PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, TAX DAY, APRIL 15, 2013) — Inadvertently last week, THE PLANET induced a lively debate on the merits of home schooling. This came about as a consequence of our writings  on the Pittsfield School Department and the Egremont School Council (ESC).

As you recall, the ESC has asked the Pittsfield school committee to conduct an audit, school wide, to determine if per-pupil spending at each of the city’s schools is “fair and equitable.” The ESC suspects it isn’t.

Debate Yes, and Vigorous … Ignorance No, in Any of its Forms

We hadn’t mentioned home schooling in the column, but one of our more involved readers and commentators brought it up. The debate that ensued was a healthy one. We see this process as one of the prime directives and purposes of THE PLANET: to spur debate, discussion, and deliberation; to pose questions; to suggest possible answers. In this role, we have uncovered more stories than any other media outlet in the area, although breaking news isn’t  our main focus.

We wish, more than anything, to stimulate public discussions and to provide a forum where all can be heard. That’s why we vigorously monitor the comments section at PV, and we have given our webmasters much leeway in redacting those that do not advance the discussion. THE PLANET shall remain vigilant in this regard.

The vast majority of our readers who comment on THE PLANET respect this and have intelligent (even if sometimes belligerent and/or divergent) things to say. For the tiny minority that doesn’t respect this commitment to the high road, this is both a request and a warning: If you wish to dwell in the sewer, please move to Topix. Stay “above the fray” and be a contributor to THE PLANET. Do that, and you will be welcome, compliments or criticisms. Don’t do that, and we shall not hesitate to pull the plug.



‘Son, I’ve got one word for you: Styrofoam’

* While there are huge issues facing Pittsfield in this election year, one would hope for leadership among those who would seek office, but, as one of THE PLANET’s media colleagues observed privately, “How can anyone be hopeful when the ‘leaders’ of the city can’t even decide on Styrofoam?”

The comment struck us as a humorous insight into a chronic problem, that of political straddling. If our Right Honorable Good Friends the mayor and the council can’t decide on Styrofoam prior to the wind being measured and the top of the fence widened, what are the odds they will be able to decide on fiscal equity for bedraggled taxpayers? Not good.

For the record, THE PLANET agrees with Jane Winn, Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Green party activist Mark Miller, and ban sponsor Rinaldo Del Gallo III that the “forever” white stuff is bad. The research suggests that Styrofoam is linked to cancer, that it doesn’t degrade, that it’s not recyclable, and that it causes pollution.

Winn says that when various groups engage in river-bank cleanups, Styrofoam is one of the biggest groups of trash. From our experience during many walks, it ranks up there with soda and beer cans and bottles, fast food wrappers, and scratched lottery tickets. Our libertarian leanings have concerns about bans, but in this case it is balanced by what is best to do for Mother Nature. Our authoritarian side realizes, sadly, that a growing number of people today cannot handle freedom because of ignorance and indulgence.

No to Donuts, Yes to Preservation

* No to donuts. Yes to preservation.

PLUNKETT SCHOOL: Do we gain a moment’s mirth to wail a week? Do we sell eternity to get a donut shop?

That’s how we can best sum up the ongoing debate on the future of the former Plunkett School on the corner of First and Fenn streets in Pittsfield. Developers want to tear the building down for a bigger Dunkin’ Donuts shop.

The community development board, responding to public criticism of the donut intentions, voted 3-1 against the plan. The matter now rests with the Pittsfield city council, which must decide on granting or not granting a special permit to the developer for a drive-up lane.

The council only needs four votes to reject the drive-up plan, which requires an 8-3 supermajority or better for approval. If the council rejects the drive-up plan, chances are the developer, Cafua Management, will not want to go ahead at that site and Plunkett will, for the time being, be saved. The council must do the right thing here: No to donuts. Yes to preservation.

Reaching for and Gaining the Stars


As a long-time faculty member at Berkshire Community College, THE PLANET heartily endorses the selection of astronaut Stephanie Wilson as keynote speaker at the school’s 53rd graduation exercises on May 31.

Wilson is a graduate of Taconic High School.

“Ms. Wilson is a great example of what you can accomplish when you work hard and set your sights high,” said BCC president Ellen Kennedy. “She is a wonderful role model for students in Berkshire County.” Wilson, whose family moved to Pittsfield from Boston when she was a child, refused to become a victim and set her aim, literally, for the stars. She is living testimony to “It can be done!”



THE PLANET doesn’t know (but knows of) the show “Buckwild,” another of those brainless but wildly popular and profitable MTV programs for young dumb dumbs, but when it comes to this sort of “country-hayseed-as the-new-smart” fare (see also “Honey Boo Boo,” “Duck Dynasty,” “Moonshiners,” etc.), we can pass safely pass an accurate judgment, not just professionally as a former newspaper television critic but also culturally as an aesthete with blue-collar DNA.

This is not your mildly satiric, harmless bumkpin programming from the 60s (“The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Petticoat Junction,” “Green Acres”). Rather, this is “reality” TV that purports to glorify a supposedly actual lifestyle. Today’s media-driven and information-overloaded kids aren’t on the whole capable of distinguishing “reality” TV from reality itself, a lamentable adjunct to growing up — every one of them — as “winners,” as “special,” as “gifted.” It is on TV. Therefore, I am.

‘BUCKWILD”s young white trash, fortunately now canceled. In death there is victory.

THE PLANET is not shocked, because such an ending was inevitable, to see that “Buckwild”‘s 21-year-old “star,” Shain Gandee, is now “the late” Shain Gandee. Nothing personal, but we embrace the modifier “late” in this case.

You see, stupid attracts as stupid does, and when you eschew intelligent pursuits for the enshrinement of mudding, drinking, SUVing, and the dimwit like, you inevitably learn about life’s consequences to easy way. The Discipline of Nature comes to you. Young Gandee learned sooner than most. “He dead,” as they said of Mr. Kurtz.

When You Leave the Bar at 3 a.m., Nothing Good Can Happen After That

Seems the genius Gandee left a bar with his equally low-wattaged uncle at 3 a.m., after which they were found dead when the exhaust pipe on their “mudding” SUV clogged with, well, you know, uh …  mud!  Imagine, mudders finding mud, lots of mud — a case of life imitating schlock art, if there ever was one.

The two kin apparently began to sniff carbon monoxide at that point before nodding off into the great off-road in the sky. THE PLANET doesn’t know what they drank at the bar — maybe ginger ales or Shirley Temples — but whatever happened at the establishment, it probably rendered their judgment a bit to the rough side of southern fried.

“Every man’s death diminishes me,” wrote the poet John Donne. Donne, like THE PLANET, also didn’t have a TV. We, too, find no joy in anyone’s death, although there can be exceptions. In this case, our first and most honest reaction was, “Good! Ya happy now? How’d that work out for you?”

We treat this senseless death the way we do when a climber falls off Mount Everest, when a bungee jumper uses too long a cord, when a skydiver’s parachute doesn’t open, and when a speeding race car crashes into the stands. When deliberate thrill-seekers put their live on the line only to get the cheap thrill that ends that life, we can only applaud. They got what they wanted.

A Tailpipe’s Silver Lining

The best part of the “Buckwild” kid’s invitational death is that it got the child pornographers at MTV to cancel the doltish show. Every spewing tailpipe had a silver lining.

No more will Gandee and his pea-brained friends be on the air to fill with poison the hearts and minds of other like-minded jugheads, who in their putz think of such shows as “entertainment.” They never saw Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Victor Borge, Dick Van DykeRed Skelton, Jackie Gleason, Peggy Lee,  Steve Allen, Ella Fitzgerald, or “Amos and Andy.” We could go on and on.

We wonder what the three million 12-to-34 years olds who tuned into the show each week will do now that they won’t have this hour to waste. Read a good book? Rake leaves? Cure ebola? Perhaps they will emulate their hero and suck deeply on the tailpipes of the first available four-wheelers or BRTA bus.

Incidentally, in honor of the “late” numb-skull “star” of “Buckwild,” two of the cast members made headlines of their own. A 24-year-old chick was sent back to the slammer for violating the terms of her bond following her arrest on drug charges. Another cast member, with the perfect last name of Burford, was charged with drunk driving.

Oh well, these youngsters are from West Virginia. What do you expect?

The South shall rise. They think “rise” means “get drunk.”


“Best and brightest, come away! / Fairer far than this fair Day, / Which, like three to those in sorrow, / Comes to bid a sweet good-morrow.”Percy Bysshe Shelley 




  1. GMHeller
    April 15, 2013 at 1:19 am #

    Mr. Valenti,
    You state “Oh well, these youngsters are from West Virginia. What do you expect?”
    Excuse me, but have you read the lame antics of the twenty and thirty-somethings that grace the pages of the BB (and if they’re politically-connected do NOT grace those pages)?
    One need only recall a boozy Berkshire Young “Professional” who mowed down a jogger leaving the scene with her windshield dented by the impact of the guy’s head, a corrupt BB which didn’t get around to reporting the crime for a month, and an even more corrupt Berkshire court system that let off near scot-free that daughter of the city’s probation chief;
    Or how about the antics of a population of other Berkshire hicks, drunks, addicts, and gangsta culture types who knife in-laws, beat-up chics, drive into living rooms, and create mayhem DAILY?
    How are these Berkshire bred and raised Einsteins any different than those portrayed on MTV reality shows?
    Rural West Virginia has nothing on Berkshire County where money set aside for Christmas toys, proms, and even dog licenses is fair game for those assigned to count it; and where the only virgins are the girls who can outrun their brothers, and the boys who can outrun the bank president.
    As you say Mr. Valenti, “Oh well, these youngsters are from Massachusetts. What do you expect?”

    • Scott
      April 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

      Don’t forget about turkey baster insemination and hey look a naked homeless sex offender under the stall in the bathroom. And we all know about public restrooms and prominent, influencial people with skeletons in their closet…

      Jokes aside I don’t have cable but watched the duck dynasty show with a friend the other night and at least those guys are having fun with it. Not too over the top mildly entertaining and somewhat interesting story concerning those people. The old man is a real smart guy with a masters degree from Virginia tech Terry Bradshaw played second string QB to that guy!

      • GMHeller
        April 18, 2013 at 8:16 am #

        Berkshire Eagle headline on 4/18/2013:
        ‘Pittsfield man denies robbing boss, tying him up with extension cord’

        Mr. Valenti, this guy is from Massachusetts, so what do you expect?

  2. tito
    April 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    Anyone see the terrorist attract the Boston Marathon, two dead, many injuries…awful.

  3. tito
    April 15, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    Attack at the Boston Marathon.. Sorry, very upset at this.

  4. tito
    April 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    What the hell happened to gun control. They need to confiscate gun power, detergent, fertilizer, ammonia, dog food, what a joke.

  5. dusty
    April 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Speaking of Styrofoam and trash, whose job might it be to pick up what looks like thousands of pieces of trash in the Coltsville area. From the paint store east and then up Hubbard Ave to the entrance to BJs it is a disgusting mess. Someone has to be responsible for cleaning it up.

  6. In the know
    April 15, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Way to go Dan you pissed off Heller and then he goes and bombs Boston!

    • Joe Blow
      April 15, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      That is a really stupid thing to say in a time like this!

      • Scott
        April 15, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

        I agree Joe Blow. Terrible thing to joke about. Bless the ones who were hurt and murdered.

  7. tito
    April 15, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    Valenti was starting running back at Syracuse in front of Jim Brown.

  8. Still wondering
    April 16, 2013 at 5:58 am #

    I like your “Don’t hate, debate'” tag. Too bad the mindless liberals in Berkshire County will never read or consider that. The worst hate I’ve ever encountered in my 60+ year time on this earth is shown by the liberals of this state. If you disagree with the party line, they try to silence you, they shun you and they definitely hate you.