Ithaca 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