Ithaca Blog

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Concert for Peace: Karan Casey at the State Theater, March 17 - An Interview with Ellen Grady

Irish singer Karan Casey brings her band to the State Theater on St. Patrick's Day, Saturday 17 March, for a benefit concert to end the war in Iraq and illegal procedures in the military prison in Guatanamo Bay. Ellen Grady of the Ithaca Catholic Worker, one of the sponsors of the concert, spoke to Ithaca Blog.

Ithaca Blog: The Ithaca Catholic Worker has sponsored an annual St. Patrick's Day concert for peace for a number of years now.

Ellen Grady: Since 1997, almost every year. The first one was with Solas, when Karan was with them. When she left, she did the shows with her band. Not every year. Some years she couldn't, and we had Lunasa, and Sharon Shannon. And one year Solas, with their new singer, Deirdre Scanlon.

IB: Any particular reason behind the Irish connection?

Ellen: Well, at first it was just a personal connection. The idea for the shows was actually Karan's. Coming from Ireland, the history of living under oppression is not that distant. You know what it means. You can hear it in Karan's songs.

IB: What are the goals of the concert?

Ellen: They change from year to year. In general, we're speaking out against war and militarism. This year, the focus is correcting the situation in Guatanamo, where hundreds of people are being held without habeus corpus, without being charged with anything. We're speaking out, saying this is not what America is about, what the Constitution provides for. We're doing a lot of work with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

IB: Have you had any contact with legislators?

Ellen: We talk to politicians all the time.

IB: Talk?

Ellen: Well, you know, letters, phone calls, e-mails. Office visits. We've gone to all our elected representatives offices in Washington.

IB: Their response?

Ellen: Maurice Hinchey has been great. He's been great on the war since the beginning.

IB: Have you invited him to the concert?

Ellen: We haven't, I don't think. Not specifically. Maybe we should. That's a nice idea.

IB: A lot of times you hear`the phrase "compassion fatigue" about activist issues. Is the concert series a response to that? The idea of doing good while having fun, listening to music and celebrating?

Ellen: What they're doing, the Bush administration, is hurting America. Is saying no, is taking away from life-giving activities. We didn't have a concert last year, when members of our group were being sentenced for their anti-war activity. We didn't have a lot of energy. This year, we didn't either! But when Karan called us, and offered to do this show, and on St. Patrick's Day? You can't say no to St. Patrick's Day.

IB: And on a Saturday.

Ellen: And on a Saturday!

- Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Solomon Burke at State Theater

The State Theater hosts its first performance by a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when Solomon Burke, "The King of Rock and Soul", appears this Thursday, 1 March.

Mr. Burke was a contemporary and colleague of Ray Charles at Atlantic Records in the 1950s and '60s. Like Charles, Burke was a crossover artist who had chart-topping hits in soul, blues, rock, and country.

Burke was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, and won a Grammy for his subsequent album in 2002. He has a new album, "Nashville", that features duets with some of the greatest female talent in country music: Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Patty Loveless, and Gillian Welch.

Burke's songs have been covered by the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, among many others. Tom Waits calls him "one of the architects of American music."

Mr. Burke will appear on the Late Night with Conan O'Brian on NBC on Monday, 26 February, before his State Theater performance. The following week, Burke performs at B.B. King's Blues Club in New York City.

The Ithaca Calvary Baptist Church Choir opens the show in welcoming this legendary figure to Ithaca.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, February 23, 2007

Weekend Contest: "Scooter" Libby

This week's contest asks for a response to the question, " 'Scooter' Libby: innocent or guilty?"

You can predict, opine, or comment in any way. Every response will be eligible for the weekly prize, a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music. You can post a reply to this posting, or you can reply via e-mail to

The randomly-selected winner to last week's contest was Catharine, who recognized Bob Dylan as the author of a quoted piece of verse - from his song, circa 1978, "Changing of the Guards". Congratulations to Catharine, and thanks to all who entered.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ithaca Weekend, Feb. 23 & 24

Friday: Is it coincidence or by savvy design that Teachers' Lounge plays at Castaways the week of the "Ithaca Loves Teachers" promotion? T.L. does an early show, at 5:30.

Hank Roberts and Thousands of One come to Castaways later, for a 9:30 show - a very special show, a benefit for Recycle Ithaca's Bicycles, which has re-opened in a new home at 530 W. Buffalo Street. Suggested donation is pretty low, at $5 - $10.

Saturday: the biggest show biz event of the weekend is comedian/ventriloquist/puppeteer Jeff Dunham at the State Theater. Dunham (with his suitcase contingency) has made numerous appearances on the Tonight Show, among other broadcasts, and tours the country pretty busily. 8 p.m.

Many good local musicians are performing tonight: Sera Smolen and Tom Mank at the ABC Cafe, Five2 at the Blue Stone Bar and Grill on Aurora Street, and Joejo at the Chapter House. All three are simultaneous starts, at 10 p.m.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Quick Guide for Visitors to Real-Life Ithaca

With a few hundred teachers visiting Ithaca for the "Winter Recess" promotion, Ithaca Blog offers now a quick tutorial on some nitty-gritty Ithaca offerings the official brochures might not cover. Not in any particular order, not even alphabetical. Sorry, teach. No extra credit for us.

Drinks: Maxie's is always an attractive and friendly place for a good drink, but this week even moreso, as the loosely New Orleans themed nightspot celebrates Mardi Gras. Maxie's is on the corner of W. State and S. Fulton Streets.

Coffee: Gimme Coffee is possibly the best, and definitely the most up-to-date-Ithacan in character. There's one branch in the 500 block of West State Street, a block east of Maxie's, and another at the corner of Cascadilla and N. Cayuga Streets. Ithaca Bakery is an Ithaca institution, with 5 branches, at last count, with good coffee, and good deli-style food.

Music store: Small World Music (sponsor of this site) features local and world music, as well as rock and pop, blues, jazz, folk, bluegrass, gospel, and other styles - the kind of music you hear at festivals; the new releases you hear on NPR, for example. Located at 614 W. State St., down the driveway. Between Gimme Coffee and Maxie's, now that we think of it.
Special offer: mention this posting, and Small World Music will take 20% off any purchase this week.

Pizza: Pizza Aroma is the most NY style, and the best. Never gloppy, always folds, with a good cornmeal-flecked crust. Good selection of varieties, including vegan. The proprietor, Mauricio, is our pal. He's from El Salvador and you can catch up on international soccer or Spanish-language soaps on his new TV. At the corner of Green and S. Cayuga Streets.

Library: If you are a library-interested kind of person, Ithaca has a splendid one, befitting a college town, which is open every day. It's right across the street from Pizza Aroma.

Bookstore: The Bookery is the hometown bookstore that fastidious locals love. It's in the Dewitt Mall, which also has a branch of GreenStar natural foods co-op (the main branch is on the West End, at the corner of Fulton and Seneca), and the renowned Moosewood Restaurant, home of many a visitor photo-op.

Radio: WHCU-AM, 870 has an old-fashioned local news show each morning from 6 to 10 a.m. It's fun, if a little heavy lately on the regional high school sports results. WEOS-FM, 88.1 is the hippest of the NPR stations, with Amy Goodman at 9 a.m., after Morning Edition, which broadcasts from 5 to 7 a.m., and re-broadcasts from 7 to 9. WICB-FM, 91.7 has locally-made specialty music shows each morning from 10 until noon.

Restaurants: Maxie's is always good, but so is Just A Taste, on the other side of town, on N. Aurora Street, with an inventive menu with a ton of great choices, and a good wine list, with flights available. The dessert of choice is the warm chocolate souffle cake, mit schlag. Trust me.

ABC Cafe is a hip joint half way up the hill to Cornell, on Stewart Av., just off Buffalo (the Cornell side). Great vegetarian and vegan items, and a different ethnic menu each night, and a great breakfast, too. Beer and wine available. And they take 100% Ithaca Hours, the local money. You can find out about Hours, if so inclined, with a Directory (2007's is imminent; 2006's can still be found around town), or at, or by visiting Small World Music, unofficial HQ of the community cash.

Viva Tacqueria has good, cheap Mexican-style food, and a lot of tequilas. At the corner of E. State and N. Aurora Streets.

You probably didn't come to Ithaca for french fries, a hamburger, and sports TV, but if you did, Benchwarmers on the Commons is pretty good for such indulgences.

Diner: The State Diner is the quintessential small town 24 hour diner. All-day breakfast. In the 400 block of West State Street.

Gifts: You can find nice, affordable gifts on the Commons, at 10,000 Villages and Habitat, and just off the Commons, at Handworks, an artists' co-operative.

Have fun -

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Weekend Contest

With teachers arriving in town for Ithaca's "Winter Recess" tourism promotion, we thought we would have an erudite contest asking for the author of a piece of verse. Here it is:

"Gentlemen," he said, "I don't need your organization;
I've shined your shoes, I've moved your mountains and marked your cards.
But Eden is burning - either brace yourself for elimination,
Or prepare your hearts with courage for the changing of the guards."

Is it:

A. W. B Yeats
B. Robert W. Service
C. Bob Dylan
C. George A. Strong

A winner will be randomly selected from correct answers for a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, your hometown CD shop and center of enjoyable erudition. Send your entry directly to Small World Music at

Thanks, and good luck!

Steve Burke

Last week's winner was Paula of Ithaca, who knew that chicory is the featured special ingredient in New Orleans-style coffee. No one submitted a correct answer about the beignets, which are customarily served in an order of three in New Orleans. Congratulations to Paula, and thanks to all who entered.

Red beans and ricely,

Weekend Activities, 16 - 18 Feb.

The best events for this weekend are the ones we presaged with advanced heads-up in last week's listings: The Red Hot Bluegrass Series at the State Theater, which features Sam Bush on Friday night, Jerry Douglas on Saturday night, and a family show on Sunday afternoon.

And on Sunday, Po' Girl at Castaways, and Viuex Farka Toure of Mali at the Haunt.

Toure got an exceptional review in the New York Times this week for his performances at Joe's Pub in Manhattan last weekend. Ithaca Blog highlighted this, his first American tour, in two postings last week.

Have a good time -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Ithaca Blog and Small World Music Welcome Teachers

Ithaca Blog and Small World Music welcome the hundreds of teachers who will visit Ithaca this week for the nationally-recognized "Winter Recess" promotion (see previous Blog entry for details).

We'd like to make an inviting welcome, by offering a 20% discount on everything at Small World Music. See our link on this site for information about our funky little CD store.

Our hours are 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

Welcome to Ithaca! We hope you will stop in and say hello.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

"Winter Recess": Ithaca Invites Teachers on Vacation

Eighty percent of New York teachers will be on winter vacation next week, and Ithaca is sponsoring a citywide tourism promotion to attract them.

The promotion, "Winter Recess", has discounts for teachers at dozens of hotels, restaurants, and shops, and 75 special events, most of them free.

The events range from the decidedly educational, such as a tour of Cornell's Mars Exploration facility, to the decidedly recreational, such as spa and winery visits.

The promotion for vacationing teachers has been recognized in the national press as the first of its kind. Organizers have reported a large response, and expect 700 or more visitors.

For more information, see

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Media, the Truth, the Nazis, and Your Neighbor

It seems unfathomable that in this age of so much media, with its capacity for instant worldwide communication, it is harder and takes longer than ever to get the truth about politics.

The Watergate affair of the Nixon administration unraveled in a little over two years, from the commission of the crime, to the cover-up, through its unveiling in the media, to the congressional hearings, and the resignation of the president.

By comparison, it is almost 4 years since the Bush administration manipulated intelligence information to lead us into war in Iraq, and conspired criminally to discredit its critics, and so far only one official has been charged with a crime, and we are still in the midst of the trial.

Hillary Clinton is campaigning for president as a candidate of towering intellect and vast knowledge of the workings of Washington. Yet when asked about her vote for the war in Iraq, she says she didn't know enough at the time to vote against it.

She didn't? Everyone I know did. So what was Hillary reading? Or not reading?

It might be that the profusion of the media works against the truth. It provides that many more outlets to propagate lies. It makes it infinitely easier to drown out the truth, and to further crooked aims.

Fifteen years ago, I left journalism school in a bout of disillusionment of the willingness of the media to put forth the truth. A teacher said to me, "Look, if you want to find out the truth, don't talk to a journalist or a politician. They have too much to protect. Talk to your neighbor."

And this story might not be true, but I heard it, and it is at least instructive. In the 1960's, a Nazi official in jail for war crimes was talking about the Third Reich, and its success at deceiving the German citizenry with its propaganda. He said, wistfully, "If we had had television?... There would have been no stopping us."

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, February 09, 2007

Weekend Contest: New Orleans Coffee, and/or Beignets

A lot of people noticed that George W. Bush didn't even mention New Orleans in his 2007 State of the Union address. They say he doesn't like to dwell on things.

When he went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina - a good long time after - he didn't stay in the city. He stayed on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf. It was safer that way, for him.

Well, we love and care about New Orleans, and with Mardi Gras arriving in less than two weeks, we thought we would make NOLA the subject of this weekend's quiz.

It's about the cuisine - one little part of it, but an important part. Louisiana coffee is unique for a particular ingredient used in the brewing. What is it?

Here's a second shot at profiting from New Orleans knowledge. When you order the unique New Orleans deep-fried dough pastry called the beignet, how many do you typically get? This is New Orleans, chere, where they dearly love to commit eating, so be assured the answer is not one.

Answer either question and you're eligible for a randomly-selected $10 gift certificate to Small World Music. Send your reply to We send a reply to all entries, so if you don't get one, maybe try again by typing in our address on an email message. We have had some technical troubles, now and again, with our link. Or phone it in to Small World Music at 256-0428.

Small World Music is running a Mardi Gras special, with $2 off any NOLA, or LA, record or compact disc. You'll find Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Boozoo Cavis, Keith Frank, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Geno Delafose, Allen Tossaint with Elvis Costello, and others, including some nice compilations.

Bonne chance -
Steve Burke

Shareeka Epps, "Half Nelson" Actress, in Binghamton Presentation, 17 Feb.

Shareeka Epps, who made her highly-acclaimed film debut this year in the Oscar-nominated "Half Nelson", will be at a special screening of the film in Binghamton on Saturday, 17 February, at Spool Mfg., a new art space in Binghamton (actually, in outlying Johnson City).

"Half Nelson" is an inner-city drama set (and actually shot) in Brooklyn, where the 17-year old Ms. Epps was born. She now lives in Binghamton, where she attends high school.

This year, Ms. Epps will be featured in "Neal Cassady", a film about the Beat Generation figure, and "Alien Vs. Predator 2".

The screening of "Half Nelson" is part of a presentation that will also include art showings and music at Spool Mfg., a renovated warehouse which Binghamton residents hope will start an artistic renaissance in the area.

Spool Mfg. is located at 138 Baldwin Street in Johnson City.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ithaca Entertainment, This Weekend (and Beyond)

It's cold outside, but things are heating up in a lot of local music venues.

Saturday 10 Feb. brings a Bob Marley Tribute Show for the master's birthday, with a bevy of local musicians, including Richie Stearns and Pat Burke. It's a benefit concert at Castaway's, at 8 p.m.

The Mofos will bring hi-octane, premium volume rock to the Chapter House at 10 p.m.

Sunday 11 Feb. : The Hogwarshers play that real good old-time music at Maxie's, starting at 6 p.m. (In the same vein, the Chicken Fried String Band play at Maxie's, Tuesday at 6 p.m.)

Jennie Stearns appears at Felicia's Atomic Lounge, with everybody's buddy Johnny Dowd. 7 p.m.

Bound For Glory favorites Small Potatoes return to the venerable Anabel Taylor Hall venue for three free sets, starting at 8:30.

And a heads-up on some big shows next week:

Wednesday 14 Feb.: The Tarbox Ramblers play "dark, danceable, primitive blues" at Castaways, at 8 p.m.

Friday through Sunday, Feb. 16-18: The State Theater presents Red Hot Bluegrass, a 3-night extavaganza featuring Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, and Sproutin' at the Roots headlining successive nights, all with special guests.

Sunday 18 Feb. : Vieux Farka Toure, son of and successor to Malian superstar Ali Farka Toure, brings a special benefit performance for African relief to the Haunt at 7 p.m. See previous posting on Ithaca Blog for the full story on the tour, and Vieux Toure's own incipient stardom.

Po' Girl, with members of the Be Good Tanyas, come to Castaways at 7:30. They play and sing old-timey, cajun, country, jazz, and what-all, and they do it to rich acclaim.

Enjoy yourself -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

The Biggest Loser: Weighty Choices

It might surprise a lot of people in our non-televisioncentric town, as it did us recently, that there is a hit show on mainstream, network TV with the ungenteel title, The Biggest Loser. It doesn't have to do with personalities. It has to do with bodies. It's a weekly program where you watch obese people compete to lose weight.

A freak show? A race to the bottom in base TV programming? An abhorrent aberration?

Perhaps. But also immensely (sorry) popular.

The show is actually not as gross as it might be. It has a veneer of self-help boosterism, which can actually make it seem redeeming at times, if you don't stop to think about it too much, which of course is not a helpful practice with almost any TV viewing.

The show is a phenomenon, which actually is not so surprising when you consider its vast potential constituency. Recent government figures indicate that 127 million Americans - almost two-thirds of the adult population - are overweight.

Americans spend over $1 billion dollars a year on non-prescription weight-loss products that are not approved for safety or effectiveness. Today it was announced that a government-approved product is about to hit the market.

It's a pill called Alli, and it claims regular use can lead to weight loss of 5 to 10 percent.

Alli works by impeding the absorption of fat in the intestines, thus blocking calories.

One problem is that it also blocks nutrients. Thus, users are told to take a multi-vitamin supplement.

Another problem is the unfortunate side effect of "occasional loss of bowel control." We will let you imagine the details and ramifications of that.

There is also the problem of potential abuse. If the recommended dosage can help you lose 10%, why not double it and lose 20%?

Our society seems to have this idea that no problem is too tough for television and pills. But of course, dependency on television and pills is often the precise problem.

Obesity does have what is called a familial component - that is, not quite genetic, but influenced by family traits. But lifestyle components are important.

At the center of this is television, with game shows about the obese for the sedentary overweight, with orgiastic commercials for pizza, tacos, and soda.

It would be great if viewers took the title of the show personally. We are losers to succumb to such junk, and to revel in quick fixes. One key to real-life winning is the key to the front door, and a long walk outside. Maybe to the library, for something healthy for our minds that doesn't cost any more than TV. And when you get back home, if you hear somebody saying "Open the door, it's Domino's" - that's not a greeting, it's a threat!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Fighting Malaria: Ithaca Concert by Vieux Farka Toure

The recent spate of media attention to political and health crises in Africa is certainly good, if sometimes seemingly a bit artificial, with celebrities such as Gwenyth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker featured in ads declaring, "I Am African."

Vieux Farka Toure is African, and is coming to Ithaca on a concert tour to promote a major health effort that is intensely personal to him: the fight against malaria, the leading cause of infant mortality in Africa.

Vieux Farka Toure is a guitarist from Mali, the African nation recognized as the ancestral home of blues music. He is the son of Ali Farka Toure, the legendary guitarist who, more than anyone, made clear the connections of Malian music and its American cousin, with his historically authoritative and powerful playing.

Ali Farka Toure died in 2006. Vieux Farka Toure is now continuing his father's legacy with his first solo release and tour. Part of Toure's work is to bring attention and financial support to the fight against malaria, which plagues his homeland, and his hometown of Niafunke.

Niafunke is a familiar name to fans of Ali Farka Toure, who named an album after his town. (He also famously, if facetiously, promoted his town after winning his first Grammy award, and declining to travel to the U.S. to receive it. He said, "I don't know what a Grammy means, but if someone has something for me, they can come and give it to me here in Niafunke, where I was singing when nobody knew me.") Vieux Farka Toure is working with UNICEF to provide every pregnant woman in Niafunke's region with a treated mosquito net, considered the most effective preventive measure against malaria.

A schedule quirk in Toure's tour left him with an open date between appearances in Toronto and New York, which he is filling with an appearance at the Haunt in Ithaca on Sunday, 18 February.

Music fans will have a rare exposure to a powerful tradition of which Toure is now perhaps the most important proponent. His playing is respectful of its roots, both historical and immediate, but authoritative and moving on its own.

Showtime is 7 pm. Tickets are only $10 in advance, or $12 on the day of the show. Advance tickets are available at Small World Music, 614 W. State St., and at the Ithaca Guitar Works in the Dewitt Mall.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, February 05, 2007

Cartoon Terrorism Scare: the Difference Between Boston and New York

Turner Broadcasting System agreed to pay a million dollar fine to the city of Boston for a marketing stunt involving cartoon figures which ignited fears in the city of a terrorist bombing campaign.

Electronic icons of cartoon figures put in public places to advertise the Cartoon Network show, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force", set off a scare that led to closings of an interstate highway, subway stations, bridges, and parts of the Charles River.

Meanwhile, the same campaign ran in New York City, where there was not a single call to 911. Turner Broadcasting said that the majority of the icons placed in New York were apparently stolen.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

John Edwards, Running Hard and Fast for President

It's easy to see why Hillary Rodham Clinton is considered the favorite in the Democratic race for the 2008 presidential nomination, if money and recognition are the criteria.

But if the benchmarks are strong positions and straight talk, it's hard to see why it's not John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina who ran for the vice presidency for the Democrats in 2004.

Senator Clinton's gift, or curse, of equivocating are familiar enough to have been bitingly lampooned on television's Saturday Night Live last week. The show had Senator Clinton explaining her record on Iraq:

"If we knew then what we know now, that you could vote against the war and still become president, I would never have pretended to support it."

Sen. Clinton has yet to take any leadership towards ending the war, and has even said that additional military action in the Middle East, against Iran, "should not be taken off the table."

Meanwhile, Edwards has repudiated his vote for the war, and has called on Sen. Clinton to do the same. He has called "meaningless" current nonbinding resolutions against the war, which are supported by Senator Clinton and the other leading Democratic contender, Senator Barack Obama. Edwards is calling for a complete withdrawal from Iraq in 12 to 18 months.

On another major issue, Edwards appeared on "Meet the Press" last week and described a plan to provide health insurance for the almost 50 million Americans who do not have it. Edwards says he would raise taxes on people making more than $200,000 a year to help pay for the plan.

The New York Times, covering the first steps of Edwards' campaign, comparing it to his run for the vice presidency under John Kerry, says "his campaign voice is different, at times angry and more impatient." Edwards says, "I just find it easier to be more candid now."

In an era where political caution has been so costly, even deadly, Edwards might run long and well on candor.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, February 02, 2007

Weekend Scene, Feb. 2 - 4

There's a lot to do in town this weekend besides watching a football game. (Although, if you plan to do some of that, see our contest posting for this week, and enter to win by thinking of two numbers).

Friday 2 Feb: The Katherine Aelias Band play an early show at Castaways, at 5:30. They have a new CD called "Ripped at the Seams". They're followed at 8 pm by Exit Clov.

Out west in Trumansburg, the El Caminos play a western garage kind of rock. Their CD, "Business In the Front...Party in the Back!" features songs such as "Folsom Prison Blues" and a couple of Fred Eaglesmith covers, and the originals talk about Nascar, big belt buckles, Weber grills, Iris Dement, Fox News, peace in the valley, and other poignant elements of life. At the Pourhouse, 7 pm.

Saturday 3 Feb.: The biggest event of the weekend not involving tackling or kicking - but, rather, dancing and healing - is the Benefit Concert for the Ithaca Free Health Clinic at the State Theater, with the Horseflies, the Sim Redmond Band, Thousands of One, and Trevor MacDonald, a veritable surplus of local musical riches. Tickets are $10, or one Ithaca Hour. The show starts at 8 pm, but doors open at 7, to allow for schmooze time. Now that's an Ithaca event.

Sunday 4 Feb. Maxie's is conceding defeat to the Superbowl, and closing early on Sunday (no TV on the premises, which usually is a blessing). But they will party early, with entertainment at brunch, featuring old timey music by Richie Stearns, Pat Burke, and Steve Selin. 11 am - 2 pm.

The only thing the Irish love nearly as much as music is sport (well, the only other thing), so Kilpatrick's is also avoiding conflict with the ballgame, by presenting the great local Irish band, Traonach, at 5 p.m. They do, however, have TV there, if you end up staying for one last song, or one for the road. In the Hilton Hotel, 130 E. Seneca St.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Super Bowl Contest

Believe us, we have problems with football: the commercialism, the hype, the violence. Especially the violence, and if you don't, check out the current NY Times article, "Dark Days Follow Hard-Hitting Career in N.F.L.", which tells of brain damage and other serious health problems among N.F.L. veterans still in their 30's.

We think it is incumbent on the league to alleviate the violence. It can be easily done with simple rule changes, which would enhance rather than detract from the game.

Whatever its folly, the Superbowl is a powerful national hypnotic, with its mix of athleticism, now-or-never competitiveness, bookmaking opportunities, corn chips, and commercials with monkeys.

Shamefully or not, we personally are not immune. So our contest this week invites your prognostication. Our weekly contest usually does not involve strict adhesion to right answers to win, but we think for this one it shall. The closest prediction to the outcome of the game wins a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, 614 W. State St, down the driveway, next to the new home office of the Ithaca Breast Cancer alliance.

You can post your answer publicly here, if you are bold, or you can submit it in private to Small World Music at We send receipt verification to all entries, as we have had some technical problems receiving some, so if you don't get one from us, try typing in our address rather than using this link, or phone us at 256-0428.

Thanks and good luck!
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Molly Ivins, Rest in Peace

A great writer is lost to us with the passing of Molly Ivins, the liberal Texas journalist and author. Ms. Ivins waged a public battle against breast cancer for seven years. She was 62.

Ms. Ivins was a clear-eyed and caustic critic of conservative politicians in her home state and nationally. But her writing was devoid of sanctimony or hectoring. Instead it was filled with common sense, passion, and humor.

Ms. Ivins worked for a time for the New York Times, which she eventually left, declaring it "a great newspaper, but No Fun." She wrote for scores of periodicals over the years, and authored six books, but her professional and spiritual base was the Texas Observer, the biweekly paper founded in the 1950's to provide, according to its motto, "Sharp Reporting From the Strangest State in the Union."

Ms. Ivins worked until the end. Last autumn, she gave a speech at the University of Texas and could barely speak above a whisper. She implored the students to use their abilites to make a difference in the world. She was impatient with apathy. "Politics is not a picture on a wall or a televison sitcom you can decide you don't much care for," she said.

Molly Ivins ended one of her last columns, "Stand Up Against the Surge", with these words:

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on January 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"

Thank you, Molly Ivins.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

National Attention for Local Currency: Ithaca Hours in Communities Magazine

It's a fair bet that, world-wide, more people outside Ithaca than in Ithaca know about Hours, Ithaca's own money.

Total number of people, we mean. Not percentage-wise.

Hours has been featured on ABC News, on the BBC, in Forbes magazine, Harper's magazine, and in journals and on radio throughout North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

Still, a local currency is valuable to the extent that local people are familiar with it. So let us share some recent national publicity for Ithaca Hours: excerpts from an article that appears in the winter edition of Communities magazine. The theme of the edition is Helping Your Local Economy Thrive. The article is simply titled, Local Currencies. It is used by permission of its author (myself!). - SB

# # #

Ithaca is a small town in central New York. Located far from the financial hub of New York City, Ithaca is closer to northern Rust Belt and Snow Belt cities ravaged by rising energy costs and vanishing jobs. Underemployment is a perennial problem in Ithaca, where a large workforce in a competitive work environment translates into low wages.

Ithaca Hours was planned as a local money to build the town's economy without depending on scarce dollars. The idea was to create a completely new revenue stream to promote jobs and trade. Dollars could be saved for other purposes.

Ithaca Hours is a member-based organization. Anyone is welcome to use Hours. But members sustain the system with an annual fee of $10 (or its equivalent, one Hour). This fee brings each member an annual disbursement of two Ithaca Hours, worth $20. With about 500 members currently, this constitutes a flow of $10,000 worth of new money into the local economy each year. Since its start in 1991, the system has put well over $100,000 worth of currency into circulation.

Members are listed in annual Directory that acts as a Yellow Pages for the goods and services they offer. Hours prints 5,000 Directories and circulates them throughout the area all year. The Directory is also online (, so new entries can constantly be added, unlike the Yellow Pages.

At first, the Hours system consisted primarily of people trading services. Businesses questioned accepting a currency they couldn't use for expenses such as utilities, taxes, and goods purchased outside the community.

But as membership in Hours grew, businesses saw the advantages of reaching a large group of people with money they were eager to spend.

Hours are a particular advantage in competing with chain stores which do not accept local currency. While not devoid of chain stores on the fringes of town, Ithaca is one of the few cities in the region today with a healthy and attractive downtown.

Businesses can make sure they do not amass more Hours than they can use by setting their own acceptance policies. Most accept a limited percentage of Hours per transaction. But some aggressive businesses accept 100% Hours, for a very distinct competitive advantage.

Local currencies demonstrate what economists call a multiplier effect: because they do not leave their locality, they increase local activity. For example, an Hour spent at an independent book or music store will soon be spent at another local business, while a percentage of each dollar spent at a Borders outlet will soon leave the community for the company's corporate headquarters.

Hours makes interest-free loans to members wishing to start or build businesses. The system also makes regular grants to charities and community groups.

Besides its economic utility, a local currency builds community spirit and pride. Hours users find that the act of spending them leads to conversation and comraderie, something a Visa card generally doesn't do. Local currencies such as Ithaca Hours show the power of ordinary people to solve even the toughest problems (not enough money!) with creative action, taken together.

Stephen Burke