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