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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Andy's Angles: Adventures in Retail

I won't mention the name, but you know what I'm talking about.  It's the big box retailer that's open all night.

I get caught in the trap on a regular basis.  About once a week, usually around 4 AM, every cash register in the entire store shuts down.  I was told it's for computer updating, and things like that.  Notice the big red null on the screen and my basket of stuff, with a soda bottle on the right.

This is simply bad business practice.  Can't they switch to a back up server?  Can't they do it in two batches?  Do they really need every cash register in the store to go off line?  People are waiting to give you money, and you can't take it!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Vacation

It's Sleeping Homer's last appearance of 2018.  Yes, I'm burning off my last vacation week of the year.  I still have a few scattered days off to exhaust, but this is the last hunk of time for a while.

Plans?  None.  Errands.  Maybe a little shopping.  Some photography.  Gym.  Lunches with friends.  Sleep.  Plenty of sleep.

The broadcast, once again, is in the very capable hands of Stacy Lange.

See you later.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sears

Sears declared chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday.  Above is a picture of the old Wyoming Valley Mall store.  I've been reading quite a bit about Sears, trying to figure out what went wrong.

It seems to be a cluster of epic proportions.

First, Sears was becoming irrelevant, and it was a slide that started years ago.  Home Depot and Lowe's did tools, appliances and hardware better.  A dozen, at least, other stores did clothes better.  There wasn't much left for Sears.

Sears and KMart combined.  Stores looked tired and stale.  There was really no reason to go there.  Management didn't invest in the product.  Jobs lost.  Customer service suffered.  It just wasn't fun to shop there.

The company now has a fraction of the stores it once had.  It's tough to cut your way to profitability, and from what I read, no one in the financial or retail industry believes Sears/KMart will last long past Christmas.

It makes me sad.  Like most people my age, we have fond memories of Sears, especially the catalog, and especially especially the Christmas Wish Book.

Even more people are bound to lose their jobs because more stores are closing.  There will be a ripple effect.  Damaged malls will lose even more foot traffic.

A lot of blame is being placed on ownership, and that seems appropriate.  However, the Sears department store concept is just about shot, and I'm not sure anyone could have stopped it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Sid

In this market, when you said or heard "Sid," people knew exactly who you meant.  Sid Michaels.  In politics, he was Sid Michaels Kavulich.

Sid died yesterday after a battle with heart issues, and I am sad.


Our paths crossed many times over the years, first as a competitor.  Always kind, always gracious.   He started in radio and moved to TV, much as I did.  He was part of the local fraternity.   Sid was one of those schtick-less sportscasters.  The athletes and the games were the stars.  As I said when Mike Remish died, kids were lucky to have Sid in their corner.  A true professional.

Sid was always on the phone when he went to the state house, looking for publicity, not for himself, but for some project or business in the 114th.

Here's what set Sid apart in my book.  I'd often run in to him, with my mom, at St. Peter's Cathedral or St. Ann's Basilica in West Scranton.  He was always exceptionally nice and complimentary to my mom, saying nice things about me, which made her feel like a million bucks.  He was great when mom was at my side.  He was great when mom was there with my sister, and I wasn't around.  If you're nice to my mom, you are number one in my book.

Sid left us too early.  My sympathy to his family, friends, fans and constituents.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Gone

Four Panama City, Florida FM radio stations are off the air because of Hurricane Michael, and the owner says they will stay silent.  It doesn't make economic sense to rebuild.

That's sad.  Very sad.

I don't know what the owner's insurance situation is.  I'm guessing, it's not very good.

According to published reports, the tower that handles the studio to transmitter link toppled and punched a hole in the studio roof.  You can imagine the wind and water damage inside the building.

I'm sorry for the people of the panhandle who are losing a source of entertainment, and I would hope, information.

I'm sorry for those radio people, now without jobs.

You have to wonder about the economics of a business where it's more advantageous to sell the licenses, or stay dark, rather than rebuild.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Drive Through

A USA Today story says research from a magazine shows Burger King has the fastest drive throughs.  McDonalds is among the slowest.

With rare exception, I'm not a drive through kind of guy.  It's been my experience that you can get in and out a little faster if you actually venture in to the building to place and receive your order.  Plus, I usually get my food and sit in the restaurant to eat it because I enjoy the decor.

The story did not explain the methodology used in the research-- but so many things can affect the speed of your order.  I'm usually stuck behind a huge family with tons of special orders.  On the inside, invariably, there is a trainee struggling with the process.

By the way, there is always job shaming when it comes to fast food jobs.  I don't get that.  It looks extremely difficult to me, especially when a bus load of hungry tourists arrives at the door.

And another aside, I marvel at the length of the lines at Dunkin' Donuts and McDonalds in the morning.  Is a coffee really that important? 

McDonalds is experimenting with touch screen ordering, something Sheetz has had for years.  The McDonalds system is a little different, because you can pay at the ordering terminal.  I tried it out recently.  No issues.  But then again, I only ordered a diet soda, and the restaurant was empty at the time.  It would be nice if Sheets offered that option.  It eliminates one step in the process, and waiting in a Sheetz line is one of the major flaws in its operation.

I don't think drive throughs will ever go away, but the business is changing.  The pizza chains allow you to order and pay on your phone, and pick up your pies at the store-- or have them delivered.

I thought broadcasting and journalism were challenging because of the constant changes.  The food industry is giving us a run for the money.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Andy's Angles: Trains

It's front and back today.  Clearly, this is the front.
And this is the back.  Cabooses disappeared long ago.  I've noticed freight trains are now using a strobe on the last car to signal the end, and for safety.  It's not the same.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Andy's Angles: Steamtown

This weekend's photos have been in the queue for a while.  Other things jumped ahead of them.  They are from a recent trip to the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton.  These photos are from the adjacent rail yard.
As noted in earlier entries, I do enjoy watching the diesels roll past.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Scrapple

I don't need someone standing in the middle of a hurricane to tell me it's bad.

George Harrison's "Crackerbox Palace" is an underrated song.

I've been shopping for days, and I can't find a home office chair that I really like.

MLB Network has great coverage during the season.  Yet, I find misfires during the post season.  The same goes for TBS.

It didn't get a lot of attention, but Conan O'Brien recently ended his hour long shows.  He'll be down to a half hour after a three month hiatus.  I enjoyed O'Brien's evolution over the years.  He began as a nervous bloke, who did awful interviews, and tried to be funnier than his guests, rather than bringing out the best in them.  After 20+ hears, he learned to perform with a lot of heart.

I'm very happy cooler weather is back.

Banksy is on the verge of becoming more annoying than creative, and some will say he's already crossed the line.

What can you say about the video coming from the Florida panhandle?  Entire neighborhoods, wiped out.

I know we had a lot of rain in a short amount of time Thursday morning, but I shudder to think about the state of storm sewers in a particular city here in our area.  They overwhelm easily.

There are few things in life cuter than a chipmunk.

Silly me.  I thought the Giants had a shot last night.  So many teems have "out of control" players these days.  Fans notice.  Even though TV ratings have rebounded a bit this season, it has to hurt in the long run.  I enjoyed Howie Long's candor on the FOX pre game show.  Long is never mentioned as one of the sports TV stars.  Yet, he always has something interesting to say.

I could not name one Taylor Swift song.  Yet, I am in awe of the way she dominates the music industry and the awards competition.

Any time I see huge lottery jackpots, I'm tempted to buy a ticket.  And then, I think of the odds.  The money stays in my wallet.

A new Neil Armstrong movie is coming out.  Apollo 11 is one of the great stories of our lifetime.

Here we go again-- more proof that it's tough to hack your way to profitability.  Several organizations report Sears is nearing bankruptcy, and banks are pushing for a liquidation.

A woman at a furniture store yesterday asked me if I work for The Weather Channel.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Insanity

It has been said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.  I actually watched the second episode of the "Murphy Brown" reboot the other day.  Like the first, it was a relentless bashing of one side of the political spectrum.  While I enjoy the scenes with Murphy and her son, I'm done.  I'm out.  It's just not funny.  It seems to have worked for some cable networks, liberal and conservative, but I have to wonder about a business model that involves automatically alienating half of the audience.

Speaking of insanity, a TV news reporter in a small Minnesota town was recently fired for wearing a "Make America Great Again" cap to a Trump rally.  I don't know what kind of employee the reporter was, but if he was a good one, a long suspension would have been a more appropriate punishment.  Be that as it may, in what universe did this reporter think wearing that cap, on the job, was acceptable?  I have a news flash for you.  Every reporter has likes and dislikes when it comes to elected officials and political candidates.  The good ones leave their preferences at home.

How about the insanity of those who believe massive cuts can lead to profitability?  As I type this, Sears/KMart, a company that's closed HUNDREDS of stores, is said to preparing a bankruptcy filing.  The company hasn't made a profit in eight years.

And, one more before I hit "publish" for the day...  The New York Yankees were knocked out of the baseball playoffs Tuesday night.  That means I won't have to listen to John Sterling's obnoxious, un-funny and self aggrandizing home run calls until March.  Sterling is 80.  He's had a great career, and he deserves to orchestrate his own exit.  I hope it's time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Why?

I do see the value in Facebook, especially for a broadcaster.  It's a great resource for story ideas.  It's an easy way to connect with viewers and listeners.  It really has become the way people communicate these days.  I've heard from old friends.  So many police and fire departments use it as their primary media communications tool.

On the other hand...  (and you knew that was coning)...

It's filled with false information, hoaxes, scams...  Facebook ownership has been caught selling your information to third parties.  The site is regularly hacked.  Pages are cloned, and things that are clearly incorrect spread throughout society like wildfire.  It's been a week filled with phony friend requests, people who think they've sent out phony friend requests, and people who think they've received phony friend requests.

How did a site so glitchy, balky, clumsy, ill secured, etc. get so popular?  Who do people sign up for it?

I cannot get the words "necessary evil" out of my mind.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Return

Curiosity got the better of me.  It always does.  I punched up the updated "Murphy Brown" premiere on my cable system's On Demand system the other day.

I was never a huge fan of the original.  I did watch from time to time, never a steady viewer.  It did provide a little charm, and an occasional laugh.  Candice Bergen can do comedy.  I liked the producer and network executive characters.  Murphy always seemed to be in trouble for something, and I really enjoyed that.

The reboot was pretty much as I expected-- a half hour of bashing one side of the political spectrum.  The parts about struggling with new technology were cute.  I can relate.  Miles, the producer, is still funny.

It was the heavy handed politics that got to me.  I could have withstood a tweak or two.  Carson tweaked.  Letterman tweaked.   Bob Hope tweaked.  Bashing, regardless of the target?  I'll pass.  It's just not fun.

I will admit that I'm in the minority.  Stephen Colbert bashes on a nightly basis, and he's ridden that to the top of the late night ratings heap.  FOX News channel bashes.  The same goes for MSNBC.  The attack different targets.  Both cable news networks are doing well.

It comes down to this.  When I punch up an entertainment shows, I want an escape, just for a little while.  It's possible to do a semi-reality based show like "Murphy Brown" without hitting me over the head with a political point of view for a half hour.  There are plenty of other options, like those zombie shows.  Drama isn't my thing.  I need a laugh.  It's just so difficult to find a good one.

Monday, October 8, 2018

TattleTales

I think of it often.  There was a game show called "TattleTales" back in the 70's and 80's.  It was a lot like "The Newlywed Game."  Celebrities answered questions and had to predict how their spouse or significant other would respond.  Good stuff.  Always entertaining. Some decent laughs.

There was one question I will never forget:  "Have you learned more from your successes or your failures?"  There was quite the debate among the six on the panel that day.  It was an easy one for me.  The failures.  No doubt.

I'm not taking sides in the melee over Brett Kavanaugh.  That's not my job.

I will say there has been more than enough failure to go around-- just about everyone involved, both parties.  This was not America's finest hour.  I think even the most partisan people, on both sides, will admit that.

I just hope we've learned something from the failure.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Andy's Angles: All You Wanna

The Iron Horse Movie Bistro, and a parking garage above, now occupies the coroner of Penn and Lackawanna in downtown Scranton.

Many, many years ago, there was other retail space here.  Part of it was occupied by a barber shop.  Another space was occupied by the Magical Garden Head Shop.  It carried supplies for smokers (nod, nod, wink wink) and rock and roll tee shirts and posters.  I do remember paying a visit to satisfy my curiosity.  I didn't buy thing.

What I remember most is the radio commercial.  The owner seemed to buy a lot of time on Rock 107.  The spot had a great tag line, which I still remember.  By the way, if I can remember it 30 years later, it was an effective commercial.  The line was "You can get all you wanna at Penn and Lackawanna."

There is a business called "Magikal Garden" in Exeter.  I wonder if its roots are in Scranton, where you can get all you wanna, at Penn and Lackawanna.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Andy's Angles: About the Cover

It's tough to find a train at Steamtown I haven't photographed before.

This was a new one, to me, on my last trip to the historic site.

I would have loved, back in the day, to see it in action.

another trip to Steamtown is in the offing to see if I can stumble across more treasures.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday Scrapple

It's the start of a long weekend for many.  I hope you enjoy it.  This is a great time of year.

Yes, the Philadelphia Flyers' new mascot is on the creepy side.  If this is the most important you have to worry about, it's been a good week.

I don't cook or bake, but I love the way supermarkets look in the fall.

One of the scariest times of the year, deer mating season, is here.  It breaks my heart to see so many dead animals on the road.

It's sad to see the Baltimore Orioles turn in to a dumpster fire.

I lucked out in the Tuesday storms-- just a few bursts of heavy rain.

Jeopardy host Alex Trebek is getting low marks for his handling of a gubernatorial discussion in Hershey this week.  I applaud everyone involved for thinking outside the box.  Most debates merely give candidates an opportunity to spew their prepackaged lines, anyway.

Regardless of your feelings on Penn State, its "white outs" are impressive.

Either the technology is improving, or I'm getting better at using them.  I'm experiencing fewer issues with self service store checkouts.  It's a shame they don't put those employees to work, getting rid of wayward carts in the parking lots.

Christmas catalogs have begun to invade my mail box.

Five eastern Pennsylvania October tornadoes in one day.  Amazing and fascinating.

Already purchased a 2019 calendar.  Dollar store.

Thank heaven for the annual Steamtown Marathon.  It gives Scranton and other towns on the 26.1 mile route the incentive to parch potholes and get rid of trash.  We need a marathon every weekend.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Media Thursday

AM 1540 in Albany, New York is off the air.  Forever.  And ever.  It was through a string of formats and call letters.  At one time, 1540 was THE top 40 powerhouse in that part of New York.  The latest owner had money problems.  The station had technical problems.  It had been off the air for almost a year, and the owner recently surrendered the license.  There will never, ever be another AM 1540 in Albany.

It's sad.  The AM band is mightily struggling.  Dozens of stations have gone dark and most will never be back.

The could be a good thing.  If the Federal Communications Commission is smart, it will encourage more stations to go off the air.  Those are the ones that weren't serving their communities, anyway.  There won't be a huge job loss.  After the band thins out, the remaining stations, where feasible, should get a power increase.  Maybe that will overcome of the AM interference issues and make AM more listenable.

I've been meaning to mention the Emmy awards for a while now, and how I didn't recognize the names of most of the winning shows.  The streaming services, especially Netflix, have changed the industry.

Thank you, Major League Baseball, for once again making playoff games nearly impossible to find.

I saw the trailer for the Dick Cheney movie, "Vice."  It looks outstanding.  But then again, every trailer makes every movie look great.  I hope this one lives up to the hype.

Something scary happened yesterday.  I was on the way home from a long string of errands, most for other people.  "Escape" (the Pina Colada song) came on the radio, and I found myself singing along.  I'm so ashamed.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Try, Try Again

Cosmic Cinemas will try to do what at least three other companies have attempted-- run a successful movie theater operation at Penn and Lackawanna in downtown Scranton.

Cosmic is a relatively new outfit, and intends to follow, somewhat, in the same footsteps as its predecessor-- the Iron House Movie Bistro.  The plan is to offer more than a movie.  dinner and drinks is part of the package.

It's worked in other places.  Not here.  I never visited Iron Horse.  When I go to a movie theater, I want to see a movie.  When I go to dinner, it's in a restaurant.  Combining the two never appealed to me, but I can see where that would be a draw.  To be fair, I have spoken with people who have experienced the concept, here and elsewhere, and they loved it.

In my book, it comes down to location.  I just get the feeling that people don't want to watch movies in an urban atmosphere, and deal with parking garages-- even if you can park for free with a validated ticket.  It's way too easy, and some perceive much safer, to roll up to a megaplex, not deal with a parking hassle and watch a movie.  You can grab a bite, before or after, at one of the dozens of restaurants that surround the theaters.  You really have to consider location as a factor as to why all the others here failed.

I really hope Cosmic does something with the design.  It's a dark downtown corner.  There isn't a lot of color at the theater entrance, and that big hunk of corrugated metal isn't very inviting or visually interesting.  Jazz it up.  Brighten it up.  Make it a "must see" destination.  You can see movies in a lot of places.  Make this one special.

Iron Horse lasted nine months.  We'll see if Cosmic Cinemas can do better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Funny

I was drawn in to the discussion, even though it was my day off.  During a story on "Newswatch 16 This Morning" on an auction of props from the TV series "The Office," Tom Williams remarked how I thought the series was "unfunny."

Tom was wrong.

"The Office" was stunningly unfunny.  I was never able to sit through an entire episode.  Every character was a weasel, and I didn't want them in my home.  I don't know how the show made it on to network television.  "The Office" is one of those sitcoms you either love or hate.  There is no middle ground, and you know how I feel.

OK.  So, what's funny?  Here's the way I see it.

My two favorites are "Scrubs," except for the awful last season, and "Barney Miller."  The latter was always clever, sharp, witty and well written.

I've never been able to sit through an entire "Seinfeld" episode.  Incessant whining by the main characters.  My record for viewing is about ten minutes.

"The Big Bang Theory" had some good early years.  It morphed into another bickering couples sitcom.

"M*A*S*H," but only the early years.  I thought "Cheers" went off the cliff after the early years, too.

Both Bob Newhart series had some funny moments.  The same goes for "Mary Tyler Moore."

 "All in the Family" broke some new ground, but I couldn't take the all the yelling.  Ditto for the other Norman Lear series of the time, "One Day at a Time" and "Good Times"...  and then, there's "Maude."

"WKRP in Cincinnati" showed flashes of brilliance, and more flashes of mediocrity. 

"Get Smart" hit it out of the park most weeks.  The opening and closing credit sequences are among the best of all time.

"Three's Company" had one good year, the first one.

"Mork & Mindy" got tired fast.  I respected the talents of Robin Williams, but I always considered him to be what I call "hot pepper flakes on the pizza."  A little goes a long way.

"Wings" was occasionally charming, and featured a great set of secondary characters.

"Drew Carey" and "Night Court" can still make me laugh out loud.

I never understood "Friends."  Perhaps I was too old.  It's another series where I could never make it through an entire episode.

"Dick van Dyke" was a little too sophisticated for my young eyes and ears.

Some "Odd Couple" plots strained credibility, but it was generally solid throughout its run.

"Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley" were overrated.

I tried "Modern Family."  I didn't get it.  The same goes for "How I Met Your Mother."

"Spin City" didn't work for me.

"Munsters" and "Addams Family" were always grouped together, but they were very different shows, and funny in different ways.  They had something in common.  I always loved how the Munster and Addams families never realized they were the strange ones.  They believed the others were the odd balls.  By the way, Grampa Munster and Gomez Addams are among TV's all time great characters.

"I Dream of Jeannie" scored points for Barbara Eden's cuteness and Larry Hagman's physical comedy.

"Home Improvement" was the same story over and over again.  Anything with precocious children immediately goes to the "avoid" list.  Bill Cosby was able to draw a big crowd for years with the precocious children formula.

That's a list of the series I've seen.  There are dozens that never motivated me enough to watch.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Dunkin'

The company has been experimenting with, and toying with the idea for several months.  It made it official this week.  In January, Dunkin Donuts will drop the "donuts" from its name.

I cannot remember the last time I was in a store.  I'm not a coffee drinker.  Paying $2 for an iced tea that costs four cents to make doesn't thrill me.  I've had take out food on occasion.  They still make a fair donut and a good, if unauthentic, bagel.  Nice selection.  Most of the stores have given up 24 hour operation.  You might be lucky and find one on your nocturnal travels.

Dunkin Donuts says it's making the change because the bulk of its business these days is in drinks, not donuts.

There are places that make good donuts, if not better than Dunkin.  Some supermarket bakeries have really stepped up their game.  There are a couple big mini mart chains that do a great job.

Regular readers know I can become sentimental over the strangest things.  The building on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton is now a Subway.  Way back when, it was a Dunkin Donuts, one of the few in the area.  My father would take me there once in a while, getting seats at the long counter.  He'd have a coffee and a donut.  I'd have a hot chocolate and a donut.  We both would choose the same type, and I'm not sure if they still make them.  It was a plain cake donut with a little nub of extra dough that was supposed to keep your fingers out of the coffee while dunking.  The nub was irrelevant to me.  I wasn't a dunker-- but I really did love those donuts.  They had a crunchy, fried exterior, while remaining soft and moist in the middle.  Outstanding!

You can change the name.  You can replace the donuts.  You can't erase the memories of going out for a donut with your dad.