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