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Family Struggles in Tiny Town's Little Beirut, Others find Peace

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I'M OK ITS NOT OKAY:  Ithacan-Americans are as torn about the invasion of Hancock Street as is the road itself. (LEFT) All's quiet on this Northside frontyard -- these folks like the absence of traffic. (RIGHT) After passing a security checkpoint and an unoccupied City Tank, a Northside family struggles homeward. 

TINY TOWN, USA – The City dropped thousands of leaflets on this Northside neighborhood as far back as January 2009. Unfortunately most of these documents were mistaken for a local newspaper and thrown into recycling bins.

Then came the trucks and beefy guys in Carhartts carrying orange cones and driving big smelly trucks. Residents braced themselves for the hell that was to come.

At first the three-block stretch of Hancock Street was quiet. Then all hell broke loose. Then it was quiet again. Then all hell broke loose. Then it was quiet again ... Then ... 

"It started back in January," said a young girl who was carrying a child. "It seems like they've been doing this forever."

The group of four Northside residents said the whole thing definitely ranked as one of the biggest construction project butt pains of the summer. They continued their hard sojourn westward, hoping to reach home before sundown along a dusty, sunken and battered earth that once had been a street. A street that was, granted, equally treacherous for pedestrians when it existed.

While some say the Hancock construction project site is Tiny Town's Beirut, a pair of residents who live on the street said the work-in-progress is not without its good side.

"We don't miss all the traffic," said a gentleman who was armed with a caulking gun. "It's been a lot quieter without all the cars and buses."

His partner concurred. 

There you have it: both sides of a grim tale of hardship for some, boom times for others. All right here in Tiny Town.

–– C. Penbroke Handy


Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 July 2009 10:28

Vandal's Outcry Against Postmodernism Comes 85 Years Too Late

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stop sign


TINY TOWN, USA –– A traffic sign was defaced recently by a local post-positivist-neo-negativist-Anarchist decrying postmodernism.

The octogonal sign is located at the corner of Columbia and Hudson Streets -- symbolic names, no? It is surely meant to stir the rancor of guests at the nearby bed and breakfast as well as certain student Trogolodytes infesting South Hill.

The call to stop postmodernism is a reasonable one. Looking back it is hard to stand by such decadent garbage as the works of Gropius, buzzing minimalists like Philip Glass or troublemakers like Heidegger and Derrida -- the latter stirring up an excuse for his elitism by saying there were no more grand narratives and ushering in the advent of the cultural wars under the obfuscating guise of deconstructionism.

Just so a bunch of snoots can get laid at summer theory camps for same!

"Fuck you, Derrida!" the defaced sign is saying. Which is clever, given Derrida's fascination with signs and phenomena in Western culture. 

But the Vandal's protest comes a tad too late in history, sadly. Maybe 85 years too late.

The sign reminds us: Franz Kafka's is dead. Burroughs, dead. Waiting for Godot, so very dead. Critical theory -- a rotten corpus. Karl Marx spinning in his grave like an old 78 cylinder! 

Are Michael Jordan and Nike next? We say "Just Do it!" 

The cunning linguist Noam Chomsky accurately posed the basic question to postmodernist intellectuals in particular -- why can't they respond as "people in physics, math, biology, linguistics, and other fields are happy to do when someone asks them, seriously, what are the principles of their theories, on what evidence are they based, what do they explain that wasn't already obvious, etc? These are fair requests for anyone to make. If they can't be met, then I'd suggest recourse to Hume's advice in similar circumstances: to the flames."

Hume was a legendary bartender at Pete's Cayuga back in the day. Rather than cut people off he would bellow: "To the flames with you!" and set them on fire.

The Choms continues: 

 "There are lots of things I don't understand — say, the latest debates over whether neutrinos have mass or the way that Fermat's last theorem was (apparently) proven recently. But from 50 years in this game, I have learned two things: (1) I can ask friends who work in these areas to explain it to me at a level that I can understand, and they can do so, without particular difficulty; (2) if I'm interested, I can proceed to learn more so that I will come to understand it. Now Derrida, Lacan, Lyotard, Kristeva, etc. — even Foucault, whom I knew and liked, and who was somewhat different from the rest --- write things that I also don't understand, but (1) and (2) don't hold: no one who says they do understand can explain it to me and I haven't a clue as to how to proceed to overcome my failures. That leaves one of two possibilities: (a) some new advance in intellectual life has been made, perhaps some sudden genetic mutation, which has created a form of "theory" that is beyond quantum theory, topology, etc., in depth and profundity; or (b) ... I won't spell it out."

We think that puts a capper on the whole mess. He means it's a lotta of horse woggle and an academic conspiracy to keep jobs and grab ass. 

Next we hope our Vandals will take on Post-Postmodernism, post-Anarchism, Post-Narcissism and Post-Positivist-Walmart-Realist Theory -- although the artists will be at pains to squeeze it all into one stencil. May we suggest the blank cinder block wall facing City Court and the Ithaca Police Department?

Now that would be a statement! 

Or should we leave it blank? Is THAT more a statement? Would that be ushering in the era of post-post-postmodern-rice-cake-tinytownism? 

Maybe so. Maybe so. 

–– C. Penbroke Handy

BELOW: Not exactly what we had in mind. 






Last Updated on Monday, 27 July 2009 17:27


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CLOUDSTRANGE DOINGS: LEFT: An image taken from a video shot by an Ithacan-American who just happened to be on top of the Seneca St. Parking Garage at the right time Friday night. In the background a mysterious cloud is illuminated by ambient light from the Southwest Miracle Mile here in Tiny Town. No deaths were reported.  

TINY TOWN, USA – Let local resident Peter Schriebner explain:

"I was like, up on top of the parking garage, toking on a cozy bone and just chillin," says Schriebner. "Then I see this totally awesome cloud like mobbing the city so I whip out my digital and start shooting video, right? Thought it was gonna swallow the whole town."

The cloud, at first thought to be toxic gas from a derailed Norfolk and Southern tanker car, turned out to be the harmless side effects of cool night air meeting the earth's surface warmed by a day where temps reached into the 80s.

The vaporous result however mundane was impressive, lasting for about an hour before dissipating as mysteriously as it had formed.

"Just don't see shit like that all the time, man," said Schreibner. "Very cool."

–– C. Penbroke Handy 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 July 2009 09:23

Summer Graffiti Camps Open at Undisclosed Locations

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graffiti 1 graffiti 2

CAMPS GRAFFITO I AND II:  Authorities applaud retired Deputy Arvin Dalkey's work with vandals and his efforts this summer -- Camps Graffito I and II, pictured above. 

TINY TOWN, USA – They come in their grungy clothes, wearing uncommon tool belts with holsters holding cans of Krylon spray paint. Their gang tags are colorful. They have no fear of dogs and no shame.

These are the kids of Camp Graffito. 

Retired Tiny Town Deputy Arvin Dalkey opened the camps this summer at two undisclosed locations in the Ithaca Falls area near the Quaker headquarters, and, below the Six Mile Creek footbridge.  The purpose of the camps is twofold: To give the kids a chance to express themselves in the outdoors; and to do so in areas where most of the public doesn't have to be offended by their works-in-progress.

"There's a third benefit to the camps," says Dalkey. "The kids -- and I says kids but they come in all ages just like skateboarders and bicycle thieves -- get a chance to spend some time on their work. I've found that given the chance, some of them make up stuff that's pretty neat to look at."

Names of the artists have been withheld as some are on probation and others are in the Tiny Town needle exchange program and don't want any extra exposure. One or two actually have no outstanding charges but are hoping to obtain some, soon. 

"We get a bad rap from The Man," said one graffitist of indeterminate age with an Anarchy symbol tattooed on his forehead. "You gotta fight the power, y'know? Fight. The. Power. Y'know?" With that he pivoted and with a Krylon can in each hand unleashed a toxic spray of paint that struck the surface of a cement bridge abutment and quickly formed an abstract text that read ... well, it says ... ummm ... 

Our reporter had to ask.

"It's my tag, dood, I ain't tellin you what is says."

He walked away. No sooner was he gone then another young fidgety graffitist came up. Girl? Boy? We could not tell. 

"I'll fix that fucker," -- it WAS a girl. With a flourish she quickly obscured the former graffitist's work with a lovely pattern of neon yellow, blue and black. 

Dalkey came up: "See, a little friendly competition is good for these kids."

The graffiti camps will continue until mid-August, Dalkey said. In the mean time, he keeps a lookout for the shithead who is plastering his awful work all over town in the rough form of a mocking gryphon's face.

"I suspect that criminal knows how to make a better drawing but is fucking up just because he can get away with it," said Dalkey. "But he ain't gonna be getting away with it much longer. Not with me on his trail."

–– C. Penbroke Handy





Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 July 2009 13:36

Tiny Town Fire Dept. Deploys Harpist to Quell Crowd

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TINY TOWN, USA –– The request struck the city as odd at the time: The Tiny Town Fire Dept. of Ithaca wanted some extra money to train a volunteer harpist to go out on calls when large crowds were anticipated.

After two years of deliberation, city council moved to have $100 set aside for a short term training program.

On Friday night, the wisdom of that move proved itself to Ithacan-Americans. 

During a routine false alarm at a downtown bar, The Mahogany Grill, the volunteer harpist was dispatched to the scene along with fire crews.

A fairly large Friday night crowd of drinkers had gathered outside the building once it was cleared. The harpist went to work along with efficient crews outfitted in full fire-fighting, tot-saving regalia. 

No one was injured and no fire was detected.

It was the first time the harpist was deployed for such a call. She received a monetary stipend in the form of a tip from the department and a round of free drinks from the bar owner. Passersby also contributed to the kitty.

"We think the whole exercise was a big success," said Fire Chief G. Wilbur. "The harpist provided a tranquil counterpoint to the excitement and also served as a distraction.

The crowd reacted and behaved in a docile, herd-like manner, just as the manual said it would. That's what we like to see."

Wilbur's observations jibe with this reporter's experience of the event. The large trucks, their huge LaFrance engines rumbling in high idle, provided the proper level of sonic discord so that the throng, suddenly an audience, strained to hear the harpist's dreamy accompaniment.

The only hitch in the exercise was the need for a re-tuning of the harp during the call. The tuning twice interrupted the harpist's recital. If the fire crew was thrown off by the  disruptions, they showed no sign of it. However, several people lost the thread of the music and wandered off.

"That's okay," said the chief. "This isn't Carnegie Hall. The codes in the manual allows for crowd attrition. In fact, that's the result we're looking for." 

A call to the Mayor for comment was futile. The answering machine indicated she was on vacation. 

–– C. Penbroke Handy. 


Last Updated on Saturday, 25 July 2009 10:28

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