Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 29, 2006

Weekend Conte$t: New Year's Eve Song

Here's the Ithaca Blog weekend quiz from Small World Music:

Two ex-Beatles wrote songs about Christmas in their solo careers. One ex-Beatle, ever the contrarian, wrote one about New Year's. Name him.

The winner, selected at random from winning entries, gets a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, 614 W. State St., down the driveway, Ithaca's hometown music store, the Cheapest and Best, the Exclusive Hipster Hangout Where Everyone Is Welcome, etc.

Special bonus opportunity with this week's question: Name the New Year's song in question, and get another 5 semolians tagged on to that gift certificate.

Send your entry directly to Small World Music:

Good luck and a Very New Year! -

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Year's Eve Weekend Fun

NYE is Sunday, but there seems to be a lot of merriment around town starting on Thursday.

Thurs. In the book world, maybe you've noticed, long titles with even longer subtitles are the trend these days. The reason is website hits. The more words in a title, the greater chance a web search will include it. We don't know if the same reason is behind longer entertainment listings. You can ask the band tonight, at the Common Ground: Colin Smith and Gregor Sayet-Bone Perform as the TalkToMes Acoustic. They play old-timey stuff and are a lot of fun. 1230 Danby Road, 8 pm.

Fri. Or, you can ask the band tonight at the Lost Dog Cafe: Oculus Holiday Party with Guests and Old and New Friends. 106 N. Cayuga Street, 9:30 pm. The party moves up east hill tomorrow night, to the Nines, 311 College Av., at 10 pm. Cornell is out, so there will be parking.

Sat. Nice short name, old familiar favorite: John Brown's Body, at Castaways, 413 Old Taughannock Blvd., 10 pm. The band has a new look, and presumably sound, with Kevin Kinsella leaving, and Elliott Martin handling the vocals. Lots of new material is promised.

Sun. The big New Year's show is at Castaways, with the Sim Redmond Band, recently back from Japan, and boasting (and boosting) a very popular new CD. They will be joined by IY, and the TalkToMes. 9:30 pm.

Another good NYE show is out at the Rongo, with local Americanans Mudbone and the Broken String Band. 9 pm.

And a little more homespun evening is offered by Kitchen Chair, who perform at a contra dance with potluck supper. The food is at 7 pm, and the dancing starts at 8:30. At the Women's Community Building, Seneca & Cayuga Streets.

Auld lang syne, you all -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Ford Legacies: Gerald's - and Betty's

The historical focus on the Ford administration, with Gerald Ford's death, is his pardon of Richard Nixon, which was full, unequivocal, and rapid, given within a month of Nixon's resignation, before charges could be responsibly rendered.

The rationale, which is discussed respectfully now, and probably will be for a period, is that President Ford saved the nation further turmoil and trauma from the Watergate scandal.

And surely he did. But at what cost? Journalists will debate it regularly for a while, and historians for years. Ultimately, we'll all decide for ourselves.

Meanwhile, the issue has an ironic counterpoint in the legacy of Betty Ford, who helped create new understanding of drug addicition by revealing hers, showing how truth heals, and how hiding from the truth is the real cause of trauma, and the inability to heal.

It's too bad Mr. Ford did not have the insight and courage of Mrs. Ford in deciding how best to heal a nation.

Let us pay our respects to Mr. Ford as a man. But let us honor Mrs. Ford as the better example of wisdom and leadership in this country.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Yule Blog" ??

A faithful reader writes to ask whether we will be posting a "Yule Blog" with ideas for wonderful gifts.

We appreciate the clever name, but we think for the most part we should leave the gift notions to people and their loved ones, and to their gift professionals (i.e. Santa; elves).

However, as gift para-professionals at Small World Music, we will advise our faithful readers that we are open on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., and will open for a half-day on our normally-closed day of Sunday. That's Christmas Eve day, and we know from experience there will be a lot of frantic people looking around for meaningful but fun gifts. That's where we (i.e., where music) comes in.

Music is probably the least expensive gift that conveys emotion, and lasts, and everybody likes. Everyone likes food, but you can't have it and eat it, too. Books are nice, but they don't pack much emotional wallop, and they are not really a shared experience the way music is.

Beyond all this touting, we also want to remind our loyal readers that we have a present for you. Just mention Ithaca Blog at Small World Music and we will take 10% off your purchase price.

Our onliest other Yule Blog remark is that this really is the most wonderful time of year, when we all do things for one another, to create joy and light when otherwise it is most dark. Let us all count our blessings, and share them.

Happy holidays to you & yours -

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jesus Christ Thrown Out of Church

This is an excerpt from a column by Jimmy Breslin a few years ago at Christmas. Breslin was at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and saw them giving Christ the bum's rush at closing time.

Breslin says he saw it. He says it's not a metaphor.

We would print the whole column, if we had it. Here is a fragment.

- from "Sending Christ Into the Cold", by Jimmy Breslin

Christ slipped into a pew on the side aisle on the left-hand side. He looked like all the others who had nothing. In fact, he had less. At least the other homeless people had plastic garbage bags filled with whatever they owned. Christ sat with nothing.

When he gave up his life for this religion, it was a belief that honored the blind, the destitute, the lame. Now he sat in a church and looked ahead, far ahead, over the many rows, to an altar that sat under a steeple and was dedicated to gold.

They were in a palace away from the cold, the most famous church of the Catholics in America. It is supposed to represent the Lord's religion. On this cold night, one of the ushers said that the church closes at 8:35. Exactly.

"Nobody can stay?", an usher was asked.

"Church closes," he said.

Christ slipped out of a pew and followed the other homeless people out of the church. The ushers and cops didn't have the slightest idea who he is, and nobody running the huge church he was leaving knows anything about him, either.

They claim they do. They say they pray to him and try to act in his behalf. Last night, he was asked to leave and go out into the cold, just like any of the other homeless.


Doing something to ease poverty and stop violence in this world would make a fitting Christmas gift. To be in a position to do it, proves it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Conte$t Answer, & Winner

Nick J. of Ithaca was the randomly-selected winner of our most recent weekly contest, identifying George Carlin as the source of the funny quotes we posted last Friday. Nick wins a $10 gift certificate from Small World Music.

Nobody goes home a loser from Ithaca Blog, however. Simply mention Ithaca Blog at Small World Music, and you will get a 10% discount on purchases between now and Christmas.

Thank you, & watch for new contest each Friday!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, December 18, 2006

New Life for City Health Club?

Downtown Ithaca's health club, City Health, might not be closing after all.

After reports that poor finances would close City Health after decades of operation, Ithacans stepped forward to try to save the facility, with new and renewed memberships, and outright donations.

As Ithaca Blog reported last week, the news of the closing was met with dismay by Ithacans who enjoyed the casual, friendly atmosphere of the club, and appreciated the club's history of community service.

The response from the community delighted but also surprised the club, which is working on responses for the short and the long term.

The club asks that anyone interested in membership call the club's manager, Frank Henry, at 273-8300.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 15, 2006

Weekend Conte$t: Mystery Guest

Identify the source of the following quotes to win this weekend's contest:

- No one can ever know for sure what a deserted area looks like.

- There ought to be at least one round state.

- In comic strips, the person on the left always talks first.

Hints: (1.) He hosted the first broadcast of Saturday Night Live, in 1975. (2.) He will be appearing at the State Theater next month.

Send your answer to A winner will be randomly selected for a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music. Just in time for the holidays.

Beyond the contest winnings possibilities, Small World is currently offering a 10% discount to all Ithaca Blog readers. Just mention it and it's bargaintime for you. See previous posting for details about it, or us (if you are detail-oriented) .

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Weekend Activities, Dec. 15 -17

If you have time to do much recreational stuff this weekend, either you should run an organizing service, or you are dedicated to the arts, or you have the ability to forget things in a benign way. We admire all these qualities.

Friday: The biggest, nicest show of the pre-Xmas weekend figures to be the Three Irish Tenors: A Christmas From Dublin, at the State Theater. These are not the 3 more famous Irish Tenors you might know from TV, but they have large performing and singing pedigrees, beyond being Irish, which actually is generally good enough. Do you know any three Irish guys who will not sing, if the conditions are right? ... You can get a little more better description than this on the State Theater's website. But here is my recommendation: I will be there! 8 p.m.

Local heroes Donna the Buffalo and the Sim Redmond Band have a slightly out-of-town show at the Magic City Music Hall in Johnson City. The hall is located on Harry L Drive, or is it Harry L Drive Drive? You might want to call the venue, at 797-0178. 8 pm until, we imagine, late.

Saturday: Here's what we mean about the Irish and singing: the other gender takes their turn tonight, with those three warbling lasses, the Burns Sisters, in their annual holiday concert. At Club Euphoria, Cayuga & Seneca Streets, 8 p.m.

If you don't have time for anything but shopping, but you are music-minded, come visit Small World Music, and avail yourself of a 10% holiday discount just by mentioning Ithaca Blog. 614 W. State St., down the driveway, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. 256-0428.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
foe Ithaca Blog (and Small World Music)

Offer for Ithaca Blog Readers from Small World Music

Get 10% off your holiday purchases at Small World Music by mentioning Ithaca Blog!

We want to do something special for you, and we want to know who you are! Mention Ithaca Blog at Small World Music, 614 W. State St. (down the driveway), and get 10% off all your purchases between now and Christmas.

Small World is Ithaca's hometown music store. That means you will find music here you will love. Local, world, reggae, bluegrass, country, blues, gospel, jazz, African, Latin, and more, not to mention rock & pop, including all the latest releases (right now, for example: Tom Waits, Indigo Girls, Yusef (Cat Stevens), Madeleine Peyroux, Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett, Hazmat Modine ... and, need we say, more).

Small World also sells used CDs, and LPs, so there is plenty of music at every price range. We always beat list price on all releases. Best and Cheapest, is our motto (one of our mottos).

Music is probably the least expensive gift you can buy that carries an emotional component. Isn't it? Books are good, but they cost more, and they don't make you get up and dance. Candles are cheaper, but they burn away.

So come take care of some holiday business, and save money via Ithaca Blog. Thanks for reading, and we look forward to seeing you.

Steve Burke
for both

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Micro-Loans and Peace, and Ithaca Efforts

The 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace was notable for going not to a negotiator of treaties, but of loans to the poor.

Thirty years ago, Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, moved by the hunger and poverty in his famine-struck country, began making small, unsecured loans to poor neighbors.

His immediate motivation was meeting a local woman who borrowed less than a dollar from a money-lender to help run a business. The money-lender required exclusive rights to buy all she produced at a price he chose. Yunus said, "This, to me, was a way of recruiting slave labor."

So, Yunus acted. He gathered the names of other "victims", as he called them, of this money-lender. He found 42 of them, who had borrowed a total of $27. He offered them $27 from his own pocket - in his words, "to get these victims out of the clutches of those money-lenders.

"The excitement that was generated among the people by this small action got me further involved in it."

Yunus went to a local bank to discuss starting a program. "But that did not work," he says. "The bank said that the poor were not creditworthy." So Yunus offered to guarantee the loans. "I was stunned by the result," he says. "The poor paid backs their loans, on time, every time."

Despite the success of the effort, Yunus could not persuade the bank to adopt the program. It was considered insufficiently profitable. Yunus says, "That was when I decided to create a separate bank for the poor, and in 1983, I finally succeeded in doing that. I named it Grameen Bank, or Village Bank."

Grameen Bank made loans to people without collateral. Recipients were required only to supply the names of 5 people who would vouch for them. The idea was that a public declaration by the recipient to repay the loan would suffice.

Today, Grameen Bank has made over $6 billion in loans, to 7 million borrowers, who then become co-owners of the bank. The repayment rate is 99%.

Yunus and the Grameen Bank were awarded the prize for peace, in the words of the Nobel committee, because "lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means." Yunus notes, "Half the world population lives on two dollars a day. Over one billion people live on less than a dollar a day. This is no formula for peace.

"By giving us this prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has given important support to the proposition that peace is inextricably linked to poverty. Poverty is a threat to peace."

Ithaca has two organizations that follow the example of the Grameen Bank - less dramatically, certainly, but diligently.

The Alternatives Federal Credit Union mission statement says it is "dedicated to economic justice." Alternatives has many programs and services for those traditionally underserved by banks.

The Individual Development Account, for example, matches savings for education, a house, or business, 2 to 1. When an individual saves $1000, the Credit Union will match the savings with $2000.

Ithaca Hours is a local currency program that addresses the problem of insufficient money in Ithaca by creating new money to be spent in Ithaca.

Ithaca Hours are notes which are used exactly like cash. Members join the organization by paying $10, or one Ithaca Hour, each year. Members receive a listing in the Hours Directory that advertises a service or goods that will be traded either wholly or partially for Hours. Members also receive, for their annual dues, two Hours, worth $20.

Hours thus stimulate local business by creating new money - an actual new stream of wealth - that stays in Ithaca.

At very low cost, the Directory provides advertising for people who moonlight skills or services, as well as for small businesses that cannot afford Yellow Pages or other advertising.

Hours give an advantage to local businesses competing with large national chain stores from out of town that do not accept the local money.

And, in a close mimicking of the Grameen Bank, Hours makes loans of the currency interest-free to members, without collateral or an extensive application process.

For more information about these organizations, see their websites. (Ithaca Hours is Beware of a site called that is not connected with Ithaca Hours.)

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New York Santa Claus Conte$t Answer

In last week's contest, we were looking for the 19th century literary New Yorkers who helped shape the modern image of Santa Claus.

They were: Washington Irving, who detailed (and adapted) Dutch portrayals of Saint Nicholas in "A Knickerbocker's History of New York"; Clement Clark Moore, a Professor at the Episcopal General Theological Seminary in New York, widely credited with the authorship of "A Visit From St. Nicholas", a.k.a. "The Night Before Christmas"; and Francis P. Church, author of the "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" editorial for the New York Sun.

(We accepted "the guy who wrote..." for each of these works, being more interested in the works than the authors.)

The randomly-selected winner is Stefanie N., who gets a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music.

A new contest every Friday!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, December 09, 2006

City Health Club to Close

City Health Club on W. Green St. will be closing this month, after 25 years as Ithaca's downtown health club.

Owner Tony Lieb declined to give any reason for the closing beyond a drop in memberships. But two new health clubs downtown, one located to the east and one to the west of City Health, probably contributed.

Finger Lakes Fitness Center in the Commons is a little sleeker, ostensibly with lower overhead costs. At the other extreme, Island Health and Fitness, on the west end, is a huge space, with over 35,000 feet, a swimming pool, a cafe, and a child care service.

City Health seems to have got caught in the middle.

The venerable club will be missed by members who appreciated its convenient location and casual, neighborhood style.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 08, 2006

Weekend Conte$t: Santa Claus in NY

Santa might live in the North Pole, but much of his identity, as construed in the U.S., was forged by writers and artists in New York in the 19th century.

We'll mention one prominent example, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there, in your mind, spurring you to think of another:

Thomas Nast, the great illustrator for Harper's Magazine, consolidated details of Santa's appearance to render the version we know today (black boots, big belt, sack on back, sleigh with reindeer).

Think of one other (hint: the three we have in mind are all literary, not graphic), and you will be eligible for a randomly-selected prize of a $10 gift certificate from Santa's helpers at Small World Music. Send your entry directly to SWM at

Ho ho,
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Weekend Action, Dec. 8 - 10

Friday: If winter weather doesn't faze you, the Night Eagle Cafe in Oxford is a great destination for a musical road trip, and tonight's performer, Bill Staines, is worth a journey. The Cafe is a venerable music spot, at 6 Lafayette Pl. in Oxford. Showtime is 8 p.m. Phone is (607) 843-7378.

Saturday: A customer at Small World Music remarked this week, looking at our Bulletin Wall, "How many things can a person do on December 9?". We weren't sure if he meant himself, or Richie Stearns, as Richie is playing at Old Time Dance Night at Close Hall in Jacksonville, with Steve Selig et al., at 8 p.m. ; and at Castaways at 9:30 p.m. Maybe Rich will go on late at Castaways, as the bill also features the M Shanghai String Band, from the old-timey borough of Brooklyn, and Uncle Monk, a punk-bluegrass duo featuring Tommy Ramone, of the Ramones. Yes of course those Ramones!

Sunday: Jennie Stearns has a CD release concert for her new effort, "Birds Fall," which features production help from Gurf Morlix, who also produced Lucinda Williams. 7 p.m., Felicia's Atomic Lounge, 508 W. State St.

There's more great old-time music up the street, at Maxie's (635 W. State St.), at 8 p.m., when members of the Horse Flies get together under the guise of Dorothy's House Flies. It's part of Maxie's Shuck'n'Jive series, and there is no admission fee.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Car Sharing Money Awarded to Ithaca

Ithaca Carshare has been awarded $177,220 by New York state to start a car sharing operation in Ithaca next year.

Car sharing is a transportation innovation that provides access to cars on a temporary basis, without the costs or cares of ownership.

The grant money from the state reflects a growing interest in car sharing as a transportation alternative that will ease traffic congestion, benefit the environment, and lessen transportation costs for individuals.

There are about two dozen car sharing operations in North America. Ithaca will be among the smallest cities to develop car sharing.

Ithaca Carshare applied for the grant money last year and considered the grant crucial to inception.

Ithaca Carshare has developed with the help of private and public organizations in Ithaca, including the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County, Cornell University, Ithaca College, and EcoVillage of Ithaca.

For more information on car sharing, see previous postings on Ithaca Blog, and Ithaca Carshare's website,

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Donut Wars, Round 2

We're trying to be equitable and have a fair fight here between neighboring coffee-and places, Dunkin' Donuts and Collegetown Bagel Express.

Yesterday we visited CTB-Ex, and made a favorable report.

Today we went to Dunkin' Donuts, but come back empty-handed, despite a legitimate effort. We spent over 5 minutes in D.D., but had to split without being served.

There were simply too many people in there. Not, unfortunately, because they were coming in so fast, but because they were going out so slow.

D.D. is not skimping on the staff size. There were 8 people back there, at the counter and the drive-thru window. But - understandably - they seemed a little lost with the products and procedures. It's only been open 3 days.

We will return for another try. Meanwhile, we can report on one dismaying thing, a familiar phenomenon and, if you've seen the movie "Supersize Me", or are familiar with the issues in the movie, a troubling one.

We had plenty of time on line to scan the menu, and D.D. has a pricing stucture that rewards you for ordering big. My planned order, a donut and a small coffee, costs over two dollars. But look up on the menu board, and you see that a medium coffee and two donuts are bundled as a menu item that costs only about 40 cents more. Sp you feel like a sucker not ordering large.

A little insidious, especially for the cheapskate customer (right here). But also a little serious, you know. After all, these donuts are not that nutritious, although caloric. And black coffee (my style) has no calories, but some of the fancy coffee drinks offered are up in the paints for empty calories. In fact, the drinks can be more fattening than the donuts. A medium Vanilla Bean Coolatta, for example, has more calories than three donuts, and more than 5 times the saturated fat. So be careful!

We'll try, try again for a freshly-brewed consumer report.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Donut (and Coffee) Wars: Round 1

In our prior post, we promised a scrutinizing series on the new Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru and walk-in on Meadow Street, and its veteran next-door neighbor, the Collegetown Bagels Express.

Well, we didn't wait long to get started. We took a trip there this afternoon for a preliminary look.

The first thing that struck us was the long line of vehicles at the D.D. drive-thru window. Eight vehicles, in the middle of the afternoon.

We say vehicles because only one was a car. The rest looked like tanks, although we suppose they were only S.U.V.'s, but in that number looked like a sortie.

And our first thought was, people after donuts must be big people. Above-average, big people.

You can probably get that way pretty easily as a drive-thru donut place patron.

We went inside and saw two customers at the counter. So there is no way the service at the drive-thru was faster than service inside. The attraction of the drive-thru seems to be not having to stand up in one's quest of donuts. Which seems like a cause for a good, hard look in the mirror, so to speak.

At CTB, there was one car at the drive-thru. A sedan, regular-sized. There was a young woman at the wheel and she seemed regular-sized, and was smiling.

Inside there were three customers and they were all smaller than me, and I am a Large, but just barely - not a Behemoth. They were also smiling.

We are already seeing a trend.

You can see for yourself at a bargain price this week. The CTB Express has a coupon in the Ithaca Journal every day this month (we think) for a free 12-ounce coffee. No other purchase required. We think it is co-incidental to the Dunkin' Donuts opening. But it is fortuitous for research purposes.

We availed ourselves of a French Roast, and bought a Brownie, so as not to appear cheap. Also, because it is a Brownie. And we took them back to work, and the coffee was cooled down nicely, and went very good with that Brownie, and eased our afternoon work quite a bit.

So, Round One definitely goes to CTB. Tomorow we will see what Dunkin' Donuts has got in its bag o' tricks.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Donut Wars

A new and explosive expansion of Dunkin' Donuts from their New England headquarters made news on National Public Radio this morning, and we are seeing an example of it here in Ithaca.

The angle on NPR was that Dunkin' D. is moving into the southern states, long the bastion of the legendary Krispy Kreme.

You might think you don't like donuts, and you might be sure, but if you have never had a Krispy Kreme, you have not really been put to the test.

I don't particularly like donuts, myself, but I lived in the south for a while, and can tell you Krispy Kreme is scary, like scary drugs.

As with drugs, it's not a question of liking, it's a question of succumbing. Chris Rock has a routine about Krispy Kreme, speculating that their main ingredient is crack cocaine.

As Keith Richards says, it's easy getting in, but it's a hard way out.

The angle here in Ithaca is that D.D. has opened a franchise on Meadow Street, right next to Collegetown Bagels.

It is more approximately a coffee war than a donut war. But it is an aggressive move by the out-of-town interloper.

The CTB location is their one and only drive-thru. With the plethora of good coffee places in town, it seemed like a competitive edge.

Now the edge of their property is a border with this decades-old mega-franchise. With a drive-thru.

Until now, the closest Dunkin' Donuts was in Owego. And it's not even a drive-thru.

A cursory look at the prices at both establishments shows CTB a little cheaper for everything: coffee, bagels, donuts, etc.

Will cheaper prices, hometown status, and a good product be enough for CTB to compete with the clout of a national chain with a huge advertising budget, the legacy of the guy who made the donuts, and very, very bright awnings? With 5 outlets in Ithaca, CTB is not used to the position of underdog.

In the interests of conscientious journalism, this week Ithaca Blog will do a comparison gorge at each establishment, and bring you the report.

Don't worry. We can quit anytime we want to. Just like Keith.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Conte$t Winner

Winner of last week's contest, and $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, was A.N. from Brooktondale.

There is no correct answer to reveal, as the question was about motivational psychology. But we can report the results, that most of our responders tackle tasks they find least odious first, and leave less pleasant ones for later.

We thought it might be about 50-50 between that, and people who like to get the less pleasant things out of the way. Nope. It was about 80-20.

A fresh, pleasant contest every Friday!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 01, 2006

Conte$t: Personality Quiz

This week's contest, sponsored by Small World Music, isn't a quiz question. It's a nosey question, in the interest of personality psychology.

All you have to do is answer to be eligible for the weekly prize of a $10 gift certificate to SWM, Ithaca's community music store, down the Driveway of Winning at 614 W. State Street.

Here's the (2-part) question:

When faced with two tasks, of similar importance and requiring similar effort, which will you do first, the one you don't like so much, or the one you don't mind as much? Why?

Answer in 3,000 words or less for the prize. The winner will be randomly selected. It doesn't matter what your answer is, but you will be disqualified if you correct us by saying that the proper expression is 3,000 words or fewer. We know that, but it is less euphonious.

Send your answer directly to Small World Music at

The Ol' Professor
for Ithaca Blog

Meaningful Holiday Giving

Ithaca has some opportunities to do something beyond shopping for Playstations for the holidays.

The Ithaca Craft Alliance has its 18th annual holiday festival at the Women's Community Building this weekend. They deck the halls with crafty gift items from scores of local artists. There's live music and free admission. Friday 11 - 6, Saturday 10 - 5.

Down the block, at St. John's Episcopal Parish Hall, is something a little different: an Alternatives Gift Fair, where rather than buying anything, you make a donation to a worthy cause. "Honor friends and relatives with donations to causes that fit their values", they say.

There are over 100 opportunities for helping. $20 to Hospicare provides medical supplies not covered by insurance for a Hospicare patient. $10 to the Learning Web provides an hour career counseling session for seven at-risk youths. $25 to the Women's Opportunity Center helps provide dental care for a client (their "Toothfairy Fund").

The Alternatives Gift Fair raised $14,000 last year. You can help raise that figure this year and demonstrate the value of love and sharing. The event is Saturday 2 December, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

P.S. Please also see comment linked to this post about the Syracuse Peace Council Craft Fair.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Barring False Imprisonment

Did you ever contemplate being imprisoned for something you didn't do?

Bad, right?

Under the Bush administration it happens not by occasional failure of justice, but as a matter of policy.

Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen, was abducted by the CIA on 31 December 2003. He was taken to a secret prison in Afghanistan and tortured and held for 5 months.

El-Masri still doesn't know why.

He has come to the U.S. for answers. Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the CIA on his behalf.

America has long stood as a country where the rule of law guarantees justice. It's what we work and pay taxes for. Not for the secrecy and brutality of a police state. Sorry, Messrs. Bush and Cheney.

The mid-term elections showed that Americans are waking up and standing up against the subversion of the Bush organization. The doors, it seems, are opening.

Locally, this weekend, there is an important presentation that opens the doors a bit more. "Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom" is a reading of actual testimony from former detainees at the U.S. prison maintained in Cuba, out of the reach of law.

The event is at the Greater Ithaca Activity Center (GIAC), at Albany and Court Streets in downtown Ithaca, Friday and Saturday Dec. 1 and 2, at 7 p.m. each night.

There will be a discussion with Gita Gutierrez, an attorney and professor at Cornell Law School, who represented one of the detainees featured in the reading.

The event is sponsored by a number of groups, including GIAC, Amnesty International, Ithaca Catholic Worker, and the Cornell Law School.

Call 273-7437 for more information.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Environmental Christmas Trees!

We think of Ithaca as a place concerned, if not obsessed, with the environmental aspects of many facets of life.

(GreenStar Co-op, for instance, sells Organic Salt. It's tough to figure what the opposite is.

Of course, there are worse obsessions, and furthermore, it's not just Ithaca. One of the most e-mailed stories from the New York Times right now is "Free or Farmed, When Is a Fish Really Organic?".)

So it goes without saying that there are environmental issues about Christmas trees. Is there such thing as an organic Christmas tree? Are Christmas trees ecologically good, bad, or neutral? Which is more ecological, artificial or real?

There certainly is such thing as an organic Christmas tree. Christmas trees, like any agricultural product, can be grown with chemical herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, or without.

The Department of Agriculture does not currently have a certification program for trees. Mike Ludgate of Ludgate Produce Farms says that is a bit of a problem for conscientious sellers, as it prevents them from promoting organic trees as such. But the trees at Ludgates would qualify for such designation, if it existed. Theirs are 100% naturally raised, no chemicals of any kind, and they come from local farms, so their environmental footprint is light, indeed. (The origin of trees from the mega-stores is harder to determine, and they may well come from mega-farms far away, thus involving a lot of fossil fuel in transport.)

Best of all is the fact that the locally-raised tree is not just neutrally benign for the earth, but actively positive. Trees are grown on farms, rather than taken from forests. An acre of trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people. They provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. And because of their hardiness, they grow where other things won't, increasing soil stability.

Fake Christmas trees, on the other hand, seem to be actively bad. Most are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and have ingredients like lead, thus carry warnings to avoid ingesting any dust from them. Quite a contrast from the heady smell of a fresh evergreen. No warning labels attached to that.

Mike Ludgate reports that trees are ready and waiting. Ludgates also sells wreaths handcrafted from their own farm.

Ithaca Blog will follow up this piece with more jolly news and offerings from other suppliers around town.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Johnny Cash Conte$t Winner

We try to make sure you don't have to be too far above normal to win our weekly contest. Although we assume most of our readers are that.

Anyhow, you probably didn't have to be a Johnny Cash expert to reckon out that it is False that Mr. Cash was born in Hawaii, as we posited.

Our randomly-selected winner was Mo, who also happened to know that J.R. was born in Arkansas.

Mo receives a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music (see our ad in Ithaca Blog sidebar).

Thanks to all who entered. New contest every Friday!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Weekend Conte$t: Johnny Cash

In tribute to the Johnny Cash Tribute Show in Ithaca this weekend, our weekend contest is about the Man in Black.

True or false: Johnny Cash was born in Hawaii?

The winner receives a $10 gift certificate to Small World Muisc (see ad in Ithaca Blog sidebar). Send your answer directly to Small World Music at

Thanks, and good luck!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Weekend Shows

On Thanksgiving the colleges clear out for Grandmother's house, so the entertainment tends to be of, by, and for the year-round people of Ithaca.

Friday 24 Nov. : The biggest show of the weekend, in terms of both publicity and performers, is the Johnny Cash Tribute Show. The show is all-Johnny, so lots of boom-chugga-boom and redemption, though actually J.R. had a long career with a lot of surprises and turns, and there should plenty of those on stage from the many, many musicians participating, such as the host band for the night, the Don Bazley Projectiles; Sean Kobuk; Missing Marcus; Juge Greenspun; Pat Burke; Richie Stearns; and Ithaca Journal music critic, Jim Catalano. The show is a benefit for Books Thru Bars, an organization that provides books for prisoners. Castaways, 10 p.m.

Saturday 25 Nov. : Blue Sky Mission Club brings a taste of GrassRoots-style cajun, country, and zydeco to Trumansburg in November, at the venerable Rongovian Embassy, 9 p.m.

Sunday 26 Nov. : Crow Greenspun returns to the Shuck 'n' Jive series at Maxie's. No cover. 8 p.m.

Happy holiday weekend!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Harpo Marx Conte$t Answers

M.Z. of Trumansburg was the randomly-selected winner of last weekend's trivia quiz about Harpo Marx, who was born 118 years ago this Thanksgiving.

Contestants only needed to know one of three answers, but M.Z. knew them all:

Harpo's birth name was Adolph. He actually changed it legally to Arthur, for reasons that seem obvious, but were actually prescient. He thought Adolph sounded "too German". But he changed it decades before the emergence of Adolph Hitler.

As Chico's character was supposed to be Italian, Harpo was supposed to be Irish: conniving and fey. The connection fell away once Harpo began performing entirely in pantomime. His namesake instrument, however, is a national symbol of Ireland.

Harpo did actually play the harp, although he was initially self-taught and for years played it in a tuning of his own invention.

Congratulations to M.Z. for her prize, a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music (see our ad in the Ithaca Blog sidebar). New contest every Friday!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Yodeling Ithacans - Man and Dog - on Letterman

Ithaca lovers of the yodel will find a couple of familiar locals on the David Letterman Show on Wednesday.

The tall one, at about 5'4", is Johnny Brown . The short one, at about eleven inches, is Teddy Bear, Johnny's 18-month old puppy dog.

Johnny and Teddy are scheduled to make their national singing debut on a show segment called "Stupid Pet Tricks."

Johnny taught Teddy the art of sing-along yodeling so Teddy would have something to do at Johnny's music performances. Johnny is a jug band musician who specializes in staples such as washtub bass, washboard, spoons, kazoo, and birdcalls, in addition to yodeling. When Johnny hits a falsetto in G, Teddy lifts his head and delivers a prolonged and impressive canine equivalent. He will keep on doing it, too.

It is an old bromide in show business not to perform with animals, well-known show-stealers. But Johnny is not an insecure performer. He and his friend JoMo, an accomplished 12-string guitarist and vocalist, play classic blues and rags in the great tradition of "givin' 'em what they want." The combo frequently play at street fairs and festivals where anything that draws in the crowd is bona fide. This is where Teddy comes in.

Of course, JoMo and Johnnycake, as the act is billed, do fine on their own. They have played for decades and have played with musical legends such as Son House and the Rev. Gary Davis. In recent years they have benefitted from a boom in old-timey music. In addition to street fairs and festivals, they play a gamut of clubs and bars, but also play for organizations that value their upbeat showmanship. Among Johnny's favorite gigs are shows at senior centers.

Showmanship might not be the right word when one half of the act is a dog. Together, the act is anything but. Check them out Wednesday night on Letterman. And check to see if sometime soon the band will come back to play at Small World Music, as they have done (free shows!) in the past.

Good luck, John and Teddy!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 17, 2006

Conte$t: Thanksgiving Harpo Marx Quiz

Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and would make a fitting subject for our weekly trivia contest, so we won't use it, of course. Instead we'll have a quiz about another great American institution, Harpo Marx, who was born on November 23, the date of Thanksgiving this year.

Answer any one of the following questions to be in the running for a $10 gift certificate from Small World Music.

- What was Harpo's real name?

- In the Marx Brothers act, as Chico was supposed to be Italian, Harpo was also supposed to be a particular nationality. What was it?

- Did Harpo really play the harp, or was it dubbed?

Answer any one of these questions for a chance to win. You can even win with a WRONG answer, as we select one winner at random from correct entries, and one from incorrect, if there are any. We reward not just expertise, but effort.

Enjoy Thanksgiving, enjoy the Marx Brothers, and send your contest entry directly to Small World Music at

Thanks, & good luck !

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Weekend Activities, Nov. 17 - 19

Friday: If you've never seen the Hogwarshers, nor been to Felicia's Atomic Cafe, tonight's the chance to do both. Because they're playing there, you see. The Hogwarshers are a new combo playing old-time music, which Ithaca loves so well. Felicia's is a new bar on the West End which is smaller inside than it looks from outside, but is comfortable and friendly. In fact, the bar was voted Friendliest Business in Ithaca in the 2006 Ithaca Times poll. (Felicia's neighbor a block away, Small World Music, feels it might have been a photo finish between them and us, if we only had alcohol here.) 508 West State St., 5:30 p.m.

Saturday: The best show around tonight is not in Ithaca, but in Homer, a few miles up Rt. 13. Richard Shindell is a singer-songwriter from New Jersey, now living in Argentina, who might be the best songwriter anywhere betweem those places, or any places. 8 p.m. at the Center for the Arts in Homer, 72 S. Main St., 749-4900.

Sunday: It's a different kind of old-timey: Malcolm Bilson plays music from the 1790's to the 1830's on fortepiano, an instrument of the period. It's not something you hear every day, but Bilson is known around the world for his playing, and for his role in the period-instrument movement. Even to the untrained ear, it is beautiful and delightful, and the setting is beautiful Barnes Hall, and admission is free. When Bilson plays in NYC, at venues such as Lincoln Center, music lovers line up for blocks for tickets, and pay whatever it takes to get in. Bilson is taking this show to Europe soon, so by all means, take this opportunity now. 8 p.m.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Local Food Movement

What the organic food movement was in the 1960's and '70's, the local food movement is today.

The organic movement promoted chemical-free farming as better for health and the environment, and small, independent farms as a more diverse and beneficial food system than huge, corporate agribusinesses.

Today, after decades of development and success, organic food is the fastest-growing segment of the food industry. But its success has attracted some growers and manufacturers who seem more interested in the potential profits of organic food than its philosophy or goals.

Wal-Mart is selling organic produce, but buys it wherever it is cheapest, including China. Earthbound Farms, a grower included in the recall of bagged spinach this year for E. coli contamination, began as a small grower of organic produce in 1984, but now is part of a conglomerate with over 24,000 acres in 3 countries.

Today, the local food movement says that organic is no longer a guarantee of the highest quality or practices. The movement encourages consumers to buy from farms within a certain radius of where they live, or from sellers they know.

What's the point, the movement asks, of buying organic apples or broccoli to protect the environment, if the produce is shipped thousands of miles by plane and truck? If the "farm" is actually a monoculture plot of thousands of acres in New Zealand or Mexico? If the distributor is a mass marketer like Wal-Mart that undercuts smaller businesses and family farms?

Alternative, independent forms of marketing, such as farmer's markets, food co-ops, and specialty retailers, are emerging as small farmers look to keep control of their products and profits, and customers look for greater connection to their food and communities.

In Ithaca, the Farmer's Market started with the organic movement of the 1970's. For years it was a no-frills operation where farmers came to town on Saturday mornings and sold out of the backs of their trucks in a parking lot that is now Center Ithaca. With the development of Center Ithaca, the market moved to a parking area on Taughannock Boulevard. The dream at that time was to someday have a permanent building.

By the 1990's, the dream was achieved with the Farmer's Market pavilion, on the Cayuga Inlet off Third Street and Route 13. On Saturdays and Sundays, from April through December, the Farmer's Market is home to scores of farmers and food producers, who must grow or make what they sell, and come from within 30 miles.

Retailers such as GreenStar Co-op, Ludgate Farms, and others are responding to the local food movement with increased dedication to buying and promoting local foods, and foods sold by independent and principled distributors. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County has taken leadership in the educational aspect of the movement, promoting the environmental and economic benefits of local foods.

Beyond addressing issues of pollution, nutrition, urban sprawl, saving family farms, and aiding local economies, locally-grown foods provide a simple benefit in the opinion of many consumers: better taste.

At the Ithaca Farmers Market recently, Pat, age 70, was buying organic sweet potatoes. "When I first came to the Farmer's Market, I didn't know what organic was. Now I do. It's vegetables grown without pesticides, like we used to grow in our gardens when I was a kid. People don't do that anymore like we used to. When I eat one of these sweet potatoes, it's like the ones I used to eat that were so good but I forgot."

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

NY Economy Quiz Answer, & Winner

J.S. is the winner of last weekend's quiz question. He knew that Tompkins County is perennially the county with the lowest rate of unemployment in New York.

The county with the highest is the Bronx.

J.S. wins a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, down the driveway of winning at 614 w. State St.

A new contest every weekend!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 10, 2006

Weekend Conte$t of Knowledge (No Actual Knowledge Needed to Win)

This weekend's quiz is about the economy in New York.

Name either: the county in NY with the lowest rate of unemployment; or the county with the highest. Each one holds its respective title year after year, pretty much.

Remember, you don't actually have to know to win. We have two prizes, one randomly selected from the correct answers, and one from the incorrect. We reward not just expertise, but effort.

Don't worry, when we announce the winners next Tuesday, we don't say which was which.

Take a shot, and win a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music. Send entries directly to Small World at

Good luck !

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Weekend (Starting Thursday) Hot List

Last weekend was a big one for big names, with John Gorka and Kathy Mattea - both Grassroots Fest caliber performers - in town on Saturday, and comic Lewis Black selling out the State Theater on Sunday. This weekend is a little less luminary, but still satisfying.

Thursday starts it off, with a free jazz concert by the Cornell Jazz Ensemble, with guest pianist and conductor Toshiko Akiyoshi, who performed with Lew Tabackin at Cornell last week. Ms. Akiyoshi's first claim to fame in a long and distinguished career was a 1974 recording, "Kogun", which became the biggest selling jazz album ever in Japan. Tonight's concert is in beautiful Barnes Hall on the Cornell campus, for the beautiful price of free (so nice we say it twice). 8 p.m.

Friday: Reggae old-schoolers, Rastafrica, at Micawber's, 10 p.m.

For a quick and easy road trip, the excellent Rooster Fish Brewpub in Watkins Glen has Gerard Burke playing fine acoustic blues. Don't know what time - but their phone is 535-9797.

Saturday: At the State Theater, the only place befitting such a piece, "Wonderful Town", the classic Broadway musical by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green. The show is a production of Columbia Artists Theatricals, a major Broadway touring company, and features an 18-piece orchestra. 7:30 p.m.

Film screening and discussion: "Sir, No Sir", an award-winning documentary about G.I. efforts to end the war in Vietnam. Co-sponsored by the Unitarian Church and the Durland Alternatives Library. At the Unitarian Church, Buffalo and Aurora Streets. Free. 7:30 p.m.

Sunday: Jennie Stearns at Felicia's Atomic Lounge. 508 W. State St., 7 p.m.

Go out and enjoy Ithaca!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Dave Makar, Electoral Activist

Congratulations to our own Dave Makar, who was elected last night to the Dryden Town Board. It was a resounding win, 60 percent, for a first-time political candidate in the minority party against an incumbent in the majority party.

Dave ran an energetic and well-planned campaign. It was a triumph not just for him, but for the town, whose voter turnout increased by 40 percent over the last Town Board election.

We congratulate Dave for his victory and applaud him for his hard work, sincerity, and purposefulness. We see good things in store for Dryden with his energetic leadership.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Election Day: The Road Turns

It's a long road that don't turn, my Irish grandmother used to say, meaning everything changes eventually.

Typically Irish, it is a sentiment both fatalistic and optimistic. Today it reflects good fortune, as the long road of bad governance in this country turns toward hope and a chance for recovery.

Republican control of the presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives since 2000 has shown the potential for bad policy, dereliction, and corruption when checks and balances don't exist.

Of course, Democrats could have demonstrated at least moral leadership in their vacuum of power. With a very few exceptions - our congressman, Maurice Hinchey, was among them; our senators, Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, were not - they didn't. Most notably, the Democrats rolled over on the invasion of Iraq, to tragic results for our soldiers, Iraqi civilians, our democracy, our security, and the future of the Middle East.

We have a chance to do better now. But we need to think strategically about a political system that can go so far wrong so easily as our democracy has in the past few years.

As citizens, we need to become more active in our electoral processes. We need better people in government than supposed progressives who will vote for illegal wars when it is the easiest thing to do. We need to demand, or better yet create, more responsive and less entrenched media, to expose and correct bad leadership.

Yesterday was a good start, as we see how important simply voting can be. Imagine what we can achieve from here, with energy, hope, and effort.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"On the Road" Quiz - Answer and Winner

Our last weekly quiz had to do with U.S. geography, asking which is the only state that borders only one other state?

The answer is Maine. It borders New Hampshire only. New Hampshire goes on to border Vermont and Massachusetts. After that, it gets crazy.

The winner, randomly selected, is Randy, who gets a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music.

New contest next Friday!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ineptitude of War

Perhaps because, very simply, war is wrong, it is difficult or impossible to do right. We are seeing that now in Iraq, as the violence and waste grow more and more grotesque, and goals of peace and order seem less and less attainable.

We are also seeing that the operations of war themselves are unmanageable. This week it was revealed that a large percentage of weapons brought to Iraq by the U.S. are inexplicably missing. Today the New York Times reported that deaths among U.S. soldiers are going unexplained and uninvestigated by military authorities, and protocols are shattered as authorities lie to families of victims about what they do and don't know about their deaths.

This is why declaration of war is such a serious undertaking. There is no real winning involved in war, any time, except for profiteers who bring death and evade responsibility in the midst of war's chaos.

This war, brought on by lies, is not simply a mistake, but a crime. As a nation of laws, we need to bring an end to the crime, and punish the criminals.

Many of our leaders - in fact, most of them - are complicit, in having voted for this war. Full justice might never be attained, but the path of justice is open, in votes against these leaders. Here in New York, Senator Clinton was among them.

We need a political party in this country that will stand for peace, even when inexpedient. The time to start building it, rhetorically, was yesterday. The time for greater, uncompromising effort is this election day, and beyond.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 03, 2006

Martin Luther King

There was an unfortunate tumult in Ithaca between advocates and opponents of renaming State Street for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Maybe now, since the city has decided to create a municipal tribute for Dr. King before his holiday next January, Ithacans can unite in the cause of honoring him.

Dr. King worked for civil rights, and more. As his leadership developed, Dr. King began to work for a range of fundamental, if radical, changes in America. He began to speak about "a better distribution of wealth." He said, "A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth." He began to speak forcefully against war.

Dr. King's words against the Vietnam War seem prophetic today. Just as, today, the invasion of Iraq creates more terrorists than it eradicates, Dr. King said that North Vietnam "did not begin to send in any large numbers of supplies or men until American forces had arrived in the tens of thousands." He said that the U.S. was in Vietnam for no purpose other than "to occupy it as an American colony." He asked if the U.S. government was not "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

The speech quoted here, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence", was given by Dr. King on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination. Time magazine called it "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post scolded that Dr. King had "diminshed his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

Each year, at the time of Dr. King's holiday, we see corporate and media messages extolling Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. They ignore his calls for economic justice and against war. They eliminate his message as surely as he himself was eliminated.

Today, as then, the citizens of this country are far ahead of their government and media. Dr. King taught us to believe in ourselves and each other. Let's keep this in mind as we move forward in Ithaca to honor this great man in the fullness of his legacy.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Weekend Conte$t: On the Road

We're looking forward to the performances in Ithaca this weekend of folk music's John Gorka, and country music's Kathy Mattea, and thinking about that troubador life style - you know, the bus, the endless road, here today & gone today - all that.

So the trivia contest from Small World Music is about the U.S. map.

There are two states that share the record for bordering the fewest other states. But they are too easy to name. They don't border ANY other states. You know? They are far away. They are uncontinental. They are new. (They are Alaska and Hawaii.)

We're looking for the only state, of all the states, that borders only ONE other state.

Name it and win our weekly prize of a $10 gift certificate to your garage of winning, Small World Music, stalwart of Ithaca's wild west end, 400 feet from Gimme Coffee, which I just visited for a Midnight Rider, which is why I'm going on like this, I am revivified by an excellent coffee beverage.

Send your entry directly to Small World Music at

Thanks and good luck !

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Activities, first November Weekend

There is a range of good music and entertainment in Ithaca this weekend.

Saturday: John Gorka. Maybe the third-best living songwriter from New Jersey (after Bruce Stringbean, and Richard Shindell). But the only one playing Ithaca this weekend. He has a pleasing and moving baritone voice, and is funny, as Jersey guys tend to be. A Cornell Folk Song Society Show. Kennedy Hall, Cornell, 8 p.m. Tickets $17 at the door, $15 at Small World Music.

Kathy Mattea. A country singer of the could-play-at-Grassroots type. Mattea draws from many traditions in her music: folk, bluegrass, gospel, and Celtic. At the State Theater, 8 p.m.

Sunday: Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lew Tabackin Quartet. Jazz at its finest and most exciting, from two great, veteran practicioners. Statler Auditorium, Cornell, 4 p.m. Tickets $25 and $20.

Lewis Black. From the Jon Stewart Show, the Screaming Jay Hawkins of comedic commentary on contemporary America. At the State Theater, 8 p.m. Tickets $38.50.

Hammell On Trial. Ed Hammell's label, Ani Difranco's Righteous Babe Records, describes him as "a one-man punk band - and by punk we mean (mostly) loud, fast music informed by politics, passion, energy and intelligence, played by a guy with a sharp tongue and a wicked sense of humor." At Castaways, 8 p.m.

Have fun -

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

George Dentes

Ithaca is shocked and saddened by the death of George Dentes, 52, of a heart attack on Tuesday, 31 October.

Mr. Dentes served as district attorney for Tompkins County for 16 years. He graduated from Ithaca High School, the Cornell College of Engineering, and the Cornell Law School. He and his wife, Elsie, met as students at Ithaca High School. Their three children also attended Ithaca High School and Cornell.

Flags on county buildings were ordered flown at half-mast in honor of Mr. Dentes.

Calling hours will be from 4 - 7 p.m. Friday at Bangs Funeral Home, 209 W. Green Street.

Services will be 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church, 120 W. Seneca St.

Our deepest condolences go to his wife and children and the extended Dentes family.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dream Interview: Dick Cheney at Ithaca Blog

We feel bad that Dick Cheney didn't get a wider forum when he said that terrorists support the Democrats, and kill people to make Republicans look bad, so the terrorists' friends the Democrats will win mid-term elections.

Vice President Cheney got to say this only on Fox News, because other media people might ask questions, which would garble his message.

So we imagined giving Vice President Cheney a chance to go a little further here on Ithaca Blog. It might go like this:

Ithaca Blog: Vice President Cheney, what other bad things are people doing so the Democrats will win?

VP Cheney: Here in America, people are continuing to go without medical insurance. This makes the Republican administration and the Republican Congress look bad when people die, or go bankrupt. It plays right into Democrats' hands.

IB: What else?

Cheney: Global warming. If it were true. It would be portrayed as a failure of Republican policy or will. Rather than something which, if it existed, would be a gigantic natural hoax for Democratic gain.

IB: Any connection between the terrorists, the Democrats, and the shoddy play in the World Series?

Cheney: Well, obviously, the Yankees and the Mets had the best seasonal records and deserved to be in there. It would have made for a better World Series and a more satisfying one for more Americans. So, whether there was some kind of terrorist activity that prevented that from happening, we can't say. But certainly the terrorists will stop at nothing, and infiltration of the New York Yankees roster for terrorist and Democratic gain would not seem out of the question.

IB: Some of the major business stories this year are record disparities of wealth in America, record profits for ExxonMobil, record profits for corporations in general, and stagnant income for working people. Does this suggest terrorist infiltration among corporate executives?

Cheney: Next question.

IB: Does your creation of this kind of rhetoric play into the hands of the Democratic party, by offending clear-thinking people who simply wish to exercise their electoral privileges by voting for peace, economic equity, and honest government?

Cheney: Time to go.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

'Detroit & St. Louis' Contest Answers

We extended our first World Series-themed Friday contest, about songs with a lyric about either Detroit or St. Louis (congratulations to winner Steve K.), with an extra, tougher question: name a song that mentions both cities.

Despite helpful hints, the question proved too tough, and there was no winner. The answer is "Back In the USA", by Chuck Berry:

"New York, Los Angeles, oh, how I yearned for you
Detroit, Chicago, Chattanooga, Baton Rouge
Let alone just to be at my home back in old St. Lou."

Our subsequent contest, from last Friday, simply asked for a musician from either Detroit or St. Louis. The winner, selected at random, was Megan R., who also supplied the greatest number of correct answers, though all in one, big entry (multiple entries not allowed!). Megan mentioned John Lee Hooker and Eminem, of Michigan, and Uncle Tupelo, Chuck Berry, and Miles Davis, of Missouri. We also had in mind Bob Seger, and Mitch Ryder.

Thanks to all entrants, and congratulations to Megan, who wins a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music.

New contest every Friday!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, October 27, 2006

Weekend Contest

This could be the last night of the World Series (we say it will be), so we ask one final question tying this event to music for the Small World Music weekly quiz.

Simply name a musician associated with either Detroit or St. Louis. We will randomly select a winner of a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, your garage of winning at 614 W. State St.

Send your entry directly to Small World Music at .

Good luck!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Weekend Activities, Oct. 27 -29, and slightly beyond

Friday: A chance to hear two staples of the Ithaca musical sensibility - old-timey and reggae - by two local purveyors. Broken String Band plays old-timey, country, bluegrass and, as they say, more. At the Chanticleer Loft, 101 W. State St, 9:30 p.m. Rastafrica plays old-school reggae - and, we're sure, more. At the ABC Cafe, 308 Stewart Av., 10 p.m.

Saturday: Divahn is a four-woman ensemble playing traditional Jewish songs in a global context. They sing in Hebrew, Arabic, and other languages, and play a wide assortment of instruments: tabla, cello, violin, didgeridoo, and others. The event is sponsored by Ithaca College and is free and open to the public. Muller Chapel, I.C. campus, 8 p.m.

Sunday: Gerard Burke plays brunch at the ABC. Three of our favorites. 11 a.m. .... Five2, I-Town recording artists, at the hot spot on the West End, Felicia's Atomic Lounge, 508 W. State St. 7 p.m.

Monday: All the way from Jamaica, introduced to Ithaca at the Grassroots Festival, the Overtakers. At Castaway's, Old Taughannock Blvd., 8 p.m.

Tuesday: Chad Crumm with the Hogwarshers, at Maxie's, the other hot spot on the West End, 635 W. State St. Chad doesn't play out much, so generally people don't realize that he is as integral to the Ithaca sound as Donna the Buffalo, the Horseflies, Johnny Dowd, or anyone. This is a great gig, part of the Tuesday dinner series at Maxie's, with a special southern-style plate at a special low price. 6 p.m.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Slugfest for Sheriff: Candidate Forum, Thursday 26 October

The race for Tompkins County sheriff heated up today with a pretty big blast on incumbent Peter Meskill by Tim Little, one of his two challengers. Just in time for the candidate forum tomorrow, 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 215 N. Tioga Street.

The candidate forum is sponsored by the League of Women Voters and will also include candidates for the races for State Assembly and County Clerk. But the race for Sheriff is shaping up as the most contentious by far.

Meskill is a two-term incumbent, and the Democratic Party candidate. Doug Robison is the Republican candidate, and Tim Little, a deputy sheriff, is running as a candidate of the Citizens for a Safe Tompkins.

Little's salvo came in today's Ithaca Journal, which printed pieces by all three candidates on alternatives to incarceration.

Meskill and Robison played it pretty safe, but Little said, "I am a strong supporter of ATI and know more can be done." He went on to criticize Meskill's record and sincerity:

"The current sheriff has had eight years to develop this program. He was not concerned with ATI while he was receiving variances to house more inmates. He was not a supporter of Offender Aid and Restoration in the past and conveniently has given them support in this election year. I will be a leader in the efforts, not a Sheriff that just gives support during election years."

You can hear the follow-up live tomorrow night. If you can't attend, the forum will be shown on local TV, Cable channel 13, at the following times:

Wednesday, 1 November, 1:30 p.m.
Thursday, 2 November, 9 a.m.
Saturday, 4 November, 8:30 p.m.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

(Many) Downtown Movies Closing This Week

Scramble, movie fans, as there is a lot of turnover in the downtown theaters this week.

Cinemapolis is cleaning its slate completely. Gone on Friday are "Iraq For Sale", "Little Miss Sunshine", and "U.S. Versus John Lennon".

"Iraq For Sale" was a special, limited presentation with the Tompkins County Workers Center (see previous post). It is a fundraiser for the Center. Admission is $8.00. Ithaca Hours provided a grant for the showing, and Hours are accepted 100% for admission. 7:15 pm showings only.

"Little Miss Sunshine" is moving across town to Fall Creek Cinema. Hopefully the same might happen to "U.S. Versus John Lennon", which seemed to be here a woefully short time (that means, we like John Lennon, and we missed it).

Replacing these films at Cinemapolis will be "Catch A Fire" and "Running With Scissors".

Leaving Fall Creek Cinema is "Shortbus", which the New York Times praises as "an ode to the joy and sweet release of sex", which makes one wonder why it isn't showing still. "Infamous", another movie about Truman Capote (somehow) arrives on Friday. "The Science of Sleep" remains, and we will leave you to ponder the relative popularity, then, of sex and sleep.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Deer -Car Collisions

October through December is the time for deer to migrate and, well, meet. You don't want to meet them with your car so this is the time for especially attentive driving.

Pennsylvania is the number one state in the nation for deer-car collisions. New York, however, is not even in the top ten. Maybe the deer are smarter here, which we wouldn't doubt, but also wouldn't count on.

Triple A says there is not much you can do except to be keenly aware of their roadside presence. Deer are most ambulatory around dawn and dusk.

Swerving to avoid one is not a good idea, particularly on a wet or, especially, snowy road, as you might lose control of your car.

So maybe simply slow down, which is not bad advice, anyway.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Conte$t Answer & Winner. Plus : Another Chance to Win !

With a tip o' the hat to the World Serious, last week's question asked for a song that mentions either Detroit or St. Louis in its lyrics.

The winning entry, selected at random, was from Steve K. of Ithaca, who nominated "Meet Me in St. Louis." He gets a $10 gift certificate from Small World Music.

"Meet Me in St. Louis" was tied for most oftened mentioned, with "Dancing In the Street", by Martha and the Vandellas ("can't forget the Motor City").

Ironic that St. Louis and Detroit tie in our series. Not in the W.S., though.

Other songs we had in mind were "St. Louis Blues", by W.C. Handy (and Louis Armstrong), "East St. Louis Toodleoo", by Steely Dan, and "Detroit City", a country classic by Bobby Bare ('by day I make the cars/ by night I make the bars").

We're going to keep the contest open with a special twist. Name a song that includes BOTH Detroit and St. Louis in its lyrics. It was a radio hit in 1959, and again in 1978 (by another artist), and inspired a Beatles semi-parody in 1968.

Send your entry directly to Small World Music at

Good luck!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ithaca Weekend Activities, Oct. 20 -22

Friday: Urban Horse Thieves, I-Town recording artists, at Micawber's happy hour, 6 p.m. 118 N. Aurora St.

"The Departed", Regal Pyramid Cinema, Pyramid Mall. A well-received new film, notable for the first-time collaboration of Jack Nicholson and director Martin Scorsese. No period piece nor high-minded oeuvre, just a movie about good guys, bad guys, honor, and betrayal, from two of the masters, with a great supporting cast. (Note: two and a half hours long. So get the large popcorn and Mountain Dew. Due to the length, evening showtime is at 8 pm, and 11:20 on Friday and Saturday. Matiness at 1:00 and 4:30.)

Saturday: Burns Sisters CD release party. Castaways, 413 Old Taughannock Blvd., 8 p.m.

Cindy Kallet and Grey Larson. Presented by the Cornell Folk Song Society. Original songs, traditional Irish music, Scandinavian fiddle duets, and old-timey American folk. 8 p.m., 165 McGraw Hall, Cornell U. Tickets $17 at the door, $15 at Small World Music.

Enjoy -

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Weekend Conte$t

As usual, this weekend's contest, sponsored by Small World Music, is ostensibly about music, but aims towards inclusiveness even towards the non-musically minded, taking its cue from current events.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers advance to the World Series tomorrow, having defeated the New York Mets and the New York Yankees, respectively.

Name a song lyric or title about either St. Lou or the Motor City (hint, hint), and win a $10 gift certificate from your garage of winning, Small World Music.

Send your entry directly to Small World Music at The winner will be randomly selected from entries received by Monday, 23 October.

Good luck!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Clarifying Lombardi

New York partisans are dour today, as the baseball season has officially ended for the two home teams, the Yankees and the Mets, who shared the best record in the majors this year, but failed to advance to the World Series.

Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi (famous for his championships with Green Bay, but first a coach at Fordham University in the Bronx, and born in Brooklyn) once said, "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."

That might have sounded stirring and bold once, and maybe slightly boorish today. But actually Lombardi was right - if you consider the meaning of winning.

He didn't say "Outscoring your opponent is the only thing." He said winning.

Winning doesn't mean scoring points in a game. Winning means working towards goals, taking pride in your efforts, and satisfaction in your achievements, large and small.

You can't let failure to meet your goals obscure what you did on the way. That is losing. That's what Lombardi was trying to banish. Not a deficit of points on a scoreboard.

Hopefully it is obvious, for those not interested in sports (if anyone not interested in sports is reading a piece obstensibly about Vince Lombardi), it's not just about sports. It's least about sports. Like all the world, these fields are merely stages.

Meanwhile, for those of you who enjoy the stages these lessons are presented on, it is gloomy in New York. But take heart in possibilities, and shift your delight tonight to something else fun with a friend or a loved one.

And, of course: wait til next year.

Stephen "Red" Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Downtown Movie Closing This Week

Only one of the movies showing downtown closes this week. But it's a good one, so you might want to catch it before it is replaced Friday at Fall Creek Cinema (by "Shortbus").

The picture is "Half Nelson". It's a "little movie", about very real-seeming people and dramatic situations in Brooklyn. An idealistic grade school teacher - a young white man working primarily with children of color - is a great mentor, role model, and educator, except for one big, troublesome secret, which is discovered by his most promising student, who hardly needs any more insecurity and pain in her life from fouled-up adults. Great performances from the two lead actors.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Public Service Corner: Information on Stringing Up Coyotes

This isn't our usual beat, but we don't know whose it is, and we got a call, so we're answering.

An Ithaca Blog reader, new to the area, asked if we could find out what the legality is around here about stringing up coyotes in front yards.

On Sunday she was driving through the town of Candor, on Route 96B, on her way to Binghamton. She screeched to a halt at the sight of what she thought was a dead German Shepherd strung up by its hind legs from the limb of a tree in the front yard of a house, maybe 10 yards from the road.

It turned out not to be a dog, but a coyote.

A conversation at a Candor gas station revealed no information and no concern from anyone, other than to note that coyotes are quite a hazard, and maybe this person was making a point. Certainly it was a lesson to this particular coyote. And possibly its fellows, too, which are known to be observant, if not exactly analytical.

No one seemed to be concerned that it at least looks bad, and maybe even nightmarish to children. The thinking seemed to be that it is not as nightmarish as the coyote catching you.

So we were asked to get to the bottom of it, the legality of the practice.

We spoke to officials at the county and state level. They said they weren't aware of any regulations that would prohibit this practice.

We mentioned the aesthetics of the practice. The county official said yeah, but people do it with deer all the time. To let them dry (or whatever hunters call it).

We said yeah, but at least there's a purpose to that practice, and people are aware that deer get hunted, and aren't likely to mistake a strung- up deer for Fido.

The county official said there might be a practical purpose to this too, that the guy who killed this coyote is preparing to take its pelt, and "hanging it in a tree keeps varmints from getting at it." Yeah, well, too late for that.

We have friends in the country, and know coyotes are a fearsome problem. Maybe this fellow thinks passers-by will sleep better, knowing guys like him are on the coyote case.

I don't know. Maybe they are sleeping worse.

Maybe there's a line to be drawn around violence, even violence deemed necessary, to distinguish it from barbarism, and to keep it in its place - which, even when justified, should not be a place of jolly roadside pride. Should it?

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Contest Winner

The song title or phrase we were looking for, in our Friday the 13th contest, was "If It Wasn't For Bad Luck (I'd Have No Luck At All)".

Chris A. from Spencer was the winner. He said he knew the song from Albert Collins, not Ray Charles.

He had the luck (with the knowledge) to win the $10 gift certificate from Small World Music.

New contest this Friday -

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, October 13, 2006

Interview: Pete Meyers, Tompkins County Workers Center

Pete Meyers works for the Tompkins County Workers Center. The TCWC, in collaboration with Cinemapolis, is presenting a week-long screening of the new film, "Iraq For Sale", starting on Friday, 20 October (see previous Ithaca Blog post).

Ithaca Blog phoned Pete for a quick conversation about this event, and the work of the Workers Center.

Ithaca Blog: How did this collaboration between the Workers Center and Cinemapolis come about?

Pete Meyers: We worked with Cinemapolis last year to show "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices". "Iraq For Sale" is by the same director and became available in the same way for community showings. So we approached Cinemapolis and they said yes.

IB: The Wal-Mart movie is obviously relevant to workers' issues. How about a movie on Iraq?

PM: This is a little step in a new direction for the Workers Center. Personally, I've always approached activism from an anti-war position. But we have shied away sometimes in the past from anti-war issues, and focused on things everyone agrees on. Anti-war activity is obviously not that. But, now, obviously, this war is wrong. Workers think it's a bad thing. Military people are workers, and they're getting hurt directly. Other workers are getting hurt indirectly.

There's a web site called It shows the monetary cost of the war. It's at about $334 billion right now. They also break it down by locality. I think for Tompkins County it's around $122 million. For the city of Ithaca, $23 million. Obviously, this hurts workers. It's money we could be spending on health care and education.

IB: What do you see as the highest priorities for workers right now?

PM: Health care and wages. We've been doing a lot of work on health care. We had a rally when Spitzer was here to debate. The top health care advisor from the Spitzer campaign came to meet with us. He will probably become the health commissioner under Spitzer, and he believes in a single-payer system. And wages, obviously wages need to be higher.

IB: Anything in particular you would like people to know about the Workers Center?

PM: We used to be the Living Wage Coalition. We have an active committment to get more people. We need critical mass. We're a member organization now. People can join for one hour's wage per year. We have a web site where people can find out more.


Ithaca Blog went to the Workers Center web site by searching for Tompkins County Workers Center. The actual address seems to be

- Thanks to Pete for his time for this interview, which involves a certain amount of paraphrasing, due to a dead tape recorder battery. -

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Weekend Conte$t: Friday the 13th

Ray Charles had a blues song about bad luck that starts with the lines, "I woke up this morning / I felt pretty good / I stretched and I yawned / Just to see if I could."

It turns out that would be the high point of Ray's day, which turned out to have as much bad luck as any Friday the 13th.

Friday the 13th is not part of the song, but "bad luck" is in the title, which went on to become a catch phrase, or more likely, already was. What is it?

Hint: bluesman Albert Collins had a hit with a song with the same name, though a different rendition.

The prize: a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music. One winner selected at random from correct answers, and one from incorrect answers. We reward not just expertise, but effort.
Contest open through Monday. Send your entry directly to Small World Music, at, or phone in it, 256-0428.

Good luck!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Weekend Highlights, 13 - 15 Oct.

Ithaca Blog's picks for a fun-laden weekend:

Friday: Jennie Stearns at the ABC Cafe. Jennie has been writing great songs for a good long time. The ABC is a comfortable and welcoming spot for performances like this. Maybe someday Jennie will come back to Ithaca from big nation-wide tours to play at places like the ABC for old times sake. But then it might be hard to get in. Tonight might be, too, so go early and have something to eat. You'll be happy. 308 Stewart Av., 10 pm.

Saturday: Corey Harris is a big-time blues player. His recordings for Rounder Records (Daily Bread, Mississippi to Mali, Downhome Sophisticate, and others) hit the bedrock of rootsy blues, but also place the music in the vanguard of world music currents. His collaborators have included Olu Dara and the late Ali Farka Toure. At Club Euphoria, 115 N. Cayuga St., 8 pm. Tickets $15 at the door, $12 in advance at Small World Music.

Sunday: Pamela Means, at Felicia's Atomic Lounge. Pamela is a fiery, poetic singer & guitarist who has developed a large and dedicated following in the northeast. The New York Times calls her songs "strong and defiant". 508 W. State St., 7 pm.

Have fun -

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"Iraq For Sale" Screenings at Cinemapolis: October 20 -26

"Iraq For Sale" is a new film from Robert Greenwald, the director of "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price." It will be screened at Cinemapolis from Friday 20 October through Thursday the 26th, at 7:15 each night. The screenings are a special presentation by Cinemapolis and the Tompkins County Workers Center.

The film examines the machinations that led to the invasion of Iraq, the profits made by cronies of the Bush administration, and the costs to the rest of us.

"Iraq For Sale" is an important step forward for democratic citizen activism. It was financed by contributions from thousands of individuals, recognizing that mainstream media companies increasingly fail to provide information and ask questions in our increasingly repressive political climate.

The effort around the film also provides information on institutional change for the fight for American democracy. For example, it promotes legislation by Senator Patrick Leahy, Representative Henry Waxman, and others to create explicit penalties for war profiteering.

For more information on the film, see

For information on local efforts, contact Pete Meyers of the Tompkins County Workers Center. The week-long presentation is a fundraiser by the Workers Center - and, Pete says, "a way to raise issues vis-a-vis the war as relates particularly to workers' issues."

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Free Local Money For You (with Dessert!)

Ithaca Hours, the local currency system, welcomes members new and old at its annual membership meeting, at 7 pm, Wednesday 18 October, at the GIAC building, on Court and Albany Streets.

Ithaca Hours is a local currency system that issues a local money for people to spend with each other, and at participating businesses.

Currently there are about 600 members, and over $100,000 in Hours in circulation.

Hours is owned and operated by its members. Annual membership costs one Ithaca Hour, or ten dollars. Members receive an annual disbursement of two Ithaca Hours, or twenty dollars. So you make money just by joining.

If you join (or renew) at the annual membership meeting, you take advantage of a special offer that doubles your disbursement. You get 4 Ithaca Hours for signing up at the meeting. This means you make three Ithaca Hours, or thirty dollars.

The organization benefits from this by having a lot of people sign up at once, saving time and effort. It also wants people to come together and meet one another.

That's why there are also free desserts, from great local eateries.

You can find out more about the meeting, and Ithaca Hours, at Hours' website,

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Sports Bar Report

Last Friday, we had a well-rounded night in Ithaca, first at a free screening of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" at the St. Paul Methodist Church, and then watching the Yankees and Tigers (see Friday's posting).

We noted on Friday that although we have TV at home, for just such occasions, occasionally it is fun to go out and root in public, and to have a beer and a sangwidge or something, amongst activated partisans.

We also noted that we had never been in either of the downtown venues for such events, Benchwarmers and Uncle Joe's, and that we would file a brief Ithaca Blog report on our findings.

Our unequivocal conclusion: Benchwarmers is the spot. We went first to Uncle Joe's, and didn't stay even for a drink. The game was on various and sundry TVs, but there was also loud music playing, and I mean very loud, like shouting to be heard over music. Okay for NFL maybe, but not for the national pasttime, a game that encourages rumination and conversation. It seemed like Uncle Joe's couldn't decide if it was a sports joint, or a pickup joint.

So we went to Benchwarmers, and found a conducive atmosphere. The game was on, and while not everyone was locked into it, and there seemed to be a certain amount of pickup action here as well, everyone seemed comfortable in their personal pursuits.

We found the Benchwarmers service friendly and capable, and the food and libations more than satisfactory. We were left peacefully alone in our comfortable booth seating even after we were finished, but the game still had a ways to go.

So, our number one ranking goes to Benchwarmers. See you there this weekend, maybe, for the Mets and Cards.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Contest Answer and Winners

Last week's contest question from Small World Music: Who is the oldest person to have a #1 release on the Billboard music charts?

The hint was that the release is on the charts right now. So no need to delve back into history.

The answer: 65-year old Bob Dylan, for his new release, "Modern Life".

There were two winners. Remember, we select one winner from the correct answers, and one from the incorrect answers. We reward not just expertise, but effort!

Winners have been notified through email. They are Jeff F., and A.G.

We won't say who had the correct answer, and who the incorrect. But the incorrect answer was a good guess: Tony Bennett. Mr. Bennett is in fact older than Mr. Dylan, and has a current release in the charts. But it hasn't made #1 .

Thanks to everyone who entered. Next contest appears on Friday, 13 Oct.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ithaca Weekend Highlights

It is a relatively quiet weekend in Ithaca, but by no means devoid of edification and exceptional entertainment.

Friday: "An Inconvenient Truth", Al Gore's landmark documentary about environmental degradation, enjoyed a long run on various screens downtown and at Cornell. Tonight it is presented free at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, on Aurora and Court Streets, followed by a discussion by a panel of scientists and alternative energy specialists. 7 pm.

Yankees vs Tigers , at either Benchwarmers or Uncle Joe's. Okay, okay, it's not edifying local entertainment! But it's the national pasttime, its championship baseball, it's New York (although the truly soulful New York franchise plays tomorrow, against L.A.), and it's Friday night! Come on! Root, root, root! Even if you have TV at home, it's still a big bunch of fun, and a kind rare enough to come by, to indulge this completely engrossing, equally silly, passion with a group of worked-up, effusive partisans. Which is the better venue for such an outing, Benchwarmers or Uncle Joe's? Not sure, but as diligent journalists, we will endeavor to sample both environs, and report the critical findings for future dates.

Rastafrica. A new, local reggae band, playing a sweet, soulful, roots rock repetoire. At Micawber's, 118 N. Aurora St., 10 pm. No cover, and they advertise their Happy Hour as 10 pm - 1 am.

Saturday: Musafir, the far-out, far east Indian band that was the sensation of the 2006 GrassRoots Festival, returns to town for a show at Club Euphoria, a new venue in the old Masonic Lodge at 115 N. Cayuga St. Tickets are $15 at the door, $12 in advance at Small World Music.

Sunday: Kelley Birtch is a guitarist and composer from New York. She can play loud, she can play soft, she plays and writes very well, and she sounds different from most music in Ithaca. At Ithaca's best Sunday brunch, at the ABC Cafe, 308 Stewart Av., 11 am. Free.

The wonders of blognology allow us to announce a late change in Maxie's "Shuck'n'Jive" show for this Sunday. Scheduled, but unable to perform, was an ensemble called CandyFloss. Filling in will be the Hogwarshers, a new old-timey combo that promises fiddle tunes at break-neck speed, with a few wistful waltzes mixed in. From 8 - 11 pm. Free.

Have fun!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

This Weekend's Conte$t

Here's the music quiz question for the weekend from Small World Music. A gift certificate of $10 goes to the winner, randomly selected from the correct replies.

Who is the oldest person to have a #1 release on the Billboard music charts? (Hint: it is still on the charts right now.)

Send your answer to Small World Music at Contest is open through Monday.

Good luck!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Amy Goodman on The Colbert Report: Take 2

Yesterday we reported that Amy Goodman of Democracy Now was appearing on The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, at 8:30. But it turns out that the 8:30 show is a re-run of the previous night's show. The fresh show for the day airs at 11:30.

The show is pretty funny. They must need those extra hours to fine-tune it.

Sorry for the bum steer. But it means you can see the rebroadcast of Amy Goodman's segment tonight at 8:30. We think.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cars Versus A Long, Healthy Life

In the Ithaca Blog archives, you can find a series we did on the benefits of lessening dependency on the automobile.

Saving money is the most obvious, in the age of the $3.00 gallon (it will be higher after Election Day).

Another is lessening the greenhouse effect and global warming, which are primarily caused by the countless tons of carbon dioxide produced by burning gasoline.

Another is reducing emissions from automobile tailpipes, which increase the incidence of lung cancer, leukemia, asthma, and other ailments. Automobiles are the source of 60 - 70% of urban air pollution.

And now, a new study by the National Institute on Aging suggests that the main cause of frailty that robs the elderly of their vitality, and even their lives, is a lack of simple exercise, such as walking a quarter-mile a day.

The science is somewhat complicated, though it is well presented in an article in today's New York Times, "Old But Not Frail: A Matter of Heart and Head".

Check the Times for all the details. But suffice it to say that the old advice is well-heeded: walk your dog twice a day, even if you don't have a dog. And new, related advice might well be: lose the car keys, even when you know where they are.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Amy Goodman tonight on the Colbert Report!

Journalistic worlds collide tonight, when Amy Goodman of Democracy Now appears on The Colbert Report, with Steven Colbert, on Comedy Central.

What will happen when the honor student and class president of contemporary journalism sits down with the class clown? Tune in to see.

The Colbert Report airs on Comedy Central at 8:30 p.m.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ithaca Hours in Ithaca Times

Last week, Ithaca Blog wrote a feature on Ithaca Hours, the local currency system which puts new, real money into the hands of Ithacans - money that stays here, helping local people and businesses.

Today, the Ithaca Times wrote a feature on Hours, which appears in its Business Times section. The Times focuses on how Hours are used by well-known businesses such as the ABC Cafe and the Alternatives Federal Credit Union. It also mentions specific Hours programs which benefit businesses and community groups: an interest-free loan program for businesses, and a grants program for the community. Recent recipients of Hours grants include Catholic Charities, and Fall Creek Elementary School.

You can learn more about Ithaca Hours, including how to join and the benefits of membership, in the Ithaca Blog article from 28 September, "Beating the Drum for Local Currency", and from Hours' web site,

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog