Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"First Annual Fall Creek Ball Drop" on New Years Eve

We've learned of a New Years Eve event that strikes us as very Ithacan in its creative DIYness - a mix of music, pageantry, nature, and fun.

Here's an edited version of the notice we got:

The residents of 431 N. Cayuga Street (the funky-looking building across from Gimme Coffee) are hosting the first annual Fall Creek Ball Drop.

We are planning on creating and dropping a beautiful glowing orb down the inside of the huge front window of the building at midnight.

The countdown begins at 11:50. Feel free to bring friends, family, pets and noisemakers. We will be playing some fun music out the window for people to dance and celebrate to in the streets.

While you wait for the ball to drop, look for a pile of sticks and stones near the creek. Take a stick or stone and throw it into the water as a symbol of releasing all things difficult, stressful, or painful from the last year. As you throw it in, be mindful of, speak of, or share your goals and hopes for the coming year. It's that easy!

Our goal is to create a fun and local celebration for the Ithaca community. Why watch it on TV hundreds of miles away when you can walk down the street and celebrate with neighbors?

Good, right? See you there. Thanks to Evan and Dani for doing this.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New Years Eve in Ithaca

Much has been made of the symmetry between this time in our nation's history and the 1930's, when the country grasped for new leadership in the midst of depression.

One difference is that, in 1932, they couldn't drink to celebrate the new administration or the New Year.

For 2009, take it easy, if you take it at all, but here is a listing of some New Years Eve celebrations in Ithaca.

The big event is a triple-bill at Castaways of the Makepeace Brothers, Thousands of One, and the Sim Redmond Band. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Doors open at 8 and the show starts at 9.

At Felicia's, there is show music early, with Lisa Bloom and friends, from 6:30 - 8:30. Afterwards there is general merriment, with drink specials.

The Rongo has a full slate, with the T-Burg All Stars, Blue Sky Mission Club, and others, starting at 9 pm.

Billy Eli, from Austin TX, brings his rocking country music to the Pourhouse in T-Burg.

Maxie's has its annual DJ Extravaganza from 11 pm - 2 am, with tables pushed back for dancing.

Happy New Year -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, December 22, 2008

Small World Music Here For Scrambling, Strapped Santas

Small World Music is usually closed Mondays, but we're here with extended hours every day from now until Christmas, 10 am to 7 pm.

This is a tough holiday season in terms of dollars and time. Money is scarce, and the holiday season is short, with Thanksgiving coming late, with just three weekends between it and Chanukah and Christmas.

Thus, our extended hours. And as always, our convenient location at 614 W. State St., six blocks from the Commons, with easy on-street parking. No traffic to fight, nor sleety hills to climb.

Music is probably the least expensive gift with emotional content. It conveys a lot for a little, and lasts forever.

We have a lot of things here you and yours will like: new Bon Iver, Lucinda Williams, Kings of Leon, Fireman (aka Paul McCartney and Youth), Ani Difranco, Taj Mahal, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, Soweto Gospel Choir, Emmylou Harris, Horseflies, Sim Redmond, Solas, eclectic collections by Putumayo, box sets by Hank Williams, and of the Philadelphia Sound, and much more.

We hope to see you, on your way to a happy holiday.

Steve Burke
for Small World Music and Ithaca Blog

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Ithaca Musicians' Office Party" at Felicia's, Sunday 21 Dec.

Local rocker and chanteuse Mary Lorson is hosting a "Musicians' Office Party" tonight at Felicia's, where a lot of Ithaca musicians play.

The event is a benefit for Timmy Brown, a veteran Ithaca musician who recently suffered a brain aneurysm.

The roster will include many of the area's most popular players. There will be drink and pizza specials.

It starts at 7 pm. We recommend getting there early.

Steve Burke
Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 19, 2008

Small World Music, Sure Open Through The Snow

We just learned from a customer here at Small World Music that our competitors, Barnes and Noble, closed for the day at 2 pm. Inclement weather.

Well, we are sure here in what we think is just a nice little storm.

We are easy to get to, with wheels or on foot, on nice, flat W. State Street - across the street from Kinko's, down the driveway.

Our driveway and parking lot are plowed. There's also on-street parking, 90 feet from our door.

We'll be here 11 am - 6 pm every day until Christmas. No days closed, snow or no.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

P.S. Invite To Caroline Kennedy

Caroline, as I see in the news that you are currently in Syracuse on an upstate swing, I want particularly to invite you to the Irish music night described in the previous post.

You might remember me from our high school days. I was at Regis, the Jesuit school for boys two blocks from the apartment where you lived with your mother and brother. I used to come yell outside your building on Friday nights when we had socials to see if your mother would let you attend.

"Mrs. Onassis? Hey, Mrs. Onassis? Can Caroline come to the dance at Regis tonight?" That was me.

That never worked. These days, of course, there are much more genteel ways, such as this, to pester total strangers.

So, come, get a jump-start on your upstate campaign, and we can catch up on old times. That part won't take long.

Stephen Burke
Student Council President
Regis High School
for Ithaca Blog

Concert of Irish Music and Dance This Thurs., Unitarian Church

Local musical (and political) stalwarts, the Grady family (and offshoots), are hosting a concert of traditional Irish music and dance this Thursday, 18 December, at the Unitarian Church on the corner of Buffalo and Aurora Streets.

The idea is to celebrate the season as a community. Donations will be accepted but there is no set admission price.

Any event that is slightly Irish will be convivial, and that is a given for this night. Come, listen, talk, and have fun.

The show starts at 7 pm, but it is casual enough to walk in any time.

Hope to see you there.

Stephen Patrick Burke
for the Ithaca Echo

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Local and National Labor Successes

Pete Meyers of the Tompkins County Workers Center sends word - "when it rains, it pours" - about successful actions by organized labor that have gained national attention this month.

In Chicago, 200 workers at a bankrupt window manufacturer were laid off with three days notice and told they would not get severance.

The workers responded with a campaign that included occupying the building.

After six days, lenders to the manufacturer said they would provide the almost $2 million owed to the workers.

In North Carolina, workers at the Smithfield Packing plant, the world's largest pork slaughterhouse, voted to unionize after 15 years of organizing efforts. Richard Hurd, a professor of labor relations at Cornell, called the vote "an important positive sign for labor," which he connected to the larger political environment: "The election of Barack Obama may have eased people's concerns about speaking out and standing up for a union."

Pete and the Workers Center helped with a significant local labor victory this month, at the Lakeside Nursing Home.

One week after a picketing action outside Lakeside, part of a publicity campaign for worker grievances about working conditions and pay, Lakeside management met with workers for a successful contract settlement.

Congratulations to the Lakeside workers and the Workers Center organizers, including Kenny Ritter, who worked on the issue from the inside as a resident at Lakeside. Kenny has seen the workers' plight first-hand, and felt the repercussions for residents.

Kenny hosted the pioneering activist news program, "Luminary News", on local TV for a number of years. Looks like you can't keep a good man down - or quiet.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 12, 2008

Weekend Music, Dec. 12 - 14

Fri. 12/12: The Macgillicudies return, to Castaways happy hour. 5 pm.

The Urban Horse Thieves, with the Black Walnut Band. Lost Dog Lounge, 9 pm.

* * *

Sat. 12/13: Black Elastic, featuring Johnny Dowd, at the ABC. Ken Hollett opens at 10 pm.

The Horseflies, Castaways, 10 pm.

Thousands of One, Chapter House, 10 pm.

* * *

Sun. 12/14: Pamela Means, at Felicia's, 7 pm.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Itahca Blog

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Deer Season In Cayuga Heights: Closed Before It Ever Opens?

This morning, WHCU covered the deer problem in Cayuga Heights, with a proponent of a hunting program (the village's mayor), and an opponent.

The conclusion we reached is that a safe shooting program is problematic to design, impossible to guarantee, not likely to solve the problem, and politically unfeasible.

The mayor says safety is no problem, as the hunting will be done by skilled marksmen. But there is no training program for hunting in densely-populated neighborhoods. Surely Cayuga Heights doesn't want to be the training ground where suburban shooters learn from mistakes.

The mayor says that culling the deer herd is the ecological thing to do, as the herd is surpassing its capacity to feed itself. But the deer wouldn't be breeding if they weren't eating; and killing a lot of them quickly would only create a surplus of food, with the population eventually rising again to the same threshold.

No one denies that the herd is dangerous to drivers. But the level of deer-related accidents has not increased dramatically in the past decade. Traffic implements are available to decrease the danger on roads, but the mayor says the devices are aesthetically unappealing, which seems a funny thing to care about if you are concerned about saving lives.

Finally, the shooting campaign is politically unfeasible. This became clear to us when the mayor refused to disclose which locations would be used for shooting. He said as a safety matter he wouldn't discuss it and would never discuss it.

WHCU's host, Dave Vieser, asked if residents wouldn't need to know where the shooting would be done, so they could stay away? And the mayor said no.

We quickly realized the real reason not to discuss where shooting would be done is because activists will go there to impede it. So either there are stealth shootings, or confrontations between angry citizens and people with guns.

Thanks to WHCU for a discussion that brings clarity to the issue.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Another Shout-Out For Ithaca's Local Broadcast Media

Not long ago we wrote in praise of Ithaca's "Newswatch" program on WHCU-AM radio, and we feel obliged to do it again.

NPR's "Morning Edition" has an air of seriousness that makes listening feel worthwhile. Their stories, however, have a sameness from day to day which counteracts that.

Tomorrow, most likely, they will cover the violence in Mumbai; the auto company bailouts; and Obama administration appointments. We can predict this with some assurance, as they cover these stories every day, with few new details or analysis. They will interview a new round of "experts" to discuss how bad the violence is; how contentious the bailouts; and how wrenching to liberals the Obama appointments so far. And they will say we will have to wait and see how these things all play out.

Meanwhile, WHCU covers these stories with doggedly local details and perspective. Today, they interviewed Maurice Hinchey and Michael Arcuri about the bailouts. They spoke to someone from Ithaca's Borg-Warner company, which makes parts for the auto companies.

They also covered other salient aspects of our local economy: housing and tourism, with interviews of representatives of Better Housing for Tompkins County, and the county's Visitors and Tourism Bureau.

Some years ago, local television news in Ithaca took a hit, when Time Warner cable pulled most of its resources out of the area. But Ithaca College has taken up the slack, with a nightly broadcast on cable channel TV.

IC's resources do not match Time Warner's. But their broadcast, at 7 pm nightly, covers important local stories such as the city's plans for water treatment facilities.

We urge you to vary your habits a bit and follow these shows for a while. We also urge you to contact them with praise or criticism; we know they are interested in opinions of their work.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, December 05, 2008

Weekend Entertainment, Dec. 5 - 7

Friday 12/5: Evil City String Band - most of the band, anyway - at Felicia's for happy hour, 5:30 - 8 pm.

Soweto Gospel Choir at the State Theater. 8 pm.

* * *

Sat. 12/6: Sim Redmond, Hank Roberts, and Nate Richardson team up for a "Crossing Borders" live radio broadcast (on WVBR) at the Lost Dog. 8 pm.

Squirrel Nut Zippers at the State Theater for a special show honoring the State's 80th anniversary. 8 pm.

Goatboy, featuring members of the Horseflies and Evil City String Band, at the ABC. 10 pm.

* * *

Sunday 12/7

The State Theater's 80th anniversary celebration continues, with a 1928 movie at a special price: "Speedy", starring Harold Lloyd, featuring Babe Ruth. Live music accompanies the silent film. Admission is only 50 cents.

- have fun -
Steve Burke

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Death and Life at Walmart

There's not much to say about the central fact of the Walmart worker trampled to death in a stampede of holiday shoppers other than it is a tragedy.

But there is something to say about the surrounding facts - the mentality and the economic conditions that contribute.

Perhaps the most ironic summation was given by another employee at the Walmart store where it happened. He expressed surprise about the trampling death, because "the deals weren't even that good."

It's easy enough to say that this is a consumer society, and people are crazy for possessions, and must lead pretty empty lives, for cell phones and flat-screen TVs to mean so much.

Beyond the emptiness, though, there is desperation. Probably there were no millionaires in that crowd at Walmart at 5:30 in the morning.

Instead, there were people who don't have enough money for basic things. They stand outside for hours in the dark and cold for brief access to things they can afford.

We have a society where it is common for people to work all day, every day, without earning enough for necessities, much less niceties. Where it is possible to work your whole life and have nothing.

We have a president-elect now who grew up amidst racism and poverty. Let's hope he remembers where he came from in leading us into the future. Better yet, let's be active and make sure he does.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog