Friday, August 31, 2018
As a kid, it was back to school time-- new clothes, new books, new school supplies... It was like giving a condemned man a last meal.
Adulthood means cooler weather, comfortable days and nights, new TV shows, the end to the summer doldrums, football, foliage, looking ahead to the holidays...
On top of that, I've always managed to take some vacation time during September. This year is no exception, and there will be more on that in the days to come.
It's a long weekend for most. Please, make the best of it, and remember what the day is all about.
Thursday, August 30, 2018
I bought my bike, six years ago, on the Thursday before Labor Day. I'd been considering a purchase for some time, and I checked out a few stores. Lousy customer service delayed my pulling the bike trigger. No one wanted to help, so I walked out of stores empty handed.
A wave of determination hit me on this day in 2012, and I visited a bicycle specialty shop. I knew I'd pay a little more, but I knew I'd be talking with people who knew their stuff and who wanted to make a sale. I also knew a specialty shop would be the place for advice and service after the sale.
I walked in and told one of the guys that I just wanted a simple bike to pedal around town, nothing hard core. He wheeled out an acceptable model. My credit card went out and within minutes, it was in the back of my little SUV.
Here is where the problems started. I stopped for a Whopper, no mayonnaise, fries, and diet Coke on the way home. When I unloaded the bike, I jumped on and took off down the block, like I was a kid again. Well, I'm no kid. Plus, it was a broiling hot and humid afternoon. After a few blocks, I turned around and headed home, got off the bike, exhausted and dripping in sweat. I made it to the bathroom, where I lost my lunch.
However, I persevered. I went a little longer every week. This year, i set a record of 31.3 miles, and rides in the teens and 20's are not out of the ordinary. It's a great form of exercise and fantastic fun.
I regret not starting off a little more sensibly, but I never regretted buying the bike.
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
My Marywood College degree is in communication arts with a specialty in radio and television. However, there was considerable exposure to the theater department. Oh, how I remember how those folks turned up their snobby noses at Neil Simon. It was populist, light comedy pap, and it was beneath them.
I will admit that Neil Simon didn't pen heavyweight stuff, but it was enjoyable and people really liked it.
When you think "Simon," of course, the "Odd Couple" comes to mind-- especially the way Tony Randall and Jack Klugman brought it to life for five seasons on ABC. Who didn't love that-- the play, the movie, the series...
Personally, I was a "Prisoner of Second Avenue" fan. The movie, starring Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft. 1975. If you haven't seen it, find it. It's sad and funny at the same time. You'll laugh one minute and shed a tear the next. It's real. Plus, Marvin Hamlisch did the music.
OK, Neil Simon was no Shakespeare... But, he did bring millions into Broadway theaters and movie theaters for years. He entertained people and he did it well. Never turn up your snobby nose at that.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
I was wondering if things had changed, if that first day newness had worn off. I was in school long before social media. There's not much catching up to do if you;re Facebooking, Instagramming and Snapchatting all summer long.
After the newness wears off, the misery sets in. I was at a red light during the last school year, and a bus passed perpendicular to me. I never saw a more sad group of kids in my life-- and this was at the tail end of the school year.. I did like learning, but I didn't like school. I suspect most others are in the same boat, or bus.
After the first couple of days, reality sets in. the end of the school year seems so far, so very far away. To a kid, it is. As you grow a little older, you find the time flies by. September and October can be tough. There isn't much of a diversion, no extended days off. then comes thanksgiving and Christmas. January and February are more long hauls. The light at the end of the tunnel appears in March.
Kids and parents, enjoy the ride. These days will not last forever.
Monday, August 27, 2018
John McCain served his country well-- sailor, prisoner of war, congressman, senator, presidential candidate...
There are some really well done McCain obituaries out there, so I will not rehash what others have already done, and done better.
No one will dispute that John McCain was a great American. There is debate over his skills as a presidential candidate. I will give McCain credit for breaking with his party on several issues. Yes, he was a maverick. On the other hand, John McCain lacked the warmth, charm, and charisma to win over voters on a national scale. It was especially evident in the 2008 race against Barack Obama-- a made for television presidential candidate. The charm factor was less evident in the 2000 primaries, when he battled Texas governor George W. Bush. He simply came across as a cranky man who said "no" to everything. Americans like candidates can be hopeful about the future, express optimism. Obama nailed it. McCain might have felt it, but he wasn't very good at expressing it.
His judgement? The Sarah Palin vice presidential candidate selection can be argued over for days.
The bottom line is that John McCain appeared to be a good and decent person, and our government is better because he was a part of it.
Sunday, August 26, 2018
Photographer Erich, in the blue shirt on the right, and I were looking for angle to freshen up the story and make it interesting. We found one. This is the Northwest Area Rangers marching band, practicing on a field near the school, without their instruments. Those were stored in the school when it burned, and no one was allowed to enter the building immediately after the fire.
As I said on Facebook, the kids and instructors were great, even stopping practice to allow Erich and I time to talk to the young musicians. I think they appreciated the attention, and it was nice that we could show their perseverance. High school bands don't receive nearly enough credit for their hard work and what they do. It would be nice if we could show more of them, but there are limits to the amount of music we can put on the air because of fees from licensing companies. It's a long story.
Regular blog readers will remember that I spent more than four years in the band. I wasn't very good, and some changes meant an additional time commitment I wasn't prepared to tackle. On top of that, I was constantly getting yanked out of a favorite science class for practice. My path was clear. Music wasn't in my future, and it was best that the band and I went our separate ways. The respect for those who participate, and those who do it well, remains.
Good luck to my new friends from Northwest Area, and to all the young musicians during the football season.
Saturday, August 25, 2018
Even though the season began this weekend, Northwest still has a little more time to get it ready. The Rangers' first three games are on the road. If all goes according to plan, the first game here will be September 14th.
Friday, August 24, 2018
Demi Lovato nearly killed herself with an overdose. Ben Affleck just checked into rehab. I'm like every other working stiff. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that even the rich and famous have life threatening issues. They seem to have it all, seem so happy, so talented, leading great lives...
And then there is Bill Kurtis. Chicago Magazine has a story this month on the legendary Chicago news anchor and documentary producer. The story revealed his he lost his first wife, very young, to cancer and a son to mental illness. A short stint at CBS didn't go well. Wow. On the surface, it looks like a great life. Dig a little deeper, and you find the pain. I should note I wrote Kurtis a fan letter after he left CBS, and he wrote back. I was thrilled, and I still have the letter.
I'm searching for a moral to the story, other than the "be kind" line that began today's entry.
All men and women are created equal.
Thursday, August 23, 2018
So far, this race is by the book, and I hope we get more before the election. If you take out the names, you can use the same commercials in every other congressional district in the country. The Democrat accuses the Republican of favoring cuts in social security. The Republican counters by denying all of it and adding the Democrat is a liberal who is hopelessly out of touch with his district.
As far as the race for governor goes, most polls show incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf with a comfortable lead over Republican challenger Scott Wagner. The Republicans released a poll this week, showing the race is within the statistical margin of error. In other words, a dead heat. No one is really surprised the race has tightened. That always happens in the days leading up to an election. Dead heat? Not so sure. As always, look at all the polls. Examine the methodology. Average them out.
Governor Wolf did get it right during a stop in Luzerne County this week. Turnout is key. It always is. Every election.
Recent history shows anything can happen. At this time two years ago, no one expected Donald Trump to win Pennsylvania and take the White House.
The new conventional wisdom is there is no conventional wisdom.
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Many years ago, not at WNEP, a boss wanted me to call a psychic hotline, tape it, and see if the psychic's predictions were accurate. I informed the boss that Pennsylvania law mandates both parties consent to a recording. I wasn't going to jail for wire tapping, and pretending to be an average Joe, and not a television reporter would be disingenuous. The person had a real problem with underlings knowing more than she did. You think she would have been used to it. Another reporter was given the story, and it was one of the worst pieces of trash in local television history. A bad idea, poorly executed, as a former coworker used to say. By the way, yes, there is much I don't know.
Getting back to Omarosa, if this woman is running around, secretly recording PRIVATE conversations, how can you trust her ever again? I'm disappointed the networks took the bait and gave Omarosa the opportunity to sell books, based on her unethical behavior.
Once again, just because you can doesn't mean you should.
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
That first cool, clear day will feel so great. I can't wait for it to get here.
Thank you, New York, for dumping untreated sewage into the Susquehanna River.
There are several great stories in Major League Baseball this year, including the success of the Oakland Athletics. Hey, get the team a new stadium already!
While I'm ready for fall, I'm really not ready for football.
JCPenney had a horrible second quarter. Why do we no longer like department stores? It seems like they trimmed employees in recent years. Customer service suffered. And, they wonder why people shop on-line.
I really don't understand the shark fascination.
Whoever came up with the idea of playing a major league baseball game in Williamsport during the Little League World Series is a genius. The pictures were outstanding.
Isn't it sad that many parents are insisting they have bullet proof backpacks for children?
We were bombarded by complaints over a Montage Mountain concert and a RailRiders game at the same time Friday night. It looks like the concert was over-sold. Be that as it may, that interchange and those roads simply can't handle a lot of traffic. It's that way on a daily basis. Because of the terrain, I can't see how it can be reconfigured-- again.
It's great to see how many businesses and individuals have stepped up to help after the recent rund of flash flooding.
I'm not if it shows the wisdom of diversification, or the fact they no longer have confidence in broadcasting, but several big radio companies are branching out in to podcasting.
Monday, August 20, 2018
Some were surprised to me in Williamsport at midnight. A couple of people joked that the assignment was some sort of punishment.
Hey, I volunteered!
Nikki Krize and Kristina Papa, along with photographer Tom Durant have central Pennsylvania covered like a blanket for Newswatch 16, so there is rarely a need for me to head west from the home office. The Williamsport area is lovely, even in the middle of the night, and I jumped at the opportunity to visit an area I hadn't seen in a while. It changed quite a bit from the last time I parachuted in.
Above and beyond, it was a great story-- a midnight high school football practice, a first for our area. I loved the opportunity to get my teeth into something new and different.
As long as I've been in the business, I'm always amazed that so many people really don't have an understanding of how it works. That's okay. Put me in another type of work, and it would take me a while to get up to speed. We are a 24/7 operation. Yes, it's still mysterious to some, but getting a story on the air can be a long process-- travel, photographing, interviewing, writing, editing, adding graphics... There are times I still don't get how the magic happens.
Thanks for tuning in.
Sunday, August 19, 2018
To get you up to speed, the Williamsport Area Millionaires held a midnight practice Monday morning, the first possible second the team was allowed to practice in full pads. Some Talkback callers thought it was absurd.
Yes, the players are kids-- but they're not babies. Staying up late is nothing new.
A midnight practice was a novelty, and the players appeared to be having a great time. I didn't hear one complaint from the kids, or the parents and fans in the stands. Practicing anything can be repetitive and boring. This was a novelty, and the TV cameras were there. No one had issues with the publicity.
As much as he said he wasn't sending a message to opponents, I think that's what Charles Crews had in mind when he arranged the midnight practice. The Millionaires are ready for the new season, and they will fight to improve last year's 7 and 4 record. There is nothing wrong with that.
As I write this, the Little League World Series is getting underway in South Williamsport. Organizers take great lengths to make sure the kids are happy, healthy, safe and cared for. I don't hear anyone complaining about the long and grueling season these tykes endure.
Saturday, August 18, 2018
Parts of our area got hammered and that is an understatement.
We heard victims clamoring for help, and I totally understand. One suggested solution is dredging. Forget that. The concept is passe. It's expensive and it sends mud downstream, negatively affecting fish and other creatures in the water. The environmentalists would be up in arms, and I understand that, too.
Flood walls? Possibly. Buying out home and business owners in the flood plains? That's possible, too. Building along waterways was the way to go, a long time ago. It's no longer necessary, and it hasn't been so for a hundred years, maybe more.
There is one thought I cannot get out of my mind. There isn't much you can do to protect yourself when it rains 7, 8, 9 inches-- or more, on top of saturated ground.
Friday, August 17, 2018
It reminds me of something similar in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I wish someone around here would try it. Every summer, WBT radio does something called "Peanut Butter and July." July sounds like jelly, get it? By the way, the afternoon guy on WBT is John Hancock, who I worked with at WARM back in the mid 80's.
It works like this. WBT teams with a supermarket chain to encourage people to buy jars of peanut butter, and drop them off in a bin before you leave the store. The peanut butter goes to Charlotte area food pantries.
Why peanut butter? It's a good source of protein and kids love it. It's not a perfect food, but the plusses outweigh the minuses. It keeps fed during the summer. It's also good for breakfast and lunches when classes resume.
I'm a fan of the product, crunchy, please-- and the concept.
Thursday, August 16, 2018
There's a phenomenon in the news business. Different people call it different things. I refer to it as the "Summer Doldrums." Things slow down quite a bit. The kids are out of school. No high school sports. Politics doesn't pick up until after Labor Day. Government and the courts slow down. Vacations... You get the idea.
This year, and this summer have been non stop activity, including some horrible weather, a presidential visit, the Catholic Church grand jury report, an up tick in crime, an assortment of fires, construction, the Little League World Series is starting, the incredible journey of the Tunkhannock girls softball team, and so on.
I never complain about the Summer Doldrums. There is always more than enough to keep us busy. This year, the news cycle has been kicked up a notch, and not just on the local level.
Ronald Reagan spent most of his quiet summers at his ranch in Santa Barbara. Bush 41 went to Kennebunkport, Clinton summered in Massachusetts. Bush 43 headed to the ranch in Texas. Obama was another who loved New England. Even though President Trump is hanging out at his resorts in Florida and New Jersey, he is still making plenty of news. That is probably the new normal.
If that wasn't enough... Hawaiians are running from lava. California is burning up. The Thailand cave rescue, Genoa bridge collapse...
It will only get busier as we head in to the fall. High school football is back. Schools, colleges and universities start fall semesters, the Bloomsburg fair, the election, courts and government become more active. While September and October are known as dry months, we have been hit by some nasty hurricanes and tropical storms during those months.
We didn't get a breather in the summer of 2018, and that's okay. My heart goes out to those who have suffered losses during the flash flooding, and I'll write more about that in the days to come.
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
That's photographer Jason you see above-- getting video of the rain swollen Lackawanna River and a broken up Lonesome Road in Old Forge.
We've all been through flooding before. This area suffered through a succession of hurricanes and tropical storms in recent years. However, I cannot remember a summer filled with such awful weather.
We are half way to a new month. Maybe there will be better luck in September.
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Photographer Jason and I had to make one stop on the way back. As Jason was shooting video of a Fire Police roadblock near Montoursville, I got out of the car to look around. The word quickly spread around the neighborhood. Fresh meat. My welcoming committee was comprised of some of the nastiest mosquitoes around. At least six bites in just a few minutes!
I've read that, thanks to the wet weather, this is a banner year for mosquitoes. Believe me, I have first hand knowledge. I grabbed an antihistamine out of my work bag, and popped a couple on the way back to the office. There is some bite relief wipes in the newsroom medicine cabinet, so I made it through my shift without massive red bumps showing on television.
We need mosquitoes. They're bird food. But, either the birds are slacking off at the bug buffet this year, or there are simply too many mosquitoes to handle.
Monday, August 13, 2018
REVISITING EARLIER TOPICS...
I'm really tired over this NFL protest stuff. I get what the players are trying to do and I respect that. I think there's a better way to do it. The league is coming off as confused and impotent. the regular season begins in less than a month. Fix this!
I could take the daytime heat and humidity if it cooled off at night. It's not happening. There is no time to rest, cool down and refresh. It's only a few more weeks. Fall is rapidly approaching.
I used to cover high school football on a regular basis, so it was nice to check in at a high school football practice and do a story. Valley View's organization impressed me.
A while back, I complained about a local newspaper's lousy circulation. It has improved in recent days. It could be the paper is easier to cart around because it seems smaller every day.
14 teams in the International League, and the SWB Railriders are 10th in attendance. Still, an average of 5,900 per game is nothing to sneeze at, and the weather has been awful this summer. On top of that, the team has hovered around the .500 mark all season.
Political ads are starting earlier this year. Less than 90 days until the midterms. Understatement of the year: It should be interesting.
More attempts at humorous obituaries have been popping up in local newspapers. I'm sorry. I just find those things in bad taste.
Tiger Woods had a good weekend, but I don't think he'll ever win another major tournament. While Tiger is improving, there are simply too many great golfers, ones better than Tiger, out there.
Sunday, August 12, 2018
There is a new flag, in a shopping center, at the Scranton/Dickson City line.
There is one drawback. With an enormous flag, it takes quite a breeze to get it unfurled. I was lucky on a recent morning.
Saturday, August 11, 2018
The shot you see above is along the Central Scranton Expressway, looking "outbound" toward the interstate. It's a weedy, sloppy mess. I don't know if the city or state, or both is responsible for the upkeep.
You get only one shot at a first impression, and this is it. I do realize the expressway is under construction, but it really should be better than this.
Looking on the bright side... at least, the weeds hide the litter.
Friday, August 10, 2018
Let me back up several months. One of my high school teachers and I were having our cars serviced. As we hung out in the waiting room, the talk turned to teachers I liked, respected, and influenced me. By the way, the teacher I was speaking with handled a course called "consumer economics." It was one of the most valuable high school courses ever, and I understand my high school no longer offers it.
The talk turned to a pair of junior high school English teachers. One has passed away. The other is still with us, long since retired. A friend knew I was thinking of calling this teacher to say "thank you." A telephone number dropped in to my lap, and that led to a cell phone number. The number sat on my desk for several days, as I tried to screw up the courage to make the call.
I finally dialed him up, while I was on vacation last week. The cell phone was apparently turned off because the call went right to voice mail. I rambled on for about a minute, explaining who I was and the reason for the call.
It would have been nice to chat for a moment, and perhaps I will try again, if I ever get another burst of courage.
At least, he was finally given a well deserved "thank you." I'm sorry it was more than 40 years late.
Thursday, August 9, 2018
I've been reading tons about how plastic drinking straws are destroying the planet. Once again, I gave in. I went on-line and found a nice set of stainless steel drinking straws, complete with little bendy scrub brushes for cleaning the inside. One straw is kept in my car. The rest are in the house. I should have gone with the reusable plastic. The stainless steel will last forever, but I just don't like the feel.
Am I doing anything to save the planet? Maybe. Some dispute the research that purports to show the dangers of disposable plastic straws.
It can't hurt.
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
I was actually done with summer weeks ago. July hasn't been a good month for me in recent years. If you really think about it, very few months have been consistently happy occasions.
It's just a case of growing weary of being in air conditioning all day and sweating profusely when I go outside. I sleep better when it's dark and cold. There are few better feelings than burrowing under heavy blankets on a chilly night.
I'm not looking forward to scraping windshields, sliding to work and standing in snow storms, but you take the good with the bad.
It's unfortunate that Mays and Septembers cannot last forever.
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
Apple is now worth more than $1 trillion. Are Apple products really that good?
President Trump packed 11,000 people in to the Wilkes-Barre Township arena last week. As I said during the 2016 primaries, underestimate Mr. Trump's popularity at your own risk.
I don't get iced coffee.
I don't get hot coffee.
Less than one month left in the minor league baseball regular season, and less than two months left in the major league baseball regular season. The summer has dragged. Yet, it seems the baseball season, as always, has flown by.
Brookstone has filed for bankruptcy and is closing all of its stores. There was one here, for a short time, inside the casino in Plains Township. Visiting a mall store was always fun, and I still have a few products, including a great alarm clock, from the catalog.
Warner Brothers is considering making new "Alf" episodes. Alf is one of tv's all time great characters.
Joe Buck has signed a three year extension with FOX Sports. It's a good thing.
I've had a recent spike in Twitter followers and I can't figure out why.
It looks like there will be a tone of bridge repairs along Interstate 81 in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties next year. The news is cringe worthy, but 81 is a mess. It needs the work.
It's amazing how much New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sounds just like his father.
Monday, August 6, 2018
Lou retired last week, after 36 years as a photographer at WBRE. Lou was on the Scranton beat for many of those years, a great guy for the job. He knew inch of the city, and I think he knew every Lackwanna County resident, including every police officer, firefighter, and public official.
Let me tell you a "Lou" thing. He possesses a great curiosity and loves to ask questions. He'll speak up during news conferences and during one-on-ones with reporters. Here's an "inside TV" thing. A photographer asking questions used to bother a lot of reporters. They thought Lou was infringing on their territory, possibly showing them up.
Me? I loved it! I can't think of everything, and Lou's valuable experience helped put stories in context. I appreciated it, way back when, and I encourage young photographers to ask away. On top of that, it shows the photographer is "in" to the story and that always makes for a better piece. Lou never needed motivation. It was always there.
I spoke with Lou on the phone last week. He sounded great, in spite of a recent health scare.
Lou, enjoy your retirement, and thank you for everything.
Sunday, August 5, 2018
Don't ask me how it got started. A Google search didn't turn up anything. I'm sure it helps keep basements dry by channeling rain water far away from the foundations. As you can see, most homes are right on the sidewalk and without front yards.
It also prevents melting snow from turning in to sidewalk ice.
While it makes sense on some levels, it really is a bizarre sight.
Saturday, August 4, 2018
Anyway, this is the Fountain of the Immigrants along Church Street in Jessup. The fountain resembles one in Gubbio, Italy-- the only other place in the world where St. Ubaldo Day is celebrated.
The fountain cost $6,000 and community donations helped make it happen. At nearly ten years old, the fountain still looks and sounds great.
Friday, August 3, 2018
It was the usual fare of bike rides, gym visits, a little photography, some reading and a lot of sleeping.
I managed to annoy a couple of people who didn't deserve it, and I am exceptionally sorry about that.
In other words, it was nothing out of the ordinary.
It's time to go back to work, and I'm ready. Thanks to Stacy Lange for filling in last weekend. A 10 hour overnight shift can be tough if you're not used to it.
Thursday, August 2, 2018
The first half of the book was great, with tales of the early days of live TV-- the sets, the lights, the props, the big mechanical (and often malfunctioning) game board.
The book then delves into the changes the industry weathered-- going to videotape, competition from big prize and flashier shows, etc. Blumenthal peters out toward the end, with lengthy paragraphs on how to be a good contestant and what producers look for.
He does name names, but only in a good way. Blumenthal does talk about bad shows, bad producers, and bad hosts-- but he leaves their names out. I didn't have a major problem with that. Many aren't around to defend themselves, and his descriptions give readers a solid idea of what was happening.
A big thumbs up-- but only if you like the genre. The rest of you might be a little bored.
While I'm yammering about game shows again, please let me note the recent passing of Howard Felsher. He helped fix the 50's version of "Tic Tac Dough." Felsher went on to produce several other game shows, including the Richard Dawson hosted "Family Feud." Howard Felsher was 90 years old.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
One is Adrian Cronauer. Robin Williams based his character on Cronauer in "Good Morning Vietnam." There was nothing anyone could do to make the war in Vietnam tolerable, but it's apparent Cronauer's morning disc jockey work, based in Saigon, helped a little.
An old public television documentary about WARM had a segment about a family sending tapes of the radio station to a soldier stationed in the far east, during the Vietnam War. Cronauer's work filled a similar void for thousands of others.
Ann Cullen died last month in California at the age of 90. She was married to game show great Bill Cullen from 1954, until his death in 1990. Mrs. Cullen appeared with Bill on "Tattletales" during the 70's and 80's. She was as witty as her husband.