Ithaca Blog

Monday, December 24, 2007

New Year's Eve Festivities in Ithaca

Note from December 2008: engine searches for "ithaca new years" and the like have been leading to this page rather than the current one, in 2008. Check there for current info.)

It's still a week away, but we have been getting a lot of inquiries about New Year's Eve action in Ithaca. Here's what we know.

Felicia's Atomic Lounge gets the ball dropping early with a two-hour program of live show tune performance. From 6:30 - 8:30. After that, it's drink specials and whatever can happen in a room full of drinking people after two hours of show tunes. No cover.

The Sonic Planet radio program hosts a performance by gypsy band Gadje at the ABC Cafe, followed by a DJed dance party that figures to be strong on the big-beat world music. Doors open at 9, and Gadje will play at 10. There wil be food and drink available. Admission is $5, or one-half Ithaca Hour.

The Sim Redmond Band will be at Castaways, with Kevin Kinsella. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. 9 pm.

Maxie's rolls up the carpet in the Breeze Room to make room for dancing, to DJ music. No cover charge; age 21-plus after 11 pm. The restaurant also has a special NYE Prix Fixe menu. Call for information and reservations: 272-4136.

In Trumansburg, Mudcat and Blue Sky Mission Club play at the Rongo. $5 cover. 9 pm.

cheers -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 21, 2007

Weekend Activities, Dec. 21-23

Fri. 12/21: Urban Horse Thieves are the bill for a Christmas party at Micawber's. 6 pm.

DJ Nicky Wood brings his Ultimate Dance Party to Pancho Villa, 602 W. State St. We were at a private party with Nicky as DJ last week and people got wacky. Showtime 9 pm.

Sat. 12/22: Jsan & the Analogue Sons at the Chapter House, 10 pm.

Sun. 12/23: It was misreported in some media as occuring yesterday, but the Burns Sisters Holiday Show is Sunday, 3 pm, at the Lost Dog Lounge. Another show has just been added for Sunday evening, starting at 6 pm.

Jairo Van Lunteren at Felicia's Lounge, with guests Johnny Dowd and Jeb Puryear. 7 pm.

And don't forget, music fans, Small World Music is open every day between now and Christmas.
614 W. State St., down the driveway, 11 am - 6 pm.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Extra Days Open at Small World Music

For our faithful I. Blog readers who are also faithful Small World Music shoppers (or thinking about it), we want to let you know that Small World Music will be open every day from now through Christmas, foregoing our usual Sunday & Monday closed days.

If you need music for the holidays, we are much more accessible than the mall (there will be a non-stop traffic jam on Triphammer Road from now through late Monday), and of course much more rikki-tik, in every way.

Pull into the driveway and park a few leg-lengths from our front door. Park on the street and you are still just 90 feet away. There is plenty of good music inside. We are also directly across the street from Finger Lakes Beverage, a very nice beer and soda store, if those things are on your shopping list.

We hope to see you soon. Open from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Steve Burke
for I. Blog and Small World Music

Preserve Your Downtown: Shop There

The director of the Ithaca Downtown Partnership, Gary Ferguson, writes in this week's Ithaca Times, "There 's a generation of people, many in their 20s and 30s, who grew up without a downtown in their lives."

We're fortunate, having one here. It's filled with great shops and restaurants, surrounded by ample parking structures, and centered by a pedestrian mall which frequently hosts entertainment and community events.

Ferguson describes Ithaca's downtown as a rarity in our region, and the envy of other cities. He notes that "Out-of-area visitors are the fastest-growing segment of the downtown marketplace. People from greater Rochester and the Binghamton areas are coming to Ithaca with increasing frequency. Why? It is not because they seek traditional national retailers. They have plenty of those. Rather, they seek the experiential shopping and unique quality that our Ithaca shops have to offer."

At a time when even venerable locales such as Times Square and Harlem are losing their identities to national corporate businesses, Ithaca is still Ithaca. Help keep it intact, with your presence and support.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tidings of Comfort and Joy Verifiable

Don't worry if you feel happy at the holidays. It turns out to be normal.

Despite occasional warnings from health professionals about the stresses of gift-giving and get-togethers (and the cinematic image of jittery Jimmy Stewart careening towards the Bedford Falls bridge on Christmas Eve in "It's A Wonderful Life"), studies show that suicide rates approach an annual low in December.

Researchers speculate that nearness to loved ones counters not only whatever stress the holidays might hold, but also the ancillary ailment of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a depressive syndrome brought on by the short days of winter.

So don't hesitate to turn on your love light for friends and family this season. You're doing them quantifiable medical good. Yourself, too.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Send a Truckload of Relief to New Orleans for Xmas

Love Know No Bounds, Ithaca's grassroots volunteer group bringing relief to post-hurricane New Orleans, is sending its ninth truckload of materials and workers to the city's Seventh Ward this holiday season.

The group is soliciting help with a fundraising concert Sunday, 16 Dec., starting at 2 pm, at the Haunt.

Participating musicians include Richie Stearns, Hubcap, Chad Crumm, Burke and Bone, Vitamin L, Jairo van Lunteren, and others.

Admission is $10 and all proceeds go to the continuing relief effort. Part of LKNB's work is to establish a long-term, sister city relationship between Ithaca and the Seventh Ward. Information is available at

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Those Low Prices at Wal-Mart

The National Labor Committee reports that Christmas ornaments sold at Wal-Mart come from a Chinese manufacturer with 12- and 13-year old workers who are brought with false promises to urban factories from remote rural areas, systematically cheated of wages, and used on overnight shifts of 10 to 15 hours, 7 days a week.

Meanwhile, in the United States, a California court ruled that a case alleging bias towards women workers at Wal-Mart can go forth as a class-action lawsuit covering more than a million women claiming over a billion dollars in illegally withheld wages and benefits.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Less-Hard Times at the Holiday Post Office

We do many mailings at all times for Small World Music at the post office on Tioga Street, and realized yesterday that at Christmas time many novice mailers are there, having a bad time. So here are a few tips for better post office trips.

1. Leave early rather than hurrying. Actually, this applies always. Hurrying takes a maximum of one-third off your time. Maximum. Usually much less. And hurrying creates stress, occasional injury, and feelings of hatred which, although situational, can become habitual.

2. Carry your postings in a large bag that you can carry on your shoulder or back, rather than by hand. It keeps you from having to hold them in your arms on line, which is likely to be a long time. Last night, the line at closing time was 30 minutes long - no lie. And it leaves your hands free for tip #3, which is ...

3. Bring something to read. Yesterday I knocked off two sections of the Sunday NY Times, showing the guy in front of me how to fold the Times in eighths, like the subway strap-hanger I was for years, which enables you to read the big broadsheet with only one hand. Of course, the post office does not lurch, so this is not really necessary. But it's good to stay in practice.

Follow these simple tips, and you will have an okay and productive time, and appreciate the hard work of the mail clerks, rather than yelling at them, as one woman did, for not staying open as late as Fed Ex. Don't do that, it's gauche.

Peaceful holidays -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 07, 2007

#1 Shopping Tip: Small World Music

We're not neutral, but we wouldn't be helping anybody if we didn't recommend our humble CD store, Small World Music (physical home of Ithaca Blog, at 614 W. State St.) as a unique and bargain-laden spot for holiday gifts.

Minding money is a must at holiday time, no matter how gleeful a giver one might be. Here's how we expressed it in an ad in GreenLeaf, GreenStar Co-op's monthly newsletter:

Music is your affordable choice for holiday gifts with emotional content! Books are solitary, candles burn away, but music is shared, and lasts. Small World Music has the newest releases, hard-to-find items, gift certificates, everything you need, including prompt special ordering. Everything always below list price. Plenty of good, used inventory, too, at bargain prices. Two blocks from GreenStar, 614 W. State St., Tuesday - Saturday 11 am - 6 pm. 256-0428.

We are also pleased by brief praise in this week's Ithaca Times holiday shopping section, which said,

It's easy to forget Small World Music, because it's so tucked away, but it's your best bet when searching for music that falls in the category of world/folk/jazz/rock.

That's a pretty big category, we reckon, but we should note that we have lots of new, mainstream music, too, such as Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, Madeline Peyroux, and Amy Winehouse, and old favorites such as Charlie Brown's Christmas.

There's more information about Small World Music in sideboard ads here on Ithaca Blog. We hope to see you and to help you towards a happy holiday.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Senator Al Franken

We prefaced yesterday's posting about Brad Pitt and his new project to build houses in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans with the requisite remark about the widespread silliness of celebrity culture in the U.S., before going on to describe Mr. Pitt's admirable use of his resources.

Today we note another exception to the rule of celebrity vapidity, with the announced candidacy of Al Franken for Senator in his home state of Minnesota.

Mr. Franken is a renowned comic writer and performer, with a long personal history of political activism leading to this candidacy. Unlike Stephen Colbert's candidacy for president, which Mr. Colbert hopes to have sponsored by Doritos, Franken's is serious.

Of course, some observers disparage Franken's suitability for public office, based on his career. But Franken is intelligent (a Harvard graduate) and articulate. He is also funny, and we don't see why that should be disqualifying. If anything, it should be requisite.

One wonders why Mr. Franken's critics are not concerned instead with traits such as greedy, arrogant, mendacious, calculating, hard-hearted, or soft-headed, which one finds rampant among politicians.

I once saw a picture of Al Gore at a party balancing a broom on his chin. If he had done such nifty parlor tricks on the campaign trail in 2000 - or, maybe, had Al Franken writing some of his material (I mean, speeches) - he might have picked up some of the class clown votes which were crucial to Bush's win.

We wish Al Franken success.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Brad Pitt Announces Housing Effort for New Orleans

It's not usually worthwhile paying much attention to celebrities, but it is in the case of Brad Pitt and New Orleans.

This week, the actor announced a project to build affordable, environmentally-advanced housing in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, where many remain homeless even on the verge of the third Christmas since Hurricane Katrina.

The project, called Make It Right, commissioned 13 architectural firms to design 1,200-square-foot housing that can be built for $150,000 a unit, with green elements to reduce upkeep costs, and architectural features to respond to threats of flooding.

Mr. Pitt, with longstanding affection for New Orleans and an interest in architecture, has pledged $5 million to the project, and is soliciting support from philanthropies, businesses, and the public.

The project website,, has opportunities for contributing by "adopting" a low-flush toilet, a tree, a solar panel, a portion of a house, or a house, or by buying merchandise such as clothing and bags for Christmas giving.

Locally in Ithaca, the group Love Knows No Bounds provides development help to the Seventh Ward of New Orleans, and welcomes involvement and donations:

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 30, 2007

Weekend Music, Nov. 30 - Dec. 2

Friday 11/30: Vienna Boys Choir sing holiday music at the State Theater, 7:30 pm.

Jennie Stearns and Mike Stark at the ABC Cafe, 9:30 pm.

Saturday 12/1: Will Fudeman and Friends play folk music for WVBR's "Crossing Borders" series at Pancho Villa Upstairs, 602 W. State St, 8 pm.

The Settlers at the Chapter House, 10 pm.

Sunday 12/2: Kevin Kinsella, who just stopped in here at Small World Music to pick up his special order CD (Brenton Woods), hung a poster for his 7 pm Sunday night gig with Hank Roberts at Felicia's Lounge, and we complimented each other on our Christopher Walken haircuts.

Mary Lorson with Steve Gollnick at Korova's on the Commons, 7 pm.

Folk music luminary Cliff Eberhardt closes the season for Bound For Glory at Anabel Taylor Hall at Cornell. First set is 8:30. Get there early for a seat.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Breslin on Impeachment of Bush

Yesterday we wrote a quick piece about impeding illegal wars in Darfur and other places by prosecuting our own, by impeaching Dick Cheney and George Bush.

Today we quote a recent column on the topic by Jimmy Breslin, who wrote "How the Good Guys Finally Won," a 1976 book about how impeachment inquiries exposed crimes by the Nixon administration, and led to the president's resignation.

People, particularly these politicians, these frightened beggars in suits, seem petrified about impeachment. It could wreck the country. Ridiculous. I've been around this business twice and we're all still here and no politician was even injured. Richard Nixon lied during a war and helped get some 58,500 Americans killed and many escaped by hanging onto helicopter skids. Nixon left peacefully. Mike Mansfield of Montana, the Democratic Senate majority leader, said on television that the Senate impeachment trial of Nixon would be televised and there would be no immunity. That meant Nixon would have to face the country under oath and if he lied he would go to prison. He knew he was finished as he heard this.

It opens with the appointing of an investigator to report to the House on evidence that calls for impeachment. He could bring witnesses forward. That would be all you'd need.

Say impeachment and you'll get your troops home.

As we wrote yesterday, no crime on the scale of Darfur, or Iraq, is possible without lies. End the lying and you end the crime.

The Democratic leadership now is against impeachment (it is "off the table," in Speaker Pelosi's famous phrase), as Cheney and Bush will be gone soon anyway. That's not the point. Political expediency has no place in the discussion. We're talking about stopping illegal wars around the world.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Aid Darfur: Impeach Cheney and Bush

An Ithaca Blog reader wrote about Darfur, as we described the situation yesterday, as familiar: a country rich with oil, a government killing and displacing people to control it.

The point is well taken.

We have an opportunity - and a responsibility - in the U.S. to show that political leaders who kill and displace innocent people for money are punished. That means impeachment proceedings against Richard Cheney and George Bush, Jr., who lied this nation into such an incursion in Iraq.

Lying is the thing that makes crime possible, and perpetuates it. The U.S. wouldn't be in Iraq without the willful and knowing lies of the current administration.

Lying is also generally the thing that gets criminals caught. It's hard to catch someone in the act of a crime. It's not as difficult to show a lie. The old saying in Washington is that it's not the crime that undoes you, it's the cover-up: that is, the necessary subsequent lying to prop up the initial deceit.

Another old saying among criminals is that it's not illegal if you don't get caught. Our own criminal politicians, who have created a situation in Iraq parallel to the one in Sudan, need to get caught, for this kind of violence to be illegal, hopefully, everywhere.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Aid for Darfur from Ithaca, on November 30

200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million violently displaced in Darfur, in western Sudan in Africa, in a governmental campaign for control over oil.

China is a major trading partner of Sudan, buying 60 percent of Sudan's oil, and has actively interfered with peace efforts.

The United States has offically declared the situation genocidal, and has initiated economic sanctions.

In California, a U.C.L.A. student named Adam Sterling started a campaign for a bill requiring California to divest from companies that benefit Sudan. The bill was passed into law.

In Ithaca, recent efforts are not yet overtly political or legal, but for relief and awareness. The Northern Light Learning Center, an educational and home-schooling organization, is sponsoring an Ithaca Benefit for Darfur Refugees on Friday, 30 November at the Women's Community Building from 6 to 8 pm.

The event will feature a speaker from the Genocide Intervention Network, music by cellist Hank Roberts, and food donated by local stores and restaurants.

Tickets are $15 and are available at the Women's Community Building and at Juna's Cafe on the Commons.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ben Nichols' Legacy

Ben Nichols, mayor of Ithaca for three two-year terms from 1989 - 1995, died Saturday at the age of 87.

Ben's earlier career was as a professor of engineering at Cornell.

Beneath the avuncular look of a rumpled academic, Ben was a renegade politician who attracted national attention as Ithaca's Socialist mayor: a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Ben took on many causes and all opponents, including Cornell University. When, after long negotiation during Nichol's tenure, Cornell refused the city's proposal for funding commensurate to what other Ivy League schools pay their cities in lieu of taxes (as tax-exempt entities), Ben responded by slowing down city services to Cornell for building inspections and permits. No choice, he said.

He didn't blink. Cornell did. They soon announced, at a lavish press conference, their new and much enhanced contribution to the city.

Ben lost his campaign for a fourth term to Alan Cohen in 1995, when the term of office for mayor went from two to four years. Ben was twice Cohen's age and Cohen showed a good deal of surface vitality. Still, the margin of victory was just 58 votes. Think about that the next time you think people's votes (matched with activity) don't count, and Ben would probably consider it sufficient legacy.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend Music

Friday 11/23: There are two exceptional get-togethers of local bands tonight at two welcoming venues downtown.

At the Chanti-Loft, above the Chanticleer tavern on W. State & S. Cayuga Streets, Richie Stearns, the TalkToMes, and Fisher Meehan perform (in that scheduled order) from 8 pm until past last call.

At Castaways, the Tuff Soul clothing shop presents a benefit for Ithaca Community Radio, working to bring Ithaca its own community radio station. The Crow GreenSpun Band, the Settlers, and DJ Bob are on the bill. 9 pm.

Sat. 11/24: Mr. Gratitude himself, Johnny Dowd, performs at the Chapter House. 10 pm.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Two Thanksgiving Tips

1. If you are leaving town tomorrow, and will need coffee, all branches of Ithaca Bakery/Collegetown Bagels are closed, but Gimme Coffee is open. IB/CTB used to open for a.m. traffic on Thanksgiving, and close in early afternoon. They've quit that, but that's what Gimme now does. Gimme will be open from 7 am til 2 pm.

2. It's recycling week, but there's no recycling (nor garbage) collect tonight. They do it early in the morning, you know. And tomorow is Thanksgiving. BUT if you are leaving town and not returning for a few days, you might want to set your stuff out tonight so it can be picked up Thursday, as service will move back a day.

Capish? Those are the important things, besides driving safely. Have fun.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On-line Slime in the Journal

Earlier this month, we wrote a piece on the malice in the Ithaca Journal's on-line "Storychat" feature, its effect on the Journal's reputation and value, and its toll on individuals and the community.

Today, Lynne Jackier wrote a letter on the subject to the Journal. We reprint it here.

When the Ithaca Journal launched the forum attached to the online version of the paper called "Storychat" I wrote a letter urging the Journal to require posters to use their real names. I was concerned that anonymous posting would create a culture of name-calling and ugly ranting that would debase the cultural climate of our community. Now that this experiment has been up and running for a while, it is clear that my concerns were not unfounded.

A number of posters log on almost every day to make anonymous personal attacks on people in news stories and ridicule by name community members who are brave enough to submit a signed letter to the editor. Although it is possible to report egregious comments and have the post removed, there is no cure for the overall sense of being dipped in slime that the majority of the posts elicit.

There was a recent Journal editorial pondering why there were so many uncontested elections recently. I predict that even fewer people will be willing to take leadership roles or express themselves publicly if the current "Storychat" paradigm continues. It infects the public discourse.

The Journal is not serving our community well by allowing these posters the protection of anonymity while they attack other community members by name. If people who want to express strong or controversial opinions know that they will be identified with those opinions, they might be more thoughtful about how they express those opinions. It is time for the Journal to require all "Storychat" posters to use their real names online.

We wrote a brief, related on-line posting to the Journal:

The Journal has excellent standards, professionally applied, for its letters, where "needless invective" and personal attacks are deemed unfit to print. Why not the same requirements for all readers' comments - namely, those in Storychat?

The editor's note to Ms. Jackier's letter says "there is no practical way" to enforce such standards on-line, which is obviously untrue. The Journal staffers who check the letters could check the comments in a fraction of the time.

Thank you to Ms. Jackier for a letter that is forthright without being disrepectful.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 16, 2007

Weekend Music, Nov. 16 - 18

Fri., 11/16: Burke, Burke and Bone play country blues and rags at happy hour at Felicia's Atomic Lounge. 5:30 pm.

Sat., 11/17: Miriam Aziz, from Brussels, plays a mix of gypsy, jazz, folk, and rock music, and sings with a clear voice reminiscent of Annie Lennox. She performs at 8 pm at the Crossing Borders series upstairs at Pancho Villa Restaurant, 602 W. State St. Guest performers are Ithaca's Rich Depaulo, and Patti Witten.

There's a twin bill, of sorts, on the two sides of Osmun Place at Stewart Avenue: Dutch rocker Jairo Van Lunteren, of the Splendors, at ABC Cafe, and old-timey players The Butane Variations at the Chapter House. Both at 10 pm.

Sun., 11/18: GrassRoots Festival favorites The Avett Brothers bring their foot-stomping sound - part punk, part pop, part old-time - to the State Theater. With Will Hoge, the excellent singer-songwriter ("brilliant hooks and lusty joy," says All Music Guide). Tickets only $16.50 in advance ($21.50 day of show).

Have fun-
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Brief and Less Consequential Appreciation of Norman Mailer

We suspect that Norman Mailer was read much more by men than women, with his purported enmity to (or at least genuine unappreciation for) feminism, his frequent incivility to women (which escalated at least once into criminal violence), and the general beastliness of his public persona.

We further suspect that in fact he was not really read all that much, by anyone. The majority of his books were hugely idiosyncratic both in subject and style.

But he wrote a couple of historically great ones: "The Naked and the Dead," in fiction, and "The Armies of the Night," a non-fiction account of American politics during the Vietnam War.

We read both in adolescence, which is probably the best age for appreciating Mailer, or at least for first contact.

No one else has mentioned it - why would they - but Mailer created the word "fug" (and its grammatical derivatives) in "The Naked and the Dead" to replace a word he could not get past that era's censors, that he felt was crucial to the veracity of the dialogue of the soldier characters in his book.

We were adolescents. It was the 1970's. We loved it. We loved it more when we found out it was the source of the name of one of our favorite bands, from the Lower East Side. Apparently the Fugs loved it too and found it too funny to not steal.

Audacity to the point of absurdity, frequently, was part of Mailer's style. But so were passion and intellect. He was both a patriot and an anarchist, and we will miss him for that.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Borders Installing TV Screens For Ads In Stores

Bookstores used to be places of refuge for people interested less in television than, say, books.

That is changing at the Borders chain, which is installing two 37-inch flat screen televisions in each of its stores to show original programming and advertisements.

The chain's partner in the program is a company called Ripple, which has similar arrangements with Jack-In-The-Box restaurants and Jiffy Lube.

George L. Jones, chief executive of Borders, described the move as "part of a master plan" to deliver access to its "highly educated, more affluent" customers to advertisers such as Ford, which will advertise its hybrid vehicles in the store.

Claiming that the average Borders customer spends an hour in the store, Jones said, "It's becoming more and more difficult to reach people. Newspapers are not as effective as they used to be. Television is not as reachable as it used to be. This becomes an attractive option."

The televisions are currently in 60 Borders stores and will be in 250 more by the end of February.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, November 12, 2007

Arlo Guthrie in Ithaca, Tuesday 13 November, State Theater

Christmas is the holiday for songs - most other holidays don't have many, if any. Thanksgiving has one indirect but distinct one, for folk music fans: "Alice's Restaurant," by Arlo Guthrie.

On his website,, Guthrie says of Thanksgiving, "We get sales for one day a year," and after touring in the weeks before the holiday, "I get to go home to the farm."

It's a small tour, with only seven dates, culminating in an annual show at Carnegie Hall.

This year, Ithaca is one of the dates, with a show at the State Theater on Tuesday, 13 November.

Guthrie is known as much for his politics and humor as his songs, and even when his subjects are serious, he conveys a sense of ease that could almost give whimsy a good name. He is as funny in performance as most comics, almost without trying; definitely without trying too hard.

Guthrie has spoken about the large-scale counterculture events of the 1960's as almost beside the point, the point being that people should be at home, active in their communities and country, every day. The message is well understood in Ithaca, and Tuesday night will be a good celebration of it.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tinariwen and Others, Weekend of Nov. 9 - 11

Friday, 11/9: An indy rock multi-bill at the Haunt, with Middle Distance Runner, from Washington DC; local band Upstate Escape; and headliners Mobius Band. Tickets $7. Doors open at 8 pm.

Saturday, 11/10: In the friendly confines of the State Theater, a double-bill of African headliners from the GrassRoots Festival, Tinariwen and Viuex Farka Toure. 8 pm.

Tinariwen met in a Saharan refugee camp in the 1980's. They sing songs of non-violence and ethnic pride that are rooted in traditional desert music, as well as the blues sounds of Mali, with modern rock and roll influences. The Financial Times of London says, "They are not only the best world music, but the best rock and roll band in the world, full stop." They have recently toured with the Rolling Stones. This weekend Tinariwen was featured on NPR's Weekend Edition, which is available for streaming.

Viuex Farka Toure is the son of one of Tinariwen's strongest influences, the late Malian guitar great Ali Farka Toure. Like his father, Viuex Toure demonstrates the ancient African rootes of blues music with hypnotic mastery.

Sunday, 11/11: The Glenn Miller Orchestra at the State Theater. You might think it is ancient and irrelevant, but swing music does just that when presented by a stellar orchestra like this, in a good venue like the State. 8 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, November 08, 2007

$10 U.S. Gets You 40 Ithacan, Wed. 14 Nov., at Ithaca Hours Meeting

Ithaca Hours, the local currency system, holds its annual membership meeting on Wednesday, November 14, with a special offer.

Come to the meeting to start or renew a membership and receive double the annual membership benefit.

Ithaca Hours issues a local money for Ithacans to earn, and to spend with other people and at participating businesses.

Annual membership costs $10, or one Ithaca Hour. Members normally receive an annual benefit of two Ithaca Hours, worth twenty dollars. But sign up at the annual meeting and receive four Hours, worth forty dollars.

The Hours organization offers the premium to encourage people to come and meet one another, and to learn about the system. (The organization itself benefits from enrolling a lot of people in one shot, and from disbursing benefits in person, rather than by mail.)

Free desserts are provided by member businesses such as ABC Cafe, Ithaca Bakery, Maxie's, Juna's Cafe, GreenStar Coop, Eve's Cidery, Macro Mama's, and others.

Ithaca Hours started in 1991 and has about 600 members. There are over 10,000 Hours in circualtion in Tompkins County, worth over $100,000 U.S.

The currency is known around the world. Most recently it was mentioned in an article in the New York Times as one of Ithaca's most positive community features.

The Hours organization was visited this week by community organizers from New Orleans hoping to aid post-Katrina restoration by building a community currency system modeled on Hours.

Hours' annual meeting is 6 - 7:30 pm, Wed. 14 Nov., in the Borg Warner Room of the public library on E. Green St.

For more information, see the Hours website at

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What Makes Ithacans Not Run? The Journal's "Storychat", For One Thing

Today is Election Day, but just another day in Ithaca, where there are no contested races. Common Council members, the mayor, and the town supervisor are all Democrats running unopposed.

The Ithaca Journal examines the issue today. One obvious factor is the strength of the Democratic party in the city. The Republican party is practically non-existent here. In the presidential election of 2000, Ralph Nader outdrew George Bush in Ithaca.

The Journal seems to think that low pay for public officials is debatable as a factor, although to us it seems clear. The mayor makes around $50,000 a year. There are guys at Sears who make that. Common Council members make around $10,000 a year, which a diligent panhandler could do.

The Journal also mentions the idea of "fear." Elected officials anywhere need thick skin, but particularly in a small town.

One thing a politician hopes for is a fair press, and for the most part they get that here, with the notable exception of the "Storychat" feature in the on-line Journal, which provides a daily forum for invective and ridicule from anonymous lamebrains.

Check the very story in question to see. Commenting on today's Journal story are scholars such as "cowinmyunderpants," "LoyalOpposition," et al., who comment on what "sux" about Common Council, and make disparaging remarks about council members by name, although managing to misidentify their subjects.

We think the Journal has a professional and civic duty to verify and publish the identities of its on-line contributors, as it does with letters to the editor. It would go a long way to cleaning up the level of its on-line discourse, which is generally abominable, and to improving the political climate in town, which might in turn lead to more candidacies.

The Journal says it's a serious issue. Is it serious enough for them to change something rank that they control?

We would like to suggest that all interested parties write to the Journal about this issue.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 02, 2007

Weekend Music, Nov. 2 - 4

It's a big weekend for the creme de la creme of local bands, including a trifecta by the Chicken Chokers.

Fri. 11/2: The Chicken Chokers at Felicia's Atomic Lounge, 5:30. Happy hour drink & hot dog specials.

Sat. . 11/3: "The Chicken Chokers Unplugged" at the Pourhouse in T-burg, 7 pm.

The Horseflies at Castaways, 9 pm.

Mary Lorson and Saint Low at the Chapter House, 10 pm.

Kim and Reggie Harris are a folk duo focusing on the music and history of African-Americans. In a Cornell Folk Song Club show, 165 McGraw Hall at Cornell, 8 pm. Tickets $17 at eh door, $15 in advance at Small World Music.

Sun. 11/4: You say you haven't had enough? You say you want more? Chicken Chokerpalooza continues its weekend-long assault, at Bound For Glory in Anabel Taylor Hall at Cornell. First set, 8:30 pm.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Ithacan Plans to Put Blackwater on Trial

Peter Demott of Ithaca is part of a group that was arrested last month for a non-violent protest at the headquarters of Blackwater USA, the military contractors, against killings by Blackwater in Iraq.

The protestors plan to use their trial to subpoena Erik Prince, Blackwater's owner, for testimony about Blackwater killings and subsequent cover-ups using U.S. taxpayer money.

A news article in the New York Times reports, "Employees of Blackwater USA have engaged in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, in a vast majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded."

Last Christmas Eve, a drunken Blackwater employee shot and killed a bodyguard of one of Iraq's two vice presidents. He was clandestinely removed from Iraq by Blackwater within 36 hours. A State Department official suggested paying the slain bodyguard's family $250,000, but another said that such a high payment "could cause incidents of people trying to get killed by our guys to financially guarantee their family's future." Blackwater paid $15,000 to the dead man's family.

The State Department has paid Blackwater over a billion dollars for its activities.

On September 16, Blackwater employees in a moving convoy fired on a public square, killing 8 civilians. Outraged Iraqi officials called the shootings "cold-blooded murder" and called for the expulsion of Blackwater from the country.

Demott's group hopes to engage Blackwater in the company's first legal proceeding.

In the face of increasing public scrutiny, Blackwater has hired a bi-partisan collection of highly-placed Washington lawyers, lobbyists, and public relations specialists.

In the past, Blackwater has retained Fred Fielding, the present White House counsel, to help handle lawsuits filed by families of slain Blackwater employees.

Demott's trial is scheduled to begin on December 5.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Earth Sweet Earth: Environmental Action This Weekend

Ithaca is often awash with earth-cleansing ideas and actions, but especially this weekend, with a local effort for the national "Step It Up" campaign, and a celebration of the tenth "America Recycles Day," both on Saturday 3 November.

Step It Up is a national campaign for federal action on global warming issues. This Saturday the organization is co-ordinating 1,400 events across the country. In Ithaca, local activists and politicians will speak at a rally at Tutelo Park, on Route 13A at Bostwick Road, from noon until 3 pm.

America Recycles Day is from 10 - 4 pm at the Shops at Ithaca Mall (the mall formerly known as Pyramid). There are representatives of many environmental groups, music and entertainment, and a wide range of activities for children and adults , including Halloween pumpkin smashing for composting, worm composting, confidential document shredding, t-shirt re-fashioning, and more.

For more details, see, and

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Meaning of Halloween

Halloween is the day to wear macabre outfits, decorate the house with trappings of decay, and mock our mortal fears. Bully for that, although the day's triumph amounts to winning one inning of the World Series, or less.

The futility is good reason to forget dental health, and calories, and Snicker up while we still can. We will lose weight in the grave, and our tooth stubs outlast us, so in the long run what are we so worried about?

As a child, I had an exaggerated cosmic idea of trick-or-treating: that the reason for Halloween was to find out the kind of people who would give out bad candy, or even worse, wholesome snacks, and they would die first, before generous people who gave out delicious, unnutritious name-brand candy. That's why you were supposed to paper their houses, not just to punish but warn them.

A new family moved into my neighborhood in Brooklyn one year and had the audacity to give out little cans of juice. We thought it was a comment on our juvenile desires, and considered rocketing the cans through their windows, but felt better we didn't when we found out they owned a diner, and had a lot of these little cans from their business, and had run out of candy by the late shift we were working that night. That was a practical reason that we didn't mind, although we would have preferred some coinage. We certainly didn't want any juice, which we threw down the sewer for the weight.

It was a tough neighborhood and your main goal on Halloween was to not get your ass kicked and candy stolen by bigger kids. That called for numerous trips home to drop off one's earnings, to minimize the potential losses that might literally be right around the corner. Between that and your other goal, to get enough candy to last until Easter, when you would get more, it was a long day.

Kids today are generally chaperoned by adults, which cuts down on the ass-kickings but also the intrigue, I imagine. Life is full of trade-offs, which is a drag, but death doesn't have any, so take your pick.

Enjoy your Halloween -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, October 26, 2007

Weekend Activities, Oct. 26 - 28

Friday, 10/26: Close to home, Richie Stearns and Friends are at Felicia's Atomic Lounge for Happy Hour, starting around 5:30. Further afield, Eire natives and Ithaca favorites Solas appear at the Night Eagle Cafe in Binghamton.

Sat. 10/27: Ellis is a young female singer-songwriter on the verge of a big career breakout. She was voted Most Wanted to Return at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Last night she was at the Town Hall in Westchester for $30. Tonight she's at McGraw Hall at Cornell at 8 pm, courtesy of the Folk Song Club, for $17 at the door, or $15 in advance at Small World Music.

Ventiloquist Jay Johnson comes to the State Theater, 8 pm. Jay was mentor for Comedy Central ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, who sold out the State last year. Jay first came to prominence on the television series "Soap". More recently, he won a Tony award for the act he brings to the State tonight.

Sun. 10/28: Musafir, who came from way far away to be the surprise hit of the 2006 GrassRoots festival, return to Ithaca for a 4 pm show at the Statler Auditorium at Cornell.

With a tip o' the hat philosophically and sonically to Mssrs. Zappa and Beefheart, We Are the Arm ask the musical question, What Makes a Plaza?, at an early show (5 pm) at Castaways.

Crow Greenspun appears at Maxie's, 6 pm.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ithaca School Board Drops Fight Against Human Rights Compliance

The Ithaca School District's board last night voted to overturn a decision to challenge the legality of a state investigation of racial inequities and harassment in the city's schools. (See yesterday's Ithaca Blog for details.)

The vote was unanimous, and comes after months of controversy and protest that have gained national attention.

The vote was preceded by two hours of public comments from among 200 people in attendance. The decision was announced to applause and cheers.

Re-scheduling of hearings by the state's Human Rights Commission will now begin.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Racial Unrest at Ithaca Schools Draws National Attention

Ithaca got some unwanted publicity in the New York Times today, for the racial unrest in our public schools.

Unwanted, but not unwarranted.

The article first mentions some of Ithaca's enduring positive features: its "cultural diversity," renowned namesake college and Ivy League university, designation in 1997 by Utne Reader as "America's Most Enlightened Town," innovative "local currency intended to support city merchants," and jokey popular reputation as "10 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality."

But, the article relates, harsh realities of racial tension are encroaching in the city's schools.

And it seems that enlightenment has eluded the school leadership.

At the center of the unrest are incidents of harassment of a female African-American student, who was physically and verbally attacked by white male students on her school bus. The incidents were numerous and took place over a protracted span of time. The school took five months to investigate the incidents - which ultimately lead to criminal charges.

Upset with the district's slowness to act, the girls' mother filed a complaint with the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission. The commission found the district in violation of human rights laws.

The school district responded with a claim of legal exemption from state human rights laws due to its status as a municipal, rather than private, entity. It claimed that federal privacy laws shielded its students, and precluded its compliance with the human rights laws.

Critics see a pattern of negligence and insensitivity by the district leadership. City Council member Michelle Berry is among those who have called for the resignation of Dr. Judith Pastel, the school district superintendent.

There have been demonstrations by students and parents. Last week, many students stayed home both as a protest, and in response to rumors of threatened violence against students of color.

Tonight, the school board is scheduled to meet and discuss these issues. The hope among aggrieved students and parents, and their sympathizers, is that the board will drop the claims of exemption from human rights law compliance, as a first step to re-establishing trust and security in Ithaca's schools.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, October 22, 2007

Comparative Religion 101: Jesus 1, Buddha 0 ?

Today the Ithaca Journal published an interesting letter about the recent visit of the Dalai Lama to Ithaca: the Journal's "excessive" coverage of it, and its failure to promote good religious choices by its readers. It reads, in full:

The inches of newspaper space spent on the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism these last two weeks was [sic] excessive. I question whether the Pope would have received the same uncritical journalism should he ever come to Ithaca [sic]. Certainly the Billy Graham crusade in Binghamton last spring didn't receive coverage at all, although many in Ithaca were involved.

It was disheartening to "Christian" minister sharing the same platform as the Dalai [sic]. The truth is that Christianity and Buddhism are not compatible. They are poles apart. At the very least it is illogical to consider Buddhism. If you're a Christian and you die but find out Buddhism was true, then you have another chance to be enlightened in the next life. But if you're a Buddhist and you die but find out you needed to submit to Jesus Christ you don't get another chance.

So, Ithacans (and Buddhists everywhere), don't blow it! Jesus trumps Buddha big-time with a hard-line stance. Bet with your head, not your heart! You gotta know when to hold 'em!

It is interesting to see the vagaries of logic. Personally, we admire the application of passion put to it here.

The comic, Don Novello, made a good living writing fake letters like this as Lazlo Toth in the 1980's. Check out his books to see what we mean.

We would love to see the Dalai Lama's reaction to this letter. They say he has a good sense of humor. We wouldn't mind seeing the Pope's, as well.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, October 19, 2007

An Ithacan Reminiscence of Lucky Dube's Music

Lucky Dube, who was shot to death in a carjacking attempt in his native South Africa on 18 October, was one of the premier reggae stars in the world.

Mr. Dube played at the GrassRoots Festival in 1994. At the time, he was little-known in America. In turn, at the time, his band was unfamiliar with America. They came to Trumansburg at the beginning of their tour. They expressed confusion about their whereabouts.

"We thought we were playing in New York," one of them said outside their tour bus. They were assured that they were in New York.

"See, I told you, " one bandmember said to another. "On the bus, he said he saw a cow!"

He was assured that, in upstate New York, this was possible.

The band's confusion was understandable. They were unused to playing such a small locale. In Africa and Europe, they generally played major cities, in sold-out soccer stadiums.

They were scheduled for a Thursday night performance at GrassRoots. In 1994, this meant an audience of less than 1,000.

But they played a tremendous show, and enjoyed what for them was a homey setting.

For us, it was a lesson about the international status of reggae. Until then, like many people,we thought of reggae as Jamiaican music.

Lucky Dube began his musical career playing music native to South Africa. But he adopted reggae as a music of spirituality and community. He became the biggest musical star in the history of South Africa. His releases there outsold not only all other South Africans, but also sales by Madonna, Michael Jackson, and other international pop stars.

He opened the ears of Africa to reggae, in effect bringing home one strain of music from the African diaspora. One of his bandmembers said at GrassRoots, in a post-concert conversation, that there are dozens of distinguishable strains of African reggae now flourishing.

For his musical message of peace and social justice, Lucky Dube was banned by the South African apartheid regime. His gunshot death is a tragic parallel to that of John Lennon, another celebrated musician who sang of peace only to be met by government persecution and, ultimately, unfathomable violence.

We remember Lucky Dube with gratitude and admiration.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Weekend Music, Oct. 19 - 21

It is difficult to think of musical fun right now, with the news of the criminal, violent death of Lucky Dube yesterday in South Africa. But we will write about it.

Fri. 10/19: Richie Stearns and Friends brave the summery storms for a Happy Hour show at Felicia's Atomic Lounge. 508 W. State St., 5:30 pm.

The New Deal, Toronto's well-regarded trio of bass, drums and keyboards, comes to Castaways. The Passage Project opens the 9 pm show.

Perennial local favorites Sim Redmond Band play the Haunt. Malang Jobatheh opens the 9 pm show.

Sat. 10/20: Yuri Yunakov comes to the Pancho Villa restaurant's upstairs space for a Crossing Borders show. His Romani Wedding Band plays gypsy music, with Balkan, Turkish, and Indian strains. $15 tickets available in advance at Small World Music. Showtime is 8 pm.

Mary Lorson hosts a show with her singing/songwriting friends Jennie Stearns and Steve Golnick at the Lost Dog Lounge, 9 p.m.

Sunday 10/21: Christine Lavin has had a fine career in folk music writing catchy and honestly funny songs. A big-name show for the venerable Bound For Glory program at Anabel Taylor Hall at Cornell. First set is 8:30, but you will need to get there early for this one.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Lucky Dube Killed by Gunmen in South Africa

Lucky Dube, the reggae musician from South Africa and one of its biggest stars, was shot to death yesterday in a suburb of Johannesburg in an attempted carjacking.

Dube's shooting occurred in front of two of his children. He is survived by his wife and seven children.

Dube appeared locally at the GrassRoots Festival a decade ago. Many of his songs have themes of social justice.

In the 1980's, his music was banned by South Africa's apartheid regime.

South Africa's crime rate is among the highest in the world. United Nations statistics say that one in three Johannesburg residents has been robbed.

President Thabo Mbeki called upon the nation to "act together as a people to confront this terrible scourge of crime."

A spokesperson for the opposition Democratic Alliance party said, "the government's remedies to address this scourge have failed."

Stephen Burke
Ithaca Blog

Library Sale Ending, Small World Music Sale Amplifies

The Friends of the Library Sale ends this weekend, but Small World Music is extending and amplifying its sale on all our music - used and new.

Mention this posting and take 50% off any LP, and 15% anything else in the store. See last weekend's initial public offering on Ithaca Blog, and Small World's pdf ad here on IBlog, for details about what we've got.

Small World Music is down the driveway at 614 W. State St., across the street from Kinko's, about 4 blocks from the Library Sale. Hours are 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

Steve Burke
for SWMusic and IBlog

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Morning Newswatch" on WHCU Radio: Conscientious News on the Dial

Knowledge is good, as they say at Faber College, and it's important to stay informed about politics and world events, so listening to public radio is good.

Except when it's bad.

There's a certain tepidness to much of public radio, and a dearth of tough analysis. There's a lot of repetition - not necessarily per broadcast, but over the days. This bombing in Iraq. That lying statement by a government person. Again, generally unfettered by much questioning.

And, while news of a train crash that left dozens dead somewhere halfway around the world is sad, isn't it really just a high-brow version of the "if it bleeds, it leads" philosophy of regular schlock broadcasting?

Where's the news we can use?

In Ithaca, we get an earnest shot at useful local news broadcasting every morning on WHCU, 870 on the AM dial. The program is "Morning Newswatch", hosted by Dave Vieser and Geoff Dunn, broadcasting from 5:30 - 10 a.m., Monday through Saturday.

The program covers substantive issues. Yesterday, Morning Newswatch interviewed Judith Pastel, Ithaca's school superintendent, about recent racial problems in the schools. Tim Joseph, chair of the county legislature, was interviewed about county issues. A separate segment featured Herb Engman, who will be the new Town Supervisor in November.

How much opinion from peace activists do you hear on the news? Even public radio news? Yesterday, Morning Newswatch began with an interview with Danny Burns, of the St. Patrick's Four, who was arrested again recently as part of a group refusing to leave the office of Congressman Randy Kuhl without a discussion of Kuhl's continued support for Iraq war funding.

Morning Newswatch is a valuable promotional medium for community causes. Their coverage was instrumental to the success of last week's Walk and Run for the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance. Today they featured a local 4H Club effort to promote exercise and good nutrition to reduce obesity among young people.

It's not all serious stuff on the show. There are sports (maybe a little too much, with a few minutes each hour given to local school soccer scores, etc.), birthday announcements, giveaways, and banter. Vieser and Dunn seem to genuinely like one another and their work.

There is an unfortunate Rush Limbaugh commentary each day. WHCU is ostensibly a conservative talk radio station. For much of the day, it is. But in the morning, it is conscientious, community-oriented, and worthwhile.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Prominent Criminal Cases Closed

Two of the most publicized criminal cases in Ithaca this year ended this week with guilty pleas and sentencing.

Yesterday, a driver for the Green Hornet livery service was sentenced to a year in prison and a year's probation for selling crack cocaine to an undercover officer posing as a passenger.

Today, Alexander Atkind, who was living in Ithaca as a Cornell undergraduate, pled guilty to abuse of a dog that was in his care. Atkind was sentenced to six months in prison, five years probation, psychiatric evaluation, and a $5,000 fine.

Initial community outrage in the Green Hornet case, focused on a cab driver selling drugs, was mollified by the Ithaca Blog report that Green Hornet is not a cab company, but a livery company.

Cab companies in Ithaca are regulated and licensed by the police, and drivers receive background checks. Livery services receive no police licensing. They are considered by state regulation to be in the category of delivery services rather than cab services.

A livery service in Ithaca is allowed to transport passengers from inside the city limits to outside the city limits, but not to a destination within the city, a privilege that is reserved for regulated cab companies.

The Green Hornet case revealed that this prohibition is easily ignored. But Ithaca Blog made note of the difference, and alerted other local media to it, so that Ithacans would know they should avoid livery services if the reputation and criminal status of the business owners and drivers are important to them.

Accordingly, the Ithaca Journal has ceased referring to Green Hornet as a cab company.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, October 12, 2007

Weekend Activities, Oct. 12 - 14

Fri. 10/12: We've probably said it before, and surely will again: Chad Crumm is one of the great, unknown exponents of Ithaca music. He appears with friends at Felicia's Lounge, 508 W. State St., 7 pm.

Sat. 10/13: Feel good early by participating in this morning's annual Walk to support the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance. See previous Ithaca Blog postings for details.

Wingnut hasn't played in town for a while, have they? Tonight they play their urbane jazz in the loft-like Lost Dog Lounge, 105 S. Cayuga St., 10 pm.

Sun. 10/14: Burke and Bone play the Shuck'n'Jive series at Maxie's, 6 pm. Johnny Dowd and Kim Caso are also slated to appear.

Godspeed -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tompkins Weekly's Excellent Coverage on School Harassment Case

For detailed coverage of the recent charges of racial harassment at Ithaca High School, see this week's edition of Tompkins Weekly, the new weekly paper which publishes each Monday.

The paper tells the story in gritty detail. It will affect the way you think about the racial issues at the school, and the role of the school officials.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Library Sale Jones? Come to Small World Music

This promotional word for Ithaca Blog's brick-and-mortar home, Small World Music, is directed at Library Sale music fans who might be interested in another place in town with (year-round) big bargains, without the big crowds of peak times at the Sale, or the depleted selection afterwards.

Small World Music has over 1,000 LPs at $1.00 each. Right now the selection includes "Introducing the Beatles", "Layla", "Killing Me Softly" by Roberta Flack, the Silver Convention, Abba, Freddie King, David "Fathead" Newman, the Kinks, David Bowie, Genesis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Heart, Laura Nyro, the Rolling Stones, Blind Faith, Phil Ochs, Gerry Mulligan, Billy Joel, Jackie Wilson, the Shirelles, Elvis Presley - and, you know, some Tijuana Brass, let's be candid.

Small World also has another 1,000 or so competitively-priced LPs, not only in rock and pop, but blues, jazz, reggae, African, Celtic, New Orleans, folk, country, and bluegrass.

Mention this posting and take 50% off dollar LPs, 20% off all other LPs, and 10% off everything else in the store. Small World sells used and new CDs, including (always) the very newest: this week, the new ones by Annie Lennox, Bruce Springsteen, KT Tunstall, and others.

Small World Music is at 614 W. State St., down the driveway. See our ad in pdf form in the sidebar here at Ithaca Blog.

Steve Burke
for IB and SWM

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Seeing the Dalai Lama, On Screen

Ithaca welcomes the Dalai Lama for an historic three-day visit.

His three public appearances are sold out, but they are available for viewing live on-line.

Check for today's appearance at Barton Hall. See www. for information on tomorrow's events at the State Theater and Ithaca College.

The events will also be taped and and broadcast on local television channel 16.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Weekend Activities, Oct. 5 & 6

Fri., 10/5: In an earlier posting this week, we previewed tonight's performance by Yuengchen Lhamo at the State Theater. We have heard that Yuengchen has been in town, meeting with her Tibetan community in anticipation of the Dalai Lama's visit next week, and rehearsing with her guest performers, Richie Stearns and Hank Roberts.

Sat., 10/6: Ky-Mani Marley, whom we hear has been opening at stadium venues for Van Halen (better than following them, we suppose), appears at the Haunt. The show is listed as 7 p.m., but it is a crowded bill, with Mbusi, Citizens Rockers, and Kiwi the Child also listed.

Babik play that Django-inspired, swinging jazz for the Crossing Borders series, upstairs at Pancho Villa restaurant, on the corner of W. State St. and Meadow. 8 p.m.

Have a good weekend -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Questions for the IBCA

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Ithaca Blog contacted Bob Riter, Associate Director of the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance, with some questions about IBCA's efforts.

Ithaca Blog: Please tell us about ICBA's fundraising effort for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

IBCA: October 13 is our 14th annual walk. It's become our signature event and many people first became aware of our organization because of it.
Two exciting changes are taking place this year. We've changed the venue to the beautiful Cornell Plantations, and we've added a run - the Strength in Numbers 5K.

IB: Can you tell us about ICBA's "First Tuesdays" program?

IBCA: First Tuesdays is an education program that meets the first Tuesday of every month in the Bonnie Howell Conference Room at Cayuga Medical Center, from 4:30 - 6:00. We usually speak informally for the first half-hour, then have a speaker to address some topic of interest to people affected by cancer. Men and women with all types of cancer attend, as do their loved ones. The next session is November 6. The speaker will be from Cornell's Comparative Cancer Program.
An important component of First Tuesdays is connecting with other people who have your specific type of cancer. It's common for everyone to linger after the formal program to meet with others who know exactly what you're dealing with.

IB: IBCA recently moved to a new location. What does the move mean for the organization?

IBCA: IBCA recently moved to its first permanent home, at 612 W. State Street. The entire first floor is designed to offer a warm and comforting environment for our clients when they stop by to use our library, meet with staff, and engage in programs. Compared to our previous office, this building has a lot of space and a more functional layout for staff and volunteers.
We're especially pleased with the new office because it gives us a real physical presence in our community. It's on a busy street and in Ithaca's emerging West End.

IB: Do you think as a society we have reached a new level of cancer awareness? What are the most important issues now?

IBCA: People are more aware of cancer than in the past. The numbers are really staggering. One in three women will develop cancer in her lifetime, as will one in two men. It affects all of us in one way or another.
I think one critical issue is the need for a greater focus on cancer prevention. We've made considerable progress in better detection and treatment, but research money for prevention is woefully lagging.
Another issue is access to care. People without insurance delay seeking care because they can't afford it. As a result, their cancers are diagnosed at a later and more lethal stage.


For more information on IBCA, including its Walk and Run event, see the IBCA website,

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Kerouac and Ginsberg: Voices Beyond Time

There's a lot been made in the media recently of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." 2007 also marks the 50th anniversary of the court ruling that the poem "Howl", by Kerouac's friend Allen Ginsberg, had "redeeming social importance" and thus was not obscene.

In his 1957 opinion, San Francisco Municipal Judge Clayton W. Horn wrote, "Would there be any freedom of the press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemism?"

Of all the changes in socety and literature since the publication of these two landmark books, maybe the most significant is the shifting importance of the book, itself.

It's hard to imagine a book with adult literary aspirations changing the world today, or even much catching its notice.

Today we're busy. We're busy in general, and we're busy with computers.

This week a third of a million people (so far) logged on to the YouTube video by Saturday Night Live about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a gay man. It's funny, it's probably not important, and no one will remember it 5 years from now, forget 50.

A book, on the other hand, can be important.

A book can conquer time. It demands your time as you read it. It conquers time in its place on a bookshelf, unchangeable. You come back to a good book repeatedly over time.

A book can be important because it is a work of art. It's not a subscription service. You only buy it once. It doesn't try to sell you anything else. It doesn't have sponsors or links.

A book can be important because it can be subversive. You get it anonymously. It's cheap. It's portable. It's durable.

A book can be important because it requires something of you.

Kerouac and Ginsberg require a lot of us as readers, and as human beings. They reward the effort conscientiously - and immeasurably, though for the moment the world is measuring the achievement in years. After 50 years, Kerouac and Ginsberg still have an audience, thus voices beyond time.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance: Benefit Walk and Run, 13 Oct.

"Because no one should face cancer alone" is the motto of the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance. Since 1994, the ICBA has provided information and personal support to local people living with cancer.

There is a great opportunity to support ICBA's work on Saturday 13 October, at their Strength in Numbers Run and Walk at the Cornell Plantations.

Pre-registration is $10 for the 2-mile walk, and $20 for the 5K run.

Pre-register online at

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, October 01, 2007

Don't-Miss Music, First Days of October

It can be easy to miss great shows that arrive early in a month, when you have a general idea of their impendingness, but maybe not a firm and determined grasp, til it's too late.

So let us mention two noteworthy shows that arrive even before the first full weekend in October: Michael Franti and Spearhead, on Thursday 4 October, and Yungchen Lhamo, on Friday 5 October, both at the State Theater.

The shows are alike in presenting very current, political, world-influenced music.

Franti is a hip-hop singer with reggae influences, or vice versa. He comes from the Bay Area in California and has been making important music for over a decade, slowly but surely expanding his audience across geography and demographics . In 2006 he was a headliner at GrassRoots Festival.

Yungchen Llaho is known as the Voice of Tibet, for bringing Tibetan music to the world in a politically imperiled time. The New York Times has noted her "prisitne, gliding vocal lines." Ms. Llaho has sung with Peter Gabriel, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed and Natalie Merchant, and at the State will perform with Hank Roberts and Richie Stearns.

Music by all the artists performing at the State is available at Small World Music.

Details on ticket prices and availability are at the State Theater's website,

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Weekend Activities, Sept. 28 - 30

The change of season is marked by the Apple Harvest Festival on the Commons. This year's is the 25th annual. Lots of good music and food, and a Ferris wheel. 11 - 6 p.m. on Friday, 10 - 6:30 on Sat. and Sun.

Friday, 9/28: David Bordon reunites his band of 1970s Moog music pioneers, Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Theater. At Cornell's lovely Barnes Hall, 8 p.m., free.

Saturday, 9/29: Personally, we agree with the opinion that what is called country music (Garth Brooks, Reba McEntyre, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, et al.) should be called Americana, and what is called Americana (Old Crow Medicine Show, Gillian Welch, Buddy and Julie Miller)should be called country. Nevertheless, the Americana Jubilee at the Rongo has an all-day and -night bill of local genre-sharing musicians such as Hubcap, Richie Stearns, and the Urban Horse Thieves. The event is a benefit for Bert Scholl, a local musician who is battling cancer. Starting at 2 p.m.

Little Toby Keith plays finger-picking guitar in a show for the Cornell Folk Song Society. Tickets are $17 at the door, $15 in advance at Small World Music. Showtime is 8 pm, at Cornell's McGraw Hall.

Boy With A Fish, with members from the Horseflies and Plastic Nebraska, and the gone-but-not-forgotten Actual Facts are a lively double bill at the Chapter House, 9:30 p.m.

Sunday, 9/30: Kelly Birtch has a return engagement playing excellent flamenco/rock guitar at ABC's brunch. Music starts at 11 a.m.

Cornell Orchestra plays for free in Cornell's newly-renovated Bailey Hall. 3 p.m.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Low Voter Turnout, and the Log in the Journal's Eye

The Ithaca Journal wrote an editorial today decrying the low (25%) voter turnout in last week's Democratic primary for town supervisor. They never mention the responsibility they have, as the city's only daily newspaper.

As we wrote in a posting a week ago today ("Ithaca's Newspapers Fail Civics Test"), neither the Journal nor the weekly Times was interested enough to endorse a candidate in the election.

Or we might say bold enough. It was a hotly contested election and apparently the newspapers didn't want to get hurt by getting in the middle - or, worse, picking the loser.

Ithaca Blog posed the question to the Journal's editorial department on the phone this morning: If the Journal had endorsed a candidate, or provided substantial criticism or analysis of the candidates, don't you think that would have increased voter interest, and turnout?

We asked whether, as a follow-up to their editorial today, they would be forthright enough to scrutinize their own role, in print, about the issues they raised today. We'll see.

We do thank the Journal for their time in discussion this morning.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cooperstown Recommendations

Here are some recommendations for a trip to Cooperstown (see previous posting).

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. every day in fall and winter, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Adult admission is $14.50, or $13 with AAA membership, which we think we have, and they agreed. Seniors and veterans are $9.50, children 7-12 are $5.00, and under 7, free. The Hall is on Main Street and is the center of existence in Cooperstown.

The Tunicliff Inn is a 200-year old hotel on Pioneer Street, one block from the HOF. The small, intimate hotel has an understated but distinct historical character. Rooms with king size beds are spacious and comfortable. The location is unbeatable, and there is a good pub-style restaurant in the basement.

The Lakefront Motel is a modern (or at least 50's style - in Cooperstown, this is modern) motel on Lake Otsego, 2 blocks from the HOF. More casual than the Tunicliff and more appropriate for families and groups of friends. Large restaurant on the premises.

Nicoletta's Italian Cafe, on Main Street, has solid, traditional Italian food with enough modern touches to keep it interesting. Reasonable prices and a charming room that provides both for private conversation and good people-watching. We saw look-alikes of Elle MacPherson and Tommy LaSorda, but she ate too much for Elle, and he ate too little for Tommy.

Cooperstown Diner, also on Main Street, is a very small diner, with very large portions.

Steve Burke
for Itaaca Blog

Baseball, N.Y.'s Pastime: Visiting Cooperstown

It's been an exceptional season for baseball in New York as the summer game prepares for the fall post-season. New York's big league teams, the Yanks and Mets, are contending for post-season championship play in the same season for only the third time ever. Attendance in New York City will set a record this year, and our scouts in the Big Apple report that interest in the game is immoderate, even by New York standards.

And it's not just the Big Apple. Minor league baseball set an all-time attendance record this season, drawing almost a million more fans than last year.

Here in central New York, we have a Mets minor league team in Binghamton, a Yankee affiliate in nearby Scranton (well, nearby enough for the fanatic), and a Toronto team in Syracuse.
The minor league season is over, however, so barring a trip to Yankee or Shea Stadium, the closest cool trip for an Ithaca fan is a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, about 2 hours away. We went this past weekend.

It's an excellent time for a visit, as the out-of-school kids and summer vacationers are gone. The Hall is less crowded, and so are restaurants. Hotels have off-season rates.

Cooperstown is a lovely little town, like a movie set, but real. Baseball has been good to the town and it is well-kept and appointed. There are no chain stores downtown, besides a useful CVS. The noteworthy architecture includes Federal-style houses from the 18th century.

Lake Otsego is a 2-block stroll from Main Street and, like the town, pristine. A 20-foot wide outflow from the lake is the humble-seeming source of the Susquehanna River. The river flows a hundred miles or so west - past the Dunkin' Donuts in Owego - !!- - before turning back east, picking up myriad tributaries all along to its far-flung destination, the Chesapeake Bay.

The Hall of Fame has safeguarded baseball's legends since its start in 1939. For the fan, it is a repository of history, memory, and fun that transcends rationality. For the casual fan, or even non-fan, the Museum has exhibits of art and history that should provide sufficient edification and entertainment. (If not, the Hall has a re-entry policy that allows guests to take revivifying breaks outside.)

We will have a few particular recommendations from our trip in the next posting.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, September 21, 2007

Weekend Activities, Sept. 21 - 23

Friday 9/21: The Irish band Scythian returns to Ithaca after a memorable show at GrassRoots Festival. The world music influences of their music are notable as Ireland becomes a nation of immigrants rather than emigrants for the first time in its history. Castaways, 8 p.m.

Saturday 9/22: From Berlin, Germany, 17 Hippies bring a slightly wacky musical perspective to a show at Pancho Villa Upstairs, on the corner of W. State and Meadow Streets, as part of the Crossing Borders Series. They don't look like hippies, any more than 10,000 Maniacs looked maniacal - nor are they 17; they are 13, and play guitar, ukelele, violin, cello, flute, trumpet, accordion, sax, banjo, harp, and other things. Tickets are $15 at the door, $10 in advance at Small World Music.

Eugene Chadbourne is doing his best to sustain entertaining anarchy in American music. He's doing it now with one of music's legendary eccentrics, Jimmy Carl Black, a founding member of the Mothers of Invention. Chapter House, 10 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door.

Sunday, 9/23: Kelly Birtch, one of the area's best guitarists, plays at one of the best brunches, at the ABC Cafe. The music starts at 11 a.m.

The East Hill Flying Club has a charity fundraising breakfast at the airport from 7 a.m. - 1 p.m., with the opportunity to take a plane ride. Bring your camera.

Mignarda play Elizabethan English music, primarily on lute, and Scottish tunes. At the Unitarian Church, Buffalo & Aurora Streets, 4 p.m. Admission is $12, students & seniors $10, and Ithaca Hours are accepted. More information at

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ithaca's Newspapers Fail Civics Test

The primary election for Town Supervisor is over. Herb Engman defeated incumbent Cathy Valentino with over 80% of the vote.

Ms. Valentino expressed her congratulations to Mr. Engman. She also expressed disappointment in the turnout: about 25% of eligible voters.

25% is actually about normal for a primary vote in an off-year election. But a contributing factor, and the greater reason for disappointment, is the refusal of either the Ithaca Journal or the Ithaca Times to endorse a candidate, presumably for fear of displeasing anyone.

Newspapers have a responsibility to express opinions, along with reporting facts. We're sorry Ms. Valentino didn't take the opportunity to make that point in expressing her disappointment about the voter turnout. A newspaper's unwillingness to take a stand in an election is no doubt a factor in low voter interest, just as failure to write stories would be.

The failure of Ithaca's newspapers to endorse candidates and positions is tantamount to a citizen's failure to vote. We hope to hear from Ithaca's political and community leadership about our newspapers' dereliction of duty.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Herb Engman for Town Supervisor

Today is the Democratic primary for the party's candidate for the important, executive position of Town Supervisor. We strongly urge the election of Herb Engman.

Engman serves on the Town Board and has the support of every member of the Board, who can be a rather disparate group on most issues.

Engman's opponent, Cathy Valentino, has held the job for three terms. Her supporters characterize her job performance as tough-minded and competent. Her detractors call her untrusting and, concomitantly, untrustworthy. Her tenure has been marked with lawsuits and personal attacks against those who differ with her.

Engman has the endorsement of his party organization. His rival for the endorsement, Tim Joseph, declined to run in the primary to support Engman.

Stories about the considerable political intrigue of this election appear in Ithaca Blog postings from January 20 and June 20.

We urge you to vote, and remind your friends. The year Alan Cohen beat Ben Nichols for mayor, he won by 58 votes.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, September 14, 2007

Weekend Activities, Sept. 14 - 16

Friday, 9/14: It might be a little breezy in the alley at Felicia's tonight at Happy Hour, but the music will be nice, with Chad Crumm and Friends. 5:30 p.m.

Joe Crookston performs his series of songs inspired by the Finger Lakes, at the Community School of Music and Arts, 8 p.m. With guests Molly MacMillan, Charlie Shew, Mike Levy, Mike Ellis, and others.

Saturday, 9/15: Legendary jazz pianist and scholar Dr. Billy Taylor performs at the Whalen Center at Ithaca College, 8 p.m.

Kelly Birtch performs originals and covers on guitar at Kilpatrick's Pub, which we consider to be on N. Tioga St., though they list their address as 130 E. Seneca St. 10 p.m.

Sunday, 9/16: Jazz giant Pharoah Sanders performs at Cornell's Bailey Hall, for a reasonable price for the Cornell community, and an exorbitant price for others. 8 p.m.

Folk singer Garnet Rogers plays real good for free, for everyone, regardless of Cornell status, at Bound For Glory in Anabel Taylor Hall. First set is at 8:30.

Have a good weekend -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Food World: Taste of Thai Express, 528 W. State St.

This will be too short a piece to really qualify as anything-world, and it covers a culinary area we don't know much about, but we never let modesty stop us, around here.

The thing is, we went to Taste of Thai Express on W. State St. this week, and mealed up so nicely that we thought we should publicize it.

Taste of Thai is a little joint at 528 W. State St., in a kind of ramshackle space. Our first impression was that the small, oddly-shaped room would not be conducive to conversation, and we were with friends we hadn't seen for a while. But the space proved comfortable and welcoming in all respects.

The others in my party all know the cuisine, and ordered things I didn't know, and I wish they wrote here, so you could learn about some subleties of this cooking. I ordered the boringest thing, that even novices know, pad thai, because I figured if they don't do that well, it's a sign.

But the dish was delicious in all manner. A calvacade of flavor, fresh spices and garnishes, good chicken and shrimp, and unsticky and light, but filling, noodles.

Everyone at our table was very happy with their selections, which were all different. One was vegetarian. The vegetarian, and I, had more quantity than we could handle, and happily got wrap-ups for the next day's lunch.

The service was friendly and easy-going, but ruthlessly efficient and fast. The prices were modest.

There is no liquor license, and we noticed a guy walk in with a bottle of wine - his only company. They popped it for him and gave him a nice wine glass and he looked content.

Taste of Thai has a website, with menu, at

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

p.s.: don't miss the Thai iced coffee.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Anita Roddick, Business Activist and Founder of Body Shop, Dies at 64

Anita Roddick, who started The Body Shop chain of cosmetic stores to promote causes such as trade with small-scale, indigenous growers and an end to animal testing, died Monday evening of a brain hemmorage. She was 64.

Ms. Roddick was a maverick entrepreneur determined to show that businesses could do well by doing good. The Body Shop eschewed advertising, promoted and supported myriad environmental and social justice causes, and within 15 years numbered over 2,000 stores in 50 countries.

Ms. Roddick was a pioneer in both the green movement and the Fair Trade movement. She called community trade "the best poverty eradicator in the world."

Ms. Roddick had a brief but profound interaction with Ithaca in 2003, when she worked on a British television documentary on local currencies around the world which included Ithaca Hours. It was by far the best and most incisive of the scores of media treatments of Ithaca Hours over the years. It can be seen at the following site:

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Nancy Griffith & Mary Lorson , State Theater, Tues. 11 Sept.

The State Theater starts its 2007-08 season on Tuesday, 11 September, with Grammy-winning folk and country musician Nanci Griffith, and local band Saint Low, featuring Mary Lorson.

Nanci Griffith has had a long and prodigious career, but no appearances in Ithaca until now. Her most recent release, "Ruby's Torch", is an album of torch songs she has written, as well as interpretations of songs by Tom Waits, Willie Nelson, Jim Webb, and others.

Griffith's career began in the early 1980's, when her songwriting won her an award at the prestigious Kerrville Festival in Texas. One of her early songs was covered by Kathy Mattea, and went to #3 on the country charts.

She is known for her work with other artists, particularly on her best-selling albums "Other Voices, Other Rooms," volumes 1 and 2, which featured Guy Clark, Richard Thompson, Tom Paxton, Bob Dylan, and others. Dylan asked Griffith to perform "Boots of Spanish Leather" for his 30th anniversary concert and album.

Mary Lorson and Saint Low moved to Ithaca after a successful beginning in New York City. Their piano-driven, elaborately-arranged music is pop music for thinking people. The Mail of London wrote of "Realistic", the band's new album, "Easy on the ear needn't mean mannered and soulless. Lorson's songs and her voice are appealing and unsweetly unsentimental. Her unfancy but neat piano work guides an album which generously rewards close attention."

For information on ticket sales, see the State Theater's website:

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, September 07, 2007

Summer Weekend Choices, Sept. 7 & 8

Labor Day passes, and the talk in the media is about summer being over, and stores start displaying candy and pumpkins. Meanwhile, there are still weeks of official summer, and then there will be unofficial ones, and today it is 92 degrees.

There is no sanctioned swimming at the state parks after Labor Day, when lifeguards are dismissed. The parking lot people are still there, though, on the weekends, to take the same $6 fee from you as when they are full-serve. That will burn your burgers, won't it?

But the state parks are a luxury you can afford, as they say, and if, when I lived in the concrete city, you told me I could fill a car with friends, and for six bucks total, go to a beautiful lake and swim stealthily and picnic and enjoy natural splendors ten miles from my house, I would have liked that very nicely.

You can do that, this weekend, and if you do, you might see me.

But, at night:

Friday, 9/7: John Brown's Body, with Dub is a Weapon, at Castaways, 8 p.m.

Pete Panek and the Rockers, at 8 p.m. at the Lehigh Valley House - an unusual venue. Also, can Pete be the first guy to think of calling his band, simply, the Rockers? If so, nice going, Pete.

Saturday, 9/8: Shelly King, Kevin Kinsella, and the Sim Redmond Band at the Ithaca Brew Fest in Stewart Park, 4 p.m.-8 p.m. See details in yesterday's Ithaca Blog posting.

J-san and the Analogue Sons, the Chapter House, 10 p.m.

Watch out for the parkies -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Brewers' Art at Stewart Park: First Annual Ithaca Brew Fest

Last June, a new Ithaca resident at her first Ithaca Festival told us she couldn't get over the number of people having fun without drinking.

"In New York, you never see this many people at one time without drinking," she said.

So how much fun can one expect at a public event in Ithaca that centrally features beer?

You can find out this Saturday, 8 September, at the first annual Ithaca Brew Fest, at Stewart Park, from 4 to 8 p.m.

The Brew Fest has 30 regional breweries offering samples of their drinks (and, one guesses, six-packs to go). The Ithaca Beer Company is a participant and sponsor.

Other well-known participants include Brooklyn Brewery, Cooperstown Brewery, Magic Hat of Burlington, Roosterfish Brewery of Watkins Glen, and Saranac.

Entertainment is provided by Kevin Kinsella, the Sim Redmond Band, and Shelley King, the first woman ever named the Official State Musician of Texas.

Tickets are $25 in advance, available at Ithaca Beer Company, or $30 at the gate. "Designated driver" tickets for non-drinkers are $10.

The event is sanctioned by the New York State Brewers Association, and sponsored by the Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Ramada Inn is offering a special Brew Fest package of a room, 2 tickets to the Brew Fest, and Sunday brunch for $139.

For more information, see

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Grog

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Surprise Small World Music Review

We write a lot of reviews and publicity at Ithaca Blog, from our desk here at Small World Music, and each of our enterprises here get their share of publicity, too. We saw a brief one recently that we liked particularly (we like brevity, generally), from an on-line guide called Judy's Book.

Small World Music is a bit hard to find, but definitely worth the look. This small space is big in the eclectic quality of selection, especially in the rock, jazz, and blues genres. We've usually managed to find what we want. If what we want isn't in stock, Steve, the owner, will order it. He also gives excellent suggestions for alternatives if you need a gift RIGHT NOW. Often you'll come out of Small World Music with something a bit more interesting. Small World Music also carries used CDs.

Thanks from us at Small World Music to the anonymous author.

Steve Burke
Small World Music and Ithaca Blog

Friday, August 31, 2007

Ithaca Weekend, 31 Aug. - 1 Sept.

We are a bit surprised to note that there is not a glut of entertainment this 3-day weekend, when people presumably have more time for fun. Maybe the performers need time off, too.

Friday, 8/31: Richie Stearns and Friends, in the alley at Felicia's Atomic Cafe, "Happy Hour" show, with $2 Yuengling pints and other specials. 5:30 pm.

Johnny Dowd and Fiends (including headliners Tsar), Lost Dog Lounge, 10 pm.

Saturday, 9/1: The Lansing Harbor Festival. This is the first annual, we believe, and it was thwarted by near-tornado like conditions in last Saturday's thunder- and lightning storm. Organizers are betting it won't strike twice. The Burns Sisters perform from 2-4 pm. Other acts include Pete Panek, Tom Knight, and their respective ensembles. For full schedule and details, check

Wingnut and Hank Roberts bring heady, exciting jazz to the Chapter House, 10 pm.

Happy Labor Day -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Major Cause of Cancer Deaths: No Health Insurance

The American Cancer Society will spend its entire advertising budget this year on a campaign citing lack of health insurance, and of access to health care, as a leading cause of cancer deaths.

John Seffrin, chief executive of the society, said in an interview, "I believe, if we don't fix the health care system, that lack of access will be a bigger cancer killer than tobacco."

Despite advances in prevention and treatment, cancer rates are not dropping as rapidly as hoped.

"The ultimate control of cancer is as much a public policy issue as it is a medical and scientific issue," Mr. Seffrin said. 47 million Americans lack health insurance.

Studies show that uninsured cancer patients are twice as likely to receive late diagnoses as insured patients. Late treatment is impeding the cancer society's goal of reducing cancer death rates by 50% between 1990 and 2015. If present trends continue, the goal might be missed by half.

Without increased access to health care, Mr. Seffrin said, cancer "will become the leading cause of death in the world, needlessly," while impovershing afflicted families. Financial ruin comes to one in four uninsured families afflicted by cancer, and one out of five insured families.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bush in New Orleans: What He Didn't Say

In his visit to New Orleans yesterday on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush said, "We understand."

He didn't say, "We care."

He understands, all right. He understands that New Orleans is not to his liking: culturally, politically, or demographically. He understands it is a city that is largely impoverished and non-white. That means low priority. Real, real low.

President Bush doesn't know any poor or working-class non-white people and he sure doesn't want to start now, with any who are in crisis.

He understands that no one can really make him do anything, so he sure won't, except visit on anniversaries, and get photographed moving around the city a little, and then get out. Fast.

The last time he visited, he was barely there. He didn't stay in the city. He stayed on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster. It didn't have to be a catastrophe of years, with no end in sight. As in Iraq, for that you need George Bush, who simply doesn't care.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Post-Katrina Help from Ithaca

The second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has arrived, and the situation in New Orleans is still dire, as federal aid stays stagnant.

As is often true, however, ordinary people are taking extraordinary measures to act where leaders fail.

In Ithaca this past weekend, the Rotary club held one in a series of rummage sales to raise funds to bring supplies and workers from Ithaca to the Mississippi coast.

The group Love Knows No Bounds conducts similar relief efforts for New Orleans, particularly the city's Seventh Ward. The group is working with the city of Ithaca to create a "sister city" relationship with the ward to formalize and co-ordinate relief work.

Ithaca Hours, the local currency system, is negotiating a place in the proposed relationship, with the goal of bringing a local currency system to New Orleans, to replace absent dollars in New Orleans, and resusicate their local economy.

A local currency can be a particularly potent tool in a situation where there are great needs, and people and resources to meet needs for labor and trade, but no dollars to connect them. A local currency system in New Orleans would be a systematic way to create and perpetuate economic vitality.

A proposal for a New Orleans currency will be reaching Mayor Ray Nagin soon - perhaps sometime this week. Ithaca Blog will have first news of all developments.

Meanwhile - find out more about Love Knows No Bounds at,/ and Ithaca Hours at

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, August 24, 2007

Weekend Picks, Aug. 24 - 26

Friday, 8/24: We wouldn't call a band the best of its type you might ever hear just because we have relatives in the band. Would we?

There's no way to know, in this case, because Burke, Burke, & Bone really are the best acoustic country blues band you might ever hear. They do originals, and classic material by Charlie Patton, Rev. Gary Davis, John Hurt, Fred McDowell, the Mississippi Shieks, and others. They play it right, with a lot of technical skill, and a lot of love for the music and the good times it brings, which is just as important. Free "Happy Hour" show, Friday at 6 p.m. in the alley at Felicia's Atomic Lounge, next to Gimme Coffee , 508 W. State St.

Saturday, 8/25: Country rock and rock rock original music from Hubcap and the Splendors, Castaways, 10 p.m.

Roots rock at two locations in Trumansburg: the El Caminos at the Pourhouse, 7 p.m., and the Billy Eli Band at the Rongo, 10 p.m.

Sunday 8/26: It's just a coincidence, we think, that the other fine acoustic country blues performer in Ithaca is - no relation - Gerard Burke. Performing at ABC Cafe's brunch, 11 a.m.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Another Unsurprising Headline

This is a little too easy to include as a regular Blog feature (see last Saturday's post), but here's another unsurprising headline from the world of politics. From today's New York Times:

Now a Lobbyist, an Ex-Senator Uses Campaign Money

Since leaving Congress, Robert G. Torricelli has made donations from his Senate campaign chest to politicans with influence over his business interests.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Musefest: August 24 - 26

Musefest, the self-styled "best end-of-summer party in the Northeast," comes to Newhart's Lodge in Newfield this weekend, 24 - 26 August.

Musefest focuses on regional talent, and has quite a roster: Jsan and the Analogue Suns, Thousands of One, Five2, Blue Sky Mission Club, the Settlers, Seth Feldman, Urban Horse Thieves, the Native Earthling Band, Linda Stout, Pete Panek and the Blue Cats, Alan Rose, Technicolor Trailer Park, and many more.

It's the 8th annual show for Musefest, which has gone through changes of format, locale, and policies in trying to present the best possible show in the best possible environment.

The shadow of the GrassRoots Festival looms over Musefest, which has struggled with a smaller-sibling status, and also the issue of possible festival fatigue among the 15,000 attendees of GrassRoots, about a month before.

There's only one way to see if Musefest is for you, and to help it progress, and that's to go.

Admission is $45 at the gate, and $30 in advance from Small World Music, at 614 W. State St., 256-0428. Advance tickets are still available at Small World as of Friday, 8/24.

More information is available at Musefest's website,

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog