Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Naperville Sun - "Rockin' Time To Support American Troops" (7.20.09)


Mother Nature was threatening, but her flood gates stayed down for the Operation: Support Our Troops fourth annual "Rockin' For The Troops" fundraiser held Saturday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Last year's event sold out, drawing more than 10,000 people, not including vendors an volunteers.

Admission was $25; the same cost to ship a care package overseas. Naperville resident and Operation: Support Our Troops volunteer Marilyn Jannusch helps the organization in sending 200 care packages out every other week.

At the Operation: Support Our Troops warehouse in Lisle, Jannusch helps pack and send out items such as canned tuna, peanut butter, beef jerky, toothpaste, popcorn and those little drink packets that transform an ordinary bottle of water into an entirely new beverage.

"My job at the warehouse is snack bags. They say I can jam more stuff in the (quart-sized) bags than anyone," Jannusch said. "And I take pride in that."

Event coordinator Al Keener said Operation: Support Our Troops spends about $10,000 a month in postage alone, covering the cost of 400 care packages.

Resources for troops and their families such as grief counseling and mental health assessment also were there. One such resource for troops who feel symptoms of depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder can take a free, anonymous mental health screening online at, said Col. Janet Kamer, Ph.D., chief psychologist for the Air Force Reserve Command.

"Lots of people are concerned, so they can go online and do an anonymous screening," Kamer said.

If they score positive, a list of customized resources is automatically displayed.

Also supporting and promoting the event was 94.7 WLS-FM DJ, Radio Hall of Famer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dick Biondi.

"It's my way of giving a little bit back — very little — to all the guys and women in the armed forces," Biondi said.

Other attractions at this year's Rockin' For The Troops included magicians, belly dancers, comedian Anita Renfroe, the Gaddis Sisters, The Byrds co-founder Chris Hillman with folk/country musician Herb Pedersen, Eagles tribute band Heartache Tonight and headlining the main stage at 8:30 p.m. was Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.

Additional money was raised raffling off a 2009 Harley Davidson XL 1200N Sportster 1200 Nightster autographed by Gary Sinise, an MB guitar autographed by Gary Sinise and a suite for 15 including food at Wrigley Field for the Cubs' Aug. 31 game against the Astros. Raffle tickets were $10 each or three for $25.

But Saturday wasn't all about fun and activities. Many Blue Star and Gold Star families made up the crowd of thousands. Wearing a Blue Star badge means they have a loved one serving in active duty. Wearing a Gold Star badge means they lost a loved one in military service.

Round Lake Beach resident Sue Weinger wore a T-shirt with her son's picture on it and a Gold Star pinned to it. Her son, Army Sgt. Robert M. Weinger, 24, was killed March 15 in Jalabad, Afghanistan, with two others by an improvised explosive device.

"I'm here to support everybody else to come home safely because nobody should go through what we're going through," Weinger said through tearing eyes.

Since her loss, Weinger has become close with the mother of Spc. Normal L. Cain III, who was killed with her son.

Cain's mother lives in Freeport, roughly a two-hour drive from Round Lake Beach.

"We make the drive back and forth," Weinger said.

Operation: Support Our Troops volunteers already began packing boxes for the holidays containing handmade stockings filled with playing cards, dice games, CDs and anything else the troops could have some fun with.

"We'll be doing this until the last kid comes home," Jannusch said. "We're not in it just this month, and then we're through."
Some 12,000 fans attended Saturday’s “Rockin’ for the Troops” fundraiser held at Cantigny featuring the Lt. Dan Band, with actior Gary Sinise (below) on bass.

"Merman Records Presents: Sea Creatures Vol. 1" 7'' review

Merman Records' second 7'' release, "Sea Creatures: Vol. 1" is a four-way split between Fear of Lipstick, the Neutron Bombs, Regal Beagle and The Roman Line.

The first track by Fear of Lipstick, "Did Ya Know?," is your standard three-chord pop punk song a little too reminiscent of Screeching Weasel's "Racist Society." It seems to adopt the same authoritative, informative attitude that Ben Weasel was so good at conveying in early Screeching Weasel. Fear of Lipstick isn't trying to be anything they're not here as "Did Ya Know?" is a more personal statement rather than a statement period, if that makes any sense. They play really well, the recording quality is a bit low but overall it's a good song and I'd check out more by this Canadian four-piece.

The second band on here is the Neutron Bombs from Chicago, IL. I've seen them play three times now, two of which were shows we played together and every time I see them, I like them more and more. My first impression was "Ken sounds British." The Neutron Bombs write some catchy songs with sweet bass and guitar riffs. Songs from the band's demo display this more than "Not Listening." Exactly two minutes in length, this is the best-sounding recording the band has and hopefully in time, we get to hear more by them. Oh, they also feature Pete from The Methadones, The Bomb and Explode and Make Up on bass. I'm going to say this song is good, reminiscent of British punk and power pop with a Midwest attitude obviously influenced by bands like Naked Raygun. Then The Dickies/Pointed Sticks/999/The Damned influence is also apparent. Check this trio out.

The third song, "Party Again" is by a band called Regal Beagle from Los Angeles. These guys sound awesome and I can't believe I haven't heard of them before. I hate to sound redundant but the beginning of the song sounds like "99" by Screeching Weasel. They also kinda remind me of The Leftovers with the "let's get drunk and party" attitude accompanied by a rockin' guitar solo. The song, less than a minute and a half in length, goes fast but rocks and is the best tune on the split. Oh, the band's MySpace profile also has a song that Joe Queer sings quite a bit on. Fucking rad.

The fourth and final band on the split, The Roman Line, strays furthest from the traditional pop punk sound, but still maintains that three-chord sound just with distortion, kind of like how Off With Their Heads does it. Their song is called "Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease" and is about a girl that sounds as if she's an "attention whore." It's got more gruff-sounding vocals with bass and drum and then it'll go to a totally Fat Wreck-sounding verse, something like the Loved Ones or Smoke or Fire would come out with. There are backing vocals in there that reinforce that sound that I'm having trouble describing...

Anyways if you're sick of the stuff you've got and are open to new music by bands you may have never heard before, pick up this 7'' from Merman Records ( It's fun, diverse-sounding, and a great split put out by a great new label. I am looking forward to the next volume of "Sea Creatures" already.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The PG-13s - "Get Back" EP review:

"Sounds like Lagwagon!" what popped into my head after I hit go on my turntable, enabling the first track, "Sure Thing." The PG-13s are a four-piece from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and just released a four-song EP on Merman Records called "Get Back" on June 15, 2009.
The first song, "Sure Thing," seems to draw past and present influences from doo-wop bands to modern day pop punk. It's just over two minutes long and makes for a good intro song to the EP.
"Sasha Sasha" is a little closer to three minutes, stretching out the "Oohs" as lead singer Sean croons over this Sasha chick. Very good, and I think I hear a little Saves The Day in there? Whether the influence is there or not, their voices sound similar, which is a good thing. Very poppy, but stays on the correct side of the thin line separating "pop punk" from "this is too poppy."
There's a track on here called "Winona" which I think to be about Winona Ryder. The following line led me to this conclusion:
"I'll bail you out when things just get so tough/Don't worry about what they'll say/I won't let them take you away." America's favorite little shoplifter.
The last song, "Oh So," I had heard previously on an online compilation called "Punk Rock Pot Luck Vol. 3." It's got a sweet catchy solo in the middle of the song and it reminds me a little of Weezer. It's a real lovey-dovey song with the "ba da bas" and "oohs and ahhs." I dig it. Three stars out of five. The band is pretty good, although one thing I would change is the frequency of the rhymes in "Oh So" because at some points, it seems a little excessive. But songs like "Sasha Sasha" redeem it with the band's originality. Pop punk is a real hard genre for a band to bring something new to the table because really, there's only so much you can do with a few chords and a broken or swollen heart. Their progression in their songs reminds me a little of The Leftovers - a very power pop and 60s rock/pop-influenced band. Instead of the progression of say, a Riverdales or a Ramones tune, it goes a little longer and in not-so-typical places, making the verses and chorus a little longer and well, kinda better.

Check 'em out at and and pick up the 7'' at

Friday, July 17, 2009

Naperville Sun - "DuPage Residents Rally To Save State Funding" (6.20.09)

By JASON DUARTE For The Sun-Times News Group

"No more cuts! No more cuts!" was chanted by hundreds who rallied at 2 p.m. Friday in the hot and threatening weather in the courtyard outside the DuPage County Courthouse in Wheaton on County Farm Road. The crowd was protesting budget cuts proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly.

The state notified human service agencies across the state that come July 1, funding for multiple human services agencies will be completely eliminated.
Paul Conrad of Roselle protests the proposed state budget cuts in social services programs at the DuPage County complex in Wheaton on Friday.

Executive director of Catholic Charities and Naperville resident Kathleen McGowan said the cut will be detrimental to its head-start and early head-start programs especially.

"There's potential of no longer being able to do counseling with children who were victims of abuse and neglect," McGowan said. "We've been informed of a 27 percent cut in the funding between our Daybreak Center in Joliet and our Hope House in Villa Park. If that continues, that's 27 percent more people outside sleeping in the parks of Naperville and under viaducts. Where are cuts the state is making? I've cut staff prior to this."

"I don't want to be laid off after 25 years of service," said Downers Grove resident, employee and former board member of the Ray Graham Association for People With Disabilities. "The moral of the story is, 'No more cuts!" she said.

Jack Ryan, president and CEO of Naperville-based Little Friends Inc., said his business is being hit in two ways: grant funding and fees for service funding.

For example, the state of Illinois reimburses Ryan every day a client is served at their residential program, Ryan said.

By July 1, Little Friends may lose $1.1 million in funding, which will in turn eliminate funding for 150 clients or residents in their programs. And that doesn't include a possible additional $1.2 million to $1.7 million by October.

"What are we going to do about it? We're planning to reduce employees' salaries, terminate retirement plans, increase employee health care costs and eliminate 11 positions. If the actual reduction of another $1.2 to $1.7 million takes place (on Oct. 1), it'll be a massive destruction," Ryan said.

The Family Shelter Service of DuPage County even closed its office today in the 505 Building on County Farm Road in Wheaton to let people know what is going on.

Cathy Ficker Terrill, CEO of the Ray Graham Association, which focuses on people with disabilities, said 900 people will lose 100 percent of their funding if these cuts go through. On Oct. 1, if the additional cuts go through, "1,100 additional people will lose services," Ficker Terrill said. "It's not about jobs, it's about lives. These individuals can't function without staff supporting them and feeding them and bathing them. Some may become homeless and they're vulnerable. It will not be safe," she said.

It costs the Ray Graham Association between $20,000 and $50,000 per individual per year, whereas a person in a state institution costs around $150,000 per year, Ficker Terrill said.

In the meantime, Ficker Terrill said she is looking at every nonessential thing.

"Travel's been cut, we slashed our food budget, we slashed training, we froze all positions," Ficker Terrill said.

When it came time for both Democrats and Republicans to vote on an appropriation bill, "none of us did," said Illinois State Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville. "We're talking about briefing salaries. A list of items is being proposed by cutting salaries of state employees by 10 percent, reforming their pension and trying to reform Medicaid. None of that got done; it was all dumped on human services and that's wrong."

Senger said she is not in favor of the 50 percent cut in human services programs, but said she isn't in favor of raising taxes, either.

"I was trying to get a bill proposed saying you need a super majority (2/3) of the vote to raise taxes (instead of 51 percent)," Senger said.

"I've been through Halfway House at Serenity and Cornell Intervention at Woodridge," said recovering alcoholic and addict Jeff Rhoades of Addison. "If it wasn't for those places, I'd be dead."

Naperville Sun - "County Leaders Warn of Effects on Budget Cuts" (6.23.09)


DuPage County officials warned Monday that cuts to drug treatment programs could end up harming everyone in the long run.

DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett, DuPage County Public Defender Robert Miller and Karen Notko, administrator for Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, held a press conference in the DuPage County Courthouse in Wheaton to protest the proposed state budget.

TASC, a not-for-profit organization that provides behavioral health recovery services for individuals with substance abuse and mental health disorders, received a letter from the state stating that after July 1, it would no longer receive funding for individuals going through TASC's rehabilitation services.

Notko's office alone deals with 150 clients who rely on state funding for help. If the 76 percent cut goes through, only 36 individuals would be treated and TASC would be forced to suspend its intake.

"How do I choose?" Notko said. "Do I choose the single mother with children? Or the 45-year-old with substance abuse problems and a mental illness? What happens to the other 114? Will they haunt hospitals or go on DuPage County paths because they're homeless? Or will they repeatedly enter the court system?"

If the individuals are released untreated, it is possible many of them will end up in jail or be repeatedly tried through the court systems, which will only cost taxpayers more, Notko said.

In DuPage County there have been more than 160 drug-related deaths in the past three years, including 13 so far in 2009.

"If these cuts were to take place it would be damaging to Illinois' criminal justice system," Birkett said. "Cutting funding to vital organizations such as TASC that provide crucial services for drug related offenses would end up costing the state significantly more money in the long run. The governor's penny-wise and pound-foolish budget proposals make absolutely no sense.

"Currently, it costs Illinois taxpayers approximately $4,500 a year per individual for TASC and treatment. When you compare this number to the more than $20,000 each year it costs taxpayers to incarcerate an offender, you can see that service organizations such as TASC actually save the taxpayer a significant amount of money every year," Birkett said.

Miller said he has relied on TASC many times.

"The benefits of using TASC are multi-faceted. We don't want repeat offenders. We represent people who have been charged with thefts up to murders that are drug-related. But you can't use the community as a petri dish," Miller said.

He urged Gov. Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly to replace the funding so they can continue the programs they have.

Notko said if the cut goes through, they will be left with three options. The first would be to send nonviolent offenders to prison, costing taxpayers eight times more than it does to treat them through TASC. The second is sending them to county jails, which Notko said would cost taxpayers an extra $2,100 to $3,700 per person, per month. And third, addicts can be released to the community with their addictions without access to treatment or supervision.

Eliminating state funding won't just affect those in treatment, Notko said. About 10 people are affected by every one drug addict, including family, friends and co-workers.

"TASC saves money, reduces re-arrest and lays the foundation for positive and lasting change," Notko said.

Naperville Sun - "Game System Aims To Slow The Advance of Dementia" (7.15.09)

By Jason Duarte
For The Sun

When Naperville resident Jim McArdle began having trouble with his usual crossword puzzles and became frustrated with them, he went to see a doctor.

The 81-year-old was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease more than a year ago.
Mary Ellen McArdle, 79, helps her husband, Jim McArdle, 81, do mental exercises on the Dakim Brain Fitness system at the McArdle's home Tuesday. Jim McArdle is a retired accountant who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease more than a year ago.

Last month, his son Jim E. McArdle of North Aurora entered a Father's Day online contest and won something that could help his father sort out life's other puzzles.

The system, called Dakim Brain Fitness, operates more like a game than a test, but tests both short- and long-term memory and operates in real time, adjusting the difficulty level based on each of the user's answers. The easy-to-use, touch-screen system aims to slow the advance of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. It hit the market in June.

The Dakim Brain Fitness System was created by inventor and CEO Dan Michel after he helped his father struggle through 13 years of Alzheimer's. During this time, Michel realized there is a therapeutic and emotional value in mental stimulation and came up with the system.

"It's based on standardized neurological tests," said Dakim representative Erika Schmit. "It tracks your success, and at the end of a session, you can see what your score is; long-term versus short-term."

As the elder McArdle answered the system's questions in his dining room, they would either get harder as he answered correctly, or easier if he answered incorrectly. This is what's known as "real time," Schmit said.

"It always gives positive reinforcement and tries to keep you going without getting discouraged," Schmit said. "It's like working out at a gym; if you work out once a month, you won't make any progress. The same idea is behind this."

"He's good with trivia and geography," the younger McArdle said.

His father admitted he lost a lot of recollection of older movies, but right away, he recognized comedian Jack Benny's face among other faces.

His wife, Mary Ellen McArdle, gave an instance of how the Dakim system can be challenging.

"It described a passage from a book; a descriptive passage and then came back and asked what color clothes the man had on," she said. "Pretty sneaky."

Mary Ellen said both she and her husband feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to use a machine like the Dakim Brain Fitness system. Between his medications and trying to keep physically active, they hope to keep ahead of Alzheimer's.

"Combining them all gets the maximum benefit," Schmit said.

Since its release, the Dakim Brain Fitness System has been implemented in 286 senior living communities. For home users, it is available at for $2,399. Demos of the system are also on the site.