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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Courthouse Square


Many visitors to La Festa Italiana this weekend in Scranton will be getting their first look at the "new and improved" Courthouse Square.

The annex, closest to Linden Street, is gone. Good. The annex didn't fit in with the rest of the building. There were severe maintenance issues. It was shot and had to come down.

In its place-- nothing. The county decided to re-locate offices to other buildings around the downtown. It's confusing. We'll just have to deal with it.

The designers will say there is more "green space" now than there used to be. Unfortunately, this is a case where perception obliterates reality. There are huge granite walls in front of the courthouse on the North Washington Avenue side. The walls are a tribute to veterans, and I'm all for that. I can't stress that enough. Honoring veterans is good.

On the other hand, the walls are too big. They're the wrong color, and they kill the flow of the square. The words "inappropriate for the site" come to mind. It's the great wall of granite on the sides and a sea of concrete below. For a little more perspective, click on yesterday's blog photo.

There is another mass of masonry over on the Spruce Street side. It's just too much.

The project is not complete, and I'm keeping an open mind. I'll be back for another look when it's done.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

La Festa Italiana


The 33rd annual La Festa Italiana begins today on Courthouse Square in downtown Scranton.

Obviously, that's the courthouse on the left. The tents were up when I visited Thursday morning. That's North Washington Avenue on the right. Spruce Street runs perpendicular and to the rear of the shot.

As noted before, I liked the Italian Festival better when it was held Columbus Day weekend, but it's still a pretty good time.

As always, you can click on the photo to make it larger. I didn't think much of this shot when I first viewed it, but after making it fill the screen, I was slightly impressed with the detail.

More from the square tomorrow.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Holiday Weekend


I know I say it every year, but it bears repeating. Once again, I'll add to your enjoyment of the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association by not being there.

Some of us have to remain behind and keep an eye on the WNEP news operation, and I always volunteer for that duty. The telethon will be left up to the experts. Asking for money isn't easy. Please, give what you can.

If the rain holds off, we'll have a lot of high school football on our Saturday morning broadcast and a lot of college action on Sunday. Keep your fingers crossed.

Some awful weather is heading for the gulf coast and Florida. Hurricane season is still going strong. Joe will take a look at the storms Saturday morning. Noreen will be back Sunday.

Congratulations to those of you who picked up on this week's Grateful Dead and James Taylor references.

Enjoy your holiday weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

That's Why I'm Here



ABC "World News" anchor Charlie Gibson now has a blog, the last of the big 3 network anchors to have one. Here's what he has to say about it:
"I think these things can tend to be a little self-serving and self-aggrandizing. That's my only objection to blogs. I don't know that we'll show our dirty linen, but I'll try to be as honest as I can and do a little 'value added' stuff."

Self serving and self aggrandizing? I'll plead guilty to the first half of that. I usually save this speech for the annual blog establishement anniversary in November, but I'll do it now. I jumped at the blog offer four years ago because I wanted to try something different, and I wanted to do something outside the strict confinement of a serious newscast. I also thought I needed a little image rehab. Very few people "get" me. I take my job seriously, but I don't take myself seriously. Too many people think I'm all business, void of a sense of humor and personality. I may not be the life of the party, but I'm not a stiff, either.

I do try to throw in some "value added" stuff from time to time, in the form of a "behind the scenes" story or two. I'm forced to leave out most of the really, really good stuff. You'd never believe it.

A blog can be an effective tool on so many levels. I just get the feeling Mr. Gibson really hasn't bought in to the concept. Here's an excerpt from Tuesday's entry:
"I spent 40 minutes or so yesterday writing and editing what I'd written. And if I post, I will write it. And there were 47 responses. As I said, I appreciate them, but is that a good use of time? I work in a business of mass communication. We broadcast to seven to ten million people each night. Is it worth it to ABC News for me to spend half an hour or an hour a day blogging when I could be focused on the night's broadcast? I don't know. Blogging is retail communicating, as opposed to being on air, which is wholesale communicating. Well enough of that."
Less whining, more writing. You have to embrace new technology before it runs over you.

Here is where you can find Charlie Gibson's blog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

At What Price...


Monday took me back to a familiar place-- Ringtown, where residents are trying to save their elementary school. The North Schuylkill school board wants to close Ringtown Area Elementary and send the kids to North Schuylkill Elementary near Ashland.

This is a tough one. North Schuylkill Elementary is only one year old. It has all new stuff, and a student population of about 900.

Ringtown is close and intimate. It is one of the last of the neighborhood schools, and I can understand why the people in town want to keep it.

Some may argue the kids will do better socially in the environment of the larger school. I'm not sure about that. Kids adapt pretty quickly. I went from a small high school to a college with a few thousand students. It was strange at first. I adapted. It can be done.

I just hope the adults who make all the decisions do right by the kids. Of course, money will be a factor, but it shouldn't be the only factor.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Touch of Grey Kinda Suits You Anyway...


I needed a hair cut, but I hadn't planned on being near my usual place until at least mid-week. I thought I could wait, but I watched myself on Monday's Newswatch 16 at Noon, and I didn't like what I saw. I never do. I looked like a slightly less hairy Phil Donahue. In other words, lots and lots of grey.

After work, I was heading for my favorite park to take a walk, when I saw the "open" light flashing in front of a barber shop. I was stunned. Few barbers are open Mondays, and this is a tough time of year to get a hair cut. Salons and barber shops are packed with kids getting back to school trims and styles.

You miss 100 per cent of the shots you never take, so I parked the car and walked in. I got in and out of the chair fast, and got a very good hair cut in the process. My grey is much less noticeable when my hair is short. I asked the barber about being open Monday. He said he's open Mondays because all other barbers aren't. It's a great strategy. Brilliant! One of the keys to being successful is to do what your competitors aren't doing. It's all so simple. There is a very good chance I'll be back.

Must be getting early. Clocks are running late.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What I Meant to Say...


You gotta love politics.

Last year, Joe Biden said Barack Obama wasn't ready to be president. Now, Biden is on his way to becoming the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

The cable and broadcast networks were quick on the draw Saturday morning. The Biden quotes and sound bites were ready to roll when the Obama made the selection. The McCain people have their commercials, complete with Biden's comments, set to air.


This is not a purely Democratic phenomenon. George Bush called Ronald Reagan's money plan "voodoo economics" during the 1980 campaign, and Bush wound up on the ticket, serving 8 years as Reagan's vice president.

Recently, I wrote here that "It's not what you say. It's what you do." In politics, it seems "It's not what you say, but rather how you rationalize it months later."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Toy


I hadn't planned on a Photography Weekend, but I sort of started one yesterday, and I feel obligated to continue it today.

Notice, I didn't write Bad Photography Weekend, because yesterday's shot was quite good.

Anyway, a new satellite truck recently entered the WNEP fleet. Here's a look.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Carbondale


We have a guest submission this morning, and it's a great one.

Nancy Free sent in this photo of Friday night's fireworks behind Carbondale City Hall. It was part of the annual Pioneer Nights celebration.

Thanks, Nancy!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Big. Should Be Bigger.


WARNING! I'm about to come across as a mean SOB. Those who know me, or who are regular blog readers will say "What else is new?"

The Pittston Tomato Festival is underway. Scranton's Italian Festival begins Labor Day weekend.

Both are nice events, but I wonder why they're not bigger, and I don't have the answers.

As for Pittston-- maybe if the festival wasn't held admist crumbling buildings.

As for Scranton, I was never in favor of moving the Italian Festival to Labor Day weekend. The Italian Festival used to be on Columbus Day weekend. It was moved up after a few consecutive years of bad weather. Unfortunately, it lost a lot of its charm in the process, and it because just another summer festival in my book.

Wilkes-Barre tried an Italian Festival on Columbus Day weekend, but it never gained traction.

The glass is half full, and I'm thankful there are two nice late summer events going on here in our area.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Veepstakes


I'm glad I have to hear the word "veepstakes" only every four years. Bad word.

It appears Barack Obama and John McCain are closing in on their choices. Obama could announce his selection before the end of the day.

Outside of the Olympics and TS Fay, it's been a fairly slow national news cycle, so the network morning shows and the cable news networks have been filled with vice presidential speculation. It was fun and interesting for a while. Now, it's getting tiresome.

There could be a Pennsylvania connection to both parties. Former PA governor Tom Ridge is said to be on McCain's short list. Obama is believed to be considering Joe Biden as a running mate. Biden was born in Scranton.

Of course, after the selection comes the analysis and the spin. It seems endless, but it really isn't. The general election is only two and a half months away.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Huh?


I'm a sucker for anything for sale at the supermarket or drug store check out line. My car glove box and brief case are filled with a thousand different types of breath mints. I have more nail trimmers than I can use in a lifetime.

Imagine my delight the other morning when I found a 3-pack of Dasani lip balm for half price at Rite Aid.

To make a long story short, Dasani makes bottled water. The company licensed its name to Bonnie Bell for a line of lip balm. Lip balm is another of my addictions. I'm never within a few steps of a tube.

Getting back to the 3-pack, there's one tube of lemon flavored (tremendous!), one tube of raspberry flavored (merely okay), and one tube of "pure water flavor." Huh? Pure water doesn't have flavor, but I guess it sounds better than unflavored, or plain, or natural. In case you're wondering, it has absolutely no flavor, but it works fine-- and you can't beat the price.

I'm waiting for Lysol to come out with a "fresh air" scented disenfectant.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

One


Any time I'm out on a story with media members from other cities, I can't help but wonder "What do they think of us?"

Yesterday's story was the preliminary hearing in Pottsville for three young men who allegedly killed an illegal alien. The beating took place last month in Shenandoah.

To people who live and work elsewhere, there is no Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton, and Pottsville. It's all one. Northeastern Pennsylvania. Schuylkill County doesn't have a racism issue. Northeastern Pennsylvania does. We see the borders between communities. Others don't.

A magazine recently ranked the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton area as one of the fastest dying in the nation. That might have been a bit harsh, but you have to admit, there are problems. Our government system is archaic and overstaffed. We can be rather parochial and territorial. We're losing good jobs and replacing them with warehouses and distribution centers. There are restaurants and bars all over the place, but we can't make enough money for a night on the town. Our roads and bridges are a mess. The problems are not isolated to just Scranton, or just Wilkes-Barre, or just Hazleton, or just Pottsville.

There are a lot of good things, no-- make that great things, about living here, but we might learn something if we take a good, hard look at how others see us.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Unfinished Business


I went off on the Chinese government last week, and it's apparent fondness for violating the rights of its citizens. It prompted me to start Googling around, to see future Olympic sites.

Sochi, Russia gets the 2014 winter games. We've seen how well the Russians have been behaving lately.

The International Olympic Committee apparently has a fondness for scoundrel nations. What's next? Iran?

Also last week, I lamented the lack of compelling stories coming out of this year's Beijing games. My friend and colleague, Tom Williams, pointed out the Michael Phelps gold medal winning spree. Tom has a point. Phelps will go down in history as one of the best athletes ever-- any sport, any era.

One of my favorite blogs was dormant for a while, but the author has decided to get back in the business. If you enjoy local history, especially local retail history, check out www.wyomingvalleyphotos.blogspot.com.

As is my habit, I enjoy inflicting numbers upon you. Thursday was the 100th post since blog 2.0 made its debut in April. The previous blog version is gone forever, so I don't have an accurate count as to how many posts there have been since November 16th of 2004. My guess is it's around 1,000. The number of interesting and intelligent posts is considerably smaller.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pittston Again


We'll wrap up "Bad Photography Weekend" with another Pittston bridge picture.

This is the Fort Jenkins Bridge, shot upstream, from the West Pittston side.

Note, like yesterday, the church steeples towering above the city and orange acid mine drainage stains on the underside of the bridge.

I know the state is trying to get a handle on the acid mine water problem, here and across Pennsylvania, but I wish the project was moving faster.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pittston


I was playing with my camera Wednesday morning, after shooting the Goodyear Blimp.

This is the Firefighters Memorial Bridge (the former Water Street Bridge), crossing the Susquehanna River, between Pittston and West Pittston. I shot this photo, upstream from the west side.

Note two things: the really neat church steeples towering over Pittston, and the stained bridge supports, colored orange by acid mine drainage-- not so neat.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Foggy Blimp


Let's take a break from weighty issues and negativity for a while. It's one of the last weekends of summer, high time for a Bad Photography Weekend.

The Goodyear Blimp spent a couple days in our area this week. I stopped by the Wyoming Valley Airport for a few quick pictures Wednesday morning.

The "Spirit of Innovation" is an awesome site, even tethered on the ground. It's 192 feet long, 60 feet tall, and 50 feet wide. This blimp is rather new. It was christened in June of 2006.

The fog fuzzied up my pictures a bit, but I shouldn't complain. That fog dimmed the sun, which was behind the blimp during my visit. The pictures would have been back lit if it was a clear morning.


I've been going through my files, and there are a lot of blimp pictures stored on my computer. I never get tired of looking at blimps.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Play to Win the Game


I think I've had it with major league baseball.

Let me back up a little. I first got interested in baseball in the early 1970's. the Oakland Athletics were doing really well back then, so that's the team I followed over the years.

Fast forward to this season... Oakland had a good team, but not a great team. It had a shot at a playoff spot. That was before the owner, Lewis Wolff, gave up and started selling off and trading away the team's best players. I can understand having a bad team. No one knows more about losing than I do. But, if you have a good team and you give up on the season-- while you still have a possibility of making the playoffs, well, that's another story. Oakland has lost a ton of games since the fire sale.

The man who owned the Athletics in the 70's, Charley Finley, tried to pull similar stunts in 1976 and 1977. He was blocked by baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn. This year, not a peep out of the current do-nothing commissioner, Bud Selig. He does so little, he should be a member of the Pennsylvania legislature.

The Oakland Athletics have never been a success when it comes to attendance. The team didn't draw, even during the glory years. You can't get an upper deck ticket at the Oakland Coliseum. It's closed.

Bad ownership. No fan support. Oakland shouldn't have a team. If you don't want to invest in your product, you shouldn't be in the business. The team hasn't earned my support. Major league baseball doesn't deserve my support.

The same goes for the Florida Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays. Those teams are winning this year, but there are too many empty seats at the stadium.

Baseball might be better off if some franchises go away. The players union fought a move to drop a couple teams a while back. It's time to re-visit the idea.

As for me, I just don't care any more.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Towanda


Yesterday was a little like last Tuesday-- another adventure in what I call "hit and run" Get in. Get the story. Get out. Get it on the air. Last Tuesday, it was Jim Thorpe. Yesterday, it was another of my favorite places-- Towanda. You know things are going to go well for you when you walk into the borough offices and you hear someone say "You look much better in person." It made my day.

Yesterday's story dealt with the demolition of a building damaged by fire more than two years ago. It was a beautiful building at one time, but it had to come down. Dealing with the owners and the insurance company caused the long delay.

There's no other way to say it-- Towanda is a pretty town. I've covered a lot of stories there over the years. Some happy. Some tragic. They all have something in common-- I didn't get a chance to spend as much time there as I'd like.

Towanda goes down on the list-- a place that I just have to take a day to explore.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

World News



I've tried to watch the Olympics. I really have. I just can't get interested. NBC appears to be doing a good job, but they're trying to create drama where none exists. NBC is taking a page out of the Roone Arledge book and introducing us to the athletes "up close and personal." It's not working. There are no compelling stories. The network is also glossing over all China's issues, and that bothers me. Note to Bob Costas: it's okay to have a few grey hairs.

Two previous blog references: First, I worry about everything. Second, it's not what you say. It's what you do. Russia always says it wants to be a peaceful and productive member of the world community. It sure doesn't act that way. The Russia/Georgia conflict deeply disturbs me, and I really think this has the potential to become huge-- with other nations drawn in. World War III? No, I don't think so, but trust me. This is bad, and it's big.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Morning Scrapple


I hope the federal government has a good health insurance plan. I fear my letter carrier is developing a hernia. His pack is loaded down with mailings from my state and US representatives. It's campaign material disguised as "official" correspondence. It's a scam and I hope someone, one day, has the stones to put an end to it. Needless to say, both are running for re-election this year.

Summer is flying by. I'm okay with that.

It was unseasonably cool this past weekend. I'm okay with that.

Brett Favre is not the answer to the Jets problems, but he's a step up from what they had. Both Favre and Packers management looked really bad for the past five weeks.

I'm still waiting for Wilkes-Barre's mayor to call me back to discuss the Boscov's bankruptcy.

Boscov's owes more than $400,000 to Gold Toe. That's a lot of socks.

Nothing on the ABC, NBC or CBS fall schedules impresses me.

ABC allegedly rejected Tara Reid as a "Dancing with the Stars" contestant. Too bad. I would have watched that.

The Big 10 Network hits my cable system Friday. I've managed to live quite nicely without it.

I'm feeling ancient. Songs I played on the radio, when they were new, are now on the oldies stations.

The last of our summer interns is leaving the station. It was a good bunch this year.

The new Penguins season begins October 8. It seems like the season ended two hours ago.

The clean indoor air act takes effect one month from today.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Why China?



The summer Olympics are underway in China, and clearly, I hope the USA comes home with a bunch of gold medals.


Having said that, I'm extremely disappointed the games are being held in China-- a polluted nation, where the government has elevated oppression and human rights violations to an art form.


I've read where the Chinese people couldn't be nicer. The government, on the other hand...


The International Olympic Committee should be ashamed of itself.

If you have a moment, go to ABCNews.com and do a search for a story caled "Broken Promises" that aired on World News the other evening. In the seven years since China was awarded the olympics, there's evidence human rights violations have actually increased, not decreased as China's government had promised.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Public Relations


I had a wise old public relations/advertising professor in college, who always said "It's not what you say. It's what you do."

Boscov's filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday. It's closing 10 stores. The Wilkes-Barre store is one of the 39 survivors. A member of upper Boscov's management was quoted in the paper as saying they love Wilkes-Barre, and Wilkes-Barre is important to the company.

If Wilkes-Barre is so special, why was that store allowed to deteriorate? It's dark. It's tired. It's dingy. It needs help-- badly. Remember, it's not what you say. It's what you do.

Look, I like Boscov's and I sincerely hope the chain survives these troubled times. Boscov's is one of the few major retailers that really gives back to the community. Some great people work there. However, it's going to take more than a magic wand, pixie dust, and words to get Boscov's back on its feet. If you say something, you'd better mean it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Jim Thorpe

I really enjoy visiting Jim Thorpe in Carbon County, but there's always a problem.

I call it "hit and run" journalism-- get in, get the story, get it on the air fast, and get out. There's never enough time to take a look around. Yesterday was no exception. I spent the morning in court, did a report on Newswatch 16 at noon, and took off.

I managed to take a couple pictures in the few spare minutes I had while photographer Dave Jones stowed the gear and retracted the satellite dish on the truck following our noon broadcast.

I really have to take the time spend a day in Jim Thorpe. Fall foliage season is right around the corner.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bankrupt!


Perception can be worse than reality.


Boscov's filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday. It gives the company a chance to reorganize its finances. While ten stores are closing, it does not signal that the chain is going out of business.


Not yet.


There's blood in the water. Boscov's has to worry about more than the bottom line. It has to worry about how consumers perceive the company. Why would someone make a major purchase, on an item with a long warranty, if they think the company is unstable and might go out of business before the warranty is through? How can you return an item if the store is no longer there? What if workers have no long term faith in the chain? Will they give their best?
Chapter 11 might give Boscov's a chance to get its financial house in order. It also has to convince shoppers that it's here for the long run.


What's the price of "trust?" How much does "confidence" cost?


I saw the list of stores Boscov's is closing. Hindsight being 20/20, Boscov's shouldn't have been in those places in the first place. The demographics were all wrong. Boscov's is a good mid level chain that tried to play in upscale malls. Obviously, it didn't work.


I like going to Boscov's. Wandering through the candy department, past the toys and sporting goods, and the appliances-- it reminded me of the downtown stores I grew up with. Those old stores are gone. We'll see if Boscov's goes along with them.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Sterling



Here is the front of the Hotel Sterling in Wilkes-Barre. The other photo was shot from the back.



It's the first Monday in August, and it's almost "back to college" time. Parents will soon be dropping off their children at King's College and Wilkes University. I hope they don't get a look at the Sterling. They might not let their kids out of the car.



The Sterling has been gutted. The big, tall building that used to stand at the rear is gone. The people in charge of the renovations say work is moving forward. There will be retail space on the first floor, with offices on the second, and apartments above. Great! The powers that be say we are not to be discouraged because there's no activity at the site. The project is not dead. I'm okay with that.



Here's the problem. Can't someone put up a banner on the building, saying something like "the new Sterling is coming soon?" It looks like just another abandoned building.



There are some good things going on in the city. It doesn't take much to leave a horrible impression.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Let's Play Two !!!


The number of people who say it seems to grow every year. There are always predictions Pocono will lose one of its two NASCAR races.

I've covered the races as news stories. I've never been a spectator. Still, I'd be disappointed if NASCAR took one of the races away from Pocono. It's quite a boost for the area's economy. We have minor league baseball, minor league hockey, and AF2 arena football. There's nothing wrong with those things. However, it's nice to be in the major leagues for two weekends a year.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pennsylvania 500


Thursday was the third annual race day at the Wilkes-Barre farmer's market. I wandered around the square in the morning, and there was a lot to see, maybe too much.


A NASCAR festival is big enough to stand on its own. I wish the Wilkes-Barre people would make a trip to Corning, NY on the Thursday before the Watkins Glen race to see how a NASCAR festival is done. Keep the farmer's market during the day. Turn Public Square over to NASCAR in the late afternoon and evening.


Also, one more bit of advice: portable rest rooms!


Scranton had a NASCAR festival before the Pocono 500 a couple months ago. People who attended told me it didn't go well. The biggest reason-- the timing was off. The festival was held the day before the race-- when all the hardcore race fans were already at the track. You need a few days between the festival and the race.


At least the intent was there. For far too long, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre treated Pocono like it was on another planet.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Other Side and 10,000





Yesterday, I showed you the hole in the Susquehanna River levee from the North River Street, Wilkes-Barre side. Today-- the opposite view, from across the Susquehanna on the Kingston side. As you can see, it's an elaborate design, with steps leading down to the water. There's something similar just down river, near Wilkes University.


I hope the things gets used enough to justify the expense. There's a lot going on here. The holes in the levee keep the city from being walled off on the river side. That's not a bad idea. It's part of the attempt to make the Susquehanna a tourist attraction. Crossing North and South River Street to get to the portals will be no picnic.


And, I should note that it took less than two months to reach the 10,000 hit mark. Thanks! Sorry for continually talking about numbers here. It's because I'm constantly amazed that people take time out of their day to read this.