Ithaca Blog

Monday, October 29, 2012

Banjo Madness at the State Theater This Friday

There's an old joke among musicians: What is perfect pitch? ... When you throw a banjo into a dumpster and hit an accordion. Or, vice versa. It doesn't matter, as usually the joke is told by people who love both instruments, like us. We wonder if it will be told onstage at the Banjo Summit at the State Theater this Friday. The show features Bela Fleck and five other top five-stringers, including Ithaca's own Richie Stearns. It will probably sell out, so you should act soon to get in on it. Information on the tour is at, and about the Ithaca show at

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ithaca's First Oktoberfest

This is a lovely time of year around here, although Irish people are not too crazy about all the jolly Halloween activities. Irish people are afraid of Halloween, or at least respect it, as the time of year when the realms of the living and dead are closest, as in physically closest. Both our grandparents who were born in Ireland died on Halloween, two decades apart. That's pretty serious, so we stay at home this time of year. No parties. But we're happy there is a community fall celebration this year that has nothing to do with Halloween. It is the first Oktoberfest in Ithaca. It runs from noon til dusk on this Saturday on the Commons. There are tickets available for purchase for food and drink tastings, and music from three bands, although no oom-pah bands, unfortunately. Details are available at

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We Don't Know What's Going On (With Blogger)

We don't know why Blogger won't make paragraphs anymore. We remember a different time it ceased doing so, a while back. It didn't take long til it was explained as a system error and corrected. Now it's been days into weeks. But did you ever try getting an answer from Google (owner of Blogger) about anything? You will pass away first. We don't want to pass away, so we will simply keep posting and hoping.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Commercial Interruption: Low-Priced CDs at Angry Mom Records

Every once in a while we like to remind our readers here on Ithaca Blog that the unofficial headquarters of the blog is Angry Mom Records, where we are a partner, and whence we type this today, and other things other days. We enjoy your support, and feel we have something to offer for it, certainly, or else why would you be here? This week we have something special to offer, as we have made a big purchase of quality used CDs, which we are selling at low, low prices. Lots of jazz, classical, world, Americana, and of course good old rock and roll. Come see sometime soon. We're in the basement of Autumn Leaves Books and open every day at noon. Steve Burke for Angry Mom Records/Small World Music and Ithaca NY Blog

Friday, October 12, 2012

New(ish) Spots For Good Bands This Weekend

Tonight and tomorrow night, a couple of premier Ithaca bands are playing at a couple of new (one brand new, one relatively new) restaurants featuring music. Friday night, at 9 p.m., the Sim Redmond Band plays at the Gates, which is just opening at 422 Eddy Street. For a long time it was the Chariot. Sim told us he's excited to be playing at a debut of sorts. We mentioned that we recall the space as kind of small. He said, "Maybe, but our popularity has been waning, so maybe it will be all right." Sim is funny. Saturday night, rising star Tenzin Chopak will be playing in a duo, with Ethan Jodziewicz, at Agava, the newish, toney southwestern place at 381 Pine Tree Road, the site of the old Coyote Loco. Agava has featured music at happy hours and brunches, but late-night music is a recent development. Show time is 10:30. Steve Burke for Ithaca NY Blog

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Where Everybody's Being Tonight (Either A or B)

The talk here at Angry Mom Records today about what people are doing tonight is pretty uniform - or duoform? It's one of two things. To hear Judy and Dick Hyman up at Barnes Hall, or the Chicken Fried String Band at Maxie's, on fried chicken special night. The`daughter-father show at Barnes is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, at least up until now. Hopefully they will do it lots more times, but they haven't until now, is what we mean. We sold out of tickets here at Angry Mom, and we imagine it will be a complete sell-out, but we hope and trust they held back some ducats to sell at the door. That's what you're supposed to do. The Chicken Fried gig is perhaps less notable - it is certainly more usual - but it will be fine, fun music, and has the attribute of being free, and of being at Maxie's, where you can get fine food and drink to ingest and imbibe, and you don't have to be quiet. We're here until 8, showtime for Judy and Dick, so we never planned to be there. Besides, there is Plan B. Steve Burke for Ithaca NY Blog

Tune In To Ithaca Community Radio

A community radio station in Ithaca turned from dream to reality this year with the arrival of Ithaca Community Radio, broadcasting way on the left of your FM dial, literally and politically.

The local station is non-profit and volunteer-run. It broadcasts Democracy Now and other progressive programming. Recently it has begun creating its own programming, featuring local efforts for peace and justice.

The dream was only realized by a lot of hard work and support. It will only succeed with lots more. This is where you and I come in.

This weekend is a good time to get involved with Ithaca Community Radio. There is a benefit concert for ICR, as well as the Finger Lakes Cleanwater Initiative, on Saturday 13 October. The concert features Rockwood Ferry, the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers, and others.

The event is at 7:30 at the Unitarian Church at the corner of E. Buffalo and S. Aurora Streets. Suggested donation is $10.

You can find out more about ICR at their web site,, and their Facebook page.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Monday, October 01, 2012

Book Review: "Walking Seasonal Roads" by Mary A. Hood

There's no reason why the recreational can't be educational, reckons Mary A. Hood, and that combination is what she provides in her book, "Walking Seasonal Roads."

The book is regional to Ithaca in scope and creation. The roads Ms. Hood walks are in Steuben County, less than 100 miles west of Ithaca. The book is published by Syracuse University Press.

Ms. Hood is a scientist and conservationist. At book's start, she notes that roads are apart from nature, often inimical to it, and an odd subject for a nature writer. But she lauds the seasonal road as "the good road."

"Seasonal roads, " Hood writes, "are defined as one-lane dirt roads not maintained during the winter." Dirt or gravel, not synthetic, they reflect rather than threaten their surroundings. They connect neighbors, and farmers to fields. They provide "contact with plants, wildlife, weather events, and people... They let us meet nature."

Like Thoreau, Hood sees a universe in a parcel. Each chapter in "Walking Seasonal Roads" is named for a particular road: Culver Creek Road, Hungry Hollow Road, Stone Schoolhouse Road, etc. Her readers might never walk them, but Hood is determined we will know them, and the wisdom and knowledge in their details.

At Van Amburg Road, Hood introduces Martha and William Treichler, who have lived and farmed there for 40 years, and have 4 grown children working with them, living in homes clustered round them. Hood also introduces the local bobolinks, declining in number but still returning each spring from winters in Brazil and beyond. She wonders, "Why...would a family live on this cold windy ridge road for forty years; why... would the bobolinks return year after year, traveling thousands and thousands of miles...?" The answer, she speculates, "has to do with the love of place" - a simple concept, but a powerful force.

Epiphanies abound for the author in her focused travels. She notes the roots and mosses - "the less conspicuous species" - and realizes that, in a 50-year career as an academic scientist,  "it was not until I walked these woods that I really understood biology." Not only that: "I began to understand Buddhists. I began to see that the earth and all its life forms make an essential reality that I accept as my reality."

Of course, on some level moss is moss, and Hood is not averse to staying earth-bound. She discusses stone fences, how they are so prevalent in the northeast because of its underlying geology, and the cycles of freezing and thawing that "heave up" rocks for such use. We learn (in passing) that a young turkey is called a "jake," and that shrews can die of fright.

Along the way, Hood bumps into politics: "In the spring of 2008, the first wind turbines rose along Lent, Pine, and Dutch hills." She notes, simply, "They are huge"  - 1,000 feet high, with blades 300 feet long. The corporate owners "are not local," and "are sometimes unethical and destructive to local communities."

Ms. Hood also writes about hydrofracking. Her misgivings are deep, though gently expressed:

"In January 2010, Chesapeake Energy proposed to use a nearly-abandoned gas well for disposal of their toxic brine wastewater from natural gas drilling. At a town meeting, residents, along with landowners and homeowners whose properties ring Keuka Lake, urged the board to tell Chesapeake to go away."

Ms. Hood's is the voice of a good soul. It is also one of a scholar. This does not intrude upon her style so much, although sometimes it bogs down the narrative, as Ms. Hood just can't help but instruct. The Reference section is fine (separate, at the end of the book, it is 20 pages long), but the footnote-style citations within the text itself can be distracting. (In one page of text, on beavers, there are ten references to newspaper and magazine articles, government and historical documents, and books.)

Similarly, Ms. Hood can't help but quote and excerpt other writers. This is generous, but dangerous, unless the quoter herself is very good, or very secure, and unconcerned about comparisons. For most writers, though, inserting passages by the likes of Adrienne Rich, Robert Frost, and Dylan Thomas is not going to make one's own work look stronger.

This all raises the question of what kind of book, exactly, Ms. Hood has written. Is it a reference book? A travelogue? A meditation?

The answer is, all three. It is a good, worthy book that will be appreciated by all nature-lovers, especially here near Mary Hood's home and paths.