Ithaca Blog

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ithaca New Years Eve, 2009

We know two things about New Years Eve in Ithaca.

One is that Ithacans, inveterate socializers, keen on celebration, love New Years Eve.

Two is that bars and clubs don't do much special for NYE, probably because they don't have to.

Some striving exceptions:

Felicia's has live vocal and piano music, early, from 6:30 - 8:30. After that, it is drink specials, and whatever comes with that. No cover.

Castaways hosts a bona fide concert, with local (and international) favorites The Sim Redmond Band, and opening act the Gunpoets. Doors open at 8 for the 9 pm start. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door, if any remain.

WildFire Lounge hosts popular rockers Revision and Solstice, starting at 10 .

Don't get drunk and lose all your money -
& Happy 20/10 -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Small World Music: No Place Like (Our New) Home for the Holidays

This morning we met yet another old customer of Small World Music who didn't know that our music emporium (physical home of Ithaca Blog) has moved to the basement of Autumn Leaves Books, on the Commons. And so she hasn't got that new Karan Casey CD she wanted to buy for her sister. Well, she will have it later today.

It is the busy season for buying music, so we would be derelict, not to mention meshuga, not to mention with special yuletide emphasis that Small World Music is at your service.

New CDs include Beatles reissues (and box set), Bob Dylan, Fela, David Gray, Norah Jones, Rickie Lee Jones, Lady Gaga, John Mayer, Monsters of Folk, Pete Seeger, Sting, Streisand, Swell Season, and Tom Waits. And Karan Casey.

Small World Music shares space in the basement of Autumn Leaves with Angry Mom Records. We're open seven days a week.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog and Small World Music

Bumper Sticker Urges: No Barking

Not that we would ever put a bumper sticker on our car, any more than we would our shoes, but we saw one today we liked.

"Wag More, Bark Less," it said.

We imagine it came from a dog owner, but of course here it was meant for the reading, i.e. strictly non-dog, population.

It seemed to us a particularly good message as people are racing around anxiously with errands to do for the holidays, and possibly feeling a bit barky. But remember, really, if the holidays are not a time for wagging, when is?

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ithaca Music Scene Somewhat Short-changed by "Cafe"

Yesterday we got a press release about the World Cafe radio program broadcasting, today, a performance by Lyle Lovett at Ithaca's State Theater. The show was also supposed to offer discussion of and selections from the Ithaca music scene.

The former was fine. The latter was missing.

To tell the truth, we had a feeling from the start that the promise of Ithaca-centrism was maybe a little played up. We reported it anyway. Oh, well.

One out of two isn't bad, we guess. Or is the proper response, "That's show biz"?

In any event, we were disappointed by that, but enjoyed the broadcast anyway, and appreciated the visit last month and the effort by both Mr. Lovett and the World Cafe.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ithaca Music Goes National, Thurs. 17 Dec., on NPR's "World Cafe"

National Public Radio's "World Cafe" program will spotlight Ithaca in its broadcast on Thursday, 17 December.

The show will feature excerpts from a concert by Lyle Lovett taped at the State Theater in Ithaca, along with discussion of and selections by local musicians.

World Cafe is carried by 185 NPR affiliates nationally. In Ithaca it is broadcast on WEOS, 88.5 on the FM dial.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Big Money Comes To Fracking, With Exxon Purchase

Exxon Mobil has spent $31 billion to buy XTO Energy, a leading speculator in shale gas drilling.

Exxon Mobil brings considerable resources to promote shale gas drilling in U.S. fields discovered by smaller companies such as XTO in the past decade.

The smaller companies have indicated they might not have the resources to meet legal and environmental challenges when controversial drilling practices (known as hydrofracturing, or "fracking") come to populated areas, such as central New York, where citizen groups have formed to protest degradation of local landscapes, infrastructure, and water supplies.

Exxon Mobil's buyout certainly changes the political landscape. The company is the second-largest (behind General Electric) corporate spender in federal lobbying. It has recently come under fire for its efforts to discredit global climate change science, which it considers harmful to its financial interests.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Dime Dropped Yet On Ithaca Restaurants With Labor Violations

A press conference held by the Tompkins County Workers Center and the New York State Department of Labor finished minutes ago, with the revelation that 17 area restaurants have been found in violation of labor laws.

The violations include failure to pay minimum wage and overtime, and misclassification of workers as general contractors, thus denying them workers' compensation, unemployment insurance, and other rights.

22 restaurants were investigated. State officials said that finding violations among 17 of 22 is a higher than average rate, though perhaps not a large enough sampling to be statistically significant.

The press conference brought much media to the Workers Center on the Commons, and scores of spectators. Those hoping for resolution to the political drama, in the form of names, were disappointed. The identities of the implicated businesses were not disclosed.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ithaca Gives 10% Off, On Dec. 10th

Dozens of businesses in Ithaca participating in the "Local First" campaign are offering 10% off all purchases on the 10th of December.

The "10 off on the 10th" promotion started at GreenStar Co-op earlier this year. If you have been at GreenStar on the 10th of a month, you know it is a big deal. GreenStar does Thanksgiving-week type business every 10th. They have to put someone in the parking lot to direct traffic.

The list of participating businesses can be found at, or at Local First Ithaca's page on Facebook.

Small World Music/Angry Mom Records, physical home of Ithaca Blog, is among them. In fact, loyal reader, come in today and mention this and we will give you the jump by giving you 10% off on the 9th.

SWM/A. Mom is in the basement of Autumn Leaves Books at 115 the Commons. We're open til 8 pm tonight; from noon til 9 tomorrow.

Steve Burke
for SWM/Ithaca NY Blog

Friday, December 04, 2009

"Local First Ithaca" Builds Area Economy

It is a little disconcerting to see the word "only" in the headlines alongside " 11,000 U.S. jobs lost in November."

But the reality is that this is - only - 10%of the number of jobs lost in either October or September.

President Obama is supposedly rolling up his sleeves now to create a jobs program.

We like the guy; but his record so far, on war and Wall Street, is weak, to say the least.

Maybe on jobs, the one-time community organizer will finally hit his stride.

In the meantime, in Ithaca, we have our own model for helping ourselves and one another: the Local First Ithaca campaign is in its second season of promoting local businesses at holiday time.

Take a look at their web site ( and Facebook page for all their activities and promotions. Among them is "10 % on the Tenth," where many participating businesses (there are over 100) offer 10% off all purchases on December 10th. There is also a drawing, at the end of the month, for gift cards, for the proverbial lucky winners, of $50, $100, and $250.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Anti-Fracking Effort Needs You: Big Benefit Concert, Sat. 5 Dec.

Judging by Ithaca, the campaign against "fracking" - that is, hydrofracturing, a toxic chemical drilling procedure proposed for natural gas extraction in our region - seems a sure winner. A thousand people turned out at a hearing at the State Theater last month, on a weeknight, to speak against the dangerously unregulated practice.

Remember, though: Ithaca is different. In 2000, more Ithacans voted for Ralph Nader for president than for George Bush. In 2008, Tompkins County was the only county outside of New York City to vote for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

When a group of Ithacans left the county last week for a public hearing on fracking, they were the only voices in opposition. The others were for taking the money the gas companies are offering, and worrying about poisoned water later.

So: it will be an uphill fight. Whatever support you can give is crucial.

On Saturday 5 December, the three leading bands from Ithaca play a benefit for the effort. Donna the Buffalo, the Horseflies, and the Sim Redmond Band unite for "Life Is Water: A Concert to Defend the Finger Lakes Against Unsafe Gas Drilling" at the State Theater.

Show time is 8 pm. Reserved seating is $12.50 - $24.50.

Proceeds benefit the Shaleshock Citizens Action Alliance:

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is foremost among holidays at withstanding commercialization. Funny, as it is the prototypical American holiday, and commercialization is practically our national hobby.

Last week in Ithaca a Native American man speaking about the history of Thanksgiving said he sure does celebrate the holiday, as it was originally half his peoples', and its intent is to celebrate peace.

It can be a particularly peaceful day, or at least quiet, as it is a secular holiday, so almost everyone observes it, and almost no one works. We remember a Thanksgiving morning a few years ago with a light snow on the ground at about 9 a.m., and absolutely no tire tracks on downtown streets. None. That is a quiet morning.

We wish you a happy day, with a full table in a full house, and a heart full of peace.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

All 3 Ithaca P&C's To Close?

News came this morning that the parent company of P&C supermarkets is bankrupt, and will close its three Ithaca stores.

Apparently there is a possibility that a store, or stores, could re-open; but the parent company is in the middle of, not beginning, bankruptcy proceedings, so from outside it seems unlikely.

It is hard to imagine that the East Hill branch does not make money, with its favorable geographic and demographic location. But it might be more valuable to the company to sell than operate.

We are sorry for P&C's workers, who number over 100 in Ithaca.

Certainly, P&C has a legacy in Ithaca. But, among other factors, the arrival of Wegman's signaled a new era of high standards among food markets here.

For the sake of its workers, and the community at large, we hope the management of Tops is thinking hard.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Review Preview: Wildfire Lounge

Ithaca Blog has been getting copious hits by people searching for info on Wildfire Lounge, the new restaurant in the old space of the Lost Dog Cafe, on S. Cayuga St.

We will have a chance to provide knowledge and insights after tomorrow, when we will visit the place, not only to meal up, but also to see a show created by Natasha Pickowicz, the talented writer and energetic promoter who apparently will soon leave Ithaca.

Natasha's niche has been presenting emerging musicians in appreciative settings for not much admittance fee, reflecting her own DIY sensibility, enthusiasm, and knowledge and love of music.

The headliners tomorrow are actually pretty much emerged. Richie Stearns will grace the stage, playing, we gather, experimental and new rather than old-timey stuff. Matt Valentine and Erika Elder, who have worked and toured nationally with acts such as Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth, purvey what Ms. Pickowicz describes as rural blues/psych rock/free folk. The duo has an affinity for Michael Hurley, which is enough for us.

Admittance is $5. Doors open at 8 and the show is scheduled for 9.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Gimme Coffee Opens On Green Street

Gimme Coffee has opened a new shop on Green St., in a space leased from TCAT.

TCAT solicited a coffee shop to accommodate bus patrons at its Green Street terminus, where every bus starts, stops, or passes.

Until now, there was no inside space accommodating commuters at Green Street.

The coffeeshop is located between the library and Urban Outfitters, across the street from the new Cinemapolis.

Hours are 7 am - 9 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gas Drilling Rally & Hearing, Thursday 19 November

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation holds a hearing tonight on proposals for chemical drilling for gas deposits in our region.

The hearing is at the State Theater, at 7 pm.

Doors open at 6 pm for persons who wish to sign up to speak.

Organizations against the drilling urge citizens to arrive early, claiming that industry representatives have packed other hearings, to keep opponents out.

Shaleshock, a local grassroots group opposing the drilling, will hold a rally on the Commons before the hearing. The rally starts at 4:30 pm.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ithaca Hours on Local TV News Tonight

News 10 Now is scheduled to air a segment on Ithaca Hours, the local currency, tonight.

The first showing is at 6 pm. It repeats throughout the night, on a schedule we are not quite aware of.

It was quite a blow to Ithaca when channel 10 became a regional news show rather than local. These days there is a lot more about Syracuse, Binghamton, and even Watertown than us. So we like to alert people when we know of an Ithaca segment.

Of course, we generally only know of them when we appear in them. Part of tonight's segment on Hours was shot here at Small World Music, physical home of Ithaca Blog, and an Ithaca Hours business.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ithaca Weekend, Nov. 13 - 15

Fri. 13 Nov.: A band named Hee Haw Nightmare doesn't figure to be scared of Friday the 13th. Neither does eternally intrepid Ani DiFranco. They are at Felicia's at 5:30. She is at the State at 8.

CDs by both these performers are available at Small World Music, in the basement of Autumn Leaves Books, on the Commons.

* * *

Sat. 14 Nov.: 17th Annual Tibetan Cultural Day. Tibetan food, art, and performance. 10:30 - 3:30, St. Paul's Methodist Church, 402 N. Aurora St. For tickets, call 273-0739 or 351-6257.

* * *

Sun. 15 Nov.: Celebration of African and African-American Art. Johnson Museum, Cornell, 1-4 pm. Free.

Enter the Haggis. Off-kilter Celtic, at Castaways, 8 pm.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Gimme Coffee, Mott Street

We recently spent a week in New York City and in order to show off our provincial pride in Ithaca we took our Manhattan hosts to Mott Street, to the Gimme Coffee outpost there.

Gimme's first foray into NYC was a branch in Williamsburg, the first stop in Brooklyn on the L train from Manhattan. It didn't take long for the accolades to come. Entry into Manhattan might not have been inevitable, but must have beckoned big the while.

The Mott Street location is small, like half a subway car. The block is stylish, which means a lot of stores selling expensive things no one needs; the good coffee at Gimme is the exception.

Inside, it looks like Ithaca, with familiar Gimme accoutrements and design, including the fonts on the menu board.

It felt funny to be inside a seeming slice of Ithaca within Manhattan, as if a Wizard of Oz type tornado had swept the place up and plunked it down, far off.

Even the swirl on top of the froth was familiar. Of course, the coffee was great.

Will you go? If you do, we have something else on Mott Street to recommend: the Buddha Bodai restaurant.

The Buddha Bodai is one of those only-in-NY type places: Chinese, vegan, and kosher. A true, and unique, triple threat.

It is all the way down Mott Street, at #5, near the street's southern end. It's a pleasant walk through Chinatown, which burgeons in earnest south of Canal Street.

The restaurant is bright and spotless. The menu is simple, with vegan takes on American-style Chinese food. The food is fresh and delicious. The prices are too low.

We had lunch specials that were so filling, fine and cheap that I don't recall exactly what they included or cost. I just remember great plates of food, excellent hot and sour soup, fortifying tea, and an easy, light exit.

Mott Street also has a bunch of bakeries with pastries that average about a dollar a pop. There is nothing refined about them but the sugar. They are great and we bought what amounted to a few pounds worth for less than a saw.

Mott Street has character and centuries of history that you can feel. We congratulate the Gimme crew on joining it.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Three Seatings for Benefit Latin Dinner on Tues. 10 Nov.

Mary Anne Grady of La Cocina Latina was at Farmers Market this morning buying more garlic for her catering gig this Tuesday.

La Cocina Latina is cooking for a benefit dinner sponsored by CUSLAR (the Committee on U.S. - Latin American Relations)to close the School of the Americas.

The School of the Americas, in Fort Benning, Georgia, is a taxpayer-funded military facility that trains right-wing Latin American forces implicated in brutal killings of civilians - including religious workers, and U.S. citizens.

The annual Convergence on Fort Benning is November 20 - 22. Proceeds from the dinner benefit the action.

Mary Anne Grady is a well-known peace activist - and Latin American cook. Her black beans and chicken are renowned around town. Not to mention her flan.

There are 3 seatings for the dinner: 6, 7:30, and 9 pm. Tickets are $12, or $25 for families, or call Mary Anne at 273-7437 for sliding scale rates. The location is the Oasis Dance Club (formerly the Common Ground), 1230 Danby Road.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

We Like That Samurai Sushi, Toaster Oven Or Not

$2.95 sushis make a pretty resplendent lunch, and that's what we had today, as posted earlier.

We will remark upon the salmon skin sushi. We like to try new things, and liked it well enough, though we noticed that a toaster oven was involved in its preparation, which seemed strange. Isn't sushi raw?

We didn't ask, because we didn't want to start anything, plus what do we know? The first time we ever prepared guacamole, we included the skin of the avocado, because the recipe didn't say not to. (We were only 19, but, and figured out the mistake pretty fast.)

on the culinary forefronts,
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

More Sushi

Okay. The name of the sushi restaurant on the Commons, next door to us here at Small World Music/Angry Mom Records/Autumn Leaves Books, is Samurai.

We could probably even have guessed that, rather than keep readers waiting after our semi-pro review of the place here last month, where we wrote favorably of this place without knowing its name. It's Samurai. Like a lot of pizza places are Vesuvio.

The timely update today is that Samurai has Wednesday lunchtime specials. About half a dozen menu items are at half-price.

We put in an order for California roll, which we're familiar with, and Salmon Skin roll, which we're not. We didn't even know salmon had skin. But we figured we'd try something new, at $2.95.

we'll let you know -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Monday, October 26, 2009

Angry Mom Records/Small World Music at the Social Soul of Town

Angry Mom Records/Small World Music is a new entity in town developing the reputation of a place that fun follows around.

Angry Mom and Small World share store space in the basement of Autumn Leaves Books on the Commons. Angry Mom sells choice old vinyl, and Small World sells CDs - the local, hip alternative to Borders, Barnes and Noble, et al.

Small World moved into the space with Angry Mom about two months ago, from an obscure but popular space up West State Street. Since then, it has been nothing but fun in a bustling bohemian scene in the heart of downtown.

In our previous posting here, we mentioned an informal Angry Mom/Small World Music movie night at Cinemapolis this weekend. Formal ones are now in the works, to promote convivial company pursuing the arts, and active social times.

A music series is also planned. The first installment is an "all-vinyl" DJ party at the Loft above the Chanticleer bar, this Friday night.

Vita brevis, ars longa - so plan to meet some fun-loving people through your friendly neighborhood music store this weekend, and beyond.

Steve Burke
for Small World Music
and Ithaca NY Blog

On Air Guitar, Jimmy Page: "It Might Get Loud" at Cinemapolis

A contingent of friends and acquaintances from Small World Music/Angry Mom Records enjoyed a foray to Cinemapolis this weekend for the new music movie, "It Might Get Loud".

It is, ostensibly, a documentary about the electric guitar. But it is more about three players: Jimmy Page, the Edge, and Jack White. And, beyond that, it is at heart an exposition of creativity: where it comes from, and how it is sustained.

You don't have to be a music lover to enjoy this film. We are not particularly big fans of any of the three subjects. We will admit to getting a kick out of the portrait of Jimmy Page - because he is presented not as 70's rock god, but 70ish rock fan. A scene of him playing an old 45 on his home record player, and air guitaring along with it, with a big boyish smile, said a lot about what inspired him to begin with, and through all the achievements since.

We will sustain some surprise, which we hope we haven't spoiled in discussing this scene, by declining to reveal the record he plays. (But it is a good one.)

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Suffer Jets Merchandise at Angry Mom Records/Small World Music

The season is over, but roller derby spirit rolls on in Ithaca.

Angry Mom Records/Small World Music has a big, new batch of great-looking, high-quality Suffer Jet merchandise.

T-shirts in different colors and styles are $20 - $25. Beanies are $20 and brimmed wool hats are $25. Bandanas are $6, 2-paks of lapel buttons are $3, 3-packs of tattoos are $2. There are lunch boxes, travel mugs, and more.

Angry Mom Records/Small World Music is in the basement of Autumn Leaves Used Books, 115 The Commons. Hours are 12 - 8 pm Monday through Saturday, 12 - 6 Sundays.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog and Small World Music

Friday, October 23, 2009

For the Fall Classic, Rooting Locally

By defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers and advancing to the World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies have done their part to make the Series an all-east coast classic.

Now it is the New York Yankees turn, as they battle the Anaheim Angels for a berth.

The Series would interest us no matter what, but the prospect of such an intensely regional contest as Philly-NY is especially tantalizing, to be sure.

Our friends include strong partisans of either squad. We are already planning where to watch games together, in an atmosphere as of camaraderie, cheer, and occasional slander.

Benchwarmers on the Commons is the favored spot, with multiple screens, comfortable space, good food, pleasant service, and reasonable prices.

Considering the difference a Yankee win should make in their business, we imagine bars throughout the east are making New York Novenas against the Angels this weekend.

may the best team win,
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Rhythm and Reading": Poetry and Performance at Cornell Tonight

Ithacan music and literature meet tonight at Cornell in a free performance by some large local luminaries.

The music is provided by Richie Stearns and Johnny Dowd. Readings are offered by H.G. Carrillo, J. Robert Lennon, and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon.

H.G. Carrillo is a Cornell graduate and the author of popular, if complexly-structured, novels.

J. Robert Lennon lives in Ithaca. His novel, Castle, was favorably reviewed in the New York Times this year. He is also a musician, and his self-released CDs are available at Small World Music, 115 The Commons.

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon teaches at Cornell. Her most recent book of poems, "Open Interval", has been nominated for the 2009 National Book Award for poetry.

The event is at Barnes Hall at 7:30 pm.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Four Things Visitors Like About Ithaca (And One They Don't)

One of the rewarding experiences in our work for the Ithaca Hours currency system is meeting the many visitors who come to Ithaca to study the system.

As we have mentioned on these pages before, we particularly like seeing Ithaca from a visitor's view, and learning what we take for granted, as well as what could be better.

This past weekend, we had a visitor from Chapel Hill NC, and one from Brooklyn NY. Four things linger in short-term memory of what they really liked about Ithaca. And the one thing they found surprisingly bad.

The good things:
1. the Library Sale. It impressed in size, variety, and in physical quality of the books themselves.

2. the broad recycling and composting options in public places and businesses.

3. the buttered popcorn at Cinemapolis.

4. the little sushi place next door to Autumn Leaves Books. It was our personal first visit. Good quality food at very reasonable prices ($2 cup of miso, e.g.). Our NC visitor went back on her own on Monday.

Monday was also the day of the bad experience in Ithaca, which was: the post office. Our NC guest went there to mail back books she bought at the Library Sale. She stood in line 20 minutes.

It was after this that she went back to the sushi place, to boost herself up.

(Next time we are at the sushi place, which will be soon, we will try to catch the name, and mention same here. Maybe we'll also mention to the owners that they need to trumpet that name a bit more. Usually we notice and retain such critical info.)

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

American Electorate Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Barack Obama stood in for the American electorate as the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

The award goes to American voters for repudiating not just the war-mongering of the Bush adminstration, but politicians such as Hillary Clinton, who voted to wage war against Iraq because it was politically expedient.

Americans gave the world a chance for peace by electing someone as different as anyone could be from George Bush: articulate, intelligent, risen from single-parent poverty to the heights of achievement, a Harvard Law School graduate who rejected money for community organizing.

In 2008, Americans realized the opportunity Obama represented for growth and change. In 2009, the Nobel committee realized the same.

The prize is really for Americans, for making the opportunity a reality by electing Obama. For Obama, it's an encouragement- and a reminder, now, to walk the walk.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Friday, October 09, 2009

Suffer Jets Final Bout on Saturday, 10/10

The Suffer Jets, the female Roller Derby team who have taken Ithaca by storm, have their final bout of the season on Sat. 10 Oct at 7:30 at Cass Rink.

Doors open at 7 pm, and there figures to be a crowd. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Angry Mom Records/Small World Music (home of Ithaca Blog) are discussing marketing arrangements with the Suffer Jets for their stellar merchandise. We hope an in-store appearance by the team will be part of the fun. Check back for details.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Contamination of NY Water: Define, We Guess, Then Prohibit

On the Democracy Now news show today, a representative of the gas industry promoting drilling for natural gas in New York was asked about reports of contamination of water sources in Pennsylvania by the practice.

He said, it depends on your definition of contamination. Not very reassuring.

Maurice Hinchey, Ithaca's representative in Congress, is concerned. He has sponsored legislation, the Frac Act (Fracking Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act), to revoke the gas industry's exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Frac Act would repeal legislation that exempts the industry from disclosing what chemicals it uses in hydraulic fracturing.

That would make it easier to define contamination of the drinking water of millions of New Yorkers. And to prevent it.

In Ithaca, a grassroots group called Shaleshock is at the forefront of citizen activism on issues of chemical drilling of the Marcellus Shale in New York. Their office is on the third floor of Autumn Leaves Books on the Commons. Their website is

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Peter Stampfel at the Spot, 10:30 Thurs.

Late bulletin: Peter Stampfel will be guest performer at a "picking party" after his show at the State Theater tonight. The party is at the Spot coffee shop on E. Seneca St.

Other performers include Johnny Dowd, Richie Stearns, Pat Burke, Steve Selin, et al.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Peter Stampfel Update

Regarding our posting yesterday about Peter Stampfel in Ithaca:

It seems one promoter in town has found an outlet for Mr. Stampel: he will appear tonight with Zoe Stampfel at the State Theater, opening for They Might Be Giants.

We're not sure if another, subterranean gig is still in the offing, or if this appearance will be the only one. We are reasonably certain that another promoter is at least trying to set up something small and homey, as described yesterday.

We will stay on the case as best we can, and post new info if and when we get it.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reopenings: Lost Dog as Wildfire Lounge; the Rongo as the Rongo

Two popular restaurant/clubs in town have recently re-opened.

The Rongovian Embassy in Trumansburg has new management, but historic identity intact. The Lost Dog Cafe in Ithaca is re-opening this week as the Wildfire Lounge.

Both spots are back with a bang, featuring notable music acts.

The Rongo is hosting the Horse Flies on Thursday and Friday. Thursday's show is all ages and begins at 8 pm. Friday is 21+ and starts at 9.

The Rongo's kitchen is still closed, and last weekend the bar was not operating at full strength.

Wildfire Lounge hosts the Silent League on Saturday. The Silent League, from Brooklyn, features members of Arcade Fire, Beirut, and Mercury Rev. The 18-and-over show is at 9 pm. Admission is only $5.

Peter Stampfel, Underground Old-Time Music Legend, in Ithaca

Peter Stampfel, legendary figure of '60s folk music in New York City, will appear in Ithaca this week.

The time and place are not yet set. Ithaca Blog will have the information as soon as it is available.

Stampfel played, sang, and wrote for the Fugs and the Holy Modal Rounders when, from the Lower East Side, they brought off-color, often off-key anarchy to the Village folk scene. Their rawness - perplexing or distasteful to many - was authentic and liberating to others.

The enfant terrible pose obscured Stampfel's genial nature, able playing, and real devotion to music. He remains a fascinating and fun figure, half a century into his career.

Plans for his visit to Ithaca include collaboration with Johnny Dowd and Richie Stearns, among others.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Keep That Utility Social

Like many people I know, I like Facebook pretty nicely, and look at it when I am near a computer, which is often.

I don't post there very often, though - like unless I am doing something relatively exceptional.

I generally don't feel compelled to alert people to the fact that I have read Paul Krugman's latest column, and supply it so they, too, can be requisitely informed on world topics, until Paul Krugman's next column, which I will also supply when it appears; like it's a secret hard thing to get; maybe I'll send Bob Herbert's, too? Yeesh.

Maybe the reason Facebook is called a social utility is because it prevents the very unsocial in-person reaction that would come from me to any friend who finishes reading a newspaper column and then tells me I gotta gotta gotta gotta read this. At the breakfast counter I might make like James Cagney with the Facegrapefruit.

It's a finite world, so you have to wonder about the things you might have missed, but you saw that YouTube clip of the baby with a big diaper dancing to Beyonce on TV.

It's ironic that it's called YouTube because it has nothing to do with you, personally, except You can have fun wasting time there.

Luckily, for You - and Me - all we have to do to have real, personal, unique experiences is to think. To talk. To choose music we like, and play it. To write: write somebody, write in a journal, write something original for Facebook. To go outside, where it will never again be exactly the way it is right now.

The haughty bird on the lawn will be gone. The sun will be lower, or done.

The Internet can wait. And will, forever, of course. So let it.

be the boss -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Friday, September 25, 2009

Apple Harvest Festival, Ithaca Commons, Fri. 25 - Sun. 27 Sept.

Sometimes it can feel like "another weekend, another festival" in Ithaca, but of course this is supremely short-sighted, as the long, light days recede, and hibernation hovers. This weekend's Apple Harvest Festival is the last big fest of the year, and a nice one.

The homey festival celebrates New York's emblematic fruit in particular, and harvest in general. Agriculture is Tompkins County's second-biggest industry, after education.

There is bounty, and eating. Eating contests, even.

Of course, this being Ithaca, there is also political tabling - for single-payer health insurance, against fracking, etc. If you don't know what fracking is, here's your chance. And of course, being Ithaca, there is plenty of music.

There is Hilby the Skinny German Juggle Boy - possibly the scorchingly hottest juggler in the land right now, after a long, front-page article about him a few weeks ago in the New York Times Sunday Arts section.

There is a Ferris wheel. (Careful of your candy apple and cotton candy consumption before spinning.)

There is also the new incarnation of Small World Music, earthly home of Ithaca Blog - on the Commons, in the basement of Autumn Leaves Books, sharing space down there with Angry Mom Records. Steve works there this Saturday, from 12 - 8 pm., and hopes you'll come say hi.

The festival - the 27th annual, by the way - gets going about 10:30, and goes til about 6:30. More info is available at

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ithaca Hours Live on National Radio, Friday 25 September

On Friday 25 September, Joe Wetmore of Autumn Leaves Books will talk about Ithaca Hours, the local currency, on the Thom Hartmann Radio Progam, the #1-rated progressive radio talk show in the U.S.

The program will broadcast live from Ithaca College. The Ithaca Hours segment is scheduled for some time in the 1:00 hour.

Hartmann's program has over 2 million listeners nationally. It airs locally on WNYY, 1470-AM.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Get Sleep, Not Sick

Regular flu and cold season is approaching, with Ithacans already concerned about the prevalence in town of the H1N1 flu.

One hears the sensible advice to get vaccinated, and wash hands. A recent report by the Archives of Internal Medicine also stresses the importance of sleep.

Their research claims that people sleeping only 5 to 7 hours a night are three times as likely to get sick as those sleeping at least 8.

The main reason seems to be that the body produces more disease-fighting white blood cells in sleep.

Of course, it might also be that, in bed, one is isolated and safe.

Years ago, as a youth at Cornell - now the site of hundreds of cases of H1N1 flu - the smart guys I knew all recognized the value of sleep in fighting sickness, although some of the preferred methods of inducing sleep were probably counter-productive.

One that seemed to have the stamp of medicine was to drink an entire bottle of Nyquil, and then go to sleep for a long, long time, and wake up feeling fresh, but my guess is that the Archives of Internal Medicine did not even consider this an aspect worth studying, and without such reputable research, I can certainly not recommend it.

Instead, we are recommending simple common sense, such as the idea that you won't get sick while sleeping. So forget David Letterman, and go to bed.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rhine Fest Looks Back, and Forward, On Ithaca's West End

The first annual "Rhiners Festival" celebrates the history of Ithaca's west end waterfront area on Saturday, 19 Sept., from noon until 1 a.m.

The festival is sponsored by the Waterfront District Association and the History Center of Ithaca.

"The Rhine" was an ironic nickname given long ago to the flood-prone flats of Ithaca, far removed from the prosperity of Cornell. The area was home to many of Ithaca's poor, including many houseless.

The festival explores the area's neglected history, and its potential for commercial and community activity.

Ironically, the step-child status of the neighborhood persists. Festival organizes note that the relative lack of parking and bus service in the area make walking to the event perhaps the best transportation.

Details are at

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Saturday, September 12, 2009

3rd Annual Porchfest, Sunday 13 Sept.

Celebrating Ithaca life in general, and music in particular, are naturally popular pastimes here. The 3rd annual Porchfest brings these impulses together on Sunday 13 Sept., from 1 - 5:30 pm.

Porchfest is local musicians playing on their own front porches. The event takes place mostly in Fall Creek and Northside.

Participants include Mary Lorson, Hubcap, The Small Kings, The Black Walnuts, Diana Leigh Jazz Trio, The GoCats, Nate and Kate, the Yardvarks, and many more.

The event ends with a party at the Auburn Street Triangle Park. You are invited to bring an instrument to play, and a dish to pass.

Maps are available at GreenStar, Gimme at Cayuga, and

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Don't Drink Bees

One of the potential hazards of summer, we realized yesterday, is bee drinking.

We were sitting on the Commons with a visitor from Japan, here to study Ithaca Hours. I had coffee. He had a bottle of Reed's Ginger Ale.

After 45 minutes of nice talk, I went back to work in Small World Music, in the basement of Autumn Leaves Books.

All of a sudden, our guest comes running into the building. He had chugged down the corner of his soda, for a stinging sensation stronger than his prior sips. He spit out a mouthful of bees which had apparently descended into his soda bottle while we talked.

He wasn't sure if he had swallowed any. But the ones that had stung his tongue and mouth roof were bad enough, at the moment.

He said he didn't know if he was allergic to bee stings. He had never even been bitten by a Japanese bee.

So I called 911, and they sent all the trappings of an emergency, including a hook and ladder. Apparently this is standard, in case you get so crazy by your bee stings that you set a fire, or jump off a roof.

Anyhow, the emergency professionals were very nice, comforting, and competent. They took our visitor to the emergency room, in case he reacted badly.

We figure, for our part, we can pass along a warning for something we never even thought about before. Let summer be days of soda and pretzels and beer. Not bees.

(By the way, our visitor is fine. As he got into the ambulance, I gave him my card, with home phone, and told him to call if he needed help with anything. He called that night to say he was okay. In halting English, but very sweet, he said his name, and left a message saying, "Maybe you remember me, by, bees in the mouth. I am getting better. Thank you for helping me.")

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Music in Ithaca, Sept. 10 -13

Thursday 10 Sept.: Promotional powerhouse Popcorn Youth presents an all-ages show at the Community School of Music and Arts, with Desolation Wilderness, Mountains, Duane Pitre, Other People, and Tzar. Doors, 7:30. $10, or $8 with student ID.

The Grady Girls and Friends play traditional Irish music at the Scalehouse Brew Pub, 23 Cinema Drive, 7 pm.

* * *

Friday 11 Sept.: The Rozatones, jazz and funk, with Wonderboy. Castaways, 9 pm.

* * *

Saturday 12 Sept.: John Brown's Body and the Black Seeds, at Castaways, 8 pm.

Evil City Trio, with Hank Roberts, the Chapter House, 10 pm.

* * *

Sunday 13 Sept. : Crow Greenspun at Maxie's, 6 pm.

Jennie Lowe Stearns at Felicia's, 7 pm.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Best Ethnic Restaurant in Ithaca??

Annually, in filling out the Ithaca Times "Best of Ithaca" poll, there are a few categories that stop us, or stump us entirely.

One this year is Best Clergymember. Another, less expectedly, is Best Ethnic Restaurant.

There is plenty of good food in Ithaca, as we mention here from time to time. But "Ethnic" is really a bit lacking.

The "new" ethnic food in town is Thai. Correct? Well, only if one considers presence for over a decade new.

We just got back from a trip to NYC where the dinner choice one night was Senegalese versus Chinese/Peruvian. They were both neighborhood places, within a few blocks.

There is an unpretentious but excellent Vietnamese place on Dryden Road in Collegetown - or was, when we were up there last. Maybe that would be our choice for the Times poll (after checking its continued existence).

There are some good sushi places, too, but sushi is pretty old hat anymore, isn't it? When you can get it in Tops?

Maybe we will just withhold our vote, until it can really reflect something new and fine. Ethiopian or Sri Lankan, anyone?

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Burke Reunites With Other Burke, and Bone, For Music Tonight

Brian Burke, fiddler and guitarist, returns to Ithaca after an extended foray in Ann Arbor, and will play tonight at Maxie's in a reunion of old-timey band Burke, Burke, and Bone.

The other Burke is Brian's father, Pat, who plays guitar and sings. Gregor Sayet-Bone also sings and plays guitar, along with harmonica and jug.

The show is free, as part of the Maxie's Southern-Fried Tuesdays series, which features a fried chicken dinner offering.

The show is from 6 - 9 pm. The special lasts as long as the chicken does.

Happy Hour is from 4 - 6 and features half-price oysters. The Bluepoints have been especially good.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Ymous In Ithaca

We just returned from 4 days in New York City, a place we love as much as Ithaca, despite our disparate standings in the two places.

We spent Sunday at a street fair on Amsterdam Avenue, delightful but a little strange-feeling, which we realized was because we were outside for three hours or so, among many persons, and knew none of them. This never happens in Ithaca.

We didn't even need to set foot back in Ithaca before it changed. When we boarded the bus to return yesterday, the driver said, "Who's watching the record store?" Beneath the Coach USA cap, we recognized a customer of ours at Small World Music. (We know his name: Leo. We didn't know he drives a bus.)

As a city native, I don't mind the anonymity which comes with citizenship there, unflagging though it is. One always has identity there, as a city-o, which is enough.

Among other only-in-NY moments, our favorite was a pick-up ping-pong game we saw in Bryant Park, between a young Asian woman and an older Hasid. It reminded us of Levy's Rye.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Friday, August 28, 2009

Summer and Fall Come To Ithaca At Once

Summer has come late to Ithaca this year, after unseasonable chill through June, July, and most of August.

At the same time, the students are back, which translates to Fall on the academic calendar which runs town.

It is disconcerting, so you are not to blame if your personal calendar is agog, and you are caught unawares by the new populace. It is not a good time to shop for shower curtains, nor for quick trips to Wegman's.

But now that the freshman families are gone, and the weather is nice, it is a fine time for outside dining, both in and around town.

In town, Aurora Street has become an al fresco restuarant row, with wider sidewalks for a scheme of outside tables. Just A Taste also has a nice dining area in back, that reminds us a bit of Greenwich Village places, that do a lot with small square footage.

Many eateries on the Commons also commandeer outside space. There is a new campaign for using past public space for private seating, which we think is fine. There's still lots of public space left. That Burrito Place is one spot with tables and chairs in the middle of the mall, set off by rope, which seems a little upscale for burritos, but not These Burritos, we guess.

We had the pleasure of spending some stay-cation time this month at Sheldrake Point, where Simply Red's Bistro has not outdoor dining, strictly speaking, but a widely-windowed dining room with wistful vistas.

There are also a couple of unpretentious joints in Sheldrake, O'Malley's and Kidders, where the food is not regal, but neither are the prices, and the drinks are good, and the dining decks are almost as restorative as the meals, mere yards from the lake. It is a short and pleasant drive to Sheldrake, about 25 minutes from town up Route 89.

We hope the late arrival of summer will also mean a late staying time, but as things in life are generally 6 to 5 against, as Damon Runyon said, we say, get outside now. Maybe we'll see you in the alley outside Felicia's tonight.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sheldrake Point Voted NY Winery of Year

Our local Sheldrake Point Winery was named winery of the year this week in the New York Wine and Food Classic competition.

Wine and Spirits magazine has named Sheldrake among the top 100 wineries in the U.S., and one of the 12 best U.S. value brands.

We happened to stop by the winery yesterday, up the road from a friend's vacation rental. The winery has a beautiful lakeside location, and is accessible by boat. Their restaurant, Simply Red's Bistro, is the most popular vineyard eatery in the region.

Their parking lot is the fullest, with the most out-of-state plates.

The hamlet of Sheldrake is the hippest, as the home of the late Rod Serling, creator of the Twilight Zone. Sheldrake has a distinct Twilight Zone feel, of both being there and not being there.

Congratulations to the good people of Sheldrake Point winery, and thanks for creating such a special place for good food and drink.

Sheldrake Point Winery is on County Road 153 off Route 89 in Ovid. At the signpost up ahead.

submitted for your approval -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Friday, August 14, 2009

Poems On A Blog?

Poetry on an Ithaca blog is near-fetched, in our opinion (in George Carlin's phrase). It is a college town, after all, and college people write a lot of poetry. Mostly enrolled ones rather than alumni, no doubt, but let's change that.

When we were enrolled, we studied with Archie Ammons and Albert Goldbarth, two of the best. Studied is probably too strong a word; we wrote, and had fun.

Recently here we posted a piece about our friend John, "The Most Self-Sufficient Guy in the World." Last night we got up from bed mid-night and wrote the story as a poem. It follows, here.



A book
one of us had read, about
the bare one hundred things
one needs to live.

- Way too many, said John,
and we all agreed;
so it became a game to see
how many we would count.

Indoor plumbing, permanent press,
said two. My answer
(sure winner for spareness, I thought):
- A source of water, and seeds.

But I never got to say, as John
stopped it with his sum:
- A piece of metal, and
something to sharpen it with.

My answer, from someone who only
spells (like these words, here).
John's, from someone
who casts them.

John, who never
surprises, but amazes,
who always
does so much, requires so little,
gives so much, takes only
what he needs -
Love, I reckon
and all of us
to sharpen it with.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog
and J.C.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Live Old-Time Music, and Newly Located Music Store, on Commons Tonight

As part of the summer live music series on the Commons, tonight at 6 pm the Evil City String Band will perform, with Richie Stearns, Pat Burke, and others.

Pat Burke's brother Steve (yours as ever) will be about a hundred paces away at the new location of his shop, Small World Music, which has moved to Autumn Leaves Used Books, in the basement.

Come see us both.

You can read all about the Small World Music move in this week's Ithaca Times, in an excellent article by Natasha Pickowicz.

Steve Burke
for Small World Music and Ithaca NY Blog

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Sidewalk Sale Days Downtown, Aug. 1 - 2

It is good weather today for the sidewalk sale extravaganza downtown this weekend.

Have a look by Autumn Leaves Books and witness the start of our (Small World Music's) relocation there from our old home up West State Street.

Let us know if you need any free tables, chairs, or miscellany that accompanies moves!

Steve Burke
for Small World Music and Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Most Self-Sufficient Guy in the World

Have you heard of this new non-fiction book listing the bare 100 items one needs in order to live?

100 seems like a lot to me. I do generally think of myself as a guy who doesn't need much. Not so much out of virtue, but because I don't know how to do much. The most useful thing I learned in school was spelling. I realize other people learned a lot from computer science, engineering, physics, etc., but not me.

Some friends of mine were discussing this book and decided to get it down to the real minimum, a challenge I relished. My answer - a source of water, and seeds - was definitive, I thought.

I never gave this answer, though, as the contest was stopped almost immediately by my great friend John, who knows how to do a lot, but requires little.

His answer was, "a piece of metal and something to sharpen it with."

If you have a worthier answer, please let me know. We'll print it here, and give John something to consider about paring down.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Food, Inc." at Cinemapolis

How can it be that a fast food hamburger costs less than a head of lettuce? That the poorest people in the U.S. are the most obese? That the local supermarket sells apples from New Zealand but not local farms?

It all has to do with a food industry that puts profit ahead of health, as documented in the new film, "Food, Inc."

In the style of Michael Moore's films about the auto, gun, and health industries, "Food Inc." points fingers - not just at industry irresponsibility, but at tax-supported public policies supporting it.

In the style of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," it provides potential remedies.

"Food, Inc." is showing at the new Cinemapolis theater.

GreenStar Co-op is a sponsor of the screening, and gives a 10%-off coupon for its stores to everyone attending.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Plenty of Music, July 23 - 26

The music hasn't stopped with GrassRoots. In fact, it's almost like the genie's out of bottle now for swingink summertime.

Thursday 7/23:
Radio London, free on the Commons, 6 pm.

The Small Kings at the Pourhouse in T-burg, 7 pm.

Wingnut, at Castaways. Keir Neuringer opens. 8 pm.

* * *

Fri. 7/24:
Hee Haw Nightmare plays happy hour at Felicia's, 5:30.

Kelly Birtch at the Scalehouse Brew Pub, 23 Cinema Dr., 7 pm.

Makepeace Brothers at Castaways. Keir Neuringer opens. 9 pm.

Urban Horse Thieves at the Lost Dog Lounge, 9 pm.

* * *

Sat. 7/25:
El Caminos and Purple Valley in a benefit for Hospicare, at the Haunt, 5 pm.

Talk Normal and Wingnut with Hank Roberts, Chapter House, 10 pm.

* * *

Sun. 7/26:
Mother Mallard celebrates their 40th birthday with a free performance at the Johnson Museum, 2 pm..

Real Life

Not the cars in commute
Not the keyboards and screens
Not the apps and the files
Not the Running Machines

But the birdsong at dawn
And the arc of the light
And the sweet evening kiss
And the dark sacred night.

- turn off, tune out, drop in -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Small World Music Is Moving (and having a sale)

Small World Music is moving - from 614 W. State St., to the basement of Autumn Leaves Books, on the Commons.

SWM will be in partnership there with Angry Mom Records, the new music franchisee at Autumn Leaves.

Angry Mom Records is upgrading the record department in Autumn Leaves, with 50,000 titles and new, high standards of curation and customer service.

SWM will join Angry Mom to sell new and used CDs of the most popular as well as hard-to-find varieties, as we have always done.

The move will be complete by the end of July.

Meanwhile, Small World Music is having a moving sale: 20% off everything.

Just mention this post for the sale price.

We hope to see you before we go - and after!

Steve Burke
for Small World Music and Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Small World Music Shuts (Mostly) For GrassRoots Weekend

Small World Music (home of Ithaca Blog) will keep only sporadic hours during GrassRoots Festival. Real sporadic, as in we don't know which. Probably it will be for the first few hours of each day - 11 a.m. til 2 p.m., or so.

We know from past years we will see a few visitors to town, here for the festival, but also wanting to see local landmarks, as it were.

Give us a call at 256-0428 if you need directions or details.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for SWM and Ithaca NY Blog

Monday, July 13, 2009

Advance GrassRoots Tickets Still Available at Small World Music

Advance 4-day tickets for GrassRoots are still available at Small World Music on Tuesday 14 July, until whatever time GrassRoots comes to pick them up, which might be some time on Tuesday, or might be Wednesday.

Call Small World Music for details and odds at 607/256-0428.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

No Confusion About McNamara

There seems to be a lot of unwarranted confusion about the legacy of Robert McNamara, secretary of defense during the Vietnam war, who passed away this week at 93.

How could one among the so-called Best and Brightest, an elite of the meritocracy, have contrived such a misguided, murderous morass? McNamara perpetuated the undertaking long after he recognized -privately - that it was indefensible, and probably illegal.

The reason is simple. He hoped against hope to win -or, more accurately, annihilate his opposition - to avoid prosecution and punishment.

He came close to saying so in his emotional, public appraisals of Vietnam in the last decade of his life. He said he had realized since World War II, when he helped orchestrate the bombings of Japanese civilians, that often the only difference between a crime and a strategy in war was winning. The winners don't face charges.

So there is the simple answer for the years and years of violence in Vietnam, beyond mercy or sanity. McNamara feared for himself and the people he worked for. "Peace with honor" really meant violence until the victims were so broken they could not respond even with calls for accountability. They would consent to simply being left alone.

McNamara is dead and there is no joy in that. As the saying goes, when God puts his hand on a man, we should remove ours. Still, we have a responsibility to know the truth, and learn from mistakes and sins.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

ABC Cafe Stuff For Sale

Ken Hallett of the ABC Cafe is selling objects from the cafe - from the functional to the collectible. (Among the collectible, a handmade flier - by the performer's own hand? - for a 1992 Ani Difranco show at the cafe ("308 Stuart Avenue"), and the cafe's neon sign).

Call Ken for information: 793-3560.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Friday, July 03, 2009

Visual Arts in Ithaca On Display: "First Friday Gallery Night" Tonight

The visual arts are on display tonight in Ithaca, with another monthly installment in the First Friday Gallery Night series.

Ten downtown galleries, all within easy walking distance of one another, sponsor an "artwalk" of receptions and new exhibits.

The event is from 5 - 8 pm. Information available at

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ithaca Fireworks Are On, As Of 6 PM

We just heard the "boom" set off at the top of every hour if the fireworks show is still in the works.

Of course, things could change by 9:30. But soon the buses will be running (see previous post for details on getting to the show). And they'll be there to get you back, no matter what transpires.

See you there -

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Fireworks, If Weather Works, Thursday 2 July

The forecast is forbidding for the Independence Day fireworks display scheduled for Thursday night in Ithaca.

We don't know the actual chance of rain - we only know it feels like 100%, lately, any given day.

TCAT provides bus service to the show at Ithaca College from the Seneca Street parking structure. Service starts at 6:30, with a bus every 15 minutes. Return service starts immediately after the show and continues until 11:30.

TCAT is definitely the quickest way to and from campus, with priority lanes for bus entrance and exit.

The service is free, though donations for the show are encouraged.

The rain date is Monday the 6th.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Monday, June 29, 2009

Could Bernie Madoff Not Cheat An Honest Man?

In wondering where Bernie Madoff got the chutzpah to swindle $65 billion from friends and associates, he must have thought they had it coming.

"You can't cheat an honest man," the saying goes. Did any of these people not occasionally suspect they were part of a swindle? Mr. Madoff never gave any information about any investments their profits were coming from, since there were no investments, except investments into his personal lifestyle.

Apparently the swindle is alright with everyone as long as it pays. Someone was getting cheated, but everyone figured it was someone else, which is fair, it seems, in such circles.

We know a lot of hard-working and honest people got caught up in this. We're not saying anyone deserved it, even those who perhaps reckoned it out. We're just speculating, you should pardon the expression, on Madoff's mentality.

The one thing we can't figure out at all is why Mr. Madoff never thought, hey, I could get in a lot of trouble for this.

Maybe it's like smoking. You figure it's going to kill you. But you also figure this particular cigarette is not going to kill you. So, strike a match. Maybe Madoff got ensnared that way: it hasn't hurt me so far. When it starts to, I'll deal with it.

He must have been charming, because he doesn't seem smart. He hired for his defense a lawyer whose parents once invested money with him. He gets a sentence of 150 years. I could have gotten him that. Maybe this particular lawyer, for some reason, wasn't trying too hard.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ithaca Music, June 25 - 28

Thurs. 6/25: It's raining sweet peas and horseshit, as Grandma used to say, which probably puts the kibosh on tonight's free music on the Commons by Jimkata, scheduled for 6 pm. But it should clear up in time for Steve Selin and the Creek Dippers, 7:30 at Six Mile Creek Vineyard; and a 10 pm triple-bill at Castaways, of Driftwood, Hee Haw Nightmare, and Nate & Kate.

* * *

Fri. 6/26: Free music on Cornell's Arts Quad by Sim Redmond Band, 7:30 pm.

Modern rock - not the WVBR kind, but the Brooklyn/Baltimore sort - with Magic Markers, Mouthus, and American Sphinx, at the Lost Dog, 9 pm.

* * *

Sat. 6/27: Boy With A Fish and Mary Lorson at Castaways, 10 pm.

* * *

Sun. 6/28: a winery gig by Urban Horse Thieves, at Americana Vineyards, 4 pm.

Dee Specker and Tres Swing at Maxie's, 6 pm.

Johnny Dowd Project at Felicia's, 7 pm.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TCAT To Accept Ithaca Hours

After a meeting last month with the Ithaca Hours Board, TCAT has announced the county's bus system will start accepting Hours for fares.

Details are still unformed. Most likely, Hours will at first be accepted as partial payment for passes, rather than in the fare box.

Time magazine is researching an article on community currencies across the country, and suggests that this is the first collaboration between a community currency and a government entity.

The Time article is scheduled for publication this month.

Developing details about Hours and TCAT will be posted on

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Music Writer Jim Catalano Leaves Ithaca Journal

Jim Catalano announced in his music column in today's Ithaca Journal that he is leaving the paper, "due to the continuing cutbacks."

Jim has edited the Journal's weekly "Ticket" entertainment section since 2003, and written about music for the paper since 1992.

Jim has been a major contributor to the local music scene, as a champion of local musicians and venues.

It's a sad and pound-foolish move by the Journal. A lot of local businesses - many of them Journal advertisers - relied on Jim's press. A lot of readers only consistently buy the Journal on Thursdays, for the Ticket.

Jim's work was always constructive, instructive, and comprehensive, and will be missed.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ithaca Observations By Outsiders

You know how it is, that other people can sometimes see your situation clearer than you can. It goes for cities as well as people, we reckoned, in the midst of a visit this week from some friends who moved away from Ithaca five years ago after a brief tenure here, and were making their first return.

The observations are pedestrian rather than poignant, maybe, but usually we prefer that.

1. There is a lot of good food, close together, in Ithaca. On Tuesday, we bought an early take-away lunch from Collegetown Bagels on Aurora Street. We also wanted some fruit, so we went a block, to GreenStar Oasis in the Dewitt Mall, and got organic peaches and local apples. We noticed that the Farmers Market was setting up at Dewitt Park, so we went there and bought strawberries from an Amish vendor. Then we noticed the beautiful offerings from Macro Mama. So we bought another whole lunch. Why not? Dinner was hours away.

2. Restaurants are noisy. Lost Dog, Viva, and Maxie's all had decibel levels that challenged conversation. At Lost Dog, it was the piped-in music; at Viva, the structure: close-together tables, and brick walls with bad acoustic properties; Maxie's, live music that was a little too amplified (but was ultimately adjusted). On the other hand, Moosewood is quiet - the cafe part, at least, where the seat-spacing is generous. (We discovered there a killer house specialty tea, of ginger, with a splash of lemon and orange juices. We went back for it a second night.)

3. Cops can be genteel. We were misery-lighted down for, oops, driving without lights (at 10:30 pm). The driver, a high-strung type (charmingly so, though) started "shit, shitting" as she pulled over. The passenger, who comes from cops, partly, said, don't worry, just explain it's a rental, and you're unfamiliar with it. All he really wants to know is if you're drinking. (We weren't.) The officer asked for license and registration, and the driver couldn't produce the registration for the rental (for her nerves); so the cop just asked if she had a clean record. She said yes. "You haven't had anything to drink, have you?," he asked. She said no. He said, turn on your lights, and have a nice night.

4. Politics Pervade. There is a Peace and Justice Gift Shop on the Commons. The 10,000 Villages fair-trade franchise in Ithaca is, per capita, the organization's highest-grossing store. Gas stations have organic coffee. Every friend our guests called had to check their meeting schedules, for various political, civic, and volunteer groups, before making plans.

I have a GreenStar meeting to attend now. (True!) And I'll be coming back with triple-filtered water, in a refilled gallon jug, for 25 cents, to brew locally-roasted Gimme coffee in my local/world music shop (oh, yes, another observation: there is a lot of music here).

Thanks to our friends for their good-natured subjecthood -

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Free Movies Tonight at New Cinemapolis

Tonight, Cinemapolis celebrates the opening of its new, bigger theater with free screenings of 5 classic movies.

In betaalphacal order, the movies are The Last Waltz, Little Miss Sunshine, City Lights, Cinema Paradiso, and Chinatown.

Check for screening times, and details about the new facility, located behind Ithaca Center, on the street level of the Green Street parking structure.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ithaca Weekend: Outsiders Looking (and Coming) In

We have a couple of friends, ex-Ithacans, visiting this week, and we thought it might be instructive to tell some of what erstwhilers plan to do while here on a long weekend.

Friday 6/12: (1) June Drucker and Friends at Felicia's happy hour, 5:30 pm. (2) NHL Stanley Cup final, and Mets vs. Yankees, at Benchwarmers.

Saturday 6/13: (1) Lunch from GreenStar and Wegman's for trip to Buttermilk Falls. (2) Short winery tour, as far as Sheldrake, at least. (3.)Movie at new Cinemapolis?

Sun. 6/14: The Hold Steady at Castaways, 8 pm.

Mon. 6/15: Benefit Dinner for ABC Cafe, 6 pm.

Tues. 6/16: Maxie's Shuck'n'Jive, with music by Crow Greenspun, 6 pm. Traditional Irish Music at Chapter House, starting at 7 pm.

gia sou -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blo0g

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Roxana Robinson, Award-Winning Author, Reads in Ithaca, June 20

Acclaimed author Roxana Robinson comes to Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca on Saturday 20 June for a reading and signing of her novel, "Cost", which is newly issued in paperback.

"Cost" was named among best books of the year by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Washington Post, which named it #1.

"Cost" is the story of an accomplished family in idyllic Maine suddenly confronted with the heroin addiction of a son in Brooklyn.

We find Ms. Robinson's writing elegant and pleasurable even when her subjects are discomforting. The Wall Street Journal says it is "both lyrical and unsentimental" and "of uncommon stature."

We are told that her public readings are, similarly, exceptionally good.

The reading is at 3 pm. For more information, contact Buffalo Street Books - the new name of the Bookery II in the Dewitt Mall.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Lou and Peter Berryman: Fun Music at New Venue in Old Church

A folk music duo featuring a guy on guitar and a woman on a piano accordion probably ought to be very serious or else very funny.

Tom Paxton says of Lou and Peter Berryman, "They don't come any funnier." Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion (where they have been repeat guests) calls them "a couple of wonderful songwriters."

L & PB come to Ithaca on Thursday 25 June for a 7:30 pm concert.

Or, actually, to Enfield. Yes, Enfield, at a new performance venue in an old church, at 7 Enfield Center Road West.

The performance is a benefit for the new locale, called the McMillan Art Center.

Tickets are $15 at the door. There are no advance tickets. Cornell Folk Song Society members get a 20% discount.

For more information, check or, or call 277-3147, or 330-1892.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Super Sale at Small World Music for Ithaca Blog Readers

From now (3:45 pm Thurs.) through the end of our weekend here at Small World Music (6 pm Saturday), we are offering you, dear Ithaca Blog readers, sale prices of 25% off all new CDs, and 50% off all used CDs, and all LPs.

This means literally thousands of titles, you know. It could really blow your mind. But not your bank account.

The only fine print exception is new CDs by local artists. We can't mess with their monies. But we will take 10 % off local CDs, out of our modest cut.

One more bit of fine print - the sale is for you Ithaca Blog readers, and not advertised anywhere else, including in the store. So, just mention the offer to get it. Ask and receive, so to speak.

We hope to see you here at Small World Music, down the driveway (not facing the street) here at 614 W. State St., between Meadow and Fulton Streets, across the street from Kinko's and Finger Lakes Beverage. You can save enough here to go buy beer and make copies, too.

Steve Burke
for Small World Music
and Ithaca NY Blog

Weekend Picks in Ithaca, June 5 - 7

Fri. 6/5:

ABC Cafe has benefit performances tonight and tomorrow for itself, trying to pay off some debts before its closure this month. Tonight is a bayou dance party with Zydeco Trail Riders. 9 pm.

* * *

Sat. 6/6:

GrassRoots favorite and emerging star (or emerged, already) Eilen Jewell, at the Rongovian Embassy, 8 pm.

The Macgillicuddies reunite, at least for the night, at Castaways. 9 pm.

Another benefit performance for the ABC, at the ABC, with Les Forces Atomique, Johnny Dowd, Rocket Morton, Ken Hallett, and Cosmo Alpern. 10 pm.

* * *

Sun 6/7:

Teachers Lounge provides extra incentive for making a foray to the wine trail. At the Americana Winery, which features a comfortable listening room with modest food offerings and good libations. 4 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Bikes, Yikes: the Extremes of Expertise

In his new book, "Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities", Jeff Mapes suggests that the growth of biking for ordinary people is thwarted somewhat by the image of bikers as spandexed gearheads obsessed with equipment, paraphernalia, and feats of endurance - more a cult than fellow travelers.

Not that our own personal bike is like an Irish farmer's, which it is, nor that we ride about as fast as one coming from (not going to) the publican's (we're just trying not to make everyone else look shabby). But we understand Mr. Mapes's point.

It hit home today when we saw an ad for a bike on Craigslist. It advertised a Fuji Espree, with "steel-lugged, 45-centimeter frame", "12-speed Sountour ARX derailleurs", and "Dia-compe 500 brakes".

Because we don't know what any of that means, except "brakes," we figured this is probably a $500 vehicle. Right?

Wrong. It is an $80 bike.

To us, these are the specs for an $80 bike:

"White. Wobbly. Upright handlebars, not the curled-over kind. Brakes on handlebars, plus on peddles."

We would feel comfortable buying that. Not the one we have to study on before climbing on.

It reminds us of an interview we read once with Paul McCartney, the prominent bass guitarist, in a specialty magazine for musicians. They asked Mr. McCartney what kind of strings he used.

"Silver, I think," he said.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, May 28, 2009

J. Robert Lennon: Good Notice For Ithaca Author

J. Robert Lennon is an author living in Ithaca, who writes about it, in a sense, tempered by an imagination that sees mystery and trouble in the mundane life of a small (and officially fictional) upstate town.

His two most recent books, "Castle" and "Pieces For the Left Hand: 100 Anecdotes", received good notice in the NY Times this week.

The Times cites a dichotomy in Lennon's work, calling it both "morbid" and "fun."

Lennon will be interviewed tonight on Out of Bounds With Tish Pearlman, the weekly interview program on WEOS radio. The program will also be archived on the WEOS website.

Lennon is also a musician, recording under the name Inverse Room. His recording "Pieces For The Left Hand: 100 Songs" is advertised as "a musical companion" to his book. It is available at Small World Music, in the store or by mail order.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ithaca Festival Highlights

Everyone knows, we guess, about the financial woes from the over-reaching Ithaca Festival of 2008.

The Fest is still here, thanks to some massive, active good will and acts of charity. It needs and deserves everyone's support, so by all means, buy a button, smile, and get out there to celebrate our community.

Some highlights, by our lights:

Thursday: The lead event is the Parade, which we think is the hippest part of the whole fest. Not many towns our size have enough going on to throw an hour-long parade in homage to their own character(s), communities, and causes. The parade starts moving south on North Cayuga Street at 6:30. Integral to the parade each year is a happenstance of rain. Be prepared.

* * *
Friday: Irish music doesn't get much reeler or more jiggy than with Traonach. At the Aurora Street Pavilion on the Commons, 4:30.

The TalkToMes play that cockamamie local style in the Bernie Milton Pavilion at 6:30.

Adonai and I scratch that Hebrew-reggae itch. Aurora St., 7:30.

* * *

Saturday: Is it really the return of the Hog Tie Sessions? Bernie Milton Pavilion, 4:30.

Pan-Gypsy music from Gadje, Cayuga Street, 5:30.

Mike Brindisi and the New York Rock, and they do, on Aurora Street, 6:30.

* * *

Sunday, at Stewart Park.

All day long goes a new Jam Tent, featuring varied styles: Folk (noon), Bluegrass(1:00), Old-Time (2:30), Contra (4:00), Cajun (5:30), and Irish (7:00).

Jomo and Johnnycake play jug band music with an assortment of instruments, some they've invented, and a yodeling dog. Small Pavilion, noon.

Jali Jobateh plays Malian music on kora. Large Pavilion, 4 pm.

Ithaca's ambassadors, the Sim Redmond Band, on the Ballpark Stage at 8 pm.

have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

YouTube Film: Timmy Brown at GrassRoots, 2003

As posted by Timothy's good friend, my brother Patrick.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Friday, May 22, 2009

Music in Ithaca, May 22 - 24

Friday 5/22: noted folkie Jamie Notarthomas does a tribute show for Bob Dylan's birthday, a tradition at Castaways. 8 pm.

* * *

Saturday 5/23: There is likely to be music at the gathering for the late Timmy Brown (see previous post), which starts at 3 pm and will likely last late.

Andy Culpepper receives favorable notice in this week's Ithaca Times for his CD of flamenco guitar. He plays at the Smart Monkey Cafe on Elmira Road at 6:30.

Hee Haw Nightmare plays rollicking old time at Castaways. Lazy Devil opens the 9 pm

* * *

Sunday 5/24: Mary Lorson leads a new band, the Soubrettes, at Felicia's, 7 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Gathering For Timmy Brown, Sat. 23 May

Friends of Timmy Brown will gather in his memory on Saturday 23 May, starting at 3 pm, at the off-site campground of the GrassRoots Festival, on Agard Road, a half-mile east of Route 96.

Everyone is invited, and encouraged to bring food or drink to share.

There will be a bonfire at nightfall.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Timmy Brown, Rest In Peace

We have received a visit and then an e-mail from close friends of Timmy Brown to tell us that Timmy passed away early this morning.

Timmy had been battling the effects of a brain aneurysm, as noted here in Ithaca Blog over the past months.

Recently, reports came from Timmy's caretakers in North Carolina that Timmy had taken a turn for the worse and his prognosis was not good.

Timmy was an influential and beloved musician in Ithaca since the 1970's.

Like many others, we admired Timmy's musicianship and spirit, and were proud to call him friend.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, May 15, 2009

It Takes A Lot To Lead, It Takes Dick Cheney To Mislead

A corollary to the idea that it takes a lot to laugh, but not much to cry (yesterday's discussion) is that it's a lot easier to do bad than good.

Doing good is relatively static and cumulative. It's hard to do a whole lot of noticeable good at once. You can in sports, where with one stroke you can win a contest and make people love you, and they even keep records of it. But of course it's not a very important kind of good.

Doing bad is more immediate. It's explosive. It satisfies itches, from the simple and biological, to the complex and pathological.

Thus, in public life, it is easier to be Dick Cheney than Barack Obama.

Barack Obama is obviously not antithetical to money and power, but his values seem higher, reflecting a background battling poverty and prejudice. His successes have been in spite of challenges, not because of privilege. Against the odds, he went to Harvard Law School. He graduated at the top of his class. He went to work not on Wall Street, but as a community organizer.

That type of character makes it harder to get things done in politics than for a man like Cheney, where lust for money and power fuels a career of destruction, lying, and hate.

Obama is having a hard time finding his way now that he represents insiders at least as much as outsiders. This is why he doesn't support single-payer health care anymore, as he did as a community organizer. Now he has to represent the current health care industry as well as people, and the industry is rather more focused in its demands and its ability to extract them.

It seems the thing for us to do now is to recognize the realities of power, and keep calling out, so Obama might recall his way of old.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Senor Wences Versus Ennui, Via Dylan

Somehow, in the past few weeks, we've twice been asked about the meaning of the Bob Dylan song title, "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry."

Maybe this is not so unusual when one works in a music environment. Certainly it will be much less usual outside such an environ, so it will not exactly be a red-hot service to clarify this matter publicly, but we will do so anyway, as it happens to be raining, and a little slow in this music environment at the moment.

Here's what we wrote on our friend Mike Hanson's "Facebook" page about it. Mike plays banjo, and occasionally puzzles over Bob Dylan.

"It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry" means that life is essentially sad. How much in life reliably makes us laugh and feel joy? Not much. Senor Wences, and that's about it. But all it takes is something as mundane as a train (lonesome whistle; going away) to make us sad.

So, the more explicit song title would be, "It Takes A Lot To Make One Laugh, Or Feel Life's Joy, But It Takes No More Than the Mere Thought Of an Ordinary Transportation Vehicle, For One Example, To Make Us Feel, Quite Disproportionately, the Fundamental Tragedy of Life"; but that would be too long.

(P.S. Senor Wences was a big guy in my hometown, NYC. The block of 54th Street where he lived is named for him. He died in 1999 at age 103.)


Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog