April 27th: Colon Cancer Alliance Undy 5000

Last month, I wrote about my wife’s successful battle last year against colon cancer.  The only reason why it was successful is that she was screened in time. Had we waited even a few months, her result may have been radically different. 

She is now committed to helping raise money for the Colon Cancer Alliance.  On April 27th the 2013 Buffalo “Undy 5000” will be run in Delaware Park, and she and my older daughter will take part. She is raising money for colon cancer research via this page, and if I’ve ever made you think, laugh, or angry via this blog, I humbly ask you to donate whatever you can – however small

Your response so far has been incredible. We’re both so very grateful for people’s generosity. Amazingly, her original fundraising goal was $1,000 – she’s now raised $2,775, thanks to you. We’ve upped the goal to $3,000, and there’s another week or so to go. 

Your donation is 100% tax deductible. If you don’t or can’t, I understand, but I urge you to take colon cancer seriously. If caught early through a colonoscopy, it could be the difference between life and death. Here’s where the money that’s raised will go – to advocate, to promote and to expand access to screening, to educate, and for cancer research. 

Every day is a gift. Thanks for reading and for considering this. 

An Evening With Guy Delisle

Last week, I met Guy Delisle

His name may mean nothing to you, and his work is somewhat obscure and not as well-known as it should be, but I went way out of my way to attend an “Evening With” event held under the auspices of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival at a Toronto movie theater. It included a Q & A, a screening of a documentary called “The Delisle Chronicles“, and a book signing, courtesy of Toronto’s The Beguiling

Guy Delisle with UT Professor Nick Mount in Toronto May 3, 2012

My father first introduced me to Delisle’s work, when he gave me a copy of Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea as a Christmas gift. I was instantly hooked. Sure, I read comic books when I was a kid, graduating through to graphic novels when Art Spiegelman’s Maus was released in the early 90s, which showed a wide audience that comics didn’t have to be all fantasy and superheroes, but I wasn’t an aficionado by any stretch. What I am is a fan of travelogues, insightful, concise, observational writing, and countries so closed off from the rest of the world that they’re all but forbidden to visit.  Delisle’s bibliography is here, and his YouTube videos are here (including a small snippet from Delisle’s visit with a Bedouin family, which is discussed in his newest book). 

I’ve read and re-read Pyongyang many times, and have also read his other travelogues, the Burma Chronicles and Shenzhen . I enjoy tracking how Delisle’s maturation took him from doing animation gigs in eastern Asia as a single man, to accompanying his wife (with kid) to Burma for a year as part of her job with Doctors Without Borders. 

A few years ago, his wife’s work took them to Jerusalem for a year. They lived in Arab East Jerusalem, and his wife’s work took her to Gaza during a particularly tense period. Jerusalem is Delisle’s most ambitious travelogue work to date, and is broken up into chapters featuring particular observations he had during each month of their stay. 


During his talk, Delisle explained how the character he uses for himself isn’t fully fleshed out, and represents only a portion of his personality. But he also noted that, except for North Korea, he went into each country as neutrally as he could. He had no preconceived notions of the situation on the ground in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, but in his own inimitable way, he explains what a horrible place it is, filled with both earnest and terrible people who all essentially practice some religious variant based on the same foundation, yet can’t figure out a reasonable way to co-exist. 

He is torn when confronted with the shopping options at a nearby settlement, but relents when he sees Arabs shopping there, as well. He’s astonished by the separation of Jews and Arabs in Hebron, where each population – unable or unwilling simply to coexist – clings to its particular victimization through past massacres by the other. 

Delisle left Canada about 25 years ago, and lives now with his wife and two children in the South of France. His wife has left her job with Doctors Without Borders, and they have no plans to live in any other third world or strife-ridden countries in the near future. To some degree, then, Jerusalem isn’t just something of an epic, but a coda. Delisle has taken to fatherhood and in his own self-deprecating, insightful way, has begun using that as a theme in his newer works.  During the Q and A I had asked him, now that they weren’t going on any extended third world stays, whether he might do a memoir of his pre-Shenzhen life.  He’s got an interesting story – kid from Quebec City goes to Toronto to learn animation, drops out to work for a Montreal studio and becomes an accomplished animator and accidental cartoonist. He said he did not, and that he was focusing instead on his life as a dad. 

Delisle signs my copy of "Jerusalem"

As for new books, there’s Louis à la plage, and Louis au ski, and I’m sure his younger daughter, Alice, will become the subject of a book or two, as well. He’s also started a series called “Bad Dad” with several entries at his website (in French, click on the images to see the full strip: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6).  

Delisle’s work isn’t as well-known in the US as it is in Canada, but he just concluded a month-long book tour of North America.  Through following his blog of his time in Jerusalem, I knew a book was in the works, and that I would buy it, but it never occurred to me that I might actually get to meet him, much less do so in a small audience and get there early enough to get a second-row seat. To say I geeked out over the whole thing would be an understatement. 

As I stood in line to have my books signed, a woman came by to tell us that Delisle would sign them all, but he’d draw a picture only in one. A picture. As the line moved along, I watched him look at which book people presented to him for drawings, and he would commence to draw characters from that particular book – a Burmese general for Burma Chronicles, Captain Sin from Pyongyang, or perhaps a rabbi or his daughter, Alice, for Jerusalem. 

When my turn came, I presented a new copy of Jerusalem for him, and he drew his own character: 

I didn’t get some supporting character – I got the protagonist himself. We chatted briefly, and when I mentioned I came up from Buffalo especially for this event, he joked, “but I was just in Buffalo last week!”  I mentioned the story about my dad buying Pyongyang for me, and he remarked, “oh, your father is a comics fan”, and I replied, “not really, but he’s a fan of books about communist countries, since he emigrated from one in the 60s”.  We then talked about certain parts of the book that were typical for any communist economy – like the Yangkaggdo Hotel‘s “Restaurant No. 1” and “No. 2” which were essentially identical to each other, and to the “No. 3” which was undergoing renovations until the last few days of his stay, and when it opened it was just like the other two. We both laughed. He was done signing the other books I had, and like that, the event was over, and I walked out into a monsoon.

Buffalo: Arbor Day 2012

On St. Patrick’s Day, they say, everyone’s Irish. 

On Dyngus Day, they say, everyone’s Polish. 

It, therefore, follows that on Arbor Day, everyone’s a tree-hugger. 

In the wake of Anderson Cooper’s fit of giggles over the Dyngus Day traditions, Ted Shredd and Tom Ragan discussed on their morning radio show on 103.3 WEDG-FM how Buffalo had a unique knack of taking B-list “holidays” like Dyngus Day and turning them into a veritable fiesta.  

Really, all you need to do is add beer and make it fun. 

In turning to secondary and tertiary holidays, the boys settled on Arbor Day. The mission of Arbor Day and the Arbor Day Foundation is: “We inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees.”

Really, it’s perfect. First of all, you don’t have to belong to any faith to love trees; it’s a thing that transcends race, gender, ethnicity, national boundaries, and body image. Trees use carbon dioxide to give us the oxygen we need to breathe. We use trees make cool stuff like high-end dashboards in foreign luxury cars, baseball bats, desks, rulers, bookshelves, houses, etc., ad infinitum. When we don’t want to jinx something, we knock on wood. But above all, trees give us shade and just overall pretty up the joint. 

And another thing – it’s better to be #1 at a second-rate holiday than #2 or 3 at celebrating a top-tier holiday, AMIRITE?

Arbor Day is next Friday – April 27th, and Shredd & Ragan will be hosting Buffalo’s first-ever Arbor Day festivities, complete with food, beer, games, prizes, and a parade – all taking place in Buffalo’s Historic Arbor District near Franklin Street and the site of the oldest tree in Buffalo. 

The parade begins at 8am next Friday morning from Fat Bob’s, which is the headquarters for the event.

It’s not just an excuse to take a B-list holiday and make Buffalo’s celebration of it the biggest in the country. It’s also an opportunity to highlight some of the people, businesses, and groups who work to improve Buffalo’s environment. There will be tree-themed bar games: Show your shrub (take a cell phone picture of the shrub in front of your house, “best” wins a prize), a leaf eating contest, tree races, moment of silence for the October Storm, and even the tree man of Buffalo might make an appearance.Green Options Buffalo, the Clean Air Coalition, and other local environmental groups  have been invited. The proceeds from the bar and sales of souvenirs will go to benefit the Olmsted Conservancy. 

For more information, check out Shredd & Ragan’s website, their Facebook page, or follow #ArborDayBuffalo on Twitter. 


Nickel City Chef Season 4: Tickets on Sale Friday

Feed Your Soul, a local organization headed by local foodie Christa Glennie Seychew, has now produced three seasons of “Nickel City Chef“, a local variant of the “Iron Chef” model. Local chefs battle a “Nickel City Chef” using a secret, locally sourced, ingredient. A panel of judges tastes and rates the food on taste, presentation, and use of the secret ingredient. (By way of full disclosure, Seychew is my food editor at the Buffalo Spree, she and FYS are clients of mine, and I have been honored to judge during all three seasons of Nickel City Chef.)

The purpose of the competition isn’t just to highlight the creativity and technical expertise of local chefs – some of whom are quite established, and others who are just up-and-coming – but also to promote the excellent farms and producers of high-quality food right here in western New York.

Although the audience at Nickel City Chef doesn’t get to taste the items presented for judging, each competition is catered by a well-regarded local restaurateur, and it’s fantastic to watch chefs hard at work – with expert color commentary from SeaBar chef/owner Mike Andrezejewski – and the suspense during the judging process is palpable.  The competitions take place at Artisan Kitchens & Baths on Amherst Street.

Tickets for the fourth season go on sale Friday. Following on the heels of Western New York’s hottest selling holiday release, Nickel City Chef: Buffalo’s Finest Chefs & Ingredients, Feed Your Soul anticipates tickets for all four shows in 2012 to sell out within 36 hours.

Taking place in the stunning loft showroom of Buffalo’s Artisan Kitchens & BathsSeason Four’s schedule of dates is listed below. Tickets for the 2012 season go on sale at noon Friday, January 6th. Tickets are $38 each and include catered gourmet snacks and access to a cash bar during the event. Children under 16 are not recommended to attend. 

Links to online ticketing will be available at NickelCityChef.com.

February 19th

Nickel City Chef Krista Van Wagner of Curly’s


Challenging Chef Frank Mercado of M&T’s Private Executive Dining Room

March 4th

Nickel City Chef Brian Mietus of Bacchus


Challenging Chef Dunbar Berdine of Black Rock Kitchen & Bar

March 25th

Nickel City Chef Adam Goetz of Sample


Challenging Chef Christopher Daigler of Encore

April 15th

Nickel City Chef JJ Richert of Torches


Challenging Chef Chris Dorsaneo of Lloyd

 Ticket Link: www.NickelCityChef.com