Ithaca Blog

Friday, January 30, 2009

Now At Small World Music

We haven't apprised IBlog readers of what music is featured at Small World Music lately (i.e., run an ad). Thus:

- "Notorious" soundtrack

- "Cadillac Records" soundtrack

- Bruce Springsteen, "Working On A Dream" (regular and deluxe versions)

- Bon Iver, "For Emma, Forever Ago"

- Vampire Weekend

- Odetta, "Best of the Vanguard Years", "Tin Angel", "Odetta and The Blues" (CD's); "At Carnegie Hall" (LP)

- Animal Collective, "Merriweather Post Pavilion"

- George Thorogood and the Destroyers, "30 Years of Rock" (regular and deluxe versions)

- Emmylou Harris, "All I Intended To Be"

- Rosalie Sorrels and Utah Phillips, "The Long Memory"

- Ani Difranco, "Red Letter Year"

- and more: Neko Case, Patti Griffin, Buddy and Julie Miller, Evil City String Band, Orbiting Art Ensemble, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis...

And on the $5-and-less table: The Strokes, Sex Pistols, Super Cat, Taj Mahal, Terri Evans, Natacha Atlas, John Pizzarelli, World Concert featuring Jai Uttal, Pavement, Iron Maiden, Faith Hill, Vince Gill, Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Beat Farmers, Christine Kane, Matthew Sweet... and many more.

Hope to see you soon. For our out-of-town readers, mail order is available (and for all readers, special orders our specialty - just call, write, e-mail, or stop in).

Steve Burke
for Small World Music and Ithaca Blog

We Giff You Bets on The Super Bowl (Game, and Halftime)

First, Aretha Franklin laid claim to "My Country, 'Tis Of Thee" at the inauguration. Now, Bruce Springsteen is taking on the Super Bowl, as this year's halftime performer.

Word is that Springsteen had been asked many times before, and always turned it down. Maybe he feels more comfortable at this ultra-American pageant now that there is a president to have hope for. (Cynics might wonder if it's because he has a new album to promote, but he's had those before.)

So, along with pondering the outcome of the game, there is the question of what Springsteen will play; the band's set list is a secret as closely-guarded as the teams' playbooks.

First, the game. Arizona has the capacity to surprise, and against most other teams we would take them here getting 6 1/2, but we think Pittsburgh is old-school enough to play not just to win, but to beat the spread for its fans, which a team is not supposed to do, and we think most wouldn't, but the Steelers would. So, the Steelers giving the points. Simple as that.

As for Springsteen, we think he will definitely avoid "Born In The USA," an anti-war song long misinterpreted as a jingoistic anthem. We'll guess that as his old-time number he will do "Glory Days," a bouncy enough song that also happens to be about a washed-up would-be athlete.

There's time for 4 songs, so we reckon 2 will be from the new album. "My Lucky Day" and "The Wrestler" would both be appropriate for the day. Then, as a message song, he might reprise "The Rising," which he performed at the Lincoln Memorial before Inauguration Day; or he might be magnanimous and cover a song by Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger, as he has put to record.

We wish you luck with your bets, or congratulate you on your sensible indifference to such folderol. Have fun, whatever your proclivity.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, January 29, 2009

G.O.P. (Grumpy Old People) in Lockstep Vote Against Obama

House Republicans voted unanimously against the economic stimulus bill which President Obama personally went to the Capitol to endorse.

All 177 House Republicans voted no. The bill passed, 244-to-188, with 11 Democrats against.

The lockstep voting by Republicans is in stark contrast to Obama's broad efforts for open-mindedness in Washington.

Eleven Democrats voted against their party. Every Republican voted the same.

The G.O.P. seems to be missing the message of Obama's election, which was to replace ideology with pragmatism in Washington.

In 1993, every House Republican voted against the deficit-reduction bill that became the hallmark of the Clinton years. The G.O.P. seems stuck in that same mindless adversarialism.

"That was then, this is then" is not going to be a winning philosophy in 2009.

For his part, Obama shows cheer. After the vote, he hosted a cocktail party at the White House. House Republicans were there. One wonders what the Grumpy Old People found not to like. Surely they did. Walter Matthau would have found something!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ithacan Audrey Stewart's Peace Mission in Gaza

Audrey Stewart of Ithaca recently went to Gaza with Kathy Kelly, a multiple nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, as a proponent of peace and an observer of the warfare there.

Kathy Kelly appeared today on "Democracy Now" with Amy Goodman.

The trip lasted six days. Kelly and Stewart stayed with residents just outside the area where people were told to evacuate. Kelly told Goodman, "Every eleven minutes, there would be a huge bomb thudding down on the neighborhood."

Kelly and Stewart traveled to a number of area hospitals. Doctors reported that the majority of victims were non-military, including many elderly and children, and that lack of medicines and materials led to much suffering and death in the 22-day assault.

Kelly said that the United States gives more than $2 billion in aid to Israel annually, and called on the Obama administration to "abandon these military projects" irrevocably and immediately.

"I think if we take a wait and see attitude, that could quickly morph into inertia," Kelly said.

The broadcast and transcript can be seen at the website for Democracy Now.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kudos For "Light In Winter" Festival

Congratulations to the Light In Winter festival of the arts and sciences as it closes, today, another successful run.

The intrepid off-season festival braves certain frost and potential blizzard to bring Ithaca a captivating amalgam of events - of music, dance, and magic; about astronomy, physics, math, cuisine - at venues large and small around town and on campus.

Also deserving praise are the festival's many generous supporters - large and small businesses, the colleges, and many individual donors, as well as many volunteers.

Not to mention the people of Ithaca, who will go out in single-digit temperatures on a Saturday night in January and fill the State Theater to see dance rather than sit home and watch TV.

Thanks again, Light In Winter. Now: only three weeks until GrassRoots Festival tickets go on sale.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Is It Historic Even If No One Cares?

That is the question brought to mind by George Bush, Jr.'s final press conference.

Technically, as his last, it was historic. The White House certainly treated it as such, telling news media it would have to limit the number of attendees from each organization, because of the event's obvious draw.

They needn't have worried. The crowd, like mass destruction weaponry, was nowhere to be seen.

Not even the usual crowd. In fact, at go-time, there were rows of empty seats, which White House interns were rushed in to fill.

The shame, of course, is that the media didn't have the guts to turn on Mr. Bush when he was dangerous, rather than inconsequential.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Celebrate. Then Participate.

One of the slogans for working and progressive Americans has for years been Joe Hill's admonition, "Don't mourn, organize."

What a pleasure it is today to change that in one's mind to "Celebrate, then organize."

Barack Obama becomes president today due to inspired personal leadership, but also, and ultimately, because of unmatched organizing efforts for this change.

Today is a culmination in our nation's history, but only an indication of the possibilities for its future.

It depends on us. One long campaign ends. A broader one begins.

Now, it's up to us to extend this triumph. Obama stops winning if we stop working.

As Obama takes his oath, let's each take one, to dedicate ourselves to one another as we expect President Obama to dedicate himself to us.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Light In Winter Festival, January 23 - 25

Light In Winter, Ithaca's annual Festival of Art and Science, might have gotten a little eclipsed by the inauguration in winter this week.

But there will be plenty of time to recuperate from the doings in DC before the festival next weekend.

There are dozens of events spread over three days: magic with Jeff McBride at the State Theater, "music of the spheres" with the Cornell Symphony Orchestra, dance, films, workshops ("Celebrating Caffeine" and "the Whys of Winetasting" at the Statler), and talks ("A Short History of Nearly Everything" and "Is God A Mathematician?" at Cornell). And much more.

For full details, visit

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, January 16, 2009

Martin Luther King Breakfast, Sat.17 Jan., at BJM

The annual community breakfast celebrating the Martin Luther King holiday is Saturday 17 January, 9 - 11:30, at the Beverly J. Martin school gym.

The event is sponsored by the Greather Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC). There will be speakers, workshops, and music.

The cost is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors and students, $10 for families of 4 or more.

More information is available from GIAC, 272-3622.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bob Petrillose

It is touching to see the many fond tributes to Bob Petrillose in the Ithaca Times of January 14.

The Times reported Bob's death last month of Parkinson's disease.

For decades, Bob was an Ithaca icon as proprietor of the Hot Truck on Stewart Avenue, a nighttime oasis for hungry Cornellians.

As an undergraduate, I knew Bob from my tenure as a dishwasher at his family's restaurant, Johnny's Big Red. Bob cooked for the restaurant as well as working the truck.

My most vivid memory of Bob is from Tuesday, 9 December 1980.

John Lennon had been killed the night before.

I was a long-haired kid and a very big fan of Lennon's since early childhood. I was having trouble keeping my composure the day after, and considered calling in sick for my shift at Johnny's, but didn't.

When I walked into the kitchen, I was alone. That was good. I put on an apron and started work. I tried to keep my head clear of the irrevocable event. But I couldn't, and all of a sudden bust out crying.

At that moment, Bob walked in. I turned away, but he saw me.

He didn't say anything as he started work himself. After a while, though, he said, without looking up from his work, "A great musician is taken from us."

That surprised me because I didn't think of Bob as a guy who would particularly know or care much about John Lennon. I figured it was for my benefit, and I appreciated it.

Then he said, with a shake of his head, "There's no rhyme or reason to that bullshit," which I thought was the best possible thing anyone could say. The rough sentiment, the gentle obscenity, made me feel better at a time when I would have bet a million dollars nothing could make me feel better. He looked at me, and I nodded, and neither of us said another word all night.

Bob was a great family man, a great community man, a hard-working man, and a no-bullshit guy. I know Bob's family and I know they won't mind that last accolade. It's true.

My deep condolences to the Petrillose family, for my old boss, a greatly admired man.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

National Safety Council Calls For Total Cellphone Ban While Driving

The National Safety Council, which previously lead the campaigns for mandatory seat belt use and against drinking and driving, has now called for a total ban on cellphone use while driving.

Not just hand-held phones, but hands-free phones too.

The Council cites statistical evidence that cellphone users are 4 times more likely than other drivers to have accidents: the same ratio for drunk drivers.

The rate is the same for both types of phone.

New clinical evidence identifies the particular cognitive distractions of cellphone use while driving.

Ordinarily, drivers continually look around them. Cellphone users, studies show, tend to look straight ahead.

Laboratory evidence also shows that the brain is less receptive to activity from the retina during phone conversations.

Studies do not show these results with conversation with a passenger, or with listening to the radio or an audio book. Apparently these activities, taking place wholly within the car, do not take away from the cognitive senses of operating a car.

Remember when you didn't have to stop the car to smoke? That used to be okay for everyone, too, as long as you cracked open the window a little.

It might be a good time to get into a highway franchise business. See you at the rest stop.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Congress: Heads In Sand on Gaza

In a non-binding vote last week, the U.S. Senate supported the Israeli attacks on Gaza. The House is expected to do the same this week.

It shows again that our leaders lack the will to stand against violence when it is perpetrated by allies, and profitable for U.S. arms makers, no matter the suffering, injustice, inefficacy, or the opposition of U.S. citizens.

Democratic politicians are particularly culpable. Polls show that registered Democrats oppose the Israeli attacks by a 24-point margin.

The Democrats are also particularly short-sighted. Hillary Clinton's go-along-to-get-along support for the invasion of Iraq cost her the presidency.

Consider the results of the "cake walk" Dick Cheney predicted in Iraq. Expect similar results in Gaza. The military attacks on citizens there will weaken moderates and strengthen militants. Prospects for negotiation lessen with each death.

Our responsibility as citizens here is to shorten the inevitable lag time between what we know is right, and politicians acting on it. Please write to your representatives today.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, January 09, 2009

Economic Relief and Health Care: Doing It Ourselves in Ithaca

Since 1991, Ithaca has had its own money, Ithaca Hours; and for the past decade, a community health organization, the Ithaca Health Alliance.

The Hours currency system started in response to a recession that left people living paycheck to paycheck, or not even so well. A group of Ithacans decided that if the problem was a shortage of money, why not just make more?

The result is a system that circulates over $100,000 worth of bona fide paper currency, creating jobs, stimulating business, and keeping wealth in the community.

With the economy much worse now than in 1991, there is a flood of interest in local currencies. Last month both Time and Newsweek ran prominent articles publicizing Hours and other local currencies.

The Hours website,, steadily receives about 1,000 visits a month - until lately. Last month the site received over 2,600 visits.

The Hours Board of Directors is busy answering all the inquiries from media and economists, and from other communities wanting to start their own systems.

The Board is looking to expand to meet the demands. The Board meets once a month, for no more than 90 minutes - so the work, while plentiful, is well-managed and not arduous. If you are interested in getting involved, at this particularly exciting time, please contact the Board president - yours truly - at, or at Small World Music, during business hours (256-0428); or through the Hours website.

Like Ithaca Hours, the Ithaca Health Alliance is a community organization tackling a major social issue: the lack of health care for many citizens.

The Health Alliance is holding an informational meeting on Friday, 30 January, at the Unitarian Church, from 5:30 - 8:00 p.m. The Alliance will be discussing its free Health Clinic; its Health Fund, which provides financial assistance for health care; and other projects.

Childcare will be provided at the meeting, and there will be door prizes. For more information about the IHA, see their website,

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

William Zantzinger Dies; Target of Early Dylan Song

William Zantzinger, the subject of the 1964 Bob Dylan song, "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," has died at age 69.

At age 24 Zantzinger, of a wealthy Maryland family, struck and killed Hattie Carroll, a 51-year old Baltimore hotel worker and mother of 10, for not serving him quickly enough at a party.

Zantzinger received a jail sentence of six months.

"The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" became an important song in the civil rights movement with its stark depiction of injustice for people of color in America, in life and death.

Four decades after its release, the song remains perhaps Mr. Dylan's most lyrically accomplished.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Defending Winter

Maybe it is being triple-Libra, thus a lover of balance, that makes us fond of winter, and sorry for people who aren't.

It's easy to love summer. The days of soda and pretzels and beer. People walk around without much clothes on. There's swimming, sports, travel, and long, warm days.

We like all that, but also want to make the case for short, cold days.

You know: those warm days are often hot days. There's not much you can do for relief then. When it's cold, you can bundle up. Around the house, you can wear slippers and feel smart.

Long days can be too long, in our experience. Except for kids playing outside, as kids don't do anymore anyway, who really needs it to be light out until 9:30 p.m.? Especially since crazed birds are going to wake you at 5 a.m.?

In winter, when it's dark at 5 p.m., you have every right to go to bed at a baby time without feeling like a slouch.

If you can't bring yourself to go to bed at 9 p.m. (4 hours after nightfall, after all, thus like well past midnight in summer), winter nights are perfect for catching up on your reading. Afghan, tea, orange, book.

Or catch up on your movie watching. We recently tuned into one of those cable channels that show classic movies, and saw "High Noon" for the first time, and found that, despite being a standard Western, it is also politically subversive; also, artistically innovative. It takes place in real time, just like "24" on TV, but 50 years before, and without all the contrived plots, reactionary politics, and whispering.

Winter is time to rest. Don't fight it. Luxuriate in it. Buy an ice cream cone and take a slow, long walk. Don't worry about the ice cream melting.

Wear a hat -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

New American Leadership: Ithaca Visit by Mayor Cory Booker of Newark

Mayor Cory Booker of Newark will visit Ithaca to speak at the State Theater at 7 p.m., Wednesday, 28 January. Ithaca's own Samite will contribute musical performance to the evening.

Mayor Booker is African-American and the son of civil rights activists. Like Barack Obama, Mayor Booker was a community activist before entering politics.

In 1999, Mr. Booker undertook a 10-day hunger strike in a Newark housing project known as a drug haven. The effort won increased police patrolling of the area. The next year, he lived in a motor home in various depressed and crime-ridden sections of Newark, publicizing and bringing remedy to neglected problems.

Mr. Booker's political message, like Mr. Obama's, is one of individual and community authority: a call for hope, and to action.

Mr. Booker's appearance in Ithaca is in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Ithaca Youth Bureau. His presentation at the State is entitled "Bridging Racial and Cultural Divides, and the Role that Youth Plays."

Tickets are $10 and are available at

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, January 02, 2009

Ithaca Women Arrested at Israeli Embassy

Clare and Ellen Grady of Ithaca were arrested this week at the Israeli embassy in Washington for a non-violent protest of Israeli military attacks on the Palestinian population of Gaza.

Hundreds of citizens, including many children, have been killed this week in bombings by the Israeli Air Force.

Among the hundreds of deaths, the Israeli government reports the death of one alleged militant.

Rather than arrest the alleged militant, Nazir Rayyan, the Air Force bombed his apartment building, killing him, his family, and neighbors.

Israeli officials have announced preparations against anticipated retaliation for the series of attacks, which continue.

Tzipi Livni, Israsel's minister of foreign policy, says, "There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce."

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog