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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Farewell...

...to winter.

It's the last day of March, and I'm finally ready to declare winter "over."

It's strange to say that now, because, as I write this, cold weather and the possibility of snow are in the forecast.

I'm a cautious man, and I know it can snow well into April.  We were lulled in to a false sense of security this year.

I think I wore long underwear three times this year.  Last year, it was an every day thing.  The memory of standing in Freeland, in 10 degree below zero cold, and doing a story on frozen water lines will stay with me for a very long time.  Yes, we did have a cold pop this year, but it happened on a weekend-- when I'm safe and warm in a comfortable studio.

I didn't touch a snow shovel once this year.  I do have an industrial size and strength push broom, and I used it to get rid of the biggest snowfall of the year at my place.  Yes, I do know it was much different for our friends to the south.

I think I spent only three days on "road dog" snow report duty for Newswatch 16 This Morning.  Last year, again, it seemed like a daily thing.  Believe me, it's fairly easy to run out of things to say about snow.  That was not an issue this year.

It was an el Nino year, and we saw this coming.  However, I don't think anyone could have foreseen how warm and un-snowy it would be.  Is this an anomaly or the new normal?

Remember, weather is different from climate.  I truly believe the climate is changing.  But then, it's been changing since the earth was formed.  Climate change is a natural thing.  The big question:  Is "man" accelerating the change?  

I've read a lot of material, on both sides of the issue.  The jury is still out.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Media Notes

I haven't prattled on about Johnny Carson in a while.  Still loving the reruns on WNEP2.  something jumped out at me recently.  Carson was one of the country's biggest television stars, yet he really had the touch for talking to common folk.  There was a lot of that when the Tonight show was 90 minutes long.

I'm still upset over CBS possibly selling its radio division.  There are some really great stations in there.  An industry newsletter says CBS Radio News is under the CBS News umbrella, and not CBS Radio.  The service should continue, as-is.  CBS and ABC are the last of the great radio news operations.  FOX puts out a very good product.  CNN did, until it got out of the radio business.  Here's a question for radio geeks.  do you remember when ABC Radio had six networks, each with a newscast geared toward a specific format? There was Information, Contemporary, FM, Rock, Direction, and Entertainment.

It doesn't look like Comcast and the YES Network will come to an agreement any time soon.  Comcast claims YES wants too much money.  I can live without Yankees games, but Comcast, can you refund the money from the part of our bill that was going to YES?

Speaking of Comcast, I had an internet issue recently.  The woman at customer service was fantastic.  She systematically found my problem by eliminating all possibilities, until we hit the bullseye.

You know what bugs me?   When people establish blogs and don't update them.

CBS gave James Corden a combination first anniversary/carpool karaoke show.  I'm not sold on Corden as a talk show host, although his Late Late Show does have its moments.  He's a charming, talented chap.  The carpool karaoke segments can be outstanding.

Mother Angelica passed away on Easter.  She built quite the media empire.

I recently visited my old radio stomping grounds.  Look for a blog entry or two in the days to come.

Announcer Kevin Harlan said "Syracuse rose from the dead on Easter Sunday" during a basketball game over the weekend.  Stupid?  Yes.  Bad taste?  Yes.  Career ending?  It shouldn't be.  I've always enjoyed his work.

Former CBS News correspondent Eric Engberg died this week.  Old school tough.

CNN has hired former NBC Meet the Press moderator David Gregory to do political analysis.  I saw some earlier guest appearances.  Good stuff.  Meet the Press wasn't his thing.  This could be a very good fit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

OCB

I should have gotten to this sooner...

Old County Buffet recently closed two restaurants in our area-- Dickson City and Wilkes-Barre.

Wow!  Did it trigger a response!

First of all, our area's gravy consumption has been cut in half.

Employees called to say they had been shabbily treated by management-- tossed out of work with no notice or consideration.  Their belongings were dumped.  They deserved better.

Several OCB loyal customers called or wrote to complain.  What does that tell us?  Apparently, people liked their food.  I don't know.  I've never been there.  I haven't heard many good things.  Above and beyond that, people were looking for a value and it seems that OCB delivered one.  Despite what the politicians tell you, we have a poverty problem around here.  It's nice to get out for dinner once in a while, and not spend an arm and a leg to do it.  OCB fit the bill.

Numbers don't lie, and successful restaurants don't close.  The chain shut 90 stores and filed for bankruptcy.  Something is wrong somewhere.

Unfortunately, workers lost jobs, and people looking for an inexpensive dinner and a night out are forced to explore other options.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Baseball World...

...of Joe Garagiola.

That was the title of NBC's Monday Night Baseball pre-game show for many years.  Garagiola had about 15 minutes to tell a story.  It was stuff that we didn't ordinarily get a chance to see.  No breathless news updates.  No highlights.  Just a baseball related story.  It set NBC's Monday night package apart from the rest.

Joe Garagiola was more than a baseball catcher turned announcer.  He fought to get smokeless tobacco out of the game.  He raised money and helped create a charity for broke ex-baseball players.

There were game shows.  Sale of the Century and To Tell the Truth to name a couple.

There are plenty of Garagiola To Tell the Truth clips on You Tube.  By the way, the announcer for the final year of the syndicated 70's version was Alan Kalter, who was David Letterman's announcer after Bill Wendell retired.  Garagiola did a good job with it.

There were a few years on the Today show back in the 60's.  He came back in the 90's to quiet the turmoil on the set.

Garagiola had the onions to walk away from baseball  in 1988 when he felt NBC wasn't treating him fairly during contract negotiations.  By then, NBC had broken up the very listenable combination of Garagiola and Tony Kubek.  Kubek was shunted off to the "b" team, with Bob Costas.  By the way, Costas and Kubek were extremely good together.

For Garagiola's last few years in the booth, he was teamed with the sanctimonious Vin Scully.  Joe couldn't be Joe and you could hear it.  Scully kept his color guys on a very short leash.

My brush with fame:  1975.  I was at a Yankees game in Shea Stadium.  The Yankees spent 1974 and 1975 there while Yankee Stadium was being renovated.  Garagiola saw me in the stands, looking up in to the broadcast booth with my pair of mini binoculars.  Joe waved.  I waved back.

Here is the bottom line.  Joe Garagiola was far from the best announcer or game show host that ever lived, but he was among the most likable.  You can't bottle that.  You can't teach that, and only the special ones have it.

Joe Garagiola was 90 years old.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

I usually try to something religious on Easter.

A recent trip to Marywood gave me some free time to wander around campus.  I came upon the St. Casimir statue.  I bet if you asked every Marywood student and graduate where this statue is located, the majority (including me) couldn't answer.  It's just off the plaza between the Memorial Arch and the new library.

As for St. Casimir, he dedicated his short life (just 25 years)  to the sick and the poor.

Please, remember what the day is all about, and have a Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Andy's Angles: Spring

I actually had some free time on a sunny day Thursday, so I set out with my camera to search for spring.

The trip was disappointing.  I wanted a flower.  Just one.  How hard should that be?  Every month for the past year has been above normal.  We didn't have a winter.

I wandered around Nay Aug Park in Scranton.  Surely, there had to be a flower around here somewhere.  If any had poked their heads above ground, I couldn't find them.

Above is a picture of the pool and water slide complex.  It won't be long before it's filled with activity.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday Scrapple

I remember the days when you had to be really quiet and reverent on Good Friday, between noon and 3, because that's when Jesus hung on the cross.

Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Springtime, flowers, new clothes, a sense of renewal, eggs, and  CHOCOLATE!

It pains me to see Craig Kilborn do Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercials.  Kilborn was on ESPN.  He was the first Daily Show host.  He had the CBS Late Late show after Tom Snyder and before Craig Ferguson.  Talented guy.  He can do better.  Kilborn disappeared after leaving CBS, and I could never figure out why.

The NCAA basketball tournament is kind of boring this year.  There are no real Cinderella teams in the Sweet 16.  I've never filled out a bracket in my life, and I have no desire to hear discussions of them.

I've enjoyed Turkey Hill's lemon meringue pie ice cream in the past, but I see no current mention of it on Turkey Hill's web site.

I dumped SnapChat and Instagram a couple of weeks ago, and I really don't miss them.

Mixed feelings on the whole Cuba thing.  We are friendlier with worse countries.  However, Cuba has a long way to go before it totally cleans up its act.

Joe Garagiola's death is worth more than a couple of lines in a Scrapple entry.  Thoughts on his passing are slated for next week.

How did that budget thing work out, Governor Wolf?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Brainy

I visited my broker last week.  Her office is located where my first commercial TV station once stood.

I had lunch with an old radio friend last week.

I'm working on a blog entry about the 35th anniversary of my start in commercial radio.

That's a lot of memories.

Thankfully, most of them are good.  Of course, there was some awful stuff along the way.  As I've said before, as the years pile up, the bad stuff isn't forgotten, but it does fade a bit.

Something does come up, once in a while, to rip the scabs off the wounds.  I'm happy that it doesn't happen often.

Old friends waltz through dreams on occasion.  There is a frequent dream about being back at WARM, but I don't know how to operate any of the equipment.  A slightly less frequent dream involves the old channel 22, and there is an odd mix of people from every station where I've worked.

A new, weird dream was added to the mix this week.  I was back at Marywood, taking a test in a religion course.  I opened the test booklet and I couldn't answer one question.  Zero.  Panic set in.  I was going to fail the course, and I wasn't going to graduate.  Don't ask me what triggered that one.

The brain is an amazing organ.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Bingo!

It's a topic that comes up from time to time.  One of Joe's Brown Bag Monday questions triggered the latest episode.

I read the winning lottery numbers and payouts, every hour, on the weekend morning editions of Newswatch 16.  Tom and Mindi read the lottery numbers only once weekdays.

What do you like?

Here is the debate.

You can get the numbers in a lot of places-- the internet, the newspaper, smart phone app, etc.  They constantly scroll at the bottom of your screen during our newscasts.  Do you want to hear them, too?

They do take up a lot of time.  Lottery games are at a record high.  There are a lot of numbers coming at you, and hitting you fast.  It's a lot if information to absorb.  Is giving the lottery numbers on television passe?

I doubt we're going to stop, but we really would like to know what you think.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Investment

Not that kind.

A friend and I were discussing television over lunch the other day, and I realized that there is no prime time television show I watch on a regular basis.

There's nothing out there that really justifies the investment of time and effort, at least for me.

I used to watch The Blacklist.  Big James Spader fan.  But, it got too bloody and gory.

I used to watch The Big Bang Theory, but as noted here earlier, it's become another bickering couples comedy.

I never cared about zombies and never will.

I understand there is some great stuff out there.  However, with my schedule, if I sit down to watch an hour long show, chances are, I'll be asleep before it's over.

Please, don't think I'm a television snob.

What do I watch?  How It's Made on Science.  Food Factory on FYI.  Join or Die on History.  Johnny Carson and Barney Miller on WNEP2.  Restaurant Impossible on Food.  Anything with puppies and kitties on Animal Planet

And of course, the news.  Lots of news.

On Demand and the internet, when Comcast decides to turn it on, are my friends.

Unfortunately, the programmers are not.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Seeds Planted

This is part a look back, a la Thursday's "Insulation" entry, and a look ahead...

One more story about insulation and access, and it will then launch into modern day politics.

The year was 1988.  Democratic vice presidential candidate candidate Lloyd Bentsen was campaigning at Wilkes College.  It wasn't a university yet.  The Texan gave the standard rally speech.  Yawn. He wasn't big on answering spontaneous question from the media, so I planted myself, along with my big WARM microphone and tape recorder outside the side door Bentsen would be exiting.

He came out the door after the rally.  I asked him about a poll showing the Dukakis/Bentsen ticket would get hammered in the south.  Bentsen was put on the ticket to bring some southern strength and geographic balance.  Bentsen went up one side of me and down the other.  I loved every second.  I was getting yelled at by one of the most powerful people in the country.  It was great radio.

That night, I was talking to a radio friend in Harrisburg, by phone.  She said "I heard you p-o'd Lloyd Bentsen."

Could I do that today?  Never.  Security is too tight.  The handlers would have me removed.

Fast forward to 2016 and the Donald Trump presidential campaign.  I don't know about access.  Trump has yet to visit our area.  From what I read, it's not a media friendly campaign.

On the other hand, Trump often runs without a script and is the king of spontaneity.  You don't get the standard stuff.  Trump bosses his handlers, not the other way around.

I'm sure you've listened to the candidates and I've spoken to several over the years-- everyone from school board and council, right to the very top.  They don't answer questions.  They give you what they want to say, not a response to the question you asked, no matter how hard you try.  If you persist, some handler will say "Your time is up."

Donald Trump is brash and he's blunt.  He's the anti candidate.

Pundits have wasted countless cable television and Sunday morning broadcast hours yammering on about this.  It's all so simple.  A lot of people are tired of the "same old."  It's left the door wide open for Donald Trump.  It's not a 2016 thing.  The seeds for a "break the mold" candidate like Trump were planted years ago.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Andy's Angles: Infinity

If you're a regular blog reader, you know I love shots like this-- railroad tracks stretching off in to infinity.

I'm on Amelia Avenue in Scranton.  The Lackawanna River is at my back.  The shot looks north-- toward Parker Street and eventually Dickson City and points north.

This track doesn't see as much activity as it once did.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Andy's Angles: Late Winter/Early Spring

We'll close out winter with a couple of pictures from the Amelia Avenue area of Scranton.  This is the Lackawanna River.

You get the feeling that with a few more sunny days, and a warm rain, the grass will quickly go green and we'll see leaves on the trees.

Looking at the weekend forecast, "green" will be temporarily delayed.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Radio

It's been a while since I whined about the state of radio...

I was in the car just after 1 AM Wednesday.  I really wanted to catch some news about the presidential primaries.  I'd just missed the top of the hour news from the two local stations near me that actually run it.  WBBM 780 from Chicago and KYW 1060 from Philadelphia occasionally boom in (more about that later), but this was not my lucky night.  There was plenty of talk about conspiracy theories, little green men, and the NCAA basketball tournament up and down the dial-- a lot of the same stuff in different locations.  No news.  The guys on the syndicated Red Eye Radio, carried by WTRW were talking politics, a little, and that was the best I could do.  If you're up all night, Red Eye and Ben Maller's FOX Sports Radio are the best of the lot.  Red Eye usually hits the newsy topics, and Maller is always great fun.

As noted here before, the FCC is in the process of trying to save AM radio.  One aspect is to cut down on the reach of those big blowtorch signals, like WBBM, KYW, WGY, WABC, WLS, WJR, KDKA, KMOX, etc.  The reasoning is it gives opportunities for smaller, local signals to stay powered up.  Bad idea.  Big stations usually have a live body or two, even in the middle of the night.  Little local stations?  All computerized, all the time.  I've read most of the FCC's AM recovery plan.  I haven't seen such flawed thinking since PennDOT's love of roundabouts.

CBS is considering selling its radio stations, and it brought a tear to my eye.  CBS is the last of the gold standard operators.  ABC's stations were legendary-- until they were sold off.  The same goes for NBC.  CBS still puts out a fantastic news product in several cities.  No one expects that continue under new ownership.  News is expensive but it does attract an upper socioeconomic demographic.  The head of CBS says radio is a slow growth industry.  Hey, at least there's growth.  Be happy.  Keep them.

Here's something frightening that was reported in Tom Taylor's morning radio newsletter.  21 per cent of American homes don't have radios.  Are you kidding me?  I know cell phones have become the information and entertainment appliance of choice, even taking the role of nightstand alarm clock.

Me?  I own a bunch.  Bedroom, kitchen, home office, and even the bath room.  I can't do without them.  I even own two internet radios, making listening to distant stations a breeze.  Some of my radios even get weather band, because good luck getting a local forecast when you want one.

Radio is a great medium.  It hurts to see and hear the neglect.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Insulation

I've been watching the violence and mayhem surrounding the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

I don't care who is responsible or the source of their motivation.  I do care about what will happen as a result.

The bottom line is there will be even more insulation of our candidates and public officials.  I get the need for security and safety.  That's extremely important.

But, it's also important to have access to these people.  They affect our lives.  It might be fair to say they rule our lives.  The threat of violence puts them behind barriers, and that's never good.

I was telling a photographer about the good old days recently.  I covered one of George Bush's visit to the area when he was vice president.  I was on the radio, and used to carry a huge cassette recorder.  Security looked at it and asked me to turn it on, to prove it was actually a cassette recorder.  I complied, and I was through the line.

Presidential candidate Walter Mondale visited Wilkes-Barre just before the 1984 general election.  Again, I was on the radio.  I actually had my news car parked on Public Square.  Secret Service came by, looked underneath with a mirror on a telescoping rod, and I was good to go.  Today?  You couldn't get a car within a mile.

It's not just a media problem.  It's your problem, too.

I fear the toothpaste is out of the tube.  The days of easy and free access are gone, and they're never coming back.

As violence, and the threats of even more violence grows, our ability to meet those who want to govern shrinks.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday Scrapple

Is there a more senseless activity than the twice yearly time changes?

Johnny Carson reruns have helped fill the Letterman void.

I say it every year:  Scranton's St. Patrick's parade is not a family event.

I try to wear at least one pastel tie every weekend around Easter.

Irish soda bread is one of the joys of spring.  Simple and delicious.

I started playing with a triceps machine at the gym.  Days of pain after the first experience, but I'll do it again.

It's almost bicycle season.  Because I ride in the dark, with the proper safety precautions, I usually wait for 50 degree overnight lows.  My first ride last year was in late April.

Don't ask me why, but I've been reading about great disagreements over how to scramble an egg.  Do you add water, milk, half and half, or nothing?  This isn't rocket science.  I usually do a tiny bit of water.  I've found dairy dulls the flavor.

I dumped SnapChat.  It was eating up battery life, and I got tired of puppy faces, vomit rainbows,  and people having a good time.




Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Bright Idea

It seems like a lot of communities here in our area are switching to LED street lights.

On some levels, it makes sense.  LED's use less electricity.  They last longer.

I have to admit, as far as street lights go, I'm not a fan.  I just don't think they're bright enough.

Most of my lamps and fixtures around the house have been switched to LED's.  They're great for that.  I think they're also a good choice for security lighting outside homes and businesses.  LED's work well in confined areas.

The bulbs are costly, but they do use less energy.  Unfortunately, I'll be dead before there's a return on my investment.  I really don't mind.  It lessens the guilt from staying up all night, with the lamp on my computer desk burning, while I tap away at the keyboard.

Look at him working.  Darning his socks in the night when where's nobody there.  Sorry.  It's a line from Eleanor Rigby.  RIP, Sir George Martin.

Desk lamp?  Great.  Street lights?  Not so much.

LED's seem to be the municipal trend.  We'll just have to get used to darker streets.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Red Flag

I warned you. so you knew this one was coming.  It's my take on the latest controversy at my alma mater, Marywood University.  It was a college back in my day.

Administration recently informed ten instructors that they would not be retained for the fall semester.  One has been rehired.

The ax fell via e-mail.  There's no way to put a positive spin on this.  Firing someone with an e-mail is a lousy way to do things and the professors deserved better.

Marywood is a business.  Businesses expand.  Businesses contract.  Believe me, I know that all too well.  The University has the right to adjust as it sees fit.  From what I understand, incoming freshman classes have been smaller than anticipated.  An adjustment was necessary.

On the other hand, look at the big picture.  I've been hearing rumblings about money problems for the past three years.  Marywood just spent big on a monstrosity of a library and the plaza in front of it.  According to the school newspaper, there have been other questionable expenditures.  Marywood has cut retirement benefits and budgets.

The red flag is running up the pole.

Some of the cuts were made in programs that put Marywood on the map.  The school has hired a company for guidance in what programs should stay, and what ones the school can do without.  It troubles me that cuts were made in the classrooms. If Marywood was looking for dead wood, I'm disappointed I didn't get a call.  I have a few suggestions.

Marywood is undergoing an administration change.  The president is retiring.  The search for a replacement is underway.  Faculty recently issued a "no confidence" vote against the current president and head of  business affairs.

I can see that a shiny new library can attract new students.  After all, who wants to attend class at a dated, tired campus.  Can the school be marketed better?  Likely.  I've never seen a marketing program that couldn't be improved.  I just wonder what potential students think when they Google "Marywood" and see the place in apparent disarray.  Get used to smaller incoming classes.

Look, I spent four years of my life there.  I value my degree, and I proudly tell people where I went to school.

However, I can't help but be saddened by the current direction.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Andy's Angles: Bridge Weekend

Today, an old bridge.

This one takes railroad tracks over the Lackawanna River at Amelia Avenue in Scranton.

I've photographed this one before.  However, I liked the way the sun was hitting it on a recent afternoon.
It was built in 1904.  Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House, and I'm sure this bridge saw a lot of rail traffic.

I'm always amazed at the amount of weight these things can bear, and how they're still in service, more than 100 years after they were constructed.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Andy's Angles: Bridge Weekend

Tomorrow, something old.  Today, it's something new.

A new Harrison Avenue Bridge is going up in Scranton.

So many mixed feelings on this one.  The old one was beautiful, but structurally deficient.  It has to go.  People lost their homes to make way for the new one, and that always makes me sad.
Construction has made a mess of traffic down below, on the Central Scranton Expressway, but this is a massive project, and not much could be done about that.

Price tag:  $ 20 million.  The new Harrison Avenue Bridge in Scranton is supposed to be open by July of 2017.

Plans to turn the old bridge into a "linear park" were scrapped, and that's a good idea.  The city can't maintain what it has now.  Nay Aug is just a few blocks away.  This really wasn't needed.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Loser

A long, long time ago...  when I worked for another company, there was a clause in my contract that stipulated that disputes first go to an arbitrator.  Lawsuits and courts would come later.

As I was going over the contract, paragraph by paragraph, line by line, and word by word, with my attorney, he asked "Do you know why they put the arbitrator clause in there?"  I didn't have the answer.  He said it's because when big companies go before juries, they lose.

Luckily, my time of employment with that company was problem free.  I was happy.  No complaints.  The contract was adhered to, on both sides.

We did see some interesting court cases recently.

The family of a young doctor who died and a big hospital company settled in the middle of a malpractice trial.  Terms of the settlement are secret, and that's standard procedure.

Sports reporter Erin Andrews won $ 55 million from a hotel company and the guy who secretly recorded naked video through an adjacent hotel room's peep hole.  It's likely Andrews will never see an amount close to that $ 55 million, but the message is clear.

A big natural gas oil and drilling company was found negligent in a suit filed by two families, alleging the gas drilling contaminated their drinking water.

So, what have we learned:

-In hospitals, there is no room for error, and workers will be held accountable.

-Don't mess with someone's privacy.  Never.  Never, ever.

-Keep your nose clean, and the water even cleaner.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I Will Never Understand It

My Tuesday morning assignment took me to Minersville.  A row home fire.  Another one.  Schuylkill County is filled with them.  That's the way they did things back then.  Row homes saved space.  They were economical.

Unfortunately, they can also be fire traps.

You see, most row homes have common attics.  Once the flames get up there, they spread.  Fast.  Both ways.  A fire in one home can soon take out an entire block.  The fire chief told me he was thankful they made a good stop on this one.  Not only could the flames have destroyed the cluster of four, the flames could have easily hopped to the building next door, just a few feet away.

So, what do we do?  The current common attics are grandfathered in.  You can't rush in and mandate fire walls.  Landlords, how much would it cost to install fire blocking?  A few hundred dollars for drywall and insulation.  Maybe a few hundred more for installation.

Families are sleeping with a major danger just over their heads.  Something has to be done.

I understand economic realities.  A lot of these row homes are in low and moderate income neighborhoods.  But, what is the price of a life?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wednesday Scrapple

I accidentally washed a pair of Sony ear buds last week.  They still work.  Sony, you make an amazing product.

Old Country Buffets in the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton areas abruptly closed over the weekend.  No notice for employees.  Thank you for your service.  I can't say that I've ever been in one.  I haven't heard good things.  Chapter 11 bankruptcy...  again.

Chipotle sent me some coupons.  Looks like the company is taking big steps to polish its image after the recent contamination cases.  I haven't used the coupons, and I'm not sure if I will.

Jim McNulty's death brought back a flood of memories, mostly good.  He was truly a unique individual, and I can still hear that laugh.

I'm not ready to declare winter over yet.  We've had snow in late March and April.  At least, it melts fast.

I believe the federal government set a record this year for the speed in which it processed my tax return, and I didn't E file.

Peyton Manning retired Monday.  Never loved him.  Never hated him.  I question his records.  Most passes and TD's were in the safety and climate controlled warmth of a dome.  He has a bad playoff record.  However, he does have two Super Bowl rings.

I've been mentally working up a Marywood University blog entry.  It's my alma mater.  There was a recent bloodbath.  Ten instructors were not renewed.  I'll put my thoughts in writing, or on the internet, shortly.

Has there been a more devoted individual than Nancy Reagan?

Mitt Romney would have more credibility if he ran a better 2012 campaign.

Pursue Your Happiness.  Really?!?!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Conspiracy Theory

I don't believe in UFO's and ghosts.  I don't listen to those crazy overnight radio shows.  In fact, I think it's irresponsible to give huge amounts of air time to people clearly off their nut.

Most conspiracy theories are bunk-- except the ones I am about to relate.

When you buy a new razor, you get the handle, plus a cartridge or two.  I'm convinced the cartridges you get with the new handle are superior to the quality of the ones in the "just cartridges" pack.  They want you to think the blades are great to get you hooked on the expensive extra cartridges.  It's a great scam.

The same thing goes for dental floss.  You get a little sampler spool, along with a brush and some toothpaste when you visit the dentist.  Recently, I got some free floss I really liked.  So, I went to the drug store to get a big package.  The stuff snapped and shredded way too easily.  They put the good stuff in the little spool to entice you to buy the big size.

I seem to have way too much time on my hands.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Cronkite

Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of Walter Cronkite's last broadcast of the CBS Evening News.

The man was a god.

Go back and look at some of Cronkite's old broadcasts on YouTube.  he spent many of his early years working for the wire services, and his delivery almost resembles the tat-a-tat of those big old teletype machines.  It was a clean, spartan style, and it was an absolute delight-- especially when you have to listen to some of the wordy, egotistical, self serving drivel coming from the mouths of some of today's broadcasters.

Things were different when Cronkite was wrapping it up.  CBS had a mandatory retirement age of 65 for everyone except the founder.  Dan Rather had a huge offer on the table to be the face of ABC News.  Uncle Walter, the most trusted man in America, was nudged toward the door.

Cronkite joined the CBS board of directors, but he, sadly, didn't have much to do on the air.  insecure Rather was afraid of the shadow Cronkite cast, so he had news division management keep Cronkite in the closet.

I was too young to remember Cronkite's coverage of the Kennedy assassination, but I do remember the conventions, the election nights, and of course, the space program coverage.  Yes, Cronkite was part NASA cheerleader, but he was knowledgeable, and he made the broadcasts fun and interesting.

Walter Cronkite's coverage of the Vietnam War probably helped end the fighting.  After a documentary, where Cronkite noted the best we could do is a stalemate, President Johnson said "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."  Johnson dropped out of the presidential race a month later.

I can still hear Cronkite, night after night, giving the Vietnam kill numbers.  A decade later, he closed with the number of days Americans were held hostage in Iran.

So much power.  So much responsibility.  Walter Cronkite really was America's anchorman.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Andy's Angles: Nathan

It's been a while since you've seen him.  Nathan has been a companion for about six months now.  He's gotten quite big.  To get you up to speed, Nathan was rescued from the streets of Wilkes-Barre.  Nathan is fixed and has adjusted nicely to his new home.  Like any kitten, he's a bit of a scamp.  He's a jumper and a climber...  and a little charmer.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Andy's Angles: Eminent Domain

Today, it's another "twofer."  It's a mix of Andy's Angles and First Person.

I was seated at my desk Tuesday morning when the call came in-- a pipeline company was taking down trees for a natural gas pipeline through Susquehanna County.  We had been following the story for months.  The family that owns the land tried to stop it.  It didn't work.  The court gave its okay to saw down some very old maple trees.

Let me explain what you're seeing above.  The cutting operation is at the upper left.  The tiny people you see in the upper middle are the U.S. Marshals, assigned to keep the peace.  Protestors are in the foreground.

We make efforts to keep the same reporters on the same stories.  Their expertise makes for better journalism.  This one wasn't my story, but the two reporters who had been following it were away on other things.  It fell in to my lap.  I had been following it, and I searched our computer files in the truck on the way to a story.  I was up to speed when we pulled in to New Milford Township.

It was quite the scene.  Tree cutters on one side.  Protesters on the other.  Heavily armed U.S. Marshals in the middle.  State Police on the periphery.  The local commander pulled me over to point out this was a federal operation and they were there for support.

I got my interviews.  Photographer Steve got the video and the sound of chain saws and trees hitting the ground.  I sent back some photos for WNEP.com and we put together a nice piece for Newswatch 16.  Jim Hamill took over as I left.
We don't take sides, so let's objectively examine some ticklish aspects here.  The process of eminent domain seems brutally unfair.  It was sad to see those old trees come down.  They're not just decoration.  The produce sap, which is boiled down into maple syrup.  It's how a family makes its money.   On the other hand, if we didn't have eminent domain, there never would have been a highway or railway built in this country.  The goal is to be as fair as possible.  Compensate the land owner, take as little land as possible.  Was this achieved here?  You be the judge.

Some complained the U.S. Marshals had too mush firepower for the scene.  In this day and age, do you want them to take the chance.  The protesters, other than a few shouts, were very peaceful and respectful.  Boundaries obeyed.  There were reports of threats.  Again, do you want to take the chance, and it appears maximum firepower is now standing operating procedure, because of what's happened elsewhere.

To many, natural gas drilling brings American energy independence and jobs.  Everything has a price.  Is it worth it?  That's up to you to decide.

Friday, March 4, 2016

It Seems Like Yesterday...

... but it was actually 35 years ago.

On the night of March 6, 1981, eight Mid Valley school students were killed in a one car crash along Underwood Road in Throop.

They became known as the "Mid Valley Eight," and I always hated that.  It made them sound like a prison gang rather than a bunch of kids who made a horrible mistake.

I'll never forget that night.  At the time, I was a Marywood sophomore, two years out of MVHS.  A family friend called to deliver the news.  It seemed like everyone in the Mid Valley communities of Throop, Dickson City, and Olyphant knew.  Every light, in every home was on.  I got the same eerie feeling in July 1996, while pulling in to Montoursville, in July of 1996, just after TWA 800 exploded.  The town was wide awake.

The Mid Valley thing hit close to home.  One of the victims, Elizabeth Mecca, was a neighbor.  She lived a block away.  I grew up with her brother.  Elizabeth delivered my family's afternoon newspaper.  I went to the viewing and attempted to speak with her mom.   I said how sorry I was.  Mom's mouth opened.  She was unable to speak.

We later learned alcohol was involved.  The kids were at a party just before the crash.  This didn't have to happen, but I can understand it.  A lot of kids, underage kids, drink.  They did back then.  They do now.  Most get away with it.  This group did not.

It's strange when you think about it.  These kids would be around 50 now, some older.

I can still see the flattened car, the banged up guide rail, the tears of all those classmates at the funeral.  It stays with you, even 35 years later.  Trips to Underwood Road are rare for me.  The damaged section of guide rail was replaced decades ago.  Still, I can't drive past that spot without thinking about those kids.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Jim McNulty

Former Scranton Mayor Jim McNulty died yesterday, and I'm sad.

Let's back up several decades.  I was always a news and politics geek, even as a kid, so McNulty fascinated me.  His campaigns were always interesting-- slick advertising, good looking logos, catchy commercials.  Unfortunately, he always lost.

Moving on to my sophomore year at Marywood College, I was handed a project for television production class.  I don't remember what it was all about or the objective, but I decided I wanted to do a newsy interview show, and I set my sights on Jim McNulty.  I went to the voter registration office at the Lackawanna County Courthouse, and got his contact information.  I called him on the phone, terrified.  I asked for his help, rather clumsily.  I was thrilled when he said "yes."

I booked time for Marywood's little television studio and assembled the production staff.  I was in the studio when I heard the words from classmate R. Duane Elvidge out in the hall:  "Andy, Mr. McNulty is here."  I shook his hand and led him into the studio.  We did the interview on our news set.  It was only thirty minutes.  I remember being frightened.  McNulty was a pro.  He answered everything.  Usually, the host is supposed to make the guest fell less nervous.  That night, it was the other way around.  By the end of the half hour, it was going really well, and I was disappointed when the stage manager motioned that our time was up.  Do I remember the grade?  No.  Irrelevant.  I scored a major interview, and it was something different from everyone else in the class.  Plus, I had a great time doing it.

I started working at WARM in 1981, moving in to the news department in 1982, so Jim McNulty was my first Scranton mayor.  He made life interesting, and also very frustrating.  First, the interesting part.  Everything was an event.  Everything was a show.  The man knew how to get attention, including bringing that pile of rusting junk, Steamtown, to Scranton.  There were money problems, problems that were solved when Joe McDade got the National Park Service to take over.  McNulty was out of office by then, a one-termer.  Still, his fingerprints are all over that national park.  McNulty should be applauded for what he did.

The frustrating part was there were many times when you needed the mayor to comment on something.  Remember, this was pre-cell phone and e-mail.  Jim McNulty could be hard to get.  He didn't spend a lot of time in the office, and I think that proved to be his un-doing at City Hall.  Scrantonians wanted a mayor who was good at the nuts and bolts, a guy who was in the office from 9 to 5.    That was Dave Wenzel-- a great guy and an outstanding public servant.   Unfortunately, Scranton stopped being interesting the day Jim McNulty walked out the door.

There was another unsuccessful run for mayor.  Jim McNulty spent a lot of time as a political consultant.  He was great at getting other people elected.  It's too bad he couldn't work that magic on himself.

Toward the end of my run at WARM, Jim McNulty became a talk show host.  I'll level with you.  I didn't think it was a good show, even though it did have a following.  It was rushed on the air.  To the best of my knowledge, there were no run throughs or trial shows.  The first weeks were especially rough.  I remember my exact words to the general manager:  "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

I left WARM to work at WYOU.  Jim McNulty and I crossed paths once again.  The station signed him to be political analyst.  Once again, it was rough.  His segments really took off when McNulty was paired with the great Kevin Jordan.  Kevin knew how to get the best out of McNulty, and I thought the station's work was outstanding.  Kevin was a political genius himself.  Pairing the two was magic.  But, that was a long, long, long time ago.

An election night assignment was never complete without a check with McNulty.  I'd pick his brain before heading out the door.  He was a walking political encyclopedia.  I knew what to watch for as the numbers rolled in, the questions to ask, the sources with the best and fastest information.  Jim McNulty was my secret weapon.  It showed on the air.  There was a butt kicking every spring and fall.

There was something else from those long ago election nights.  We'd always have a staff pool.  Pick the races.  The tie breaker would be the number of votes for a candidate we'd select.  Jim McNulty won every time, and he's always give the money to the second place finisher.  It was never me.

For 11 months in 1997 and 1998, I was producer of WYOU's morning news.  I always made sure to do a post election interview with Jim McNulty for the morning broadcast.  He put it all in perspective.  It's safe to say Jim McNulty was the smartest political guy turned broadcaster I ever met.

After I left 415 Lackawanna Avenue, I didn't see Jim much.  There was an occasional phone call, a news tip.  The few face to face meetings were always accidental, and always cordial, never long enough.

We knew this day was coming, and I had this blog entry written in my head a dozen times.    Part of me is happy to share the memories.  Another part is tearing up.  It was my privilege to know him, and I will forever be grateful he helped a shaggy haired, frightened Marywood College kid with a project 36 years ago.

I considered Jim McNulty a friend.  I hope the feeling was mutual.

I've so far avoided using the word "big" in this blog entry.  Jim McNulty had a large waistline.  I didn't want to be accused of being punny at a serious time.  But, I will say Jim McNulty was a big thinker and a big dreamer, and Scranton is better because he was around.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

About the Cover

There are certain places and structures I refer to as my "white whales."  No matter how hard I try, and as many times as I try, I can't get a good shot of them.

Case in point:  The Smurfit Arts Center on Vine Street in Scranton.  It belongs to the University of Scranton and below is a paragraph I lifted from Foursquare.

Named for it's benefactor from Ireland, Michael W.J. Smurfit, whose two sons, Anthony and Michael, attended the University. This building was the former John Raymond Memorial Church. The building was purchased for $125,000 in 1987.
Close ups don't work.  There are too many poles and power lines.  A WNEP photographer said I was better off shooting from a distance, and that's what I tried the other day.  It seemed to work, but you can still see the wires.

If I ever win Powerball, I will spend the money to have utility lines in this neighborhood buried.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tuesday Scrapple

If the Academy Awards ceremony wasn't bad enough, some self indulgent celebrities used it as a platform for their political views.  NewsFlash:  It's entertainment.  People use it to escape daily drudgery.  It's not time for a lecture.

No complaints about the weather.  I've had to move snow once so far this winter, and I did that with a heavy duty push broom.

We have had some monster March snow storms.  Let's hope this year is the exception.

I'm not the first person to point this out.  LinkedIn has become another version of Facebook.  Stop that!  Stop it now!  Keep it to business.

Speaking of LinkedIn, I notice some old friends have been looking at my profile.  Don't stop there.  Drop me a line.  Let me know how you're doing.

Speaking of old friends, I'm a bad one.  An old high school friend contacted me a while back.  We played phone tag for a while.  He's careful with the calls because he knows I work and sleep odd hours.  It's my turn, and I've dropped the ball.  Sorry.  I'll check in soon.  Promise.

It seems like every charity I'm considering helping has some flaw.  It's frustrating.

I'm off tomorrow, so I intend to spend a good part of my evening watching Super Tuesday election returns.  You know it's big when the broadcast networks give up some of their air time to the news divisions.

Los Angeles radio personality Charlie Tuna died yesterday.    He was also announcer for several game shows, including "Scrabble."  71.  Fantastic voice.

It seems to be water main break season.

Odd drive to work yesterday.  Two cats ran out in front of me.  Thank heaven, I was able to avoid both.