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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Ken Osmond

I'm going to use the recent death of Ken Osmond as a jumping off point to other things.

Osmond played Eddie Haskell on "Leave it to Beaver."  He wasn't my favorite character.  That honor goes to Beaver's pal, Larry Mondello.

Anyway, everyone takes something different from "Beaver."  I'm always struck by the school scenes.  They were such rigid, joyless places.  Yes, those are the schools of my youth.  I'm sure it's different now, and you're supposed to learn at school-- not have a laugh riot.  Although, I'm convinced schools can be educational and entertaining and engaging at the same time.  Unfortunately, I didn't see any of those.

CBS called Osmond's character the closest thing to a villain "Leave it to Beaver" had.

I'll disagree.  I cringe when I see Beaver's schools.

In a similar vein, "A Christmas Story" is one of the most over rated movies in American history.  Yes, it's cute.  Once.

The scene that hits home is watching kids play in the snow in those heavy wool coats and pants.  You couldn't move.  They were uncomfortable.  They weren't very warm.  They took forever to put on and take off.  These were the days before fleece, fiber and Thunsulate.  Puffy coats were decades away.  I'm convinced those wool snow suits are the reason an entire generation hates winter.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Late Start

How great it felt to pull on the Spandex again!

Outside of 2012, when I bought my bike in August, this is my latest start to biking season.

Long story short-- I bike early in the early morning, very early, as long as it's warmer than 50 degrees.  This has been a chilly spring, especially on my days off.

Friday morning, it was time.

I made multiple loops through my little town, 10.9 miles.  I believe it's my longest opening day trip ever, and I was shocked.

I haven't been in a gym since early March.  It takes a long time to get in shape, but a very short time to regress.  Since the gym closed, I've been on the cheese steak, Cheetos, Chex Mix, pizza, and submarine sandwich diet. Hey, I support local businesses!   I thought I'd do a couple two, three miles and call it a day.  The thigh muscle burn disappeared quickly.  The creaky knees loosened up, and I had a great time.  In fact, I could have done a couple more, but I didn't want to over do it on my maiden cruise.

So, what are the plans for the rest of the summer?  I'd be shocked if I was back in a gym before the general election in November.  In years past, I alternated gym and bike days.  I anticipate more rides, and shorter distances this year.  It seems to make sense, at least in my head.  The mileage will come out roughly the same.

So, thoughts on opening day?  Nothing new on my end.  The roads are a mess.  A water line replacement project in my town should be reclassified as vandalism.  The patching job has been horrible, and we've waited far too long for a real repaving.  I'm still not sold on LED streetlights.   They don't give nearly as much light as the old ones.  Stray cats are everywhere.  What happened to street sweeping?  Gravel abounds.

In spite of it all, it was really nice to be back on two wheels, and let's hope for a mild summer, with plenty of pedaling ahead.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2020 will be unlike any other in American history, and that is an understatement.

While it might not be the barbecue and family gathering weekend of recent years, the core sentiments remain-- remember those who gave their lives for our country, remember those who served and survived, and are no longer with us.

As I have said here in the past, Memorial Day has morphed in to a second Veterans Day, a day when we thank all those who wore the uniform.  I'm okay with that.  Those men and women cannot be thanked enough.

I'll close the serious part as I always do:  "Please, remember what the day is all about."

This is the last in my mini series of depth of field experiments.  I should note that all the photos were taken at Cathedral Cemetery on Oram Street in Scranton.  The staff really had the place looking great, and they should be commended.  Also, a huge thank you to all the volunteers who placed flags here, and at cemeteries throughout our area.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Andy's Angles: Up Close

It's not the greatest photo in the world, but a textbook example of what the experts tell you to do.

First, compose in thirds.  The left third is an in focus flag.  Grass in the middle.  Deliberately out of focus flags and trees everywhere else.

The blur gives a sort of "infinity" effect.  Infinity is rather appropriate.  There were so many brave men and women responsible for what we have today.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Andy's Angles: Depth of Field

This is a photograph at the same time, place and angle as the one you saw here yesterday.

Big change.  Foreground focus.  Background blur, perhaps a bit overdone.

I've experimented with the technique before, with limited success.  It worked a little better on this trip.  It's amazing how much a little blur can enhance a photo, and take your eye in the right direction.

I've read of ways to accomplish the same thing through photo editing software, and I might try that down the road.  However, my camera has all sorts of settings.  I might as well learn them and do it the right way.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Memorial Day Weekend


It's the start of Memorial Day weekend-- traditionally the start of the summer season.

Something tells me it's not going to be much of a summer this year.  I hope I'm wrong.

At least, the current situation gives us the opportunity to count our blessings and remember the sacrifices of those who came before us.  I hope we all get a chance to remember the efforts of the people on the front line of the current situation.

I recently set out to capture some scenes appropriate for the weekend.  This one is in full focus.  There will be some variations on the theme throughout the weekend.  Along with the photos, there will be a line or two about technique.  Fair warning:  Some of the photos came out pretty good, even if I do say so myself.  I'm no expert and what you will see here wasn't all that difficult.  YouTube is full of videos that can guide you in the right direction.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Fred and Phyllis

Both Fred Willard and Phyllis George died last week.

Some thoughts...

Willard appeared on my radar in the late 70's, playing the Ed McMahon type sidekick on "Fernwood 2Night" and then "America 2Night."  There are some episodes floating around on YouTube.  Long story short, the shows were take offs on a low rent talk show.  Martin Mull played Barth Gimble, the sleazy host.  Willard's character, Jerry Hubbard was constantly befuddled, and he was too nice for Gimble's antics.

Willard played a lot of those befuddled characters over the years.  Unlike others who have made a career of it, Will Ferrell for example, Willard always did it with warmth and charm, and occasionally some cleverly disguised wit.

Fred Willard was 86.

I do not remember Phyllis George winning the Miss America pageant, but I vividly recall her CBS "NFL Today" days.  That show was a game changer.  Before the "NFL Today" came along, pre game shows were dull and sleepy affairs, comprised mostly of highlights from the previous week's games.    CBS turned the format on its head, putting on a newsy affair, looking ahead rather than behind.

The "NFL Today" fired on all cylinders.  The great Brent Musberger did the NFL news and held it all together.  Irv Cross was the x's and o's guy, providing the nuts and bolts.  George did the interviews and features.-- and they did it all in a half hour.  The early days of the FOX pre game show came close, but nothing matched the "NFL Today."  It became even more of a "must watch" when Jimmy the Greek came on board to predict games.  The NFL wouldn't let him talk about point spreads, but you knew how The Greek felt if he said "little" or "big" check mark next to the teams he favored.

Others have written eloquently on how George broke barriers for women.  She did her job and paved the way for others to follow.

Phyllis George spent a disastrous eight months on the "CBS Morning News."  She was OK.  I think the problems were more of a production issue and CBS really didn't know what it wanted to do in the morning.  There was some hard news success with Diane Sawyer and Bill Kurtis.  Sawyer left for "60 Minutes," and some CBS genius thought it was a good idea to go soft.  How did that work out for you?

Phyllis George died from a blood disorder.  She was only 70 years old.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

MNF

Even though I've been in broadcasting, in one way or another, some things constantly amaze me.

When CBS wanted to replace Scott Pelley on the "Evening News" several years ago, it couldn't attract a big name to the anchor desk.  The network settled on Jeff Glor, who was a solid anchor, but a ratings disappointment.  Glor was pushed aside for Norah O'Donnell after a couple of years.  She hasn't moved the meter much.

As I have always said, the CBS issue isn't an anchor problem.  It gets a horrible lead-in from its affiliates in several big cities, and that really hurts.

I digress.

Today's entry deals with ESPN's Monday Night Football.  For the fourth time in four years, it will have new broadcasters.  This is one of television's signature packages, filled with history and always a ratings grabber.  I still don't know why ESPN can't settle on a team it likes.

Tessitore and McFarland are out.  No one knows who is in.  ESPN said it will be an internal hire-- announcers and commentators from inside the network.  I've heard several names bounced around.  the one who should be at the top of the list, isn't.  Mike Breen.  The worst I can say about the guy is he's vanilla, but some of the best play by play people have been vanilla.  They know how to set up their commentators.  Breen, already ESPN's top NBA guy, is a perfect choice.  He has NFL experience with FOX and NBC.  He did the NY Giants' pre season games.

I can't say this is an original idea on my part.  Rich Eisen, on his radio show, said Breen is the perfect selection, and I agree.

ESPN, do the right thing.  Give Mike Breen the job.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Tough Market to Crack

I read where fast food breakfast sales are down since the pandemic hit, and I get that.  No work.  No school.  No need to grab something fast on your way to your destination.  There is no destination!

I also read where Taco Bell is no longer forcing its franchise holders to offer breakfast.  I tried it.  Once.  That was enough.  Subway threw in the towel a couple of years ago.  You still might find a store open early.  It's rare.

Wendy's started offering breakfast in March, a couple of weeks before the pandemic arrived.  Great timing.  A quick review.  I tried a few things and they are outstanding, but if you want a light breakfast, this isn't the place.  The sandwiches are heavy and filling.

I navigate a commercial strip on my to work.  McDonald's on one side.  Wendy's is directly across the highway.  Cars are lined up around McDonald's.  Wendy's has little traffic.  Why?  I know McDonald's has a decades long head start and it's food is very good.  Is it the coffee?  I don't know.  I never touch the stuff.  Why haven't people discovered Wendy's?

And then, there is Burger King.  It's okay, but it just doesn't seem like a place people seek out.  It's more a stop of convenience, when the other places are too crowded, or if there is nothing else around.  I've never had a problem there, and in fact, I do like some of its food.  It just seems like the King was never able to break through.

There are other places, like Sheetz and Dunkin'.  I do pass by a Sheetz all the time and traffic seems to be way down the last two months.  Dunkin' always draws a crowd

The recent situation has really thrown a monkey wrench in to morning food competition  If you have the time, you're better off with a bowl of Cheerios.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Mayberry

I really think there is an episode of "The Andy Griffith Show" playing on some cable channel, somewhere, 24/7.  You can see it in the morning, the evening, and the overnight.

Eight seasons.  249 episodes.

There is a reason it's "All Andy, All the Time."  It's funny.  People watch.

The show went off the air in 1968 and it was at the top of the ratings at the time.  Reruns immediately followed.

It's not difficult to understand why Andy was popular, then and now.  It was a pleasant escape-- a look at simple and basic small town life.  Cute stories.  Great characters, with steady as a rock Andy right in the middle of it all.

I was too young to realize it at the time, but watching the show in the 60's was a nice way for America to have a temporary escape from a tumultuous time.

Nearly 60 years later, it still serves that purpose.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Andy's Angles: Spy Fishing

I don't fish, but if I did, I suspect it isn't much better than this-- alone, sitting on an overturned bucket, cool but sunny morning.

This is a Wednesday morning picture from Merli Sarnoski Park in Fell Township, just outside of Carbondale.

I'm not a total creeper.  I later approached the gentleman for advice on finding the eagles that call the area home.

By the way, I did see an eagle, but it was too far away for a good photograph.

More from the park in the weeks to come.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Andy's Angles: Moon Over Scranton

You might see this one again in my annual year end review.

This is an early morning shot of Wyoming Avenue in downtown Scranton.  St. Luke's church is on the left.  A full moon shines down over the city on the right.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Little Richard

By now, you know Little Richard died last week.  Bone cancer.  87.

He was a little before my time, but here is what sets him apart.  The man was a pioneer is many ways, the foundation of rock and roll.

When people like Elton John, Michael Jackson, the Beatles and several others point to someone and say "we're here because of him," you have to sit up and take notice.

I should also note a hilarious appearance on "The Drew Carey Show" several years ago, when he sang "Rocky Mountain Way" with Joe Walsh.

Rock lovers owe Little Richard a debt of gratitude and a huge thank you.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Fail. Epic Fail.

It makes me laugh every time I see it.   It makes me angry every time I see it.

News releases on construction projects generate plenty of email at the office.  Today's topic is a release on a rather large undertaking.

It's the wording that gets to me.  It talks about "pavement failure."

No.  The pavement didn't fail.  It looked solid, and free of potholes from the day it was poured until the day it was ripped up.  The issue-- it wasn't even with the surrounding pavement.  Ladies and gentlemen, that's not a pavement failure.  It's a workmanship failure.  It's a quality failure.  It's a work ethic failure.  It's the failure of the inspector who signed off on the project.  It's a system failure.  It's a government failure.

There are times when the contractor picks up the tab for the repairs, and I don't know if that's the case here.  Regardless, we're still paying in the form of wasted gas and wasted time stuck in traffic.

It's time to call it what it is.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

35

It happened 35 years ago today, and what occurred  that day is still debated.

Philadelphia authorities clashed with members of a radical group.  Police dropped a bomb on the group's Osage Avenue headquarters.  It started a fire that killed 11, and destroyed a city block.

I'm not going to talk about what the city should and shouldn't have done 35 years ago.  I don't have all the information that went in to the decision.

I do remember watching the CBS Morning News that day.  It was using live video from the CBS station in Philadelphia.  It was simply fascinating stuff to watch, and it was also horribly sad.  First responders in danger.  People died.  Innocent residents lost their homes as the fire swept down the block.

Right or wrong?  I still don't know.  I just hope we've learned something.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Farewell


"Brockmire" ended its four season run on IFC Wednesday night.

Long story short, "Brockmire" starred Hank Azaria.  He played a major league baseball announcer hit hard by his wife's infidelity.  There is drinking, drug use and assorted other debauchery.  Jim Brockmire begins his crawl to respectability by doing the baseball games of the Morristown, PA "Frackers" over the stadium's public address system and the internet.  The series is set in several places over the years-- Tampa, New Orleans, the Philippines, Kansas City, Oakland and New York,  The Morristown stuff and the fracking references gave me, by far, the most laughs.

The first year was hilarious and broke some new ground,  Seasons two and three deal with Jim's efforts at sobriety.  In the fourth, set ten years in to the future, Brockmire becomes baseball commissioner, tasked with saving a dying sport and battling the artificial intelligence of an Amazon Echo type device, intent on taking over the world.  On top of that, there are struggles with a now adult daughter and a Parkinson's diagnosis.

Joe Buck popped up in several episodes over the show's run-- and was absolutely hilarious, playing a parody of himself.  Buck's talent goes far beyond the broadcast booth.

While I can't say I'm a huge fan of the fourth year, it was great to see the return of Amanda Peet and Tyrel Jackson Williams.  They weren't around much in the middle years.  I would have loved to have seen more from the first season show up in the finale, but at least they were mentioned by name.

I won't give away the ending, but it appeared to be a happy one, although a small part of me feels Jim Brockmire wasn't being totally honest.

I thought "Brockmire" was great television, but it's not for everyone.  At times, the humor was amazingly clever.  At other times, it was rather coarse.  However, it all worked in my book.

Hank Azaria was always one of my favorites, and the position is firmly cemented after the short run of "Brockmire."  I had no idea who Amanda Peet was before all of this.  Big fan now.

It was sad to see "Brockmire" come to an end, but it was never meant to be a long running series.  Limited run.  Go in, do good work, and leave people happy.  It worked for me. 


Monday, May 11, 2020

75

I should have approached this topic sooner, but Thursday was the 75th anniversary of the German surrender that ended part, but not all of World War II.

Others have said it better, so I won't go in to detail here.  Reading about it evokes happiness and sadness at the same time.  There was relief a horrible time in world history was coming to an end.  On the other hand there was so much sadness over all the deaths, the hardships here at home and in Europe.  The destruction.  The waste.

Memorial Day is coming up in a couple of weeks and it will be much different this year.  Please, take a moment to remember the sacrifice.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Andy's Angles: Red Tree



This really is a great time of year.  I can put up with the pollen related sneezing as long as I get to see things.  It's a beautifully flowering tree in the WNEP backyard.  The sunshine and blue sky helped it to look even nicer.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Andy's Angles: Airport

I have mixed feelings on this one...

If there has ever been a building that can use architectural lighting, it's this one-- Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport.  I can't say I'm thrilled with the design, day or night, but it is a functional building and that's the bottom line.

As you can see from this early morning shot, there is light where it is supposed to be-- the sidewalk where people are picked up and dropped off.

You only get one shot at making a first impression.  Some lighting in the right places can seal the deal and make a wonderful statement.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Playing Old


Last week's death of actor Sam Lloyd, who was part of the "Scrubs" cast, started me thinking and doing a little math.

Lloyd was only 56 when a brain tumor took his life.  "Scrubs" premiered in 2001, so Lloyd was in his late 30's for those early years.  To say the least, I was surprised at his age.  He always seemed older.  It's quite possible Sam Lloyd looked much younger in person and off the "Scrubs" set.  His television wardrobe left a lot to be desired.  The producers deliberately made the Ted character look sweaty and there was usually a bit of a 5 o'clock shadow.  Maybe they just wanted him to look a little older.  My friends, that's why they call it acting.

In the same vein, there is Abe Vigoda.  He played Detective Phil Fish on "Barney Miller."  Fish retired a few years in to the show's run.  Vigoda was born in 1921.  "Barney Miller" premiered in 1975.  Vigoda was only 54 in that first season.  According to series star Hal Linden, Vigoda was always one of those people who looked older than he actually was.  Plus, he simply did a convincing job of playing a detective approaching retirement.

Me?  I started going grey in my late 20's and that was a long time ago.  Even though I see the grey hair every day, it's still a bit of a shock when my barber takes that first swipe with the electric trimmer and a pile of grey hair falls into my lap.  Plus, the grey is even more vivid because the capes at my barber shop are black.  Contrast.

Honestly, the grey doesn't bother me and I never attempted to cover it up.  I once worked for an organization that arranged for "hair services" at a hoidy, toidy salon.  I was never truly comfortable there, even though the staff was great.  The woman assigned to make some sense of what I had always wanted to do a "color rinse."  There was a brief moment of curiosity, but I never was tempted enough to pull the trigger.

I once worked for a man who hated my eyebrows.  They weren't dark enough.  Seriously.  I had to duck out to the drug store outside the station's back door one morning and buy an eyebrow pencil.  I retired the pencil when I changed jobs.  I should add that the eyebrow guy and I got along great, one of my favorite bosses ever.

We just disagreed on my eyebrows.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Stripes


I usually don't watch movies on television.  chances are, I'm going to follow asleep.  There was an exception the other day.  "Stripes."  I saw it in a theater in 1981.  There have been all or partial viewings on television many, many times since then.  If i stumble across it, I'm going to stay for a while, and I stayed for the whole thing on a recent showing.

A great movie?  No.  A darn fine one?  Absolutely.   Entertaining from beginning to end.

The movie works on many different levels.  It's a great screwball comedy.  Even more importantly, there's a story here.  It has a beginning, middle and end.  Plus, you get caught up in the characters.  I have yet to meet the person who didn't like it.

So often, people look down their noses on basic comedies.  "Stripes" is funnier than most.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Shula and a Story


I was never a Miami Dolphins fan, but I do respect the accomplishments of former head coach Don Shula-- Super Bowl wins, one perfect season, and the most wins in NFL history.  Shula died Monday.  He was 90.

This little story shows the man's popularity.  I used to spend long weekends and mini vacations in Baltimore.  One morning, I was wandering through a shopping mall and dropped into a sporting goods store.  You know those places-- one of those stores that sells tons of team merchandise.  I don't remember the year, but it was after the Colts left for Indianapolis and before the Browns arrived from Cleveland and became the Ravens.  I have to note that I think the Ravens look and color scheme is underrated and is among the best in the NFL.

Anyway, I was talking to the store's manager about television.  Baltimore was getting a lot of Washington Redskins games on television, and the manager said Baltimoreans haven't taken to the Redskins and never will.  I asked him what AFC games they get on television.  The reply surprised me, but upon reflection, it made perfect sense.  A lot of Miami games were shown in Baltimore because Don Shula used to coach the Colts and he was still popular in Charm City.

The people of Baltimore remembered and were still fond of the man who brought championships to the city.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Sam Lloyd

I've always believed that secondary, or even tertiary characters can make a sitcom.

Roy, Lowell, Faye and Antonio made "Wings" funny.

Oswald, Lewis, Mr. Wick and Tony the bus driver provided plenty of laughs on the "Drew Carey Show."

In most cases, I don't have to name the shows.

Dr. Sid Freeman and Colonel Flagg.

Inspector Luger.

Murray, Myrna, Vinnie and Speed.

Larry, Darryl and Darryl.

Arnold Ziffel, Eb and Mr. Haney.

Sam Drucker and Hank Kimball.

Burkhalter, Hochstetter, and Frau Linkmeyer.

Dr. Bellows.

Mother Jefferson.

Mother Carlson.

Aunt Esther.

Larry Mondelo.

Schneider.

"Scrubs" had several, including The Janitor and Ted Buckland, the hospital's lawyer.  Sam Lloyd played the lawyer, always sad, always having things going wrong, always outmatched.

He delivered one of the best sitcom lines ever.  Ted became severely drunk at a hospital staff outing and said the drinking made "the tears taste less bitter."

"Scrubs" fans are shedding tears.  Sam Lloyd died Friday.  Brain tumor.  He was only 56.

Ted finally found a mate and discovered happiness at the end of the "Scrubs" run.

Sam, thank you for the laughs.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Moving?

The rumors are out there, and words, once spoken, lead lives of their own.

There is speculation the people who own the Cincinnati Bengals think they can get a better deal somewhere else and are open to moving the franchise.  Potential sites include San Diego, St. Louis, Toronto, and London.

I understand why the Chargers left San Diego.  The stadium left a lot to be desired.  However, I never understood why government couldn't come up with a deal for a new stadium.  Yes, I know there are more important projects than sports stadiums.  On the other hand, San Diego was just about guaranteed of getting a Super Bowl once every five years-- an event that showcases the city and pumps millions in to the local economy.  On top of that, when you lose a team, you lose part of your identity.

St. Louis makes some sense.  I felt sorry for the fans there, who really got hosed when the Rams moved back to Los Angeles.   I'm lukewarm on Toronto.  It's too close to Buffalo, but it's a city that loves football.

There will be a team in London eventually, even though it makes no logistical sense.

The bottom line on this one-- don't give away the store, but there has to be a way to keep everyone in Cincinnati happy.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Andy's Angles: Iron Furnaces

Scranton is famous for something in addition to a dreadfully unfunny sitcom.

This is an early morning shot of the iron furnaces on Cedar Avenue.  The operation dates back to Lincoln's time and this is where they made the iron train rails that enabled America's industrial revolution.

Even though I suspect it's for security more than anything else, but I love hot it's lit all night, every night.  It really makes a statement as you're entering the city.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Andy's Angles: About the Cover

I didn't go far for this month's blog header-- the WNEP parking lot.

Every year, the forsythia is the first to pop, signaling the end of a long winter, and adding plenty of color to what was a below normal and grey April.

Friday, May 1, 2020

April

April is gone, and I suspect most people are happy with that, even though we don't know what May will bring.

Meteorologically speaking, it was a below normal temperature month-- the first since November.  I suspect we were also below normal in the sunshine department, even though I don't have the statistics to back that up.

As I write this, there's a flood watch and there are predictions many rivers, creeks and streams will eventually reach flood stage and even higher.

It sounds odd, but we have been lucky this year.  Spring is severe weather time.  There have been bouts of nastiness, including one morning when Wilkes-Barre City Hall lost its roof.  Unlike last year, no tornadoes.  No flooding from storms, snow melt and ice jams.

May is usually one of my favorite months-- sunny, warm without being hot.  Let's see how it goes.