Ithaca Blog

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Another Contest About Buildings

Last week's contest asked for the height of the Empire State Building in the scale model of New York City from the 1964 World's Fair, which is still in place in Flushing Meadow Park, with the model built on a scale of 1 inch of NYC to every 100 feet.

The answer is, 15 inches.
Think how small King Kong would be.

The winner was Blake, who sensed a trick to the question, but there was none. Blake wins a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music.

This week's contest has to do with a big building in Ithaca. It was built on the Cornell campus circa 1915, and at the time had the largest pillarless room in the world. It housed a concert 30 years ago that is in the local news this month. What is it?

A randomly-selected answer will win a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, one of the smallest pillarless rooms in the world, at 614 W. State St., down the driveway. Send your entry directly to Small World Music at

Thanks, and good luck -

Steve Burke

Friday, April 27, 2007

April 28 & 29 Weekend Activities

There's a wide range of music to hear this weekend: rock, jazz, sacred steel, classic pop, old-timey, and blues.

The classic pop is the Laura Nyro Tribute Show at Kulp Auditorium in Ithaca High School, Saturday at 8 pm.

Rock is the Splendors, at the Rongo, Saturday at 9 pm.

Jazz is Hank Roberts, Wingnut, and Tsar at the Chapter House, Saturday at 10 pm.

Old-timey is the Hogwashers at Maxie's, Sunday at 6 pm.

Blues is Paul Rishell and Annie Rains at Bound For Glory, Anabel Taylor Hall, Sunday, 8:30 pm.

Sacred steel in the Campbell Brothers, at the Chapter House, Sunday at 8:30 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Presidential Prediction: In 2008, The Greatest Comeback in American History

In 2008, Al Gore will win the presidency as an independent.

What held Gore back in 2000 was not any other candidate, but the orthodoxy imposed on him by the apparatus of the Democratic Party, and the corporate sponsors of the two-party system.

In his wildly popular and influential film, "An Inconvenient Truth," people saw not the Al Snore of the Democrats, but the real Gore: intelligent, compassionate, visionary, and capable of great leadership.

Gore's new status and popularity will make possible a massive grassroots campaign. People will be eager to support and elect a qualified candidate free of the politics of the trough.

By winning the presidency as an independent, just eight years after losing it in a cataclysmic charade of debased two-party politics, Gore will achieve the greatest comeback in the history of American politics, and the most significant.

One further prediction: in a dramatic gesture of conciliation, not to mention good humor, Gore will name Ralph Nader as his running mate.

You read it here first (I imagine) -

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pudgie's Pizza: That's No Good

Once in the New York City subway I saw a woman rooting through a garbage can. She extracted a styrofoam cup with a lid on it, and shook it. There was something in it. She bent back the lid and put it to her mouth.

I quickly said, "Hey, lady, don't - ", but it was too late. She took a sip. And then she made a face, and spit out whatever she had tasted.

"That's no good," she said to me.

And that's what I'm saying to you about Pudgie's Pizza.

I didn't have time to make lunch today, and I'm the only one where I work, so I can't leave. I needed a place that delivers. I looked in the phone book, and saw a coupon for Pudgie's Pizza.

The coupon was for a special deal on Tuesdays: buy one, get another for a dollar. I thought, that'll take care of mealing for a while. And it's valid only Tuesdays. Must be fate.

Ordinarily, as a true blue New Yorker, I shun chain pizza with great disdain. But they were offering a deal, and I was in a hard place. So I figured, how bad could it be?

Like that woman in the subway figured.

It is no good. It is not even pizza. It is donuts placed in the shape of a pizza, from the taste of the crust.

And lest you get too pudgy eating it, they refrain from ingredients very much. Like, cheese. There was some on there, I eventually noticed with my glasses.

There was also a little sauce on there, with a loose interpretation of sauce, like is the stuff inside packets of ketchup sauce?

I am, naturally, deeply ashamed of this culinary lapse, but confess it, that I may be forgiven. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa for ordering imitation pizza.

Next time I will put up the "Back in 5 Minutes" sign, and ankle it over to Sal's for two hot slices with Napolese roots.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, April 20, 2007

Weekend Activities, April 21 & 22

Saturday 21 April is the biggest day for local music in memory - like a local festival, spread out over town. The roster:

El Caminos at the Pourhouse in Trumansburg, 7 pm.

Radio London at the Common Ground, 7 pm.

CROWMarley & Son at Roosterfish Brewing in Watkins Glen, 8:30.

Mudbone at the Rongo in T-burg, 9 pm.

Hubcap at the Lost Dog Lounge, 10 pm.

Boy With a Fish at the Chapter House, 10 pm.

Also on Saturday, the Cornell Folk Song Society presents Cosy Sheridan, at 8 pm in 165 McGraw Hall. Opening act is local a capella duo, A Glass of Water. Tickets are $17 at the door, $15 in advance at Small World Music and other locations.

Sunday 22 April: Richard Shindell at the Night Eagle Cafe in Binghamton, 8 pm. Shindell is maybe the second-greatest living singer-songwriter in America. In a rare central NY appearance.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Empire State Building Contest

A scale model of New York City, called the Panorama, was built for the 1964 World's Fair, and still exists at the Fair's site.

The scale of the model is one inch to 100 feet.

So how tall is the model's replica of the Empire State Building?

A winner will be randomly selected for a gift certificate to Small World Music. If Small World Music was as big as New York City, the gift certificate would be for $12,000.

Send your entry directly to Small World Music at

Thanks and good luck!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

News Flash: The Vast Majority of People Are Sane, Sensible, and Kind

Despite, or to accompany, the news in the world media recently (the horror at Virginia Tech; the idiocy of Don Imus), we would like to present the news that the vast majority of people in the world are sane, sensible, and kind.

- the Vermont state senate today voted for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

- a carpenter at Cornell University donated his time before work this morning to hanging a back door on the new home of the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance.

- the Alternatives Federal Credit Union in Ithaca has a program for low-income people called the Individual Development Account. If the individual saves $1,000 in the course of a year, the credit union contributes $2,000 to the account.

- a young mother in Wegman's today was exceedingly patient with a 2-year old.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Beloved Writers: Last Week's Contest

Last week, with the death of Kurt Vonnegut, we asked for names of writers people felt a happy compulsion to read. Here are the replies:

Paul Auster
Samuel Beckett
Richard Brautigan
Lydia Davis
Philip K. Dick
Hermann Hesse
James Joyce
Vladimir Nabokov
Ayn Rand
J.R.R. Tolkien

.... but, no Jorge Luis Borges, Anton Chekhov, Robert Heinlein, or Franz Kafka.

Randomly-selected for a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music is John J. (who likes Beckett).

Thank you to all who sent entries.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Grateful Dead Day in Ithaca, May 8

The Dark Star Orchestra, an extraordinary tribute band that performs entire Grateful Dead shows song for song, will be at the State Theater on May 8 to re-stage the legendary Dead show at Cornell's Barton Hall, thirty years earlier to the day.

Ordinarily the Orchestra does not announce in advance the concerts they will re-stage. The May 8 show will be a special staging of a show regarded by Dead fans as one of the best of the band's thousands of performances.

The State Theater will further honor the historical connection with special artwork evoking the 1977 Barton Hall show, and artifacts from the show, including original posters, ticket stubs, and newspaper reviews.

There is a rumor that mayor Carolyn Peterson will offically declare May 8 "Grateful Dead Day" in Ithaca.

For more information, see the State Theater's website,

In a strange coincidence, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, longtime cohorts of the Grateful Dead, are appearing at Castaways tonight. On this date in 1971, the two bands played a concert together at SUNY Cortland.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Dalai Lama at the State Theater in October

The Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan people, will visit Ithaca on October 9 and 10, and will make three public appearances: at Cornell's Barton Hall, the State Theater, and Ithaca College's Ben Light Gym.

The Barton Hall lecture, "A Human Approach to World Peace," is scheduled for Tuesday 9 October, 2 -4 pm.

The State Theater will host "Prayers For World Peace," a multi-denominational event, on Wednesday the 10th, from 10:30 - noon.

The Ben Light Gym event, a lecture on Buddhist texts, is scheduled for 2 - 4 pm on the 10th.

Tickets will be required for all events. Details will be announced at

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New Ithaca Hours Directory Available

by Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Ithaca Hours, the local currency system, has issued its new annual Directory of businesses and members that accept Hours.

Ithaca Hours is cash money - in paper currency, like dollars - bolstering the local economy by providing an alternative to dollars for people to spend on goods and services.

Members join for ten dollars (or its equivalent, one Hour), and receive a listing in the Directory, and two Ithaca Hours, worth twenty dollars, to spend.

Over $100,000 worth of Hours are in circulation in Ithaca, providing money to spend locally, allowing dollars to be saved for other purposes.

Local currency systems strengthen local economies by never leaving the region. Part of every dollar spent at a Wal-Mart, for example, is guaranteed to leave forever. Local money stays.

Acceptance of local currency can provide a significant advantage to a local business competing with chain stores, or Internet sales.

Local currencies help individuals earn money, by offering goods and services for which dollars are not 100% necessary.

The Directory offers cheap advertising for individuals and businesses. Hours prints 5,000 of them, and circulates them throughout the county year-round.

Hours' 2007 Directory might be its last one to identify itself solely by calendar year, as the rhythms of Ithaca life usually keep it from publication until March of the year.

The Hours organization explains that it begins work on the Directory in October, but the holiday busyness of November and December customarily distracts members from renewing their annual memberships. Then in January many Ithacans are away, with schools closed. That leaves February for the finishing touches. Therefore, look for the next Directory to be identified as "March 2008 - April 2009."

Hours also prints the Directory in its entirety on its website, The fluidity of the website allows Hours to update its listings constantly, unlike the Yellow Pages, which updates just once a year.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Weekend Contest: Reading List

We wrote a brief piece yesterday on Kurt Vonnegut, noting that for young people in the 60's and 70's, he was that rare thing, someone you read not because you had to, but because you wanted to.

We thought, too, that Vonnegut was special in that you would seek out his other books after reading your first.

So our weekend contest is really not a contest, but a call for comments. Was Vonnegut this way for you? Was someone else?

We will select a respondent at random for a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music. Send word directly to Small World at

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Paul Wolfowitz's World Bank Fight Against Corruption, But Not Necessarily All Corruption

by Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

When Paul Wolfowitz needed to leave the Bush administration, with the Iraq policy he helped design at the State Department flaming behind him, George Bush essentially kicked him upstairs, nominating him as president of the World Bank.

Wolfowitz was received at the World Bank with general disdain for his lack of managerial ability, diplomatic experience, and empathy for the poor, which the World Bank at least purports to have.

One of Wolfowitz's first actions was to cut off aid to a number of projects where he sensed corruption. He said that no World Bank funds would go to feckless administrators who would use them for personal purposes.

If so, Wolfowitz needs to stop drawing a paycheck. It was revealed this week that he secretly authorized a raise and a promotion for a World Bank worker, Shaha Riza, identified as his girlfriend.

The raise increased Ms. Riza's salary from $132,660 to $193,590. The promotion transferred her to a position at the State Department, Mr. Wolfowitz's previous employer, that is categorized as diplomatic, so Ms. Riza pays no taxes.

Mr. Wolfowitz at first denied any involvement in the matter, until a memorandum surfaced that he wrote, instructing a vice president of human resources to comply with the terms of the promotion.

Calls for Mr. Wolfowitz's resignation are growing.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Weekend Activities, April 13 - 15

Friday the 13th: Tarbox Ramblers. They bill themselves as dark (but danceable), which is maybe an apt attribute for Friday the 13th. Rongovian Embassy, 8:30 pm.

Saturday: Alash perform their exotic, if not downright otherwordly, Mongolian cowboy throat-singing. Saturday at 9 pm at the ABC Cafe, and Sunday 2:30 at the Community School of Music and Arts. Advance tickets are $10 at Small World Music. Special prices at CSMA for families and children. Call Small World for information: 256-0428.

Laurence Juber, lead guitarist for Paul McCartney's Wings, and veteran of many notable studio sessions (including work for the Monkees!), is at CSMA at 8 pm. A presentation of the Guitar League, of Syracuse. Tickets are $24 at the door, $20 in advance from Small World Music.

Sunday: The Hogwarshers, up-and-coming old-timey band, are at the ABC for brunch, 11 a.m.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Kurt Vonnegut

by Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Kurt Vonnegut, the author and Cornell alumnus, died yesterday of injuries sustained in a fall. He was 84.

Vonnegut's breakthrough novel, "Slaughterhouse-Five", published in 1969, is a classic of its era, and of anti-war literature. Like his other work, it is an innovative blend of satire, science fiction, and social commentary.

The stalwarts of Vonnegut's readership were the young, who were captivated by the distinct but gentle anarchy in his literature and philosophy of life. Vonnegut wrote books young people read not because they had to , but because they wanted to.

Vonnegut was a prolific essayist and speaker about social issues. One of his last public appearances was at St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan last year, at the 85th birthday celebration of his fellow Cornellian, Father Daniel Berrigan, the antiwar and nonviolence activist.

In an interview in 2005, Vonnegut talked about the mix of hope and bleakness he found in life.

... What makes being alive almost worthwhile, for me, is music, and all the saints I meet, who can be anywhere. By 'saints' I mean people who act decently, in a strikingly indecent society. Their acts of kindness and reason. On a very local level. A human level. You know, I walk down the street to buy an envelope. I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And see some great-looking babes. And a fire engine goes by, and I give them the thumbs-up . . . if this isn't nice, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cornell's Ride Board

by David Makar
for Ithaca Blog

I went to Massachusetts and Maine this past weekend to visit friends and celebrate Easter. I carpooled to New England and back with a group of Cornell students. I posted an ad on Tuesday night at about 6:30pm on Cornell's "Student Ride Board" website ( By 7:30pm I had recieved two phone calls and two emails requesting seats in the car. Felix, my Jetta, only comfortably holds four total people. The two emailers were looking for roundtrip rides and the two callers were looking for one-way rides. It all worked out and by 7:30 the plan was set.

For the next two and a half days I received calls and emails requesting information on availability of seats. I had to say no to everyone else, but at one point, I thought about renting a 10 person van and taking everyone with me. I don't know if all of those other people ever made it to Boston this past weekend.

The Pros and Cons for the Ride Board:

  • Pro: Helping the Environment by cutting down on number of cars
  • Pro: Helping the Environment by filling a car instead of driving alone
  • Pro: The passengers help to pay for gas, tolls, and other expenses the driver sets
  • Pro: You have someone to talk to if you want, which might be better than driving alone
  • Con: You might have to go slightly out of your way to pick people up in Ithaca (I had to drive 10 minutes to Collegetown and then back by my house - both on the way to Boston and on the way home. This added about 40 minutes to my total driving time).
  • Con: You might have to go way out of your way to pick people up in Boston/DC/NYC/etc (I had to drive from Blackstone, Mass - near RI - to Newton to pick up the return riders. This added about 60 minutes or so to the trip home.
  • Con: Your passengers might have to stop to go to the bathroom every hour (mine didn't)
  • Con: Your passengers might talk on the phone for five hours (one of mine talked for about 30 minutes, but it was an entertaining conversation about college admissions)
  • Pro: You leave on time. Usually when I travel by car and don't have a set departure I am 15 minutes to 3 hours behind as I rationalize about doing more work before going. Knowing that 3 perfectly good strangers are waiting helps you to be much more on time.
  • Con: They might not like your music (though they might have an ipod)
  • Pro: You might meet someone new!

Finally, the Student Ride Board group is its own community. I drove east with three people. One of them had been a rider with each of the other two - so they already knew a little bit about each other. It seems likely if you are going on a common ride (Boston, NYC, Philly or DC) you will probably get riders who know each other.

I didn't profit from the trip, but the gas and tolls were paid for. I told my friend Joe about the Ride Board and since he has an alternative fuel car he might be able to make a small profit on his longer distance trips from Ithaca.

Cornell's Ride Board:

Ithaca Craig's List Ride Board:

Details cross posted at Dryden is Home.

Dutch Army Tries Non-Killing Path for Peace in Afghanistan

by Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

As American troops advance into Afghanistan to combat an expected spring offensive by the Taliban, Dutch troops avoid hostile territories in the region - for the same purpose.

"We're not here to fight the Taliban," a Dutch commander said last week in the New York Times. "We're here to make the Taliban irrelevant."

Rather than hunt the Taliban, the Dutch are luring Afghans away from Taliban influence with projects to improve their living conditions, and a presence to support their security.

The policy does not preclude all fighting. Dutch forces have fought the Taliban directly. But they avoid sweeps or raids that will destroy civilian property, or cause citizen deaths.

The Dutch forces say they have built a network of contacts in Taliban-controlled regions. They have suffered no combat-related fatalities.

As of March 2007, approximately 400 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan. Seven NATO soldiers - -six Canadian and one American - were killed in Afghanistan in a roadside bombing on Easter Day.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Weekend Activities, April 7 & 8

With the holiday weekend, there might be less call for frolic this weekend than usual. But rest assured, it is there if you want it.

Saturday: The Cornell Folk Song Society presents musician and folklorist Jeff Warner at McGraw Hall, 8 pm. A lot of singing, playing, stories, and fun. Tickets are $17 at the door, $15 in advance at Small World Muisc and other locations.

Billy Eli at the Rongovian Embassy. Billy Eli is a singer-songwriter and guitarist in the Steve Earle mode, and very talented. We heard him for the first time on WVBR's Nonesuch program last Sunday, and were mightily impressed. With Eric Aceto at 10 pm.

Sunday: Really kind of a quiet night, with the holiday and all, but Steve Selin and the Yellow Peep Band will be making a euphonious, stringed racket at Felicia's Atomic Lounge, 508 W. State St., starting at 6 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Ithaca Food Contest Prize

The randomly-selected winner of last week's contest, asking for a favorite Ithaca comestible, was Elizabeth, who receives a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music.

We got lots of replies that constitute an excellent menu. Including:

- Dim sum at Thai Cuisine (the recommendation was to go with 3 - 5 others, and order everything).

- Midnight Rider at Gimme Coffee (coffee with a shot of espresso).

- Vodka a la rigatoni at Lost Dog Cafe.

- Breakfast burrito at ABC Cafe.

- Breakfast special "The Coach" at Hal's Deli (with mini-potato pancakes).

- Vegan pizza at Pizza Aroma.

- Pumpkin ginger cheesecake from Sarah's Patisserie.

- Peanut noodles from Macro Mama's (available at Farmer's Market, or at GreenStar).

- Flatbread from Just Desserts.

- Flan from La Cucina Latina.

- Brownies from ABC Cafe.

- Apples from Little Tree Orchard.

- Whitefish salad from Ithaca Bakery.

- Mocha chip ice cream from Purity.

- Sweet potato fries at Maxie's.

- Ithaca Soda Company Root Beer (available at Finger Lakes Beverage on W. State St., and on the menu at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC).

Thanks to everyone who entered. New contest coming soon.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Author Jeremy Scahill in Geneva - But Not Ithaca

Jeremy Scahill, a producer for Democracy Now and the author of a new book on Blackwater USA, the military contactor, will appear in Geneva on 17 April to discuss his book, but Ithaca will not be on his itinerary.

Scahill will appear at Albright Auditorium on the Hobart and William Smith campus. Admission is free, but tickets are required, as space is limited.

In Ithaca, tickets are available at the Bookery 2 bookstore in the Dewitt Mall.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ithaca Food: Farmers Market Opens This Saturday

Quite a number of replies to our Ithaca food contest this week (see previous posting) mentioned foods available at the Farmers Market. So we thought we should mention that the Market opens for the season this Saturday.

The forecasted cold might diminish attendance. On the other hand, shopping for Easter dinner could enhance it.

Make the trek and get some good fresh food and support your local stewards of the land.

See you there -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog