Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Good Laugh

I can't write great comedy, but I know it when I hear it.

Case in point, Jimmy Kimmel Live! early Wednesday morning.  Kimmel was referring to the most recent in a series of misstatements and gaffes by presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.  Not only does Bachmann screw up historical events and references, she digs the hole even deeper with her explanations and rationalizations.

Said Kimmel, "It's time to start telling kids that not everyone can grow up to be president."

I'm not sure if the crop of presidential candidates has grown less impressive over the years or if the media is better at catching and exploiting mistakes.  I suspect, like most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

It's not a Republican thing.  Democrats have their share of candidates who seem to suffer from "foot in mouth" disease.

I'm not looking for President Einstein.  I don't think it's asking too much to have a candidate who didn't sleep through history class.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

...Is New Again

I don't know if you're the same way, but I can handle adding a candle to the birthday cake every 12 months.  However, it's often difficult to think of other people as getting older.

I had a strange experience the other morning.  We have a new weekend desk assistant here at WNEP.  He seems like a bright kid, and a good addition to the staff.  His father, yes, his father, was my fiercest radio news competitor back in the early 80's.

I knew my colleague had children, and if I sat down to do the math, a post college aged child would have been no surprise.  Still, it was startling.

The road to get here has been long, and there's still a lot of highway left in the distance.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Business News

This one should come as no surprise.  Verizon is coming up with a tiered pricing plan for its smart phones.  The more data you download, the more you will pay.

If Verizon has a super affordable plan for the basics, I might be tempted to go the smart phone route again, but I severely doubt it.

I had one a couple years ago, and I hated it from the beginning.  Big mistake.  The keyboard was too small.  The display was too small to be useful, and the entire appliance was too large to be convenient, if that makes any sense.

On top of that, I got tired of the constant pings and flashes when new e-mails arrived.  After giving it a lot of thought, I reasoned that there's nothing I really need to know instantly.

I finally had enough, and went back to my old and basic phone.  If you need me, call me.  If there's something else on the agenda, it surely can wait.

What's the deal with that restaurant at the corner of North Main and Union in Wilkes-Barre?  It's been under a string of names and formats over the years.  Nothing's worked.  It seems to be a good location, and near King's College-- lots of foot and vehicular traffic.

The latest attempt recently closed.  Something new will be in its place in August, or at least the owner says so.

The restaurant business is tough.  Pick a cuisine, and there are already three people in town doing the same thing.  You do have to be better than the other guys, and the operation at Main and Union has apparently yet to figure out how to do that.

The Buffalo Bills will sport new uniforms for the upcoming season, if there is an upcoming season.  I'm underwhelmed.  The Bills appear to be going back to a more traditional uniform style.   I think it's boring.  Of course, the goal is to get fans to buy all new merchandise.  They just might pull the old stuff out of the closet.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have filed for bankruptcy.  This is more a sign of mismanagement and a nasty divorce rather than tough economic times.  Still, it's tragic that one of the most famous franchises in all of sports has now become a joke.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nick Charles

You knew the day was coming.  Yet, it did little to ease the sadness.

Nick Charles passed away Saturday.  He was CNN's first sports anchor, going back to the day CNN signed on in June of 1980.

I liked his style.  There was a bit of an attitude, but he was never bigger than the stories he covered.

Former co-worker Keith Olbermann, who says very few nice things about anybody, said Charles brought the new CNN the credibility its sports department needed.  He was right.

CNN had the right approach.  Do sports.  Don't do comedy.

Nick Charles went public with his fight against bladder cancer several months ago.  I stumbled across a newspaper story at the time, and was struck by Charles' courage and honesty.  I found an e-mail address somewhere, and I dropped him a line.  A day later there was a reply.  Charles wrote that notes of best wishes from around the country made him feel better.  Charles added that he liked knowing his work, and his life were appreciated.  It gave him what he called "validation."

I'm not sure if I'd want to spend my final days in front of a computer and keyboard, but I sensed that corresponding helped ease Charles' pain.

Recently, Nick Charles said he knew he was in a fight he couldn't win.  There were some newspaper interviews, along with a Father's Day profile on CNN.  It was like a farewell tour.  The courage that prompted my e-mail a couple years ago was still there.

Nick Charles was 64.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday

Welcome to another patented ill fated attempt to be artsy.

A car filled with lumber on the left, a set of empty tracks in the middle, a University of Scranton building on the right, with the Radisson Lackawanna Station in the background, framed by railroad signals.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday

This one has no particular reason for being.  I was walking past on a recent morning, and Dante's statue at the University of Scranton spoke to me.

The author of "The Divine Comedy" did his best work in the 14th century, and so did I.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Phrase of the Week

There will be no graphic accompanying today's blog entry, for obvious reasons.

A lot came out of the federal corruption trial of Bob Cordaro and AJ Munchak that ended Tuesday afternoon.

We learned that Bob and AJ loved the high life.  Bob felt cash was king.  AJ enjoyed his time in the casinos.  I don't have a problem with their behavior, as long as the money was obtained legally.

Local businesses saw paying bribes and kickbacks as part of the cost of doing business.  Only one had the backbone to stand up and say "no."  Sad, but true.

There were an awful lot of people walking around the city with big wads of money in their pockets.

Witnesses with made honest mistakes or committed perjury.  You be the judge.

High on the list, maybe at the top, of memorable moments took place on the courthouse steps after the verdicts came in.  Newly convicted felon AJ Munchak once again reaffirmed his innocence, by saying federal investigators never traced any ill gotten money back to him, in spite of a "financial colonoscopy."

AJ had an interesting way of describing the federal investigation, and kudos for that.  He did bring up a good point-- that the investigation and trial left a lot of unanswered questions.  Apparently, the jury had enough evidence to convict, and that's what it's all about.  We'l see if the verdicts hold up on appeal.

AJ wasn't the only one getting a colonoscopy.  Everyone who believed in business ethics and honest government received the procedure.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Next !

Now that things have quieted down in federal court, at least for a little while, it's time to turn our attention to the south, and the state capitol of Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania's new fiscal year begins July 1, and there's no budget agreement.  No budget = an inability to spend money.

Governor Corbett, house, and senate leaders were talking yesterday, and they'll do more of the same today.

Corbett wants some pretty deep cuts, especially to education.  There's resistance in the general assembly.  Those people, as always, are in the self preservation mode and are not known for taking tough stands on difficult issues.

No one wants to see kids hurt.  Can the education system be more efficient?  Absolutely.  We're also at the limit when it comes to taxes.   Most people can't afford another increase.

I'm sure there will be some sort of compromise, one that allows everyone involved to walk away claiming victory. I'm not sure if all that can be accomplished before the deadline.

And, this year, like every other, people will mutter that there has to be a better way.

While I'm on the subject of Harrisburg, the city itself is in big trouble.  There are a few plans being kicked about.  One involves bankruptcy.  The other calls for a state take over.  Still another calls for some state involvement, short of an all-out take over.

Citizens are paying the piper for years of mismanagement.  There a new mayor, currently in her first term, and that doesn't seem to have helped.

Harrisburg is a beautiful city.  Its citizens deserve better than what their government has delivered.  Because it's the state capitol, we all have a stake in this.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Federal Case

I have to admit that I'm surprised at the swiftness of the verdict in the Cordaro/Munchak trial in federal court at Scranton.

The outcome?  Not so much.

To bring you up to speed, federal prosecutors alleged Bob Cordaro and AJ Munchak instituted a pay to play system while they were running Lackawanna County.  If you wanted a county contract, Bob and AJ expected-- and demanded-- a taste.

They lived large.  Bob liked lavish trips.  AJ was fond of being a big spender at casinos.

The evidence against them was considerable, and it was not easy to watch.  I've known Bob Cordaro more than twenty years.  He was always helpful, in and out of office.

It is unfortunate that the enablers walk free.  How much did all those businesses pad their bills to cover the cost of the bribes?  Taxpayers are the real losers here.

When Cordaro and Munchak took over eight years ago, it was clearly a time of change.  They vowed to end the heavy handed politics of the past.  Unfortunately, they replaced it with something else-- a thieving enterprise, and a huge one at that.  So says a jury of their peers.

If disappointment was a crime, Cordaro and Munchak would be behind bars for a very long time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I watched Ryan Leckey's live reports from Scranton yesterday morning.  They dealt with keeping kids active and occupied during the summer.

After that, I was dispatched to Dickson City to get some video of the first day of the 13th annual summer day camp.

Nothing against the above two events, but I don't ever remember being bored during the summers of my youth.  There was always something to do.

One of my friends was "in" to board games, cards and darts.

There was always a wiffle ball game with the neighborhood kids going on.

We walked to a bowling alley a couple miles away.  We took a bus downtown to visit the Globe, Oppenheim's Kresge's and Woolworth's.

We sat on our porches and listened to the radio.

We were always riding our bikes somewhere.

There was a lot going on.

What's changed?  Why is the youth of America suddenly bored?

Pardon the "geezer" moment, but kids really need to turn off the computer, get out of the house and make friends-- in person.

I didn't have a ton of friends as a kid, but there was a good close circle of pals, and there was never a dull moment.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Only a Game

A few events recently show how sports has gotten out of control in this country (and Canada).

ABC had big ratings for the Dallas/Miami NBA finals this year.   Among the reasons?  People tuned in because they hate LeBron James, and they wanted to see him lose.  For non sports fans, James is the former Cleveland star who signed with Miami.  The announcement was made during a crass television special last year.

Hate can be a major inspiration.

I'm not an NBA fan.  As noted earlier, the games go on to long, the season seems to last forever, and the players are severely lacking in the role model category, if you catch my drift.

I didn't watch the finals, but a smile did cross my face when I learned the Mavericks defeated the Heat.

Then, there was the spectacle last week in Vancouver.  Rioting in the streets followed the Canucks' loss to the Boston Bruins in game seven of the NHL Stanley Cup finals.  There was some mayhem in Boston, as there always is in the winning city.  Vancouver wrote the book on bad sportsmanship, booing the NHL commissioner and the Bruins inside the arena, setting cars on fire and rioting outside.  We can accept out of control celebrations by the winners.  We are outraged when the losers go nuts.

Mark Patrick used to do a show on FOX Sports Radio, and he did something that I really used to love.  If you called in and referred to the team you root for as "we," he'd hang up on you immediately.  You were not allowed to say things like "I think we have a shot at the World Series this year if our pitching holds up."  Fantastic!   Patrick does a local show now in Indianapolis.
The issues in the University of Southern California and Ohio State University football programs has been well documented elsewhere.  There's no need for a repeat here.  I have a disgusting feeling that the SC and OSU problems are only the tip of the iceberg.  College sports is big money, and you know what a corrupting influence big money can be, if not handled properly.

And, let's note the continuing problems in the Pennsylvania's education system.  Governor Corbett says the money isn't there, and he's proposed some big cuts.  School districts are feeling the pain-- jettisoning teachers and programs.  Languages and arts seem to occupy popular positions on the chopping block.  However, with few exceptions, it's "hands off sports."

I know sports does have a long list of benefits-- character building, pride, scholarships for star athletes, etc...  But, if it comes down to a choice of what's more important-- the classroom or the field, which would you choose?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Transportation Bad Photography Sunday

I call this one "rush hour."  It was taken around 8 AM on a recent weekday morning.  It's cars and trucks merging from the Central Scranton Expressway and Moosic Street, heading toward the Spruce Street Complex.

It looked busy, but compared to other places, Scranton's traffic is nothing to complain about.

By the way, it's Father's Day.  Remember your dad today.  As I said a month ago, on Mother's Day, I am lucky beyond belief.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Transportation Bad Photography Saturday

Proof railroads used to be huge here in our area...  There are three sets of train tracks that run beneath the Mulberry Street Bridge in Scranton.

It's out of the frame, but to give you some perspective, I'm looking north and the Lackawanna River is off to the left.

Friday, June 17, 2011


I know I say it every year at this time, but where has the time gone?

Today is my 13th anniversary at WNEP.  It seems like I walked in the door yesterday, and compared to some of the veterans here, it really was yesterday.

On the other hand, we've had a lot of new people enter the operation recently.  It's great to see their enthusiasm, new ideas, and their rapid grasp of new technology. 

It's an interesting mix of the experienced people teaching the new ones about broadcasting and journalism, and the newbies teaching the vets about all the new tools we have at our disposal.

We're in graduation season, and here's a little advice to job seekers.  You have to have something an employer wants, and you also need a lot of luck.  At the time I was looking for work 13 years ago, WNEP needed another producer-- fast.  The rest is history.  If luck seems elusive, don't get discouraged.

Thanks for a good 13.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Moo !

There was an interesting story in the Albany, NY newspaper the other day.

It said the Greek style yogurt craze has taken off so rapidly that there is an increased demand for milk in upstate New York.  Yogurt factories and cold storage facilities are being constructed.

Both Fage and Chobani already has facilities in upstate NY.

Why not here? 

Pennsylvania's dairy industry is just as troubled as the one in New York, if not more so.  Why are we letting all that business go north of the border?  According the the Albany newspaper, Chobani and Fage both say the high quality of New York milk drew them to locate there.  Huh?  What's wrong with our milk?  The answer to that is "nothing."

Chobani and Fage also say they want to increase capacity.  With our dairy farms, land, highway system, and available workers, Pennsylvania should be an easy solution to their problems.

Yogurt can be a bigger boon than natural gas.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On Second Thought...

Today, a case where my thinking has changed, and one where it hasn't.  The latter goes first.

Jack Griswold passed away last week at the age of 86.  He did mornings for 26 years on WEJL, followed by stops at WSCR and WWAX.  Even in the old radio days, 26 years in one place is a major accomplishment.  I liked Jack's style-- folksy without being corny, a great community oriented broadcaster in every sense of the word.

I liked Jack on the radio.  I liked him even more after meeting him, and that never changed.  It was in the twilight of Jack's long career, at WWAX.  WWAX started as a little daytime station at 750 on the AM dial, from a studio in the Williamson Building in beautiful downtown Olyphant.  I had friends there, and I was invited in for a tour shortly after it signed on.  It looked fun-- a simple, bare bones radio station in a storefront on the main street in a small town.  It was what radio was meant to be.  Jack and I chatted a few times over the years-- always a professional in front of the microphone, a gentleman on and off the air.

Unfortunately, WWAX was a severely underfunded operation.  It changed hands a few times, and it's now in the hands of a religious broadcaster.

Staying with radio, I've done a 180 on Casey Kasem.  He did the countdown show American Top 40 for decades.  I was never a big fan.  First, the show was on WILK and I was a faithful WARM listener, so I didn't tune in that often.  When I did listen, I thought Kasem was a little too wordy and full of himself.

Sirius XM runs old American Top 40's weekends on the 70's channel.  I now really, really look forward to it.   I never viewed Kasem as a major music expert.  Then and now, it appears he blows in, reads the script in that wonderful voice of his, and blows out after 20 minutes.  The glory of the show is in the presentation.  It's superbly produced, and so slick.  I don't think there's ever been a show of its type done any better, and the production values hold up today.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Front Burner

It's starting already.

The next presidential election is 17 months away, and the bombardment of political stories is underway.  I'm okay with that.  There's nothing wrong with an informed electorate.

It seems the early coverage has two prongs.  The first is the incumbent, Barack Obama, the bad economy and his shrinking poll numbers.

Of course, the other prong belongs to the Republicans.  It's hard to believe someone who has been politics for so long, like Newt Gingrich, has made so many mistakes.

Rick Santorum and a few others in the race, are spending their early days courting the far right.  It seems to be the foundation to a strong run at the nomination.   It's far too early to tell if it's enough to carry a candidate through the general election.

Then, therre are the television folk.  A good political discussion can make for some interesting broadcasting (or cablecasting).  There are some pundits who know what they're talking about.

Unfortunately, there are far too many who just seem to be guessing to fill the time, and there is a lot of time until November 2012.

The e-mail Sarah Palin wrote as Alaska governor were released Friday.  What am I missing?  I have yet to read anything earth shattering, or even remotely interesting.

Monday, June 13, 2011

As Time Goes By

As many of you know, I've been doing this broadcasting thing for a very long time.

As time goes by, I've found it takes less and less to make me sad, and it takes more and more to shock me.

I can honestly say I was shocked beyond belief at a crime in Wayne County last week.  I'll give you the short version.  A woman gives birth.  The baby's father takes the infant, smashes it with a cinder block, and buries the body near Hamlin.  Both parents are charged with homicide-- the father for obvious reasons, the mother for going along with the plan.

Yes, the accused are innocent until proven guilty.

 I'm sure the psychologists and psychiatrists can probably come up with some reasons behind the crime, and there is a place in this world for their science.

If what police say it true, this has to be one of the most horrible crimes I've ever encountered. and I can't believe something like this actually happened.  Cruel and inhuman doesn't begin to describe it, and there's absolutely no way to explain it.

Just when you think you've seen it all, something comes along that leaves you stunned.

And, that's not all.

A couple in Plymouth allegedly abused a boy for years.  He's now 13.  Police say the child killed fifty cats, doesn't know how to brush his teeth, and doesn't know how to eat with utensils.

And, then there is the man from Mountain Top who has been arrested for driving under the influence nine times!  NINE TIMES!

What is wrong with our justice system, and what is wrong with our society?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gateway Bad Photography Sunday

The way I see it, there are two major gateways to downtown Scranton.  We saw one here yesterday-- Mulberry Street.  We also saw the plusses and minuses.

Here's the other, and it's hard to see anything wrong with it.

The University of Scranton is constructing a new science building along Ridge Row, and it will really improve the view coming in to the city, off the Central Scranton Expressway.

Admittedly, the above photo isn't the greatest.  I took it early in the morning.  The sun angle was not my friend.

The new U building has a lot of stone, steel, and glass.  I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product lit up at night.

It will make a nice statement to visitors to Scranton.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gateway Bad Photography Saturday

I think of Lackawanna County Commissioner Mike Washo any time I travel over Scranton's Mulberry Street Bridge.

Let me back up a few decades.  Mr. Washo was always a large figure in preserving the area's architectural heritage.  After the new Mulberry Street Bridge was constructed, there was a debate over the style of lighting that would be installed.  Many favored period style lighting.  In other words, old style street lights.  Washo was against that.  He thought it would be mocking our heritage.  Old style lights wouldn't look right on a stock PennDOT design concrete beam bridge.  I agreed.

Someone, and I don't remember who, came up with an idea for multi colored tubes of light to go over the bridge, like a rainbow.  It looked expensive, at least to me, and a major maintenance problem.  It also seemed excessive.  I think "gaudy" is the word I'm looking for.

Washo loved the tube plan.

In the end, you can see what we got.  Standard street lights.  Boring.

I ran into Commissioner Washo a few weeks ago, and while we were killing time waiting for an event to start, I brought up the bridge.  Our debate raged anew and politely, like thirty years had never passed.  The Commissioner said he still has an artist's rendering of the light tubes somewhere in his collection.  I'd love to get another look at it, and possibly post it here.
The Commissioner's point is the Mulberry Street Bridge is one of the gateways to the city.  It should make a statement.  Light tubes would have shown Scranton has become a modern city, not an old coal town.  Washo has a great point.

Above is the view coming off the bridge, heading into to downtown.  For years, there was a boarded up gas station on the right, and an empty commerical building on the left.  The gas station has been replaced with a donut shop.  Plans for development on the north side of Mulberry Street fell through.  The new building you see above the donut shop is the headquarters of a credit union.  Penn Avenue has bars and restaurants.  The neighborhood has improved. 

It could have been better.

Tomorrow, the gateway on the other side of downtown.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Media Notes

Katie Couric signed with ABC Monday.  ABC will distribute an afternoon talk show and Couric will contribute to ABC News broadcasts.  It gives Couric and opportunity to keep her face out there until the talk show debuts in September 2012.  I'm not on "Team Katie," but it seems like a good deal for both sides.

Scott Pelley took over the CBS Evening News on Monday, and it's been a very good first week.  The newscast is back to basics-- a lot of hard news, and I love the world map behind the anchor desk.  It's meant to remind viewers of the glory days-- when Walter Cronkite anchored.

Great writing in the Washington Post.  Critic Hank Stuever noted how the Anthony Weiner story didn't make the first block of the CBS Evening News Monday night.  Said Stuever:  "The sound you hear is the sound of Edward R. Murrow remaining, for once, completely still in his grave."

TV writer Leonard Stern died Tuesday in Los Angeles, at the age of 87.  Stern wrote The Honeymooners, Sgt. Bilko, The Steve Allen Show, and Get Smart.  Quite the resume', don't you think?

Papa Joe Chevalier died last week.  He was 62.  Chevalier did sports talk shows on a couple different national networks.  I met him about 15 years ago when he broadcast from Lackawanna County Stadium in Moosic.  He seemed like a very nice man, and I enjoyed his shows.  He had an "everyman" quality that seemed to click with listeners.

Sporting News Radio has followed the lead of FOX Sports Radio, and has shortened the length of its top of the hour break.  On one hand, it gets you back to the talk a lot faster.  On the other, I miss the comprehensive sports news and scores on the hour.  I miss the old days, when the Scranton ESPN Radio station ran five minutes of ABC News on top of the hour.  You got the best of both worlds-- news and sports.  Yes, some sports fans actually like to know what's going on in the world.

NBC has won the bidding war for the next four Olympics.  I can't say I'm a fan of the way NBC does things-- too much on tape delay.  FOX and ABC/ESPN all promised more live coverage.  As you know, money is more important, especially to the International Olympic Committee.

Marv Albert will call NFL games on CBS this fall (if there's a season).  Marv is 70, and he's still as good as ever.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Cloud

If I had the skills to do it myself, I'd probably make a fortune.  Rep. Anthony Weiner made a bad Tweet.  It's likely you've Tweeted something you wish you hadn't.  It's possible you've sent an e-mail or two you wish you could take back.
I learned a long time ago, the hard way, to never write an e-mail in anger.  Cool off.  Think about it.  Then, write.

There are jokes and lines that seemed funny at the time.  Again, there were times we wish we could retrieve them.

 We've been hearing a lot about Micrsoft and Apple developing things called "clouds."  Your data will be saved in a big server in the sky rather than your own computer or other device.  You can access the photos, pictures, and files from anywhere because the stuff will be in the cloud, instead of your hard drive.

Here's my idea.  Your e-mails and Tweets would go into the cloud for 15 minutes before they are sent to their destination.  It would give you a chance to have second thoughts, and pull them back, if necessary.

I call it the "cloud of common sense."  It could prevent a "storm of regret."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Summer Crackle

I still listen to an AM radio station.  My first professional job was in AM radio.  My first love is AM radio.  There's only one FM oldies station around here, and I can't pick it up.  It's AM oldies for me.

That brings up an issue, especially in the summer.  AM signals and lightning don't get along.  Lightning, even many, many miles away disrupts the signal and sends a distinct "crackle" through the speaker.

You know what?  I really don't mind.  The crackle is the sound of summer, memories of sitting on the porch with a transistor radio, hanging with my friends, backyard wiffle ball games, hoping the DJ would play your favorite song, maybe trying to get in on a contest.

On top of that, in the days before Mega Super Doppler Radar and the internet, the lightning inspired crackle was the way we knew bad weather was approaching.

It might be static to you.  It's a delightful sound to me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

No Easy Answer

I cringed when I read in the Pocono Record that the Pike County Commissioners are considering expanding the courthouse in Milford.

The commissioners say the judicial system needs more space and security, and I respect that.  I also respect the fact that they pledge any addition will be sensitive to preserving the look of the 139 year old building.

I took the photo above back in January of 2007.  We didn't get much snow until late in the season, and that explains the green grass on a winter afternoon.  It also explains the wreath on the front door.  The photo centers on the building, and it doesn't show much of the surrounding area.  Here's my point.  Any addition, no matter how carefully planned will affect the look and feel of the building.  There's not a lot of room to play with here.

Another option is constructing a new government building elsewhere, but the Record indicates the commissioners oppose that idea.

This building is one of the area's gems, and I really hope it stays on the list.

Monday, June 6, 2011

James Arness

I've tried to avoid turning the blog into "Obituary Central," but there are times when there are simply things worth noting.

You've probably heard by now that James Arness died Friday.

He played Marshal Matt Dillon on "Gunsmoke" for twenty years, beginning in 1955.  It was an amazing run.

First, Matt Dillon was one of TV's all time great characters.  He fired only when absolutely necessary.  He had a big heart, although he tried not to show it.  Matt Dillon was a man of integrity, decency and common sense. 

You always suspected he had something going on with Miss Kitty, but it was never made clear.  Matt was the strong, silent type.

Second, there is the business of television.  There were 635 episodes of "Gunsmoke" produced.  That's an average of 32 per year-- and "Gunsmoke" was an hour long!  These days, you're lucky if you get 20 new episodes of a series per season.

The shows still hold up today.

James Arness was 88.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday

Here's a shot of a row of cherry trees on the south lawn of the Luzerne County Courthouse.

As I've said before, the goings on inside the building dominated the headlines for the last couple years.  let's not overlook that the courthouse is a neat building, set on nice grounds.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday

This is the month we say good bye to spring, so as summer gets ready to roll in, let's show you a little color.

This is a red maple and a green hedge on the south lawn of the Luzerne County Courthouse.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Bull's Eye

I like Target, even though I rarely visit.

If you've been to a Target recently, you know what I'm talking about.  A few departments, like automotive and hardware, are being squished to make way for an expanded grocery section.

The new grocery area will make it's debut in the Dickson City store early this month.  It wasn't open during a recent visit, but the new layout was clearly evident.

I go to Target to shop and look at neat stuff.  Target seems to have new products first.  There merchandise looks different than most other stores.  Nice designs, at decent prices. 

I can do groceries at a lot of places.  Apparently, Target's research shows their new idea will work.  I can't say I'm a fan.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Morning Miracle

It's book review day.

I just finished reading Dave Kindred's "Morning Miracle."  It's an inside look at one of America's great newspapers, the Washington Post.

The Post is like most newspapers these days.  It's losing print circulation in an internet world.  It still hasn't found a way to make major money off the web site.

The Post has lost some of its best people through layoffs, buy outs, retirements, and simply finding other jobs.  Is it a good paper?  Yes.  Is it what it used to be?  No.

Kindred chronicles the Post's missteps over the years-- a lack of foresight, managers who saw change coming, but couldn't figure out what to do about it, resistance to doing things in a different way,  slow to adopt new technology...  The list goes on and on.

The chapters on how the Post covered the 2008 election are worth the purchase price.

Newspapers have it tough.  Why pay for yesterday's news on your front porch when you can get it for free, right now, on-line?  Classifieds were a big money maker.  The internet took that away, too.

There's currently a big fight here in Pennsylvania over a bill to end the practice of forcing local government to take out "legal" ads in newspapers.  The bill would allow governments to put the "legals" on their web sites.  It's a cash cow for the papers, and they want to keep the government subsidy.  Newspaper publishers warn of layoffs if they lose the legals.  But then again, governments are broke, and it wouldn't necessarily a bad idea to save some money by putting the legals on-line.  Some in Harrisburg are already caving.  Be a pal to the local publisher, get that endorsement before the next election.  That's the way it often works.

We, here in our area are lucky.  There are some outstanding newspaper reporters doing really good work.  It would be a shame if that went away.

Remember, the only thing constant in life is change.

And, more newspaper related topics before this one goes to bed for the day...  One is an update on something discussed here a few months ago.  The Erie Times-News has an old printing plant.  Rather than invest in a new one, the company is looking for an outside printer.  The selection was announced last week.  The Erie paper will be printed in Butler, PA-- a 90 minute drive on a good day.  So now, that thing filled with old news by the time it reaches your door step will have to be finished a little earlier

40 full and part timers will lose their jobs when the change takes effect in a few months.

The Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice will soon be printed in Waverly, about 40 minutes away from Public Square.  The publishers say the press in Waverly is faster than the one in Wilkes-Barre, so deadlines can be pushed back.  The paper will be fresher and more colorful.  But, factor in the drive from Waverly to Wilkes-Barre, and how much deadline time are you really saving?

A few more newspapers in our area will soon be charging for on-line content.  You'll get a dozen stories a month for free.  After that, the meter starts running.  On one hand, newspapers need that money to survive.  On the other, will people pay for something they used to get for free?  I fear some newspapers will soon learn there are other sources of information out there.

There will always be a place for quality journalism.  Our democracy depends on it.  The delivery method is still unknown.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

About the Cover

My blog headers usually celebrate happy, beautiful things.  I wish that streak continued this month.

The June header features the cupola atop the old train station at Market Street and Wilkes-Barre Boulevard.

After the train station closed, the building became a beautiful restaurant and nightclub complex, with an adjacent hotel.  The rooms were actually converted box cars. 

The hotel closed.  Bums turned the box cars into their headquarters.  The restaurant closed, and it became exclusively a nightclub.  There were several renters and themes over the years.  They all failed.

Luzerne County now owns the property.  The plan, for years, was to turn this into a visitors center and a passenger station, if passenger rail ever returns to the area.  The county is broke.  The building has been vandalized repeatedly and its rotting away.  I fear we'll have another Hotel Sterling on our hands-- a building too far gone to repair.  Demolition might become the only option, and that would be a tragedy.