The Phoenix Files

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Monday, March 31, 2008

What's New at

Another Song From Enter The Haggis at The Colonial Theater

Attack of the Squeebs?

In Saturday’s Rolling Stone, political writer Mike Taibbi sailed the Barack Obama/Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy into new waters: down, way down, deeper fathoms down, if you can believe it, than it’s already been.

The controversy itself played a surprisingly minor role in the piece. It was turned into just a convenient craft for a claim usually booked in steerage about political bottom-fishing: the fundamental problem of American politics, Taibbi says, is that we have an electorate made up of just so many “squeebs.”

A squeeb is a gargoyle of Taibbi’s own phantasmagoria. It is “a crude mix of squid and dweeb, and by inventing it,” he says, “I mean no disrespect to the squid, which in most respects is an excellent and admirable animal. In the ocean there's almost nothing you'd rather be than a squid….

“But on land, a squid is about as useless as it gets. It's a spineless, squishy little hunk of seafood that wouldn't stand a chance in a cage match with a baby squirrel. It has no heart, and its first instinct when trouble comes is to hide in a cloud of its own excretions. This is why a squiddy word like squeeb seems to me to be a good way to describe the American voter during a presidential election season.”

Now, Taibbi’s coverage of 2004 Presidential election campaigns was first-rate: sniffing around everything, doubting, suspicious, unrelenting; thankfully out of the ordinary, “off-beat” if you really must, but if you really must you would also have to say, again and again, “he nailed it.” He saw what candidates’ keepers didn’t want anyone to notice, made connections they’d have preferred neither a journalist nor a voter make.

But of late Taibbi has been turning his eye far less on the powerful, more on the public. And flatly ranting, in wrath and rage, about the behavior of its constituent members. It’s a common enough rant, though in Taibbi’s uncommon style.

If the squid definition didn’t give you a big enough taste of his argument, here’s the bottom line to Saturday’s 2500 word version (you can read the whole piece at

“We can't focus for more than ten seconds on anything at all and we're constantly exercised about stupid media-generated non-scandals, guilt-by-association raps, accidental dumb utterances of various campaign aides and other nonsense – while at the same time we have no energy at all left to wonder about the mass burgling of the national budget for phony military contracts, the war, the billion dollars or so in campaign contributions to be spent this year that will be buying a small mountain of favors for the next four years. And we... shit, I don't even know what I'm saying anymore.”

Before you agree too quickly that Taibbi’s lost it, gone overboard, please note this: from the start his “squid” was locked together with “dweeb” to make that opening gargoyle gambit “squeeb.” He defines “squid,” but never does “dweeb.”

So, if American voters and Noah Webster are half “inept or foolish, [but] often on account of being overly studious,” Taibbi may be entirely in control of his argument; may be inviting us to dweebishly fish around – "wonder about" – military contracts, war strategy, and campaign financing; and may really, deep fathoms down, have at least half a hope for us yet.

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Your Thoughts

Friday, March 28, 2008

Matt called me for a blog entry too but I was on the other line and I’m just slower than Brian anyway

For local politics watchers, this last week has kept a lot of eyes busy.

Monday: Council’s monthly round of Committees meetings, highlighted by Mike Speck (D-East)’s Police and Personnel Committee’s interviews of four candidates for the Planning Commission seat vacated by Mike Hott. (And that exchange between Senley and Messina. Seemed to leave both more than a little irked.)

Those interviews were scheduled and expected. What was neither was the cordial and cordially insistent visit to Council at public participation time of a clutch of downtown’s heaviest hitters. Even if you were among those who had thought that downtown parking is “an inconvenience, not a problem,” you would now be among those who only formerly thought that. That is to say, the heavy hitters swung heavy bats, and hit the parking realities square and true: a public home run.

Wednesday: Regional planners: will transferable development rights be a thing? Or will it play as an undue burden on Phoenixville developers?

Thursday: Borough planners. Entertaining a new proposal for 801 Montgomery Avenue. Omigod, it’s back.

Watch this space for more. NEWS REPORTED EVEN AS IT BREAKS….

Posted by

G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Enter The Haggis: Live at The Colonial Theatre

Matt said he really needs this blog post

On Wednesday, the Upper Providence planning commission passed a motion to recommend that the board of supervisors grant conditional use to a proposed Wegmans on 600 Commerce Drive to operate 24 hours.

During their discussion, the planners questioned Wegmans' representatives whether the store would sell beer. The store will not sell it once it opens, though it could possibly choose to do so later on, according to a Wegmans representative.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board recently granted Wegmans approval to sell beer at six locations in the state: Bethlehem, Dickson City, Lower Nazareth, State College, Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport. Applications are pending for locations in Downingtown, Erie and Mechanicsburg.

According to a report on CBS 3's website, this approval does not technically mean that these are grocery stores selling beer. Since Wegmans has cafes on the premises they qualify for restaurant licenses, and can sell beer on site and for carry out. A Wegmans representative quoted in the report emphasized that "this is not a grocery store selling beer."

Oh, semantics. Regardless of whether this merely amounts to being able to buy a sixer of bud at over-priced restaurant costs, as we're already able to do at such establishments, it will still prove handy to be able to have the bagger place beer in the cart right next to the groceries, at least in my opinion.

Other (MANY other) states already sell beer and wine in grocery and convenience stores. Do you think that the ability to pick up beer, and, according to Wegmans representatives, possibly wine in the future is a positive thing? Would you like to see limits or more freedom on being able to purchase alcohol at the grocery store? Or are you content with the way things are now?

Later on,

Posted by
Brian McCarthy

Your Thoughts

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Another Song From Mason Porter at Steel City

Monday, March 24, 2008

Your Thoughts

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mason Porter: Performing at Steel City

Working On Easter

Saints and sinners, who's working on Easter?
If any of you are working on Easter Sunday and would
like some recognition for being at your job during the
holiday, contact me at
I'm working as well and I'd like to come to your place
of employment and speak with you. It's a nice story to
let people know that while some of the world is
spending time with family and friends, there are
others who are working and keeping the wheels going
So contact me and let me hear your story. I wanna know
why you're working, what you'd be doing if you weren't
working, and if you'll be able to spend some of the
holiday with family and friends.
Thanks a lot, and Happy Easter everyone!

Posted by
Dennis J. Wright

Your Thoughts

A Good Way to Waste Time

For this week's recommendation for wasting your time we, dive into the realm of nostalgia. It seems like since they ended we've been looking back on the eighties with a fondness akin to the first NES. If you are searching for more things to look at through rose colored Ray-Bans, check out Filled with video clips of shows, commercials, and PSA's you'll be whisked away to the magic year of ... 1987. The site also includes articles and essays with title like "As Bad As I Wanna Be: A look at the villains of Star Wars and what makes them so bad."
So if you like watching old episodes of Silverhawks and Charles in Charge, but find the thought of watching VH-1's "I Love The '80's" repellent, then check out this fantastic waste of time remembering how you used to waste time 20 years ago. And now you know... and knowing half the battle.

Posted by
Matthew Byrd

New Park in Town

Thursday, March 20, 2008

For further information

The reason I put on a hard hat yesterday is because at Franklin Commons they are currently doing some ceiling work.

I went and spent some time checking out the place in the daylight and talking with some of the employees who have been making the sketch plans become a reality.

The Neumann College section of the building is currently completed (and looks amazing) and workers are also beginning an entrance for the back parking lot. There are doors out to what will become the commissary finished and very beautiful.

Section by section, piece by piece this expansive project is coming together and it is great to be able to watch the changes that happen in even a few short weeks.

Though I only got to stay for an hour, I learned an overwhelming amount about the plans for what's ahead.

Stay tuned to the website because we'll have a walkthrough of the building coming shortly. You won't want to miss it.

Posted by
Laurie Perini

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Guess what!

Today, for the first time, I got to wear a hard hat.

Posted by
Laurie Perini

Your Thoughts

Easter Weekend

As we are coming upon Easter weekend, I'm reminded of several things from Easters past that have me somewhat jaded. This will be my first Easter in three years where I'll be celebrating with someone new, and I'm honestly thankful for that. However, what I've missed this year are the Easter egg hunts that the boy wonder and I used to participate in. We used to go to several of them, and we'd run around like crazy trying to collect the eggs. He became rather adapt at being a little chicken egg hawk. Hopefully he's attending a few hunts in his new area. Honestly, I've purposely avoided anything to do with Easter this month because it brings back way too many painful memories.
So I've decided to work for young Brian McCarthey on Sunday, and have some dinner with my someone new. This way I'll be making some new Easter memories, while slowly erasing the ones from the past. So in closing, I hope each and every one of you have a glorious Easter, dig into those baskets of fun, eat chocolate bunnies and eggs, spending the day with family and friends, and enjoying the bounty that is bestowed you.

Posted by
Dennis J. Wright

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On The Street


ASK SKIP: Strict Construction: Response to responders

One anonymous responder here said “I would find the Phoenix blogs more interesting if Skip or some of the council members would actually respond to the posters’ remarks. Most people post what everyone else is thinking or has heard on the street. Why no responses?”

You’re right. You’re absolutely right. Here are a few responses of my own to what’s been said so far:

• The comment “50 years would be a long time for Phoenixville to suffer yet another mistake” doesn’t address the problem. What do you think we should do to improve the parking situation?

• The similar comment “This is a mistake that will haunt us, our children and in some cases our children’s children” doesn’t tell me why it’s a mistake. What do you think we should do to improve the parking situation?

• “User charges” does not mean “parking permits.” So far, the discussion about an Authority has been about “metered parking” and “garage parking fees,” but even those early conversations have not been with or among those who will propose such strategies. I think it’s way too early to complain about a charge that has neither been considered, nor discussed, nor gone to public hearing, let alone enacted. What do you think we should do to improve the parking situation?

Now to the Chicken Project’s claim about the 1947 law. Yes, indeed, it was repealed. But while we are about telling the truth, as CP tells me I should always do, let’s tell the whole truth. The law did not disappear. It was recodified by the very legislation that repealed it.

The Act of June 5, 1947, P.L. 458, 53 P.S. 341-356, the “Parking Authority Law,” was repealed by Section 3 of Act 22 of June 19, 2001, P.L. 287, and recodified with amendments at 53 Pa. C.S. 5501-5517. Quoting Act 22: “The addition of 53 Pa. C.S. Ch. 55 is a continuation of the Act of June 5, 1947… known as the Parking Authority Law.” By my reading even the amendments made no substantive changes to the process of establishing an authority – and that’s the issue here – by us or by any other municipality save one: Philadelphia.

The whole truth and nothing but? CP didn’t tell you the really best part: Act 22 of 2001 also repealed the 1945 Municipal Authorities Act.

And recodified that, too. (Act 22 again: “The addition of 53 Pa. C.S. Ch. 56 is a continuation of the Act of May 2, 1945… known as the Municipal Authorities Act of 1945.” Elsewhere: “The provisions of 53 Pa.C.S. Ch. 56, so far as they are the same as those of existing laws, are intended as a continuation of such laws and not as new enactments.”)

Moral to the story: one shouldn’t be so quick to beat up the Solicitor.

Posted by G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

You can send you questions for Skip to

Monday, March 17, 2008

Two wrongs don't make a right

The recent revelations about anti-white, anti-American comments made by Sen. Barack Obama's pastor make a double standard quite clear. If a Republican candidate were found to have attended a White Supremacist Christian Identity "Church," chances are he would be forced out of the race.

Now Obama's taking a little heat for his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for over 20 years. I can't say what Sen. Obama believes privately, but having attended Wright's church for that period of time, he cannot but have been influenced by his pastor's Marxist "theology."

The black liberation theology espoused by Wright is traceable to the explicitly Neo-Marxist Liberation Theology movement from the 1960s that is throughly imbued with an us versus them mentality.
It almost seems to me that a certain segment of the Black community, on its far Left, radical fringes, has a vested interest in promoting anti-white bigotry among blacks. The whole Marxist mentality runs contrary the Christian faith that Wright claims to profess, because it claims that those who were formerly oppressed must suppress their former oppressors. There's not any question that black Americans have been treated horribly (putting that mildly), but there comes a time for forgiveness.

Whereas, Jesus forbade taking an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. St. Paul teaches that there is neither male nor female, nor Jew or Gentile, nor slave or free in Christ Jesus.


Obama chides Hillary Clinton for her judgment on the Iraq War. Well, what does Obama's refusal to disassociate himself with the reverend years ago say about his judgment? Now imagine if he were a white man attending a racist White Power "church," how would he be treated.

Thus far, Sen. Obama has denounced his longtime friend's comments, but did he do it out of conviction or political expediency? Only he knows for sure.

The only thing this affair shows me is he has extremely poor judgment when it comes to the friends he keeps. What else does the senator believe in that he's not telling us?

Posted by:
John Rossomando

Strict Construction: How to build a parking authority

...or, to paraphrase a now-famous local line, "To build a parking authority, you must first have the authority."

The following appeared in today's print edition of The Phoenix, and is here reprinted so that readers may have the opportunity to weigh in.

PHOENIXVILLE — Borough council’s consideration of the establishment of an independent authority to help resolve borough parking headaches relies on state statutes that largely will define the authority’s powers and organization.
Pennsylvania municipalities are able to create independent authorities “to finance and/or operate specific public works projects without tapping the general taxing powers of the municipality,” according to the commonwealth’s Department of Community and Economic Development, under the terms of the Municipalities Authorities Act of 1945 and the Parking Authority Law of 1947.
“The general taxing power of the municipality” has been the central issue in authority legislation: authorities have been established principally as vehicles to address “the desire to avoid local tax increases. Authorities do this by resorting to user charges,” according to DCED’s Municipal Authorities in Pennsylvania. An authority also has the ability to incur debt, although its ability to do so is rooted in the “full faith and credit” of the municipality it serves.
The 1945 Act did not specify types of purposes that authorities could address. Pennsylvania communities have incorporated under that legislation authorities to finance, sometimes to finance and manage, water systems, transportation systems, airports, flood control projects, economic development projects – and parking, one problem that stood behind the 1945 legislation and was specifically addressed in the 1947 Law. Besides the metro areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, some two dozen other Commonwealth municipalities — from Erie to Altoona to Harrisburg, Reading, Bethlehem and Easton – operate parking authorities.
Another reason for the use of an authority, the DCED says, is “the proposition that an authority can administer certain entrepreneurial-type services more efficiently than a municipal government … Authority functions often require intensive planning and a long-range approach more likely to be found in a business-type
operation than in government.”
There are practical and political considerations frequently cited by municipalities, as well, DCED says. “Delegation of overseeing a complex function to a group of citizens other than the elected officials spreads the workload and responsibility for providing public services to a wider base in the community. It relieves some of the burden from the elected governing body, already responsible for overseeing a wide range of governmental functions. Since most authorities perform only one function, the authority board can concentrate its energies on this single area.”
The ordinance under consideration by borough council follows statutory direction, and includes these provisions:
The authority established for a period of 50 years, though it may be dissolved earlier by petition to council from the authority’s board, and can be extended in the same fashion;
The authority is governed by a five-member Board, appointed by Borough Council President, with five-year staggered terms. The Articles of Incorporation under discussion do not name the first appointees, and will not until council acts on the ordinance and articles.
“Once organized,” reads the proposed ordinance, “the authority is authorized to administer, supervise and enforce an efficient system” of parking regulation. The authority’s powers would include the analysis of parking problems and recommendation for their rectification; exploration of parking improvement alternatives and their financing; and parking management, including ticketing and other means of enforcement, including the collection “on behalf of the borough rates and other charges, including fines and penalties” for parking violations.
At council’s regular business meeting March 11, Kendrick Buckwalter, R-West, and Richard Mark Kirkner, D-North, suggested changes to state statutory provisions for the Authority’s lifespan and the appointment process for Board members. Andrew Rau, of the borough solicitor firm Unruh, Turner Burke & Frees, said that he knew of no case law precedents that would suggest whether such changes would be sustained or denied in the courts.

Posted by
Skip Lawerence

Your Thoughts

Steel & Slag

Slag must go to the borough for the disorganization surrounding the first Phoenixville Fury collegiate bicycle race last Saturday. The Phoenix did print a couple of articles leading up to the event, but sadly, a number of people do not read their hometown newspaper every day, so they were caught unprepared. It’s true that Anthony DiGirolomo, a major proponent of the race, was fired as borough manager in January, but is that enough of an excuse, two months later, for the lack of advance communication from officials to residents and merchants about the upcoming high-traffic (and full parking) event? Should everyone wonder what other events may be looming on the horizon, unheralded because of the apparent lack of institutional memory? Some sort of formal advance-notification procedure needs to be put in place for every event like this.
Steel thanks go to the Phoenix Property Group for helping Phoenixville Borough and Community Development Corp. by allowing the parking on parcel N of the steel site for the Phoenixville Fury bike race last weekend (and thanks to an alert reader for providing this tip).
Steel congratulations go to the event itself — hundreds of people showed up despite the rain.
Steel thanks go to race organizers who changed the format to criterium style (looped) rather than the long road race that had been planned, due to heavy rain. This made the event much safer for everyone. Steel salutes are also due to police and fire personnel who helped keep any major accidents from happening.
Steel good wishes go to Markels Roberts, owner of the new Diving Cat Studio on Bridge Street. She had a soft opening on March 1 and will build up to a grand opening on the April 4 First Friday.
Steel congratulations go to the Phoenixville Jaycees for their first date auction last Saturday, which successfully raised more than $1,000.
Steel thanks go to borough council for taking the next step on Tuesday toward establishing a parking authority. The ordinance to do so will be debated and possibly undergo a final vote on April 15. It’s been a slow process, which is reasonable given the matter at hand, but what a relief it is to see progress, after so many years of complaints with no action being taken! And yes, Kendrick Buckwalter, the borough definitely has a parking problem, as anyone who tries to get here during a big event can testify. It may not be a parking crisis, but to belittle the situation as an “inconvenience” is to ignore the cumulative effects brought about by years of revitalization, with a few too many parking-spot waivers for developers. It’s good that a lot more people want to visit here these days, but they need to actually stop in for a few hours, not just drive through wishing they could have found a space.
Steel congratulations go to Kathleen Loux, who was named Practicioner of the Year by the Childhood Education Coalition of Chester County, and to her co-worker at Magic Memories Child Development Center in Schuylkill Township, Jeanna Rittengaugh, who received honorable mention.
Finally, Steel good wishes go to Melanie Quinn, who is leaving today for a three-year mission to Botswana. With the help of her church, Hope Community Fellowship, she has been fund-raising for over two years in preparation for her trip to work with a youth group and teach about AIDS prevention, and how to care for those afflicted. We wish her good luck in her good works.

Posted by
Patricia Matson

Friday, March 14, 2008

In a sweep (71-29), Senators opposed stopping earmarks for one year.

Not so surprising, three of those in favor of abandoning earmarks were none other than the three presidential hopefuls (John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton).

Putting earmarks on hold was proposed so that the Senate could have time to come up with new reforms for earmarking to try to get it under control.

Out of the three nominees, Clinton was in the top 10 of senators who garnered the most money for earmarks, according to the Los Angeles Times. The same story says McCain sought no earmarks.

What the story fails to point out is how good it makes nominees look to support this type of measure, even though only one of them actually supported it before. Where's the part about how Clinton is two-faced (shocking, I know)?

I think they left out the most important issue: nominees will vote based on how they think it will make them look to voters, not on what they have done in the past. That should be the lead of these stories.

What they say when they are stumping or debating is rhetoric and needs to be examined closely. What they do (like Clinton getting $342 million in earmarks) is easier to interpret.

And one last thing: I'm not judging earmarks (they have positive and negative values, in my opinion).

Posted by
Laurie Perini

Your Thoughts

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pancakes in a spray can

Okay, there are plenty of serious issues I could write about, and I will, in Steel and Slag on Saturday and maybe next week too. But right now I just have to comment on an article I ran across while helping with Wednesday's Food section.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — You want pancakes, but the idea
of adding water to powder and stirring it around just
seems like too much effort.

Okay, my ears were burning here. Given my work schedule, I usually don't cook at all during the week, just a few big batches of (usually) one-pot meals over the weekends.

Enter Batter Blaster, the pancake you just point and
Gastronomic genius? Or sign of the apocalypse?
It all depends on how you feel about really fast food.
“If you sit down with your family in the morning, you
can cook these pancakes so quick,” developer Nate Steck said...
“You can actually give the house that smell of home
cooking,” Steck said.

Okaaaaay. From spray can to skillet, and you're calling it "the smell of home cooking." Hey, why not just spray butter-flavored Pam around the house?

“You're not burning the frozen waffles in the toaster.
This heats up the house. The kids like it; they feel
like they're spending some time with the family.”

Sure. SOME time. Just that minute less of family time than adding water to the Bisquick bottle and shaking it up would have taken. Look, you have to wait a little while for the burner and pan to heat up anyway, right?

The contents are pressurized and the can has a nozzle
similar to a whipped cream can, which can unleash
artistic aspirations in the way of animal, geometric
and letter-shaped pancakes.
Preparation: Shake the can firmly before spraying.
Clean up: Rinse the nozzle under running water after

It's true, convenience food is helpful. I often eat canned food, prepared food, etc. I know this is all part of our hurried modern lives. So I don't know why this product in particular has me laughing out loud while I shake my head, both amused and slightly horrified.

Posted by
Patricia Matson

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

R.I.P. Val Rio Diner: and Hello Starbucks

For over 60 years the “Val” has been a place for get togethers, family eating, fun, and memories. Until now. The biggest coffee empire, Starbucks, is moving in its location. So, instead of having a place to eat at four in the morning to fulfill your midnight hunger, we will have a nice coffee shop that charges about $5.00 for a cup of their “Skinny Vanilla Mocha Venti.” There will also be a Walgreens built on the property as well. Like we need another drug store! We already have too many like Gateway, Rite Aid, CVS and Eckerd.
The Vale Rio Diner was named after the Valerio family and it was a home and a hangout for many people, old and young. “I loved how you could get a plate of eggs to satisfy the munchies at 3 in the morning,” stated Heather Brown, a frequent early morning visitor of the Val. “The people who work there are funny and make you laugh. It is really like dinner and a show! One guy drew a whipped cream smiley face on the fridge just to impress me. The Val was definitely the best place to dine!”
After school about a month ago, I decided to walk down to the “Val” to get some input from an employee. I had the pleasure of talking with an employee, who is also a junior at our high school named Sam Pfender. “The Val Rio was a place of fun, laughter, and definitely good eating!” stated Sam. “I am really sad that the Val closed, not only because I need to find a new place for employment, but because the Val held so many memories.”

Other people in PAHS have fond memories of The Vale Rio. Mrs. Gentile stated, “The Val was like a staple to Phoenixville, and it is really sad that it is gone. The administration would go to the Val for breakfast every pay day to have breakfast, and now that the Val is gone, that tradition is gone.”
“I will miss the Christmas brunches with my family, great French Onion Soup, and the always entertaining waiter and friend of mine, Alex! The fact that it has been closed has still not hit home! Where am I to go now?” stated Ms. Rusanovschi.
Mr. Coyne also had a few words about the Val. “Back in the day when I was still coaching football here, we would have a football coaches breakfast at the Val Rio at 6:00 AM on the first day of football camp. The Val Rio people would always be so nice and accommodating. The waiting staff was always so pleasant, even at that early morning hour.”
“When I went through rough patches with friends, my mom (and still is) the “World’s Greatest!” and whenever I had problem, she would take me to the Val on Friday nights to pick me up. We would chat and have tea, chicken fingers, and fries… I will never forget those nights! Stated Ms. Vance
Recently, the vintage diner part of the Val was “shrink” wrapped and transported to The Puleo Reality management office on Starr St. (Across the street from the Getty station). While it sits there, the township will try to figure out a place for the diner to fit the traffic, patrons, and the township’s needs. If the Val is not in its new location within a certain time-frame, it will be sold.
So next time you have a “craving” for the Val I guess you’re outta luck, unless they re-open the diner, but one day you can walk down to the former location to buy an exotic cup of coffee, for five bucks, or a few cough drops at the new pharmacy.

Posted by
Alex Miller

Posted in response to the comments left to the “Student Recording Studio” video:

A study of 237 second grade children used piano keyboard training and newly designed math software to demonstrate improvement in math skills. The group scored 27% higher on proportional math and fractions tests than children that used only the math software.
-"Enhanced learning of proportional math through music training and spatial-temporal training." Amy Graziano, Matthew Peterson, and Gordon Shaw, Neurological Research 21 (March 1999).

In an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data on more than 25,000 secondary school students (NELS:88, National Education Longitudinal Survey), researchers found that students who report consistent high levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years show "significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12." This observation holds regardless of students' socio-economic status, and differences in those who are involved with instrumental music vs. those who are not is more significant over time.
-"Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts.” Catterall, James S., Richard Chapleau, and John Iwanaga. Los Angeles, CA: The Imagination Project at UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, 1999.

Students with coursework/experience in music performance and music appreciation scored higher on the SAT: students in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math, and students in music appreciation scored 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on the math, than did students with no arts participation.
-College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ: The College Entrance Examination Board, 2001.

Data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 showed that music participants received more academic honors and awards than non-music students, and that the percentage of music participants receiving As, As/Bs, and Bs was higher than the percentage of non-participants receiving those grades.
-NELS:8 First Follow-up, 1990, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington DC

Physician and biologist Lewis Thomas studied the undergraduate majors of medical school applicants. He found that 66% of music majors who applied to medical school were admitted, the highest percentage of any group. 44% of biochemistry majors were admitted.
-As reported in "The Case for Music in the Schools," Phi Delta Kappan, February 1994

A study of 811 high school students indicated that the proportion of minority students with a music teacher role model was significantly larger than for any other discipline. 36% of these students identified music teachers as their role models, as opposed to 28% English teachers, 11% elementary teachers, 7% physical education/sports teachers, 1% principals.
-“Music teachers as role models for African-American students," D.L. Hamann and L.M. Walker, " Journal of Research in Music Education, 41, 1993

Students who participated in arts programs in selected elementary and middle schools in New York City showed significant increases in self-esteem and thinking skills.
-National Arts Education Research Center, New York University, 1990

Posted by
Matthew Byrd

Phoenix Poll

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

National News Thoughts

It's currently 5 p.m. on Monday and the two biggest stories on the news are Obama telling Hillary "no way" on a combined ballot and Elliot Spitzer possibly buying a prostitute (and he may resign in an hour and a half).

These stories are pretty important, I definitely agree.

Interesting though, is a story which says the House Judiciary Committee is suing to force Harriet Miers (former White House counsel) and Joshua Bolten (White House chief of staff) to speak on the nine attorneys that were fired.

Both the White House and Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, Mr. Gonzales’s successor, have said the Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten do not have to testify before the committee because of executive privilege, according to the "New York Times."

The committee's action marked the first time in U.S. history that either chamber of Congress has sued the Executive Branch to enforce a subpoena, according to a spokesman for the Judiciary Committee, said "The Washington Post."

The House in turn filed a civil suit. What's more, many Republicans left the House in protest while this was disputed on February 15.

I think that this story is just as big and important. The House is telling the White House that they cannot just cover up another mitake and that someone has to be accountable. When do we get to learn about the good things that sometimes happen in the Capitol? When do they make the front page or are played on continuous loop on major networks?

Posted by
Laurie Perini

IN COMMON: I.F. Stone, the blogger before there were blogs

(The following is an addendum to today’s IN COMMON column on journalist I.F. Stone.)

Dan Froomkin noticed it first, and said so last July in a post on the Nieman Foundation’s website at Harvard:

“The best blogger ever died in 1989 at the age of 81,” Froomkin wrote.

“Although [I.F.] Stone worked for decades vigorously tweaking authority as a daily journalist, editorial writer and essayist, it was in 1953 that he created the perfect outlet for his extraordinary mind, starting I.F. Stone's Weekly, easily the scrappiest and most influential four-page newsletter ever sent through the U.S. mail….

“In many ways, the Weekly was a blog before its time. In format, it was a combination of articles, essays and annotated excerpts from original documents and other people's reporting — just like a blog.”

The Weekly’s format was a purposefully staid and conservative vehicle to carry sometimes radical ideas.

And “In content, it was a far cry from the passionless prose that afflicts so much mainstream political reporting,” Froomkin continued. And “Like so many of today's top bloggers, Stone built a community of loyal readers around his voice — an informed voice, full of outrage and born of an unconcealed devotion to decency and fair play, civil liberty, free speech, peace in the world, truth in government, and a humane society.”

There was also a built-in mechanism to guard against what Jay Rosen has called the “misguided contrarianism” of much blogging. Stone placed emphasis on texts and facts, on what he could confirm was said and done, not on suspicion or political psychologizing.

But one notion about the Weekly and Stone persists, and Froomkin’s description – and his easy parallel – unintentionally allows it to persist: that Stone was an iconoclast bent principally on pulling down idols. Just as, the parallel would go, bloggers have come to do.

Izzy was a troublemaker. His prose neatly, week after week, afflicted the politically comfortable. But any attempt to see Stone’s mission as solely that will have to contend with this, from Izzy himself:

“I don’t think the primary job of a free journalist in a free society is digging out the dirt. That’s part of it, I suppose. The real problem is to provide greater understanding of the complexities in which your country and your people and your time find themselves enmeshed. That’s our job, to translate these issues, to study them. The primary job is not to disgrace anybody or defame them, but to provide understanding.”

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Pay It Forward needs ideas

As most of our readers know, The Phoenix, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, has launched a “Pay It Forward” contest.
The concept here is that people should help each other and their communities, and that people who are helped should, instead of just paying back a good deed to whoever was responsible, “pay it forward” by helping other people. Hopefully, these other people will continue the trend, and the helpfulness will spread and grow even more.
In the Pay It Forward contest, The Phoenix is asking readers to submit ideas for how they would spend $1,000 to help the community. Anyone can send in a plan, from individuals to neighborhoods to classrooms to service clubs. Entries will be accepted through March 31.
The Phoenix has received some very positive responses already, but some of the ideas submitted so far make it clear that further explanation is needed.
The campaign is meant to support not just good causes, but good ideas and good deeds. An entry that just says to give the $1,000 to a particular charity, however worthy, is not what is wanted. Just handing over a check is not the point. The goal here is to encourage people to get involved in helping the community.
Entries should consist of plans with some details. What are you going to buy? For whom? How is it going to help them, and why do they deserve it?
Plans could be aimed at helping poor children, beautifying neighborhoods, doing yardwork for shut-ins, or anything else that helps people or simply brightens life around the community.
For instance, one applicant so far suggests a plan to use the money to buy fresh flowers every week for a year for residents of a certain nursing home, on a rotating basis.
Creativity and initiative will enhance an entry’s chances of winning.
To submit entries for Pay It Forward, drop them off at The Phoenix office at 225 Bridge Street, send e-mail to, or mail them to The Phoenix, P.O. Box 689, Phoenixville, PA 19460.
A panel of judges, consisting of community leaders, a representative of the newspaper, and one total vote from readers once the entries are published, will decide which suggested deed will do the most good.
Whoever submitted the winning entry will receive the $1,000 to carry out the good deed, and will also receive ongoing news coverage from The Phoenix as that takes place.

Posted by
Patricia Matson

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Farewell Vale

The Vale-Rio finally moved this morning, after remaining nearly 60 years at its former location on 494 Nutt Road.

The diner only moved about one mile, yet it was still a momentous occassion. Some would call it an ordeal, due to confusion over its permit and getting stuck in the mud on Francis Puleo's property.

Still, its gone, at least until Puleo successfully manages to the get the diner re-opened. Meanwhile, a Walgreens and Starbucks will open on the Vale's former property and that of The Fountain Inn once it closes this weekend.

I don't know if Puleo will be successful, due to a hurdle of zoning challenges he faces in getting that diner opened on his property. But it will be interesting to see if he is.

Do you miss the Vale, or have a favorite memory of your time there? Or are you ambivalent (perhaps even supportive) of the diner's closing? Do we really need a Walgreens or Starbucks here in Phoenixville?

Posted by
Brian McCarthy

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Old School Freight Train @ Steel City Coffee House

Performing "Millionaires"

Another Song From Old School Freight Train @ Steel City

Performing "I Know You Rider"

Monday, March 3, 2008

Student Recording Studio

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