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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday

I was wandering around Steamtown and the adjacent rail yard recently, when this caught my eye.  It's a diesel engine, with the blue and Yellow Delaware & Hudson color scheme, but with the logos removed.

The locomotive isn't going to win any beauty contests, and the same can be said for this photo-- but it's what freight line diesels are all about.  They're not pretty, but they get the job done.

Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, July 30, 2010

This Week and The View

There's a big change in network Sunday morning television in two days, when Christiane Amanpour takes over "This Week" on ABC.

Since David Brinkley started the broadcast in 1981, the focus of "This Week" has been Washington.  ABC promises Amanpour will bring more of an international perspective to the table.

Here's what concerns me.  International news on TV has always been a tough sell.  Viewers don't like it.  They don't understand it.  "This Week" will succeed if Amanpour can help explain why that international news is important and what it all means.

ABC management promises Washington news will not be neglected.

Amanpour clearly knows her way around.  She's reported from Europe for CNN, for a very long time.  At least Amanpour knows where Wilkes-Barre is.  She parachuted in to town, briefly, during the Larry and Leona Cottam trial in 1989.  The Cottams were found guilty of third degree murder for allowing their 14 year old son to starve to death.

I forgot who said it first, but television news should be a combination of what people WANT to know and what people NEED to know.  You need to know what's going on in your world.  Let's hope the new "This Week" can deliver the news in a way we can all understand it, without talking down to us.

"This Week" with Christiane Amanpour, Sundays at 10 AM, on WNEP.

I'm off this weekend, and I'm not sure I'll be around a television, but I'll make sure to record the broadcast to let you know what I think.
There are a lot of people grumbling over President Obama's apperance on "The View."  I have to level with you.  I can't stand "The View."  You also have to realize that I am not in the show's target demographic.  In other words, "The View" isn't designed with me in mind, and I don't think they care.

Having said that, what's the problem here?  The president appeared on a loose, non Washington talk show.  Big deal.    Since when is it beneath a president to converse with five women on a couch?  Granted, it was an unusual forum and one that is lighter in tone than the traditional forums.  It's not like he participated in zany "Saturday Night Live" skits.

They asked questions on "The View."  He answered.  Move on.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Frightening Times

I was going through my e-mail address book the other morning.  It's something I do from time to time.  Some entries need to be updated.  Others need to be deleted.

Something struck me as I went through the list.  A lot of people I know have lost their jobs recently, and I updated the list only a short time ago.

Some of the experts say the recession has bottomed out.  I beg to differ.  The unemployment rate is around ten per cent.  The jobs being lost are good ones.  The replacement offerings don't pay nearly as much.

We're in trouble, which brings me to the second section of today's offering. 

I had the opportunity to attend the July 20 sheriff's sale in Lackawanna County.  It was painful to watch people lose their homes and businesses, and it literally happened hundreds of times that morning.  How it all happened can be debated for days.  Did people take on more debt than they could handle?  Did banks lend money too freely?  Did people wind up in dire straits because they lost their jobs?

There was a bidding war over one piece of property.  The woman who lost was reduced to tears.

Saying the entire day was sad is putting it mildly.

Speaking of occupations, Bob Barker told TMZ that the Drew Carey hosted version of "The Price is Right" is boring.  Barker said he put excitement into the show while Carey just plays the game.

In Barker's final days on the show, he seemed impatient, often rushing the contestants.  Carey seems genuinely interested in their welfare, and he doesn't make himself bigger than the game-- as many hosts do.

Bob Barker should show a little class and just keep quiet.  Drew Carey is doing a good job, and maybe that's what has Bob Barker irritated.  Barker later apologized.

And finally, just when you thought the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees situation couldn't get any sillier... 

Some of the people who helped run local baseball into the ground in the first place have now made appearances, returning from political exile to point fingers, make accusations, and second guess. 

There are fears the team will be sold to a management company that clearly has no commitment to the area.

So here's what we have:  an aging stadium, a debate over whether to renovate or replace, no money to do either, embarrassing attendance (even though Friday is a sell out), an anti-fan management company, the threat of a sale and a move, threats of lawsuits,  the return of the crew that nearly caused the International League to pull the plug because bills weren't being paid, no one with a real plan and ideas, and even more political fighting.

And, they continue to wonder why no one goes to the games.



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Stamp of Disapproval

The United States Postal Service last week introduced a series of stamps celebrating the "Sunday Funnies."
While the comics represent an important part of American culture and history, why can't we get a stamp honoring coal miners?

It makes you wonder about priorities.


Above, the statue along the Lackawanna River in Olyphant dedicated to the miners who helped build our area.
I also have to note yesterday's passing of actor Maury Chaykin.  If you get a chance, take a look at his resume at IMDB.com.  He played a huge variety of roles.

I'll remember Chaykin for two things-- playing a country bumpkin in "My Cousin Vinny" and a quick tempered film producer, Harvey Weingard, in the HBO series "Entourage."

Let me tell you something about "Entourage."  Except for Ari, the main characters can be dull.  It is the characters on the periphery that give the series its bite.  Chaykin did only did four episodes of "Entourage" and each performance was a home run.  He lit up the screen.  Larger than life.

It is believed Maury Chaykin was battling a kidney ailment.  He died on his 61st birthday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I Really Tried

I'd been to Mohegan Sun, in Plains Township, a few times to try the slots.  My stays were invariably short for one simple reason.  I got bored.

Table games don't interest me because I find them too intimidating, and I don't think I'd be very good at them.

Maybe a change of scenery would help.  I stopped by Mount Airy Casino Resort, near Mount Pocono, Thursday morning.  It was only my second time there.  Let me back up a second.  I was there several times in the "old" days.  My first visit to the new building was a few weeks ago, to do a story on the arrival of table games.  Thursday was my first trip as a consumer.

Same result.  I put $10 in a machine, knocked it down to a few dollars, then got it back up to the break even point.  I think I was gone in a half hour, not including a walk around the floor and a little "people watching."

This is nothing against the operation.  The building in and of itself is spectacular, and it's in a very nice setting.  The food looked good, and the staffers I encountered were friendly.

I guess I'm just not a gambler.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Head 1, Heart 0

I've had far too many head vs. heart conflicts in my life.  You know how it goes.  The rational half of your brain says one thing.  Your emotions have the complete opposite point of view.

Here's the latest conflict:  Dansbury Depot in East Stroudsburg.

The old train station, from the Civil War era, was home to a restaurant when it burned in October.  The owner wants to tear it down, and put up a building housing a restaurant, commercial space and apartments in its place.  It would be sad to see the building go, but you have to face facts.  It would cost a huge amount of money to repair, and the owner isn't sure he can make back his investment.
History shouldn't have a price.  That's easy to say if you're dealing with someone else's money.  I'd love to see Dansbury Depot restored to what it once was.  A group of preservationists has similar thoughts, and they're trying to raise the money to spare the old building from being bulldozed.

It was a beautiful building, with some unique architectural elements.  It would be a shame to lose them.
There's a nicely restored railroad tower, just a stone's throw from the depot.  It's a much, much smaller building than the train station, and I'm sure the cost to do this job was minuscule when compared to what it would cost to fix the depot.

On Friday, a judge granted an injunction, temporarily blocking the demolition.

In a perfect world, how about a restored train station as part of a rail themed section of East Stroudsburg?  Wouldn't that be nice?  It would take someone with a vision to pull it off.

Unfortunately, it appears vision costs more than we can realistically afford.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Daniel Schorr

Former CBS News correspondent Daniel Schorr died Friday.  He seemed to be a tough guy to like, but I admired him nonetheless.  Schorr appeared to be a fearless SOB who always wanted to get at the truth.  If he was good enough for Murrow, he was good enough for me.

Do yourself a favor, even if you're not a journalism junkie like me, and read the obituaries.  Daniel Schorr led an interesting life.  He wasn't perfect, but the craft of journalism was better because he was around.

He valued his spot on the Nixon enemies list more than an Emmy, and you have to respect that.

Daniel Schorr helped get CNN off the ground.  His arrival gave gravitas to the fledgling news network.  It showed they were serious about getting the job done.

I occasionally caught some of Schorr's NPR commentaries.  The man always had something interesting to say.

Daniel Schorr was 93.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday

As we sweat through one of the hottest days of the summer today, here's a reminder that cooler weather and fall are on the way.

Take a look at Eiler-Martin Stadium, home of the Warriors, on the campus of East Stroudsburg University.

This really is a "Bad Photography Saturday."  A few things contributed to the bad shot.  The sun was in my face, reflecting off the plastic grass.  As you can see below, the stadium's bleachers aren't very tall so it was tough to get one of those nice "up high" pictures.  I couldn't get a decent photo with the sun at my back because only half of the stadium has bleachers.

Also, I didn't tweak the colors.  The artificial and real grass really were "that" green.

I grew weary of summer several weeks ago, and I'm really looking forward to fall-- and a breath of fresh air.  The simple act of walking around a football stadium, on a college campus, made me feel a little better.

ESU students are lucky.  The campus, among the nicer in our area, has plenty of trees and green space.  That means a lot.

By the way, the first ESU home football game is September 11, when IUP comes to town.

Friday, July 23, 2010

At the Movies

Let's begin the last full weekend of July on a happy and non controversial note-- jobs and construction.

This is a shot of the new 14 screen Great Escape movie theater complex going up in Dickson City.  I was shopping near by earlier this week, when I snapped what you see above with my camera phone.

I haven't been to a movie in at least a couple years.  Still, this project interests me a lot.  It's nice to see someone building something, in this bad economy.

The theater complex is Lackawanna County is due to open by the Christmas movie season.  It seems a long way off, but the holidays will be here before you know it.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Tree Grows in Olyphant

I slammed Olyphant pretty good on Monday, and I'm not going to lie to you.  It felt good.  I have nothing but bad memories of my time in school there.

However, I'm a fair man.  I think Olyphant has one of the nicer borough halls around.  I was playing with my camera at the borough hall Monday afternoon, when I decided to take a walk over to the place where my old, and hated school used to be.

Above is what I found.  Members of the Valley Covenant Community Church are building a prayer garden there, complete with a rather large fountain in the center and walking paths.

Let me orient you for a second.  The brick building at the upper left is my old high school, now apartments for the elderly.  What you see above is the site of the cursed old school.  I was facing west as I took the photo.  Downtown Olyphant is a few blocks to the left, while the Lackawanna River is a few blocks straight ahead.  You can't see the church in this photo, but it's off to my right.

The photo doesn't do justice to the size of the prayer garden, and I'm sure it will be an asset to the people of Olyphant.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Legal and Financial Maneuvering

Every experience I've had with St. Rose Academy in Mayfield has been positive.  The faculty and administration have been open.  The students are well spoken and polite.

Newswatch 16 has chronicled the school's financial problems.  There hasn't been a mortgage payment in two years.  St. Rose Academy is $5 million in debt.  Enrollment, about 75, is half what was expected.  Times are tough.  Donations are down.

The school's building went up at a sheriff's sale yesterday morning.  The organization that made the loan has foreclosed.  The building will be sold to someone else.  One of the St. Rose Academy trustees told us he believes the school can still lease space from the new owner.  The school, in his view, will survive.

I have to level with you.  It looks like an uphill fight to keep this place going.  We all hope for the best.

The sheriff's sale itself fell on my watch.  See if you can follow this odyssey.

The sheriff's sale was held in a part of the Lackawanna County Courthouse where cameras are forbidden.  You should be allowed to see the process.  After all, the sheriff's sale is open to the public.

I placed a call to the president judge.  His chambers are in another building.  I was told the president judge is not in the office this week.

Next stop, the chambers of the second in command.  He wasn't in either.  That judge's secretary placed a call to the judge next in line.  Before the call could be returned, the acting president judge returned to his office.  He was reluctant to overturn the "restricted areas" edict of the president judge, but I politely pressed my point.  Sheriff's sales are open to the public.  The photographer and I are the public.  The public has a right to see what happens at a sheriff's sale.  The judge countered that cameras aren't allowed in courtrooms, and they're open to the public.  I said that a sheriff's sale doesn't involve a judge on a bench.  There are Pennsylvania laws (sadly) against cameras in court, but there is no such law concerning sheriff's sales.  More discussions followed.  Our camera was allowed in the sheriff's sale.

I'm not asking for a medal.  I was just doing my job.

And then, there is the strange case of State Representative Ken Smith. He makes $80,000 a year plus a fabulous perk package.  Yet, he hasn't paid much on a bank loan involving the family's Cedar Avenue, South Scranton restaurant.  Smith tells you to pay our bills to keep the government running, while at the same time, stiffing a local bank.  The bank had enough.  It foreclosed Tuesday morning.  Could they work out a deal?  Likely.  However, this sends a bad message about the people we elect and the behavior the exhibit once they get to Harrisburg.  One became the per diem king, asking for state money (our money), even on days the house wasn't even in session.  He got bounced by the voters after one sorry term.  It appears Mr. Smith will get another free ride to Harrisburg.  I sincerely hope he's learned from his mistakes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The 5-7-0

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, last week, made the best choice from a list of two bad options.

The experts say the 570 area code will run out of numbers next year.  There were two options-- split the 570 area code into two, or keep the same boundaries, but assign new numbers a new area code.  They chose the latter, which means ten digit dialing beginning next year.

It'll take a little getting used to, but we'll live.  I have one of those Magic Jacks, which already requires ten digits for all calls.  I don't think my adjustment will be that bad.

Of course, there is another option-- make what we have last longer.  There's an attempt underway to do that.  If memory serves, phone numbers were sold to cell phone companies and pager companies, etc.,  in blocks of 1,000-- whether or not they needed all 1,000.  Now, you can buy a smaller number of numbers.   That should stretch the supply a bit.  I don't know how long it takes to assign old numbers to new customers.  Perhaps that could be shortened a bit.

Ten digit dialing was inevitable.

The changes take place in March.  As of this writing, the new area code has yet to be determined.

Monday, July 19, 2010

School Days

The building where I attended kindergarten is now an apartment building.

The place where I attended first and second grade was torn down decades ago.  There's a house there now.

There's a relatively new civic center, which was built after the school where I attended grades 3, 4, and 5, was demolished.

I could write a book where about the horrible place where I attended 6th grade.  It was half elementary school, half high school, and all hideous.  The building was condemned by the state as a fire hazard.  It was torn down before it could burn down.  The school board should have been sentenced to spend an eternity there for the crime of forcing kids to spend their day in a decrepit, dangerous, old building.  I hated every second there, and that's putting it mildly.  I used to have a little countdown, written in the back of one of my tablets-- the days left until I was able to get out of there.  If there's a hell, I'm sure it looks just like the old Olyphant Elementary.  I hoped that after it was torn down, salt would have been plowed into the ground so nothing would grow there ever again.  It's now an empty lot.

A building where I spent most of my high school time, across the street from Fire Trap Elementary, was turned into apartments for the elderly.

If you notice, I'm leaving out my junior high school, grades 7, 8, and 9.  The building in Dickson City, though empty, still stands, but not for long.
There were plans to turn the first floor into a police station, with community activity space above.

It's not going to happen.  Dickson City council announced plans just last week to tear it down.  I was told years ago that the building needed a new roof, and no one had the money to pay for it.


As you know from reading this blog for the past five and a half years, I can get sentimental over the silliest things, but if they need assistance tearing this place down, give me a call.  I'll help.  No charge.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday

It's another shot from high over the city of Wilkes-Barre today.  That's the Stegmaier complex in the middle.  No beer here, just offices.  This building rotted for years, and seeing it renovated and preserved was one of the city's high points.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My New Least Favorite Word/Phrase

I still dislike the phrase "under the bus."  I still use it because I've yet to find anything to take its place. 

However, I have discovered something new to dislike, and in a short amount of time, it's become horribly over-used.

DISCONNECT

Disconnect means the activity of someone who's not really "in" to what they're doing.  Phoning it in.  Doing a sloppy job.  A gaffe. Out of touch.   A failure to communicate.  Many thoughts, actions, and deeds come under the new "disconnect" umbrella.  It's one stop shopping for buffoonery.

I have to admit that I'm amazed.  This one came out of nowhere, and now I hear it at least a half dozen times a day.    Thankfully, not in reference to me.  I'd likely be hearing it a bit more, but there are bad acoustics under the bus.

Stop it.  Stop it now.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

George Steinbrenner

Let's talk about George Steinbrenner, the New York Yankees owner who died Tuesday morning, at the age of 80.

You loved him, or you hated him.

I look at it this way.  I try to leave things in better shape than the way I found them.

Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973.  The team had been awful for years.  Steinbrenner spent the Yankees into the World Series in 1976, and the team has been very good, with a few off years, ever since.

Yes, he outspent every other major league baseball owner.  I don't like that, but it's not Steinbrenner's fault.  He didn't break any rules.  Hate the game, not the player.

I've read Steinbrenner was an awful boss.  There is no excuse for stomping all over the dignity of another human being.  There is significant evidence to indicate Steinbrenner did that.

On the other hand, there are those who will say George Steinbrenner was a very generous man, and he gave money to causes while staying in the background, quietly.  I like that.  I never trust those people who do something nice, then call news conferences to tell the world how wonderful they are.

Steinbrenner hated to lose.  I'm not sure if he was that way for the good of the fans, his own ego, or both.

He was suspended from baseball-- twice.

There was a period of time when he was constantly threatening to move the Yankees to New Jersey.  Some will argue he had to do that because Yankee Stadium in the Bronx was falling apart.

Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent got it exactly right when he said Steinbrenner was "complex."

Are the Yankees better off because George Steinbrenner was around?  No doubt.

Has baseball improved because of George Steinbrenner?  I'm not so sure.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Nobody's Home

It's been a while since I picked on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, so with the AAA All Star Game tonight, it seems like a perfect opportunity.

Saturday night's attendance was 5,700.  Take a thousand off that, and you have the Sunday figure.  Remember, that counts tickets sold, not people in the seats.  SWB is next to last in attendance in the International League, and that's just sad.  Also note that Lehigh Valley was in town for the weekend, the former Red Barons, a Phillies affiliate, a natural rivalry.  It makes bad numbers even worse.

You can't blame it all on an old stadium.

Some of the promotions are nice-- cheap beer and hot dogs, fireworks, entertainment, etc.  But, what ever became of the old staples, bat day, ball day, cap day, tee shirt day, etc?  The team gives away something once in a while.  It's not nearly enough.  Giveaways can be expensive, but you make it back in food, drink, and souvenir sales.  You also make your fans happy and make them feel like you value their support.  Remember that concept?

It now seems like they're doing you a favor by allowing you to come through the gates.

Let's look at who's at the top, Allentown and Louisville.  Allentown still has the novelty of a new team and a new stadium.  I've seen the park.  It's very nice.  Louisville has a rich baseball tradition.  Columbus is in third place.  There's a fairly new stadium there.


If memory serves, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is the smallest metropolitan area in the International League.  I don't expect the massive numbers of the early days, but we should be doing a lot better.  Hey, the Yankees are in first place!  We all love a winner.

A new stadium would help.  It's not the entire answer.  The team has to show the fans some love.

This is the icing on the cake, and it perfectly illustrates the issues in Moosic.  I called the team president yesterday morning to try to get an interview on the passing of N.Y. Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner.  My call was was promptly returned, which was a bit of a surprise.  I was told the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees would have no comment.  Everything would have to come out of New York.

Really?

All someone had to do was say something like "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Steinbrenner family.  He always wanted what was best for Yankees' fans and the game of baseball."

Is it that hard to show you care?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Roll of the Dice

You knew is was going to happen.  Home improvement guru Bob Vila used to call it the "you might as well's."  While you're putting new siding on the house, you might as well do the gutters.  While you have the crew here to replace the windows, you might as well replace the doors.

You have slot machines.  You might as well include table games.

Table games, like poker, craps, and roulette come to Mount Airy Casino Resort in Monroe County, and the place you see above, Mohegan Sun in Plains Township, today.

There are those who say gambling is a tax on the stupid.   It's addictive.  Gambling can ruin your life.  All true.

I've been to Mohegan Sun a few times.  My stays are always short.  Slot machines bore me, and I doubt I'll take advantage of the table games.  I don't know what I'm doing.  I'll give them credit for having a nice building, and it seems to be a well run operation.

While gambling revenue has fueled some local government projects, it still hasn't provided the substantial property tax relief we were promised when this ball started rolling.

Check out the neighborhoods.  There really hasn't been much of a business explosion near the casinos, no one rushing to take advantage of all those cars streaming by.

On the other hand, gambling has become one of our areas leading industries.  It wasn't hard.  Other than than hospitals, government, bars, and dollar stores, there's not much left.   Casinos provide jobs and bring in tourists.  These days, any job is a good one.

I'm betting Mount Airy and Mohegan Sun do huge business.  A roll of the dice?  Not really.  This looks like a sure thing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Sterling

You have to love Wilkes-Barre.  This is the city that gave us the "yard of the month" award.  There are endless news releases from the powers that be when a new donut shop or steamed beef fast food restaurant open.

Yet, the old Hotel Sterling, at a key intersection, River and Market, lies empty.  No one's talking about it.  Is the condo project dead, or are we just waiting for the economy to turn around?  Some interested developers walk around from time to time.  Nothing happens.  That's sad.  There's so much potential here, but it takes a lot of money to turn potential into reality.

It's tough to make the riverfront a "destination" when an important block is dominated by an eyesore.

It makes that steamed beef sandwich hard to swallow.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday

There are times I just feel like going out and playing with my camera.  Luckily, Steamtown and an adjacent freight yard are just down the street.

I wouldn't consider myself a true rail fan, but trains do hold a fascination for me.  It's probably for the same reason some people can look at construction sites for hours on end.  Maybe it has something to do with fond memories of trains beneath the Christmas tree.

Steam engines are amazing pieces of equipment, but I like the diesels.

By the way, summer is now officially over.  I was in WalMart yesterday morning, as workers were readying a display of back packs.  Staples has a "back to school" circular in tomorrow's newspaper.  It was fun while it lasted.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Rare Display of Common Sense

The Wilkes-Barre Times~Leader reported Wednesday that new Luzerne County Sheriff John Gilligan will NOT follow in the steps of his predecessor, and put his name on the sides of the cars in the sheriff's office fleet.

Outstanding!

Pre printed paperwork and forms also will have just the sheriff's office logo, not the name of the person who's in the big office.

As I said here, when I blogged about it in November, those are your cars.  They do not belong to the sheriff.

There was something else in the T~L that caught my eye.  Businessman Thom Greco is angry at the county because it closed an office in one of his buildings, and the county says it doesn't have to honor the lease.  If you sign an agreement, like a lease, you should live up to it.  On the other hand, part of me wants the county to tell Greco that he'll get his rent money after the county gets all the back taxes Greco owes.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Professor APAL

I had a chance to teach a college course a few years ago, but I had to decline.  It just didn't fit into my schedule.  It continually gnaws at me because it was something I really wanted to do.  Who's teaching the kids?

I actually heard this sentence in a broadcast news report, on a homicide, the other night:  "They (police) add that their investigation will continue."  This awful, awful, awful sentence followed a short paragraph on how police have yet to make an arrest in the homicide.

The investigation will continue.  Gee!  Ya think?  What earth shattering news!

You can't make this stuff up.  What a startling revelation-- police will continue their investigation into a homicide where they haven't made an arrest.  Is there anybody looking at this stuff before it gets on the air?  This is as much a managment failure as it is the "writer" responsible for the original piece of work.

Let me clue you in on a dirty little secret, and I'm risking my professional "career" by telling you this.  Broadcast writing isn't hard.  It's just a series of simple sentences.  Be clear.  Be concise.  Less is more.  Make sure what you're talking about matches the video on the screen.  Write the story, and if you have the luxury of time, walk away for a couple minutes.  Come back.  Take another look.  Chances are there's something you can eliminate.  Boom!  Done.  If you're a high school student, considering going to college for broadcasting, I just saved you and your parents thousands of dollars.

I once worked for an extremely wise news director.  He had something programmed into the computer system.   It was a "welcome" message that hit the screen as soon as you signed on.  It said "tight writing = top casts."  I've never forgotten that.

TV stations are invaded by interns every summer.  Many, most, have been great.  Others?  Well, let's just say I wonder what they're learning in college because their professors are clearly out of touch with what's going on out there.  They're not prepared for the real world.

Here's where "reporters" run in to trouble.  Remember, it's not about you.  It's about the news.  Most standard broadcast news reports are about a minute and a half.  Some stories are worth a lot less, so don't pad your story with excessive words.  It is what it is.   Don't talk down to the viewers.  Write tight.  Economy of words.  There was only one Shakespeare.  The investigation continues.  Really?  It's news if the investigation doesn't continue.

Yes, I've made my share of mistakes.

TV news viewership around the country has been slipping, and it's not hard to figure out why.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

About the Cover

As you might have noticed, I've been changing the blog header at the beginning of every month.

I woke up Wednesday, the last day of June, and realized that I didn't have a new header ready to go for July.  I thought about it for a moment.  I wanted something visually interesting, and appropriate for this time of year.  I then remembered about gatherings at the monument to the Battle of Wyoming that take place every year around Independence Day.

The challenge of what to photograph was solved.  Now, I had to figure out how to do it.  I arrived here a little before 8:00 AM Wednesday.   The monument is in a beautiful setting, a well maintained park, along Route 11.  The surrounding trees add to the beauty, but there was no way I could get the entire monument in sunshine during my time frame.  Luckily, I remembered to grab my tripod.  I played with camera adjustments and framing for a while, until I got something that worked.

There was a story on digital and camera phone photo tips in USA Today last week.  The entire column dealt with fixing your photos electronically.   I will admit that I'm not the best at this, but solve your problems before they start.  Watch your lighting and framing.  Take your time, and a tripod certainly helps.



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The photo was taken with Susquehanna Avenue at my back, and Wyoming Avenue/Route 11 off to my right.

Enjoy the rest of July!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Intermodal Transportation Center

They seem to be all the rage.  Hazleton has one.  Pottsville's is under construction.  Scranton's is in the planning stage, and the one you see above, in Wilkes-Barre, is opening.  This is the view from South Washington Street.

The goal of these so-called intermodal transportation centers is to have a bus and taxi depot in the same place.  Wilkes-Barre's is home to Martz Trailways and Luzerne County Transportation Authority buses.  There's a big, and sorely needed, parking garage above.

The city wants to get buses off Public Square to allow for more street level parking.  While I don't ride LCTA buses, I never saw it as that big of a deal.  An intermodal center seemed like money in search of a project, rather than the other way around.
There are some things that are nice.  You can wait for buses in a covered location, out of the weather.

You can even go inside and warm up, or cool down. Lost?  Read the writing on the wall.

There are some thngs that concern me.  You have to travel through some between building passageways to get out to the square.  This is one, above.  There are others.  I can see some people, especially the elderly, a little leery of this, especially in the dark.  If everything goes as planned, the area between the terminal and the square will be busy, and that lessens the chances of an incident.

The parking garage is nice, and needed.  The bus situation seemed okay to me.  The old system worked fine.  However, change can be good.  There's always a better way to do things, and I hope this is it.

By the way, the 6th deck of the parking garage is a great place to take pictures.  It's an excellent view, and I'll show you some of those in the weeks to come.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bridge Work

If you've even been even a casual reader of the blog, you know my interests generally come down to trains, blimps, and construction projects.

I was passing by the new Eighth Street bridge over the Susquehanna, between Wyoming and Jenkins Township the other day.  Luckily, I had my good camera with me, and I took a few pictures.  This is the view, looking west to east.

Below, east to west.

The new, concrete bridge is on the left.  The old, steel one, is on the right.

The Eighth Street bridge is a nice shortcut across the valley, but it was never one of my favorites.  I didn't have confidence in the traction on a steel decked bridge, and it was far too narrow.  I'm happy to see it replaced, but, on the other hand, I was sorry to see some homes and businesses demolished in the process.

That's progress.  Everything has a price.

It should be open late this year, or in early 2011.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

AT 40

I don't want to diminish the importance of Independence Day, but today is another anniversary worth noting.

The radio hits countdown, American Top 40, is 40 years old today.

The show has changed a bit over the years.  Casey Kasem was the first host.  It was three hours long, and was on seven stations that first weekend.  The show grew in popularity.  Commercial sponsors hopped on board.  The number of stations grew.  A fourth hour was added to accomodate all those commercials and some added features.  I thought the countdown got a little too "talky," but what do I know?

Kasem left, was replaced by Shadoe Stevens, came back, and was replaced by that big pile of nothing known as Ryan Seacrest.

American Top 40 was a Sunday afternoon staple growing up.  WILK 980 had the show back then.  It wasn't a Sunday without AT 40.

The show was a trend setter.  There are countdowns in every format, with a variety of hosts.  None has come close to the original.


There's one other anniversary of note this weekend.  Harborplace in Baltimore turned 30 on Friday.

According to a Baltimore Sun story, the managers want to bring in tenants attractive to the people who live and work downtown.  They love the tourists, but the goal is to make Harborplace a year round attraction.

I used to be a regular visitor, but I got turned off when the Inner Harbor area got too touristy.  It was no longer uniquely Baltimore.  It had the same stuff that you could find in any other city.

I used to grab a hotel just outside the city.  Unfortunately, the "city" now stretches from Washington to the Pennsylvania line.  The area has grown tremendously, and I don't like it as much as I once did.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday

I was playing around with my camera in Wilkes-Barre the other day, at an elevated location, when a couple churches up in the Heights section caught my eye.

I love churches.  No two are alike.

The early morning summer sun and the green of the trees on the mountain added to the shot.

There will be a few words as to where I was standing when I took this photo, next week.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Do the Math

I have to admit I'm surprised.

I expected the state budget impasse to last into the new fiscal year, which began yesterday morning.

I expected the proposed agreement, reached earlier this week, to fall apart.

Then, I thought about it a little more.

It's an election year.  General Assembly members, looking to keep their seats aboard the gravy train, don't want another budget debacle to be fresh in the minds of voters.

Governor Ed Rendell is out of there in mid January.  Dan Onorato or Tom Corbett will have to live with this.

So will you and I.

It's a tough call.  Some key projects will get less money.  On the other hand, government has to live within its means.  The tax burden has been crushing.

I'm always reminded of my favorite Hubert Humphrey quote at times like this:  "It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."

I don't think we're doing a very good job.

>>> UPDATE:  I might have spoken too soon.  Governor Rendell is threatening to veto the proposed budget due to some problems with "companion legislation."  We'll see what happens after the long holiday weekend.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

TV Notes

Larry King announced Tuesday night that he's leaving CNN, on a full time basis, in the fall.  He'll stick around for the occasional special.

It's time.  Larry's best days had passed.  He seemed disconnected.  It showed.  The ratings slipped.

Let's go back a bit.  After some radio jobs in Florida, Larry hooked on at the Mutual Broadcasting System, in January 1978, to do an all night radio show.  A fine show, it was.  Larry would work midnight to 5:30-- all live.  He'd have a guest the first couple hours.  The rest was dedicated to what he called "open phone America."  Calls on anything and everything.  Larry knew how to get to people to open up, and he really had an ability to connect with the audience.  That's especially important when you work the overnighter.  The audience might be small, but they're loyal, and they tend to form a bond with the host.  Being the overnight guy isn't as easy as it sounds.  I dabbled in it, as a fill in guy, at the old WARM, in the pre Larry King days.

One of the most entertaining parts of King's show was the last half hour.  No calls, no guests.  He'd just throw the bull with Mutual's news anchors and whoever else happened to be around the studio.

You knew this was coming.  There are two sides to every coin.  Larry prided himself on the fact that he never researched a guest.  Larry said it gave him the ability to ask questions the average person would ask.  I call that lazy.  Any "journalist" who doesn't use all the tools at his disposal is a fool.  Most of his interviews were superficial, and Larry King has the reputation in the industry as a guy who throws softballs.  His lack of preparation was clearly evident in the later years when pop cultural guests would appear, and that stuff was over his head.  He looked and sounded lost.

When King got the TV gig, the radio show suffered.  The hours were shortened.  It was more tape than live.  It eventually went away.

I don't know who CNN has in mind for the 9 PM hour, but it has to be better than the Larry King of 2010.

Still, 25 years is an excellent run.

Shifting gears, Steve Carell announced he's leaving "The Office" at the end of next season.  I don't think this will mean the show will become any less funny.  Sorry.  I stole that line from someone else, but it sums up my feelings exactly.  I've tried to watch.  "The Office" is a dismal show filled with pitiful characters, and I don't want them in my home.  I don't know how anyone can tolerate being around those people.

It's far from a ratings success.  At best, "The Office" is in the lower middle of the prime time pack.  These days, at NBC, middle of the pack qualifies as a hit.  It's among the network's better performers.  Plus, NBC owns the show, so it gets to keep all the profits.


"Cash Cab" won the best game show Emmy the other night, for the third year in a row.  Cute show.  Interesting concept.  Emmy-worthy?  Three years in a row?  Hardly.  "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" deliver consistent, well produced episodes every night.  If I had a vote, it would have gone to "The Price is Right."  It's slick.  It looks good.  It's still interesting and fresh after nearly forty years.  Drew Carey has made the show his own, without destroying the Bob Barker legacy.  Let's hope the Emmy voters come to their senses next year, and don't forget to control the pet population by having your pet spayed or neutered.

ESPN says Erin Andrews has agreed to a new contract.  She's competent, but I think she's forgotten that it's all about the game.  It's not about her.  It's a football sideline.  It's not a fashion runway.  She needs to dress down a bit.  Her look can be distracting.  The woman's had a horrible year, with that peephole stalker business, so I hope this means things are looking up.