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