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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Diversion

I don't consider myself a huge sports fan, but I do spend a fair amount of time listening to sports talk radio. 

Ben Maller, who does 2 to 6 AM on FOX Sports Radio is great fun.  Most of the weekend shows on CBS Sports Radio are exceptionally entertaining.

I use sports talk radio as a diversion.  I love news, and it's how I make a living, but there are times you need a break for a few hours.

Here's the problem.  So much of sports talk radio these days is dedicated to things like contract hold outs, drugs, money and assorted other controversies.  The "diversion" factor has less of an impact.  I know you can't ignore that stuff, but it does take away from the fun.

I might have to find a new diversion.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Chopped

I say this in no uncertain terms:  I HATE FADS.

Last week, everyone was doing that Facebook thing that shows what you will look like decades down the road.  All that did was put more of your precious private information out where hackers can grab it.  Besides, if you want to know what you will look like when you get older, do what I did.  Wait a while.

Full disclosure:  I stole that from the late great George Carlin.  He was doing a routine on guys who shave their heads.  Carlin said if you want to be bald, do what I did.  Wait a while.  How I miss him!

One of the new fads is axe throwing, and places dedicated to the activity are popping up all over our area.  Many are paired with alcohol.  What can possibly go wrong?  Stop it.  Stop it now.

It seems like the only ones destined to make money off this are bandage manufacturers, doctors, insurance agents, and lawyers.


Monday, July 29, 2019

Why?

Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers extended the contract of head coach Mike Tomlin by one year.

Why?

Last year was a disaster.  It seems like at least once per season, Tomlin loses control of his team.  There were several weeks last year where the Steelers led the league in penalties.  That shows a lack of discipline, and you trace that right back to the head coach.

The secondary is awful and the Steelers have done nothing to prepare for the day an aging Ben Roethlisberger can no longer play.

Mike Tomlin did not deserve a contract extension.


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Andy's Angles: There Used to be a Shoe Store Here

The Harrisburg Patriot regularly updates the business scene under the headline of "Retail Apocalypse." 

Yes, stores have been closing at an alarming rate, as the internet takes over.

This is the remnants of a shoe store in Scranton.

As I looked at the closed and dusty building, I started thinking how many pairs of shoes were sold here over the years, how did management bungle things so badly, what became of the staff, what happens to this space, who is next...

Stay tuned.  There is more to come.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Never Cut Funny

I couldn't believe what I read in the newspaper the other day.

A story said a "popular" bar/restaurant was closing for good.

NewsFlash:  popular restaurants make money and money making restaurants never close.

As Stan Kaiser told Carl Rojack in "My Favorite Year,"  "NEVER CUT FUNNY."  In the business world, never cut money.

The story did raise the possibility the property would be leased or sold, and there you have it.  The property is worth more than the business inside.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Week Two

Sleeping Homer is back for his second appearance of 2019, and you know what that means.  It's vacation week.

This is statistically and historically one of the hottest weeks on the calendar, so I can hide from the heat for a while.

As always, no plans.  I do hope to catch up on some rest and maybe play with the camera for a bit.  A trip to KMart will be icing on the cake.

The big weekend morning broadcasts are in the capable hands of Carmella Mataloni.

I hope to see you again soon.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Media Notes



I've enjoyed the heck out of this week's Apollo 11 hoopla, and a few things stuck out at me as I watched old footage from 50 years ago.  Walter Cronkite talked-- a lot!  Other than the astronauts,  Uncle Walter was THE face of the American space program, and his enthusiasm was contagious.  The NBC crew was matter of fact.  The ABC team of Frank Reynolds and Jules Bergman struck the right chord.  Unfortunately, ABC News was an "also ran" back then, and no one noticed.  We shall not see a time like the summer of 1969 ever again.

Norah O'Donnell took over as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" back on July 15th.  It's a solid broadcast, as it was under Jeff Glor.  It took only a few days before the newspaper headlines appeared, saying the ratings were plummeting.  Hey, give it a chance!  There is an audience shift any time there is an anchor change, and most broadcasts need time to build momentum.  There is no such thing as instant gratification.

I mentioned this before, and it's still happening. Bill O'Reilly's midday 15 minute radio show has picked up more big market affiliates.  I just wonder what happens next.

Hurricane Barry, thankfully, wasn't a huge storm earlier this month.  You can see the disappointment on the faces of the staff at The Weather Channel.

Former CNN Headline News anchor Bob Losure passed away recently.  72.  Losure was on Headline News when it did 30 minute newscasts, around the clock.  It was a marvelous and much needed service, and it's sad that we don't have anything like that any more.  Losure was smooth and calm and professional.  I'm sorry he's gone.

ABC's Sunday night game show block was number one in the ratings this past week.  It shows there is still an appetite for a good game show, and people want fresh programming during the summer.  I wish there were more games on weekdays, like the old days.  Yes, there were some dogs, but also, some gems.

Once again, radio shines during an emergency.  I was listening to WCBS and WINS during the recent New York City blackout.  It was outstanding work.  Unfortunately, so few stations are prepared to step up when times are tough.

I caught some of former Railriders announcer John Sadak doing a New York Mets game.  Great work!

The Mike Wallace documentary opens this weekend.  I can't find a local theater playing it yet.

The trailer for the Tom Hanks/Mister Rogers movie have dropped.  I'll level with you.  Fred Rogers was never my thing, but I did meet him in the mid 90's.  He was the genuine article.  That kind and gentle man you saw on TV was exactly the same as the one you met in person.  You might find me in a theater in November.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Sad and Sweet Farewell

Everyone who knows me knows I am a person of routine.  I have a system.  I like things the same way, all the time.

There is a mini mart between my home and the office.  It has everything.  Most of my visits involve purchasing only one item-- a giant icy cold diet cola.

Imagine my horror when I saw the sign on the window that the store is closing for two months of renovations!  I need my early morning fix.  Yes, there are other mini marts.  It won't be the same.  The fountain soda here is tremendous-- perfect temperature, perfect blend of syrup and fizzy water.

The staff is unfailingly friendly.  They're all going to different stores in the chain until the renovations are complete.  I said my farewells the other morning.

It's going to be a long two months.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

All Wet

It might not look like it, but I've been visiting a gym two or three times a week since November of 2012.  It's nothing extensive-- just a little calorie burn and a lot of sweating.

Something happened last week for the first time in seven years.  I forgot to bring a towel for the post workout shower.

There were two options-- take a shower at home, or make the best of it at the gym.

It was one of those broilingly hot mornings, and the humidity was 300 per cent.  The gym has air conditions and ceiling fans.  It wasn't enough.  I was dripping.  I love those showers.

Yes, I patted off what I could with paper towels.  My street clothes took care of some of the rest.  I dried off, eventually.  Every window in the car, plus the sun roof, was open.

It must have been one of those.  I also left my phone at home.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Fore!

Let's establish a few things off the top.  I have nothing more than a passing interest in golf, and I haven't picked up a club since college.  The folks like it, so I'll watch some TV coverage with them when I get the chance.

Something happened Thursday that blew me away.

British Open in Northern Ireland.  Rory McIlroy, and Irish kid, had an absolutely horrible round, finishing 8 over par.  It was a disaster from the first swing to the last, and in front of his home country fans.  Embarrassing, to say the least.

When McIlroy's round ended, he stopped to talk, live, with a reporter from The Golf Channel.  Most of us, myself included, would have uttered a three word phrase and walked away.  McIlroy didn't.

We are so used to seeing athletes at their worst.

This guy is a class act.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Hot!

It's hot.  Very hot.

Yes, it's dangerous and a nuisance, and darned uncomfortable.

Let's not panic.  We can use a little common sense and we can get through this.

It's been hot before.

My old friend, David DeCosmo, brought up something on his blog, what I call a "geezer" moment.  He didn't have air conditioning as a kid.  Neither did I.  We survived.  Don't ask me how.

All we had to look forward to was that first cool night.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

One Small Step

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.  It was one of my first "where were you when" moments.

I think the first was the RFK assassination in 1968.  It was a ritual in my house growing up:  "CBS Morning News" at 7.  "Captain Kangaroo" at 8.

I remember watching the black and white images of a wounded Kennedy on a Los Angeles hotel kitchen floor, but I remember the moment more from my parents reaction.  Sad.  Horrified.

The Apollo 11 landing was a much different story.  Awe.  You might find this hard to believe, but I was a geeky kid.  I was "in" to books, and listening to the radio, and watching television.  The
Apollo 11 mission was a week of unmitigated joy.

The Apollo glory moments were late at night and early in the morning.  I remember my parents allowing me to stay up late, watching the landing and moon walk sprawled out on the foot of their bed, viewing Armstrong, Aldren, and Cronkite on a black and white portable TV.  It was always Cronkite.  I can still see that TV.  It was big for a portable.  General Electric.  Blue case.  Antenna on top.

I don't remember how long I was able to keep my eyes open, but those awake moments were unforgettable.

Man's greatest adventure.  A kid's memory of sharing a special moment and history with the family.

Friday, July 19, 2019

I Still Don't Get It

I use the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport interchange all the time.  This week, I had my first experience with the new South Valley Parkway in the Nanticoke area.  Both feature roundabouts, and for the life of me, I can't figure out PennDot's fascination with these things.

Drivers don't like them.  They're confusing.  They take up a lot of space.  I see nothing wrong with a nice, clean intersection with a well timed and smart traffic light.  PennDot says the roundabouts are safer and they claim to have the statistics to back them up.

It seems to me the goal is to establish roads and intersections that make drivers feel comfortable and secure.  A roundabout is counter to that way of thinking.

In a stunning display of common sense, PennDot just announced it is abandoning plans for a roundabout along Route 118 in Luzerne County. 

Regardless, we're stuck with them and we have to get used to roundabouts being part of our lives.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Blackout

We saw it again Saturday night, and it's a subject I've prattled on about before-- the fragility of the American infrastructure.  In this case, it was the power grid.  One transmission line, at one substation fails, and a huge chunk of New York city falls in to darkness.  It took about six hours to fix the problem.

New York's governor was right when he said things like this shouldn't happen.

I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.

The system is old.  It can be easily overwhelmed.  It can become unreliable.  A book written by Ted Koppel showed the American grid is prone to infiltration by unfriendlies.

A fix will cost trillions and no one wants a power generating station next door, and massive lines running overhead.

We will just have to learn to live with the danger.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Games and Greats

The recent passing of Arte Johnson started me thinking about a game show Johnson hosted on NBC for about nine months in 1977 and 1978.  It was completely forgettable.  To boil "Knockout" down to its essence, contestants were shown four items, and they had to guess which one didn't belong and why.  The show was nothing special.  It didn't last long, and I didn't think Johnson was very good.

It seemed like some of the essential elements were there.  Unfortunately, the show never gelled and and audience never took to it.  I wonder if Johnson would have been a better host if he had a better vehicle.

The same goes for another "Laugh In" alumnus, Dick Martin.  He hosted "Mindreaders" on NBC for 22 weeks in 1979 and 1980.  Martin was a funny guy.  Unfortunately, "Mindreaders" was a dog.  Contestants had to guess the way a celebrity would answer a personal question.  Again, Martin wasn't very good.  I think he would have been better if he had a better game on his hands.

Bottom line:  it's tough for a good host to save a bad show.

Peter Marshall of "Hollywood Squares" fame was asked for a few words after game show legend Bill Cullen died in 1990.  Marshall said Cullen's warmth, charm, and talent kept games on the air long after they should have been cancelled.   There is no higher compliment.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Park

Luzerne County manager David Pedri wants to see more people use Riverfront Park, along the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre.  That's admirable.  It's in a beautiful location and you paid $ 20 million for it.

The park held a concert Friday night.  Above is a screen grab from a Newswatch 16 story.

Good crowd.  Not a great crowd.

While the aesthetics are great, the park has some things working against it. 

There is no close and easy parking.

You have to cross that speedway known as North River Street to get there.

Wilkes-Barre has a perceived crime problem.

I don't know what you can do about the parking.  You can't establish a big lot for only a handful of events a year.

You can do better traffic control on North River Street.

You can increase police presence before and after Riverfront park events.

All in all, this area has a lot going for it.  It should work.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Jim Bouton

Jim Bouton died last week.  80.  He had a couple of great years with the New York Yankees in the early 60's.

Jim Bouton is best known for writing an inside baseball book called "Ball Four."  I read it.  I loved it.

On the other hand...

I don't know if they still do, but baseball clubhouses had a sign, which read "What you see here, what you hear here, what you say here, STAYS HERE."

Jim Bouton betrayed a trust.    Yes, it was just tales of drinking and carousing.  Worse things have been said and done, written about, gossiped about...

"Ball Four" was written and published a very long time ago.  Time passes.  Sins forgiven.

It's still a tough one.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Andy's Angles: The Base

The Scranton Nay Aug Park tree house was closed for months because it was attached to rotting trees.  Steel now holds it up, and I hope it's around for a very long time.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

About the Cover: Treehouse

The City of Scranton needs help in several areas, and there are plenty of projects worthy of attention.

I guess there are higher priorities than a tree house at Nay Aug Park, but I'm glad they came up with the money to fix it.  Everybody loves it.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Weary

I'm really tired.

I know politics is a huge part of the news.  Even people like me, who are news junkies and are fascinated by the process, think the presidential election campaign is too soon, too much, too fast.

The focus of today's entry is the infiltration into weather and sports.  Everything goes through the filter.

Is there any escape?  Is there any aspect of American life where we can just relax, have fun, and forget about taking sides?


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Why?

Veterans with sensitivities don't like them.

Parents with young children don't like them.

Early risers don't like them.

Pet owners don't like them.

The elderly don't like them.

People who value quiet neighborhoods don't like them.

Medical personnel and hospital emergency room workers don't like them.

Firefighters don't like them.

Police officers don't like them.

Yet, we have roof rattling fireworks that knock you out of bed.

Why?

Follow the money.

Some state legislators say they are open to changing the law.  That's code for "Yes, we'll pretend to be concerned, and then we'll keep the law that brings in more money so we can throw it around and make it look like we're doing something."

Maybe a little boy would be alive today, and a family would still have its home.

There are plenty of fireworks displays put on by the experts, and they're spectacular.  That's enough.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Butt Out!

There are styrofoam bans, plastic bag bans, plastic straw bans, plastic utensil bans...  I understand that.  I get that.

Why isn't there more talk about cigarette butts?  They're everywhere.  They never degrade.  And, it seems like people are more prone to flicking a cigarette butt out a car window than a spork.

Smoking bans in Pennsylvania seem to have stalled.  There are bills in the legislature to get rid of all the exemptions in the weak and current law.  I don't expect them to advance.

In spite of the bans that exist, we still seem to be buried in cigarette butts.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Carded!

The sign greeted me as I walked in to one of my favorite supermarkets.  Its shoppers club will continue, but the chain is phasing out the cards and key tags.  You will now enter your phone number on a little key pad at the register.

I'll miss the little chime that sounded when the electronic reader recognized the card.  On the other hand it is more convenient.

Problem:  I signed up for the shopper's club many years ago, and I didn't remember the phone number I used.

My most recent visit was at 4 AM, and there was no one in line behind me.  I asked the polite and patient cashier if I could try the phone number thing, explaining that I've had a lot of phone numbers over the years.

First try:  nothing.

I nailed it on the second!  I was amazed.

I would anticipate every chain will be going in the plastic-less direction in the months to come.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Next?



The recent resignation of Scranton mayor Bill Courtright started me thinking about mayors I've covered since my professional career began.

Eugene Hickey was the first, a nice man, very low key.  A lot of things, bad things, happened on his watch.  Two of the biggest were the energy crisis and Scranton's population slide.  Hickey can't be blamed for the first.  He might have  been able to help with the second.  Oppenheim's closed on Hickey's watch.  Again, not his fault.  The idea for a downtown mall, with the working title of Westgate, started during Hickey's one term in city hall.

Jim McNulty was next.  Love him, or hate him, you have to admit McNulty thought big.  Who could forget McNulty's inaugural ball in the empty Oppenheim building because he wanted to show Al Boscov what that building looked like filled with people.  The mall thing received a lot of attention.  McNulty also floated the idea for a downtown arena.   Steamtown USA arrived, and failed.  We saw heavyweight boxing matches, movie filming and several other media events during McNulty's one term.  It was fun.

By the way, the Oppenheim stunt was a great idea.  Boscov passed because the building was too small, too old, and it had an old style valet parking garage.

Unfortunately, McNulty was not a traditional mayor, not a nuts and bolts guy.  That opened the door for David Wenzel.  Wenzel approached the office with his typical quiet dignity and class.  The mall did make some progress during Wenzel's single term.  Other than that, there was a general feeling the city was stagnating.  Wenzen didn't seek reelection.

Enter Jimmy Connors-- a people person if there ever was one,  Media friendly.  Approachable.  Accessible.  The mall opened and the Globe closed on Connors' watch.  The city was in major financial trouble.  Connors never raised taxes.  Perhaps, that was a mistake.  A switch back to the Democrat party didn't earn many friends.  Connors finished third in the 2001 Democratic primary.

Chris Doherty was next.  A young professional, Doherty brought a youthful enthusiasm to the office.  The financial problems remained.  Scranton voters sent him back two more times, and after that third term, Doherty declared it was time for a change.

Scranton voters chose Bill Courtright to be their next mayor.  He seemed to get a handle on the city's finances, mainly by selling off city assets.  Outside of his investigation and felonies, Courtright really wasn't much of a headline maker.  As I said last week, Courtright was there, most of the time, when you needed him.

Here is my point.  Other than McNulty, with a little bit of Connors and Doherty, Scranton hasn't had many true leaders-- cheerleaders who will get the place noticed, and in a good way.  These days, it isn't enough to balance the checkbook. You have to get people to believe in themselves and their city.

Think of that as the new mayor selection process moves along.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Andy's Angles: Mixed Feelings

I've always had mixed feelings about cell phone antennas.  We depend on wireless communications for information and safety.  On the other hand they sure are ugly, especially when bolted to the frint and sides of one of the most interesting buildings in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

I would hope the day is coming when we can make these things smaller and less obtrusive.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Andy's Angles: The Kirby

Above is an early morning photo of the FM Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Public Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

Back when this was the rotting Paramount Theater, WARM did a day's worth of broadcasts here,l promoting the effort to turn the old theater in to what you see now.  I was proud we could help get the ball rolling.  During the day, I had the opportunity to wander around inside and take a good look around.  Fascinating place.  They don't build them like that any more.

I will admit to not being a fan of the modern awning and lighted zipper running across the front.  I didn't think it fit with the character of the building when it was installed, and time has not changed my opinion.  The lights do add some vitality to the square, so there is at least one positive here.

I'm glad it was saved.  Can we do the same with the Irem Temple, the rest of the Stegmaier complex,  and the Market Street train station?  Please?

Friday, July 5, 2019

Check, Please!



I've never been to Buffalo Wild Wings.  Published reports last week say the chain is getting rid of several slow selling menu items, in favor of making the remaining food better.

What a concept!

In a related story, Pizza Hut said it is going back to its classic logo, in an attempt to boost sales.  Good luck.  What about improving the food and improving service?

Buffalo Wild Wings and Pizza Hut are not alone.

I ran in to a radio friend at a supermarket last week.  This chain has a great hot section, in addition to the usual deli fare.  My friend said he decided to hit the supermarket because things were a mess at the fast food restaurant across the street and he grew weary of standing in line.

I know the restaurant business is a tough one, and fast food can be difficult.  The home office is always dropping new and complicated menu items on you, and good help is hard to find.

The business simply appears to be in a downward spiral.  Waits are too long.  Orders are bagged incorrectly.

It really shouldn't be this hard.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Independence Day

A sports talk radio host, a few years ago, called Independence Day the "holiday of bad decisions."

Unfortunately, there are plenty of drunk driving incidents, crashes, drownings, and people injured by fireworks.

Please, remember what the day is all about.  Celebrate freedom, and have fun.

But, be careful.  Please.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Sad, and Angry

Scranton mayor Bill Courtright resigned, admitted to being corrupt, and is going to jail.

According to court papers, it appears Courtright was running a criminal enterprise from the day be became mayor in 2014, shaking people down for money, political donations, work on his home and business.

You think that with all the corrupt politicians in trouble with the law in recent years, Courtright would have traveled the straight and narrow path.  He didn't.  He pays the price.  We all do.

There is even less faith in government and the political system.  A small part of me thinks this puts a black eye on Scranton, with businesses less inclined to locate and grow here.  The big part of me knows businesses move in for cheap labor, cheap utilities and cheap land.  Corruption and thievery don't make much of a difference.  If businesses based decisions on corruption, northeastern Pennsylvania would be a desert.

My dealings with Bill Courtright were always professional, cordial.  I didn't think he was an inspirational leader, but he was there when he needed to be, most of the time, and the city didn't go bankrupt on his watch.  Our last encounter was on the morning of a springtime tornado.  He appeared to care, and I believe it was genuine.

This isn't the first case of high level corruption in our area.  Sadly, it won't be the last.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

WABC

For many years, it was THE most listened to radio station in the country.  They did things first and they did them right.  Great music, great jingles, great personalities, great promotion.  Big signal.  WABC had it all.

By the late 70's, the market was becoming fragmented.  FM was becoming hot.  WABC was losing its way.  The disco experiment bombed.  It was a solid adult contemporary station for a few years before ABC threw in the towel and went talk in 1982.

ABC sold it several years ago.  A company called Cumulus sold WABC last week to a guy who made his fortune in supermarkets and real estate.  He now dabbles in radio.  $ 12.5 million.  Amazing low, but then again, WABC is at the bottom of the ratings with a line up of second rate talk shows.

The new owner promises to restore some of the luster.  I wish him luck.  No one in their right mind believes WABC will be what it was in the 60's and early 70's, but it sure can be doing better than what it is now.

Monday, July 1, 2019

July

I used to love July.  Sunny.  Hot.  Warm nights.  Long days.  A great time to be outside.

Now, I dislike July for the same reasons I loved it as a kid.

Add to the mix, noisy fireworks legalized by a state government that is looking for cash in every vice, nook and cranny.

I'm sure working overnights and early mornings has something to do with it, but I'm not complaining.  The schedule works for me.

I attempt to soften the blow by taking a day off early in the month, and a week off at the end.

August can be nearly as difficult, but you can begin to smell fall in the air.