Nathaniel at 328-3380, ext. 150.

Top graphic courtesy of Kim Montinarello

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Screenwriter Bill Kauffman and film director Ron Maxwell discuss 'Copperhead'

post by Daniel Crofts in arts, batavia, bill kauffman, GCC, GoArt!, movies

Next week, Hollywood comes to Batavia.

GoArt!, in partnership with local author Bill Kauffman -- author of such books as "Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette" and "Look Homeward America" -- and filmmaker Ronald F. Maxwell -- director of the Civil War epics "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals" -- will host a screening of the movie "Copperhead" on Thursday, June 13. 

This will give locals a chance to see the film before its official release in theaters on June 28.

"Copperhead" takes place in Upstate New York during the Civil War. Kauffman wrote the screenplay, based the novel "The Copperhead" by Harold Frederic, and Maxwell directed it.

Both men will be at the screening, and the movie will be followed by a short presentation by Kauffman and a Q&A session with Kauffman and Maxwell.

In anticipation of the screening, they spoke with The Batavian about the project itself, their collaboration over the years, among other things.

(To Ron): I understand you have been a longtime fan of Bill Kauffman. So this is a two-part question:

A. When and how did you first discover his work?
B. When and how did you two come into contact?

Ron: Actually the second thing happened first. We both attended an event in Washington, D.C. --- at which he spoke -- sometime in the mid-1990s. I was impressed with his wit, with his use of language, his sense of humor, and his insight, and that started a long friendship. I subsequently read his writings, and we stayed in touch over the years. 

Bill: “Copperhead” was actually my second screenplay. The first one was a project that Ron and I started developing several years ago. This was also an historical film, and it almost made it into development but didn't. We still hope it will someday. So "Copperhead" was my second screenplay, but it was the first to be produced.

(To both): What drew you to this material?

Bill: I probably first read the book 25 or more years ago. Harold Frederic was one of the great Upstate New York novelists. In fact his most well-known book, "The Damnation of Theron Ware," was hailed by F. Scott Fitzgerald as the best American novel before 1920.

Edmund Wilson, the great literary critic, praised Frederic's "Civil War Stories" for being unlike any other Civil War fiction. There's no Southern "moonlight and magnolias" romanticism, and there's no Northern "Battle Hymn of the Republic" righteousness; these are hard, unsentimental but very poignant stories of life in the North -- specifically Upstate New York -- on the home front during the war...the people left behind.

And this particular story, "The Copperhead," is about a farmer, a respected man, in a little hamlet in Upstate New York -- he's an old-fashioned Democrat who is against the war. And he is standing up, really, against his community on this. The community is torn apart, his family and the family of his chief rival are torn apart. So these people are casualties of the war in a different way.

The film is also, I think, about the resilience and resourcefulness of the people at home during wartime. It's a rich and complex story about our area, for one, and also about a fascinating time in American history.

Ron: As soon as I read it I thought, "Wow, this would be a terrific subject for a film." And I kind of ruminated for a while until about three and a half years ago, when it came up in conversation with Bill over dinner in Connecticut. I think he mentioned it first, but we both knew the novel and admired it. It was very interesting to me to explore the whole issue of the dissenters in society -- especially within the context of the Civil War, because I had already explored the reasons why good men chose to go to war in the other films, whether they wore blue or gray. Here was a film where you could explore why a good, ethical man chose not to go to war. It's the other side of the coin.

(To Bill): How was the screenwriting process different from the process of writing a book?

Bill: It’s a whole different style of writing. Writing a book is very much a solitary endeavor, although there is give-and-take with the editor. Movies are totally collaborative ventures. Even with the screenplay, Ron and I consulted throughout. Ron has a great sense for how to tell a story. So it was a very harmonious collaboration -- he's a great guy, and we work well together.

(To Ron): You wrote the scripts for both "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals." Why did you choose to have Bill write this one?

Ron: Well, as I said, it came up over a dinner, and by that time he and I had collaborated on the earlier project that he wrote. So I knew that he could do it. And I think part of the dynamic there is that when you write a screenplay, you need to focus big time and stop doing everything else.  At the time we started to talk about "Copperhead," I was totally immersed in something else, so I could not write the screenplay myself even if I wanted to. But I knew he could. So I worked with him, you know, in the way that a director-filmmaker works with a writer. We closely collaborated on it, but he in fact did the writing. A lot of times in Hollywood there are shared credits when a director works with the writer, but I'm a strong believer that the writer gets the credit. Because the writer is doing the work.

So, just as on the earlier screenplay, we collaborated but Bill adapted the novel. And I knew that his sensibilities would be very responsive to it. It takes place, as you know, in Upstate New York. And Bill was not only aware of this novel, but he had read other works of Harold Frederic.

In a sense, Bill is a regionalist. He's very aware of where he lives -- not just of how it is now, but of its history and literary traditions. So he was already connected to the history of this part of the world, and to Harold Frederic specifically. So of all the writers in the world, he was probably the most perfectly adapted to work out the screenplay.

If you know Bill's other work, one of his preoccupations is small town America. He has made the choice to live in small town America because he thinks that that's where American values are embodied and where the "simpler life" can be lived. That's a theme that runs through all of his nonfiction, and is certainly one of the themes of this particular story. One of the things ("Copperhead") explores is living in a rural community. I'm sure it was much more rural, with a much smaller population, back then than it is now. But again, Bill was predisposed to understanding and exploring the values of these people.

(To Bill): Were you a fan of Ron's films before this?

Oh yeah, absolutely. He's the great cinematic interpreter of the Civil War. This is his third Civil War film, but it's on a different scale. ("Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals") had scenes with thousands of extras colliding on the great battlefields -- they were Civil War films set behind the lines.

Were you intimidated by the prospect of writing a script for him after seeing the scope of his previous films?

Bill: Well, you know, I might have been, but we had known each other. We're friends, so in that sense it was comfortable. But it was a challenge. I like challenges, and I have over the years read a lot of screenplays in preparation for this film. I'd read a number of screenplays of films that I like very much -- everything from Paul Schrader's script for "Taxi Driver" to Graham Greene's screenplay for "The Third Man." So I had an idea of how to do it, and Ron was an invaluable guide to picking up the form and grammar of a screenplay.

(To Ron): Had you ever in your life heard of Batavia before meeting Bill?

Ron: No, and I wasn't even sure whether to say Bat-ah-via or Bat-ay-via. But I guess it's like that Cole Porter song, "You say tom-ay-to, I say tom-ah-to."

(To Bill): Are there any local connections in "Copperhead"?

Bill: There is one specifically Batavia reference -- it's a little bit of an inside joke -- early in the film. Some folks will pick up on it. But I can't tell you anymore.

Also, my daughter, Gretel, and the daughter of one of the producers have cameos in the film.  It's during the barn dance scene -- look for the "giggling girls."

(To Bill): Did you have chance to visit the location shoots in Canada? If so, what was this like?

Bill: I was there for about four to seven weeks. I went up a couple different times. I got a real kick out of watching these characters that existed on paper become real. And it's funny, because some of the characters ended up looking very different from how I thought they'd look. But I think the actors really brought to life and enriched the story with their own contributions. They did a lot of studying, put a lot of thought into the roles, and I think it shows on the screen.

(On Ron as a director): You hear stories of these tyrannical, dictatorial directors, but Ron is nothing at all like that. He's very much in control, and the production is well run. But he listens to people, everyone gets along, and it's very harmonious. He does a lot of planning (before production), and that shows in that there's a real efficiency about it. It was shot over about seven weeks, and there were no wasted days. They worked from sunup to sundown. It was very impressive.

(To Bill): I understand the actors were instructed to study your Western New York accent.  What was that experience like?

Bill: (Laughs) Yes, they had a dialect coach from Canada who did a great job with them. We don't have any tapes of what people in Upstate New York sounded like in 1862, so one of the things she did -- unbeknownst to me -- was send them videotapes of speeches of mine. So it was kind of fun on the set when actors would come up to me and ask, "How do you say 'apple'? How do you say 'orange'?" Of course, we're not aware of our accents. To us, we speak normally and everyone else has an accent. And when someone asks you to pronounce something, inevitably a little bit of self-consciousness creeps into you, you know? You exaggerate whatever little accent you might have. But yeah, that was a lot of fun. And fortunately, they do not all sound like me (laughs). They develop their own accents and styles of speaking.

(To Ron): Many of the actors in "Copperhead" are a bit less well-known than a lot of movie stars out there. Was this an artistic decision on your part?

Ron: Yes, very much so, insofar as you want (as a filmmaker) to be able to have the creative freedom to cast the way you want. We made a decision early on that we were not going to chase the movie stars. Because then you're always at the mercy of their schedules, their price tags, and competing for their time with the major studios. So suddenly you're not in control of your own movie. And I've played that game, so I know that game. We wanted to be independent and just cast the movie the best way we knew we could, make the movie we wanted to make, hope that it would stand on its own merits, and get it to the public. 

The reason people get the big stars is because those stars will get the movie financed and distributed. It's a simple formula. So if you think you can have alternate ways of getting the movie financed and distributed, then that allows you artistic freedom.

(To both): How did the upcoming screening/fundraiser come about?

Ron: We thought, as part of our marketing and promotion of the movie, that it would behoove us to do a number of screenings across the country to help generate word of mouth and grassroots support of the film. And we thought, "What better way than to ally with charitable organizations?" So we looked for charitable organizations that we could feel comfortable supporting, and we have about 18 or 19 of these all across the country.

Bill: The producers asked me about having one of the screenings in Batavia, and I of course jumped at the chance. And I thought GoArt! would be a great organization (to support), and they were enthusiastic about sponsoring.

(To Ron): What interests you about the Civil War Era as a filmmaker?

RM: Well, you know, I was drawn to it so many years ago now...it took me 15 years from the time I read (Michael Shaara's) "The Killer Angels" (the book on which "Gettysburg" is based) until the time "Gettysburg" was released in the theaters. I didn't know it was going to take 15 years, and I certainly didn't know I would spend another 10 years making "God and Generals," and then another 10 years before I could make "Copperhead." That's a lot of years altogether -- it's a big chunk of anyone's life to spend on one historical period. It's not like I set out to do that, it just kind of happened that way.

But along the way I came to realize that it has been a deep and abiding interest. It's just endlessly fascinating, and these are stories that have been very compelling to me. I have other kinds of projects I've been working on -- I have a Western I've been working on, a project on Joan of Arc, contemporary films...I'm always juggling them and trying to get them financed like other filmmakers. But it's just kind of worked out that "Gettysburg" led to "Gods and Generals," which led to "Copperhead." A lot of that is my own focus and my own energy, but some of it is serendipitous.

(To Bill): What draws you to writing about small town America?

BK: Well, it's where I've spent most of my life -- it's where I am now. To me, Batavia was always a source of fascination. Every story you could tell was on its streets and in its buildings. 

It's not that people in small towns are better than people in big cities. But I think because of the smallness and intimacy of the scale, it's a place where the individual can matter. In the anonymity of the big cities and suburbs, sometimes the individual can get lost in the crowd. To me, life in a small town seems more real, more immediate. I also think that small towns get the short shrift, both culturally and politically. It's unexplored territory.

(To both): Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for readers who might be aspiring toward successful careers in writing or filmmaking?

Bill: Words of advice for aspiring writers? I guess I'd say Read Read Read Read Read. Persevere. And don't get discouraged.

Ron: Well the most important thing is for aspiring filmmakers to develop and protect their own voice -- and not kind of mimic, copy, cater, pander or be what they think someone else wants them to be, what Hollywood wants them to be, or what any third party wants them to be.  Because then they are wasting their own time and everyone else's. If they can hold onto that little voice inside them that is their unique voice, that's the most important thing. That's what we want to hear and watch.

The screening of "Copperhead" will take place at Genesee Community College's Stuart Steiner Theatre, at 1 College Road in Batavia, and start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for GoArt! members and $25 for non-members.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.goart.org/events.php#Copperhead or call 343-9313.

Supplemental: "Copperhead" trailer

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo-j4_05bcI]

Photo of Ronald F. Maxwell directing courtesy of George Nicholis.

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