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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Andy's Angles: Toy Soldiers

I used a similar shot for a December blog header a few years ago, and I was really tempted to do it again.  I love these things.

Toy soldiers are once again standing guard outside the Cait Center on Lackawanna Avenue in Scranton.  I took this shot during a flurrie filled Thanksgiving morning.
It adds some much needed holiday warmth and cheer to one of my least favorite downtown buildings.  It reminds me of an old stone castle or prison, void of charm.  The inside is just as sterile.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Top Ten of 2014

Well, the end of the year is in sight.  As has been tradition for the past six years, there will be a countdown of my ten favorite photos of the year.  I was actually a bit surprised when I went through the archives.  The first "top ten" was in 2009.  I thought it was more recent, maybe four years ago.

They may not be the best examples of the finest photography, but they are images that will bring back memories.  Some, happy.  Others, not so much.  Once again, it's an interesting year.  We all leave 2014 a bit different than the way we entered.

The countdown begins Sunday.  There will be a break for Christmas.  Occasionally, a thought or two on the news of the day will be tossed in.

Thanks for being here the past ten years of blogging, and six years of countdowns. Have a great holiday season.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Finale

The HBO series, The Newsroom, wrapped up its two and a half year run Sunday night.  The series was centered around a fictional cable news network.  Some story lines were news related.  Most were people oriented.

The Newsroom was one of those series where I kept saying "I'll give it one more week."  Eventually I was hooked.  I always wanted to work with a guy like Will McAvoy.  I always wanted to work for a guy like Charlie Skinner.

Some scenes are on You Tube.  I strongly suggest scene one from episode one-- the one where Will goes off on a college kid who asks a question at a media seminar.  Outstanding writing by Aaron Sorkin.  Talky, preachy, and long winded were some of the complaints.  I got that.  On the other hand, the stuff was so well written, you overlooked the lecture.

When The Newsroom was good, it was great.  When it wasn't, it was merely okay.

The finale wrapped up the story lines and character arcs nicely, albeit occasionally trite.  There were several flashbacks, explaining how characters first interacted, meetings, etc.  It worked.

Jane Fonda as a media mogul was outstanding casting.  She played the role to perfection.

I've become a big Jeff Daniels fan.

Sam Waterston stole every scene in which he appeared.

Olivia Munn is a striking woman, but not a great actress.  On the other hand, she took every line she was given, many humorous, and delivered.

I'm sorry HBO and Sorkin decided to end The Newsroom after only 25 episodes.  It was one of the good ones.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Solutions

I'm a firm believer in the phrase "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

But then again, there are grey areas.

I spent part of my Monday chasing down a report of a violence threat in an area school district.  I finally tracked down someone who should know, and had two conversations.  It turns out something was said by a student.  It might have been misinterpreted.  Thanks to the internet, the rumors took off.  Those rumors refuse to die down because far too many people have the "If I saw it on Facebook, it must be true" mentality.

I can understand the fear of a parent.  It has to be tough to see your kid walk out the door in the morning, and head in to an often violent world.

On the other hand, if people took the time to stop and think before they hit the enter or send button, we'd be better off.

Tuesday, another threat of violence.  This one was at the Career Technology Center in Scranton.  Administration brought in police and a metal detector.  It was also very open about what it was doing.  Sharing information helps parents and students make informed decisions, and the candor was refreshing.

Unlike Monday's story, there was a change in behavior at CTC, so the story got on the air.

Believe me, there were some vivid newsroom debates both days.

I often wonder if we're adding to the problem by giving credence to the rumors.  As I said, the key difference between Monday and Tuesday was a change in a school's behavior.

There are no easy answers.  This isn't the first time we've been through situations like these, and unfortunately, it won't be the last.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Scrapple

Can we please have just one sunny day?  Cold is okay.  I'd just like to see the sun again.

CBS says David Letterman's last show is May 20.  Craig Ferguson ends his 12:35 AM run one week from today.  Colbert starts in the fall and has the potential to be great.  Still, I'll miss Dave and Craig-- a lot.

McDonald's stock is sliding.  Its answer?   Trim the menu, but add touch screens where people can order customized, high end burgers.  McDonald's has to battle the image it sells fat and salt laden junk.  Younger customers are going elsewhere.

The company that owns Sears and KMart says it will close more than 230 stores next year.  Do you get the feeling the end is near?

We're getting reports the downtown Scranton cineplex is on the way out.  Like McDonald's, image is everything.  People don't feel safe around the theaters, and there's not much reason to visit the mall.

The Christmas decorations on Courthouse Square look great-- the downtown's lone bright spot.  For those of who grew up around here, did you ever think you'd see the day downtown's best lights are provided by a government body rather than retailers?  The rest of downtown looks dark and sad.  I should note, Penn Security's windows, at North Washington and Spruce are spectacular.

Shehadi Appliance in Throop is closing-- one of the most famous WARM radio commercials of all time.

Christmas 2014 set the record for most catalogs mailed to the house.

I'm really not all that interested in the college football playoffs.  Maybe I'll get in to it as the games draw near.

We're still months away from baseball.  Winter meetings, and plenty of trades and free agent signings this week.  I enjoyed thinking about a warm weather sport again.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Christmas Letter

You knew this blog was coming.  It's become December tradition.

To get you up to speed, I always get a Christmas card and letter from an old college friend.

Let me back up a moment.  A lot of people hate Christmas newsletters.  I love them.  Even though many are mass produced, I like learning what my friends have been up to.  It's a lot better than a plain old signature, or a pre stamped line at the bottom of a card.

My old college friend is one of the sweetest people God ever put on the planet.  As I've noted here before, one of my great regrets in life is not getting to know her until our senior year.  I'm thrilled to get the yearly note.

No one deserves happiness more, and it really looks like she's been blessed:  great husband, great family, great kids, great job, great vacations, great adventures...  My problem comes with the response.  I'm happy and lucky to have when I do, but there's not much pizzazz.  Writing a response is always a challenge.

Here's the first draft.

Dear Sue:

As always, thank you for the card and letter.  It thrills me to learn everyone is doing so well, and it appears you had another great year.  No one deserves it more.

Things are okay at my end.  I'm still at WNEP.  I still ride my bike and go to the gym.  I still have good health.  I still love going out and playing with my camera.  I still enjoy what I do, and I still don't like the song "Still" by Lionel Richie.

Thankfully, my pen and baseball cap collecting has slowed.  I still have way too many of both.

It's been a busy news year.  Unfortunately, most of the stories have been sad ones.  It kept us moving.  We're all very tired, but any time you start to get a little down, you remember the people involved in the story who going through an even tougher time.

I didn't buy many ties this year, but I did get a new laptop, light jacket and a heavy coat from the station.  I found some shoes I really like.

My last sick day was in December of 2012.

My blog hit its tenth anniversary.

I made some new friends and lost some old friends.  A few passed away.  Others did things to make me realize I was wasting my time.

My teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Athletics, broke my heart.  But, hey, it's only a game.

My face appears in a film called "Kids for Ca$h."  I still haven't seen it.

I've been stretched in a thousand different ways, but I've always found a moment or two to count my blessings.  One of them is my continued friendship with you.

Stay well.  Thanks again for the letter.

Your friend in Pennsylvania,

Andy.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Andy's Angles: U of S Update

It's been a while since I updated the University of Scranton's latest building project-- a "Center for Rehabilitation Education" at Linden and Jefferson.

I was in favor of the concept.  Construction fuels the economy.  The new building would attract more students to the U, and that means dollars for local businesses.  This building replaces an old and rather unremarkable one.  There was a bit of history, the old YWCA.  Unfortunately, it was a brick box and few people noticed it.

Second thoughts erupted as the building started going up.  At eight stories, it overwhelms the neighborhood.  Looking at it recently, I must be getting used to it.  It doesn't seem as imposing.  I think a factor was a choice for tan stone for some of the outside.  It blends in with what's already here.
By the way, take a look at the counterweights on the crane on the Linden Street side.  Each of those concrete slabs weighs 9,000 pounds, and there are 12 of them.
The new building, according to the University of Scranton, should be ready for fall semester, 2015.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Andy's Angles: The Globe

It's amazing how a building can make you happy and sad at the same time.

This is the old Globe store on Wyoming Avenue in downtown Scranton.  It was a department store that seemed to have just about everything-- clothes, shoes, furniture, appliances, candy, stationery, books, records, a restaurant, and a lot of other stuff I'm sure I'm missing.

I cannot pass by, any time of year, without thinking of Christmas.  The Globe always had the best decorations outside, the best window displays, and the best Santa inside.  Toyland was really something special.

The Globe closed in 1994.  Suddenly.  Sadly.  Employees were thrown out, and told to return in a few days for the start of the going out of business sale.  Thanks for your service!

Even a bridge to the new Mall at Steamtown couldn't save it.  By the end, the Globe was just a tired, old store that needed help, and no one had the money to give it.  Department stores started becoming less popular, and the decline is still in effect today.

An information technology called the building home for a long time.  It, too, is gone.  The Globe is empty.  The building is for sale.  Unfortunately, I don't see a bright future.  The retail days are done.  Possibilities?  Apartments/condos.  Downtown living seems popular these days.  Government.  Lackawanna County has offices scattered all over the place.  A central location, a big courthouse annex wouldn't be a bad idea, but the cost could kill it.

I took this picture on a recent morning, but I'm frequently in the area before the sun rises.  It's a dark and dismal block.  It's too bad the cash strapped, idea void city can't put something here, like a big tree or some holiday lights to brighten up the area, and help people feel good about Scranton.  It might be time for the downtown business community to step up and make the former downtown hub attractive again.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hello and Good Morning

I wish I could remember the exact date, but I do know it was around this time of year in 1979.  35 years ago.  My first time on the radio.  17 years old.

I was a freshman at Marywood.  I'm not sure about the current policy, but way back then, freshmen weren't allowed on the college radio station, WVMW.  In my day, it was a little ten watt station at 91.5 FM.  It's now considerably more powerful and has moved up the dial a wee bit, to 91.7.

During my time, the radio station was on the air for 12 hours a day, 1 PM to 1 AM.  However, a few times a year the station did what it called "Rock Weekends."  24/7.  Friday afternoon to Monday morning.

For whatever reason there weren't enough student dj's to go around in December of 1979.  I'm not sure if it was because of finals, or winter break.  WVMW needed bodies and voices.  I appealed to the station's student manager for a shot, and I got one, reluctantly.  Sunday morning.  2:30 AM to 4:00 AM.  Mary Jo, was there to keep an eye on me.  I don't remember if she was a sophomore or junior, but it was nice to have someone experienced to guide me through.

By the way, I should point out that 35 years later, I'm still working weekend mornings.  No complaints.  This is the life we have chosen.

What do I remember about that morning?  First song:  "The Stranger" by Billy Joel.  I also remember being terrified and simply awful.  Beyond hideous.  But, that's why college radio stations are there-- to learn the craft and make mistakes.  The fact that Marywood had a real radio station was one of the things that attracted me to the place.  Affordable tuition (at the time) was also a major factor.  That's another story for another blog entry.

The 90 minutes on the air flew by, and I started getting regular WVMW time after that.  Even though I had to weasel my way in to that first shift, I was thrilled that I was the first member of my class to get on the air.  While I'm thrilled to be doing what I'm doing now, I always enjoyed radio.  Even though I haven't been behind a radio microphone in eons, I still love it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Wise Choice

I heard the eight finalists for Time magazine's person of the year late Tuesday night, and I immediately settled on my choice-- Ebola fighters.

However, I didn't think that would be Time's selection.  If I had to bet, I would have said the Ferguson rioters.  A case could also be made for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Please note that Time's criteria is, loosely defined, someone who has inflicted change.  Hitler, Stalin, and Khrushchev were past winners.  Putin got the title in 2007, and the case could be made for a second shot.

When it comes down to it, "Person of the Year" will be forgotten about tomorrow, but the work of the Ebola fighters cannot be diminished, underestimated, or anything like that.  These people slogged through filth to save strangers, and maybe even save countries, continents, the planet...

Some Time choices, over the years, have been questionable.  The editors got it right this time.