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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Underappreciated





I'm not a good holiday person, so I usually find things to occupy and distract me.  I'm lucky this year, in that I've already found this year's candidates.

The first is the underappreciated 70's TV series "Barney Miller."  It was a series where clever writing and well developed characters led the way.  I founds the boxed set of all seven seasons on-line recently, and I've been enjoying a couple episodes just about every day.

I also found the first two seasons of the NBC sitcom "Wings" on DVD at one of those indoor flea markets.  I'll dive in to that as soon as I finish "Barney Miller."  It's a line I've used many times before-- when the history of TV is written, "Wings" will not be on the list of great sitcoms.  However, it was consistently funny and cute, and a solid performer for NBC every week.

The third seasonal diversion is a new biography of Howard Cosell.  I'll nibble away at that from time to time.

Bring on the holidays!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Inspection

It is my yearly ritual, and here is this year's version.

My car has to be inspected before the end of the month, and the day before Thanksgiving was my day.

I dropped off the car at the dealer in the morning.  The dealer's shuttle gave me a ride home.  When the car was ready in the early afternoon, the dealer offered a ride back to the shop, but I politely declined.  I wanted to take the bus.

Walmart founder Sam Walton had a concept called "MBWA."  It stands for management by walking around.  In other words, he wanted his managers out of the office and out on the sales floor.

It's a great idea.  I've stolen it as a way to get story and blog ideas.  You see a lot more outside than you do sitting in front of a computer at a desk.

Once again, I have to give a positive review to the COLTS system.  The bus was clean and warm.  Our route took us through a supermarket parking lot on the day before Thanksgiving, and I was impressed with the driver's patience.  The parking lot was packed, and some drviers were darting all over the place.  If that wasn't enough, we also passed Regional Hospital and Moses Taylor Hospital.  The streets are narrow, with cars parked on both sides.  Driving the bus in that environment is like threading a needle, but the driver did it.  The trip cost $1.25, and that's a bargain.

The closest bus stop is about four blocks away from the dealer.  My walk was over dirty streets and busted up sidewalks.  That is a constant every year, and it's unfortunate.

By the way, the car passed the inspection-- no problems detected.

Monday, November 28, 2011

McStrange

It took me a year and a half, but I finally ate in one of those redesigned McDonalds.

The food was the same.  My Big Mac was good.  The fries were solid, albeit over-salted.

The decor?  Earth tones, wood, glass, upholstered seats, tile, a little carpet.

No garish colors.  No plastic and chrome overload.

And, no Ronald McDonald.  Where was Ronald?  I need my Ronald.  It wasn't a trip to McDonalds without the clown.  I want my clown!

Having said that, no one ever chose a fast food restaurant based on the decor.  It's the location, and the ability to get decent food, at a reasonable price.  Most of all, you have to get me in and out in a hurry.

New look.  Same old lack of "fast" in "fast food."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday: Cannon

There's something very Andy Griffith/Mayberry about canon in a park, and that's not a bad thing.

These two beatuties guard the Battle of Wyoming monument in Luzerne County.

Like yesterday's photos, it was shot late last month.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday: Repairs

The Battle of Wyoming monument was nearly spilt in half by a bolt of lightning a few years ago.  Repairs have been made, and it looks spectacular-- no signs of damage.

If you look carefully, running down the left side in the photo above is the ground that leads from the lightning rod at the top, into the earth.

There's still a lot of color on the trees.  The photos were taken late last month.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Unfinished Business

I keep trying to move on from the Penn State scandal, and it keeps pulling me back.  The Wall Street Journal published a story on Tuesday detailing how Joe Paterno fought his players being held to the same behavioral and disciplinary standards as other students.  First, he recruited thugs who repeatedly got in to trouble on campus.  Second, it's further proof that the sainted Joe Paterno is a hypocrite.  I'm sure a lot of other college coaches have pulled the same stunts, and I've even seen it on the high school level.  However, it's more proof that the sanctimonious Paterno is a fraud.

I'm also trying my best to avoid going on an anti Black Friday rant.  I think time will take care of that one.  Black Friday will become Black Thursday within the next few years.

CNN Radio anchor Stan Case was killed in a car crash Tuesday in Alabama.  Great voice.  Great delivery.  He also voiced some pieces for CNN and was an anchor when Headline News actually did news.  I'm saddened by the loss.

I'm also saddened by the loss of disco singer and actress Andrea True.  She had one big hit:  "More, More, More."  Heart failure in Kingston, NY November 7.  She was 68.  As noted previously, some disco wasn't bad.

A member of the Cincinnati Bengals was penalized for hair pulling during a tackle in the game versus the Baltimore Ravens.  Hey, if you wear your hair that long, you run the risk of having it pulled, and it shouldn't be a penalty.  It is difficult for me to type this paragraph because I'm a huge Troy Polamalu fan.  It's time for the NFL to ban excessive hair length, except on the cheerleaders.

Tim Tebow could turn me in to a Denver Broncos fan.  I hate to see someone undeservedly kicked around so much.  Is he the NFL's greatest talent?  No.  He pours on the religion a bit heavy, but he won games in college, and he's helped the Broncos this year.

Blog visits, Linked In connections, and Twitter followers are all up.  Thank you!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Holiday Creep

I've resigned myself to the fact that the Christmas season begins just before Halloween.  While it might seem earlier every year, it really isn't.

There is something new we now have to endure.  Thanksgiving used to be a day off from the commercial Christmas rush.  Then, Black Friday started at midnight Thanksgiving.  Now, Black Friday starts around 10 Thursday/Thanksgiving night, and that's just plain wrong.

I recognize the need to save money and hit the Black Friday sales.  I also recognize not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving. 

It happens a little more every year.  Thanksgiving gets lost in the shuffle, and I fear we're on a slippery slope.  The sales that start Thanksgiving night will move a bit earlier every year.  Thanksgiving is well on its way to becoming just another day. 

Whatever you do today, and no matter how you feel about what I've just written, please take a little time out to give thanks for what you have.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Bird

Retro usually works for me.  There is an exception to every rule. Case in point:  The Baltimore Orioles.

Last week, the Orioles announced the return of the cartoon bird to caps and uniforms.  It's part of the Camden Yards stadium 20th anniversary.

The cartoon bird never quite worked for me.  I preferred the ornithologically correct feathered critter, even though it was the symbol during several horrible losing seasons.
Looking on the bright side, it's still better than what the Miami Marlins will wear next year.

It's going to be a long winter.  Spring training games begin March 2.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Again

Growing up, we were always a Cronkite household.  I later worked for a CBS affiliate for about seven years, so I've always been a CBS follower.  Even to this day, when I'm up late, I'll watch the CBS Evening News.  It seems to be the newsiest of the three evening broadcasts.  Sorry, Diane.

The 7 AM broadcast used to be called the "CBS Morning News."  I liked it.  It was "the news."  Then, in an effort to catch the other guys, CBS dropped "news" from the title because it reasoned that people were frightened and turned off by "news" in the morning.  In came cooking, fashion tips, and celebrity babble.  Anchors rotated in and out on a regular basis.  You never knew who you'd see in the morning.  There was some real talent in there-- Harry Smith, Forrest Sawyer, Paula Zahn, Bryant Gumbel, Jane Clayson, Bob Schieffer, Diane Sawyer...

Nothing worked.

Last week, CBS announced it was blowing up its morning show yet again.  Beginning in January, Charlie Rose, Gayle King, and Erica Hill will lead a newsy MSNBC "Morning Joe" style discussion show.

I admire CBS for trying something different.  Rose is a skilled interviewer.  I'm not sure if he's morning material.  King had a talk show that died from low ratings.  She's now on her pal Oprah's network.  Like most of America, I haven't seen it.  Hill works the morning show now, and I think she's okay.

From what I've read, CBS has realistic expectations for the new morning broadcast.  The network hopes to draw an affluent, intelligent audience.  It reminds me of the 80's NBC series "St. Elsewhere."  The medical drama never got huge numbers, but it attracted upper socio economic groups, and advertisers loved it, so NBC kept "St. Elsewhere" on the schedule for six years and 137 episodes.

How times have changed.  CBS went the anti news route in 1987 with something called "The Morning Program" hosted by actress Mariette Hartley, possibly one of the worst shows in the history of television.

I'll give the new CBS morning show a try next year, but I fear I'll go back to my normal morning routine-- channel surfing from broadcast to cable until I find some real news.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Too Much, Too Soon

I hate to see Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving.

First, Thanksgiving has now become lost in the shuffle-- just another day to eat and the beginning of the shopping frenzy.

Second, a long Christmas season diminishes the experience.  More is not necessarily better.

Get ready.  Here comes a "geezer" moment.

When I was a kid, most people didn't turn on their lights until mid December.  Part of the reason for that was to save money.  Back in the day, outdoor Christmas light strings consisted of bulbs that were bigger than your thumb.  They threw a lot of heat and sucked a lot of power.  I'm surprised there weren't more fires. 

Anyway, a favorite pre holiday activity for my little friends and I was to wander about town, looking at house decorations and lights, and discussing amongst ourselves how things looked.  Most homes, including mine, went the multi colored route.  Some did just red and green lights.  A few used just blue and green.  My friends didn't care for that last one.  I did.  It was different.  Remember, this was the time before those tiny, twinkly clear lights, and long, long before icicle lights.  Those inflatable monstrosities were decades in the future.

We have more decorations these days, and they're visible earlier in the year.  Unfortunately, the Christmas season has lost a lot of its charm.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday: One More from the Park

One more shot from Lackawanna State Park...  You have to admit, the park system is one thing the state got right.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday: A Walk in the Park

November can be a grey and colorless month.  Let's remedy that with another shot from a visit to Lackawanna State Park a few weeks ago.  I love the reflection of the trees in the perfectly still water behind the dam.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Scrapple

What was Jerry Sandusky thinking when he gave that interview to Bob Costas Monday night?

As bad as the Penn State riot was, the candlelight vigil and demonstration of humanity at the Nebraska game was off the charts.  The pendulum swings both ways.

I can't think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving and we're in to December. 

It seems like there's a different Republican front runner every week, and that makes the race interesting.

The low turnout in the election was not surprising, but still sad.

I know a few of the winning Luzerne County judicial candidates, and I have no doubt they will make fine judges.

I love listening to Joe Paterno's defenders, especially those who say "He was only the football coach."  That's like saying a tsunami is only a wave.

Misbehaving "occupy" protesters do nothing for their cause.

Scranton is getting another Irish pub.  Just what we needed-- an Irish pub on every corner from Green Ridge to Minooka, from Keyser Avenue to East Mountain.

Regis Philbin leaves "Live!" today.  The man wasn't my cup of tea but I do respect his longevity and the fact he is so well liked.  I do like the way he did "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?!" and "Million Dollar Password."  Regis didn't make himself bigger than the games.

When you hear people blaming the media for their problems, it usually means they can't think of anyone else to blame.

I'm really enjoying watching Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles struggle this year.  It's time to realize Andy Reid is an okay coach, but not a great coach.

"2 Broke Girls" on CBS isn't a great sitcom, but it has its moments and some witty, albeit crude, dialog.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What Took You So Long?

There are times I'm very proud to be a member of the news media, and then there are times...

Let's start with the positive.  Much of the reporting on the Penn State Sex Scandal has been excellent.  Important questions are on the way to being answered, and that's a good thing.  Penn State gets a lot of your money, and the public has the right to know.  The public also has the right to responsible reporting.

Having said that...  Now that Joe Paterno is out of a position of power, his detractors in the media are coming out of the woodwork.  Yeah, it's easy to do now.  The bandwagon is getting crowded.

I will note that there have been a few blogs here over the years, questioning if Joe Paterno was the appropriate logo for the university.  I thought he should have been out years ago, and I said it.  He was out of touch.  When an opposing player was accused of sexual assault, the sainted JoePa's response was "Boys will be boys."  He should have been fired for that, alone.

Maybe if we all had kept a better eye on Penn State, maybe if we were all more intrepid and critical, maybe if we questioned Paterno's power, some of this wouldn't have happened.

Penn State allowed Joe Paterno to become bigger than university, with unrivaled influence.  We in the media were accomplices and enablers of the ascendancy.

Penn State is exempt from the state's open records law.  That, too has to change and change fast.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

7

Time flies.  The blog is seven years old today, and you know what that means:  the annual and tedious story of how the blog came to be.

Dennis Fisher was our news director at the time.  he solicited ideas for getting new and original content on to WNEP.com.  I saw anchor and reporter authored columns on other TV station web sites, and I made the suggestion.  Dennis asked for some samples.

Before I could provide them, the blog thing started to take off, and then-webmaster Mark Sowers cornered me one morning to ask if I would be interested.  I started blogging that afternoon.

I don't have an accurate number of posts and photos because our platform has changed a few times over the years.  I suspect it's more than 2,000.  That's a lot of banality!

We had a few other blogs over the years, but the authors thought FaceBook would be a better fit.  I'm not a FaceBook guy, but I can't argue with their reasoning.

I did register a Google+ account, just to keep someone from snatching my name.  I've yet to do anything with it.  I also had to re-activate my LinkedIn account to retrieve some e-mail addresses that were lost in a server crash.  I still Tweet on occasion.

Thanks for being here for the ride.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Animal Stories

People asked me about it wherever I went yesterday, so I might as well give you my take on the skunk that invaded the WNEP newsroom Monday morning.

I was seated at the camera position in the newsroom at 5:30 AM.  As always, there's a weather "hit" at the beginning of each half hour.  Joe Snedeker broke the news that he accidentally let a skunk in the building.  The critter surprised him as he opened the door.  Joe surprised the skunk, in return, and the little guy ran in the door, rather than running toward the woods.

As I watched Joe on the monitor, and listened to him in my ear, I thought he was kidding.  I've been around skunks all my life.  It's part of growing up in NEPA.  They usually avoid human contact.

A moment after Joe's pronouncement, and mere seconds before I was to go on, the skunk scurried past my chair, only about three feet away from my shoes.  It happened so fast, and I was stunned.  There was no time to jump, or yell, or do anything like that.  The skunk didn't spray me.  I assume he was conveying a professional courtesy.

A few of us searched the newsroom, and there was no luck finding the skunk.  He was later located in a cabinet in an area we went over.  I'm glad the skunk was found.  Only a few of us saw him, and I didn't want people to think I was crazy.

Skunks are cool little animals, with a funky walk and big fluffy tails.  As I've noted here in the past, when I smell a skunk in late winter, I know spring is right around the corner because that's the time of year skunks go looking for love.  I like skunks, but not that close.

On a much, much more serious note...

It's happened three times in recent months.  Mean dogs have come charging at me while I was walking my mellow old beagle.  In one instance, I had to place my dog up on a wall to keep her away from the charging dog.  In another instance, I had to get between the menacing dog and my dog.  Sunday morning, I had to kick a big dog to shove it away and keep it off my little dog.

A neighbor who walks a cute little puggy dog every day had a similar experience recently.

And, that's on top of dodging loads of crap all over town from pet owners who refused to clean up after their dogs.

In one case, I waved down a passing police officer to point out some irresponsible pet owner who let her dogs run free.

Other than that, I don't know what to do.  My dog and I like our exercise, and we don't want to be prisoners in our own home, but I no longer feel safe.

I have had it with people who refuse to train and control their dogs.

Do I have to walk with a baseball bat, or pepper spray, or more?  There has to be answer and a way to get through to people who shouldn't own dogs.  Something has to be done before someone or some innocent dog gets hurt.




Monday, November 14, 2011

Gone

And now, it's gone.

This used to be Holy Family Church in Scranton.  I took this picture several days ago.  To give you a little perspective, I'm standing in the alley behind the building, looking west, toward North Washington Avenue.

As has been noted here, the Catholic Diocese of Scranton closed the church.  It was sold and will become a parking lot for The Commonwealth Medical College.

You may be asking why I was so fascinated with this church, even though I never attended a service here.  First, and foremost, it was a beautiful building.  It was also the distribution center for Easter baskets for the less fortunate, a story I did several times over the years.  Believe me, when you get a rather steady diet of fires, accidents, crime and corruption, it's nice to do a positive story once in a while.  The recipients of the gifts were grateful.  The amount of donations was staggering, and so many people volunteered to help make it happen.  I'm sure the distribution center will be moved to another place.  It won't be the same.

I was driving by the church earlier this year, on a winter afternoon.  The sun was hitting it just right.  I didn't have my camera with me, and I'm still kicking myself over that one.

I bear no ill will toward anyone over the church's demolition.  I understand the reasons behind the church closings.  I also understand there's not much of a market for old church buildings.  There is a demand for parking, and if it helps the school, we all benefit.

Still, it's sad to watch a landmark reduced to rubble.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday: Country Church


Regular blog readers know I have a fondnness for old country churches.  I spied this one, Waverly Community Church, on my way to Lackawanna State Park a few weeks ago.

Of course, I love the steeple and how the big red doors jump out at you.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday: LSP

When I have the itch to play with my camera, I usually head to Steamtown, or here-- Lackawanna State Park.  This is the view from the top of the dam.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Veteran and the Real Joe

It is unfortunate that Andy Rooney didn't make it to one more Veterans Day.

I'm sure you know by now, Rooney passed away Saturday at the age of 92.

While he was best known for his "60 Minutes" commentaries, Rooney was also an Army veteran who wrote for Stars and Stripes, and covered some of World War II's biggest, ugliest, and bloodiest battles.

I will leave the obituaries up to the better skilled, but I will say that I admire those, like Andy Rooney, who can write and get people to take notice.

By the way, something struck me while watching Andy Rooney television obituaries.  Many of those stories featured the opening of "60 Minutes."  Dear God, what an assemblage of talent on that broadcast-- Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Harry Reasoner, Dan Rather, Ed Bradley, Diane Sawyer, Steve Kroft, Lesley Stahl...  I think the only thing that surpasses it was the radio group hired by Edward R. Murrow during World War II.

Happy Veterans Day, Andy Rooney.

Now, on to the Joe Paterno saga.  I will never understand the blind allegiance to this guy.  He was the ultimate actor.  The Paterno you saw in public was a fake.

I covered Penn State football a bit in the 90's, and I was warned early on.  Even back then, I had a reputation for asking difficult questions and being a professional pain in the behind.  It is a distinction I wear with honor.  Anyway, I was told that if I asked questions that challenged sanctimonious Paterno or PSU, I ran the risk of having me and my organization frozen out.  I'm not sure who authored that rule-- athletic director Tim Curley, Paterno, or both.

Richard Justice is a writer for the Houston Chronicle, and below is an excerpt from his column that really nails it.

  Indeed, that’s one of the lessons of this story. Paterno became accountable to no one, and isn’t that sad? He was the moral compass of State College and of Penn State.


He earned that status by winning games, graduating players and not cheating. He seemed different from so many of the others because during his 46 seasons, Penn State proved it could win with honor.


Somewhere along the way, Paterno’s value system became distorted. He had more power than any school president or mayor or athletics director, and because we assumed he always used it for good, because we believed the things he said about winning with honor, we allowed his power to grow and grow and grow.



Paterno built what appeared to be a model program, but he also built a program around secrecy and arrogance. No one crossed Joe Paterno. No one challenged Joe Paterno.


Paterno professed to be part of the larger university community, but in truth, he believed the university was there to serve him.





You see, if I have trouble conjuring up sympathy for the beloved and sainted  JoePa, now you know why.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Too Long

Once upon a time, there was a local elected official who was arrested for theft.  Not long after the arrest, when his second command was in charge, the successor and I had a conversation.  He related a talk he had with his boss during the transfer of power.  The new guy in charge quoted the now charged official as saying "I stayed at the party too long."

Joe Paterno has announced his retirement at the end of the season.  He stayed at the party too long.

Paterno took a major hit because of the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.  It's all too apparent that Paterno had information Sandusky was abusing little boys, and Paterno did little to stop it.

Paterno has not been criminally charged, but if arrogance and hypocrisy were crimes, Paterno would be in jail.

Joe Paterno is the guy who threw the PSU president out of his home, when the president came to fire him in 2004.  Back then, Paterno thought he had no boss.

Seven years later, when Paterno learned of the Sandusky problem, he suddenly had a boss.  Paterno told the athletic director about Sandusky, and walked away.  Police say Sandusky's abuses continued.  Paterno could have stopped Sandusky from victimizing children.  He didn't.  Paterno's legal obligation was met-- barely.  His moral obligation was nowhere to be found.

Sandusky continued to use PSU football facilities up until recently.  Where was Joe?  Either he didn't care, or he was too out of touch to realize there was a problem.

Look at the big picture.  Paterno offers his football program as squeaky clean and holier than thou.  Yet, PSU is close to leading the country in the number of players with arrest records.  (Source:  CBS News and ESPN)  Joe Paterno recruits thugs.

Late last night, the board of trustees fired Paterno and president Graham Spanier.  There was no other choice.

A student riot followed-- so much for Paterno & Co. shaping the young minds of tomorrow.  A shameful event became even more so, because so many people just didn't appreciate the gravity of the action and inaction of those involved in the sex scandal.

As I watched, and listened to the rioters on television this morning, all I could was think of is how they've disgraced themselves and their school.  It's time to grow up.
All of this could have been prevented with a well timed and dignified resignation.  It doesn't work that way at Penn State.  Paterno and football became bigger than the school, and the school happily allowed it to happen.

Joe Paterno, the party's over.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vote 2011: Post Game

Before a little analysis of the results, let's start with this.  I visited five polling places yesterday, including the place where I vote.  In each and every one, I witnessed candidates and candidates' surrogates passing out cards and literature at the door.  In some cases, it was like attempting to break through the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive line.

People hate it.  They really do, and candidates have to get that through their heads.  Most of the time,  I saw the cards trashed, without so much as a glance, as soon as the voter entered the building.

Me?  I never take them.  My mind is made up long before I reach the polling place.   I don't need any help finding candidates on the ballot.  I'm sure there is more than one candidate out there who thinks I'm rude and haughty and nasty and arrogant and egotistical.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I just want the right to go to vote without being assaulted. 

I know some counties are trying to enforce the rule keeping these people a set distance away from the polls.  Guess what?  It's not enough.  Yes, it's freedom of speech.  Candidates and their friends have the right to campaign.  That's America.  However, I also have the right to be left alone.

Now, the numbers...

Wilkes-Barre mayor Tom Leighton's win is not a surprise, but voters did deliver a message.  He got hammered in a state senate run two years ago.  His two opponents yesterday, combined, did come up with a decent total.  The nepotism, security system, and Hotel Sterling issues clearly played a role yesterday, but not enough to deny Leighton another term.

Those predicting a third place finish for Corey O'Brien in the Lackawanna County Commissioner's race were off the mark.  He was a strong second, and Democrats retain control of Lackawanna County.

The top vote getter for Scranton Council was Bob McGoff, an ally of Mayor Chris Doherty.

Tim Rowland breezes in the Lackawanna County Coroner's race.  The win is not a surprise.  His huge vote total raises more than a few eyebrows.

I will save the most interesting for last.  Stefanie Salavantis defeated Jackie Musto Carroll to become Luzerne County District Attorney.  The Luzerne County kids for cash scandal claims its newest victim.  Musto Carroll was either DA or first assistant DA while thousands of kids were appearing in court without legal representation.  She admitted never setting foot in juvenile court.  Musto Carroll's testimony before the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice was not her finest hour, and she took a big hit in the commission's report.  Add some effective commercials from Salavantis, along with low voter turnout, and there will be a new DA in January.

Salavantis is 29 and has limited criminal court experience, but consider this.  One of the primary functions of a DA is to be an office manager and administrator.  Corry Stevens had very little courtroom experience when he was elected DA.  He hired a couple experienced assistants and some aggressive young lawyers, and he righted the office after the mess left by the previous administration.  Stevens was rarely seen in a courtroom, and there weren't many complaints about his performance as DA.  He was elected to the court of common pleas, and later, state superior court.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Election Day

It's finally here-- general election day 2011.

It's a big day in a lot of respects.  Voters in Luzerne County will choose their first county council.

Several counties are selecting new commissioners.  Just about every city and town has mayor, school director, supervisor and council races.  They might not be big offices, but they are interesting and important nonetheless.

It seems hard to believe, but one year from today, we'll be choosing a president, a US senator, and several US house races.

There will likely be a short lull around the holidays.  Then, get ready.  2012 will be a noisy year.

Like recent elections, I'll try to get in some updates here and via Twitter-- with a little "day after" stuff tomorrow.

>>>3:45 AM...  One last review of the election day preview stories I started over the weekend.  Everything is edited and ready to go.

>>>4:55 AM... We've chosen Duryea as our live shot location.  Signs all over the place.  Looks to be a hotly contested election.

>>>7:20 AM...  A nice initial rush of voters here at our location.  Predictions of a low voter turnout might be inaccurate.

>>>10:50 AM...  Spoke too soon.  Visited 4 polling places this morning.  All light.  Got some interviews and in the process of assembling a story for Newswatch 16 @ Noon.

>>>11:30 AM...  My story for Newswatch 16 @ Noon has been written and edited.  The live truck mast is going up.  We'll be feeding soon.  After that, live at 12, back to the office for a few loose ends, my own trip to vote, a walk with the dog and a long nap.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Pennsylvania Puzzle

It happens every ten years.  The state house and senate districts are re-drawn according to the latest census.  The party in power draws the boundaries to help themselves.  The party not in power cries "foul."  After it's all settled, occasionally with help from the courts, it's business as usual in the General Assembly.

A fellow blogger pointed this out-- Does the average citizen care?

My state representative seems like a decent chap.  I don't know much about my state senator.  He keeps a rather low profile.  Both appear to adequate.  It is the house and senate, as a whole, where the problems lie.  The bodies are bloated, and they don't like to make tough decisions.  Banning texting while driving was a no brainier.  The debate over privatizing the liquor system has been going on for years, and it's not even close to being decided.  The anti smoking legislation is so weak and watered down, it doesn't please either side.  A recent reform package was laughable, and now the general assembly is backtracking on some elements.

You see, the street where you live is irrelevant.  It's the culture of elected official self preservation that keeps getting us in to trouble.

There are some exceptions.  One state rep leaves a trail of unpaid bills.  Another's love of per diems got him voted out of office.  I wouldn't be comfortable with either representing me, so, yes, there are times when your district does make a difference.

Some elected officials are unhappy with counties carved up among multiple districts.  Sorry.  That's the way it goes.  The constitution calls for an equal number of citizens per district.  Despite the protests, there's not a lot of evidence to suggest that citizens really benefit from a unified county.

In spite of it all, voting remains our best weapon, and please don't forget to do that tomorrow.

Speaking of Pennsylvania, I have to mention that sex scandal at Penn State University in State College.  To bring you up to speed, former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of sexually assaulting children.

Athletic Director Tim Curley and Finance/Business VP Gary Schultz allegedly knew about it, did nothing, and lied to investigators.  They are charged with perjury.

State prosecutors allege a student told Joe Paterno about Sandusky's actions, and Paterno went to Curley about it.  I'm okay with that. 

Many questions remain.  When Curley sat on the allegations, why didn't Paterno go further?  Maybe he did, and we just don't know.  Maybe Curley lied to Paterno about what he was doing in regards to Sandusky.

Let's look at the big picture.  Penn State is close to leading the nation in the number of student athlete arrests.  Add to that the apparent negligence and irresponsibility of those in power during the Sandusky episode, and you have a culture of reckless and indefensible behavior.

Some state lawmakers are already promising an investigation, and I welcome it, even though hearings often produce few results.  It's just representatives and senators preening for the cameras and pandering to the public.

There are some real problems at PSU, and it's clear even though those accused are innocent until proven guilty, it's high time for new direction in Penn State athletics.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday: Old Steam

I was walking around Steamtown with my camera recently, when I spied this beauty.

It's a rusted, beat up Canadian National engine, and I hope it is one day restored to what is used to be.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday: Steam

As noted earlier, I blew through Steamtown on a recent sunny afternoon.  One of the big engines was fired up, much to the delight of the visitors.

Yes, visitors!  Most afternoons, Steamtown is deserted, and it was nice to see some people wandering around, in the middle of the week.

Friday, November 4, 2011

More Preservation

It was a strange coincidence. I happened to be in downtown Wilkes-Barre last Monday, and I snapped off a picture of one of my favorite buildings-- the Irem Temple on North Franklin Street. The next day, a story on the building appeared in the Times~Leader.

The Irem Temple is owned by an arm of the Chamber of Commerce, and it's looking for bids on repairing and stabilizing the mosque. The Chamber sees the building as part of the riverfront project. That's all well and good, and I hope it happens. Here's another idea. Work a deal to make it a performing arts center for nearby King's College. As I've said here in the past, the only organizations with money to expand these days are colleges and universities, Walmart, and dollar stores.

The Irem Temple is a treasure and it should not be lost.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Genius

I will forever stand in awe of the marketing genius of American corporations.  I took several public relations and advertising courses in college.  Plus, I've been a member of the media for more than three decades  I've seen all.

Exhibit A is McDonalds.  It's reintroduced the McRib sandwich, as it does from time to time.  Every instance, it's the same thing-- the company gets tons of free advertising from the news media.  The advent of social media gives an additional explosion.  McDonalds could probably get away with having the McRib available everywhere, all the time.  The limited availability just makes people want it more, and it triggers the media to talk about it more-- all free of charge.

I haven't had a McRib in years.  I've heard the sandwich referred to as McGristle.  I have no strong feelings either way.  It's not a bad sandwich, but not a great one, either.  It just appears to be substandard meat parts, disguised by a smothering of barbecue sauce.

Exhibit B is Coca Cola.  There's a reason it's the world's best selling soda pop-- marketing genius.  During the holiday season, Coca Cola will be available in white cans, and that's a first.  The cans will feature polar bears, and that ties in to a television campaign.  The white Coke cans were featured in a USA Today story last week, and I'm sure you'll see the cans elsewhere, in print, on TV, and on line.  Again-- free advertising and valuable publicity.

As has been noted here in the past, Diet Pepsi is my drink of choice, but if Diet Coke is on sale, those red and white cans will be in my cart.

Exhibit C is what's happening on West 57th Street in New York City.  According to the Associated Press, the new management at CBS News finally realizes its morning broadcast cannot beat Today and Good Morning America, and it's time to go in a new direction, one featuring more hard news.  It's about time, but we've endured many "new directions" from CBS before.

Exhibit D:  FOX Sports.  It was fashionable to knock Joe Buck and Tim McCarver during last week's World Series.  While TMac can be a bit wordy, Buck is the perfect partner.  Couple that with excellent camera work, and you had a very good World Series.  Calling it "genius" might be a bit strong, but you cannot dispute that it was good television.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Backyard Bandit

When I worked in downtown Scranton, we had rats and roaches.

Things are a little different in pastoral Moosic.  We had a raccoon come through the backyard for a snack early Saturday morning.  He was feasting on one of the pumpkins.  Animals are smart, or Noreen Clark told him a snow storm was coming.  Gnawing in to a pumpkin must be the raccoon equivalent of running to the supermarket for bread, milk, eggs, and Pop Tarts.

Even though raccoons and assorted other critters are destructive, they are pretty darn cute.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

About the Cover

After a brutal couple months, let's show the Wyoming Valley a little love.

This is one of my favorite bridges in the area-- the Market Street Bridge between Kingston and Wilkes-Barre.  I took this photo on the east side, on a late October morning.

One of my favorite days as a broadcaster was spent on the bridge.  Antique cars from the Great American Race rolled over the bridge, on their way to a festival at Kirby Park.  I broadcast it on the radio, back in the mid 80's.  It was an amasing sight-- a sunny summer afternoon, great cars, in a beautiful setting.  It doesn't get much better than that.

This bridge has seen it all, and I'm glad it's "weathered" a lot of good times and bad.