Ithaca Blog

Thursday, January 31, 2008

For Pedestrian Safety: Enforce Traffic Laws

The Ithaca Times runs a thoughtful piece this week about growth in Ithaca, the attendant increase in vehicular traffic, and increased danger to pedestrians.

The problem is real. But it isn't complex.

The solution is simple: enforce traffic laws against speeding, and running red lights and stop signs.

Cars and pedestrians could co-exist if drivers were less hurried and more careful. They're not, for two main reasons:

1. Traffic patterns in town, especially with the lack of co-ordination of traffic signals, make driving downtown not just slow, but frustrating to the point of road rage. Thus, angry drivers speed through town, and through red lights, all but oblivious to the incidental reality of pedestrians.

2. Traffic laws are not enforced, so you will not punished for this kind of illegal and unsafe driving.

Reason 1 is hard to change. But Reason 2 is easy, and changing this situation will change the other.

Think about how many times you have done 40 in a 30-mph zone in the city (no? - how about on Rt. 13?), or barreled through a red light (intersection of State and Fulton?). How many tickets have you gotten? How many would it take to change your behavior?

Right. Me too. Not many.

A few months ago, two blocks from Small World Music, a pedestrian got hit at the intersection of Seneca and Fulton by a driver who was speeding on Seneca to try to make the ill-timed light, and made a left from Seneca into Fulton without signaling, all the while looking up at the changing light, never glancing at the pedestrian in the crosswalk. I know because I was the pedestrian.

Enforcing the traffic laws is an important role for the police department. It shouldn't be arduous. It should actually even be profitable.

The Times article gave the phone number for Tim Logue, transportation engineer for the city, for comments on these issues: 274-6535.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Fried Chicken Meals to Benefit New Orleans, Friday 1 Feb.

With Mardi Gras looming, you can help relief efforts for New Orleans this Friday, Feb. 1, by helping yourself to a southern-style fried chicken lunch or dinner from the Teen Program at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, in association with the relief group Love Knows No Bounds.

The carry-out meals are available at lunch from 11 - 2, and at dinner from 4 - 6, at GIAC, on the corner of W. Court and N. Albany Streets. The meal-up consists of fried chicken, rice and beans, vegetable, roll, and brownie. The cost is $8, or 3 for $20.

Delivery is available at lunch time for orders of 6 or more. Call Sean Norman, 279-5030.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Political and Musical Bandwagon: 10% Off all Rally Musicians' CDs at Small World Music

At Ithaca Blog, we do not necessarily feel fully committed to the candidacy of Barack Obama. We are still hoping for an independent run by Christopher Walken.

But we are greatly in favor of political activism in general, and admire the efforts of the local musicians behind the rally and concert for Senator Obama at the State Theater on Friday 1 February.

Ithaca Blog has gotten many site visits about the rally. So many, in fact, that we wonder if there is a misapprehension that Sen. Obama is appearing. For the record: Sen. Obama is not appearing.

It is planned as a great night of local community activism and music. We are climbing on the bandwagon this way: with an offer of 10% off all CDs by the musicians performing at the rally. They are: Sim Redmond Band, Samite, Richie Stearns, Hank Roberts, Jeb Puryear, Uniit, Kevin Kinsella, and Crow Greenspun.

We hope to see you soon.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Monday, January 28, 2008

Kennedys Welcome Obama to the Family

Everyone remembers the famous insult to Dan Quayle by Lloyd Bentsen when the two ran for vice president in 1988 and, in a televised debate, Quayle compared his relative youth and inexperience to that of John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Bentsen said:

Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

Yesterday in the New York Times, Caroline Kennedy essentially said that Barack Obama is a Jack Kennedy, in an opinion piece called "A President Like My Father."

In formally endorsing Obama, she writes:

It isn't that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that might not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country - just as we did in 1960.

Ms. Kennedy cites Obama's record of advocacy for the poor, and his ability to inspire, particularly the young.

In the closest allusion to her father, she writes,

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it.

She concludes,

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president - not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Within hours of Ms. Kennedy's endorsement, Senator Edward Kennedy also formally endorsed Obama, despite years of friendship and political alliance with Hillary Clinton. Both Kennedys will appear with Obama today in Washington at a rally at American University, where President Kennedy gave an historic speech on peace and disarmament on 10 June, 1963.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, January 25, 2008

Musical Riches This Weekend

The State Theater presents a powerhouse doubleheader over two nights, Friday and Saturday.

Friday: Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the legendary vocal group from South Africa, sing spiritual songs that are simple and real, and work songs that are inspiring and uplifting.

Ladysmith made their first major impact in the U.S. refining - if not defining - the sound of Paul Simon's "Graceland" in 1986, with the hit songs "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" and "Homeless." The ensemble has performed for Pope John Paul II, and accompanied Nelson Mandela when he received the Nobel Prize for peace. Showtime at the State is 8 pm.

Saturday: Indy star Neko Case. Ms. Case disdains labels of alt-country rocker or power-pop chanteuse for, in her words, "a rock and roll Six Flags of fun." Her 2006 release, "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood," has won wide praise.

Ms. Case is fronting her own band, after long collaboration with others, most notably the New Pornographers. Saturday's show at the State is her first appearance in Ithaca, though she has shared bills in Europe with the Johnny Dowd Band, and JDB's drummer Brian Wilson played on "Fox Confessor." The 8 pm show opens with Eric Bachmann, founding member of the 90's band Archers of Loaf.

It's probably also not too late (nor too early) to get tickets for the State's third big show of the week, guitar icon Richard Thompson, on Wednesday the 30th.

Other shows:

Friday, Billy Eli at the Pourhouse in Trumansburg.

Saturday, Thousands of One have a CD release party at Castaways.

Sunday, the ABC Cafe has Kelly Birtch at brunch (11 am), and Jairo van Lunteren with the Piano Creeps at 9:30 pm. Local Irish greats Traonach appear on Bound For Glory, in Anabel Taylor Hall , a free show starting at 8:30 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Congressman Jim Walsh, Republican from Syracuse, To Retire After 10 Terms

Next time you think voting and other political action might not mean much, remember this day: the day Congressman Jim Walsh quit.

Representing a wide swath of central New York, Walsh has been as strong a shoo-in incumbent as you'll find. Just three years ago, he won re-election with 91% of the vote.

In 2006, however, he was challenged by Dan Maffei, an ex-aide to Patrick Moynihan and Charles Rangel. The margin of victory this time was razor-thin, at 3,400 votes, and not determined until ten days after the election.

Until that race, Walsh was in lockstep with the Bush administration across the board, including the war in Iraq. The election sent Walsh a message. He moved away from Bush on the war, and actually opposed the surge last year.

But it was too little too late. Maffei will run again this year, and Walsh saw the handwriting on the wall.

"I've never seen anything like it," Walsh said of his change in fortune. "There was a real tide in the country, and it was tough to buck for all of us. It was very anti-war, and very anti-President Bush, in upstate New York. Two years ago, I had no opponent. Go figure."

We admire Mr. Walsh for his candor in stating his reasons for retirement. (There was, of course, some of the usual balderdash about wanting to spend more time with his family.) Perhaps the attendant frankness was meant as a wake-up call to his party. It also serves as an affirmation for political activists. Your voice matters.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Grace Lee Boggs on Barack Obama - and Us

Today on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviewed Grace Lee Boggs, the 92-year old political activist and community organizer.

Ms. Boggs spoke of the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King - which, 40 years after his assassination, are strikingly pertinent in this time of war, eroding civil liberties, and impending economic crisis.

Ms. Boggs sees promise in the candidacy of Barack Obama. But on her web site (, she warns against too much faith in leaders in our political system, infested as it is with corporate dollars. She writes:

The new energies being unleashed by Barack Obama hold great promise. In his person and prose Obama embodies the achievements of the movements of the 20th century and the hope that we can become the change we want to see in the 21st century.

To build the movement for change will not be easy. The challenges we face demand profound changes not only in our institutions but in ourselves. To become part of the solution, we must recognize that we are a large part of the problem.

That means we can't leave it all to Obama. Instead of being followers of a charasmatic leader, we must be the leaders we've been looking for. This is the best way to make Obama less vulnerable to corporate funders and lobbyists.

* * *

We have to create the momentum for these changes at the grassroots level. Instead of being seduced by Wal-Mart's low prices, refusing to acknowledge that these bargains exist because multi-national corporations outsource U.S. jobs to Chinese sweatshops, we need to create local sustainable economies that not only reduce carbon emissions, but provide more opportunities for our young people to be of use. Instead of viewing success in terms of more consumer goods, we need to devise more ways to live simply and cooperatively, thereby not only making it possible for more people to simply live, but also discovering positive and even joyful ways to grapple with our own increasing economic hardships.

Obama can become a great president only if we become a great people. We must grow together.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

"Barack the Vote" Concert and Rally, 1 Feb., State Theater

A stellar amalgam of local musicians perform at the State Theater on Friday 1 February in a benefit concert for Barack Obama.

"Barack the Vote" features the Sim Redmond Band, Jeb Puryear of Donna the Buffalo, Richie Stearns, Hank Roberts, Kevin Kinsella, Uniit, Crow Greenspun, and what is billed as "a special guest performance" by Samite.

There is a suggested donation of $10, taken at the door; there are no tickets per se.

Doors will open for a rally at 6 pm. The concert will start at 7.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sale on Sounds of "Light In Winter" at Small World Music

Ithaca Blog's home base, Small World Music, is a little removed from the center of action of the Light In Winter festival here in our West End location, but we want to invite visitors (and residents) to take the 6-block trip west of the Commons and the State Theater to find music of festival performers Hugh Masekela, Cyro Baptista, Water Bear, Reggie Carpenter, et al., as well as performers you might see around town this weekend, such as Richie Stearns, Gabriel Tavares, Kevin Kinsella, and Bill Staines.

Mention this posting, and get 10% off all purchases.

Small World Music is at 614 W. State St., down the driveway. While in the neighborhood, check out the other great businesses within a block or two: Gimme Coffee, GreenStar Coop, Sparrow's Wines, Finger Lakes Beverages (fancy beer & soda), Maxie's restaurant, Tuff Soul clothes, and Taste of Thai Express.

Small World Music is open 11 am - 6 pm, Tuesday through Saturday, closed Sundays and Mondays.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog & Small World Music

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Weekend, 18 - 20 January

As usual but even moreso, there's too much fun in Ithaca this weekend, focused on the big Light in Winter Festival, but with platesful more around town and campi as college life resumes.

Light in Winter is bringing back a couple of big international bands from recent GrassRoots Festivals: Hugh Masekela, the South African superstar who was the bust-out act last summer (at age 64 or so), and Cyro Baptista & Beat the Donkey, from Brazil and other locales, who were the heroes of the 2006 Festival with inspired music and costumed, prop-filled, slightly lunatic merriment after the worst day of rain (and washed-out performances) in GrassRoots history. It was also, of course, the day of greatest resurgence, with Baptista leading the charge.
Masekela performs at Cornell's venerable, refurbished Bailey Hall on Saturday, 8 pm. Baptista plays amidst similar grandeur downtown at the State Theater, Sunday at 8.

Friday night, Castaways hosts reggae legend Clinton Fearon, a founding member of the Gladiators. Kevin Kinsella, erstwhile frontman for John Brown's Body, opens with what we believe to be a committed new band. Break a leg, Kevin.

Saturday night, local heroes Gabriel Tavares and Richie Stearns get together at the Lost Dog at 8 pm, and the Butane Variations fire up at the Chapter House at 10.

Sunday night, folk music great Bill Staines returns to open another season for Bound For Glory at Anabel Taylor Hall. First set for the free show starts at 8:30, but you will need to arrive early for a seat for this one, no matter what else is going on in town. Bill will get the love.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Alex Haley, Ithaca's Chronicler of Dr. Martin Luther King

Ithacans can take local pride on Martin Luther King Day in the contribution by Alex Haley, the late author and native of Ithaca, to the historical literature on Dr. King .

Mr. Haley conducted the longest interview ever given by Dr. King. The interview was published by Playboy magazine in January 1965.

The piece serves as a contemporaneous account by Dr. King of his work, not as an historic enterprise which would inevitably recast society, but as a daily struggle with tactics, alliances, and inspiration, without sureness of success or even safety.

The interview can be read online in a setting unbefitting of its status, shall we say, in the archives of the website of Playboy magazine. It is also available in printed anthologies of Alex Haley's work.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rain and the Coffeehouse

The answer to our quiz about whether people patronize coffeehouses more, less, or no differently on gloomy, rainy days (as it was last Friday, the day of the quiz) is, according to Gimme Coffee barista Sid: differently, but the same.

Differently in that fewer people visit, but those who do visit longer. So although the traffic is lighter, it is more robust, to use a couple of coffee terms. The result for the coffeehouse is that the dollar volume of business is about the same, rain or shine.

The randomly-selected winner of a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music is Jeremiah, who did not actually venture a guess, but rhapsodized poetically about the beauty of rain, and its ability to bring people together. It reminded us of John Lennon's paean on the subject, circa 1967.

Everything's the same,
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ithaca Hours on Google Video, from Italy

Even those of us who help run Ithaca Hours, and do a lot of business with Hours, are surprised sometimes at the extent of interest in our local currency around the country and the world.

The latest instance (a long one) is a video posted by a group of filmmakers who visited Ithaca from Italy last month. As they continue work on the final product (they say preparing the Italian subtitles is the hardest part), they are posting rough footage on Google Video.

Part 1, up now, is an interview done here at Small World Music, with the president of Hours' Board of Directors, who also happens to own Small World Music, and also writes Ithaca Blog, and is also yours truly.

The interview is over an hour, and not even close family figures to watch the whole thing, and I haven't, either. But if you are interested in seeing a bit of what people from rather far off want to know about un esempio di moneta locale complentare, you can check, and simply search for "Ithaca Hours," or what the filmmakers are officially (as of now) calling "What Is Ithaca Hours?"

Future installments will feature GreenStar Co-op, ABC Cafe, and Alternatives Federal Credit Union.

- Stephen Burke

Weekend Quiz: Rain and the Desire for Coffee

We resurrect a moribund Ithaca Blog tradition today with a weekend quiz.

We thought of the question this morning on the way to work. It's rainy and lousy and we decided to stop at Gimme Coffee, down West State Street from Small World Music, for a Midnight Rider, you know, a little treat for ourselves beyond the barbaric coffee we personally brew.

We wondered, does the coffee shop do better business on rainy days, with people who think like us, coming in specially to treat themselves? Or does business suffer when it rains? Or, does the rain have no effect?

Ponder and respond and you become eligible for a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, selected at random. Every entry is eligible, not just correct ones, because it is not quite a right and wrong kind of question, although we did get a pretty definitive answer from Sid at Gimme, which we will reveal on Monday, along with the contest winner.

Post a response here, or send it to Small World Music, at

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Big Music All Around Ithaca in January

We had some visitors from Queens last weekend who marveled at all there is to do in Ithaca, particularly in music.

What are you talking, we said, compared to New York?

They said yeah but, in New York there is schlepping. Here, yous have it all very nice in one nice neighborhood (our city being the equivalent of a small city neighborhood, I suppose).

They're right. We have music at the Lost Dog, Castaways, the ABC, the Haunt, the Chapter House, and most splendidly the State Theater. Our guests loved the idea of eating dinner at Diamonds, Moosewoods, or any of another dozen restaurants, up until 5 minutes to show time, then strolling a block to the big venue.

So you shouldn't miss out, here are some of the big shows playing in town through January.

Spider John Koerner, with the Chicken Chokers. Castaways, Thursday 10 Jan.

The following are all at the State:

GrassRoots Festival sensation Cyro Baptista and Beat the Donkey, Sun. 20 Jan.

South African legends Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Fri. 25 Jan.

Neko Case, Sat. 26 Jan.

Why isn't Richard Thompson as venerated as Eric Clapton? Because he's funnier? A rare opportunity to see this great guitarist and creative force, Wed. 30 Jan.

At Small World Music, we have recordings by all these fine people (CDs and LPs), including some hard-to-find things, and some used inventory in good condition at nice prices. Come see; you won't be sorry.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Politician's Work is Never Done, or At Least Not Done Well

The political strife and violence in the Middle East has galvanized George Bush's rapt attention, or at least reached his awareness. The White House announces that he is taking his first trip as president to the region, to see what the heck the hubbub's all about.

He's in office seven years, with one to go.

He spends a lot of time on his bike and treadmill, they say. His heart rate is reportedly 48 beats per minute, which is very low, although one suspects it might actually be much lower, as blood is necessary in the head for brain function.

You or I could never be guilty of waiting seven years on our job to start some of our most important work, because we wouldn't stay hired a fraction of that time.

Actual work is not a big requirement for politicians in our system. The other night in the New Hampshire debates, the candidates were asked to cite something - anything - they accomplished in office. Ex-Senator John Edwards said he helped write a bill for health rights, although as Hillary Clinton noted, the bill didn't pass. Senator Barack Obama said he helped sponsor legislation to forbid politicians from sitting down when they eat meals with lobbyists. No kidding, that's what he said when asked for a political achievement.

Because politicians are indebted to corporate sponsors, their actual job is not to make big things happen, but to keep them from happening. This is why all the talk about change, lately, is actually quite pertinent, although none of these candidates is talking about real change, because it is not in their interest, by any means.

Try to think of something positive (don't even think about monumental) that any current politician has achieved. What have New York's senators done to stop the war in Iraq? They made it possible in the first place, because it was the easiest thing to do, and it would at least make money for people they knew, and they didn't know anyone who would have to fight. What has our current president ever done? What did the previous one ever do? Clinton tried to implement health care, but when that proved difficult, he stopped.

Al Gore became a leader only after he left electoral politics. That shows something fundamental is wrong with the system.

Fundamentally, it's money. Things won't change until we change a system where money and the status quo always come first, and working for the interests of ordinary people comes last.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Wegman's Quits Smoking

Ever get a funny feeling walking through the supermarket, with all the advertising about health, and then walking past the counter where they sell cigarettes, to kill you?

Well, it won't happen anymore at Wegman's. This week, the supermarket chain announced it is quitting the tobacco business, ending cigarette sales at all its stores.

Not because the business isn't profitable, but because it isn't right.

The company will also start smoking cessation programs for its employees.

Wegman's is a privately-owned, regional chain with more latitude for such decisions than corporate chains. (See our previous posting on the value of independent businesses.)

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Corporate Takeovers of "Natural" Companies: Bert's Bees Sold for $1 Billion

American consumers who want to buy from small, principled businesses have to be pretty nimble these days. Bert's Bees, the Maine maufacturer of natural health and beauty products, is the latest such business to sell out to a corporation: to the bleach company Clorox, for almost a billion dollars ($913 million).

Colgate-Palmolive recently paid $100 million for Tom's of Maine, the pioneering maker of natural toothpastes and deodorants.

Multinational food giant Unilever bought the Ben & Jerry's ice cream company in 2000. The founders are no longer involved in the company's daily operations.

Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen are makers of organic frozen and canned products now owned by General Mills.

Perhaps the local food movement that has developed in recent years ("local is the new organic") will extend to sellers as well as growers, as this trend of corporate takeovers continues. Part of the issue in the "small is beautiful" movement has always been about control, not just about quality, of food and consumer goods.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Anti-War Censorship in the ABC TV Debate

Don't expect to hear any strong talk about getting out of Iraq on the Democratic debate on ABC tonight. Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, the two candidates advocating the most rapid end to the occupation, have been excluded.

The ostensible reason is that the two have insufficient followings. Still, it seems important to have at least one representative of an anti-war view that is held by a large number of Americans.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the four invited candidates are all beneficiaries of campaign money from the Disney corporation, owner of ABC.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, January 04, 2008

Sign of Change in Iowa

In our Blog entry yesterday, we cast a jaundiced eye at the willingness of Iowans to vote for anyone but a mainstream Protestant white man, no matter what they said to pollsters.

We said we would be surprised to be wrong. With the Republicans, we were right. The Democrats surprised us. Happily so.

Obama's triumph came from a huge turnout of devoted partisans. That's great. Those voters made history. They showed a desire for change, and a willingness to work for it.

Can idealism and activism actually defeat prejudice and old power structures this year? The vote in Iowa is a sign of change.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Predictions for Iowa: Edwards and Huckabee

Our prediction for the winners of tonight's Iowa presidential caucuses: John Edwards and Mike Huckabee.

Our rationale? Simple. They are the most prominent mainstream Christian white guys.

A few years ago, when it seemed possible that Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice could be the 2008 Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, Dave Chappelle had a joke. "Do you know who the winner of that election would be? Ralph Nader. By a landslide."

Right now, the polls say the Iowa races are too close to call. That's because there aren't a lot of people in Iowa who will tell a pollster they are unlikely to vote for a woman, a black, a Mormon, or an Italian Catholic from New York City. Sorry, Hillary, Barack, Mitt, and Rudy.

We won't mind being wrong, but we will be surprised.

See you tomorrow!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Working, Not Just Wishing, for a Happy New Year

We had a brief time away from Ithaca Blog for the holiday, and also from Ithaca, and got some perspective on what is especially good about our town, and how to maintain it.

The main thing, probably, is to get involved. Ithaca is flush with innovative organizations that improve the quality of life in this town and serve as a model for others. They all would benefit from your involvement:

- the Cancer Resource Center provides free services and support to people with cancer or recovering from cancer. They also have information and services for cancer screening and protection. The environment is low-key and friendly. They are located at 612 W. State Street.

- Loaves and Fishes transcends the idea of a soup kitchen in providing high-quality meals free of charge every day in a community setting at St. John's Episcopal Church. The setting is not one of a charity so much as a gathering spot and resource center where people are welcomed to take care of their needs, but also to explore, with others, how they can help themselves, and others. It is a potent environment. A simple first step to finding out about it is to go eat there. We guarantee you will be impressed.

- Ithaca Hours is a local currency system that circulates, to date, over $100,000 in local money to help individuals bring more money into their lives, by working for local money which they can spend with other people and businesses. Hours publishes a directory, a "local yellow pages" (it is also on line, at of hundreds of participants who do artwork, healing (Cayuga Medical Center is a member organization, among many others), construction, landscaping, painting, Internet providing, financial and other professional services, website production, yoga instruction, and much more.
Prominent participating businesses include GreenStar Coop, ABC Cafe, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, Ithaca Bakery, the Bookery, Lightlink, Small World Music, Sparrow's Wines and Liquors, Finger Lakes Beverages, Maxie's, Ithaca Guitar Works, and others - local businesses that realize that a local currency helps them compete with out-of-town chains. You can join and get listed in the directory for $10, for which you will also get 2 Ithaca Hours, worth US$20, to start. So you make money right away, and get involved with one of the world's leading independent currency systems, creating a new vision of money, based on sharing, not scarcity.

- the State Theater is a beautiful and venerable theater in the heart of downtown which is probably the finest venue for popular music between New York City and Toronto. Even in wintry, school-recessed January, they're presenting major acts: Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Neko Case, and Richard Thompson (and in Febrauary, Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt; and Medeski, Martin, and Wood). You can contribute by buying a ticket, being wowed in an environment that is both palace and living room, and doing it often.

- Love Know No Bounds is a grassroots group that is not only bringing very real relief to stricken neighborhoods in New Orleans, but working to create an official Sister City relationship between Ithaca and New Orleans' 7th Ward.

- Ithaca has a vital downtown that is the envy of upstate New York. Every time you come downtown to eat or shop, you are supporting municipal health and combating car culture and its sprawl.

So it's not necessarily all work. But it works like work. Come outside, and get involved. Good fortune to you, and us all, in 2008.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog