Ithaca Blog

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Coneheads" Puzzler

One of our missions here at Ithaca Blog is to provide high-caliber intellectual fodder for our readers. Here goes.

We're doing a crossword puzzle. New York Times, the best, we don't bother with anything else.

3-across is six letters. The clue is, "The Coneheads, etc."

We are very fast at crosswords, like Bill Clinton, and we pen our answer in. Easy one.

Except our answer was wrong.

We found this out when we started working on the downs.

We're making this a contest for you. Tell us what our wrong answer was, or what the right answer was, and we enter you in a drawing for a $10 gift certificate to our business, Angry Mom Records/Small World Music, on the Commons.

Tell us what both answers were, and you're in a drawing for a $20 gift certificate.

Knowledge is good -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Monday, January 23, 2012

CD By Mary Lorson, Among the Greats

There's a roster of musicians comprising the great, not unified by style nor even proficiency, but with the simple quality that as soon as you hear them, you know it's them.

Sinatra, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, T. Monk, Muddy Waters:  you get the idea.

I remember once pulling my car off the road, about 20 years ago, to make sure I caught the name of this song on the radio with beautiful slide guitar that sounded so much like George Harrison. The song was "Handle With Care" and of course it was George Harrison.

You'll have your own list. May I suggest you listen to Mary Lorson ( Ithaca's own) and see if you don't add her to it, sooner rather than later.

Ms. Lorson has a new CD, with her new band the Soubrettes, "Burn Baby Burn," which is released for radio play this week, after first release in 2011, to glowing reviews. (The last Sunday New York Times of 2011 named it as a recording not to miss from the year.)

Ms. Lorson's singularity includes her singing, playing (guitar and piano, primarily), and songwriting, which are all of a piece, a trifecta that not many achieve (Sinatra doesn't play or write; Monk doesn't sing).

The songs are mostly piano-based, which generally rules out folkiness, but Ms. Lorson rules it in, composing also for banjo, tenor guitar, and standup bass. The rhythms are direct, with a modest backbeat, but are mostly propelled by Ms. Lorson's vocals, and the meters of her lyrics. This is the strongest part of the hey-that's-Mary Lorson factor. Her singing sounds like her lyrics, her lyrics sound like her songs, her songs sound like her singing.

Ms. Lorson is a just-right singer: never attempting to overpower the notes, but never afraid to meet and define them. Her voice is understated in its beauty. Her diction is perfect but never fussy.

The CD's last song, the only one not written by Ms. Lorson, is "I Don't Care," a vaudeville tune popularized by Eva Tanguay, a favorite of Ms. Lorson's. The final words are "If I'm never successful, it won't be stressful, 'cause I don't care." We don't know how ironically to take this, which is probably the idea, but we think Ms. Lorson will be as successful as she wishes with the strength of this release.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Music Versus Football Fans, Sunday 22 Jan.

There is excellent local music tonight, for those fortunates unensnared by the evening's football hype (New York Giants, championship game).

The Black Walnut Band plays western kind of music at Maxie's, from 6 to 10. It jumps, and is a great tonic for a winter night.

Rockwood Ferry is a new amalgam of acoustic musicians playing original songs: love songs, ballads, perfect ponders. Richie Stearns plays banjo and our pal Tenzin, who we think is the best male singer in town, writes the songs and plays guitar. At Felicia's, 7 - 9 p.m.

Both shows are free, and both venues feature fine drinks, with a limited menu of food at Felicia's (tavern), and a practically unlimited one at Maxie's (restuarant).

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog (and, from the sports desk: we predict NY 27, SF 10.)  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Uncle Jimmy, The Great Black Sheep

My Uncle Jimmy passed away this week. Cancer.

Or smoking, basically. Of the 10 siblings of my father's family, the 4 who are alive do not smoke, and the 6 who have died all did.

Jimmy cooperated well with his doctors, which surprised us, as he could be irascible, especially with authority figures. On the other hand, he could be charming, especially with children. He and my Aunt Sheila had three great boys. He loved children, and they loved him.

Including me. He taught me the expression "Peepings might be catchings." We were riding in a car and I pointed out a prison on Atlantic Avenue. He physically turned my head. "You should never look at a prison," he said. " 'Peepings might be catchings,' you ever hear that saying? It means if you want to look at it so bad, maybe you'll be inside next. Get me?" I suppose I did, but I was 3 at the time.

Jimmy would pay bridge tolls for people behind him, whom he didn't know, but would tell the collector they were his family and they didn't have cash. Then we would all turn and watch the confusion.

And as much as I regret his smoking, I will mention that he made me laugh pretty good once as the only person I ever saw smoking a cigarette in church.

He was a tough guy, a funny guy, and a good man, especially a good family man. I loved him and will always miss him.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Crucifix Moon

Various friends of ours posted Facebook pictures of this month's full moon, with ice crystals giving it a rainbow effect, or a halo, depending on vantage point.

I was looking for such pictures last month, when December's full moon had a crucifix emanating from it.

I was hoping for confirmation, but didn't get it.

Did I imagine it? I had never seen nor heard of such a thing.

It shocked me, at 5 in the morning. I woke, and from bed,  looked out my western window. I saw the moon in the middle of a golden cross. The beams of the cross stretched as far as you could see.

At first I thought I was dreaming. Then I thought it must be a reflection in the window.

Nope. I got up and opened the window. The cross was in the sky.

It was wacky. I am from Brooklyn and don't know about things in nature like ice crystals by the moon. In Brooklyn we assumed religious phenomena are behind inexplicable things, especially mammoth golden crosses in the sky.

That morning I figured it was a sign from God about something, like play the lottery. Now I know better: or maybe not. Since I am bringing this up today, I will play a number tonight. If I hit, I will know it was not ice crystals, after all. It was God telling me play the Win 4.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Monday, January 02, 2012

Six Saltines, But Not Seven

They say you should avoid controversial issues if you want happy family get-togethers at the holidays.

We emerged relatively (ahem) unscathed, but it was shaky ground for a while, with the proposition put forth, in conversation, that it is impossible to eat seven saltines in one minute without drinking anything.

Talk about a dialectic minefield. This is how it went, in part, alternatively rapid-fired and measured, among a table of 6 participants.

- I bet you can. They're so small.

- You just woof 'em down.

- Yeah. Saltines, come on, no problem. Little cracker.

- Yeah, but a little cracker that requires a lot of saliva. Seven? That's more saliva than you can supply in a minute.

- How do you know how much saliva I can supply in a minute?

- What if you store it up first for a while?

- That's cheating.

- It's still eating them.

- What if you naturally have a lot of saliva? I've known people who do.

- I bet it wouldn't matter. Saltines will absorb whatever saliva you got.

- Damn right they will.

- Then you got the matter of the bulk. There's your problem. The saltines absorb all that moisture and then they're not so small, anymore. You can pour on all the saliva you want. Saltines will absorb it with glee.

- Pal.

- Yeah.

So, there was disagreement. I guess the diplomatic aspect is that we left it at the speculative level. Although there were, reportedly, saltines in the house, we did not fetch them to launch science. Somebody would lose, that way. It went unspoken, but my supposition was that we would all try it at home, and the people who were correct about it would bring it up again sometime, and the losers would gain amnesia.

Because I bring it up, you can surmise my position. I came down on the side of impossible.

And, by scientific method? Six is do-able: just barely. Seven? Try it. I say never. Pal.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog