Ithaca Blog

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Last week, when we ran a piece about the Geneva Conventions here in Ithaca Blog, we didn't know anything about Paul Rieckhoff or his organization, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. All we knew was that Mr. Rieckhoff wrote a fine piece on the Geneva Conventions, which we quoted, for the op-ed page of the New York Times last week.

The day after our citation of Mr. Rieckhoff's article, he sent a very cordial message thanking us. We took the opportunity to find out more about IAVA, and encourage you to do the same if you would like to find out more about the situation in the war zone from the soldier's perspective.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday's Contest. Win a Prize!

Ithaca Blog's contest this weekend, sponsored by Small World Music, pertains both to music and to apples, in honor of Ithaca's Apple Harvest Festival, today and tomorrow.

The apple used as the logo for Apple Records, the Beatles' record company, is a popular variety in America today, but had not yet been introduced to America when Apple Records started, in 1968. The variety was developed in Australia, introduced to England in 1935, and to the U.S. in 1972. What is it?

The prizes are $10 gift certificates to Small World Music. We award one prize from among the right answers, randomly selected, and one from the wrong answers, to reward not just expertise, but effort!

Send answers to Small World Music, at Or phone it in, at 256-0428.

Thanks, & good luck!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

(Ironic) Award to K-Mart

Usually at Ithaca Blog we shun irony and feckless negativity, as a matter of policy and aesthetics. But a sight at a K-Mart this morning requires a little of these, with an award to K-Mart for rampant, crass holiday commercialism.

Which holiday? Halloween? No, although it is a sad fact that Halloween has turned from a creative, pleasantly anarchistic day into the second-highest holiday for consumer spending - after, of course, Christmas.

And Christmas is the holiday we're talking about here. Walk into K-Mart, and the display that greets you in their doorway is: Christmas trees. Artificial (of course) Christmas trees. $300 artificial Christmas trees.

On September 29. Summer ended one week ago. Hooray! Christmastime is here!

Congratulations, K-Mart, on stirring up our latent cynicism on commercial crassness with this bold display. Our Christmas wish for you, at the beginning of your personal Christmas season one week into autumn, is a good, long spell of 90 degree weather.

Only three shopping months left!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Beating the Drum for Local Currency

Lots of times, tourists to New York City don't understand why so few natives have been to the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. Similarly, tourists to Ithaca often wonder why more natives don't use, or even know about, Ithaca Hours, Ithaca's local money.

I've heard this first-hand a lot, as a member of the Ithaca Hours Board. At least a half-dozen times a year, academics, journalists, and politicians from Japan visit Ithaca expressly to study Ithaca Hours. Japan has dozens of local currency systems and they come to Ithaca to scrutinize the oldest and largest system in the U.S. To them, Ithaca Hours is like the Yankees, so they are shocked to come here and find a dearth of fans, so to speak.

Closer to home, currency system enthusiasts in North America also look to Ithaca Hours as a model and a mentor. Two years ago, Board members traveled to meet with Pete Seeger, who is trying to start a system in his town of Beacon, New York. Today, we received an announcement on email that communities in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts are starting a new system, called BerkShares, largely based on the Hours example. Its inauguration is tomorow.

Maybe the beat of the Hours drum, like the idea of a skyscraper in Manhattan, is a little over-familiar to Ithacans. Or maybe it's the old bromide, that people have to hear about something four times before they do something about it - in this case, become an Hours member. There are over 600 Hours members, and probably as many non-member users, but that still leaves quite a large number of uninitiated.

Following is a beat of the drum for local currencies that came today from BerkShares - an excerpt of their announcement of their start. Let it be one of the four times.

"Choosing locally grown foods and consuming local goods and services strengthens our economy, and local currency is the best vehicle to facilitate this exchange ... Local currency is about building community while building the local economy. BerkShares will offer a positive example of how citizens can take responsibility for keeping their own local economies vibrant.

"You will be able to build a new house with BerkShares, paint your house, get a chiropractic session, buy groceries, buy books and music, eat at great restaurants, and support scores of local businesses that accept local money, and keep that money in our community. You can become a member and help your own business, or your own personal finances, by tapping into this new stream of wealth that our community creates and controls. "

You can find out more about Ithaca Hours at Then, if you see a group of five Japanese visitors spending Hours downtown (a group of five are in fact coming this weekend), you can identify yourself to them as a real Ithacan.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Ithaca Weekend Activities

The going-out scene remains rambunctious in Ithaca this weekend. The State Theater leads the way, with two large shows. Not Friday and Saturday, but Saturday and Sunday.

Old Crow Medicine Show appears at the State on Saturday, 30 September. Fresh off appearances this past week on Prairie Home Companion, and World Cafe. Some of us remember them starting their career in the Dance Tent at GrassRoots Festival. Bigger things were clearly in store, even then. Tickets for this show are bargain-priced at $20. 8 pm at the grande dame of theaters in Ithaca.

Robert Cray Band plays the State the next night. The five-time Grammy winner has just released his first live album. So they should be primed for this show. 8 pm on Sunday.

Also on Saturday, new Crow - i.e., Crow Greenspun - brings his band to the Haunt. The TalkToMes open, in an early show, 6 pm.

Don Preston, aka Dom DeWild, one of the original Mothers of Invention, comes to the Nines, believe it or not. Call for time: 272-1888.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Geneva Conventions Against Forces of Death

I never fought in the military, either, so President Bush doesn't really have that excuse for not understanding how the Geneva Conventions bring peace.

The idea of the Geneva Conventions is not just to prevent torture and atrocities, although they do that. This is the part President Bush probably doesn't like, as he seems to rather enjoy these things. Watch him on TV: he smiles whenever he talks about death in any form.

The Geneva Conventions allow a side that extends humanitarian principles towards its adversaries in war to demand them for itself.

They also show the other side that perhaps your side is right. They expedite surrender. Here is an account of the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge by a World War II American Army lieutenant, in which 5,000 German soldiers surrendered:

Germans had time to weigh the alternatives: an attack from our tanks versus imprisonment under the Geneva Conventions ... while being a prisoner was no pleasure, they were treated fairly under the Geneva Conventions.

Similarly, today, from Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

I remember a seasoned senior officer explaining the importance of the Geneva Conventions. He said, "When an enemy fighter knows he'll be treated well by United States forces if he is captured, he is more likely to give up."
A year later on the streets of Baghdad, I saw countless insurgents surrender when faced with the prospect of a hot meal, a pack of cigarettes, and air-conditioning. America's moral integrity was the single most important weapon my platoon had on the streets of Iraq. It saved innumerable lives, encouraged cooperation with our allies and deterred Iraqis from joining the growing insurgency.

The question is how this can be difficult for the Bush administration to understand. It must be a matter of will, rather than capacity. In other words, they choose violence with a perverse attraction to its ferocity, not a belief in its efficacy. They choose it because it makes them powerful. It gives them the power of life and death.

The goals might not even be clear. The consequences do not matter. Not even dead American soldiers matter to this administration. They simply wish for themselves the power of life and death for its own sake. They serve and propagate death. Maybe that's what Hugo Chavez was talking about.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Last Chance Movies Downtown, Sept. 27 & 28

Here is our second installment of our new heads-up feature on Ithaca Blog, alerting you to downtown movies that will vacate this weekend.

Cinemapolis: closing, "Confetti". This British film has been charitably described as a comedy "mockumentary" in the style of those by Christopher Guest. It is uncharitably characterized as lightweight and disposable as its namesake. It only lasted a week here.

Replacing it is "Quinceanera", an acclaimed drama of a Hispanic girl in L.A. whose 15th birthday celebration is somewhat overshadowed by her pregnancy. A multiple award winner at Sundance.

Fall Creek: closing, "Hollywoodland". A fictionalized version of the mysterious shooting death of George Reeves, TV's Superman.

Replaced by "The Science of Sleep". Gutsy move, mentioning sleep in the title of a somewhat ponderous film in a foreign language (well, to us it is). But the picture succeeds on many levels. It features Charlotte Gainsbourg, a celebrated actress in her native France, and the daughter of legendary French chanteur, Serge Gainsbourg.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Our Food World Expertise

An Ithaca Blog reader who has a food blog wrote, after our last Food World installment (21 September), to let us know Ithaca Blog was being linked to that blog site, Cooking With Ideas.

It's nice to see that people can recognize real good culinary exposition when they see it. Or, have a good sense of humor. Or both. (Or, just have a good sense of humor.)

Anyway, we are happy to return the favor by boosting Cooking With Ideas ( It's a great site, informative and authoritative; also, easy to read and good looking. It's based in Geneva, like Ithaca a nice little town with a gently genteel bent.

Follow-up to that Food World piece: Ling Ling Dumplings are on sale right now at GreenStar. Yesterday, one of the three varieties was out of stock. They have a hard time keeping them all stocked during sales, so shop early and often.

Another Food World note: apple season is here, with most varities available. Empires, Fujis, Macs, etc. are all on hand to help you shoo the doctor, reward the teacher, and celebrate this major New York crop. This weekend is the Apple Harvest Festival in Ithaca, a great opportunity to stock up on bagsful straight from the growers, sample lots of great recipes, enjoy live entertainment, and ride a Ferris Wheel, right downtown.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ithaca Weekend Fun

Friday: Asobi Seksu. Indy rock from NYC. Pop-rock that comes at you in waves, sometimes lush, sometimes crushing. The words come at you sometimes in English, sometimes Japanese. Ithaca's own The Splendors open, and they, too, shall rock. At the Carl Becker House, Cornell. 9 pm.

Jamie Notarthomas. Singer-songwriter from Syracuse who has played GrassRoots Festival, and many venues in the northeast. Considerably quieter than Asobi Seksu, no doubt, but intense enough, in the way of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young. The Nines, 10 pm.

Saturday: Jeremy Kittel Trio. The Crossing Borders Series presents one of the top young traditional fiddlers in the U.S. Jeremy appeared on "Prairie Home Companion" earlier this month. Club Euphoria, 115 N. Cayuga St., 8 pm. Tickets $12. Available in advance at Small World Music.

Ti-Ti Chickapea, with Chugge Khan of Musafir. Eric Aceto, Hank Roberts, and Richie Stearns of Ti-Ti Chickapea are plenty of music on their own. But tonight they are with special guest Chugge Khan, percussionist for Musafir, the band from India who emerged as the wowingest act at GrassRoots Festival this year. Chugge plays castanets and jew's harp and seems to extract music directly from spirits around him. He also has a beatific smile, and a pretty nice wardrobe. Chapter House, 10 pm.

(Note: Musafir returns to Ithaca for a Crossing Borders performance at Club Euphoria on 7 October. Tickets available now at Small World Music. )

Sunday: Mike Stark. Ithaca's best keyboard player, at Ithaca's best spot for Sunday brunch, the ABC Cafe. 11 am.

Have fun!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday Fun: Contest ! Prizes!

Each Friday, Ithaca Blog's affiliate, Small World Music, will sponsor a contest for Ithaca Blog readers. It will consist of a simple question, and a prize for a randomly-selected correct answer, as well as one for a randomly-selected wrong answer. (We believe in rewarding not just expertise, but effort, too!)

Today's question: Besides their profession, what do these notable musicians have in common: Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Ani Difranco, and Bruce Springsteen?

Hint: you might get the answer on Weekend Edition on NPR tomorrow, if you listen closely.

Hint #2: their mothers all have something in common, too.

The prize is a gift certificate for $10 from Small World Music.

Submit your answer (one per person, please) directly to this Ithaca Blog posting, or to Small World Music's e-mail (, or by calling Small World Music, 256-0428.
Winners will be selected on Tuesday.

Thanks, and good luck!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Food World, Continued (Here and Elsewhere)

We took a little ribbing here at Ithaca Blog about our journalistic seriousness when we ran a piece on things we like to get at our prodigious and delightful local supermarkets (Food World, 16 August).

So do we feel a little vindicated now that the New York Times ran the exact same idea for a piece in their well-read newspaper yesterday ("In Search of Grocery Gems"), and it is currently their second-most e-mailed article? Yes, we do.

Of course, we are happy and delighted to help out our journalistic counterparts, and our own dear readers, with ideas and tips. So we will carry on with some further, relevant comments on comestibles for all to enjoy.

1. The Times piece mentions a brand of German cookies called Bahlsen. We like these, too. They mention a variety called Choco Leibniz, a chocolate bar butter cookie. Personally, we like a Bahlsen variety called Hit. It's a simple chocolate sandwich cookie. The wafers are light in color and consistency, so they don't coat your teeth like Oreos. Also, they are very cheap. Also, they are called Hit Cookies. You know we are non-violent at Ithaca Blog, so it is not the "bang, zoom" nature of the name we like, although we admit we did once tell our young teen, live-in nephew that they are called Hit because that's what would happen around here if we came home and found these cookies prematurely gone (he laughed). We think the name alludes to Popularity, but we like the aspect of people using foreign languages to unintended comic effect. There is a department store chain in Germany, for instance, called "Wormland".

2. Goya Cookies. We like Goya products because they are bona fide Latin New York, and they make everything you can think of, and a lot of things you would never think of. But their cookies are a fundamental. They make a flour and sugar cookie called "Maria cookies" that they sell in a pack of 15 that you can hide in your hand when walking down the hallway to the coffee pot at work, thus never need share. But if you get caught, the beauty part is that the pack only costs 33 cents. Oh, yeah.

3. Ling Ling Frozen Chinese Dumplings. All-natural, available at GreenStar and at Wegman's (in the Nature's Basket section at Wegman's). These come in different varieties (chicken ; vegetable), and are as good as any restaurant fare you will find. With some rice and steamed green beans they make a healthy and delicious dinner that you can serve to company, even though it practically cooked itself. Occasionally, GreenStar has these on monthly sale, and when they do, make room in your freezer. Also, get there fast. They do have trouble keeping them in stock.

4. Patsy's Pasta Sauce. The Times piece mentions Rao's Pasta Sauce. Both Patsy's and Rao's come from legendary NYC restaurants. Neither one is a knock-off licensing operation, selling an ordinary product under a stellar name. Presumably, this would not be wise in the world of wiseguys at which Rao's and Patsy's are central. You will pay top dollar for these sauces, but hey, whaddaya whaddaya. Money comes and goes, but good sauce is good sauce, you know what I mean? What am I gonna eat over here, Ragu? What do I look like to you? A rat piece of garbage?

5. Oatmeal. There is no need for packaged oatmeal. It's oatmeal. You put it in a pot, boil it a couple of minutes, and have a delicious, healthy, economical breakfast that is some slight salvation to winter. So-called instant oatmeal is oatmeal cut thinner, so it cooks a little faster. Putting it in a box with a picture of a Quaker does not improve oatmeal. You can't improve oatmeal. It's like trying to improve apples. Buy it in bulk, and buy some Patsy's sauce with what you saved. Or put the money on a horse. Why not? You could be walking around lucky all day and not even know it.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Last Chance Movies This Week

Similarly to Ithaca Blog's proclivity to review movie theaters rather than movies (see posting from 5 August), we now introduce the service of listing noteable movies as they close, rather than open.

Our two independent downtown theaters, Cinemapolis and Fall Creek, do an admirable job of presenting a large number of fine films in their small premises, with adroit manipulation of films and screens. But the pictures do come and go pretty rapidly, in the quest of givin' 'em what they want, the only thing that counts in show biz. Unfortunately, we find that sometimes the ones we want are gone before we get to them. Thus this feature, where every Wednesday we will alert you to worthwhile flicks that are flickering out to make room for the new ones the coming week.

Cinemapolis: closing are "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man", and "Scoop". (Opening: "Confetti", joining "Little Miss Sunshine".)

Maybe all the Leonard Cohen cult has already made it in to "I'm Your Man". But Leonard Cohen is largely popular in Ithaca, along with other lovable misfit crooners such as Tom Waits and Johnny Dowd. It was quite a service by Cinemapolis to bring "I'm Your Man" in so soon - a niche film that is primarily showing only in big, artsy cities.

"Scoop" has gained praise for director Woody Allen as one of his most satisfying, credible, and funny films in years. It has also been showing at Fall Creek, and is closing there too this week.

Fall Creek: closing are "An Inconvenient Truth", "Only Human", and "Scoop". (Opening: "Half Nelson" and "Trust the Man", joining "Hollywoodland".)

Is Al Gore, like Leonard Cohen, a lovable misfit prophet these days? His star has certainly risen with this controversial, important film about global warming and environmental degradation. It has enjoyed a long run in Ithaca, at both downtown theaters for some weeks.

"Only Human" is about a Jewish girl in Madrid bringing her Palestinian boyfriend home to meet the family. It's a comedy. Closing just before the High Holy Days. Maybe it will reopen at Christmas?

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

WHCU Features Car Sharing Story

This morning, Ithaca's morning talk and news program on radio station WHCU featured a story we covered some weeks ago here on Ithaca Blog, on a car sharing enterprise coming to town sometime in the next few months.

New details have emerged. Apparently the group has decided to start with a fleet of eight cars. There will be two cars at each of four locations: Cornell, Ithaca College, EcoVillage, and downtown.

Cornell, Ithaca College, and EcoVillage are partners in the project. Presumably, they will determine where on their premises the cars will be kept.

The city of Ithaca is also a partner in the project. Deciding where the cars assigned to downtown will be kept will presumably be a more difficult issue for the city, with competing constituencies, and more complicated cost and logistics factors.

See WHCU's website for the current developments, and Ithaca Blog for background information, as well as future developments.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, September 15, 2006

This Weekend in the Small Apple

There are times, and this weekend is among them, that one thinks no place could have more artistic and community activities, weight for age, than Ithaca. Perhaps New York, New York; but probably not per capita.

Two of the most distinct events, one on Saturday and one Sunday, blend music, food, and community unity. What could be more Ithacan than that?

On Saturday, the Baptized Church of Jesus Christ at 412 First Street holds a Gospel Block Party. It promises "soul food, children's activities, and music from Thousands of One with Elliot Martin, The Righteous Boys (from Elmira), the Dobbs Sisters (a cappella singing), and DJ Lex Ruger. The event is in support of breaking down racial walls, building community, and celebrating life." The party goes from 2 - 8 pm.

On Sunday, the Ithaca Catholic Worker celebrates a release party for the St. Patrick's Four, who will finally all be free that day from their prison time for their anti-war activities. The event is at the Southside Community Center from 1 - 4 pm. Refreshments are provided. See for more information.

There is also a slew, at least, of great music of disparate styles this weekend.

Richie Stearns and Friends play at Old-Time Dance Night at Perry City Friends Meeting Hall, 8 pm Saturday. Suggested donation, $7.

Priscilla Herdman is a folk singer with a long and varied career and one of the best voices you will hear. Presented by the Cornell Folk Song Society at 165 McGraw Hall, 8 pm Saturday. Tickets $17 at the door, or $15 in advance at Small World Music.

Marty Ehrlich is a multi-instrumentalist jazz player who has drawn comparison to Eric Dolphy. The Village Voice calls him "the dream jazz musician." With his Trio, at the newly-rechristened Club Euphoria, 115 N.Cayuga St., 8 pm Saturday. Tickets $15 at the door, $12 at Small World Music.

Johnny Dowd plays at the Chapter House with a band called Morning 40 Federation. Their name has something to do with an affinity for fortified malt drinks for breakfast, and they seem to appreciate the work of Dowd, if not keenly, at least fervently. 10 pm.

On Sunday: Balkan Beat Box, with Golem, at Castaways, 8 pm. Eastern European gypsy and klezmer mixed with free-form jazz, hip-hop, and what-not. Go know, it's the hottest thing on the New York scene right now. You'll get so jiggy you could plotz. Tickets $15 at the door, $12 at Small World Music (on Saturday - store closed Sundays).

Give a listen!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ithaca's Wild West End

The #2 most e-mailed story in the New York Times yesterday was a story featuring Gimme Coffee, the Ithaca-based coffee bar whose outpost in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn has helped define that area as the epitome of hip in the city, and raised the entire city's standards for coffee to heights never imagined at Chock Full O' Nuts.

Gimme Coffee at 506 W. State St. in Ithaca is doing the same thing here, in the town's West End, which might be to its city, what Willamsburg is to its.

Half a decade ago, the West End was a section of quizzical businesses in non-descript buildings, and bars where nobody wanted to know your name. There was a chicken-and-egg aspect to the area: were there no good businesses there because no one went there? Or did no one go there because there was nowhere to go?

A couple of small businesses thought the latter. It's not that the West End is too far to visit, at four or so blocks past the Commons (and no hills). Maybe the place was a zircon in the rough.

The neighborhood wasn't barren. GreenStar Co-op moved there in the early '90s, after a fire at their old Fall Creek store. Soon after, Maxie's Restaurant brought vigor and style to the site of the old Farmers and Shippers restaurant.

But GreenStar and Maxie's were businesses that, generally, people drove to, then away from.

By the turn of the decade, Gimme Coffee and other businesses were betting that they could bring car and foot traffic both to the area, and change the perception of it from far out to near in.

One of those businesses was Small World Music, which close readers of Ithaca Blog will recognize as having a mild affiliation with this publication. In the interest of a seeming modesty which is by no means easy to affect, we will shift attention from this business right now, except to note, for the historical record, we were here good and early.

In 2002, a sea change came to the neighborhood in the form of an ocean liner of a home built for itself by the Alternatives Federal Credit Union. The new building replaced the old Moose Lodge, and then some, taking up a whole block on Fulton Street, from Seneca Street to State Street, and becoming the financial nexus of much of Ithaca, as well as a focus of serious face-time.

At around that time, GreenStar expanded its hours of operation. Gimme Coffee opened, bringing people in early, and keeping them fixated for long and frequent spells.

It only made sense that soon the area would need a nighttime yang to the daytime ying of Gimme. And so Felicia's Atomic Lounge opened, right next door. Today the businesses are joined at the hip by a chic alleyway patio that could easily be mistaken for an idyllic part of Williamsburg or the Lower East Side.

The influx increased with the migration of an existing business, the Cayuga Mountain Bike Shop, now known as Cayuga Ski and Cyclery. Their move 5 blocks west, from State and Geneva to State near Fulton, gave them increased space, on a block they construed as closer and more convenient to their clientele.

Joining the party, so to speak, was Finger Lakes Beverage Center, next to Kinko's on West State Street, home of fancy beers and sodas - including kegs, and beers on tap to take away ("growlers", for some reason) ; and one of the very few places in the United States one can use a currency not issued by the United States government, nor any government, to get an adult beverage (they accept an Ithaca Hours dollar - known as a 1/10th note - per purchase. For more information about Ithaca's own money, see

Already at the party, for a number of years now, has been Sparrow's Wines and Liquors, a small but excellent shop on the corner of Fulton and Green (which also accepts Ithaca Hours).

Ithaca Bakery saw enough potential in the West End that they opened a branch on Meadow and Cleveland, just a few blocks away from the main shop at Meadow and Court. It is more a complement than a competitor to the flagship, serving the Southside neighborhood, and featuring a drive-through window.

A new health club facility on Inlet Island is perhaps only technically on the fringe of the new West End. But it certainly raises the profile of the area, as will an adjacent walk and bike path that is planned as a nature-friendly link from the West End to the Farmer's Market area.

If the first shall indeed be last, let us close with a brief mention of the conscientiously overlooked Small World Music. Come and see it for yourself, next time you're on the West End. From the newest CDs to the oldest LPs, a great selection at great prices. Appropriately funky for the neighborhood, and then some, in a garage behind the house at 614 W. State St. - one block west of Gimme, right across the street from Finger Lakes Beverage. Ithaca Hours accepted 100%. Mention this piece and get 15 % off (Hours, or US dollars) your purchase.

Stephen Burke
unhired gun
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Gimme Coffee Javanaut Steams Ahead

Last week, Ithaca Blog reported on a Food and Wine magazine article that cited Gimme Coffee as one of the top ten coffee bars in the United States.

There is more recognition for Gimme today, in a New York Times article called "Espresso's New Wave Hits Town."

The Times talks about Gimme's outpost in Brooklyn, and three other coffee bars in the city, that have brought the city forth from the dark ages - not so long ago - when "coffee regular, no sugar" was considered a nuanced order.

Check the Times online, and you can also see a 3-minute video that includes scenes from the Gimme in Williamsburg.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Ithaca Blog Crystal Ball Clearly Working

You read it here first: yesterday, Ithaca Blog correctly predicted results in the Democratic Senate primary race between Hillary Clinton and Jonathan Tasini.

We said in a posting yesterday that Tasini would, with luck, get as much as 20 percent of the vote statewide. He got 17 percent.

Ithaca Blog also predicted that Tasini would defeat Clinton in the city of Ithaca. And that seems to have happened. Right now the margin is razor thin (Ithaca Blog optimistically predicted a 53 to 47 percent win), but Tasini is believed to have won.

As Jimmy Breslin says, and we often repeat, if you don't blow your own horn, there's no music. Thus the huffing and puffing for our forecast. But more, it is out of appreciation for a difficult campaign intrepidly run by the Tasini organization, and pride for the voters in Ithaca, holding Senator Clinton accountable for her lack of leadership and her cynical politics of collecting money, keeping near power, and keeping her head down.

Maybe next we will see how the Ithaca Blog crystal ball does with football games. That would get some readership!

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Prediction: Tasini Beats Clinton (... in Ithaca)

Previously in Ithaca Blog, we looked at the Democratic primary race for the Senate in New York, and the failure of supposedly progressive groups such as MoveOn to endorse the progressive candidate, challenger Jonathan Tasini, in fear of the moneyed and powerful but clearly centrist incumbent, Hillary Clinton.

MoveOn responded to widespread criticism by holding an on-line "election." Ithaca Blog scrutinized their rules and predicted the result would be an official non-endorsement by MoveOn of either candidate. The morning the poll was announced, we advised MoveOn to save us all some time, and just go ahead and announce the results: no endorsement.

The next day the results came : No endorsement.

No surprise.

Our crystal ball has more bad news: despite a great effort, Tasini will be lucky to get 20% state-wide. Clinton has the power of incumbency, instant name recognition, $44 million to Tasinii's $200,000, and no pressure from entrenched groups like MoveOn even to debate her progressive, anti-war challenger.

But there's one bright glint in the Ithaca Blog crystal ball. It says that Tasini will win in the city of Ithaca.

Is it because we are the Enlightened City? No, not so much that as, perhaps, the enlightening city. A city that will enlighten other voters in New York with the idea that a liberal leader who voted for the Bush war is not a liberal, and more importantly, not a leader. And that if you don't vote for what you really believe in, you don't really vote.

You can't fool all the people all the time. Tomorrow's news: in the five wards of the City of Ithaca, Tasini 53%, Clinton 47%.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Electrician Who Should Be President

There was a potentially redeeming news story five years ago, after the attacks of 9/11.

Actual redemption did not come - as redemption generally doesn't, because redemption requires hard choices and will. But an ordinary citizen, an electrician from New York City, said something that could have saved us from the horrors of war we face, which are likely to worsen, if he had been president.

He was at Ground Zero, working to clear the site. He was a volunteer. Skilled workers such as electricians were crucial to the recovery.

He was there because he lived a mile away, in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. The World Trade Center was practically in his neighborhood. He was needed, so he was there.

He had seen the attack. His 10-year old daughter was home sick from school that day, so he stayed home with her. He made breakfast and sat with her on the small terrace of their apartment. It was a beautiful morning, as everyone remembers.

Their terrace had a view of the Hudson River, and the World Trade Center to the south. The father and daughter sat eating as they saw the plane approach the building and hit it.

It exploded in fire and smoke. Soon bodies were plunging from the building, a hundred floors high.

He rushed his daughter inside and told her to stay there. He went back out and tried to think what to do.

His wife and daughter left the city. He stayed, and worked at the recovery site, 10 and 12 hour days.

At the time, no one knew why it had happened, or even whether it was over. No one knew yet who was responsible, or how to react. Despite the uncertainty and danger, working people went to the site and worked to clear the death and destruction.

At the site, a reporter asked the electrician what had brought him to volunteer. He told the reporter what he did for a living, and where he lived, and where he was on 9/11. The reporter asked what he thought the country's response should be. He said he didn't know. The reporter asked, do you want war? As a New Yorker, living a mile from this site, in this horror, do you want revenge?

He said, "I'm 46 years old. I'm an electrician. I have a 10-old daughter. I figure somewhere in Afghanistan there's a 46-year old electrician with a 10-year old daughter. All I know is, I don't want them to see what we saw."

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Farmers Market Tip for the Day

Just in from Farmers Market: the booth to be, for produce, is Mandeville Farms.

Their booth is low-key, overshadowed a bit by the burrito stand next to it, and famous Littletree Orchards across from it. But they are featuring a gamut of great vegetables, at great prices.

Most of the other stands are selling squash and peppers for 75 cents each. Mandeville is selling them 3 for a dollar. We shopped up on those.

We also got a spaghetti squash, 99 cents a pound, a good price even if they didn't low-ball the weight for us, which they did.

So, along with the requisite fine fancy stuff (Gimme Coffee; Macro Mama), pick up some wholesome produce at wholesome prices at Mandeville Farms, and get cooking.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, September 08, 2006

"Democracy Now" on Non-Violence and September 11

This morning, "Democracy Now" with Amy Goodman featured a story that appeared yesterday in Ithaca Blog, on September 11 as the fifth anniversary of the attacks on the U.S., and the 100th anniversary of the start of the non-violence movement by Mahatma Gandhi.

"Democracy Now" interviewed Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. Arun Gandhi is a journalist, and a founder of the MK Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence.

The interview can be found at

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Non-Violence and September 11

Since 2001, September 11 has been an anniversary of violence and terror. But September 11 is also the anniversary of one of history's great moments for peace and justice: Mahatma Gandhi's announcement of Satyagraha, or a campaign of non-violent resistance, against racial oppression of Indians.

The announcement came 100 years ago, on September 11, 1906.

Ultimately, the campaign led to Indian independence from the United Kingdom.

The principles were adopted by Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement in the U.S., and by Nelson Mandela to end apartheid in South Africa.

Groups aroung the world, particularly in New York City, will commemorate the events together this year. In the words of one group, the goal is to show "there is another response to terror."

Before the invasion of Iraq, peace groups in England met with prime minister Tony Blair to discuss alternatives to violence between the west and the mid-east. Blair chose to comply with the Bush administration, and the invasion of Iraq rages on today, for a longer duration than the time spent by the United States in the war against Nazi Germany, with casualties worsening, and no end in sight.

Today, Tony Blair announced that he will step down as prime minister of England within a year, in the face of mounting criticism and opposition for his acquiescence to war.

Americans have seen the Bush administration obliterate the will of the world to condemn violence in the wake of 9/11 with its own campaign of violence, which has killed thousands of Americans and Iraqi citizens, ruined countless lives, engendered hate and violence, and solved nothing.

It's not too late to learn. Nor to act. Demonstrations and events for peace are being planned by New Yorkers for a Department of Peace ( and the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence.

Find out more - and talk to people.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Food World: World-Class Coffee in Ithaca

Ithaca's location and small size make it a nice place to live, although devoid of some amenities of larger cities.

But there is great coffee here, according to the latest Food and Wine magazine, which cites Gimme Coffee as one of the ten best coffee bars in the United States.

The others are all in major cities: New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, Seattle, Austin, Washington DC, and Beverly Hills.

You might have to go to New Orleans for beignet or po' boys, Philly for cheese steaks, Chicago for deep dish pizza, or New York for a piece of whitefish. But for coffee, just go to the corner of Cayuga and Cascadilla, or 506 W. State St., for some of the best in the country.

Congratulations to coffee impressario Kevin Cuddeback, roaster John Gant, and all the fine barristae at Gimme.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, September 01, 2006

MoveOn Ruse: We Stand Correct

Regarding yesterday's Ithaca Blog report on MoveOn and the NY Senate race: the results are in - correctly predicted here way ahead of time. See the forwarded message from MoveOn, just released:

Dear MoveOn member in New York,
We wanted to let you know, MoveOn won't be making an endorsement in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary. In voting over the last day, neither Hillary Rodham Clinton nor Jonathan Tasini garnered the two-thirds support from MoveOn members necessary for an endorsement. The margin in our online vote was 56 percent for Clinton and 44 percent for Tasini.
The MoveOn election effort in New York and across the country will stay focused on beating vulnerable Republican incumbents in House races—working to end one-party Republican rule in Washington.
Thanks to everybody who voted and look for more about how you can get involved.
–Eli Pariser Executive Director, Political Action Friday, September 1, 2006

# # #

Ithaca Blog referred Mr. Pariser to our article, and prediction, which could have saved him the trouble and shame.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Free Labor Day Picnic at Stewart Park

For 22 years, Ithaca has been the site of a big, wonderful Labor Day picnic. The picnic is hosted by a coalition of labor groups to celebrate the contributions of working people to their communities and country. It is free, and open to the public.

Guests are invited to bring a dish to pass. The host groups provide free hot dogs, meat and veggie burgers, drinks, and ice cream.

The Ithaca Firefighters bring a fire truck for the edification and delight of youthful youngsters and unselfconscious adults (little fire helmets are also provided). There is an awards ceremony for local heroes of labor - as well as a Goat of Labor indictment of the year's worst villian.

There is great local music every year. This year's performers are Colleen Kattau, Tom Sieling, and John Simon. There will also be special guest performers from New York City, George Mann and Julius Margolis. George is 40-something, and Julius 90-something, and they write and perform songs that are catchy as well as inspiring and educational about social history, and modern life. George and Julius have a new CD, "Songs to Take Our Country Back!", with guest appearances from Colleen Kattau, Utah Phillips, Francesco Herrara, and Billy Bragg.

There is also a benefit raffle, with cash prizes, and items donated from local merchants.

The event is a great opportunity for fun and community. Stewart Park, Monday, 11 a.m - 3 p.m., rain or shine.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Food World: Diners

One of the great things about holidays is the opportunity to travel, and to eat in diners.

You can tell right away, I am easy to please.

But I like eating in diners. It's like going to a foreign country. You're just passing through. It's not a place you'd normally go. Inside, nobody knows you. You don't know them and you'll never see them again. So there is the easy familiarity of complete cosmic strangers.

If you're traveling this Labor Day weekend, you can start the fun early by giving yourself over to the lure and the lore of the diner. If you do, you will be doing plenty of meal-time reading soon enough, with a big, multi-page, laminate diner menu before you; so we will keep our pre-trip tips brief, and wish you happy trails and digestion.

The State Diner
The Ithaca landmark. Open 24 hours. Because it's an in-town diner, not necessarily for travellers, the foreign country factor doesn't pertain, although it is definitely diner world in the State, with the bold fluorescent lights and the counter stools and the booths (there isn't a free-standing chair in the place). The best bargain is breakfast, which is served all day. Mandatory three-count on the toast. That's right, three slices.

The Blue Dolphin, Apalachin NY.
Apalachin is about 45 minutes away, between Owego and Binghamton off Route 17. The Blue Dolphin is a good choice for Type-A travelers who feel slothful having a big meal-up at the State Diner before even going anywhere: by waiting until you hit the Blue Dolphin, you've already accomplished something. And the fare is worth the wait - better than State Diner's, particularly the home fries, which are freshly made on the premises, not food service. And the prices are about the same. The place is big, clean, and the service is fast and friendly. Recommended.

The Roscoe Diner, Roscoe NY.
If you have lived in Ithaca for any length of time - say, a few days or more - and came here from the NYC area, you have probably been to the Roscoe Diner. It is roughly the half-way point between NYC and here, both physically and psychically, with its Long Island architecture and college-pennant decor, and its gigantic menu with items meant to appeal to every ethnicity and age and style of eater.
One suspects that even with the breadth of the menu, 80 percent of the orders are either breakfast or burgers or club sandwiches. Any of these things will be plenty to eat. Personally, I will generally go with a burger at the Roscoe, because they have "deluxe" options (involving fries, cole slaw, and/or cheese), and I like ordering the "deluxe", because you hardly ever get to say the word "deluxe", much less with a straight face.

The pre-eminence of the diner has been challenged in recent decades by the rise of fast- food chains. Do not succumb to these places, despite the anonymity of the road, which might allow you the guilty pleasure of eating a Big Mac without anyone you know seeing you. It's not worth it. Simply put, the odds of keen nausea within minutes of ingesting are just too high. Then the dizzy remorse can ruin your trip.

Culinarily and otherwise, have a safe and fun weekend.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog