Ithaca Blog

Friday, May 30, 2008

Horseflies New CD: Special at Small World Music

The long-awaited (17 years long) new CD by the Horseflies is out - available right now, slightly before the official release date, at Small World Music.

Be the first on your block with a copy of Until the Ocean. Mention Ithaca Blog, and get $2 off the $15 price.

Small World Music is at 614 W. State St., down the driveway. Open 11 am - 6 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. We'll also be open this Sunday afternoon, 12 - 4 pm on June 1.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Weekend Music, May 30 - June 1

The Ithaca Festival has a preview on Friday evening and all day Saturday on the Commons. Ten bands, from fresh new ones to old favorites. See the Festival website for details.

Fri. 5/30: The Small Kings play way out there at the Plantation Bar and Grill, 1285 Dryden Rd.

Eilen Jewell, rising folk-rocker and recent GrassRoots Fest favorite, plays an intimate show at the Rongo in T-burg. 8 pm show with an opening act. Tickets are $10, available at the door.

* * *

Sat. 5/31: Djug Django brings gypsy-inspired swing to the Rongo, 7:30 pm.

* * *

Sun. 6/1: More of that gypsy-style swing tonight, this time at Maxie's, with the Cool Club of Lyon. 6 pm.

Julia Othmer and Jen Cork at Felicia's, 7 pm.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Presidential Health

Today, Barack Obama released his medical records, and a doctor's report describing his health as excellent. Last week, John McCain reported on his own good health in a document that was unexceptional except for its length: 1,176 pages.

Obama's doctor noted that the senator has smoked cigarettes "intermittently" for most of his adult life, although he is currently using nicotine gum in attempting to end the habit.

It's a lot of information, much of it of questionable value (especially in 1,176 pages).

One ponders the relevance of health documents at all for a job that lasts only 4 years, and where serious disease, in the past, has proven irrelevant to job performance. Franklin Roosevelt had polio when he took the job, and performed well enough (and lived long enough) to be elected to 4 terms.

Maybe the really relevant documentation would be of mental health. If we got that tested and saw those records, we might never have had Watergate, nor the war in Iraq.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Ithaca Festival Weekend? No, Festival Preview Weekend

The Ithaca Festival has moved its traditional date, the first weekend after Memorial Day, to summer solstice weekend, June 19 - 22. So you shouldn't miss it too bad, the Festival is scheduling a preview this weekend.

The preview starts on Friday night and continues all day Saturday, with 10 bands playing on the Commons, closing with a performance by Judy Hyman and Richie Stearns of the Horseflies on Saturday night.

The festival is not just later this year, but larger. Events will take place both downtown and at Stewart Park each day, instead of downtown Thursday through Saturday, and Stewart Park on Sunday.

Details are available at Ithaca Festival's website.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ex-White House Spokesman Speaks Out Against Administration and Press

Scott McClellan, White House press secretary from 2003 to 2006, is making headlines with his new book criticizing the Bush administration for consciously lying to the public - and to him, as their spokesman - about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

McClellan also reveals evidence of lies in the Valerie Plame case, and "propaganda" to hide the paucity of federal relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina victims.

McClellan criticizes the press for its capitulation to propaganda and manipulation. Of course, the situation hasn't changed much.

You still will not see photographs of coffins coming back to America from Iraq. The government bans it, and the press does not challenge the ban.

Yesterday, the many hundreds of journalists covering the McCain campaign and the Bush White House accepted a measure of news control. President Bush and Senator McCain appeared together to raise funds from Republican stalwarts. The press was banned from the proceedings, as the Republicans wish to limit evidence of the support McCain accepts from Bush.

The press does not protest.

In Spain, when the government failed to protect journalists covering the war in Iraq, or even to discuss it, the press essentially called a strike. They told the government they would not report on their activities until they answered questions.

In the U.S., the press is too afraid, lazy, or complacent for such action: take your pick. Meanwhile, the press reports on Scott McClellan's book like it's history. It's not history. It's current events.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Folk Singer Utah Phillips Dies at Age 73

Utah Phillips, the folk singer, story teller and social activist, died on Friday at age 73 of congestive heart failure.

Mr. Phillip's work was in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, rendering traditional music with a dynamic, almost anarchic, creative force, and a committment to progressive poltical and social movements.

Mr. Phillip's music career spanned four decades, with many recordings and countless concerts. He won acclaim with a new generation in the last decade through his work with Ani Difranco.

In recent years, health problems curtailed his schedule and, particularly, travel from his California base. He sold out a performance in Ithaca about 4 years ago which many fans realized would likely be his last in this area.

The "Democracy Now!" radio program has posted on its website an interview with Utah Phillips from 2004. See

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, May 23, 2008

Weekend Activities, May 23 - 25

Fri. 5/23: Castaways is a local band buffet tonight, with El Caminos doing an early show CD release party at 5:30. At 9:00, Johnny Dowd opens, and Wingnut, with Hank Roberts, closes.

* * *

Sat. 5/24: A singer-songwriter from Portland OR by way of Brooklyn NY should be at home at the ABC in Ithaca, shouldn't she? Hear what Katie Sawicki brings to the mismatched tables at our favorite cafe tonight, at 9:30.

* * *

Sun. 5/25: Unusual suspects Jessica Flood, ex-of Missing Marcus, and Doug Robinson, prolific veteran prodigal, are at Felicia's , 7 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Good Weekend to Try Unbeaten Path Businesses

Ithaca will be host to a city of visitors as big as itself this weekend, with graduation at Cornell. It's a good weekend for locals to get acquainted with businesses off the beaten path, avoiding crowds of well-meaning but confused, possibly harried and anxious, out-of-towners.

We took note of the issue last weekend, with the Ithaca College graduation, which is much smaller. Still, it was impossible to get seated at the Smart Monkey Cafe on Route 13. Usually, seating here is not a problem. But we realized that the restaurant is right next door to the Hampton Inn, which was likely full.

We don't want to go on the record telling you not to go somewhere, of course, except in general terms, such as avoid restaurants that are next to hotels.

We will instead simply emphasize the unbeaten path.

For instance, if you want a sports bar/restaurant, you might opt for Uncle Joe's - which, at the corner of Green and Albany Streets, is less conspicuous than Benchwarmers on the Commons.

At the corner of Meadow and Buffalo Streets, Joe's Restaurant is a highly visible Italian restaurant. A hiddener alternative is Lucatelli's, on Elmira Road at Plain Street. It is less courant than Joe's (or almost anywhere), but is fun for that: very dark, rather chilly with a/c, paintings of Napoli Bay and the Mona Lisa, soundtrack of Sinatra, Dino, et al., and a rolling dessert cart. Hillary Clinton ate here when she was in town.

Northside Liquors is bound to be busy, and deservedly so, with its great selection and knowledgable staff, which have been nationally recognized. But great customer service is also a hallmark at two excellent smaller shops: Sparrow's , on the corner of Fulton and Green, and Red Feet, a charming new place at Rt. 13 and Third St. (the Papa John's plaza).

If you're thinking about Thai, or pan-Asian, you might want to forget it entirely for the weekend, as both Thai Tastes (that is, the one on the Commons, and the one up West State St.) and Thai Cuisine are all bound to be irredeemably packed. There is, however, a new place called Tamarind, on Rt. 13 and Court St., and while we know nothing about it, it might be a good time to find out, as it is probably not known to most Cornellies, nor even in the phone book yet.

If you are looking for music, you should come to the easy-walking, easiest-driving, easiest-parking part of town, the West End, and visit Small World Music, down the driveway at 614 W. State St. We might even think of some other tips by the time you get here. (Like, if you need gas, tank up now!)

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Changes to Online Ithaca Journal: Not the Final Edition, Surely

The Ithaca Journal made some changes to its online edition this week that turned a navigable site into something confused, so we hope they're not done with it yet.

If you look at today's edition, your eye first lands on a feature that presents the day's top stories, ostensibly, divided into categories. One of the categories, somehow - in fact, the first one - is Softball, and the top story of the day is about the wildcard tie-breaker win of the Newark Valley softball team, which seems to be a school team, although this is not stated.

The rest of the news is located down the page, buried amidst a lot of ads, detours ("explore"; a "things to do" calendar, a "Find a Car Dealer" click-on box), and weird features (e.g., GetPublished!, where you click to publish your own news on their pages: "Announce your business, brag about your dog, review your school play", it says).

Maybe the idea is to keep you on the site longer, which makes the traffic numbers for the site look good. Or maybe it's to get you to revert to the paper editon, where you can more readily find what you want. Or maybe they're just trying hard - just a little too hard.

We hope it's the latter, and that the Journal will go back to the drawing board now that the dust has settled.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fighting Cancer

The news about Senator Edward Kennedy's brain cancer is poignant for any of us whose families have been affected by cancer, which is probably most of us today.

Senator Kennedy is described by friends as, above all, a fighter. That is a good thing to be in life. Not belligerent or violent, but a fighter for the things one believes in and loves.

We generally know abstractly that life is to be loved and fought for. Sometimes we really know it.

Hamilton Jordan, of the Carter adminstration, died this week after years of fighting cancer. He wrote a book called "No Such Thing As A Bad Day."

If you have questions about cancer, there is a great organization in Ithaca: the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes (formerly the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance). Their services are expert, and free. Call them at 277-0960, see their website at, or visit at 612 W. State St.

If you would like to support the Cancer Resource Center while finding out more about their work, their 15th Annual Celebration and Luncheon is Friday, 23 May, from noon til 2:00. Registration is $20.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, May 16, 2008

Weekend Activities, May 16 - 18

Fri. 5/16: Toivo plays that Swedish squeezebox music at Felicia's Happy Hour, 5:30 pm.

El Caminos and Hee Haw Nightmare play a benefit at the Cayuga Nature Center, 6 pm.

John Simon, Jody Kessler, and Will Fudeman play acoustic tunes at EcoVillage, 7:30 pm.

* * *

Sat. 5/17: Bruce Cockburn at Kulp Auditorium, Ithaca High School, 8 pm.

* * *

Sun. 5/18: Nate Silas Richardson, ex-John Brown's Body and African music aficianado, at the Cayuga nature Center, 10 am. Yes, a.m. !

Piano man Malcolm Bilson at the Carriage House, on Stewart Av., 3 pm.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

The Preakness, and an Update on Day-Tripping to Cortland OTB

Saturday 17 May is the day of the Preakness stakes race, which means it's time for a road trip to Cortland for big OTB bets. We have a quick update after our definitive posting about this sojourn last year, at Kentucky Derby time.

We made the trip for this year's Derby, and we're sorry to report, we must take away a star from Uncle Louie's eating establishment there. Maybe two stars.

The parking lot was full, but past capacity, so we had to park per dolem next door at the Footy Freeze. That's not so bad, because it gives up the opportunity to say "Footy Freeze."

But Uncle Lou and crew had problems dealing with the full house, which meant a 15 minute wait for us and 3 other people ahead of us. Not an exaggerated 15 minutes, but an actual, and no one even said boo to us in that time. When we were finally seated, it took a lot of action on our own.

Finally, the food was cold, and the drinks were warm.

There is the vast drawing card of the fact that the betting parlor is actually connected to the restaurant, separated only by a curtain.

This trip, however, our culinary standards being what they are, we think we will have to take our dining business to the A&W, where you get to call in your order to the counter from a pink phone on your table. Then we go to Footy Freeze and have something, to pay them back for the use of their parking space. Then we will put some semolians on Stevil to win, a custom-made hunch bet for me if ever there was one.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Leaving Ithaca? Preparing for GrassRoots? Local Music at Small World Music

Whether you are a graduate, leaving this transient town, or a resident, anticipating our annual GrassRoots Festival of local and other music, you can stock up at Small World Music on the sounds of Ithaca, either to remember or prepare.

We have it all, or most. Mention this I.Blog promotion and get $2 off any local CD.

Some of the roster:

Boy With A Fish
Steve Brown
Burns Sisters
Chad Crumm
Donna the Buffalo
Johnny Dowd
El Caminos
Amy Glicklich
Crow Greenspun
Michael Hansen
The Horseflies
John Brown's Body
Kevin Kinsella
Kitchen Chair
Mary Lorson
Trevor MacDonald
Makepeace Brothers
Plastic Nebraska
Jeb Puryear
Sim Redmond
Hank Roberts
Johnny Russo
The Splendors
Jennie Stearns
Richie Stearns
Ten Foot Ganja Plant
The Thieves Hymn
The Thins
Thousands of One
Urban Horse Thieves
Aro Veno
Chris White
Kathy Ziegler

.... and, believe it or not, many more. Sale price in effect through graduation season (month of May).

Out-of-town readers, please note, we do mail orders very nicely. Not only for local music, but for anything. If you are not fortunate enough to live near a top-notch music resource such as us, let us be your neighbor. E-mail or phone us with orders or inquiries:,

Steve Burke
for Small World Music and Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is History Passe?

This morning on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman featured a segment on the general strike in France, 40 years ago this month. Inspired by the anti-war movement in the U.S., it was the largest general strike in European history, and ended the government of Charles DeGaulle, who went temporarily into hiding.

Today it is hardly remembered, and I wondered how many listeners the show lost with the segment. After all, unlike most news shows of the day, it didn't feature Hillary Clinton and the horserace aspects of politics, or speculation on the series finales of popular television shows, or the cow in England that weighs 2,000 pounds.

Not easily deterred, Ms. Goodman next featured the author Gore Vidal, who makes a specialty of erudite historical novels, and refers to his country as the United States of Amnesia, citing our woeful national ignorance of even recent history.

The question is whether history has been obliterated in a highly technological age that prizes instant connection above all else, with no filters for significance. The perpetual onslaught of e-mails, text messages, cell phone calls, and Internet universality doesn't leave much room for anything not current, now.

The competition for our attention is greater than ever. Of course, by definition, the trivial in life outweighs the important. Today, unfortunately, it also outruns and outlasts it.

This morning, discussing the current war, which has already lasted longer than either World War, Mr. Vidal said the condition of constant war had its genesis with Truman, who fostered the Cold War as a means to keep society unbalanced, and people perpetually frightened, rather than confident and sovereign in peace. Vidal sighed when he wondered aloud how many people knew to what, or whom, he was referring.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, May 09, 2008

Weekend Entertainment, May 9 - 11

Fri. 5/9: Bobbie Henry is one of the region's best, most entertaining guitarists. He performs with friends at Felicia's happy hour, 5:30 p.m.

* * *

Sat. 5/10: Ithaca stalwart Kathy Ziegler takes the show on the road a little, before she takes it on the road a lot, relocating to Holland with her husband, Jairo van Lunteran (of the Splendors pop group), and their two children. Kathy gives a going-away performance tonight at 8 pm at the Morgan Opera House in Aurora, joined by many friends and colleagues. Call 315/364-5437 for information.

* * *

Sun. 5/11: Old-time trio the Black Eyed Susies make a CD release party at Felicia's, 7 pm.

Ron "Tater Salad" White, comedy star of stage and cable, brings his stand-up routine to the State Theater, 8 pm.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

GrassRoots Festival Announces Performers for 2008

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Lucinda Williams are two big names announced as performers at this year's GrassRoots Festival, July 17 - 20.

Other noted performers include reggae legends the Meditations, cajun progenitors Balfa Toujours, and emerging folk-pop star Eilen Jewell. Among the returning favorites are Preston Frank, Cyro Baptista, John Brown's Body, the Speckers, dance troupe Galumpha, and the GrassRoots Chamber Orchestra.

The Festival website notes that, along with the luminaries, "GrassRoots doesn't hesitate to bring you great music you've never heard of before." Indeed, each year the Festival seems to turn an unknown act into a breakthrough band. The African band Tinariwen went from obscure status before GrassRoots to touring with the Rolling Stones.

More information is available at

Adavnce four-day tickets are available for $95 at Small World Music and other locations.

Small World Music also has raffle tickets this week with a pair of four-day tickets as the prize. The raffle costs $10 and benefits relief efforts for New Orleans. Only 40 chances are available, so the odds of winning are finite. The drawing will be held Mothers Day, this Sunday, 11 May.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Buy GrassRoots Ticket Raffle, and Benefit New Orleans

Take a chance at winning a pair of GrassRoots Festival tickets with a raffle drawing to help relief efforts in New Orleans.

The cost is $10. The proceeds go to Alternative School efforts to send students to New Orleans with the local Love Knows No Bounds group.

The odds are 1 in 40, with only 40 chances offered. A $200 value, and a great cause.

Tickets are available at Small World Music, 614 W. State St.

The drawing is this Sunday, Mothers Day, so act soon!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, May 03, 2008

As Dollars Dry Up, Ithaca Hours Flow

Times are as tough as any in memory, with the housing market crash, the credit crunch, the high cost of gasoline, and rising food prices.

As dollars disappear, we in Ithaca are lucky to have a complementary currency system, the Ithaca Hours system, providing a cash-money alternative to dollars for spending and earning.

Over $100,000 worth of Ithaca Hours notes are in circulation, in denominations equivalent to one, five, ten, and twenty dollars. You earn them by joining the system, which provides a listing in the Hours Directory for your business, or any goods and services you might offer.

Membership costs $10. Along with your Directory listing, you get two Hours, worth $20, as an annual benefit. So you make money right away by joining.

Members include brick-and-mortar businesses, various professionals, tradespeople, and moonlighters. You can bolster your existing business, start a new one, or turn your skills into income.

Members include well-known businesses such as Ithaca Bakery, Alternatives Credit Union, the House of Shalimar, Significant Elements, ABC Cafe, Maxie's, Sparrow's Wines, Autumn Leaves Books, the Bookery, GreenStar, Ten Thousand Villages, Alta Spa, Ithaca Guitar Works, the Frame Shop, 544 Productions website design, Small World Music, and the Ithaca Health Alliance.

Lately, some prominent members have reduced the amount of Ithaca Hours they take per transaction. It's a logical reaction to the dollar crunch. It stands to reason, though, that the dollar crunch will get worse before it gets better, and that Hours will become increasingly important and vital for expanding business.

Check the Hours website,, for more information. Or feel free to call or visit Small World Music for details: 256-0428, at 614 W. State St.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, May 02, 2008

Where Does NY's Water Flow?: Quiz Question Answered

Last week's Earth Week quiz asked for three destinations for the flowing waters of New York State. By way of example we mentioned one easy one, the Hudson River, which flows into the Atlantic via the Hudson Bays (then flows back a good ways, mixed with ocean water).

Other major repositories are the St. Lawrence River, leading into the north Atlantic (for Lake Erie, Cayuga Lake, etc.); the Chesapeake Bay, where Cayuga's sister lake, Otsego, eventually empties, via the Susquehanna River; and the Gulf of Mexico. Chautauqua Lake empties there, via the rivers Allegheny, Ohio, and Mississippi, taking a long southern route, despite its proximity to big, north-flowing Lake Erie.

We had no wrong answers from our erudite readership. So our two randomly-selected winners of $10 gift certificates to Small World Music are James H., a volunteer worker at Six Mile Creek, and Don L. of Hammondsport.

Thanks to all entrants -

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Weekend Activities, May 2 - 4

Fri. 5/2: Evil City String Band, 5:30, Felicia's Atomic Lounge. Happy Hour specials til 8 pm.

Kevin Kinsella and Nate Richardson, ex-of John Brown's Body, with Elise Sciscioli. Lost Dog Lounge, 8 pm.

* * *

Sat. 5/3: Highwoods String Band reunion at the Rongo. 7 pm.

Improv comedy with TV stars ("Whose Line Is It, Anyway?") Colin Mochris and Brad Sherwood. State Theater, 8 pm.

IY at the Chapter House. 10 pm.

* * *

Sun. 5/4: The Hogwarshers at Maxie's. 6 pm.

Piano Creeps at Felicia's. 7 pm.

* * *

Have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog