PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, DEC. 19, 2012) — Reason to celebrate: Today, PROF. PLANET finishes another semester. It’s always a cause for celebration, to be freed from the rigors of academia by the blessed end of the semester. We love every second of it.

We taught our first college class in September 1977, as adjunct professor of English at LeMoyne College, Syracuse, N.Y., a young scholar little older than his students. Lo, these countless class and many thousands of students later, and we can still say that we feel the fire in the belly for the wonderful privilege of sharing what we have learned with others.

The end of the semester has a wistful quality for the goodbyes we must make. Goodbyes are rehearsals of death, the Big Letting Go that awaits us all. We have students for a semester (sometimes two) and then, they are off to Elsewhere. Some we keep in touch with, and others we will never see again, left to wonder how the fates dealt with them and how much they decided to mold the fates to their own liking.

The Possibility of Magic

Each semester offers the possibility of magic, a happening that occurs when a student finds him- or herself perfectly suited for the subject, the manner of presentation, and the professor’s personality and style. For some reason, it clicks.

We have had many outstanding students over the years, people who have gone on to great things. With that, however, we can easily identify the greatest student we ever had the privilege of teaching: Dmitri Goudkov, who took our ENG COMP I and II sequence about 10 years ago. Dmitri hails from Russia, and he had a professor’s wish-list of qualities for a student: Great study skills, terrific work ethic, acquisitive, excellent study habits, always prepared for class, ready and willing to contribute, open to guidance, winning personality, and a willingness to go above and beyond the minimum requirements of the classroom.

Dmitri was so good, and our desire to help him so great, that we continued our lessons outside the classroom. The result was a two-year degree from Berkshire Community College with highest honors and then a fully paid two-year scholarship to Williams College, from which he rceived his B.A. Graduate work followed, and today, Dmitri is, like us, a teacher of English, at a prestigious private school in California.

Not long ago, he sent us this message in his beautifully crafted handwriting:

Dear Dan,

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! Thank you for being such an inspiring teacher in my life. I think of you often, especially when I teach English Composition or when I teach writing essays in my history cvlasses. Thank you for making a profound impact on me!

Always yours,


P.S. I’m planning to get married soon and maybe move back to the East Coast. i’ll keep you posted.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I teach and why I shall miss it so much when I have put down the chalk for the last time.



THE PLANET proudly reports that we have been instruments in spreading the generosity and goodwill of our anonymous donor, who paid for three Christmas turkey dinners for needy families. THE PLANET, with your help, has located three families who could use this little boost, and the dinners will go a long way in helping to spread from seasonal cheer. We thank everyone who nominated recipients for turkey dinner with all the trimmings (a $70 dollar value). We only wish we could do more.

Speaking of giving, THE PLANET wishes to plug the BCAC “Giving Tree,” which is struggling to clothe needy children. A reader shares a story published in, accompanied by this note:

“This is so important. You might want to put a plug in for this, since you reach a huge audience.  They helped my family out as a kid, so I try to help when I can as well.”

Here is the iBerkshires article. It shows what the press can do when it gets involved:

BCAC’s ‘Giving Tree’ Struggling to Clothe Needy Children

By Joe Durwin
Special to iBerkshires
06:24PM / Monday, December 19, 2011

Every child got sponsored by late this morning (Dec. 20). Bravo to all who helped, sponsored, and spread the word! — Joe Durwin

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — A long-standing tradition of holiday giving is experiencing what may be its most difficult year in memory.

The Berkshire Community Action Council’s Giving Tree Program, which collects donations of warm clothing to children in need, has already secured items for hundreds of children in central Berkshire County but has been struggling to find sponsors for the last few dozen, a BCAC official said.

The non-funded program, run by staff and numerous volunteers, depends on generous individuals and businesses who sign up to “sponsor” a particular child.

Participants can chose from boys or girls of various ages and are given a card with the first name, age, and specific clothing needs of a child here in their area. The program is handled separately in the northern, southern, and central parts of the county to insure that children in all areas are adequately covered.

At the Berkshire Mall, representatives of the program said this year’s drive has been particularly challenging.

“I feel like there’s less kids this year, but we’re much further behind,” said Lisa Duda, who told iBerkshires that typically at this point in the year, all children are sponsored.  “It’s a tough year. There are a lot of people who barely have enough to shop for their own children.”

Still, the hard work is paying off, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Giving Tree came to the mall with 551 names of children in needs, this after an estimated 500-600 children, which local businesses had already signed up to sponsor.  On Monday, the number was down in the thirties with a few more sign ups during the day to bring the number down to 26 by mid-afternoon.

“We’re not even supposed to be here past Wednesday but we’ll stay until Thursday if we have to until all the kids are covered,” Duda said.

Suggested items on the list include basic, every day items such as boots, shirts, pants, socks, the sort of fundamental and bare-minimum needs every child requires. These are easy to find and not-too-specific staple clothing items with the sizes all provided.

BCAC says an additional 500 children each are being helped by the north and south county branches of the program, for a grand total of 2,000 or more children sponsored throughout the entire county.

Many of the children may not have a tree for the presents to go under but, thanks to the kindness of many hundreds of residents, they will at the very least have something warm, clean and new to unwrap and wear into the New Year.

—– 00 —–

THE PLANET gives credit to iBerkshires and to writer Joe Durwin for this excellent work. BCAC can still use your help. So can the Salvation Army. Remember, in giving, the law of largesse: For every one you give, 10 comes back to you.



The FBI probe into Lee Police Chief Joe Buffis continues, as does the Iron Curtain of information on just exactly what the Feds are looking at and for, if anything? Speculation has centered around the administration of a Toys for Tots-type fund as well as prostitution activity that might have taken place at an area hotel/motel. Thus far, no charges have been filed in the case.

The Lee Selectmen, at the most recent meeting, played deaf, dumb, and blind. The board would have people believe they know nothing, not a thing, about the probe, in a small town where idle gossip qualifies as an Olympic sport. The selectmen said they hadn’t been given any information on the case, but they did not say if they tried to find out, as is their job. Could it be another case of not wanting to learn the truth, because it might embarrass the board?

“You’ll know [about Buffis] as soon as we do,” board chair Patricia Carlino told a questioner. Scant comfort. The longer the board and the Feds remain silent, the more the tongues will chatter about the innocent and guilty, if there are any.

Board member David Consolati added this gem: “It’s the Christmas season … We’re all hoping everybody’s going to be happy, wealthy, and wise and … wish the best for everyone, but as for legal questions, we cannot answer.” Well golly gee, DC, who doesn’t wish for heaven here on earth? Meanwhile, you should realize Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski want more out of you than bromides. Do  your job, man. Get them some answers. Earn your keep.



In the fair hamlet of Lenox, where tourists own and residents loan, there are these happenings:

Planning the Money — During a meeting on the town’s long-term financial picture, planning, planning, planning occupied the minds of the board of selectmen. The town faces some large choices in the upcoming future, and it will come down to priorities and choices: “At some point in time, we’re really going to come down to choices,” said Ken Fowler, board chair. “What do you want to continue to fund? Are you going to do away with certain services that we offer? Those are realities, not a [fiscal] cliff.”

The Question about town, at least according to several business people THE PLANET talked to, is: “Yeah, but do we trust the selectmen to act well in the name of We The People.” By the rhetorical nature of the question, the answer appears to be “No.”

Sign of the Times — The town continues to anguish, anguish, over its sign laws. Signage is to Lenox what downtown parking is to Pittsfield: A problematic and never-ending quest for an idea … some idea, any idea. What does the town do about commercial signage, traffic signs, historical plaques, real estate and political signs? Lacking the confidence in its own regs, the town has adopted the signage rules of Belchertown, home of the National Muesum of Burping. The sign dilemma has to be viewed as comical, as in “joke.”

It makes us think of a lyric by brother Mick of a song (“Signs”) that was for years the roof raiser in Quick Fox‘s live stage show: “Everywhere, signs in front of me / Point and say the way life’s supposed to be./ But do they know? They can’t say what I see, / so by so, right here’s where I’ll be.” In short, you know what you can do with your signs, don’t you, Lenox?

Signs of the Times 2 — To add to the sign comics, Lenox has posted safety signs where, for hundreds of years, none have been necessary. Signage in the cemetery of the Church on the Hill read thus: “PLEASE PARDON THE APPEARANCE OF OUR CEMETERY AS ITS REHABILITATION PROJECT IS IN PROGRESS. WARNING. HAZARDS MAY EXIST. PLEASE USE CAUTION WHILE VISITING OUR CEMETERY. VISITORS WILL ASSUME ALL RISK.” File it under “F” for “fear of lawsuits. Poured coffee is extremely hot, also.



The former St. Teresa’s Church on South Street, a historically signficant example of blonde-brick post-war “modern” church architecture, will be demolished.

It’s so “Pittsfield,” isn’t it, to take a beautiful building and, lacking the imagination to re-adapt it to new use, simply tear it down and start from scratch?

Scratch will be to replace grandeur with boring, sterile functionality.

Pittsfield Community Development Board, which at first was told by developers that they would preserve the Church, will now be demolished, if developers have their way. According to a plan placed before the CDB, Berkshire Retirement Home on South Street smells the money and wants to move into a larger facility at the home of the former St. Teresa’s Church. To do that, it will have to knock the buildings down. Why? The exsiting buildings, according to Berkshire Retirement Home’s attorney Emil George, “couldn’t accommodate the kinds of things we need in a state-of-the-art facility?”

“State of the art” — It ranks up there as a cliche with “Roving bands of Negro youths from the 60s” and “Strongman of the ruling junta from the 70s.”

The CDB loved the plan, naturally.

This appears to be all about money. There’s big bucks to be made off of our aging fellows. Berkshire Retirement wants a 54-bed facility on the 3.51 acre plot. City code requires that nursing homes (a general term) have three acres for facilities up to 50 beds. For more than 50, more land is needed. The extra found beds “tip the scale as to its economic viability,” George said. Jim Scalise of SK Design called the project “Smart growth.” Will the “smart growth” at least leave alone the wonderful hedges that spell out the word “PRAY?”

“Smart growth” — Another dreadful cliche.

THE PLANET calls it “dumb destruction.”







  1. Teecha teecha
    December 19, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Kinda off topic, rewards of teaching maybe? Saw the article…alf and his cronies want compensation…the reward is a lacking school district and over paid officials.

    As a college professor…Ensor the semester is my favorite time of year , Dan .


  2. Teecha teecha
    December 19, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Ensor = end of…auto correct is my enemy and was made for the illiterate masses

    • danvalenti
      December 19, 2012 at 9:11 am #

      I have taken my autocorrect out back and long ago gave it two in the hat.

    • Scott
      December 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

      Saw a friend of mine type once with auto correct he had more corrections is a few sentences then I would have had in an entire document.

  3. danvalenti
    December 19, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Thanks. Mine, too.
    As for compensation for school board members, why? Have they done such an excellent job?

    • Teecha teecha
      December 19, 2012 at 10:41 am #

      It’s purely to be compensated for time, according to the BB. Everyone, terry aside, is complaining how they should be compensated similarly to councilors due to the fact that they log in more hours for meetings, etc.

      Laughable since the last 5 hour meeting could have been narrowed down if they weeded out the b.s. and just got down to business.

  4. taxmano
    December 19, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    Well, if we only compensated city officials who do an “excellent job,” who would get paid? Certainly not the dysfunctional city council, for starters.

    • Teecha teecha
      December 19, 2012 at 10:43 am #

      Agreed, but when they took this position they were full aware of the pay (or lack of) and that it would take up much of their time. To complain after the fact is disgusting. Especially since they are squandering city money recklessly. Think about it, had they found. Superintendent the first time around, the right way, there would be how much ore in the coffers to compensate them with?

      • dusty
        December 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

        If the mayor declines to pay the losers on the school committee I am quite sure plenty of people will step up to take their places. And they could not possibly be less qualified than the existing ones so I say tell them to go to hell and we will replace them with whomever else cares to step up. We need people who want to be there for the right reasons, like working for the children’s benefit not there own.

        Don’t let the door whack you in your fat asses on the way out committee men and woman.

  5. Magic
    December 19, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    Demolishing St. Theresa’s Church so sad.

    Must be a way to make it inhabitable for Berkshire Retirement Home and not tear it down.

    I know both options are expensive but hoping someone finds another way.

  6. EddieP
    December 19, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    So these clowns on the city council and school committee would like longer terms and to get paid for their antics.
    Judging from what I’ve seen lately I don’t belive they deserve either. The only way all this can be stopped is with TERM LIMITS. Oh my, is that a GOB nono?
    One term, 2 years and you’re OUT.
    This would have the effect of bringing new people into the mix, people that are serious about doing the job at hand, not trying to see what they can get away with.
    One of the problems with career politicians is they are continually running for re-election. We must elect some new faces with fresh ideas to benefit Mary-Jane and Joe.
    If the public latches onto this idea, it could be done, and might even lower your taxes.

  7. danvalenti
    December 19, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    I like the idea. One and done.

  8. Wet Blanket
    December 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    School committee and city council should be paid equally, and with stipends so as not to encumber health and retirement benefits. It is reasonable to compensate them in a small way for the great amount of time they invest, but they shouldn’t be considered city employees.

    • ambrose
      December 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

      State law makes them eligible for all benefits. They can’t say no even if they want to. Ask Gary Grunin.

      • Sheriff Dawg
        December 20, 2012 at 10:20 am #

        Eligible for benefits doesnt mean automatically receiving benefits. Taxpayers can’t afford to pay these bums a cent, not for the job they’re doing.

  9. Ron Kitterman
    December 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    Agree the demolition St. Theresa’s Church is a sad day for Pittsfield. Sometimes it’s the little things like the trimmed shrubs that spell out pray that strike you when you drive into Pittsfield. On a positive note, hopefully other uses for abandoned churches can be found, Saint Mary’s comes to mind as a perfect site for a police station, law library, juvenile court.

  10. Dave
    December 19, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    I’m glad to hear the giving tree has been cleared of all families in need. I was at the mall 3 years ago and went walking by. Something made me turn around wnen I saw the tree and I inquired about it. I had just won a few extra bucks on a scratch ticket so I took a card and read it. It had stuff like the child’s favorite color, shoe size, coat size and some other info. They told me I didn;t have to buy everything on the list, but my wife looked at me with a look knowing that telling me that was a waste of words.We bought everything on the list and a teddy bear of her favorite color, because toys were not on the list=only necessities. When I mentioned this to my aunt, she informed me that my mom, who had passed away that July had always picked a card from the tree. I have done so every year since-winning ticket or not. I am not rich, but for a few dollars, it is well worth the feeling that I helped someone truly in need.

    • Scott
      December 19, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

      You’re a good person Dave.

  11. Scott
    December 19, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    Damn I always said that church would have made a good paintball arena it’s a shame they’re tearing it down.

  12. Giacometti
    December 19, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    St. Theresa …the Lord’s Little Flower served this community well….now she is no longer needed. When she was built my father donated the funds to purchase the choir organ that proclaimed the birth of the Christ Child at her first Christmas Mass…and so it is fitting that she is silenced all these years later…
    ” Little Flower show your power …help us now and every hour “

  13. taxmano
    December 20, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    Just thinking: I remember how fireman used to be maligned; they were thought to benefit from a powerful union who got them so much while they sat around the firehouse all day. The 911 attacks reminded us how much these heroes selflessly do for everyone.
    I’m wondering if teachers will continue to be scapegoated in the national context even after the heroism shown by members of their profession at the Sandy Hook massacre.

    • Rick Wide
      December 20, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      Teachers, fireman, etc acted nobly in Newtown, no question. There is also no question that the public employee unions, led by teachers, are bleeding the coffers of city governments dry. In Pittsfield, the teachers just scored a scandalous deal courtesy of our do-nothing mayor, our do-nothing council, and our do nothing school committee. Bunch of selfish and scared people.

      • taxmano
        December 21, 2012 at 4:09 am #

        @Rick Wide

        The only bleeding those teachers at Newtown did was done protecting children. Your heartlessness and ignorance is appalling.

  14. Blind Justice
    December 20, 2012 at 8:47 am #

    They should have a nice big Lenoxology signs on the Town Mis-Managers office door