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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Only Human

As I pondered what words to use in this blog entry, I am reminded of a social sciences professor back at Marywood.  After reading a paper I wrote for her class, she suggested I dump my Radio/TV major to join her department.  I respectfully and politely declined, but I was exceptionally flattered.

The other night, WNEP 2 aired a Johnny Carson show from May of 1980.  It was at the start of the Carter/Reagan race for the White House.  The primary season was coming to an end.  About a year prior, Jimmy Carter gave a speech about the energy crisis, the economy and unemployment.  he used the following words, in what later became known as the "malaise" speech.

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.


In other words, Carter blamed Americans for their own problems, and we, as a country, didn't like that.  Carter's approval ratings were already weak.  The whole episode ended with Carter's crushing defeat in the November 1980 election.
Here's what triggered that memory.  Former Vice president Joe Biden gave the commencement address at Cornell University in Ithaca May 27.  Of course, the Trump/Clinton presidential election was one of Biden's topics.  The Scranton native said the following to the graduates.




Some communities are struggling to get by and they are worried they won't be able to keep up, and we saw how playing to their fears rather than their hopes, rather than their better angles, can be a powerful political tool. As I've said several times in this commencement season, this election cycle churned up some of the ugliest realities that still remain in our country. Civilized discourse and real debate gave way to the coarsest rhetoric, stroking our darkest emotions.



Biden appeared to be blaming Americans for the choice they made.  Nowhere did Biden mention that his party nominated a candidate who had been investigated for sloppy handling of national secrets, and who insulted half of the people in the country by declaring Trump supporters a "basket of deplorables."

It's human nature to play "The Blame Game."  Carter refused to say it was his leadership and policies that caused America's mess of the late 70's.


I doubt you'll ever hear Joe Biden say Democrats nominated a bad candidate who ran a bad campaign.  That's OK.  Ronald Reagan had an 11th Commandment:  "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican."  
Party is irrelevant.  Democrats and Republicans do it. I don't remember Mitt Romney really owning that "47 per cent who pay no income tax will support the president" line during the 2012 campaign.   Heck, everyone does it. 


Taking responsibility for a mistake isn't easy, but it seems to be the quickest path to recovery.






Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Farewell and a Comeback

Marywood University is tearing down its old library.  I'm okay with that.  Its time had come.  It was too small and too old for a contemporary university. 

The old library housed Marywood's radio station and television facility.  It was my first radio station.  I was on the air there from December 1979 to January 1983, so there is some sadness in watching the demolition.

The photo below was taken Friday morning.  The yellow X represents what used to be the entrance to the radio and TV area from the east side of the building.  The actual radio and TV studios were to the just to the right of the X, but on the west side of the building.

The antenna is on the roof, visible in the photo below up on the left.  I've been a broadcaster for nearly 40 years.  I still get a kick at looking at those hunks of metal on the roof, or up on a mountain, and thinking "my voice and my work comes out of those things."


I'm not a fan of the new library.  It's the wrong building on the wrong site.  It's a glass and steel monstrosity, in a traditional brick and stone world, that screams "inappropriate."  It slices the campus in half.  I suspect the effect will not be as severe once the old library comes down.


I remember the first time in the radio and TV  section of the old library-- a separate area in the back.  I can still hear the teletype, hear the slam of the heavy glass and wood doors, the aroma of the carpeting and the soundproofing material on the walls.  New radio stations are computers and monitors.  Old radio stations were magic.

The radio station is now in the new library, buried in the sub basement.  I remember asking construction workers where I could find it, when I was wandering around before the official opening.  The reply:  "It's down in the bomb shelter."  Marywood missed a golden opportunity when it buried its communication facilities.  They could have been glassed in, at ground level, adding to the vitality and brightness of a modern university, a focal point, a voice.  Someone gave past administration some bad very advice.

When I looked at the old building in pieces, I didn't think a lot of the on-air appearances.  I thought of the people and the friendships made here.  This is where we hung out between classes, worked on projects together, had some laughs, talked about our dreams...

I'll pass along one story from graduation day.  I was walking back to my car, after receiving my diploma, and I decided to stop by the radio station one final time.  Al Piela, now Mr. Ocean City (Google it) was on the air.  We had a brief chat.  Al's a great guy.  I had to get moving because I had to be at my real job, WARM, at midnight.  I said to AL, "Well, I have to go now."  He responded by singing "Go Now" by the Moody Blues as I walked out the door.
While I was on my little photographic expedition Friday morning, several members of the demolition crew recognized me.  I explained that my first radio station was in the building they were tearing down.  One asked if I wanted a brick.  I accepted, gladly.  That's my brick at the bottom corner of the photo above.  I'll treasure it.

Now, the comeback, and it was a snappy comeback at that.    Marywood's student news web site has a post semester ritual of grading the university.  In the past two years, Marywood received a D.  As I noted last year, I can imagine some high school student in a library, or at home, researching places to go to college.  He or she comes across the D story.  Next, please.  Don't gloss over your problems.  Discuss them openly and honestly.  Find solutions.

This year, an improvement, a C.  Plusses:  an increase in transparency and communication.  On the negative list, the decision to chain off snow covered sidewalks, rather than risk damaging them with rock salt.

Kids, I have news for you.  If maneuvering your way around a snow covered sidewalk is among your biggest problems, you have it pretty good.

The student web site put a link to the C story on Twitter.  A Marywood authority figure responded by saying, and I'm paraphrasing, that the C is on the students as well because we are all a community.  Bravo!  I went back a couple of hours after I saw the post.  I was going to copy, cut and paste the authority figure's response here, but it's gone.

Full disclosure:  I'm a Marywood graduate.  The current president was my freshman year French professor, a woman I respect a great deal. 

Marywood has done some silly things in the recent past.  They have been documented here and elsewhere.  Money problems, enrollment issues, friction between administration and faculty, accreditation scares, waste...

The university has also done a lot of good things

I do drop in on occasion and there are some good memories on that hill.  The university has lost its way, but it won't get back on the right path with everyone going in different directions.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day, the weekend that marks the unofficial start of summer.  Enjoy time with family and friends.  That's important.

It's more important to remember what the day is all about.

Be well.  Be safe.  Have some fun today.  We'll talk tomorrow.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Andy's Angles: Come Sail Away

Actually, it's Come Row Away.  Come Sail Away is a Styx song from the 70's that an old friend loved.  I hated it.  My friend left us about five years ago.  I think of him and all the miles we put on our cars any time I hear the song.

Anyway, this is the lake at Tobyhanna State Park.  Have a happy and safe holiday weekend.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Andy's Angles: Holiday Weekend

I can't believe it's Memorial Day Weekend already.  As I'm fond of saying, it's seems like Christmas was yesterday.

These picnic tables and barbecue were empty on a recent visit to Tobyhanna State Park.  No doubt they'll be busy this weekend.

Friday, May 26, 2017

What Would Johnny and Walter Do?

I don't watch a ton of television, but I do follow trends.  It seems anything anti Trump seems to be doing well in the ratings, especially Rachel Maddow, Saturday Night Live, and Stephen Colbert.  One of the things I do watch is Johnny Carson on WNEP 2.  Politics provided a lot of Carson's monolog material, and he held court during some of America's most fascinating times-- Nixon's crimes, Ford's bumbling and inflation, Carter's weakness, Reagan's perceived indifference toward the poor, Bush 41's lack of knowledge of the problems of the middle class...


Carson was miles ahead of the current bunch.  He poked at the powerful, but he did it with charm, wit, and a smile.  Now, what passes for comedy is simply mean.


Now, let's take you back about 20 years.  I was producing the morning news at another station.  There are times I'd write something funky and funny.  One of the anchors, a guy I liked, respected and admired, would print the script, walk over to my desk and say "Would Cronkite say it that way?"  The answer was always "no."  I'd change the script to make the anchor happy.  If an anchor isn't happy with the copy, he or she would read it poorly, and no one wins when that happens.


In this modern day and age, it's a Facebook world.  We all want you to "like" us and read what we have to say.  Some people have more fun with it than others, and that's OK.  To each, his own.  there are times I'm tempted to go out of character, let what's left of my hair down.  Then, I hear an inner voice.  It says "Would Cronkite do that?"  That's when I apply the brakes.


From what I've read and seen, Uncle Walter did like to have fun.  He did a morning show with a puppet lion named Charlemagne.   he did pose for the rare goofy picture.  There were guest appearances on the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Johnny Carson.


I wonder how Cronkite and the pioneers would handle modern social media.   My bet would be the happy medium-- newsy, personal insights, a little fun, without going overboard.


For me, it's easier said than done.


One other thing before I hit the "publish" button for the day.  Monica Lewinsky had an op-ed piece in the New York Times.  She charged former FOX News Channel head Roger Ailes exploited her.  Ailes died last week.  Ms. Lewinsky got it wrong.  Bill Clinton exploited her.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Flying Away

I preface this entry by writing I know that the old terminal building at Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport has outlived its usefulness, and it had to go.  Everything has a shelf life.  The expiration date on the old building has arrived.  It's demolition time.

I am very sorry to see that building go.


It was an occasional destination on Sunday afternoons with the family when I was a kid.  There was a burger or a slice of pie in the airport restaurant, which had huge windows looking out on to the runways.  Then, it was upstairs to the observation deck to watch planes arrive and depart.  It was a nice way to kill a couple of hours.  I can still see that restaurant-- a line of stools at a counter, a long series of booths on the window side.  I can still see the airline signs-- Eastern, Altair, Allegheny...  If memory serves, it cost a dime to get through the turnstiles up on the observation deck.  I don't think I ever paid.

Even when I got older, old enough to drive, friends and I would occasionally venture up there for a little plane watching, and a lot of life planning.

Obviously, things changed.   Security.  Tight security.  No views of the runway.  No observation deck.  Airports aren't fun.  They're not designed that way.

Below, the old and the new.


Still, you can look back on safer and simpler times, and smile at the memory.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday Scrapple

Roger Ailes changed politics and television.  Very few people are on that list.

My neighbor, across the street and two houses down, has a lilac bush that perfumes the entire neighborhood.  It's amazing how far the scent drifts.

I whined to Ally Gallo a couple of weeks ago that the weather has been preventing me from getting in some bicycle time.  Thankfully, that changed several days ago.

We just had an election and I can't wait for November.  It should be a fascinating time-- and next year's election should top that.

I'm hooked on peach iced tea.

Cinnamon Pepsi makes its limited time only debut shortly.  It doesn't look like it comes in a diet version.  Still, I'll try the regular.  I'm okay with cinnamon in sweet things.  Some places use cinnamon in savory dishes, and that just doesn't work for me.

I've met experts who predicted Twitter's demise.  It's still going strong.  I think President Trump is a factor.

Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus is no more.  I shed no tears.

I'm a big fan of the MLB's Network's morning highlight show, called "Quick Pitch."  It seems there's really been a huge increase in cheap home runs in recent years.  I suspect bad pitching and smaller ballparks.

Enough with decorated graduation caps.  It was cute for a while.  Now, it's overdone and tedious.

Just checked the list of summer movie openings.  Nothing thrills me.

I stumbled upon a live version of Harry Chapin's "Taxi" on Amazon Music.  It blew me away.  Great song.  Great performance.  Great connection with the audience.




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Let There Be Light

It was a question photographer Jason and I heard a lot one week ago:  "Why Weston?"

It was election day morning, and we wanted a place where we could introduce our election preview stories.  Scranton was selected because the largest city in our coverage area is electing a mayor this year and there was a hot race for the Republican nomination for Lackawanna County district attorney.

As you might have figured out, there's not a lot going on at polling places at 4:30 AM.  Finding an interesting background is a challenge.  Most polling places are boring buildings in the dark-- fire stations, church halls, schools, town halls, etc.  There is an exception, and I found it-- Weston Field, along Providence Road.

While we come with our own lights, you can't beat the architectural and security lighting at Weston Field.  Plus, it's a great looking building-- big white columns, trees, green grass...  I really liked the look, and it is one of the most visually interesting polling places in our area.


There was a bonus-- the voters and the poll workers here were all exceptionally nice.  Thank you for the hospitality.

Bonus number two:  ample parking!

There is no law against going back to Weston Field in November, but we would like to mix it up, for variety's sake.  If you have a suggestion for an interesting and well lit background, drop me a line.  Thanks.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Beer and Smokes


A mini mart, directly across Providence Road from Scranton High School and Memorial Stadium, has applied for a permit to sell beer.  I saw the big orange application sign in the window last week.

On one level, it's slightly alarming-- an alcohol outlet just feet from school property.  Let's examine this a little closer.

I have no problem with the responsible use of alcohol.

The company applying for the permit is a big one, and I trust it will be careful.  The initial fear is kids getting their hands on alcohol.  Upon further reflection, someone getting drunk and crashing their car in a school neighborhood can be a bigger issue.

So far, there have been no problems in that part of town.  There are two bars along Providence Road, and a beer store just a couple of blocks away, on Olive Street.  Beer stores and mini marts are frequent sights in Scranton and other cities here in our area.  As the liquor sales laws loosen up, get used to it.

On the other hand, one crash-- one injury-- that could have been prevented is too many.



Shifting gears, there's another attempt in the state legislature to ban smoking in all public places.  Right now, bars that serve little or no food, parts of casinos, and private clubs are exempt.  All this is about is fairness.  Previous legislative attempts to level the playing field have failed miserably.

Pennsylvania, the time has come.

Other states have more strict smoking bans.  The entertainment industry hasn't collapsed.  It's all about health.  Every study shows second hand smoke is dangerous.

To the argument that it should be up to each individual business owner...  think about this.  We don't exempt them from other safety laws, like cleanliness, fire exits, wiring, etc.  Cigarette smoke is no different.  No one is taking your smokes away.  Just light up in places where it doesn't bother anyone else.

I've blown off get togethers in smokey places.  Bar owners, this could work in your favor.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Andy's Angles: The Bell

Yesterday, I showed you the whole church.  Today, it's what first caught my eye in Sterling-- the steeple and the open bell.
It's a striking feature, and the congregation is lucky to have such a beautiful building.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Andy's Angles: Country Church

It is one of the joys of aimless wandering, on a spring morning, with a camera in the passenger's seat.

This is the Sterling United Methodist Church in Wayne County.

Green trees, white clapboards, blue sky...  It was practically begging for a photo, or two.  You'll see tomorrow.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Satellites


I'll blog about it one of these days, but I've been in a rental car for the past week in a half.

It's a much smaller vehicle than I'm used to, but it's nice-- a peppy little thing.  Even though it's a temporary step down for me, the rental has one big thing going for it:  satellite radio.

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know I'm always whining about the lack of live and local, and a good deal of the local (not all of it) leaves a lot to be desired.

I had a satellite radio at home for several years.  I loved it, until Sirius/XM started dropping some of the talk stations I liked.  I found I could get the same stuff through an internet radio, and it was for free.

So, after a few years, what are my impressions of satellite radio?  It hasn't changed much.  Most of my time was spent on the 70's channel.  The music is fantastic.  I heard some songs I hadn't heard in eons.  There is sort of a disc jockey, doing breakers between music sets.  It still has a super canned feel and wasn't very topical at all.  The jingles were cool, an attempt to recreate the 70's radio song.

So, did the satellite bug bite?  Will I reactivate my home unit?  No.  The internet radio is great, and I really suggest you look in to getting one.  Amazon's Echo does the same things, and I love that too.

Will there be a satellite radio in my next car?  Possibly.  Depends on the price.  I don't have far to drive to work or my recreational activities.  I can live without it.

Still, it was an enjoyable and interesting week.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

It's Now Official


Summer is here.

As always, the first official act of summer is to stick an air conditioner in the bedroom window.  I have those ductless units, and it's great, but my bedroom gets the afternoon sun, and it needs a cool air boost.  Plus, if you have to go to sleep at noon, you need all the cool air you can get.

I'd much rather have a fan and open windows, but the heat is excessive.  Plus, if I sleep better, I feel better at work, and that's more important than ever.

This year seems a lot like others around here-- a warm spell early, followed by a return to winter, than a rapid warm up.  I like an extended spring.  It seems like there's a quick jump from winter to summer in recent years.  Fall has really jumped forward as my favorite season.  Warm days, cool nights.

I saw an extended super forecast that says the summer will be cooler and wetter than normal.  Get ready to hate me.  I'm okay with that.  When you work all night and sleep all day, cool and rainy is a plus.  I'm sorry. 

Having said that, any forecast over seven days out is nothing more than a guess.  50/50 accuracy at best.

If you like sunny and hot, I hope you get it.  My air conditioners and I will be ready.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Vote 17: The Numbers

I will admit I was surprised by Gene Talerico's victory over Shane Scanlon in the race for the Republican nomination for Lackawanna County District Attorney.  Even though Scanlon was appointed to the post, incumbency is a powerful thing.  I noticed signs of trouble during the day-- a light turnout.  Talerico had a chance if his home territory, the down valley, came out and the rest stayed home.  I haven't seen the town by town breakdown.  I suspect that's what happened.  Talerico had some effective ads, smartly answering allegations made in a controversial Scanlon mailer.  Talerico had the experience, and that resonated with voters.  Scanlon made some mistakes. That mailer closely aligned him with county judges, giving the perception he's an insider.  Scanlon also refused to debate Talerico, and that made him look weak.  If that wasn't enough, people really didn't seem to like that an anti opoid public service campaign looked a lot like campaign commercials.  There was a perception Scanlon was promoting himself on the backs of drug abusers.

Talerico faces Mark Powell in November.  It should be an interesting race.

Janine Edwards, Wayne County's District Attorney won both the Republican and Democratic nominations for judge, again, proving that incumbency can be powerful.  People like law and order.  A county's top law enforcement officer running for judge can be tough to beat.  The same goes for Eric Linhardt in Lycoming County.

It appears big city candidates did well in races for seats on the state's appellate courts.  That's unfair in one respect.  Some very good legal minds, who live outside of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, often get left in the dust.  Electing judges is a good thing.  There is some accountability.  Maybe the state should be divided into districts.

It looks like Tim Buege edged out Pat Loughney for the Democratic nomination for Dunmore Mayor.  Loughney has been in the post for a very, very long time.  Voters apparently wanted change, and an old controversy over a DUI checkpoint didn't help.  The margin was razor thin.  There will be a recount.

Other than that, it was a slow night.  Turnout was light.  That's always disappointing.  I do understand it.  There were so many uncontested races.

I hope you voted.  I met some very nice and caring people at the polls yesterday.  Let's do it again in November.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Election Day

It's primary day, or municipal election day.  Forgive me if I go off on a familiar rant.  You will be electing mayors, council members and school directors today.  These are the people who have a huge influence on your life, your police protection, your taxes, the education of your kids...  And yet, a lot of people blow off going to the polls and stay home.  The people on the ballot today likely have a larger impact than presidents, representatives and senators.

Several row offices are up in the county in which I live.  Most are unopposed, and that sickens me.  The process is broken and good people are sitting on the sidelines.

I expect my standard election day.  A big breakfast.  There will be preview stories on Newswatch 16 This Morning.  After the broadcast, I'll roam about looking at turnout and trends.  There will be a story for our noon broadcast.  I'll then go home, take a nap, and watch my colleagues report the numbers tonight.

Notice something is missing.  I won't vote today.  Regular blog readers will know I'm an independent.  Unless there's a ballot question, I have to sit out primary day.  No complaints.  That's the way the system works.

If you are registered and a member of a party, please vote today.  It really matters.

Look for updates here, on WNEP.com, on my Twitter page, @AndyPalumbo_, on Instagram, andy.palumbo, and on my Facebook page.

Speaking of Facebook, "likes" have taken a nice spike lately.  Thank you and tell a friend.

I have some predictions in mind.  Watch this space tomorrow to see if I was right.

Vote.  Please.  It's important.

>>>2:30 AM UPDATE:  Scripts have been double checked and tweaked.  I looked at a potential live shot location on the way in, and I like it.  As many know, an election morning tradition is to stop for a spicy chicken sandwich at the only 24 hour fast food restaurant that serves it.  The place is known for horrible food and service that's even worse.  However, tradition is tradition.  I don't know if the staff was read the riot act, or there's new management, but today's stop was glorious.  The food was excellent, with speedy service.  Let's hope that continues when I drop by in November.  Now, it's time for a little housekeeping, then in the truck for the morning live shots.

>>>4:45 AM UPDATE:  First live shot done.  Five more to go before the day is done.  We chose Weston Field in Scranton.  Why?  Why not?  I wanted someplace different, and this one is lit up nicely.  It's tough to find something scenic in the middle of the night.  Usually, at this time of day, at a polling place, you get a brick wall and maybe a few signs.  Weston Field is a pretty building.  It's white.  It's bright, and it's a good place to preview the election.

>>>10:00 AM UPDATE:  A flurry of activity...  visiting polling places, talking to voters, texting friends who voted, talking with candidates.  All, to get a handle on turnout.  There are some busy pockets, but it is generally light.  It's not a surprise.  Just slammed a story, went over the script, handed it off to an editor, and it's time to get set for the noon broadcast.

>>>11:30 PM UPDATE:  The noon broadcast was clean, went home, and went to sleep.  I woke up to some surprises.  I'll digest it all in a half hour.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Enough Already


It happens every year, regardless of the party in power.

Someone is chosen to speak at a high school or college graduation.  The speaker has some unpopular views.  The graduates protest.

The U.S. Secretary of Education spoke at the Bethune Cookman graduation last week.  Some shouted.  Others turned their backs.  More chose to walk out.

I'll let you in on a little secret.  Commencement addresses are the most overrated speeches in American history.  They are forgotten about five minutes after their completion, maybe sooner.  Graduates are just sitting there, wondering about the post graduation party and then finding a job.  Parents ponder how they're going to pay for it all.  Everyone is looking at their watches and the exits.

A county court judge spoke at my high school graduation.  Great guy, but I don't remember a word he said.  Some expert on world hunger spoke at my college graduation.  I don't remember a word she said.  Perfectly relevant.  Droning on, while we all wondered how we were going to earn a paycheck.

The speeches are all the same anyway.  Work hard. Play hard.  Family comes first.  Be good citizens.  be kind to animals.  Don't litter.   Blah, blah, blah...

Kids, I have a little advice.  Just suffer through the speech and get on with your lives.   The graduation ceremony is really for your parents.  They're proud of you, as they should be.  Let them have their day, even though you're the one in the cap and gown.

Don't drop more significance on the commencement address than there needs to be.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Andy's Angles: Will the Last One Out...

Stores fleeing the Mall at Steamtown, not the Marketplace at Steamtown is nothing new.

This one was going regardless of what's happening in downtown Scranton.

Radio Shack's parent company struggled and the chain failed.  It was a long, slow march to irrelevance.  The stores were too small, too expensive, and other chains simply did it better.  Toward the end, Radio Shack didn't know what to be.  It turned out to be a phone and battery store.  Again, others did it better, and the internet did it faster.

Still, the demise makes me sad.  I used to love exploring Radio Shack.  There was always something neat to look at, things you couldn't find any place else.  The catalog's yearly arrival was an event.

Everything has a shelf life-- a beginning, a middle and sadly, an end.  Radio Shack used to be fun.  Now, it's just one more retail memory.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Andy's Angles: Progress

This was taken Thursday morning at the Marketplace at Steamtown in downtown Scranton.  It's what's left of the food court.  Believe it or not, there are a pizza counter and a Sunway still operating here, even though you have to go through a maze of construction to get there.

The goal here is turn this from a standard mall food court, in to a marketplace type destination-- local food and drink, locally made items, etc.

To orient you, the windows looking out on to the Steamtown National Historic Site are off to the left.  The main mall concourse is on the left.

Brick surrounds the supports.  What you're looking at in the center is the beginning of stalls or booths.

It's worth a shot.  Clearly, the old way didn't look.  I just hope it's something really worth visiting rather than flea market fare that you can find in dozens of local locations every weekend.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Time Passages

We lost Gene Free the other day.  60.  Cancer.  Too young.

Gene got his start at the old WEJL AM 630 in Scranton, back when it had a roster of live and local personalities, including a strong news department.

New Yorkers knew him as Gene Michaels.  WALK, WCBS, and WINS, WFAS, plus a short stop at a short lived all news FM station in New York.   He also taught at two metropolitan area colleges.

I knew his work, but I can't say I knew Gene.  Our paths crossed a few times many, many years ago.  Always a gentleman-- professional on and off air.  I never heard a bad word about the man.

My sympathy to his family, friends, and fans.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Business Thursday

I minored in public relations and advertising because I thought it would help me in journalism.  I was right.  I learned the tricks of the other side.

Even though I was never part of it, the retail world always fascinated me.  I am old enough to remember when the Viewmont Mall was built, when the Wyoming Valley Mall actually had fountains and a much cooler mix of stores.

I also remember when the Schuylkill Mall had stores.  Period.

The hammer dropped this week.  The entire mall will close.  No surprise. Most stores bailed.  The place was sad and empty.  In the old days, a trip there was rather enjoyable.  Good stores.  Fayva Shoes.  Chik Fil A.

For the life of me, I don't know why this place failed.  At its peak, it was much nicer than another smaller mall in the area.  It was adjacent to Interstate 81, even though you had to take a curvy and confusing access road to get there.

The same goes for the Columbia Mall near Bloomsburg.  I could never figure out why most stores there closed.  Great location, right next to Interstate 81.  It is the only mall for miles.  Yet, it struggled.

Looking at what used to be the Mall at Steamtown, it's easy to see why it failed.  People didn't feel safe there.  Cavernous parking garage.  Poorly lit.  Montgomery Ward went bankrupt and closed.  Bon Ton was nothing special.  The Globe flamed out shortly after the mall opened.  Nothing in the food court.  Other than Boscov's, there was no reason to go there.  Viewmont and the Shoppes at Montage simply did it better.  The mall, now a "marketplace" is in the midst of a make over.  I hope it works.  I raise a skeptical eyebrow.

I don't fault the construction of the mall.  As I've said time and again, it was the best, and only option, available at the time.  Those blocks of Lackawanna Avenue were a bloody mess.

Back in the day, I was a frequent Baltimore vacationer.  It was a great place to get away for a few days.  Close.  Inexpensive.  Plenty to do.  I'd visit friends in Harrisburg on the way down, or on the way back.  I'd get a room at the Hampton Inn just north of the city, near the Hunt Valley Mall.  What a great place!   Two levels.  Stores we didn't have here.  Rockin' food court, including Sbarro pizza (love it) and Chil Fil A.  The mall failed.   Don't ask me why.  It was de-malled and is now a strip shopping center.  Plus:  Wegman's.  Minus:  Walmart.  There are web sites and Facebook pages dedicated to the old mall.  There's a wave of melancholy any time I look.

I'm sure the experts have all the answers of why some malls work and others don't.  I still enjoy visiting the malls that actually have stores, even if it's only to sit on a bench and eat a soft pretzel.  Cal me strange, but I love being there at opening time and watching the gates roll up or sideways.  Loved it as a kid.  Still do.  Don't ask me why.

Maybe there will be a day when malls will be popular again.  I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday Scrapple

Outside of the one eyed horse, I didn't detect a lot of interest in the Kentucky Derby.  On the other hand, it's become a party day in hundreds of other venues across the country.  Sorry.  I have no interest in wearing a funny hat.

The recent rainy spell has been frustrating, but no worries.  It will be brutally hot soon enough.

A lot of people see next week's election as a yawn.  Not me.  I find something fascinating in every election.

I never get tired of seeing the brilliant white home uniforms of the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  For some reason, their uniforms seem whiter than the others.  I love it.  Plus, it's always a kick seeing those robin's egg blue uniforms several teams used in the 70's.

One of my favorite moments of the week is when I finish shaving on a Tuesday morning, and I know I won;t have to touch a razor until Friday night.

I'm fascinated by the new touch screen version of the Amazon Echo.

Watching a cat look out a window never gets old.

After some searching, I got my hands on some disposable fountain pens.  I read where Peter Jennings loved them.  Now, I understand.

As soon as it dried out Monday afternoon, everyone in my neighborhood had the same thought:  mow the lawn!

Speaking of outdoors, I'm old school.  We cut the grass.  We don't mow the lawn.  And, can they make a quieter weed whacker?

Can't believe Memorial Day is almost hear.  It seems like Christmas was yesterday.

President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey yesterday.  It's clear Comey made mistakes, and he lost the confidence of Democrats and Republicans alike.  The timing?  The exact reason?  Those will be debated for a long time.

Sports Emmys:  Brent Musberger Lifetime Achievement.  Yay.  Studio host Bob Costas.  Meh.  Pardon the Interruption.  Yay.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Backward and Forward

It's one week before the Pennsylvania Primary, or more accurately, the municipal election...  and we're still talking about Vote 16.  I suspect we'll be talking about the past for quite a while.  One book is already out, and there are more to follow.  No surprises there.  It was a fascinating election.

Hillary Clinton recently said she takes responsibility for her loss, but she also said FBI director James Comey and the Russians played roles.  Clinton added that if the election was October 27, she would be president today.

Let's look at this a little more closely.  It's clear the Russians did something, but remember Clinton easily won the popular vote.  That tells me a bad campaign, rather than the Russians, played a bigger role.  The political experts say Clinton didn't have a clear message and she spent time and money in the wrong states.  You can't blame the Russians for that.

As for the FBI investigation into Clinton's private email server...  We;;, if Clinton didn't set up that server as Secretary of State, none of this ever would have happened.  No server, no investigation.  Again, the political experts say the server was set up for one reason-- to circumvent established procedure.

The red flags should have gone up long before November.  Clinton couldn't put away Bernie Sanders until very late in the primary season.  Democrats had a flawed candidate.  So did Republicans.  Trump was simply more successful in conveying his message.

To go a little further, I think Clinton sealed her fate when she called Trump supporters a "basket of deplorables."

I'm in a very competitive business.  It would be suicidal to call people who get their news from other sources "deplorables."  What if Walmart called Target shoppers "deplorables?"  Would you ever set foot in a Walmart after that?

The "deplorables" line will go down in political history as one of the worst ever.

As for next week's election, it will be here before you know it.  Our friends at the newspapers have been doing a great job of profiling candidates and looking at issues.  Read up and vote May 16.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Media Monday

Joe and Mika of MSNBC morning show fame are engaged.  I've tried to watch.  The broadcast was never able to hook me.

ESPN recently laid off 100 people, and I really feel sorry for them.  Been there.  I am admittedly an outsider, but it seems the network didn't expand wisely.  The market has changed, and some good employees have to pay the price.  I sense a lack of direction.  SportsCenter shows are too personality oriented, and some are simply unwatchable.

Speaking of ESPN, the last episode of the Sunday morning "The Sports Reporters" aired yesterday.  Mixed feelings.  With all the ESPN channels and resources, you would think there is room for a show like that.  On the other hand, I stopped watching long ago because some regulars talked way too much.

A local radio station now proudly touts that it's all music overnights, no talk from a disc jockey, or whatever they're called these days.  I get what they're trying to do, but it still makes me sad.

Stephen Colbert's vulgar rant the other night was embarrassing.

The story of Jimmy Kimmel and his son was heartbreaking.  I'm sorry he turned the whole thing political.

The Big Bang Theory is experiencing some audience erosion.  It's a moot point because the series has been renewed for another two years.  It's become just another bickering couples "comedy.'"

FOX has signed former NFL QB Jay Cutler for its number two broadcast team.  CBS has rookie Tony Romo slated for its top team.  Whatever happened to rookie announcers starting at the bottom and working their way up?

I'm not a "Star Wars" fan, so I was thrilled when May 4 became May 5.

I've been watching old Drew Carey shows and Night Court episodes on a channel recently added to my cable line up.  It was nice to be reminded of how funny they were.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Andy's Angles: Stormy Weather

We're a little more than four months in to 2017, and it's turning in to the "Year of the Storm."  We've had tornadoes, a record setting blizzard, and plenty of wind damage.

Below is another picture taken Tuesday morning in Wilkes-Barre Township, the morning after a big wind storm came through.
Above, you can see a front porch awning, mangled by the wind.  There's also a piece of aluminum hanging over a wire.

Trees that had been in this Wilkes-Barre Township neighborhood for decades are now likely mulch.  It's all very sad.  At least no homes were destroyed and no one was hurt.

I wonder what the yest of the year will bring.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Andy's Angles: Storm Damage

My Tuesday morning shift started after some violent storms moved out, but before all the storm damage could be assessed.

Photographer Jason was on his way back from a Wilkes-Barre Township neighborhood that got hit hard.  He had pictures and interviews.  I looked at what he gathered, put together a couple of stories, then headed back to Wilkes-Barre Township to be live on Newswatch 16 This Morning.
I took the photo you see above after the sun came up.  It shows an uprooted tree and a blown over fence.

More trees down and homes damaged around the corner.  It really was a big mess.  Thankfully, no one was hurt.
I've always been amazed at how large trees can have such shallow roots.

We gathered more interviews, and more video after the broadcast.  We then headed back to the office to work on a piece for Newswatch 16 at Noon.  The video was striking, but it didn't come close to reflecting the hit that neighborhood took.

Friday, May 5, 2017

About the Cover

OK, I'm a little late with a new blog header this month.  It's a frequent problem.  When I have free time, it turns cloudy and vice versa.

You've seen North Scranton Junior High on the blog before, but not in the header.

The building is now apartments run by Goodwill, plus there's a theater inside.

Management has been changing the color of the lights outside to suit the season-- red and green for Christmas, green for St. Patrick's Day, red for Valentine's Day.  I took this one yesterday morning.  I'm assuming it's pastels for Easter.

I still haven't been inside.  From the outside, the building looks great.

You may remember, as the conversion from empty school to apartments project was stalled, the building was falling apart.  Broken windows, assorted other deterioration.  I advocated in this space that the place be torn down.  It had become an eyesore, and there was no sign the plans would ever some to fruition.

Well, a few years ago, they managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat, and this is a real asset to North Scranton.  I'm glad Goodwill stuck with it.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Boss Floss

I have a great dentist.  He is a talented individual with a solid staff.  There are no long delays in the waiting area, which is why I unfortunately had to part company with my last dentist.

Every visit ends the same way-- with a bag containing a toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, and a tiny, tiny container of dental floss.

The floss is outstanding stuff.  It's very thin, but strong and doesn't shred.  I love it.  I'm a bargain shopper, and had several containers of another brand in the bathroom.  There was no need to buy more-- until recently.

I went looking for this fantastic floss.  No luck.  None in the big box stores.  None in the drug stores.  I e-mailed the company, which makes a long list of other dental products.  The company quickly got back to me.  Due to a lack of consumer demand, they no long manufacture it.  The e-mail went on to say if there is enough demand, it might come back.

Are you kidding me?!

I thought the purpose of a free sample was to entice you to buy the product.  Lord knows, I've bought enough stuff based on samples-- dryer sheets, soap, razors, toothpaste, shampoo...  Why give a free sample of something you can't buy in a regular, enlarged package?

It's not the fault of my dentist.  I checked the expiration date on the floss sample.  It's new stock.  The expiration date is a couple of years down the road.  Who knew floss expired?    I can't understand why the company is making sample sizes, but not the larger ones.

I guess I'll ask the dentist on my next visit in six months.  In the meantime, I'll floss daily, but I won't enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Book It

Last week, I did something I hadn't done in a long time.  I visited a book store.

Watching brick and mortar businesses close is difficult, and I have to admit that I'm part of the problem.  I do a lot of shopping on line, especially books.  For example, I ordered a David Letterman biography before it was released.  It arrived in the mail on the day it came out.  It can't get any better than that.

Last week, I was shopping for a gift.  I knew the book I wanted.  The warehouse club store didn't have it, so it was a short trip up the street to a big box book store.  Even though the book has been in the news a lot lately, it wasn't on the "featured" tables at the front of the store.  It was back in the "politics" section.  I grabbed it and headed to the check out.  The staff was very nice.  The store seemed to have anything you would want, and it was nicely organized.  Having said that, I still don't think this book store is as good as the one it replaced.

Still, having any book store is better than none at all, and I'm thrilled there is still a book store close to home.

I was thrilled to see a large kid's section.  My parents encouraged reading when I was a kid, and I got any book I asked for.  I know parents who do the same.  I hope schools have changed.  Most of my unmotivated teachers back in the day treated reading as a punishment and a chore rather than a pleasure.  There were a few exceptions.  When it comes to meeting young people, personally or professionally, you can really tell the ones who read.

As for the Letterman book I'm reading, look for a review here in the days to come.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dave

Full disclosure:  I'm a Letterman fan.  Always have been.

The title says it all.  David Letterman was the last giant of late night.  Can you imagine any of today's hosts lasting that long and making a huge impact?  Jimmy Fallon has his silly games and no interviewing skills.   Stephen Colbert bombed when he went mainstream, so he had to go back to his old political character to build an audience, proving he is a one trick pony.  Conan O'Brien has evolved into a strong talent, who no longer tries to be funnier than his guests.  He seems to be the most Carson-esque of the current bunch.  Jimmy Kimmel produces solid laughs night after night.

Now, Dave.  Having been a follower since the morning show days, there wasn't much I didn't know.  The book spends most of its pages on the NBC years.

It did provide perspective on a lot of things, including the Leno vs Letterman controversy.  I've always felt Letterman was the superior talent, but I now have a better idea of why NBC gave the Tonight Show to Jay Leno, and I've already read "The Late Shift."  NBC had concerns Letterman couldn't attract a wide audience.  He was difficult to work with, and his relationship with NBC executives was strained, to say the least.  NBC was right.

Letterman evolved from quirky and a bad interviewer to a solid late night host.  His show lost something when he parked his butt behind the desk and did fewer remote segments.  Cranky, angry Dave came out way too many nights, and that didn't wear well.

There was a serious disconnect in the later years.  No rehearsals.  Limited contact with staff.  A serious writer churn.  An unhappy office.  Miserable working conditions.

I read other material that indicated the move to CBS and the Ed Sullivan Theater was good for Letterman and good for the show.  This book contradicts that.

But, when it came to sitting behind the desk and communicating with the audience, talking, opening up, bantering...  None better.  The stuff is available on You Tube.  Watch Letterman after 9/11, after Johnny Carson's death, after Robin Williams' passing, during the O'Brien/Leno controversy, when he got caught messing around with female staffers.  It was outstanding stuff.

The book does get bogged down with some trivial stuff, like writers' squabbles.

I'll give it a qualified "thumbs up."  If you like Letterman and have an interest in TV, you'll love the book.    Middle of the roaders should like it too.  For the rest, it might be a little too "inside" to be entertaining.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Year 6

My bike came out of the shop just before I went on vacation.  It was nothing major-- a check up, lubrication, adjustment...

Last week's vacation gave me the opportunity to try it out, the start of my sixth season on two wheels.

To get you up to speed, I bought a bike toward the tail end of summer 2012.  I've found that early morning rides suit me best, and as long as it's over 50 degrees, you can see me pedaling through a few small towns in my neck of the woods.

Standard practice, even though I go to a gym year round, is to start off easy.  I skipped that this year and plunged into my normal route.  It was surprisingly easy.  I did do something wrong.  It was chilly and I over dressed.  By the end of the ride, I overheated badly.

Some observations...

My ride cemented my feeling on LED street lights.  They might save energy, but the old style does a better job of lighting the road.  I should add that my bike does have a light and I do wear a reflective vest.

Some towns have done a great job of sweeping up curbside winter gravel.  Others, not so much.

The potholes that were there when I stopped riding in late October are still there, and they've made some new friends.

Companies that print political yard signs have to be making a fortune this primary season.

It's still a big kick to see a shooting star.

So, bike season has arrived for me.  I'll alternate bike and gym mornings through summer and in to the fall.  See you on the road.