Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"First Annual Fall Creek Ball Drop" on New Years Eve

We've learned of a New Years Eve event that strikes us as very Ithacan in its creative DIYness - a mix of music, pageantry, nature, and fun.

Here's an edited version of the notice we got:

The residents of 431 N. Cayuga Street (the funky-looking building across from Gimme Coffee) are hosting the first annual Fall Creek Ball Drop.

We are planning on creating and dropping a beautiful glowing orb down the inside of the huge front window of the building at midnight.

The countdown begins at 11:50. Feel free to bring friends, family, pets and noisemakers. We will be playing some fun music out the window for people to dance and celebrate to in the streets.

While you wait for the ball to drop, look for a pile of sticks and stones near the creek. Take a stick or stone and throw it into the water as a symbol of releasing all things difficult, stressful, or painful from the last year. As you throw it in, be mindful of, speak of, or share your goals and hopes for the coming year. It's that easy!

Our goal is to create a fun and local celebration for the Ithaca community. Why watch it on TV hundreds of miles away when you can walk down the street and celebrate with neighbors?

Good, right? See you there. Thanks to Evan and Dani for doing this.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New Years Eve in Ithaca

Much has been made of the symmetry between this time in our nation's history and the 1930's, when the country grasped for new leadership in the midst of depression.

One difference is that, in 1932, they couldn't drink to celebrate the new administration or the New Year.

For 2009, take it easy, if you take it at all, but here is a listing of some New Years Eve celebrations in Ithaca.

The big event is a triple-bill at Castaways of the Makepeace Brothers, Thousands of One, and the Sim Redmond Band. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Doors open at 8 and the show starts at 9.

At Felicia's, there is show music early, with Lisa Bloom and friends, from 6:30 - 8:30. Afterwards there is general merriment, with drink specials.

The Rongo has a full slate, with the T-Burg All Stars, Blue Sky Mission Club, and others, starting at 9 pm.

Billy Eli, from Austin TX, brings his rocking country music to the Pourhouse in T-Burg.

Maxie's has its annual DJ Extravaganza from 11 pm - 2 am, with tables pushed back for dancing.

Happy New Year -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, December 22, 2008

Small World Music Here For Scrambling, Strapped Santas

Small World Music is usually closed Mondays, but we're here with extended hours every day from now until Christmas, 10 am to 7 pm.

This is a tough holiday season in terms of dollars and time. Money is scarce, and the holiday season is short, with Thanksgiving coming late, with just three weekends between it and Chanukah and Christmas.

Thus, our extended hours. And as always, our convenient location at 614 W. State St., six blocks from the Commons, with easy on-street parking. No traffic to fight, nor sleety hills to climb.

Music is probably the least expensive gift with emotional content. It conveys a lot for a little, and lasts forever.

We have a lot of things here you and yours will like: new Bon Iver, Lucinda Williams, Kings of Leon, Fireman (aka Paul McCartney and Youth), Ani Difranco, Taj Mahal, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, Soweto Gospel Choir, Emmylou Harris, Horseflies, Sim Redmond, Solas, eclectic collections by Putumayo, box sets by Hank Williams, and of the Philadelphia Sound, and much more.

We hope to see you, on your way to a happy holiday.

Steve Burke
for Small World Music and Ithaca Blog

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Ithaca Musicians' Office Party" at Felicia's, Sunday 21 Dec.

Local rocker and chanteuse Mary Lorson is hosting a "Musicians' Office Party" tonight at Felicia's, where a lot of Ithaca musicians play.

The event is a benefit for Timmy Brown, a veteran Ithaca musician who recently suffered a brain aneurysm.

The roster will include many of the area's most popular players. There will be drink and pizza specials.

It starts at 7 pm. We recommend getting there early.

Steve Burke
Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 19, 2008

Small World Music, Sure Open Through The Snow

We just learned from a customer here at Small World Music that our competitors, Barnes and Noble, closed for the day at 2 pm. Inclement weather.

Well, we are sure here in what we think is just a nice little storm.

We are easy to get to, with wheels or on foot, on nice, flat W. State Street - across the street from Kinko's, down the driveway.

Our driveway and parking lot are plowed. There's also on-street parking, 90 feet from our door.

We'll be here 11 am - 6 pm every day until Christmas. No days closed, snow or no.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

P.S. Invite To Caroline Kennedy

Caroline, as I see in the news that you are currently in Syracuse on an upstate swing, I want particularly to invite you to the Irish music night described in the previous post.

You might remember me from our high school days. I was at Regis, the Jesuit school for boys two blocks from the apartment where you lived with your mother and brother. I used to come yell outside your building on Friday nights when we had socials to see if your mother would let you attend.

"Mrs. Onassis? Hey, Mrs. Onassis? Can Caroline come to the dance at Regis tonight?" That was me.

That never worked. These days, of course, there are much more genteel ways, such as this, to pester total strangers.

So, come, get a jump-start on your upstate campaign, and we can catch up on old times. That part won't take long.

Stephen Burke
Student Council President
Regis High School
for Ithaca Blog

Concert of Irish Music and Dance This Thurs., Unitarian Church

Local musical (and political) stalwarts, the Grady family (and offshoots), are hosting a concert of traditional Irish music and dance this Thursday, 18 December, at the Unitarian Church on the corner of Buffalo and Aurora Streets.

The idea is to celebrate the season as a community. Donations will be accepted but there is no set admission price.

Any event that is slightly Irish will be convivial, and that is a given for this night. Come, listen, talk, and have fun.

The show starts at 7 pm, but it is casual enough to walk in any time.

Hope to see you there.

Stephen Patrick Burke
for the Ithaca Echo

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Local and National Labor Successes

Pete Meyers of the Tompkins County Workers Center sends word - "when it rains, it pours" - about successful actions by organized labor that have gained national attention this month.

In Chicago, 200 workers at a bankrupt window manufacturer were laid off with three days notice and told they would not get severance.

The workers responded with a campaign that included occupying the building.

After six days, lenders to the manufacturer said they would provide the almost $2 million owed to the workers.

In North Carolina, workers at the Smithfield Packing plant, the world's largest pork slaughterhouse, voted to unionize after 15 years of organizing efforts. Richard Hurd, a professor of labor relations at Cornell, called the vote "an important positive sign for labor," which he connected to the larger political environment: "The election of Barack Obama may have eased people's concerns about speaking out and standing up for a union."

Pete and the Workers Center helped with a significant local labor victory this month, at the Lakeside Nursing Home.

One week after a picketing action outside Lakeside, part of a publicity campaign for worker grievances about working conditions and pay, Lakeside management met with workers for a successful contract settlement.

Congratulations to the Lakeside workers and the Workers Center organizers, including Kenny Ritter, who worked on the issue from the inside as a resident at Lakeside. Kenny has seen the workers' plight first-hand, and felt the repercussions for residents.

Kenny hosted the pioneering activist news program, "Luminary News", on local TV for a number of years. Looks like you can't keep a good man down - or quiet.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 12, 2008

Weekend Music, Dec. 12 - 14

Fri. 12/12: The Macgillicudies return, to Castaways happy hour. 5 pm.

The Urban Horse Thieves, with the Black Walnut Band. Lost Dog Lounge, 9 pm.

* * *

Sat. 12/13: Black Elastic, featuring Johnny Dowd, at the ABC. Ken Hollett opens at 10 pm.

The Horseflies, Castaways, 10 pm.

Thousands of One, Chapter House, 10 pm.

* * *

Sun. 12/14: Pamela Means, at Felicia's, 7 pm.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Itahca Blog

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Deer Season In Cayuga Heights: Closed Before It Ever Opens?

This morning, WHCU covered the deer problem in Cayuga Heights, with a proponent of a hunting program (the village's mayor), and an opponent.

The conclusion we reached is that a safe shooting program is problematic to design, impossible to guarantee, not likely to solve the problem, and politically unfeasible.

The mayor says safety is no problem, as the hunting will be done by skilled marksmen. But there is no training program for hunting in densely-populated neighborhoods. Surely Cayuga Heights doesn't want to be the training ground where suburban shooters learn from mistakes.

The mayor says that culling the deer herd is the ecological thing to do, as the herd is surpassing its capacity to feed itself. But the deer wouldn't be breeding if they weren't eating; and killing a lot of them quickly would only create a surplus of food, with the population eventually rising again to the same threshold.

No one denies that the herd is dangerous to drivers. But the level of deer-related accidents has not increased dramatically in the past decade. Traffic implements are available to decrease the danger on roads, but the mayor says the devices are aesthetically unappealing, which seems a funny thing to care about if you are concerned about saving lives.

Finally, the shooting campaign is politically unfeasible. This became clear to us when the mayor refused to disclose which locations would be used for shooting. He said as a safety matter he wouldn't discuss it and would never discuss it.

WHCU's host, Dave Vieser, asked if residents wouldn't need to know where the shooting would be done, so they could stay away? And the mayor said no.

We quickly realized the real reason not to discuss where shooting would be done is because activists will go there to impede it. So either there are stealth shootings, or confrontations between angry citizens and people with guns.

Thanks to WHCU for a discussion that brings clarity to the issue.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Another Shout-Out For Ithaca's Local Broadcast Media

Not long ago we wrote in praise of Ithaca's "Newswatch" program on WHCU-AM radio, and we feel obliged to do it again.

NPR's "Morning Edition" has an air of seriousness that makes listening feel worthwhile. Their stories, however, have a sameness from day to day which counteracts that.

Tomorrow, most likely, they will cover the violence in Mumbai; the auto company bailouts; and Obama administration appointments. We can predict this with some assurance, as they cover these stories every day, with few new details or analysis. They will interview a new round of "experts" to discuss how bad the violence is; how contentious the bailouts; and how wrenching to liberals the Obama appointments so far. And they will say we will have to wait and see how these things all play out.

Meanwhile, WHCU covers these stories with doggedly local details and perspective. Today, they interviewed Maurice Hinchey and Michael Arcuri about the bailouts. They spoke to someone from Ithaca's Borg-Warner company, which makes parts for the auto companies.

They also covered other salient aspects of our local economy: housing and tourism, with interviews of representatives of Better Housing for Tompkins County, and the county's Visitors and Tourism Bureau.

Some years ago, local television news in Ithaca took a hit, when Time Warner cable pulled most of its resources out of the area. But Ithaca College has taken up the slack, with a nightly broadcast on cable channel TV.

IC's resources do not match Time Warner's. But their broadcast, at 7 pm nightly, covers important local stories such as the city's plans for water treatment facilities.

We urge you to vary your habits a bit and follow these shows for a while. We also urge you to contact them with praise or criticism; we know they are interested in opinions of their work.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 05, 2008

Weekend Entertainment, Dec. 5 - 7

Friday 12/5: Evil City String Band - most of the band, anyway - at Felicia's for happy hour, 5:30 - 8 pm.

Soweto Gospel Choir at the State Theater. 8 pm.

* * *

Sat. 12/6: Sim Redmond, Hank Roberts, and Nate Richardson team up for a "Crossing Borders" live radio broadcast (on WVBR) at the Lost Dog. 8 pm.

Squirrel Nut Zippers at the State Theater for a special show honoring the State's 80th anniversary. 8 pm.

Goatboy, featuring members of the Horseflies and Evil City String Band, at the ABC. 10 pm.

* * *

Sunday 12/7

The State Theater's 80th anniversary celebration continues, with a 1928 movie at a special price: "Speedy", starring Harold Lloyd, featuring Babe Ruth. Live music accompanies the silent film. Admission is only 50 cents.

- have fun -
Steve Burke

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Death and Life at Walmart

There's not much to say about the central fact of the Walmart worker trampled to death in a stampede of holiday shoppers other than it is a tragedy.

But there is something to say about the surrounding facts - the mentality and the economic conditions that contribute.

Perhaps the most ironic summation was given by another employee at the Walmart store where it happened. He expressed surprise about the trampling death, because "the deals weren't even that good."

It's easy enough to say that this is a consumer society, and people are crazy for possessions, and must lead pretty empty lives, for cell phones and flat-screen TVs to mean so much.

Beyond the emptiness, though, there is desperation. Probably there were no millionaires in that crowd at Walmart at 5:30 in the morning.

Instead, there were people who don't have enough money for basic things. They stand outside for hours in the dark and cold for brief access to things they can afford.

We have a society where it is common for people to work all day, every day, without earning enough for necessities, much less niceties. Where it is possible to work your whole life and have nothing.

We have a president-elect now who grew up amidst racism and poverty. Let's hope he remembers where he came from in leading us into the future. Better yet, let's be active and make sure he does.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ithaca Hours in This Week's Newsweek Magazine

On the topic of promoting economic vitality in Ithaca (see previous posting), Newsweek magazine this week featured a brief piece on local currency systems, including Ithaca's own Hours system, recognized as the nation's oldest (established 1991).

The article is on page 5 of the print version, if memory serves (maybe page 7), and is also visible on Newsweek's website.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Benign Black Friday in Ithaca: "Local First Ithaca"

Today, "Black Friday" on the consumer spending calendar, has a benign and homey component here in Ithaca, with the start of the Local First campaign.

About 50 local businesses have joined forces to promote local spending for the holidays.

When you visit one of the participating businesses, you get a "Local Lover Challenge" card. Get it stamped at five businesses, and you are eligible for a prize of $250, $150, or $50. No purchase is necessary.

The business that distributes the most cards will name a charity organization to receive a donation of $400.

Small World Music is a participating business. Others among our West End neighbors are Bishop's Pro Home Center, Gimme Coffee, GreenStar Coop, Ithaca Grain and Pet Supply, Ithaca Paint and Decorating, The Jewel Box, Mama Goose, Silk Oak and Friends, Sparrow's Fine Wines, and Tuff Soul clothing.

See for more details and events.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Salad Days

We don't know how to profit from this notion, but we have the idea that today is probably the #1 salad-eating day in the United States, after the cavalcade of calories and heavy eating yesterday.

We also figure that today and yesterday are the days of most dishwashing liquid and powder use, all year.

Maybe you can make a bar bet out of all this.

You would have done well in football betting yesterday if you'd taken our picks. We got 2 of 3. You would have done even better if you realized our pick for Dallas to lose was wishful betting.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

We've said it before, but Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday, for its simplicity and lack of commercialization.

You have to like a holiday where celery is central, even if you don't like celery. (We do.)

Of course, the historical origins are dubious at best, and the political events that followed, over generations, were anything but benign. Still, we can celebrate a day of peace and fellowship. Can't we?

Small World Music will be closed for the day, but back for regular hours on Friday. Ithaca Blog will also be silent for the day.

We believe Ithaca Bakery will be closed, but Gimme Coffee open, if you will be heading out of town, and seeking to coffee up. It is a long way to the next decent coffee.

For interested parties, in this un-sports-crazy town, we believe it will be Seattle over Dallas with the points (13), Tennessee over Detroit (giving 11), and Philly over Arizona, getting 3.

Good luck, and have fun.

Steve Burke
for Small World Music and Ithaca Blog

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Kitchen Theater Moves To, And Cornell Studies, Ithaca's West End

The Kitchen Theater is moving from its longtime space near the Ithaca Commons to the West End.

The theater leaves its rental space in the Clinton House to a building it has purchased on West State Street, between Plain and Corn Streets.

It joins a number of businesses born or moving to W. State St. in the past few years, including Fine Line restaurant, Mama Goose children's clothing, Gimme Coffee, Quilter's Corner, Small World Music, Finger Lakes Beverage Center, Cayuga Ski and Cyclery, and Alternatives Federal Credit Union.

Cornell University is holding a public meeting this week on West End development.

"Ithaca's West End: Issues and Opportunities" is sponsored by Cornell's Department of City and Regional Planning.

The department has interviewed dozens of West End residents and businesses, and studied data from government sources. It is examining topics such as transportation, housing, streetscapes, open space, sense of community, and business conditions.

The public is encouraged to attend and offer perspectives. The meeting is Tuesday 25 November, at the Public Library, from 7 - 9 pm.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ithaca Weekend, Nov. 21 - 23

The big Ithaca event this weekend is actually in Geneva tonight, when our own Evil City String Band join journalist and author Amy Goodman in a night of edification and entertainment.

The event is at the Smith Opera House, at 6:30 pm. Tickets & info are available at the web site for WEOS-FM radio, which broadcasts Ms. Goodman's program, "Democracy Now!".

In town, we have:

Friday 11/21: The Small Kings, at Felicia's happy hour, 5:30. The bands melodic new CD is available at Small World Music.

The great British guitarist (and erstwhile Ithacan) Martin Simpson returns for a rare concert. 8 pm at the Unitarian Church on Aurora Street.

Mutron Warriors, with Sophistifunk, at Castaways, 9 pm.

Mary Lorson and friends at the ABC Cafe, 9:30 pm.

* * *

Sat. 11/22: Hank Roberts and Wingnut, the Chapter House, 10 pm.

* * *

Sun. 11/23: Bound For Glory favorites Small Potatoes return to the live show. First set, 8:30 pm.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sanitation Vs. Disease: "World Toilet Day"

Yesterday was World Toilet Day, as decreed by the U.N. General Assembly in this, its International Year of Sanitation.

It sounds jokey, but it is dead serious.

2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation, causing millions of deaths every year from cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, and other preventable diseases.

The economic costs are over 1.5% of gross national product in Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and other countries.

The campaign promotes the toilet as a "health technology," and encourages governments to set sanitation goals, and communities to mobilize to improve sanitation and hygiene practices.

More information is available from the Natural Resources Defense Council, at

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 14, 2008

An "Aw, Shucks" Notice of Ithaca in The New York Times

It's always a little funny reading something supposedly definitive about Ithaca. Ithaca is a varied community, but also easily stereotyped - a tough combination to wrestle with.

The New York Times does a pretty good job today in a piece about Ithaca in its Real Estate section.

The thrust is about the housing market, in a framework examining the way of life here. It cites a "palpable energy and an eclectic spirit," and calls Ithaca "a liberal, cultural and gastronomic oasis in a region not known for being particularly progressive."

We were a little surprised by the emphasis on food. The piece also says that "some call Ithaca the state's best culinary outpost outside New York City." It mentions the Farmers Market and the wineries. And Moosewood, of course.

The "aw, shucks" moment comes when Ithaca is cited for its "unusual combination of brains and beauty." We'll take that over "Most Enlightened."

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Music This Weekend, Nov. 14 - 16

Friday 11/14: Bobbie Henrie and Rick Manning at Felicia's happy hour, 5:30 pm.

GrassRoots Festival favorites and burgeoning big shots The Avett Brothers, at the State Theater. 7:30 pm.

* * *

Saturday 11/15: It's a night of hip hop/reggae/rock and soul blends, with Thousands of One at 8 pm at the Lost Dog Lounge in a WVBR/Crossing Borders show, and Jsan and the Analogue Sons with the Gunpoets at Castaways at 10 pm.

* * *

Sunday 11/16: Folk veterans Jack Hardy and David Massengill on WVBR's Bound For Glory, Anabel Taylor Hall, Cornell. First set of three starts at 8:30.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Evil City String Band: With (Or, Before) Amy Goodman, in Geneva, 21 Nov.

Not usually does a lecturing journalist on a book tour have an opening band. But Amy Goodman will, when Ithaca's Evil City String Band performs at her talk at the Smith Opera House in Geneva, NY on Friday, 21 Nov.

Richie Stearns and Pat Burke of Evil City met Ms. Goodman a few years ago when they participated in an event honoring peace activist Fr. Daniel Berrigan. Richie and Pat performed some songs and were joined by Natalie Merchant. Pat recounts standing in the wings with Ms. Goodman, who asked him, "You're not going to sing, are you?" Pat laughed at the seeming rudeness, while he knew Ms. Goodman was just trying to gauge the time of their performance.

In Geneva, Ms. Goodman will speak about her new book, "Standing Up To The Madness," which chronicles efforts by ordinary Americans to stand up for economic justice and democratic rights. She will also speak about the presidential election, and other topics.

Evil City String Band performs old-timey music that is not overtly political, except in its role as the music of working and poor people in America, telling their stories, and expressing their joys and troubles.

Ms. Goodman's appearances in Ithaca have drawn past-capacity crowds, so it is wise to get tickets soon. They are available through the website for WEOS radio in Geneva, which broadcasts Ms. Goodman's award-winning program, "Democracy Now!".

Evil City's new, debut CD is available at Small World Music in Ithaca.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"The Lee Atwater Story" on PBS, Tues. 11/11

A key characteristic of Barack Obama's presidential campaign was its aversion to personal and partisan attacks. An attribute of the 2008 election was its focus on issues, not race.

The nation has changed since Lee Atwater's time.

Atwater, the campaign manager for George Bush, Sr. in 1988, is the subject of "Boogieman: The Lee Atwater Story" on Frontline on PBS at 9 pm tonight.

Atwater achieved victory for Bush with a ferocious campaign designed, in Atwater's words, "to strip the bark off" his opponent, George Dukakis. It was marked by slanderous rumors about Dukakis and his wife. Atwater vowed to "make Willie Horton his running mate" with misleading ads about Dukakis's role in a pardon for convicted rapist Willie Horton, a black man.

After Bush's win, Atwater became chairman of the Republican National Committee. His political ascendancy had barely begun when he collapsed, in March 1990, at a fundraising breakfast for Senator Phil Gramm.

Lee Atwater had an aggressive brain tumor that, within a year, took his life. He was 40 years old.

In a life of violent ambition, Atwater was repentant in death. He sought out spiritual counseling. He wrote personally to people he had attacked. He wrote publicly of regrets about his life's work: about "a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambition and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul."

But, as it was too late for Atwater, it was too late for his final wish. His political example lived on in his friend Karl Rove, who played Atwater's role with Bush, Sr. for George Bush, Jr.

At length, however, it seems Atwater got his wish, finally - fittingly - with the triumph of an African-American man, a Democrat, who ran a campaign of respect, not rancor.

"The Lee Atwater Story" was released in theaters in September of 2008 and comes to public television tonight.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

A World of Music in One Night in Ithaca

Usually, music notices are a weekend phenomenon here, but we are struck by the worldly variety of music available in one weeknight tonight in Ithaca:

Chicken Fried String Band, 6 pm at Maxie's. The band is a variation on the Evil City String Band, with Richie Stearns on banjo, Steve Selin on fiddle, and Pat Burke on guitar from the ECSB, sitting in with friends. Evil City is getting ready for a big gig in Geneva next week, appearing before a talk by Amy Goodman at the Smith Theater on Friday the 21st.

Traditional Irish Session at the Chapter House. This weekly session is anchored by members of Traonach, a local band and one of the foremost Irish bands in New York. 7 pm.

Reggae Tuesday at Castaways is, as the name implies, a regular gig. Tonight is a special appearance by STRIVE, with members of Thousands of One. 9 pm.

Pachanga Latina at the Haunt tonight features DJ Tico. 9 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 07, 2008

Weekend Music, Nov. 7 - 9

There are some pretty big shows this weekend that no one seems to be talking about. Maybe it was all the election hubbub.

Fri. 11/7: Donna the Buffalo at Castaways. Who You Are opens. 8 pm.

* * *

Sat. 11/8: Tommy Dorsey Orchestra at the State Theater. 7:30 pm.

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason Family Band at Kennedy Hall at Cornell, 8 pm. Discounted advance sale tickets are available at Small World Music.

* * *

Sun. 11/9: Cassandra Wilson at the State Theater, 7:30 pm.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Itahca Blog

Jimmy Carl Black, 1938-2008

It probably won't make the most e-mailed item list of the New York Times, so we thought we should mention that Jimmy Carl Black, the drummer for the original Mothers of Invention, has died of lung cancer at age 70.

In a band noted for its cultural parodies, Black was famous as "the Indian of the group," the type of designation that music magazines of the time might have employed had they paid any attention to the Mothers, who were anathema to the entertainment business with their self-styled "cruddy" music, which ranged from inaccessible to outlandish.

The original group was disbanded by Frank Zappa in the early 1970's. Mr. Black eventually relocated to Europe, where he found more work than in the U.S.

In September 2007, Mr. Black toured the U.S. with avant-garde musician Eugene Chadbourne, including a date at the Chapter House in Ithaca.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tompkins County #1 For Obama Upstate

It might come as no surprise, but to make it official: Tompkins County was #1 in support of Barack Obama among counties in upstate New York - actually, in every New York county except Kings, Queens, Bronx, and Manhattan.

Obama got 69% of the vote in Tompkins County. The next highest percentage for Obama outside New York City was in Albany County, with 63%. Obama's percentage statewide was 62%.

Three counties contiguous to Tompkins - Seneca, Cayuga, and Cortland - voted for Obama after voting Republican in 2004.

The turnout in New York for 2008 was actually less than in 2004, with a massive falloff of Republican voters. Obama had 25,000 more votes than Kerry did in 2004, but McCain had 400,000 fewer than Bush.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

A Victory That Changed the Odds

Damon Runyon used to say that everything in life is 6 to 5 against.

But last night, the electoral college was more than 2 to 1 for.

The magnitude of Barack Obama's victory is matched only by the challenge he undertook in the first place, to defy the odds and make history.

Usually, in public life, the moments and events we remember forever are tragic ones: the Kennedy and King assassinations, the Challenger disaster, 9/11.

Obama's election changed that, too.

Enjoy the moment. Then, there is work for all of us to do, beyond voting. Work, and opportunity.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Election Night Party in Downtown Ithaca

The Tompkins County Workers Center is throwing an Election Night party at the Women's Community Building from 8:30 p.m. - 3 a.m. They will have a large screen TV, popcorn, and ice cream.

The event is open to all, and free. Dishes to pass are welcome.

For more details, call the Workers Center at 269-0409.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, October 31, 2008

Weekend Music, Oct. 31 - Nov. 2

Fri. 10/31: CD release event by UpSouth at Felicia's happy hour, 5:30. No cover.

Rottweiler Nation at happy hour at the Haunt, 6 - 9 pm. No cover. Followed at 9 pm by a "Halloween Bash" with 12 Oz. Muzzle and Ayurveda.

"Monsterfest" at the Rongo, with Mudbone, 9 pm, $5 cover.

The Family Knife, featuring members of Plastic Nebraska and the Horseflies, at the Chapter House, in a free show, 10 pm. Chad Crumm and Friends open.

The TalkToMes at Maxie's, 10 pm.

* * *

Sat. 11/1: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at the State Theater, 8 pm.

The Small Kings at the ABC, 10 pm. Their new, debut CD is available at Small World Music.

* * *

Sun. 11/2: Black Eyed Susies at Felicia's, 7 pm. With Wayward Girls, and Pearly Snaps.

Phil Shapiro and Carrie Shore on Bound For Glory, in Anabel Taylor Hall, Cornell. So who's hosting the show? First set, 8:30 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Night of the Living Dead" at State Theater on Halloween

Ithaca has always been big on Halloween. Maybe, as a place based on serious schooling, we appreciate a holiday of costumes, fake fright, and silliness.

Halloween this year should be a bigger party than usual, falling on a Friday, with good weather in the forecast.

The State Theater is holding a perfect event for the een: a showing of the classic 1968 horror film, "Night of the Living Dead."

The show marks the first screening of a film in the full State Theater since 1976, when the balcony was walled off to form a duplex. The wall was removed a decade ago, when the theater became a live performance theater.

"Night of the Living Dead" was produced in Pittsburgh, for a little over $100,000, by unknown director George Romero. It has since become a cult favorite. It has been called "the progenitor of the contemporary 'zombie apocolypse' sub-genre of horror film," and "an influence on the modern pop-culture zombie archetype."

If that won't get you out and into the movies, on Halloween, we don't know what would.

Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for children under 12, but we don't know about bringing children under 12, sophisticated as modern children may be. We first saw this picture on TV at age 14, and stayed awake all night staring at the closet door, waiting for it to move.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shared Money (and Prizes!) At Ithaca Hours Meeting Tonight, 10/29

Ithaca Hours, the local currency system, has its annual membership meeting tonight, Wed. 29 October.

People and businesses who earn and spend Hours can sign up tonight for 2009 membership and get $40 worth of the local cash as their annual benefit. Membership costs one Ithaca Hour, or $10. It provides a listing in Hours' on-line Directory - the "Yellow Pages" for members.

The normal benefit is $20 in Hours. The special offer is to encourage new and renewing members to meet, and generate business for themselves and the system.

Some participating businesses have donated gift certificate door prizes. ABC Cafe is offering two free desserts; Macro Mama is offering two dinners; McLallen House B & B in Trumansburg is offering a free night; Stellar Directions Astrology is offering a free reading; and more.

The meeting is open to everyone. It is open-ended, so you don't have to stay for it all to participate in as much as you want, if you are pressed for time; but the meeting goes from 6:30- 8 pm, in the Borg-Warner Room at the Public Library.

See for other details.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Hobo's Lullaby" On WICB: Ithaca's Sonic Calendar

It's Tuesday morning and the sound on our radio is Gene Endres' program, "Hobo's Lullaby", on WICB-FM.

Gene's show has been the sound of Tuesday mornings in Ithaca for many years. It began as a fairly straightforward American folk music show, as its name would indicate, coming from a Woody Guthrie song.

Over the years, the show evolved, as a good show will. The music expanded from traditional American folk to almost every genre of music you can think of - or, more precisely, that Gene can think of, which is a lot.

Gene's playlist is not limited to music. He likes speeches, poetry and essays. He likes the sounds of nature. He likes the sound of trains. He likes both narratives and collages.

It is a gentle program, but also bold. Gene believes in his listeners' intelligence and openness. He will play the sounds of a pond at summer sunset. He will broadcast from his bike as he tours town and extols clean transportation. He will play political music, though usually it is less the politics of polemics than of common sense.

At Halloween, he will play the song "69 Hillbillies In A Haunted House". (He did that today.)

Gene's show is, loosely, a calendar of the year. He plays music to note seasonal changes. To highlight election issues. To promote local events such as GrassRoots Festival, Ithaca Festival, and other performances and events, and to note broader events: Mardi Gras, Earth Day, May Day, Labor Day.

"Hobo's Lullaby" is progressive and sometimes experimental, but fundamentally, it is basic, old-fashioned radio from the days before structured programming and playlists. It sounds like the town that it comes from, and like the week it was created.

Like a good poem, the show sounds different upon different listenings. One has the chance to experience this with the show's rebroadcast on the Sunday afternoon after its Tuesday genesis.

Not many communities are so lucky as to have a show so dedicated to both custom and creativity, to both the world at large and (foremost) to its home town. We're grateful to WICB and especially, of course, to Gene, for doing it so well so long.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, October 24, 2008

Weekend Music, Oct. 24 - 26

Friday 10/24: Toivo, toe-tapping Tex-Mex-Finnish, at Felicia's happy hour. The Ithaca Times did a nice write-up of the band this week. Their new, debut CD is available at Small World Music.

The Legendary Mad Professor at ABC Cafe, 10 pm. No, not a lecturer from Cornell. A toaster from Jamaica, and a famous one. Call the ABC for ticket information: 277-4770.

* * *

Sat. 10/25: GrassRoots Festival fave Eilen Jewell at Castaways, 8:30 pm. Ms. Jewell's new CD is available at Small World Music.

* * *

Sun. 10/26: Urban Horse Thieves at Maxie's, 6 pm. UHT's CDs are available at Small World Music.

Michael Stark & Zuan Marshburn at Felicia's, 7 pm. Mike's solo CD & CDs with Wingnut are available around here, someplace.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

McCain Campaign: Wardrobe and Makeup, But No Script

In the home stretch of an election where the McCain campaign has struggled to find a message, perhaps its priorities can be determined by its spending.

According to a filing yesterday with the Federal Election Commission, the highest-paid person in the McCain campaign in the first half of October was not the senior staff member, nor the chief foreign policy adviser, but Sarah Palin's traveling makeup stylist.

The salaries for those three individuals, respectively, were $12,000 (senior staff member); $12,500 (chief foreign policy adviser); and $22,800 (makeup stylist).

It will be interesting to see what happens with contributions to the McCain campaign in these final days. It's hard to imagine much coming in except from, say, the Lauder corporation.

Steve Burke
fotr Ithaca Blog

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Greenspan: The Only Thing I Didn't Understand

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan went before Congress today and said there was just one thing he didn't understand in his tenure, which has lead to an economic crisis "much broader than anything I could have imagined."

That one thing, Greenspan said, was "the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works."

In other words, "human nature."

Or in one word, "anything."

Remember how, in his 18 years on the job, the press would make light of Mr. Greenspan's public pronouncements, which bordered on the unintelligible? It meant he had to be a genius, because otherwise you would think he was an imbecile, or at least didn't know what he was talking about, himself.

As in so many other cases, the truth comes to light now, not because of the press, but despite it.

What was Greenspan supposed to do, tell on himself? The Wizard of Oz didn't do that. Why should he? He had a pretty good job going, as long as no one asked too many questions.

It is an important lesson to learn when pondering other things experts say.

For instance, that you must trust them with your personal liberties for national security. That our energy needs require nuclear power, which is easy for them to control and clean up after. That digging shale gas wells here in central New York will be economically equitable and will not affect drinking water. That the personal and financial information on your computer is secure.

Skepticism is required. Alan Greenspan has at least helped us with that lesson.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

If You Can't Tease David Crosby...

...who can you tease?

Luke Fenchel wrote a glowing review of last night's sell-out concert at the State Theater by David Crosby and Graham Nash.

We didn't go. We did consider walking over to see what kind of fleet of trucks and buses these big stars might have had.

Particularly, we were interested in the performers' bus, figuring that Crosby must reside in it, rather than chance hotel rooms, after that episode a few years back, when his check-out at a hotel turned out a little embarrassing for him, having left behind a bag of marijuana and a handgun. Leading Jon Stewart (we think it was) to inquire, "What did he remember to take?"

Catch us sometime here at Small World Music and we'll tell you about the practical joke that, at age 20, we pulled on Mr. Crosby in an empty, midnight San Francisco airport, and he called us a bad name.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Rachael Maddow Show Breaking TV Records

The Rachael Maddow Show on MSNBC, a left-leaning program of news and commentary, is breaking records for popularity in its first month on television.

The show has doubled MSNBC's audience in its time slot, and is approaching the ratings level of its veteran competition, CNN's Larry King Show.

Ms. Maddow broadcast one of the first segments of her show here in Ithaca last month, after a broadcast of her Air America radio show before an audience at the State Theater.

Ms. Maddow's regular criticism of Bush and McCain policies seems to have found the same kind of fervent audience nationwide as in Ithaca.

Ms. Maddow exposure to Ithacans might be stronger on her radio show than on MSNBC. Ithaca is a notoriously untelevision-centric place.

It's a trait that Ithaca and Ms. Maddow have in common. Despite her new stardom, Ms. Maddow reports that she does not own a television set.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Free Local Money For You From Ithaca Hours, Wed. 29 Oct.

Ten dollars gets you forty's worth at the annual membership meeting of Ithaca Hours, the local currency system, on Wednesday 29 Oct., 6:30 - 8 p.m., in the Borg-Warner Room of the Public Library.

New and renewing members pay ten dollars (or its equivalent, one Ithaca Hour). For this annual fee, members recieve a listing in the on-line Hours Directory, and four Ithaca Hours, worth $40.

The Hours Directory lists businesses and individuals with goods and services to offer for some combination of dollars and Hours.

Ithaca Hours, started in 1991, is a local currency - in denominations, like U.S. currency - which stimulates trade for local businesses, helps moonlighters profit from their work, and keeps money in the local economy.

There are over $100,000 in Hours in circulation, and a membership base in the hundreds, from craftspeople, massage therapists, bookkeepers, and manual laborers, to food stores, book stores, and a credit union.

At a time of vanishing dollars, local currency provides a stimulus package for working people and small businesses - a system serving and controlled by local people, with with no downturns nor bailouts in sight.

For more information, see Hours' website,

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, October 17, 2008

Weekend Music, Oct. 17 - 19

Friday 10/17:

Common Railers at Felicia's happy hour, 5:30.

Becky Chace at the ABC Cafe. Chace has opened shows for both Judy Collins and Joan Jett, which sure sounds like an able folk-rocker. She has been compared to Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Raitt, and counts among her heroes Lucinda Williams and Bruce Springsteen. 308 Stewart Ave., 10 pm.

* * *

Sat. 10/18:

Eric Aceto at the Farmers Market, 11 am.

Uniit Carruyo and Friends at the Pourhouse in Trumansburg, 7 pm.

The Cornell Folk Song Society presents Greg Greenway at McGraw Hall, Cornell. 8 pm. Tickets $17 at the door, $15 in advance from Small World Music.

Billy Bragg at the State Theater. Opening act, The Watson Twins. 8 pm.

Drummer Brain "Willie B" Wilson left Ithaca, and Johnny Dowd's band, for a while to go on the road with rising star Jamie Liddell, opening shows for Elton John. (Liddell's latest CD, "Jim", is available here at Small World Music.) Tonight, Wilson and Dowd are reunited as members of Black Elastic, at the Lost Dog Lounge, 10 pm.

Kevin Kinsella and Food, Clothes & Shelter at the Chapter House, 10 pm.

* * *

Sun. 10/19:

Kelley Birtch at the ABC for brunch.

Jen Cork at Felicia's. 7 pm.

Northwest indy rocker Mirah is at Castaways, in the first show by indy producer, ex-director of State Theater, Dan Smalls. With openers No Kids, and Jennie Stearns. 8 pm.

Pierce Pettis at Bound For Glory, Anabel Taylor Hall, 8:30 pm.

* * *

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

White Voters Not Biting Race Bait, Poll Shows

The McCain campaign seems hopeful of a reservoir of racism among Americans that might give McCain the election. Thus their attacks on Senator Obama, not so gently veiled, as a man to be "fearful" of, in Sarah Palin's words:

"I am just so fearful," Palin has said, "that this is not a man who sees America the way you and I see America."

A New York Times/CBS News poll reports a better sentiment. The poll shows that 45% of white voters support Obama - a higher percentage than voted for the Democratic candidate in 2004 or 2000.

If there is anything to fear in this campaign, it is the howling cries of "terrorist" and "kill him" toward Senator Obama from McCain audiences. But they won't make the election. Instead, it seems, the vote will be carried by those who heed not Sarah Palin, but Martin Luther King.

45 years ago in Washington, Dr. King spoke of a dream of a nation where people are judged "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

First in the Democratic primaries, now in the general vote, this election year holds promise for that dream.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

T-burg Farmers Market Winding Down With A Bash

The working-person friendly Trumansburg Farmers Market, with its workday commuter-time hours of 4 - 7 p.m. Wednesdays, turns into a party this week, at its penultimate session, with a performance by the Evil City String Band.

The Market will also feature chef Samantha Izzo, of the Simply Red Bistro at Sheldrake Winery. Ms. Izzo will be vending her signature comfort foods, and promoting her new cookbook, which includes a CD by Evil City, who regularly play at her restaurant.

The T-burg Farmers Market is at routes 96 & 227, just north of downtown T-burg.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, October 10, 2008

Weekend Fun, October 10 - 12

Fri. 10/10: The Chicken Tractor Band at Felicia's happy hour, 5:30 pm.

Bert Scholl CD release party at Castaways, 9 pm. The evening also includes benefit performances for Bert's cancer treatments. Performers include Kevin Kinsella, Sim Redmond Band, and Hank Roberts.

* * *

Sat. 10/11: Friends of the Library Book Sale, 8 am. See Small World Music's sale offer in yesterday's Ithaca Blog posting.

Americana Music Jubilee, at Castaways. An almost-all day affair to benefit the "Healthy Food For All" program of the Full Plate Farm Collective. One acoustic and one electric stage. Performers include the Small Kings, Michael Hansen, Uniit Carruyo, Who You Are, Urban Horse Thieves, and the MacGuillicuddies. 3 pm - on.

The SufferJets roller derby team has their last home bout, vs. the Hellions of Troy. Cass Park Rink, 6 pm.

* * *

Sun. 10/12: Colleen Kattau and the Night Skies Band at the Common Ground, 7 pm.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Nudge (And Sale Offer) To Book Sale Go-ers, From Small World Music

The nudge is pretty straightforward. If you're going to the big Friends of the Library Sale this weekend looking for music, you should also come 4 blocks south of Esty St., to Small World Music.

We have a couple thousand excellent LP records here, with prices to rival the Book Sale's, and (we think) a finer selection. From Abba to Zappa, as they say, with not so much Boots Randolph to wade through.

We have reggae records (including Bob Marley, and Burning Spear), African (Sounds of Soweto, Miriam Makeba, Malathini, et al.), blues (Muddy Waters, Bill Broonzy, Little Brother Montgomery), bluegrass, folk, jazz, and various world.

We also have 1,000 records of good quality priced at $1 each.

Almost forgot: new & used CDs, too. Hundreds of CDs at $5 and less. New releases include the brand new Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, Randy Newman, Emmylou Harris, Charlie Haden, and the Evil City String Band (stand-alone CD, as well as CD/cookbook combo).

Mention this promo and we will take 10% off all your purchases.

Small World Music is at 614 W. State St, across State St. from Kinko's, down the driveway. We're open 11-6 Tuesday through Saturday. We might keep some hours this Sunday, too, for Sale-goers. Phone us at 256-0428.

Steve Burke
for Small World Music and Ithaca Blog

Monday, October 06, 2008

Ithaca Journal's Credo: We Know Better, But We Care Less

If you are the even-tempered sort, today you might have had to try to calm some less-so friends, upset about the headline story in the Ithaca Journal, of the McCain campaign's warnings about Barack Obama's "terrorist pal."

Those were the Journal's front page, above the fold, headline words.

The terrorist pal in question is not the bearded, turbaned type most modern fear-mongers try to conjure, but William Ayres, who was a member of the Weather Underground in the Vietnam era, and a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago today.

Obama was 8 years old at the time of Ayres' antiwar activity, so it is unlikely Ayres looked to him for guidance. Apparently, however, in the 40 years since, at one function or another in Chicago academics or politics, the two have been in the same place at the same time.

No doubt the McCain campaign would prefer to pin a guy in a turban to Obama, but for now, this college protester turned Chicago professor will have to do, in a campaign marked increasingly by a lack of responsibility.

It's a shame, but in Ithaca, the shame is on the Ithaca Journal, for presenting this contorted drivel as news, at all. The shame is compounded by the blaring sensationalism.

What is their purpose? To scare people away from Obama? Or just to sell papers?

That first possible purpose, of course, is the worse of the two. But the second is bad enough, on its own.

Every once in a while, the Journal writes an opinion piece about cynicism among the American electorate, and our growing distrust of newspapers. And then, one imagines, the editor takes a long stare out the office window. Not into the office mirror.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, October 03, 2008

Weekend Entertainment, October 3 - 5

Fri. 10/3: The Hogwashers, old-time tunes, at Felicia's happy hour, 5:30.

Gadje, gypsy jazz, at the Lost Dog, 8 pm.

The venerable Second City comedy troupe returns to the State Theater, 8 pm.

* * *

Sat. 10/4: Andrew Bird at the State Theater, 8 pm.

The Black Eyed Susies, old-timey trio, with Steve Gollnick, alt-country guy of renown, at the Chapter House, 10 pm.

* * *

Sun. 10/5: Ithaca ex-pat Kathy Ziegler visits (from new home, Holland) for a reunion, with Mary Lorson and Billy Cote, of the Piano Creeps, playing some innovative and challenging but, essentially, very pleasing collaborative music. Lost Dog Cafe, 8 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Palin

We still think, as we wrote here as soon as McCain picked her, that Sarah Palin will not be on the Republican ticket on election day.

Her selection, in the first place, was a typical "maverick" move by McCain. For McCain, the word "maverick" means "kiss my ass."

McCain chose Palin because she is a woman. This would be his way of telling the Democrats, who did not select a woman, to kiss his ass.

So what if there were hundreds of other, better, candidates for the vice presidency? So what if Sarah Palin is completely unqualified? Sarah Palin has the attribute of being an ex-beauty queen. That's the qualification for McCain. Thus says McCain, kiss my ass, all you Hillary Clinton supporters, feminists, women in general, and anyone else who might like to see a qualified woman as a candidate.

But the beauty queen allure has worn thin. Sarah Palin can't talk to the press because, unfortunately, she is unfamiliar with most things they are apt to mention. Her sole area of expertise seems to be the exploitation of natural resources in extreme northern climes, which has limited pertinence.

It would have been McCain's ultimate KMA dream to foist someone like Sarah Palin on the American electorate. Well, technically, he has. But now she is being unfoisted. Recent polls show a tailspin for McCain in the crucial swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Palin's approval rating is in the 30th percentile, and falling.

So, we think, McCain's final KMA move will be to dump her. It might happen sooner, it might happen later. Think of whichever makes the least sense, what will confuse and upset the most people, and that's what McCain figures to do.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Workers Center Rally For "New Economy" Today

The Workers' Center of Tompkins County is rallying today on the Commons in response to the national financial crises.

The Center cites "failed policies of deregulation, and taxation that benefits only the rich," and calls for "a new politics and new economy that works for everyone, not just the few."

Carl Feuer of the Center spoke on the radio this morning about the core problem of insufficient wages for workers. Working people who can't make ends meet become reliant on credit and mortgages which lending institutions extend, though they don't really have the security to offer. When the whole thing crashes, people have debts they can't pay, own houses worth less than what is owed on them, and it is the lenders who seek relief.

The rally begins at 5:30 today at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Commons.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, September 26, 2008

Apple Harvest Festival This Weekend... With A Sale at Small World Music

In an era when society's fabric consists of much texting, twittering, and other remote communication, it's nice to have events such as the Apple Harvest Festival, which is pastoral rather than technological, and temporal rather than, like, constant.

The weekend-long event is billed as "a celebration of food, fun, and Fall." Argue with that.

Also, it is free.

Centered on the Ithaca Commons are hundreds of food and craft vendors, and entertainers.

The complete schedule of music is available at

Small World Music carries a lot of the local music you will hear at the Festival, and has all music at 10% off for Ithaca Blog readers. Not just local, but everything - pop and rock, Latin, African, reggae, folk, blues, gospel, jazz various world music - everything we carry. Just mention this posting for the discount.

Small World Music (for our out-of-town readers) is six blocks due west of the Commons, at 614 W. State St., down the driveway.

We hope to see you & hope you have fun!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ithaca Religious Groups Join Campaign To Stop Torture

Over a dozen religious groups in Ithaca have joined a national campaign to condemn torture.

Among the many misdeeds of the Bush regime, the use of torture is the most atrocious and dangerous.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture began earlier this month with a convention of faith groups. Anti-torture banners are now on display in houses of worship.

In Ithaca, a program called "Audacity To Believe: The Witness of A Political Prisoner" will be held at the Unitarian Church on Wednesday, 1 October, at 7 pm.

"Audacity To Believe" is the best-selling book by British physician Sheila Cassidy, who was tortured by the Pinochet regime in Chile in the 1970's for treating a political prisoner, and will speak at the event.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When My Mother Stopped Dyeing Her Hair

My mother stopped dyeing her hair about 5 years ago, aged 72.

She had cancer and was taking chemotherapy. One of the requisites was no hair coloring.

She had been dyeing her hair for I don't know how long. A son doesn't really keep track of such things.

Nor did I ever mention it, but occasionally I wondered what it would look like natural, and wondered if my mother wondered, herself.

When the time came that she had to stop dyeing it, her hair came in white like cotton, or snow: whichever cliche you like, but it was natural and beautiful.

I said to her, "You know, you should have stopped dyeing it years ago. It looks a million times better." She smiled a smile of irony, mixed with some fatalism. But she said she agreed, it was true.

I remember her going out one night. I don't remember where. But I remember she wore a soft, black jacket, and looked glamorous, and I told her so.

Her first incident of cancer had come in 1991. She survived it in excellent health. She sure stopped smoking. She enjoyed her life with the keen and humorous serenity she always had.

The second came in 2003, and she did not survive. But she had had a decade, more, to live and grow older with her husband, and see her grandchildren grow up.

We miss her terribly, of course. We love her for who she was and what she gave us.

Today, the Cancer Resource Center of Ithaca is holding a vigil in remembrance of those lost to cancer. There will be music, by my mother Patsy's son, Patrick Burke, and his friend Richie Stearns. The event is at 7:30 in Dewitt Memorial Park, at Buffalo and Cayuga Streets.

Stephen Burke

Friday, September 19, 2008

Weekend Music, Sept. 19 - 21

Fri. 9/19: Long John and the Tights play old-timely at Felicia's happy hour, 5:30 pm.

Jeannie Burns and the Jukebox Raiders at Castaways, 9 pm.

* * *

Sat. 9/20: Jason Moran (see prior Ithaca Blog posting) leads a tribute to Thelonious Monk. Bailey Hall, 8 pm.

Black Elastic, with Ken Hallett and Johnny Dowd, at the ABC, 10 pm.

J-san and the Analogue Suns at the Chapter House, 10 pm.

Revision at Castaways, 10 pm.

* * *

Sun. 9/21: Jennie Stearns at Felicia's, 5:30 pm.

enjoy the weekend -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Richie Stearns Keeps Plucking - At Red Newt Bistro, Wed. 17 Sept.

Direct from an appearance on network TV last night (see yesterday's Ithaca Blog posting), Ithaca's old-timey banjoist Richie Stearns returns home for a gig tonight at the Red Newt Bistro in Hector.

Richie is mentioned in a prominent piece by Natasha Li Pickowicz in this week's Ithaca Times about his regular gig at Simply Red Bistro, at Sheldrake Point Vineyard.

Simply Red's owner, Samantha Izzo, has published a cookbook featuring recipes from the restaurant. The book includes a CD of Richie's band, Evil City String Band, who play frequent Monday nights at the restaurant.

The Times article describes the combination of food and performance as "transform[ing] a normal dining experience into something seriously terrific."

Evil City String Band will perform at Simply Red next Monday. Richie's performance at Red Newt Bistro is at 7 pm tonight.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Jason Moran Brings Thelonious Monk Tribute to Cornell, Sat. 20 Sept.

Ithaca gets the jump on New York City, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, and other cities this weekend when jazz pianist Jason Moran comes here first with his multi-media tribute to Thelonious Monk, for the 90th anniversary of Monk's birth.

"In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall 1959" takes place at Bailey Hall at Cornell. The performance is open to the public, and free of charge, although tickets are required.

Moran studied classical piano as a child and first heard Monk at age 13. He credits Monk as a central figure in his playing and career.

Only 33, Moran has released half a dozen albums, and recorded with Cassandra Wilson, Joe Lovano, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, and many others.

"In My Mind" is an original piece inspired by Monk's historic Town Hall concert. It combines video and audio of Monk and his band with new music by Moran and his ensemble.

The concert is at 8 pm. Ticket information is available at

Stephen Burke
for Itahca Blog

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Richie Stearns, With Kasey Chambers, On Conan O'Brien

Country music singer-songwriter Kasey Chambers appears on the Conan O'Brien Show on NBC on Tuesday 16 September, and Richie Stearns from Ithaca will play banjo with her band.

Chambers' new CD, "Rattlin' Bones", is released the same day.

Small World Music will have Chambers' CD for sale, along with Richie Stearns's solo CD, and his most recent work, with the Evil City String Band.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, September 13, 2008

FAQ Last Night: "Why Is Rachel Maddow In Ithaca?"

There were well over a hundred hits to Ithaca Blog yesterday with that question. During the span of Ms. Maddow's MSNBC broadcast from Ithaca, between 9 and 10 pm, there was more than one per minute.

We're happy to have our postings from the past few days answer the question. And we get a kick out of seeing how many inquisitive fans Ms. Maddow has.

Or maybe she has a big family, whom she forgot to call?

Most likely, Maddow show viewers wanted to know what was going on with the technical aspects of the program. They mentioned at the start of the show that it was from Ithaca, New York, but they didn't say why. The show had transmission problems that interrupted it for a while.

The broadcast was coming from a studio set-up in the Fall Creek Cinema building. A truck with a satellite link sat outside.

Having attended Ms. Maddow's live radio broadcast here, from 6 - 8 pm, and seen her TV broadcast, an hour later, we can say that, even for a novice, she is cool, in each slangy sense of the word. She is smart, well-prepared, with an engaging demeanor that is pointed, but good-natured.

We also realized, at the State Theater, whom she reminds us of physically: Jamie Lee Curtis.

Thanks to Rachel Maddow for her herculean efforts here in Ithaca. She was also up quite early today to address the AIDS Ride For Life rally, sometime before 8 am. Congratulations and thanks, too, to Ms. Maddow's broadcaster in Ithaca, the Cayuga Radio company, for sponsoring her appearance.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, September 12, 2008

AIDS Ride For Life: Victory Lap, Sat. 5:15 PM

Even if you can't be part of tomorrow's AIDS Ride For Life, you can salute the fundraising bicyclists as they end the day's rides around Cayuga Lake with a "victory lap" of all 400 riders through downtown Ithaca.

After their marathon rides, the cyclists will convene at Cass Park and ride 400 strong, together, to Stewart Park.

They leave Cass Park at 5:15 pm. The route in town is Buffalo Street to Cayuga Street.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Steve Earle's Voice of Hope

It is probably unnecessary to review Steve Earle's show at the State Theater last night as a house-rocking, politically charged event, because of course it was. But we would like to note a comment by Mr. Earle about religion, faith, hope, and understanding - that is, in the long run, about living.

It might be no surprise that the iconclastic Mr. Earle subscribes to no religion. And yet, he said,

I'm not a Christian, a Jew, or a Muslim. But I know a lot of people who found wisdom by following those religions.

He spoke of his own guiding philosophy as the religion of recovery from drug addiction.

I don't believe in hopeless cases, because I can't. I believe in miracles, because I am one.

Mr. Earle went on to suggest that hope must be coupled with work; then lead a stirring sing-along to his tribute to Pete Seeger, "Steve's Hammer (For Pete)":

One of these days I'm gonna lay this hammer down.
And I won't have to drag this weight around.
When there ain't no hunger and there ain't no pain,
I won't have to swing this thing.
One of these days I'm gonna lay this hammer down.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Rachel Maddow Tickets, & Preview

Tickets for the Rachel Maddow show at the State Theater tonight are going fast, but right now, at opening time here at Small World Music, we still have some.

The show begins at 6 pm. It will be broadcast on the Air America radio network, where Ms. Maddow hosts a popular nationwide program about politics and world events. A Rhodes scholar, and humorous, Ms. Maddow is sort of a counterpoint, or perhaps antidote, to Rush Limbaugh.

Ms. Maddow very recently began hosting a high-profile cable TV program on MSNBC. The State Theater radio broadcast was booked long before her MSNBC job began.

Our understanding is that Ms. Maddow asked for tonight off from her MSNBC show in order to fulfill her obligation here. The request was not granted, but Ms. Maddow is coming to the State tonight regardless.

Her TV show begins an hour after the radio show ends, so she will have a busy night. Hopefully she will be buoyed by a full house at the State.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Steve Earle, Rachel Maddow at State Theater This Week

The State Theater continues its season of varied and quality programming this week with a concert by country rocker Steve Earle on Thursday, and a free appearance by broadcast personality Rachel Maddow on Friday.

Among the so-called outlaws of country music, Steve Earle has dramatic credentials. He was a rising star in Nashville in the 1980's, until his imprisonment for heroin possession.

Recovering from addiction, Earle returned to music, though turning away from the country music establishment. A life-long resident of the south, Earle moved to New York City, attracted by its liberalism and diversity. He celebrates these qualities in "City Of Immigrants" and other songs on his recent album, "Washington Square Serenade".

Steve Earle performs on Thursday with his wife, Allison Moorer.

On Friday, broadcast personality Rachel Maddow comes to the State in an early (6 pm), free appearance.

Maddow hosts a show on the Air America radio network, and was recently hired for a high-profile program on cable television's MSNBC.

Maddow's appearance is free of charge, though tickets are required. The free tickets, while they last, are available at Small World Music and other locations.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, September 05, 2008

Arnica, Anti-Amputation Medication

We've never done a health segment here before, but will now, to promote the powers of arnica, which saved us from a leg amputation this week, or at least the thoughts of it.

It all started (we will try to keep it brief, from start to end of it) with a terrible leg pain upon awakening one morning. It was like a bad charley horse, such as NFL players must have on Mondays.

But it lasted a few days, and got worse, to the point where we could barely put any weight on it, or move it, which is bad in a leg.

This is the point where thoughts of amputation came in. Not that we are hypochondriacal, more like fatalistic, like this thing is probably cancer, or arthritis, or rheumitism, or all three, and just has to go. A farewell to leg, as it were. We got ready to call our doctor.

Then we remembered a tube of arnica gel in the medicine cabinet, which had helped with a mild carpal tunnel syndrome situation a while back.

Of course, what is a tube of anything going to do in the face of a mighty medical malady like mine. But, we tried it that morning.

By the afternoon, all pain had vanished. Not a little, but completely.

What is this arnica? Is it in the morphine family? What happens if you ingest it? Is it like the drugs God keeps for himself?

We researched it. It is in the sunflower family. That seems humble and benign, but of course heroin starts out as poppy seeds.

Arnica is not good to ingest. Apparently it attracts blood to wherever it is and it will draw blood into your stomach.

It is not possible to apply it directly to the brain, but what if you could? Would you become carefree?

I suppose I am carefree enough as it is. I won't need to call my doctor now, nor pin my pants.

Arnica gel is available at GreenStar and, most likely, at most supermarkets and drug stores. You might want to stock up before surgeons try to criminalize it.

Dr. Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Mitch Hedberg

We miss Mitch Hedberg, a great comedian who died of a drug overdose in 2005 at age 37. He had achieved a modicum of success and recognition, but not as much as he should have.

Next week a posthumous album of his work, "Do You Believe in Gosh?", will be released.

Hedberg had a stoner persona and a self-deprecating presence on stage. His comedy was observational, but with a surreal twist, which made his humor a little harder to grasp, often, than others such as Jerry Seinfeld. But Hedberg's demeanor itself was funny, and it was entertaining just to listen to his distinctive voice and cadences.

Hedberg had an affinity for language reminiscent of George Carlin's, and in many ways seemed a successor to Carlin. He did not share Carlin's proclivity for social commentary, but he avoided the invective which soured Carlin's later work for many fans.

We remember a bit Hedberg did about club sandwiches, and liking club sandwiches, and always ordering and getting club sandwiches, even though he did not belong to the club, and did not know what its "stipulations" were. He decided it must have been people who like three slices of bread with their sandwich, and like it cut twice. "How do you feel about... frilly toothpicks?", he imagines as a discussion.

You can see Mitch Hedberg on various Youtube postings.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, September 01, 2008

Prediction: Palin Won't Be GOP VP

Our guess is that Gov. Palin will refuse the Republican nomination for the vice presidency, with the news that her unmarried 17-year old daughter is pregnant.

Her reason will be the scurrilous attention of the press to this personal family matter.

It will be a convenient excuse.

The real reason, of course, is the overwhelming alarm about Palin's complete lack of qualification for the job.

The news of her daughter's pregnancy is irrelevant. Unfortunately for the Republican campaign, however, it will probably prove relevant with Palin's constituency, the conservative right.

Palin can back away now, after a turn in the spotlight which illustrated, supposedly, John McCain's alignment with his party's conservatives, and belief in equality for women.

The McCain campaign can blame Palin's vanishing act on the press and the Democrats, and loftily condemn their scandal-mongering and lack of compassion.

It will be a bizarre twist. But it will befit a campaign bereft of ideas, and dependent on character drama.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain: Let's Get A Gal In Pantsuits

It's tough to say whether McCain's surprise choice for his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, was motivated more by cynicism or stupidity.

It could be cynicism - the idea that McCain can pick up disaffected Hillary Clinton voters by finding a gal in pantsuits of his own. That's what those 18 million Democrats voted for in the primaries, isn't it?

It could be stupidity - not realizing that people voted for Hillary Clinton not only because she is a woman, or not even because she is a woman, but because they considered her more experienced and prepared for the presidency than any other candidate.

The angle of experience is the only plus the McCain campaign has against Obama. The Obama campaign realized that, and picked for vice president one of the most veteran lawmakers in Washington.

McCain apparently doesn't realize it. Instead of building on his sole strength, he obliterates it by picking a vice presidential candidate who seems a lot more like Dan Quayle than Hillary Clinton.

Gov. Palin is a female politician who opposes reproductive rights for women. How is that going to sit with Hillary Clinton supporters - even the most disaffected ones?

After a night of triumph for Obama, McCain follows with a morning of stupefication. The Obama campaign should hasten the debates and press the advantages they have created - and been given.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Evil City String Band, With Richie Stearns, Plays Ithaca This Weekend

After a surprise and semi-furtive gig there last night with his longtime band, the Horseflies, Richie Stearns returns to Felicia's Friday night with his up-and-coming group, Evil City String Band.

Evil City will also appear at the Chapter House on Saturday. The band is promoting their first CD.

Evil City is an old-timey band with Richie on banjo, Steve Selin on fiddle, Pat Burke on guitar, and Ben Gould on stand-up bass.

The band is making formal appearances after a number of loosely-organized gigs around town, most notably at Simply Red's restaurant at Sheldrake Point winery. That gig lead to the production of a CD that is included in a new cookbook from Simply Red's. (The CD is also available independently.)

Evil City played a couple of well-regarded sets at this year's GrassRoots Festival, including one with Willie Watson, of Old Crow Medicine Show, of which Ben Gould is an alumnus.

Evil City's music straddles the territory between accomplished playing and creative fun. Their material includes some originals, and many traditional standards with the distinctive sound that four great players who are also old friends can create.

The band has several songs in live performance posted on its MySpace site.

Evil City's CD, and Simply Red's cookbook, are available at Small World Music in Ithaca.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Surprise Horseflies Gig at Felicia's, Tonight, Wednesday 27 August

Ithaca favorites, The Horseflies, are playing an impromptu gig at Felicia's Lounge tonight, Wednesday 27 August, in preparation for a tour.

They will play in the alley at Felicia's, on West State St., at 6 pm. There is no charge.

Come up West State St. early and visit us at Small World Music before the gig. We are open until 6 pm. We stock the full line of Horseflies releases. Small World is a block west of Felicia's, at 614 W. State St., down the driveway.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Obama Acceptance Speech Watch at State Theater, Thursday

The Democrats had a fine night of political theater last night with the opening of their convention in Denver.

Ithacans have the chance to watch the main event of the convention in a real theater, when Barack Obama accepts the party's nomination for the presidency. Local supporters are staging a community event in the State Theater to view the proceedings this Thursday.

Along with the telecast, there will also be videos shot by Ithacans attending the convention. The event is scheduled to start at 8:30 pm.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ithaca Farmers Market: "A Produce Slam Dunk," Says New York Times

The Ithaca Farmers Market was featured in today's New York Times.

"Macrobiotic eaters mingle with skilled chefs along the covered wooden walkways" of the Market, the Times writes, describing the Market as "a produce slam dunk."

Among the Market's produce purveyors, the article focuses on (literally, with a nice photo) Red Tail Farm. We visit Red Tail's booth regularly for the excellent organic salad mix.

You might want to get to their booth early tomorrow. Along with this publicity, new Cornell students and families arrive today, too, and might be out in force at the Market tomorrow (with families) - even if they didn't know, as the article states, that here in the Finger Lakes region, they are in a "mini-Napa Valley" that is "just a really great place to eat."

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, August 21, 2008

GrassRoots Musicians at T-burg Fair, Thurs. 21 Aug.

The Trumansburg Fairgrounds is hosting its 158th annual fair this week, with agricultural and mechanical displays, midway rides, circus attractions and children's activities. Thursday the 21st is a special hybrid night, with performances by GrassRoots musicians returning to the Fairgrounds for its other major event.

Performers will include members of Donna the Buffalo, Hank Roberts, Johnny Dowd, Kevin Kinsella, Mary Lorson, Richie Stearns, and many more.

Unlike past years, there is no separate charge for the show. It is promoted as "a gift to the community from GrassRoots." Showtime is scheduled to start at 7 pm, and will go late. Admission to the Fair is $4 for adults, free for children 12 and under.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Luckily, the Olympics Are Boring

As a big baseball fan, including televised baseball, I don't need any more reasons to waste my time, so it is lucky I find the Olympics impenetrably boring.

As far as I can tell, the Olympic games take place every day, all day, for an arbitrary period of time, once every four years. An untold number of athletes, more than you can imagine exist, participate in a cavalcade of games, races, and other events that are not that easy to categorize. The best three people in a competition stand on a box at the end of it, and get a medal on a string to put around their necks.

The Olympics reward excellence, which is part of the problem. Excellence is not as engaging as failure.

Baseball is based on failure. Even the greatest hitters fail two times out of three. A championship team can be one that only wins 4 times out of 7, which is just one better than coin-flipping.

There's a lot more to talk about with failure. And of course, more to anticipate. Maybe next time the ballplayer will get lucky. Luck doesn't play much part in the Olympics.

As a result, there's not much to say about an Olympic champ. How did Michael Phelps do? He swam very fast. Really? Did anyone swim faster? No. Okay. Anything else? Well, he did it 8 times. No kidding. Could he have done it 9? Yeah, maybe.

Horse racing is good because you can bet on it. Also, it is very difficult to predict who will win. Nobody wins 8 races in a row, ever. And of course, you don't know if the horse really knows what's going on, so there's an air of mystery.

Baseball is less like the Olympics than it is like soap operas. It's on every day. Nothing much happens. The interesting thing is the foibles of the players. Listen to baseball fans talk sometime. It's like they're talking about Melrose Place. "What the hell is wrong with Billy?" "Do you think Willie is going back to the Yanks?" "These guys got no chemistry."

What baseball and the Olympics have in common, of course, is the aspect of much ado about nothing. But baseball is a lot lighter on the ado. Not so much flags and fervor. Certainly, no surveillance and military. In the 7th inning, you all get up and stretch together, and sing - not an anthem this time, but a sort of lullaby. Soon you go home, and hope tomorrow will be about the same, if you had a good day, or maybe a little better, if you didn't. And that maybe Billy will work out his problems, soon.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Musefest, August 22 - 24

Musefest, which dubs itself a festival of "the Ithaca area's diverse music community," celebrates its 9th incarnation this weekend, August 22 - 24.

The emphasis is on local and regional bands. The location is the Newhart Lodge in Enfield.

The roster this year includes, on Friday, Revision; Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad; ekoostik hookah; Mutron Warriors; Blue Sky Mission Club; and about a dozen more. On Saturday: Thousands of One; Pete Panek and the Blue Cats; Urban Horse Thieves; Jsan and the Analogue Sons; and again about a dozen more. Sunday is wind-down day, with 6 bands scheduled, including The Thieves Hymn, Sophistafunk, and Ayurveda.

Weekend tickets at the gate are $65. Advance sale tickets are available at Small World Music for $45.

See for information about camping, cars, food & drink, etc.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ithaca Brew Fest, Saturday 6 September in Stewart Park

The new fun event last summer was the first annual Brew Fest, a celebration in Stewart Park of premium beers and local music.

With only a modicum of publicity, the Brew Fest drew about 2,000 people. Despite the size of the crowd, it was orderly and well-run.

Brew Fest features tastings of beers from dozens of regional microbreweries. The atmosphere, though unpretentious and rollicking, emphasizes the stature of beer as a sophisticated drink. We're used to that perspective with wine, especially here among the many fine wineries of the Finger Lakes. The breweries at Brewfest give the wineries a run for the sophisticate buck.

Advance tickets are $30. The four-hour event (from 3 - 7 pm) also presents some premium local music: Kevin Kinsella, the Sim Redmond Band, and newcomers New York Rock.

A portion of the proceeds go to renovation projects for Stewart Park.

For more details, see

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Weekend Music, Aug. 15 & 16

Opportunities prevail for socializing to good music this weekend.

Fri. 8/15: Toivo rocks that Finnish & Tex-Mex squeezebox at a CD release party at Felicia's ever-popular happy hour, 5:30 - 8:00.

The Thieves Hymn play their guitar-less "dance music for people who can't dance" at the Lost Dog, 8 pm.

Food Clothes and Shelter, and the Gunpoets, at Castaways, 9 pm.

* * *

Sat. 8/16: GoGone plays original, regular rock and roll for the Crossing Borders series at the Lost Dog, 8 pm.

Hank Roberts and Wingnut at the Chapter House, 10 pm.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Big Time Musicians Play Ithaca Bar, Thursday 14 August

Jack Casady, the legendary bassist for Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, and G.E. Smith, for many years the guitarist and director of NBC's Saturday Night Band, play with their band Moonalice tonight at Castaways.

Casady and Smith describe Moonalice as a vehicle for low-key, spontaneous playing for live audiences. The other bandmembers are also veteran players, such as Pete Sears, once of Jefferson Starship.

The cover is $10 and showtime is 9 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Big League Baseball(er) in Binghamton, Thursday 14 August

Baseball fans with flexible schedules have a chance tonight to see All-Star pitcher Billy Wagner pitching for the Binghamton Mets.

Wagner is one of the premier relief pitchers in the major leagues, but will be the starting pitcher tonight for the Binghamton Mets. Wagner is on the disabled list with the big league Mets; the start in Binghamton is part of his rehab program.

If you go, though, don't be late. Wagner is scheduled to pitch no more than two innings.

We went to the B-Mets game on Sunday and had a great time, as always. We saw Fernando Martinez, the 19-year old phenom who is the Mets' top prospect, and likely left-fielder next season.

The game starts at 7 pm. Tickets are $8 and $9.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Obama, Heading the Democrats' "50-State Strategy" for 2008

After years of Republican error and terror, the Democratic Party thinks it can win elections at every level in every state in 2008: the so-called "50-State Strategy."

No more red states and blue states, they say. The Republicans have so roughly trampled the wishes and well-being of Americans that the Democrats feel not only can they win the national election - they can get Republican voters, in droves, to defect.

The money Democrats have raised is a good indication they might be right. So are their organizing efforts.

A recent story on NPR featured a vibrant Obama office in Winchester, Virginia, a rural Republican stronghold. The Obama campaign has gone there undaunted by demographic and ethnic differences. Local residents expressed admiration for Obama's outreach, and disappointment in the McCain campaign's lack of contact. Apparently McCain has not much to say, is the thinking.

A cursory study of the campaign so far shows that McCain indeed has had little to say in the way of change from Bush's policies. His speaking style itself is not generally conducive to much comprehension or confidence.

Barack Obama might seem an unlikely centerpiece of a campaign to win conservative voters. As he has said, he does not look like the presidents on the dollars. Maybe it is an irony. On the other hand, it is pleasing to think that maybe it is less an irony than a milestone for this country.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, August 08, 2008

Lost Jobs Upstate: The Wal-Mart Factor at Work

Two major manufacturers announced permanent job layoffs in central New York today.

BorgWarner, a car part manufacturer, is cutting 240 jobs in Ithaca and Cortland. Honeywell is closing a plant in Skaneateles Falls that makes scanning devices to read barcodes. 290 workers will lose jobs. Honeywell is shifting production to a new factory in China.

The Wal-Mart corporation, the world's largest retailer, insists on low prices which many suppliers cannot meet without paying substandard wages to workers. This is most easily done in China, where a large population, widespread poverty and a lack of worker protections has created a segment of workers that in the U.S. would be defined as indentured servants.

Replacing 290 workers in New York with workers in China will make it easier for Honeywell to compete for Wal-Mart's business.

In turn, fostering slave labor enables Wal-Mart to drive other retailers out of business, thus increasing its power over suppliers. The job losses today in central New York are another turn in this spiral.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

John McCain, Listen To Your Mother

John McCain's mother, Roberta, has commented on the ads McCain is running that equate Barack Obama with celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

The ads are "kind of stupid," Roberta McCain says.

That about nails it, doesn't it?

Hey, John. Listen up. We're never too old to learn from our mothers.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

10th Annual AIDS Ride For Life, September 13

On Saturday 13 September, the Southern Tier Aids Program sponsors its 10th annual Ride For Life bike run at Cayuga Lake.

Riders pay an entry fee and solicit donations. There are also business sponsors of the event, which has raised over $1 million for AIDS programs in the Southern Tier of New York.

Registration is open now; the number of riders is limited to 400. Training sessions are scheduled between now and the event.

See STAP's website for details:

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Live Music in Ithaca, 31 July - 5 August

It is a robust week, not just weekend, of music in Ithaca.

Thurs. 7/31: Samite of Uganda on the Commons, free, 6 pm.
* * *

Fri. 8/1: Radio London plays that old-time rock and roll, outside & free on Cornell's Arts Quad, 7:30 pm.

Triple trouble at Castaways with Go Gone at 5 pm, then a break before a 9 pm show with The Thieves Hymn and Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band.

* * *

Sat. 8/2: Trevor MacDonald, ex- of Sunny Weather, has a new band call Who You Are. They celebrate a CD release tonight at a free (except for parking) show at Taughannock Falls Park. 7 pm.

Thousands of One at the Chapter House, 10 pm.

* * *

Sun. 8/3: Three nice shows at three nice eateries, spread throughout the day. Kelly Birtch plays guitar at ABC Cafe's Sunday brunch; music starts at 11 am. Kilpatrick's hosts its weekly Irish Music Session in the afternoon. At 6 pm, Pete and Taz play at Maxie's.

* * *

Mon. 8/4: Gerard Burke plays country blues at Micawber's, 6 pm.

* * *

Tues. 8/5: Hee Haw Nightmare plays for your down-home dining pleasure at Maxie's, 6 pm.

The Irish Music Session moves up hill to the Chapter House, 8 pm.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stewart Park Rehab: A Start?

A public meeting was held last night at the Stewart Park Pavilion to address the park's problems, and possible remedies.

About 50 people attended the meeting, which was initiated by a $15,000 grant to create a Stewart Park Rehabilitation Action Plan.

The most vexing negative of the park is lack of maintenance, particularly of the lake shore, which makes swimming ill-advised and illegal. And not even tempting, by the way.

About a year ago we wrote a couple of pieces here on Ithaca Blog about the park's potential. You can see them by typing "Stewart Park" into the Blog's search mechanism.

We're happy to see action (or at least an "action plan") and will follow this issue. We also urge everyone to take part in the project.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare $118,000? America's Chronic Debt, and a Community Solution

According to the Federal Reserve, the average household with a mortgage in the United States has debt of $117,952. This includes mortgage debt, credit card debt, home equity loans, car loans, and tuition loans.

The annual savings of the average household is $392.

In 1957, in contrast, 42% of American households had no debt at all.

It must be galling for organized crime, which once had loan sharking all to itself, to have lost it to these supposedly legitimate banks and credit card companies, whose terms are also predatory, but somehow legal.

Ithaca has a local currency, Ithaca Hours, which addresses the scarcity of money in a productive rather than predatory way.

Over $100,000 worth of local currency circulates in Ithaca, creating an entirely new revenue stream which anyone can use.

Members join for $10, or one Hour, and get $20 worth of Hours to spend. Members also get a listing in the Hours Directory - its "Yellow Pages" - to offer goods and services, for whatever ratio of Hours and dollars they choose.

Like banks and credit card companies, Ithaca Hours makes loans of Hours to members. Unlike banks and credit card companies, Hours charges no fees or interest.

Besides benefitting individuals and businesses, studies show that local currencies promote a "multiplier effect" for communities.

If you buy produce at a farmer's market, for instance, with local currency, the money stays in the community (for products that, and vendors who, in this example, come from the community).

If you buy produce at a Wal-Mart store, and use a credit card, a percentage of that money is leaving the community for the credit card lender, some for the far-away grower, some for the food wholesaler, and some to Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Arkansas -never to return to your community. Certainly, never to you.

Local spending (particularly with local currency) means not saying "goodbye" to your hard-earned cash, but instead, "see you around. "

You can find out more about Ithaca Hours at, or by writing or phoning Small World Music, proud Ithaca Hours member ( ; 607/256-0428).

Regarding that credit card: they're good for emergencies, right? So, a friend of ours who got into some credit trouble a while back keeps one in the house. Literally. Not in his wallet. And the place in the house is in the freezer, in a coffee can of ice. Now if he really needs it, he can get it, but he has to wait for the ice to melt.

The can is metal, so it can't be microwaved.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog