Sunday, October 25, 2020

Andy's Angles: A Little Closer


People who like to take train photos, sometimes called "rail weenies" have to walk a fine line.  You want that good shot, but you don't want to trespass.  Rail yards are dangerous places.  You don't want to get hurt and clearly you don't want to get killed in pursuit of that perfect photo.

This is a zoomed in camera phone shot of the new Von Storch shop in the Green Ridge section of Scranton.  It was tough to get a good angle on the considerable activity there.

I'll probably try it again soon with my good camera and lenses.  Maybe I'll ask to get a little closer.

As I said yesterday, I'm thrilled that our area still has a connection to its strong railroading past.

By the way, I've been going over some unpublished photos, and I have enough to last until the yearly "Top 10" countdown in December.  It's likely I'll sneak some in on weekdays so I can achieve a fresh start in the new year.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Andy's Angles: Von Storch


I've been meaning to get here for a while, and the opportunity presented itself while I was waiting for my Texas weiner take-out order at the near by Green Ridge News in Scranton.

A new locomotive repair facility recently opened on Von Storch Street in Scranton.  A fellow blogger said it's possible to get some decent shots here, from the Marion Street side.  I took a quick drive over while my weiners were being fried, sauced, onioned and mustarded up.

It was a spur of the moment side trip.  I didn't have my good camera and lenses.  This is a camera phone shot.  If you are generally familiar with the area, the old Scranton Lace factory is roughly at my back while the Green Ridge Street overpass is behind the new building and just around the bend.

The shop looked busy, and that made me happy.  It's nice to see we still build and fix things, before the area becomes a series of kitty litter and sneaker warehouses.

Friday, October 23, 2020



Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of David Letterman's last morning show on NBC.  It lasted about five months.  The screen grab above is from Letterman's final AM broadcast.

I've written about it before.  Letterman's morning show was 90 minutes, cut to 60 after a couple of months and it was wildly creative and sunny.  Some college friends became hooked on it during the summer and they actually arranged their fall college class schedules around it.  I caught it at every opportunity, but I'm a morning person and I liked my morning classes.  Sorry, Dave.

Letterman had the right show, at the wrong time.  It was horrible for 10 am.  She show was retooled.  Paul Shaffer replaced Frank Owens and Letterman was given another shot at 12:30 am.  The rest is history.  I read a Letterman biography that said Dave feared his career was over when the morning show was cancelled.  NBC president Fred Silverman canceled three game shows to make way for Dave in the morning, and he brought two back after he canceled Letterman.  Silverman had the great sense to sign Letterman to a contract, even though he had nothing to do before Late Night.

Speaking of game shows, Blockbusters and Las Vegas Gambit replaced Letterman.  I've always given any incarnation of Gambit a "meh."  I'd watch it if I stumbled across it and I had nothing else to do.  On the other hand, call me a big Blockbusters fan.

Letterman describes his morning show experience as saying "every day was a fist fight."  He also said the shows he did after the cancelation notice and before the last show were some of the best he ever did, because there was nothing to lose.  He could relax, be himself, and have fun.

Moral of the story?   Everybody gets a second chance, and sometimes, a third.  You often get stuck in bad situations, but talent wins out in the end.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

A Pair of 40's


As an admitted radio geek, I have to note a couple of milestones today.

WKRZ FM is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week.  I was in college when WBRE-TV sold its all news radio station with the giant signal.  The new owners went top 40 and knocked the market on its arse.  Very few commercials, huge music sweeps, playing things no one else was playing, and great promotion.  The bumper stickers, like the one you see above from my collection, were everywhere.

I did drop off an audition tape shortly after the change.  It was awful. Actually, beyond awful.   I didn't get the job, and it was one of the smartest moves management there ever made.  Oddly, I was later offered two other jobs with the company.  The first was to handle playback of the Wolfman Jack Show very early Sunday mornings.  The second was to do some news, when KRZ's sister AM station at 1340, attempted a short lived all news format.  I said yes both times, only to back out when my employer at the time, WARM, offered more hours and a little boost in pay to keep me.  I felt like a weasel.  I swear, I wasn't attempting to play one station off another.  Staying put was simply a better business deal.  It wasn't personal.

The second anniversary is a little fuzzier, and I'm sure I will get a "correction" email soon.  WEZX went from easy listening to album rock more than 40 years ago because I remember listening to it in high school.  However, it was automated-- no live dj's.  It was just giant reels of tape on an even bigger machine.  I believe Rock 107 considers this year to be its 40th anniversary because it was the year it scrapped automation in favor of live dj's.

Unlike KRZ, I never applied for a job at WEZX.  I think I would have been a decent fit back in the day.  It's format was similar to what I was doing on my college radio station at the time.  Now, not so much.  WEZX still has that classic album rock base, but it's playing some more recent things, and that is clearly out of my wheel house.

I know a few 107 employees.  They're good people and I'm thrilled the station is doing well after a couple of years of the talent revolving door.  The far right button on my car radios has belonged to 107 for decades.

It's amazing how times have changed.  I spent 10.5 years at WARM, 1981 to 1991.  For years, it was *THE* legacy and heritage station in town-- the station with the most years doing the same format.  I believe WARM was in the mid 30's when it went talk.  Now, it's KRZ and 107, with Magic 93 relatively close behind, as the legacy stations in town.

It's no secret that radio around here often disappoints this old man.  There isn't as much "live and local" as there used to be, and that makes me sad.  However, it's amazing that those two stations are still going strong.

Happy birthday!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Hello! It's Me!


The woman above, intensely doing her job, is WNEP reporter Amanda Eustice.   She started just as the pandemic hit and our staff was divided into "inside" and "outside" teams.  She's outside.  I'm inside.

Fast forward to October 14.  Amanda was doing a story on the new John Lennon mural in downtown Scranton.  I showed up, camera in hand and bag on shoulder, for my own curiosity and to get some blog/social media material.

Amanda and I were both masked up.  After seeing me work with my professional looking gear, Amanda asked "Do you work for the newspaper?"  I took off my mask and replied, "No, I work with you."  Amanda gets major points for instant recognition, even though it was the first time we had met in person.

We had a short and pleasant  conversation.  All our communication to this point was via email.  Amanda stayed to complete her story.  I left to visit Steamtown and do a little leaf peeping.

What a strange and bizarre world in which we live.  On the same payroll since early March.  First in person meeting more than seven months later.

Like the rest of the nation, I can't wait for this to come to an end, and Amanda, it was great to finally meet you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Again !?!?!


Seriously.  I'm on vacation again.

I'll explain it.  I didn't take off any time, not one hour, during the lock down, so all my vacation time is crammed in to the second half of the year.

It's my standard vacation-- sleep, walks, photography, and I'll play with that hot glue gun I bought during my last vacation, two weeks ago.  It's changed my life!  A shoe repair is holding strong!  I had a hot glue gun decades ago, when they first came out.  The new glue sticks are much better than that first generation.

Elizabeth Worthington, who always does a great job, is handling the weekend morning broadcasts.

I'll still be around, and as always, I'll call you back later.

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Best of Times


Bob Shanks died last week.  88.  He helped develop "Good Morning America."  It was a game changer in morning television.  The show, produced by ABC's entertainment division in those early years, had actors for anchors.  It also established an outstanding stable of contributors.  By the way, GMA was based on a local show, called "The Morning Exchange" in Cleveland.

Shanks, in working with anchor David Hartman, proved you don't need to be a rocket scientist to ask questions in the morning.  You do need curiosity, and more inmportantly, warmth.  GMA left NBC in the dust.

As smart as Bob Shanks was at ABC, he created "The Morning Program" at CBS, and in my book, it was one of the worst shows in the history of broadcast television.  CBS got tired of getting its brains beat in at 7 am.  Shanks came up with a show headlined by Roland Smith, Mariette Hartley, Mark McEwen and Bob Saget.  Calling it "unwatchable" would be a compliment.  As someone who was always a fan of the "CBS Morning News," I cringed ever time "The Morning Program" aired.  It lasted nine months and CBS eventually went back to a more traditional presentation-- one handled by the news division.  It didn't work, either, but at least the people involved could walk out the door with their heads held high every morning.

At the end of the day, Bob Shanks' contribution to television will have far more plusses than minuses.  He made the business better.

And, I have to note the passing of Bert Quint.  The former CBS News correspondent died over the weekend.  In the Cronkite days, the CBS Evening News always began with the list of correspondents and their locations.  Quint was always in some war torn section of southeast Asia, bringing the horror of the Vietnam War in to our homes.  The man had guts.  Bert Quint was 90.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Andy's Angles: Photo School

I started the year with the goal of upping my photo game.  There are some new lenses in my bag, and I have watched dozens of "how to" videos on You Tube.  Some have offered some really great advice.

The "old" me would have been satisfied with the photo you see above.  It's a shot of the Lackawanna Heritage Trail near Broadway Street in south Scranton.   Although, I would have cropped out the trash can on the left!  I took it Wednesday morning. 

The "new" me, while not always succeeding, attempts to do things a little differently.

Get close to the red tree, which is on the right of the first photo.  Keep the leaves sharp.  Blur the background.  Again, it's not an award winner, but it is a different way of doing the standard "fall foliage" shot.

Of course, you can do just the opposite-- blur the red tree and use it as a frame.  Focus on the green and yellow on the other side of the trail.

Keep in mind, all of this was done by done by a weak skilled amateur, and with the kit lens that came with the camera.  Believe me, it's not that hard.  It's okay to shoot the same thngs, but just find a different way to do it.

In case you're interested, I shot on Av, with the camera opened up to 3.5-- and that's the max for the kit lens I used.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Andy's Angles: The River


I like shooting rivers at any time of year, but especially in the fall.

There was still plenty of green in this Wednesday morning shot of the Lackawanna.  I took it from the Broadway Street bridge in Scranton.

In spite of some recent rain, the Lackawanna was running low and slow.  I have mixed feelings about that.  High water and currents do add visual interest, but on the other hand, still water gives you the opportunity for a little reflection.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Andy's Angles: Leaf Peeping


I put this one up on social media recently, with the promise of telling the little photography tale behind it.  Well, it's really not much of a story.

I had a couple of goals the other morning-- shoot some leaves and put the standard kit lens through its paces with depth of field experiments.

The location-- the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Trail, near Broadway and the Lackawanna River in Scranton.

Serious photographers look down their noses at kit lenses, the ones that come with the camera.  I get that.  Versatile?  Yes.  Capable of producing interesting images?  Sometimes.  I wanted to play with depth of field and background blur, so I opened it up as far as it would go-- 3.5.  It's OK, but prime lesnses I carry with me can do better.  I shot on Av, and my camera seemed to over compensate for the bright sunlight by giving me a very fast shutter speed.  That means a slightly underexposed photo, and I fixed that with some post production.  It's also possible the camera overcompensated for the bright yellow leaves in the background.

It's hardly a Top Ten photo, but I do like the end result.  I'll go in to a little more detail on Sunday.