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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Amazing

Now, more than ever, I'm convinced that history will judge the people of this era very poorly.  We are not the greatest generation.  It was made abundantly clear yesterday morning.

I had to make a life sustaining trip to a mini mart.  It's only a two mile trip, and it takes just a few minutes.

However, the trip took twice as long, as the road was filled with potholes and simply the worst patch jobs ever.

I tried a different route on the way home and it was twice as bad.  Both roads are legendary for being poorly maintained.  In fact, one was so bad a few years ago that COLTS made its buses take another route.

I'm surmising there are a number of reasons.  Heavy traffic, poor construction, bad drainage.  I suspect apathy is at the top of the list.  Those two roads have been bad for years.  Residents and business owners on the route put up with it.  People in government don't care.  They cannot be embarrassed.

I shake my head in sadness for civilization.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Election Days

I've been doing a lot of voting lately, more than once.  It was all perfectly legal.

This is the time of year when corporations hold their annual meetings, and elect boards of directors.

I'm no Rockefeller, but I have done a little saving and investing.  The notices come through the e-mail account from the company that manages my money.  The companies ask for my vote, and I always comply.

I recognize many board members.   Others are unknown.  It all comes down to this.  If the company is performing well, the directors get my vote.  If the company is foundering, forget about it.

I hasten to add that it really doesn't make much of a difference.  Giant investment firms control most of the shares, and therefore, most of the votes.  Still, I feel I have to perform my duties and responsibilities as a partial owner.

I will be heard!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

New Owners

Published reports say former Yankee and admitted cheater Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez are in the running to buy the New York Mets.

Some New Yorkers and tabloid sports writers are up in arms.  After all, Rodriguez was kicked out of baseball for a year for taking performance enhancing drugs.  He was suspected of doing it, lied about it, was suspended, sued baseball, and eventually came clean.  Rodriguez has been trying to rehabilitate himself for years, entering the mainstream world of broadcasting for FOX and ESPN.

What can you say about J-Lo?  Beautiful woman.  Talented, but she has the reputation for being a selfish diva.

This one barely registers on my "I don't care" meter.  baseball is a mess.  The recent cheating scandal involving the Astros and the Red Sox was poorly handled.  More teams will qualify for the playoffs, cheapening the regular season.  Oakland plays in a dump and the team should have been moved to another city years ago.  Home runs have been flying out of parks the last few years and you're not going to convince me the ball isn't juiced.

Good for Lopez and Rodriguez!  If they come up with the money, let them have the Mets.  They can't do any worse than current management.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Celebrity Corner

"The Price is Right" announcer, George Gray, is recovering from a heart attack.  No one knows when the show will go back in to production.  Let's hope for a speedy recovery.  USA Today reports it was some fairly serious stuff, but the worst appears to be over.  the paper says Gray is 53 and ran a mile the day before his heart attack.  Gray also hosted the syndicated "The Weakest Link" and did a great job.

Of course, if you are of my era, there is only one TPIR announcer and that is the legendary Johnny Olson.  He was the best game show announcer-- ever.

Richard Gere, who has relatives here in our area, is a father again, at the age of 70.  I guess there is still some hope.

Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator is apparently having some health problems.  North Korea won't say.  There are unconfirmed reports the dictator is brain dead, not a joke.  It reminds me of the days when the Soviets would say one of their leaders has a cold and the funeral would be the next day.

Record ratings for the NFL draft on ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network.  It's just more proof Americans will watch anything, and we really do miss sports.  I would like to be a network office when televised sports get the green light.  The orders for commercials will pour in.

I know's I've said it before.  I really miss David Letterman and Craig Ferguson.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Andy's Angles: Quiet Pittston

This is a recent early morning view of Main Street in downtown Pittston.  I'm looking north, not far from the Tomato Festival lot.

As I have noted here before, I've really become a fan of Pittston in recent years.  While some neighborhoods need a lot of work, downtown is looking much better.  Some horrible old buildings have been torn down.  Other old buildings have been renovated.  There are some great small businesses and plenty of room to park.

On top of that, there is the Saint Patrick's Parade to mark the end of the winter and the Tomato Festival at the tail end of summer.

Good things happen here.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Andy's Angles: Night Bridge

I have plenty of shots of this bridge during the day, but very few at night.

This is the Water Street bridge, also known as the Fireman's Memorial Bridge between Pittston and West Pittston, over  the Susquehanna River.  I'm on the east side.

There was some fancy lighting here for a while, but I understand it fell victim to vandals.  I wish they'd come up with a better idea and give it another shot.  There aren't many long steel truss bridges left, and this one deserves to be highlighted.

Friday, April 24, 2020

April

April can be a cruel month.  This year is no exception.  In fact, it was worse than most.

As I write this, there is an occasional snow flake falling outside my window.  It's in the low 40's.  It should be 60.

Spring teased us with a few nice days.  Winter hangs on.

I usually have my bike out by this time of year, navigating the pothole filled streets of my town and the ones surrounding it.  The rides will be a little more difficult this year, thanks to all the sloppy work done in a poorly performed utility replacement project.

It is a bit of a moot point.  As regular readers will now, I ride in the early morning and only when it's warmer than 50 degrees.  We're not even close, and the long range forecast doesn't give reason for optimism.

As has been said many times, many ways recently, it can't last forever.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Eb

Tom Lester died Monday.  He played Eb Dawson, the farm hand on "Green Acres."  The series ran for six years and 170 episodes, starting in 1965.  Lester was in 150 of them.

Eb was a sweet and naive guy, but he really knew how the broken down farm owned by Oliver Douglas worked.  Douglas really needed him around.

I should note, "Green Acres" was the favorite television show of "NewsRadio" character Dave Nelson.

IMDB.com says Lester was a college chemistry major who was a teacher before he tried his hand at acting.  I did not know that.

What makes Lester's passing even more sad is that he was the last surviving "Green Acres" cast member.

Tom Lester was 81 years old.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The First

You know you're old when you remember the first Earth Day.

It was 50 years ago today, April 22, 1970.

Earth Day was a big deal way back when.  Cronkite's "CBS Evening News" had jumped on the bandwagon and was doing regular environmental reports.  It was the hot topic in "My Weekly Reader," one of the highlights of third grade.

An aside-- I really loved "My Weekly Reader."  Yes, I was a news junkie, even as a kid.  It promoted reading and a knowledge of current events.  I do know some schools regularly have students peruse newspapers.  There are television newscasts aimed at young people, but it's not the same as actually reading something.  You would be amazed at how many young people I encounter who have no knowledge of the world around them.  That's criminal.  Shame on the students, and shame on the schools who aren't promoting things like that.

End of sermon.

In recent years, I've always felt that Earth Day is one of those "one and done" observances.  Environmental issues are front and center for one day.  We then go back to living our normal lives when it's over.

Let's try to be different this year.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Enjoy the View

I was tooling around on the internet the other day, buying some household essentials.

A computer monitor, not essential, caught my eye.

It was eight inches wider than the one I currently use at home, it was a name brand, it had speakers included, and the price was fantastic.  I clicked  and it arrived about four days later.

I'm not a technical whiz.  My philosophy when it comes to my home set up is " if it isn't broken, don't fix it."  Leave well enough alone.  I don't want to start tinkering with things and mess up my operation.  It's all working great-- the computer, the monitor, the printer, the router, the wifi...  Don't play around!

However, the extra wide monitor was too good to pass up.

I attacked the project after work Saturday morning, and it really was a breeze.

We have tons of wide monitors at the office, and I took them for granted.  Having one at home makes a world of difference.

This is something I should have done a lot sooner.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Tough Lessons Learned



Carol Dennis died last week.  Her husband, Bob,  was a videographer at the old, old WDAU/WYOU for many years, and was a great guy.  Most days, Bob was partnered with the legendary David DeCosmo.  Both helped me find my way around the Luzerne County Courthouse and the surrounding area during my days as a young radio pup.

Indulge me as I tell a couple few stories.

I got wind that I was going to be the victim of an economic cutback at WYOU in 1996.  I was working with Bob on the day the axe was to fall.  As we rode in the truck to an assignment, I told Bob my demise was near.  I remember exactly where we were at the time, Interstate 81 south, near the Pittston/Dupont exit.  Bob assured me that I was a good and valued employee, very versatile, and skilled at many tasks.  Bob added nothing would happen to me, and if it did, he would help me carry my things to my car.   When I got fired later that day, Bob felt worse than I did.

I'm not sure exactly how it started, but Bob and I had nicknames for each other.  Tiger and Pumpkin.  He was Tiger.  If memory serves, the names came from a fight two other staffers had.  Bob and I had nothing to do with it, but somehow, the nickname thing stuck.

Bob died in the summer of 2007.  When I arrived at the funeral home for Bob's viewing, Carol looked at me and said, "Hello Pumpkin."  We both smiled and at a time like that, we really appreciated it because smiles were hard to come by.

And finally, the toughest lesson of all.


The photo you see above was taken at another videographer's 50th birthday party, several years ago.  A friend presented me with the prints.  I didn't go.  It was a Sunday afternoon.  I was coming off a long overnight shift and I was too tired to move.

It's a decision I will always regret because it would have been the last time I would have seen Bob, pictured here in the dark shirt on the far left.  He died from cancer shortly afterward.

On a Facebook page, several of my former coworkers are taking comfort in the fact Bob and Carol are together again.  I will echo that sentiment.  They were two special people, and I'm glad I knew them.

My sympathy to Carol's family and friends.


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Andy's Angles: Lackawanna Avenue

Another from the deserted downtown Scranton series...

I'm traveling east on Lackawanna Avenue.  The Marketplace at Steamtown is on the right.  The bridge over the avenue is straight ahead.

It's not reflected here, but I've long complained about the darkness of Lackawanna Avenue.  Some of the street lights have been repaired.  It's still better than it was, but there is still a long way to go.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Andy's Angles: Electric City





I never get tired of looking at the Electric City sign, high atop a building on Linden Street.

It's one of our area's signature elements, and I smile any time I see it.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Media Friday

Plenty of sports today...

Dan Fouts had been on the number two CBS NFL team.  The network declined to renew the contract of the former Chargers quarterback,  It's unfortunate.  I always liked his work.  There are plenty of networks doing college and professional football these days, or at least reporting on it.  Fouts has talent.  He'll hook on somewhere.

CBS has grabbed Charles Davis from FOX to replace Fouts.  He's competent, but average in my book.

NBC signed New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.  It's expected this will be Brees' last year, and he'll join NBC for the 2021 season.  The jury is still out on this one.  I've seen Brees interviewed many times.  He doesn't seem to have that "jump through the screen" personality.  I fear this could be another Joe Montana hire.  NBC picked up Montana after he retired.  Big name.  Great marquee value.  Unfortunately, Montana had nothing to say.

At least, there is the Tony Romo model.  New hires know what's expected of them-- talk way too much, try to predict plays, be enthusiastic.

The XFL won't be back in 2021.  Bankruptcy declared Monday.  It's unfortunate.  ABC/ESPN and FOX did the games and had no problems experimenting with new things.  Some were gimmicky.  Some had merit and should be explored a little more.  It was nice having that television petri dish called the XFL.

I still believe springtime football can work in this country, but this is not the time to attempt it again.

ESPN is mulling over more changes to its Monday Night Football booth.  Nothing leaked to the media seems to be the magic wand ESPN is looking for.

NBC Sports Network has picked up the last two hours of the Rich Eisen radio show.  Smart move.  Interesting and very listenable on a daily basis.  FOX Sports radio discontinued carrying the show.  It's still on satellite radio and YouTube.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports was touting a major exclusive all day this week.  The story?  A member of the Rams has tested Positive for Covid-19.  It was horrible and tasteless behavior on Glazer's part.

The legendary Harry Reasoner was born 75 years ago today.




Thursday, April 16, 2020

75

Sunday marked the 75th anniversary of the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

If you ever get the chance, and it's not that far away, visit the Roosevelt home and museum in Hyde Park, NY.  If you didn't appreciate the man's accomplishments, you will after a tour.

Roosevelt led a nation out of the depression and a world war with a failing body.  His old style wheel  chair must have been awfully uncomfortable.  The size and weight of his leg braces  is amazing.  I don't know how anyone would be able to move with those things.

It's a majestic setting along the Hudson River, and the house is set well back from the road.  Our tour guide told us how Roosevelt would often attempt to "walk" from the house to the road to rebuild his strength after polio.

He never made it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

It's Over

Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination last week, so that means Scranton native Joe Biden will be the nominee.  It was pretty clear Democrats settled on Biden after Super Tuesday in early March.

So, what does Biden bring to the party?  Experience and a sense of steadiness.  People seem to be looking for that.  Minuses?  Biden has always been gaffe prone, and if you are seeking change, Biden might not be your guy.  He has pledged to choose a woman for the second slot on the ticket.  That hasn't happened since 1984, so you can consider that change.

Biden will be 78 years old in November, so the VP choice will be critical, and he has to get it right.

Sanders endorsed Biden Monday.  It will be interesting to see how much Sanders will have in shaping party policy.  It will be doubly interesting to see if Sanders supporters are comfortable in the Biden camp, and if they will show up at the polls in November.

Understatement of the year:  This year's campaign will be bruising, expensive and nasty.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Tuesday Scrapple

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers changed their uniforms.  The "alarm clock" style numbers are gone, replaced by a more traditional style.  I didn't have a problem with the "alarm clock" style.  It was different.

The Atlanta Falcons are tweaking their uniforms.  It will take more than a tweak to remove the stench of the worst Super Bowl performance of all time.

In my book, Supertramp's "Breakfast in America" is one of the best albums of all time.

The great Tony Bruno is back with a daily afternoon radio show on Sirius/XM.  It's wonderful.  Bruno is along the most talented of the genre.

I bought the "NewsRadio" boxed DVD set a couple of months ago.  I remembered the fifth and final season as being awful.  As I watched the DVD's, "awful" is actually a compliment.  Those shows were hideous.

I'm not a big fan of hot weather, but those 60's last week felt great.

CBS Sports declined to renew Dan Fouts' contract.  Bad move.  I'll have more to say on broadcasting in the days to come.

Pet peeve:  Oversauced, overcooked pasta.

Howard Stern is getting rave reviews for his Tom Brady interview.  Yes, Stern has all the skills.  But, remember that he has the luxury of time and he's on censor-free satellite radio.

I don't care that Whoopi and Rosie didn't get along during their time on "The View."  There were some new tabloid stories last week.

"Modern Family"  wrapped up a hugely successful run last week.  11 years.  250 episodes.  I'm sorry, but I could never get that series to work for me.

Happiness is buying the last bag of baked Cheetos out of the office vending machine.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Apollo 13

Today is the 50th anniversary of the explosion that crippled Apollo 13 on its way to the moon.

I vividly remember Walter Cronkite's grave tones on CBS, explaining the accident and what happens next.  It didn't look good.  There was just a narrow window of opportunity for a safe return to earth.  It was a frightening time.

Of all the things that happened that week, one of the things I remember most is my third grade teacher leading our class in prayer for the safe return of the astronauts.  Remember, this was public school.  If a teacher tried that today, there would likely be a letter of reprimand in your file-- or worse!

As it turned out, the astronauts made it back safely.  We learned NASA can be a fantastic problem solver.  What was nearly a disaster became a spectacular triumph.

You could hear the national sigh of relief as the astronauts were plucked from their capsule in the Pacific, near Samoa.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Andy's Angles: Easter Lights




A little color for Easter Sunday.

This is the display atop the Scranton Live building at spruce and Adams.

It might be tough, but try to enjoy the holiday and everything it stands for.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Andy's Angles: Wyoming Avenue

This is a shot of a deserted downtown Scranton at a time when it is normally deserted anyway.  I'm on Wyoming Avenue, in front of St. Peter's Cathedral, looking south toward the Marketplace at Steamtown. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

So Close

Regular blog readers know I'm fascinated by Fred Silverman.  He ran the programming departments of CBS, ABC, and then NBC before forming a production company of his own.  He is responsible for keeping CBS at the top and building ABC in to a powerhouse.  The NBC years were not as great.

Silverman died in January.  I've been reading a lot about him, plus watching hours of interviews on You Tube.  He had a passion for the medium, and it comes across during the interviews.  Yes, Silverman is responsible for a lot of jiggle and schlock shows, but you cannot deny that he was one of the most influential programming executives in the history of television.

I thought I knew it all, but I recently came across a fascinating nugget.  When he arrived at ABC in the mid 1970's, Silverman inherited a disaster of a morning show called "AM America."  By the way, I didn't think it was that bad, but what did I know?  I was a high school kid at the time.

"AM America" crashed and burned in ten months, and ABC was ready to give up on morning television, according to Silverman.  The plan was to give the time back to ABC's local stations.  Silverman talked the big brass in to giving it another shot, with the entertainment division producing the show.  Silverman came up with the concept of something a little lighter than the "CBS Morning News" and "Today."  He wanted a warm host and a stable of contributors.  "Good Morning America" was born.  It grew in to a major success and the rest is history.

Fred Silverman does admit to a mistake.  It took them a while to find the right companion to David Hartman.

I knew Silverman helped shape American prime time viewing, but I had no idea he was such a force in the morning.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Passe

When I started in broadcast news, there were still some television news crews around here shooting stories on film.  By the time I jumped from radio to television, film was gone-- but most of my old station's archives were sitting in film cans in the station's basement.

There have been rapid changes in news gathering technology during my television time.  When i started, we shot on video tape, then discs, and now cards.

Today's entry deals with terminology.

People outside the biz still say "film."

I still catch myself saying "tape."  "Record" is now the preferred word.  We no longer film or tape anything.

Graphics is something entirely different. 

When I started at WNEP, is was called Chyron.  Then it was Viz, and then Flight.  Now, it's back to Chyron.  Even though we haven't used Viz in years, I still say it quite a bit.

Learning a new system is more than training and pushing the right keys.  It's calling it the proper thing.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Out of Touch

Hall & Oates is one of those acts I always take for granted.  They were everywhere in the early and mid 80's-- impossible to avoid.  That's not really a bad thing.  They were hugely successful and most of the music was pretty good.

I flipped the radio to a music station on the way to work Monday morning, and "Out of Touch" started pouring out of my speakers.  It had been a while since I heard it.  All the words came back, and I started thinking to myself how much I actually liked the song-- now that I rarely hear it.

A Wiki search shows "Out of Touch" was the top song in the country for two weeks in December of 1984.  It was their last number one single.

I blogged recently how hearing ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" took me back to a better time and place.  "Out of Touch" doesn't conjure up the same feelings in my head and heart.  Still, it was a pleasant four minutes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Supreme Achievement

When it comes to television accomplishments, there was "Gunsmoke," and there was the rest.

Last week marked the 45th anniversary of the airing of the last original episode.  20 years on the air.  635 episodes.  Yes, 635!  Back in the day, series filmed 39 original episodes, and went in to reruns for 13 summer weeks.

It was classic drama every week-- good versus evil.  Matt Dillon would ride in at the end and save the day.  It was formula television, but it was just so watchable.

It was the favorite show of CBS chairman William Paley and his wife, and that helped keep the show on the air.  It didn't need much help.  It was frequently among the most popular shows on the network.

"Gunsmoke" remains the longest lasting prime time live action scripted series in American history.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Politically Incorrect

The recent passing of a former radio co-worker started me thinking about the old days, and how some innocent behavior back then would really land you in hot water today.

It started well before my tine at WARM, and it was a big part of my 80's era.  I don't recall the exact name of the tourist promotion agency that sponsored it, but every winter morning, a woman would call the station with that day's ski report.  We would record it and broadcast a couple of times in the morning.  WARM didn't name her.  She referred to herself, on the air as the "Pocono Snow Bunny."  Looking back, it was sexist.  At the time, no one said a word.  It was harmless, and a pretty good marketing tool.  People might not have remembered every word of the ski report, but they knew it was delivered by the "Pocono Snow Bunny."

If you tried that today, there would be picketing at the studio.

Jumping ahead, I'm a huge fan of the 90's sitcom "NewsRadio."  97 episodes, and most were clever and wickedly funny.  Having said that, the Jon Lovitz episodes were beyond awful.

The show was more about the office personnel interactions rather than the business of radio, and the vast majority of things that happened in that office would land you a trip to the Human Resources department today.  It's almost like "NewsRadio" is a training film on how NOT to act in the workplace.

Back then, funny.  Now, serious.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Classic Andy's Angles: Baltimore

Not much time for anything new this week, so we dig in to the archives for this shot of Baltimore.

It was my 90's "go to" spot when I had a few days off.  It was far without being too far, inexpensive, plenty to do, an easy trip, and I'd visit Harrisburg friends either to or from.

I believe the shot was taken from the observatory of the World Trade Center on the Inner Harbor.  The shot looks north, and that's the tail end of the Jones Falls Expressway at the center.

Sorry it's so grey.  It was one of those humid Baltimore mornings.


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Andy's Angles: About the Cover

I haven't been chasing many trains lately.  I could be wrong, but I haven't seen many CN engines around since it sold its local track.  So, when I saw this one in Taylor recently, I had to jump out of my car and take a few pictures.

This isn't a particularly remarkable shot, but I do like how the dark red looks against the night sky.

Friday, April 3, 2020

They Did It

They said they were going to do it, and Tuesday, the National Football League made it official.  Expanded playoffs.  14 teams will now make it in to the post season, and that's nearly half of the league.

NBC and CBS each get an additional game.  The league gets more money.  More teams and players have a shot at the Super Bowl.  Fans will be happy.

I'm in the minority here by saying this is simply an awful idea.

It renders most of the regular season insignificant, much like the NBA and NHL did years ago.  The NFL playoffs were special because it was hard to get there.

Not any more.

The new system could see an 8-8 team make the post season, and that is simply wrong.

It's been said many times:  follow the money.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Spring

My camera phone was out in the car when I saw it, but this is what I discovered during a recent trip to a drug store-- new wiffle bats and balls.

Getting a new set was always one of the joys of late winter/early spring.  I loved those after school backyard games-- still a chill in the air.  The yard was too muddy to play in, but we did it anyway.

After a few games, the bats would flatten out and eventually split.  The balls wound up with electrical tape wrapped around them to heal the cracks.  Eventually, you'd have to get new ones, and it was no big deal.  The balls and bats did't cost much and they provided hours of fun.  It was a wise investment.

The store display appeared to be full.  I hope the joy of wiffle ball isn't lost on the current crop of kids.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Under Appreciated

At a time like this, I am reminded of what the great film critics Siskel & Ebert had to say about James Bond, action,  and adventure films.  "If you have a good villain, you have a good movie."

 As I have said here before, that also applies to television.

For seven years, David Schramm played Roy Biggins, and was the villain on "Wings."   Roy owned "AeroMass," the rival airline to "Sandpiper Air."  He was crude, and rude and obnoxious, occasionally showing a human side.  Schramm made the most of every line, every scene.  He was a great villain.

He was one of those secondary characters, often overlooked and always under appreciated.

David Schramm died Saturday.  He was 73.

Mr. Schramm, thank you for the laughs.