____________________________________________________________________________________________ RAVES to locals making very flattering national and world-wide news. RAVES first to the growing Charleroi, PA toy manufacturer, Channel Crafts, for coverage given this evening on ABC World News Tonight's "Made In America" segment. The story featured an overview of how the company grew from its start in the 1980s to a successful business employing about 80 people. Manufactured are wooden toys and other items that can be seen by clicking on the corporate name above. Its various wooden train whistles sound quite authentic and well worth buying. RAVES, also, to Joe Grushecky, who appeared in a feature on NBC's Nightly News last week about the Light Of Day fundraiser concerts held in several cities in America and Canada. The LOD benefit shows started originally to raise awareness of and raise funds for Parkinson's Disease, when New Jersey music promoter Bob Benjamin became affected by it. Benjamin has sometimes managed the burgh rocker over the years. Pittsburgh will host its first LOD show this month. Click on grushecky.com for more details.
Neither a RANT nor a RAVE but a spin and point in direction over to votezimmerlink.com to check out the Republican Fayette County Commissioner's website, particularly her blogs, for some interesting political reading. Even if you're not a supporter, even if you swear on your Democratic grandmother's Bible, that you'll never vote for her, the minority commish's own words definitely are worth checking out and returning to for updates. RAVES to her for NOT accepting political contributions. No kidding! That speaks volumes. Got to respect that spirit of determination to be an independently thinking leader who owes nobody any favors. RAVES, too, to the anonymous blogger, known as fayettepatchhunky for the walk down serious but semi-comical political memory lane. You have to read it first-hand to believe. Mere words here, actually, can do neither site justice. Check them out. And to be fair, please, by all means, check out vicites.org for a cute little picture of him as a pup with shades of Forrest Gump, the late actors John Wayne and late actor/comedian Bob Hope. No kidding!
RAVES to the children of the Connellsville School District for putting on such wonderful school year-end band and choral performances for parents and visitors. Kuddo reviews were in from senior high band parents and friends, followed by special vocal moments from the grade school children in a send-off to their retiring choral teacher. In particular, "Children Of The World," featured several fun foreign language songs performed with spunk and excellence by the fifth and sixth graders from Connellsville Township Elementary School and Dunbar Township Elementary School. Reportedly, the two school choruses did not even practice together and were spectacular.
RANTS that more government waste is exposed again. Reportedly, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paid out $20M here, $30M there to ineligible people, including foreign students. RAVES that there's some recovery effort, at least on paper, to recoup the loss from flooding and natural disasters from 2008, but as most of those recipients do not have assets or resources to repay the money, don't hold our breath waiting for the checks to be back in the mail. RANTS that even after Katrina and all the millions of fraud exposed there, FEMA still currently has no real process to manage both proactive fraud prevention and denial along with reactive fraud processes. Why not, folks? Recent efforts have focused primarily on improving the ability of the FEMA Individual and Households Program registration process to weed out fraudulent claims as they are presented by disaster aid applicants. How many more lost tens of millions will it take for a proactive system to be implemented?
RAVES to Norman Nardini for grabbing the stunning Vinny Q, Connellsville native/former Hard Rain, Zippers/Torn&Frayed guitarist, and Larry Siefers, former NN and the Tigers band member/current Pure Gold/PBS keys and sax man, to compliment NN guitarist Ed Brown and drummer Brice, and heading here with them all to the sticks last week to entertain us into the wee hours. RAVES to those who've been in touch to agree that Norman's latest release, "Bone A Fide," is worthy of such an early year placement of this site's "Record Of The Year." No, it wasn't Mardi Gras last week, but Larry's vocals on the ever so perky "Iko Iko" sure felt like the hoopla party in New Orleans. There's not a bad song in a live show or on this disc and never a dull moment in any of his live shows.
Not a Rant nor a Rave, but an acknowledgement of someone from the state House of Representatives at IP 126.96.36.199 dropping by to read in recent weeks during the day, evenings and other times. Your repeated returns to read Rants and the county Commentary pages are noted. Oh, should you happen to run into Tim Mahoney, please ask him to read and answer his emails -- at least 3 sent -- asking how he obtained a private email addy for this page's editor. And ask if he can do anything about improperly trained state workers processing welfare applications to ineligible recipients or other public funded wastes... when we're in such dire financial straits that we have to consolidate school districts and eliminate school extras that help keep kids focused in a positive direction. Oh, and possibly he can look into public funds being misused for recreational internet and state-issued computers used evenings for recreational reading from state house employees, who surely have to earn adequate enough income to plop down their own money for a puter and internet, no?
RAVES to the voters of Fayette County for getting to the polls on another rainy election day and bringing in the most exciting election night surprise results since an incumbent commissioner lost a primary and won re-election by write-in vote some 12 years ago. RAVES of congratulations to yesterday's winners for plugging at it to change things in a positive direction. RANTS that another lawsuit filed last week against losing Commissioner Vince Vicites and yesterday's second highest Democratic vote getter, Vince Zapotosky, by a former election bureau head will hang over the county's head and likely cost us more red faces and embarrassment long after the fall election. The former election bureau head alleges that she was discriminated against after switching from the Democratic to Republican party and canned. That she is represented by ace attorney Sam Cordes makes it a story to watch.
RAVES to police in Chiapas, Mexico, near near Tuxtla Gutierrez, for using an x-ray machine to detect 513 migrants in two trucks heading for the U.S. border. The Chiapas State Attorney General released photographs of one of the empty trucks to the media. Ye who complain that Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers are playing a teeny, tiny Monessen private club this evening have not a clue what being ''packed in like sardines'' really means till you imagine half of those 513 in the one pictured empty truck. RAVES, though, to Mexico for blocking the failed attempt... and RAVES that the teeny, tiny little club actually was much bigger than rumor-mill claimed it to be and that Joe G. and the Houserockers rocked out the night with such a powerful kick like a bunch of youngsters. Look for a return visit there in future months.
RAVES to the incredibly shrinking, 60-year-old Kirstie Ally, who came in a strong second place in ABC's "Dancing With The Stars." She certainly started out as the season's underdog contestant, competing against some many times more physically fit and even one-third her age. Though she danced her heart out, she could not compete in popularity up against the voting power of the huge, huge Steeler Nation's favorite son, Hines Ward.
RANTS to the Connellsville School District for inking out a part-time aide from an autistic child's IEP as he heads from elementary school to junior high. Why? Certainly, nobody has discovered a cure for Autism overnight. RANTS that the district did not consult with his psychiatrist, therapist, his parents or even the student himself prior to removing the support. In place of the aide, the district will save money by enlisting the help of other students to guide the student throughout the building. If it weren't so sad and dear to this observer's heart, the matter would be nothing short of laughable. And RANTS, too, that one year later, if a plan B is needed, it will mean resorting back to the district's Plan A from last year of sending the child 25 miles each way to a restrictive and segregated, well run firetrap, hole-in-the-wall school in Westmoreland County specifically for kids with Autism. RANTS that the district discriminates against autistic kids who are not mentally retarded and refuses to develop its own programs for these kids. RANTS that the district will spend big bucks on pricey alternatives in Westmoreland County, but not money on an aide to help keep the child in regular ed in his hometown. More on this later.
RAVES with a big lump in the throat to the memory of Clarence Clemons, Bruce Sprinsteen's sax man and partner in the E Street Band for over 40 years. Clarence passed away in Florida one week after having a stroke and a few days after things seemed to be improving. For those who've also witnesed many, many times this phenominal band live, and for those who never did and probably don't understand why the rest of us followed them so closely from town to town or record to record, please take a few minutes to witness the magic here with a few clicks. The first two links are to a memorable Clarence-Bruce performance that combined theatrics, great music and humor. Part 1, Part 2, with the dancing bears skit during "Growing Up" ... and, finally, his masterpiece sax solo among many masterpieces, 'Jungleland.' Thank you so very much, Clarence, for all the music and all the magic all these years.
RAVES to the life and memory of Ron "Byrd" Foster, ace of ace drummers ever to come from the Pittsburgh area or anywhere, for that matter. Byrd passed away in Florida, at the age of 61 from cancer. When he played with guitar legend Roy Buchanan, The Igniters, The Silencers, The Iron City Houserockers, Red, Hot&Blue, the James King Band, Billy C. Wertz, and worked in Florida as a studio musician, Byrd was a truly great drummer, a rare, authentic musician, with his own distinct sound. You weren't in the building yet, but you knew that was him playing. You didn't hear the name of the artist on the radio, but you just knew it was him. In addition to being a stand-out musician, Byrd was also a genuinely nice man who passed away much too soon. RAVES to the Florida musicians who hosted a living tribute to him a week or so before he passed, and to the burgh musicians who will gather at Moondogs late in July to honor him. Click on these two links to see the only two known pieces of quality video of him -- first with Roy Buchanan, and then the famous MTV Silencers video that played in heavy rotation for some time starting on the first day that channel was launched.
RANTS to the goofy people, who ruin what could be a good thing, by being royal PIAs on the public forums of faywest.com and its community bulletin boards. From the posting one a week ago from "investigator," a supposed private investigator, stating an extra-marital affair with full names of a married county commissioner and a married news reporter... to the bully stealing other nics to cause problems, the site could become a total sheer waste of cyberspace.
RANTS to what seems to be an epidemic of children and toddlers drowning or nearly drowning in pubic and private swimming pools in the Pittsburgh area this summer. RAVES to the latest incident, which ended on a positive note, when a 16-year-old lifeguard quickly responded, performed CPR and saved the child's life.
RAVES to Norman Nardini, Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers and Donnie Iris, for taking the burgh show on the road to musically-deprived residents of Niles, Ohio, on 7-16-11. And RAVES to Joe and the band for packing the entire place last night at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. Kuddos!