Ithaca Blog

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