Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Media Notes

The first weekend of the summer Olympics has come and gone, and I don't think I've watched more than 15 minutes of it.

Opening ceremonies have become a festival of tediousness and silliness.  It's excessive.  It's overdone, and it's plain boring.

The vapid Ryan Seacrest has been added to this year's coverage.  There's no need to say anything more.

I'm actually going to defend NBC for a moment.  Because of the time difference between the USA and London, most of what you see in prime time is on tape delay.  NewsFlash:  When sports is on tape delay, it stops being sports.  It becomes a television show.  NBC, according to USA Today, botched it several times by giving away the results before the "show."  There are spoilers over the internet.  We live in the information age.  There's a good chance you'll know the ending of the "show" before it actually airs.  Stop complaining and deal with it.  It's just a game.

Overall, it's NBC's tone that really sticks in my craw.  It drips of relentless reverence.  It's also painful to see the news division hype the games to no end.  Yes, I'd expect similar behavior if ABC or CBS had the rights.

Thank heaven for $25,000 Pyramid reruns on GSN.

Speaking of CBS, just seven months after blowing up its morning broadcast and starting all over again, the network is making another change.  Erica Hill is out.  Norah O'Donnell is in.  I liked Hill.  CBS This Morning is the newsiest of the three network morning broadcasts, so when I'm around a TV in the morning, I usually punch it in to see what's going on.  It's not a bad show.

CNN should be the news choice in the morning.  It recently added ABC's John Berman to the mix.  However, I can't get past Soledad O'Brien-- one of those "it's all about me" broadcasters I loathe.

CNN President Jim Walton announced he's leaving at the end of the year.  Ratings are way down, but profits remain strong.  As noted here before, CNN is spending all its time trying to be another MSNBC or FOX News Channel.  Mistake.  Do the news.  Do it well, and try to develop watchable anchors, as opposed to the current cast of characters.

As noted here before, I occasionally twist in some talk radio to see what topics are hot here in our area, and I always leave disappointed.  Yesterday, a caller advocated a boycott of ABC's Good Afternoon America because it was replacing her beloved General Hospital.  Incorrect.  The erroneous assertion went unchallenged by the hosts.  I called the station to tell the morning show producer that Good Afternoon America is a summer replacement show.  General Hospital moves to 2 PM in September, followed by Katie Couric's new talk show at 3 PM.  I don't know if the error was ever corrected.  I moved on.

Monday, July 30, 2012


I didn't realize it until I watched ABC's "This Week" yesterday morning.  Yesterday marked 100 days until November's presidential election.

Most polls show the popular vote is still too close to call.  It looks like Obama has a bit of a lead over Romney when it comes to electoral votes.  The consensus is that the race is up for grabs.

Big factors in the weeks to come will be, of course, the economy, the debates, and if one of the candidates makes a major foot in mouth mistake.  Interesting times ahead.

"This Week" also had a clip of an interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney, who said John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate four years ago was a "mistake."  That brings us to the choice facing Mitt Romney.  More conventional wisdom:  a close race means a safe choice.  If he was trailing, there would be another attempt at a Palin style game changer.

Well, the race is close, so it looks like either former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty or current Ohio Senator Rob Portman.  ABC's Jonathan Karl said his sources indicate a choice is coming soon.

By the way, CBS News announced yesterday that the one hour "Face the Nation" experiment was a success, and the broadcast will be one hour until the end of time.  From everything I've read, Bob Schieffer seems to be a nice guy and a true professional.  It's a good broadcast, and yesterday's Penn State discussion was especially interesting.

Stay tuned for a fascinating 99 days.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Steel Stacks

This is a shot of the stage at Steel Stacks in Bethlehem.  The old blast furnaces serve as the backdrop.

What they've done here is taken an old industrial site, and turned it in to a place for food, art, and entertainment.  There is also plenty of parking.

You just have to wonder what we can accomplish here in our area-- with all those abandoned industrial buildings and warehouses we have.  It'll take a ton of money, and at least in the near future, that money is nowhere to be found.

While the turnaround in Bethlehem is nothing short of spectacular, you have to look at what got us here-- a steel industry that became extinct in the northeast.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Bethlehem

I have to admit, I was impressed, and as you know, it takes a lot to impress me.

I wound up with an extra day off earlier this month.  I needed a change of scenery, so I pointed the car toward Bethlehem.

The city has something really cool.  An arts and entertainment venue is being developed next to the Sands casino, on the old Bethlehem Steel property.  What you see above is the entrance to Steel Stacks.  We'll peek inside tomorrow.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Time Off, Time Out

I'm off this weekend!


It's my first weekend off since October.

I'm one of those strange people who loads all his time off into the second half of the year.  As a result, I'm a little fried by the time late July rolls around.

The broadcast is in good hands.  Jim Hamill will be producing and anchoring.

Me?  No plans for the weekend off.  I like to say I'll be sleeping a lot, but I am a creature of habit.  I'll likely be up all night, reading news on the internet, working on the blog, tweaking some recent photos I've taken, Tweeting, listening to satellite radio, answering e-mails...

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Follow Up File

Remember about a year ago?  I was thrilled New York and Chicago had new all-news FM radio stations.  Well, the party's over.  After a year of big expenses and low ratings, the owner pulled the plug last week.  Both stations now play music.

I've long complained here that radio news has disappeared, and it was nice to see someone making an effort.  It was also fantastic that a lot of radio journalists had jobs.  I wish them well in the future, and I sincerely hope radio station owners "get it" and put more news on the air.  In the major markets, only a couple stations do news.  The situation in smaller cities is absolutely horrendous.  The news, when you can find it, consists of items "borrowed" from tv stations, newspapers, and web sites.  There are also plenty of sound bites from legislators, that are supplied by the political parties and the legislators themselves.  Somehow, the radio stations always forget to tell you the sourse of the material.  They didn't get it themselves, and they only air what the legislator wants you to hear.  It's disingenuous.

I've also complained Hollywood doesn't make movies for adults.  Theaters are filled with robot pictures and super heroes.  I'm about to contradict myself.  A movie called "Hope Springs" appears in theaters August 10.  Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep play an upper middle aged couple trying to re-kindle their love life.  No!  Tommy Lee Jones is marshal Sam Gerard.  He's a member of the Men in Black.  He's not an old man.  It breaks my heart.

I blogged a few paragraphs when Donna Summer passed away back in May.  The Sirius/XM 70's channel frequently plays Summer songs, and I heard a couple the other day.  Time has not dimmed the quality of her work.  Donna Summer had a great voice.

Is "Today" really better without Ann Curry?

It has been said that "Life is 10 per cent what happens to you and 90 per cent how you react to it."  I wish Penn State fans would remember that.

Do the math.  Sherman Hemsley was in his late 30's when he began playing the character of George Jefferson.  He always seemed so much older.  That's why you call it "acting."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Friday morning's rain was an odd and glorious thing.

To begin, it was the first decent rainfall in quite a while, and it broke a horriblly uncomfortable heat wave.

Friday morning, I noticed an unusual thing.  I made my standard Walmart visit to stock up on work supplies.  Translation:  diet cola.

I've been caught in the rain before, but unlike other drenchings, I was in no rush to get from my car to the store, and vice versa.  The rain and cool air felt great, and I didn't care if I got wet.  As I looked around the parking lot, it appeared as if my fellow shoppers felt the same way.

Walmart can be a nightmare-- crowded store, impatient shoppers, long lines, a parking lot resembling Pocono's "tricky triangle" and other issues.  It seemed like the rain slowed everything down and made the trip to America's largest retailer much more pleasant.

I wouldn't want rain every day, but this storm was the right thing at the right time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Once again, it is time for an effort to make sense out of the impossible.  A man went on a shooting rampage Friday morning, near Denver, Colorado.  12 died.  60 were hurt.

Is gun control the answer?  Should there be pat downs and metal detectors at theaters and malls, just like government buildings at airports?

Do we have to simply understand there are disturbed people out there, and risks are part of living in a free society?  This was an isolated, albeit horrible, incident, and we generally have very little to worry about.

There are plenty of questions, and no easy answers-- if we're able to answer these questions at all.

There has been evil since the beginning of time, and there's never been one standard way to deal with it.  All you can do is make sure you don't take unacceptable risks and pray for the best.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Above is a Sunday morning picture from WNEP photographer Tom Durant.  It shows the scene outside Beaver Stadium as crews were removing the Joe Paterno statue.  The removal process is shrouded by the blue tarp covered fence.  The street was closed.  Barricades were up.  Security was tight.

The statue removal happened during Newswatch 16 Sunday Morning, and this is the story of how the whole thing went down.

There were rumors the Paterno statue was coming down early Saturday morning, so we had a crew on stand by, ready to move.  Sue Paterno's visit Friday added fuel to the fire.  It was like Joe's widow was saying "good bye."  Did she know?  No one is talking.  PSU denied the removal rumors as late as Friday.

Saturday was quiet, and that brings us to Sunday.  As always, our broadcast started at 5 AM.  I stopped by the newsroom during the 6:20 AM sports break.  I frequently do that-- check the internet, Twitter, e-mail, etc.  Around 6:25 AM, Twitter started to pop.  Police, construction personnel and heavy equipment began showing up at Beaver Stadium.

Let me talk about Twitter for a second.  It's a guide-- not gospel.  However, I knew the Tweeters to be reliable, and they Tweeted the photos to back it up.  PSU administration wasn't talking, but we can report what we see, and what we saw was a removal in the making.

I got back on the air at 6:30, and mentioned a Paterno statue removal seemed imminent.  Same thing at 7.  Our control room staff and assignment editors were keeping an eye on the satellite feed from ABC News, and we were ready to punch it up immediately.

At 7:28 AM, I was on my way back to the studio when ABC News started its feed to local stations around the country.  I was turning the corner to walk in to the studio when Newswatch 16's Jon Meyer came through the building's employee entrance.  I asked Jon to join me on the set, and we talked about the Penn State situation for about ten minutes.  No one knows more about the events of the last eight months than Jon.  He's a pro.  Jon made great points, and added perspective, with about 30 seconds notice that he was going on the air.  I wanted to keep him on the set with me for a lot longer, but he had to get moving to State College.

Penn State President Rodney Erickson eventually put a news release on-line.

We made a lot of changes to the broadcast on the fly.  Noreen gave back some of her time, and our control room crew "rolled with the punches," as we like to say.  Even though it was hidden by a tarp covered fence, you could see the forklift driving away with the Paterno statue suspended by yellow straps.  We brought it to you live.

Such a sad end, and who could have predicted this when the Sandusky scandal broke back in November?

It sounds goofy, but I'm thinking about Marcus the elf from the movie "Bad Santa."  As he's about to kill Willie, Marcus says "There's no joy in this."  Clearly, there's no joy if you were a Paterno fan.  Even if you didn't like the guy, there's no joy in this.

As for the statue removal in and of itself, I can't see how PSU President Rodney Erickson had any other choice.  The statue was divisive, and it was going to be a constant reminder of the darkest time in PSU history.

The Paterno family released a statement, saying tearing down the statue does not serve Sandusky's victims.  That might very well be true, but saying good bye to the statue is a good start.

>>> UPDATE:   The NCAA announced its sanctions this morning-- big fine, no bowls for four years, loss of some scholarships, 111 wins vacated...  I'm a little surprised it wasn't worse.  The NCAA faulted Penn State for its "football first" culture.  While PSU deserved to be slapped severely, you wonder if this causes other football factory colleges to sit up and take notice.  I'm not sure.  Big football is big money, and you know what happens when those two marry.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Green Diesel

It's been a while since I've inflicted a train photo on you.

This photo was taken in Bethlehem, near the old steel mill.

I spent a recent morning exploring a small part of the city, and you'll see a couple weekends of those photos, in the near future.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: One More From Scranton

Scranton's financial problems are legendary.  The city has been in "distressed" status for more than twenty years.

Still, the city does have its beauty, and it's one more Scranton photo before I move on to other things.

Today, two of my favorite buildings in the same shot.

On the left it's the Mears building at Spruce Street and North Washington Avenue.  There's a bank on the first floor and offices above.  I love the several different styles of windows.

On the other corner, the red brick structure is the Brooks building-- offices on the first floor with apartments above.

Two beauties in a broke city.

We'll move on to another place beginning tomorrow morning.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Statue

The Freeh Report has been out for week, and there's been time for the dust to settle-- a little.

To get you up to speed, the Freeh Report implicated Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in the cover up of Jerry Sandusky's sex crimes.

The Paterno family disputes the report.  Paterno's blind followers refuse to accept that their god might be flawed.  The Paterno disciples have an uphill battle.  Freeh laid it all out, including the smoking gun of e-mails and other communication between Paterno, former PSU president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, and VP Gary Schultz.

So, that takes us to the Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium, and the great debate over keeping it, or removing it.  The statue in and of itself is offensive.  The lettering on the wall behind it is even worse:  Joseph Vincent Paterno, educator, coach, humanitarian.  Humanitarian?  Are you kidding me?

I'm proposing a middle ground.  Remove the statue from the stadium, and put it in a park on campus.  You have to look at the body of work, and Joe Paterno did a lot of good things during his 60+ years at PSU.

Then, there's the NCAA.  PSU still faces sanctions from the governing body of college sports.  The NCAA has to do something, and something harsh.  The scandal went to the very top of the football program and the university itself.  Paterno amassed unprecedented power, and those in charge were thrilled to let it happen.   Football was king, and Paterno was the emperor.  The board of trustees was asleep at the switch.  Yes, some innocent people will be hurt by NCAA sanctions, but NCAA has to send the message that this behavior will not be tolerated.  Not now.  Not ever.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A New Look

It's a problem that's confounded reporters for ages-- how to cover an event that you've seen many many times, and still make it interesting.

My Tuesday assignment was the 88th annual St. Ann's Novena in Scranton.

It's a wonderful event that brings out the faithful.  Thousands of people visit the basilica-- in spite of some intense summertime heat.

I knew I was in for a challenge at 3 AM Tuesday.  Writing the preview story was a struggle.  I wanted to say something that hasn't been said before.  It just wasn't happening.  The final decision was simple is best, and a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.  I kept it basic.  It worked.

Then, I had to work on a story for our noon broadcast.  As I looked around the basilica, I didn't see anything I hadn't seen many times before.  There was no new hook, no new angle.

I decided just to talk to people, and go with what I heard.  Thankfully, I met a man from Jermyn.  He noted the number of mature Americans at the novena.  The gentleman added things like the novena, with its outdoor activities, are what's needed to draw young people to the Church.  Yes, capital C.  Bingo!  I had my angle, and built my story around the young and the not so young at the novena.  It beat the same old, same old.

With most stories, we have a road map going in.  There are times you have to wander off the beaten path to see what's really going on.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Unfinished Business

Last week, the New York Times did a piece on the Food Network broadcast "Restaurant Impossible."  That's the show where chef Robert Irvine, a designer, and a builder spend two days and $10,000 to turn down failing restaurants.  "Restaurant Impossible" late last year did an absolutely brutal job on a once filthy and run down restaurant in Dunmore.

The NYT story didn't address the Dunmore episode, but it did show things I suspected-- that many of the restaurants go back to their old ways once the cameras leave.

Here's something I didn't know:  carpenters arrive well in advance of the taping, and their supplies are already there when the crew arrives.  Yes, the fix takes place in two days.  The preparation for the actual 48 hour event begins well in advance.

Switching gears, I received an e-mail after the Sandusky trial.  A blog reader asked me for my thoughts on how the media influence the judicial process.

I do know a lot of "the powers that be" wanted the Sandusky trial done while PSU was on summer break.  They feared a circus outside the courthouse.

Other than that, and generally speaking, I wish I had a good answer.  Potential jurors, for every case, are asked if they can put what they're heard and read out of their minds-- and simply reach a decision based only what they see and hear in the courtroom.  If the answer is "yes," there's a good chance that person becomes a juror.

I really wish Pennsylvania would allow cameras in the courtroom.  Other states have shown it can be done with no undue distraction.  Why not here?

An addendum to Monday's review of "The Newsroom..."  What TV shows and movies have done the best job of showing what the broadcasting business is really like?  "Broadcast News" accurately reflected the TV side.  "WKRP in Cincinnati" really nailed it, when it comes to radio, at least, during my time.  I've known Johnny Fever types, and salesman Herb Tarlek was perfect.

Why have some members of the news media been referring to the triple homicide in Plymouth July 7 as a "drug deal gone bad?"  I have a news flash for you kids, drug deals are already bad.  Stop that!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Favorite

Last week, 79 year old Peter O'Toole announced he was retiring from show business, and it made me sad.

OToole starred in my favorite movie, "My Favorite Year."

"My Favorite Year" came out in 1982.  It was set at a 50's TV variety show.  Peter O'Toole plays Alan Swan, a drunk movie star, who is scheduled to be that week's guest star on the TV variety show.  Mark Linn Baker is the young writer assigned to keep O'Toole on the straight and narrow for the week.

"My Favorite Year" is about live tv, fear, hero worship, human frailties, unrequited love, the maturation process, living, loving, and learning.  On top of that, it's just plain funny.  Peter O'Toole lights up every scene in which he appears.

Here's something that makes a movie a favorite and it has nothing to do with critics' reviews.  I saw "My Favorite Year" at the Ritz in downtown Scranton, a horrible little theater that was carved out of the balcony of the old Comerford on Wyoming Avenue.  The seats were small and leg room was non existent.  However, I saw it with some good friends as my college years were coming to an end.  It wasn't just the movie.  It was the people.

The Motion Picture Academy offered Peter O'Toole an honorary Oscar a few years ago.  He declined, saying he still wanted to "win" one.  O'Toole was nominated eight times.  This should be the year when Peter O'Toole gets that Oscar.  It might be honorary, but he's earned it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Newsroom

We started last week with a review, and we'll start this week with a review.

Because I'm in the biz, a lot of people have been asking me about the new HBO series "The Newsroom," which has already been renewed for a second season.

To get you up to speed, "The Newsroom" is the story of a prime time newscast on a cable network called ACN.  Four episodes have aired so far.

It's not working for me.  The characters seem to have met at a cliche festival.  There's the big anchor, who decides he's tired of pandering for ratings.  The new executive producer is a highly acclaimed journalist, who spent tons of time in Iraq and Afghanistan.  She brings with her a young and exceptionally talented producer.  The news division is run by a wise, older man who wears a bow tie, and he fights with the mom and son who own the network.  The network has a hold over producer, who resents the new crew, and there's the sweet, young, overwhelmed assistant.

Romantic entanglements?  Yes, we have those.  The new producer is smitten with the assistant, who dates the hold over producer.  The anchor and the new executive producer have a history.

Other reviews have said "The Newsroom" is overly preachy, and I agree.  Characters here make a lot of speeches, and real people don't talk that way.

I have to say I'm envious of the newsroom and the set.  The producers of "The Newsroom" appear to have spent some serious money here.

The third episode is the best of the young run, so I hope that means the series is improving.  I have yet to see the fourth.

I'm watching it, but I'm not loving it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Scranton II

You've seen this building here on the blog before, but I couldn't resist posting a new photo, because the building is one of my favorites.

It's the Scranton Life building on Spruce Street.  It's not a very deep building, but it is wide.  The stone takes on the color of the available daylight.  I took this picture just after sunrise on a recent morning, so it looks yellowy white.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Scranton I

I was playing with my camera, on a recent morning, between live shots, in downtown Scranton.

This is the Lackawanna County Courthouse from the Linden St./Adams Ave. corner.  I know you've seen the courthouse several times on the blog, but I chose this photo because, from this angle, it looks like a big old castle.

This is the service side of the courthouse.  The walled in area on the left is used for secure prisoner entrances and exits.  It's still not as unsightly as that mass of concrete and granite on the North Washington Avenue side.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Best Foot Forward

I couldn't resist.  Even though it was my day off, I wandered in to downtown Scranton to observe the media army in town for the meeting of the Penn State Board of Trustees.
It was an impressive sight.  TV stations from as far away as Johnstown, Philadelphia and New York City surrounded the Hilton.  I'll stick some photos in between a few more thoughts on yesterday's release of the Freeh Report.
There is only one word that comes to mind, and that's "devastating."  It's apparent Spanier, Curley, Schultz and even the sainted Joe Paterno knew what Jerry Sandusky was up to.  Those four were more worried about the school, the football program and themselves rather than the kids.
While it's true Paterno is no longer here to defend himself, what defense could he offer?  The pieces of the puzzle fit.  There can be no other conclusion.  Even Paterno admitted he should have done more.  What a sad and tragic ending!
Can you imagine the culture running rampant at Penn State?  Janitors knew about Sandusky, but they were afraid they would be fired if they spoke up.  As much as Paterno tried to deny it, everything is secondary to football at Penn State.
It was the perfect storm.  The Penn State universe revolved around four people-- Spanier, Curley, Schultz, and especially Paterno, and they conspired to keep quiet.  I hope we've learned the value of checks and balances, and how to keep so few from becoming so powerful.
The Freeh Report cost Penn State $6.5 million.  Victims will receive much more in settlements from the university.  Can you put a price on a reputation?

Throughout this whole sorry and criminal episode, Joe Paterno still has his defenders.  You cannot overlook the good he's done for PSU, but all his noble deeds now carry an asterisk.  *  He turned his back while kids were being raped on his watch.

And please, I don't want to hear about the money he gave to the library.  Paterno was a millionaire, and no one ever gave a donation they couldn't afford.  Paterno didn't make much money from the university in and of itself, but he was the king of endorsements.

I have to admit.  I was surprised by the tone of Freeh's report.  PSU paid for it, and you know how I feel about "internal investigations."  Freeh's candor was refreshing, and at least at first blush, it appears fair.

Best of the internet:  FOX Sports Radio's Tomm Looney, a PSU graduate, said repeated mentions of Paterno's good deeds is an insult to the victims.

Yahoo! Sports Radio's Steve Czaban Tweeted the statue of Paterno at Beaver Stadium should be moved so it "looks in the other direction."

And, what perfect timing.  Hundreds of out of town media are in Scranton, as the mayor and council continue their petty bickering over the city's finances.  Yes, we're putting our best foot forward.

Let's hope tomorrow is a better day.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Truth Shall Set You Freeh + UPDATE

How many times do you think you'll see that headline today and tomorrow?

The report, by former FBI head Louis Freeh comes out today.  Penn State hired Freeh to investigate its handling of the Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

The Paterno family is already in the damage control mode.  In a statement released Tuesday, the family complained there were a rush to judgement, and Joe was never given due process before he was fired.  You know, they're right.

On the other hand, you have Joe admitting there was more he should have done to stop Sandusky, and this was a man who infuriated the Board of Trustees by cheering at an impromptu pep rally in front of his home-- just was we were learning Sandusky abused a lot of kids, and some on PSU property.  Paterno's lack of judgement and insensitivity were stunning.  He might not have received due process, but he gave the BOT reasons to fire him, on a silver platter.  At a time when PSU needed responsible leadership, Joe Paterno went in the other direction.

There is no doubt a lot of people will be unhappy by today's Freeh report.  There are those who will think it didn't go far enough.  There will be those who will believe they didn't get a fair shake.  Governor Tom Corbett was Attorney General when a lot of this happened, and I can't see any way he escapes scrutiny here.

As always, blog posts hit the internet at midnight.  I'll be back later in the day with my thoughts on the Freeh report.

>>>9:45 AM UPDATE:   Just when you thought the Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal couldn't get any more disgusting...

The Freeh Report shows Spanier, Curley, Schultz, and Paterno knew what Sandusky was doing.  They had 14 years to stop it, and they did NOTHING!

It shows those four cared more about the school, the football program, themselves, and their pal Jerry Sandusky than the kids.  It will take a long, long time before this shame is washed away-- if ever.

Joe Paterno defended HIS football program to the very end, and there lies the problem.  Football is more important than anything else at PSU.  Paterno tried to distance the program from the Sandusky case in a note written shortly before his death.  You cannot separate Paterno from football at Penn State, so therefore the Sandusky scandal is also a football scandal.

Paterno lovers will have to realize their man had some serious flaws.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Independence Day has come and gone, and "back to school" sales have started appearing on line, on TV, and in newspapers.  The big box office supply stores are leading the charge.

Most schools now open just before Labor Day, so that means there's a good month and a half of vacation time left for the kids.

As a kid, I used to hate those first back to school ads.  Now that school is in the rear view mirror, I like it.  It signals cooler weather and quieter times just around the corner.

Is it too early for back to school sales?  Probably, but remember it is a big time for retailers, so you know what happens when there's money to be made.  Prepare for the blitz.

The advent of uniforms, even for public school kids, has taken a lot of fun out of the process.  I was around long before uniforms, and I did my best to keep the process stress free-- a trip to the Jean King for a few pair of Levi's, a few shirts, a new pack of underwear, socks.  Boom!  Done.

Enjoy the rest of summer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

All Stars

I really used to look forward to the Major League Baseball All Star Game.

Other than the World Series and pre season games, it was the only chance to see players from both leagues mix it up.  It was an opportunity to see some western stars, who we rarely saw here in the east.

Well, times have changed.  Interleague play, and a dozen cable channels have taken away what made the All Star Game special.  If I'm up tonight, I'll watch, but I won't go out of my way.

Be that as it may, here are a few thoughts as the season hits its half way point...

It's nice to see the Orioles, Pirates, and Nationals doing well.

It's sad to see baseball still hasn't fixed the Oakland relocation problem.  No one goes to Oakland games, and it looks even worse on TV because the team plays in a cavernous football stadium.  The Bay Area cannot support two teams, especially when one plays in a bad stadium.

I'm still seeing a lot of empty seats when I watch highlights on TV.

I'll agree with Joe Buck.  In a YES Network interview, he said he wasn't thrilled with the expanded playoff system, but he wants to see how the first year goes before forming a solid opinion.

ESPN's Chris Berman poisons everything he touches.

Monday, July 9, 2012


You can't spell "tedious" without Ted.

As you might have guessed by now, I saw the movie "Ted" and I thought it was awful.

To get you up to speed, "Ted" has a great premise-- a little boy wishes his teddy bear can talk.  It comes to life, and they grow up together.  Well, they really don't grow up.  As long as Ted is in his life, John Bennett, played by Mark Wahlberg, will always be a little boy.  The bear causes problems in John's relationship with Lori, played by Mila Kunis.  By the way, Kunis is more beautiful than ever, and she can act.

This is Seth MacFarlane's first live action film.  He makes the mistake of substituting crude for clever.  "Alf" was funnier.

Ted drinks, snorts cocaine, chases women, swears, and fornicates.  It gets old after about ten minutes.  Like MacFarlane's "Family Guy" TV cartoon, the jokes often come out of nowhere.  They make no sense, and they fall flat.  The movie has a disjointed feel.

If you've seen the trailers, you've seen the best jokes this movie has to offer.

Parts of this movie are just plain creepy, and I couldn't wait to get out of the theater.   Based on the premise alone, "Ted" should have been a scream.

As disturbing as the movie, in and of itself, it was scary to see the number of adults who brought children to the cineplex.  This isn't a movie for kids!  Parents in the theater should have been arrested on the spot.  Theaters need to get past the quest for box office dollars, and they have to tell parents what movies are inappropriate for the kids.  Apparently, the parents aren't interested in doing the job themselves.

I will admit that I'm in the minority here.  I read where opening weekend reviews were 66 per cent positive, and reaction from movie goers was 88 per cent positive.

I'm sorry.  "Ted" isn't funny.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Classic Bad Photography Sunday: Pittsburgh II

Yesterday, I showed you the view from outside PNC Park in Pittsburgh, shot during a summer '03 vacation. Today, it's the view from inside.

The Bucs were out of town during my visit, so this will have to do.  The stadium looks rather plain in this picture, but couple a simple design with a great location, and you have a real gem.  They did it right.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Classic Bad Photography Saturday: Pittsburgh I

OK, here's my train of thought here.  It's the weekend after Independence Day, and that's traditionally a big vacation time.  This weekend, it's a couple old vacation pictures taken during a trip before I had the blog.

I first visited Pittsburgh during Governor Casey's heart/liver transplant surgery in 1993.  There wasn't time to explore the city, and I always meant to get back there.

I finally returned in the summer of 2003.

Pittsburgh is an underrated city.  It's rather nice.  There's plenty to see, and it won't cost you a fortune.

This is a shot of the Clemente Bridge, taken from the back of PNC Park.

I took the long way to Pittsburgh-- 81 to 80.  I then swung down to Altoona, and moved west on 22.  It was longer, but there was more to see.

I took a different way home-- the turnpike to Carlisle, and north on 81.

If you have the time, take the scenic route.

Friday, July 6, 2012

London Calling

Television is known as a heartless business, so it's always great to see nice people rewarded for their talents and efforts.

Old friend Jason Knapp has been hired to call three sports in the upcoming Summer Olympics in London-- wrestling, archery, and shooting.

Jason had the desk next to mine, when we were both working down the street at 415 Lackawanna Avenue in downtown Scranton.

He knows his stuff without being showy, and I have no doubt Jason will do a great job.

NBC made a wise choice.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Morning Perspective

I have no idea how some people in government, public relations, and political campaigns get their jobs.  I will admit that I'm coming at this in a different way than most people.

A big festival and fireworks show was held in downtown Scranton Tuesday.  Vice President Joe Biden decided to use the opportunity to look for votes in his hometown.  My job was to be there in the morning and set the table.

The photo you see above was taken early Tuesday.  It shows the stage set up in front of the federal courthouse on North Washington Avenue.

Newswatch 16 This Morning has thousands of viewers and is one of the top rated morning news broadcasts in the country.  Do you think the organizers had someone there in the morning to get the message out about closed streets and available activities?  No. The city?  No.  The county?  No.  Someone from the Obama/Biden campaign eventually showed up.  I asked her to find someone I can speak with.  She sent out an e-mail on her iPhone.  Nothing.  Even the sponsoring radio stations didn't show up until after noon, blowing an opportunity to broadcast live in the morning, do a meet and greet, get the word out, and promote the stations and the event.

In fairness, a county employee was there early in the morning, and he answered all my questions, off camera,  about streets closing and the sequence of events.

I am most dismayed by the performance of the campaign.  It was sloppy, at least in the morning.  When you're in the public relations and advertising business, you have to anticipate as well as react.  In fact, the former is often more important than the latter.  Did it even occur to these people that TV stations would be live on the scene for their morning broadcasts?

This goes far beyond a chance to get on television.  ABC News started planning its expansion of morning news on Ronald Reagan's inauguration day in 1981.  ABC executives were on their way to the U.S. Capitol and New York offices to work on inauguration coverage when they noticed all the people out and about in the pre dawn hours.  I have news for you.  A lot more people are up a lot earlier these days.

The city and county should have been on the square to answer questions from the taxpayers, and there were many.  Radio stations should have drummed up the excitement, and the Obama/Biden people need votes.

I hope the rest of the day went better than the morning.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


What could be more American on Independence Day than a review of the new Walter Cronkite biography from Douglas Brinkley?

I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a long time.

"Cronkite" follows the journalism legend from his birth in Missouri, to his passing in New York City three years ago.

This is more than one man's story.  It's America's story-- from the post World War I days, to the depression, to World War II, Korea, the space race, Vietnam, Nixon, and modern U.S. life.

Cronkite started his career by working for newspapers and United Press.  Brinkley makes it sound so romantic-- with typewriters, and teletype machines, and deadlines, and late nights, and early mornings.

Radio followed.  Then, of course, television.  Walter Cronkite helped invent TV news as we know it.  He became the "most trusted man in America."  CNN founder Ted Turner once referred to Cronkite as "the one guy on TV no one ever got sick of."

The book exposes Cronkite's flaws-- like a love for the night life, enthusiasm for the Kennedys and NASA that bordered on unobjective cheerleading.  He was also late to understand Vietnam was a huge mistake.  Cronkite could be a tough man to deal with.  He didn't like sharing the spotlight, and he had his share of pet projects that drove his co-workers crazy.

Through the book, we learned this broadcasting god is human, and we're all okay with that.

Walter Cronkite gave up the CBS Evening News chair in 1981, so I can't see anyone under 45 really enjoying this book.  Still, there's enough behind the scenes gossip to spice it up.

I usually get a feel of satisfaction when I finish a book, especially one as thick as "Cronkite."  I had an odd feeling when I turned the last page.  I was sorry there wasn't more.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Who Thought That Was A Good Idea?!

There really isn't much to do at Aylesworth Park in Jermyn, and that's okay.  It's a nice, uncluttered place to take in nature for a few minutes.  I really used to like coming here after a heavy rain, because there was this cool little waterfall in a rock cut.

I hope there was a good reason for it.  Someone decided, rather than let the water flow naturally, they would channel it through an ugly plastic pipe.  Above, the view from one week ago.  Below, how it looked back in April of 2008.

Clearly, the old looks a lot better than the new.  Get rid of the pipe, or at least cut it back and disguise it.  It's ugly.

Monday, July 2, 2012

About the Cover

There is no stunning and startling raison d'etre for this month's blog header.  I was simply walking through downtown Wilkes-Barre on a recent morning when the marquee on the West Market Street side inspired me.

The Sterling's death warrant has been signed.  We just have to wait for the traveling executioner to come to town to do the deed.

This shouldn't have happened.  It's too late now.  There are dozens of other Sterlings across our area.  Let's hope we learned a lesson here.  Appreciate what we have.  Fix what we can.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: More Rail Cars

Today, a couple more of those interesting rail cars, sitting on a siding off South Washington Avenue in Scranton.

The 469, seen above, is one of two diners built specifically for the Phoebe Snow in 1949 - one for eastbound, one for westbound.  The PS had two identical trainsets manufactured for its debut late in '49.  

Above, it's the City of Lima (a sleeper or Pullman) which was owned by the New York, Chicago, and St Louis, better known as the Nickel Plate Road.  It's relevance to NE PA is this; prior to 1960, the DL&W carried this car from Hoboken to Buffalo via Scranton.  Since the DL&W didn't stretch to Chicago, the sleeper was turned over to the Nickel Plate at Buffalo and was known as a "through" sleeper, meaning you didn't have to change trains, the car was switched over to an NKP train and went to Chicago. It's been pretty much fully restored.  

Much of today's commentary was provided by Vince Sweeney.  I'm not that smart when it comes to rail history.