Monday, April 30, 2018

You Better, You Better, You Bet

It's the American way.  Someone is always coming along and trying to do it better.

I grew up with The Globe and Scranton Dry (later Oppenheim's)-- big downtown Scranton department stores.

Keyser Oak Plaza opened a couple of miles from downtown-- big stores, variety, better hours, and easy parking.  Downtown took a hit.

Then, it was Viewmomt Mall and all the stores around it.  Another nail in the downtown coffin, and Keyser Oak was no longer the fun, new kid on the block.

While Viewmont appears to be doing semi-well, other malls aren't.  Big department stores are either downsizing or going out of business altogether.  Wyoming Valley Mall lost two anchor stores in one week, and the last of the anchor stores is clearing out of Lycoming Mall, near Williamsport.

Above is a photo I took last week, during a visit to the very tired and dated Wyoming Valley Mall.  As I walked through Sears, all I could think about was "This could be the last time I'm ever in a Sears."  It didn't look bad.  Nothing special.  No reason to go out of your way.  The store closes before summer.

There are dozens of reasons malls are failing.  Some malls are simply awful-- bad store mix, dated look, cracked tile, bad lighting, bad security, poor marketing and advertising.

As for the department stores... many simply look shot.  They cut back on staff.  Shelves aren't organized.  Why rummage for sizes in a messy shirt department when I can go on-line, find what I need in seconds, and have it delivered to my front door?  No one is around to help.  Customer service is dismal.

It is said those "lifestyle centers," like the Shoppes at Montage, took a big bite out of the malls.  No need to wade through all that mall real estate when you can park at the place you really want to visit.

The Schuylkill Mall has been bulldozed.  Other than that, the Mall at Steamtown appears to be our area's other biggest retail failure.  For a while, it was mostly empty.  Now, it's a college campus, medical office, department store and a weekend flea market type operation.  Kudos for trying to morph in to something contemporary, although I'm still hearing horror stories about the parking.

By the way, I had my first experience with the new ticked parking system last week.  A clerk at Boscov's explained it to me.  You get one ticket when you pull in.  You get a second in the store.  They look exactly alike, except for a little red "2" at the bottom of the second ticket.  I had to put on my glasses to pull out of the garage.  Really.  Make the ticket different colors.  An attendant was stationed at the exit to guide people through the process.  It really wasn't that difficult.  I breezed out in seconds, but then again, I was there early in the morning.  I shudder to think at what will happen on a big day, like Black Friday.

The bottom line is the strong survive.  The innovators prosper.  I recently wrote about a walk around Bon Ton in Wyoming, an okay, clean and organized store-- but I couldn't tell whether it was 2018  or 1988.

Once you stop trying to do it better, the ball game is over.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Andy's Angles: NightWatch

The minor league baseball stadium has been here many times before, but, I believe, this is the first time I've had this view at night.

The shot was taken last weekend, just before sunrise.  No, it wasn't an extra inning game.  The lights were still on as crews apparently did some maintenance.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Andy's Angles: Noreen & Me

When I started at WNEP. Mark Sowers was doing the morning weather Wednesday through Sunday.  Joe Snedeker was on weekend nights.  Noreen Clark worked Monday and Tuesday mornings.  Eventually, Joe joined us full time for weekday mornings.  Mark Sowers went to weekend nights and webmaster the rest of the time.  Noreen shifted to weekend mornings.

Christina Brown, an absolutely lovely and talented woman, was weekend morning anchor back then.  I was the broadcast's producer.  After a few months of Noreen and Christina, news director Paul Stueber thought the weekend morning broadcasts would work better with a co-anchor and I was enlisted.

That lasted for eleven months before Christina decided to change careers in 2000.  It was too bad.  It took us a while to figure it out, but we eventually hit our stride.  I solo anchored for a while before the new producer went on maternity leave and never returned.  I have been producer and anchor for a long time now.  No complaints.

Noreen retires after tomorrow morning's broadcast and things will never be the same.

I could set my watch by her arrival.  I would hear the electronic door lock click, and Noreen would come bounding in the door at 100 miles per hour, full of energy and enthusiasm.  She never mailed it in.  Noreen would go over every aspect of the forecast, very detail oriented.

Noreen was also a team player, pitching in to answer phones when we were short handed.  Duties have changed over the years.  We added social media, and radio, and Amazon Echo.  New technology is always a challenge.  Noreen adapted.

I'll admit that we had a couple of battles over the years.  No couple, together for 20 years, like Noreen and I, get along all the time.  We would always bury the hatchet quickly for the sake of our friendship and the broadcast.  The viewers come first.  In spite of the bumps in the road, I consider Noreen to be a dear and trusted friend.  She was always someone to talk with, when things weren't going well, personally and professionally. I value that.

Noreen, enjoy your retirement.  Thank you for 20 years.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Let's Review

My first vacation week of the year is over, and it's back to work tonight.

What was the week like?  Uneventful, and I'm not complaining.  I went out and played with my camera for the first time in a while.  The weather hasn't been the greatest.  There were trips to shopping centers I hadn't visited in a while, and now I remember why I stayed away.  A little spring cleaning, gym visits and writing. 

I recent vacation feature is getting together with an old high school friend.  We reconnected last year after not seeing each other for nearly 40 years.  Meetings are rare because of conflicting work schedules.  Anyway, it was a night of some desperately needed laughs.

April's vacation week usually means my bike comes out of storage.  I ride early in the morning.  50 degrees is my cut off point, and the temperatures aren't there year.  Maybe this week.

So, there it is.  Mundane.  My week in review.  Now, let's get back to work.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thursday Scrapple

One of the Beatles' shortest songs, "Yesterday, is one of the best.

Terri Garr made an appearance on an old Johnny Carson show last week.  Man, she was really funny.

I find myself using Snapchat's messaging feature more often these days.  I still haven't posted a picture.

Benadryl is my new best friend.

I visited a couple of malls this week, for the first time in a long time.  I was surprised at how shabby they have become.  Empty stores.  Cracked floor tiles.

There is nothing really wrong with it, but I really don't get all the fuss over a new royal baby.

Smaller parks and shorter fences means far too many MLB home runs.

I'm thrilled its NFL draft day because I'm getting tired of hearing about it.

I've seen some pothole patching out there.  Progress seems painfully slow.

Rainy days really don't bother me.

Ford is killing off at least three cars, in favor of SUV's.  I wonder if Ford will regret the decision as gas prices inch up.

GMail is developing self destructing emails, like Snapchat.  Yes!

Is there a mini mart that doesn't sell beer?

Kudos to our newspaper friends, who are keeping a close eye on the Scranton School District.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Geek in Me

This is something very few people will understand but I'm on vacation and big issues can wait for another time.  yes, I will admit that it is strange I'm so fascinated by these things.  Let's start with some history.

I used to vacation quite a bit in Baltimore back in the 80's and 90's.  It was far without being too far, and it was affordable.  I'd get a hotel just outside the city and venture in to the Inner Harbor for a couple days.  Time would also be devoted to exploring the suburbs, the malls, and occasional trips to Washington and Annapolis.  I'd visit friends in Harrisburg either on the way down, or on the trip home.

A few things stopped that.  First, urban sprawl really wrecked my quiet little hotel area in the suburbs.  I happened to be in Baltimore on 9/11.  I went back the next year for my annual September vacation.  It wasn't fun.  Too creepy.  Too many bad memories.  I never returned.

Now that I've established the foundation, I'd always make sure to tune in the Baltimore TV newscasts.  WJZ was the big dog in town, and the staff there did a great job.  WBAL and WMAR also put on solid newscasts.  There were a couple of affiliation switches over the years, the latest in 1995.  WBAL really benefited from hooking up with NBC, the hot network at the time.  WJZ became a CBS station.  CBS had some issues back them.  WMAR went from NBC to ABC.

To put it delicately, WMAR is having problems gaining traction.  There was a logo switch last week.
Above was the one I saw during my visits.  A little tired, a little dated, but I liked it and I thought WMAR had some really good anchors and reporters.  There were radical logo and talent changes in the years that followed.

Below is the new old logo.  Management calls it the "heritage 2."
I like it.  Fresh look, but still reminiscent of the classic 2.

Will it help?  I don't know.  I haven't seen the WMAR product in a long time.  It can't hurt.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I Told You So

The New York Post reported last week that retired Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre auditioned for a role on ESPN's Monday Night Football, and he flubbed it.

That makes me happy!

It's not because I don't like Brett Favre.  I do.  Really.  He is one of the game's all time greats.

Let me give you the reason for my glee.  It proves this radio and TV stuff isn't as easy as it looks.  That's it.

We are in your homes every day and night.  It's a privilege and I don't take it lightly.  There always has been a fair amount of critiquing and second guessing.  I'm not complaining.  That comes along with the job.  It got kicked up a notch with the recent rush of "fake news."

Favre's flub shows a lot.  for every Tony Romo, who appears to be a natural and talented broadcaster, the road is littered with the bodies of those who have tried and failed.  

Let me tell you a story from "back in the day."  When I was at WARM in the 80's, the legendary Ron Allen did an afternoon sports call in show.  When Ron was on his game, there was none better.  He cooked up a gimmick, where he would invite some of the regular callers in to the studio to co host.  I won't mention his name, and I still remember it, but one of the first was this loud mouthed, know it all kid.  He was a great caller-- entertaining and knowledgeable.  Yes, he could be obnoxious, but the kid knew his sports.  He took a taxi to the station in Avoca.  We sat him down in the chair next to Ron.  I kid you not, the kid shook with fear.  And by the way, when I say "kid," I mean mid or late 20's.  It was awful radio.  I gave the kid a ride home to Scranton.  He was exceptionally nice and polite.  Smart.  Great on the phone.  Froze behind the mic.

Just remember, talking is a great way to make a living, and I still love it.  But, it's not as easy as it looks.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Mini Me, Maximum Effort

Actor Verne Troyer died over the weekend.  49.  He was a troubled man, and I am sorry.

Today's entry is less about Troyer and more about my friend and former co-worker Bob Reynolds.

Bob left no stone unturned while in pursuit of a story.  I constantly marveled at his thoroughness and enthusiasm.

Many years ago, Bob was working the WNEP assignment desk when we received a rumor Troyer was dating someone with ties to the up-valley of Lackawanna County, and he was spotted in the area.  If I remember right, it was Jessup, but it could have been any of the surrounding communities.

Bob called every business in the area, every mini mart, gas station, restaurant, etc., to see if there had been any Troyer sightings.  Remember, this was before the lunacy of Facebook, Twitter and assorted other social media.  It was a time consuming and painstaking task, and Bob really wanted that story.

Unfortunately, Bob came up empty.  I'm not sure if the story was true, or if Troyer managed to fly under the radar during his short stay here.  Bob tried, and tried hard...  and that is why I will always think of Bob Reynolds when Verne Troyer's name comes up.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Andy's Angles: Light's Out!

The news came down mid week.  Sears in the Wyoming Valley Mall is closing.  It is one of the original tenants, dating back to the early 70's.

I will re-use one of my favorite phrases:  "Management has bungled Sears into irrelevance."  The company has cut its national footprint in half in the last two years, and most in the retail and banking industries feel they will all be gone before long.

Sears is one of those places you were never really in love with, unless you were a carpenter or mechanic, but it was America.

It's sad to watch the death spiral.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Andy's Angles: Bon Ton 1854-2018

The news started leaking out Monday night, and in 24 hours it became official.  Bankrupt Bon Ton was being sold to a liquidator-- the only company that seemed interested.  No one wanted to buy the 250 store chain and keep it running.

My Tuesday morning assignment was to get shopper reaction.  After getting bounced from the Wyoming Valley Mall parking lot, we went to the store in the Midway Shopping Center in Wyoming.  Some shoppers seemed indifferent.  Most were sorry to see Bon Ton disappear.

After writing and recording the voice track for my noon story, I went inside to take a look around while photographer Erich was editing.  I hadn't been in a Bon Ton in years.  There used to be one close to me, in the comatose Mall at Steamtown, but it closed.  I don't get to the Wyoming Valley Mall as often as I once did.  I found a clean, bright, well organized, and well stocked store.  Yes, it might have been a bit tired, but there was nothing really bad that I could see.  I watched as a young, efficient, and courteous cashier took care of a difficult customer.  When I say "difficult," I don't mean the customer was mean.  She was a challenge-- coupons, several items, a new charge account, plenty of questions.  The customer was actually very nice and polite.  She was simply above and beyond the normal transaction.

More than 20,000 workers will lose their jobs when Bon Ton goes under, and that makes me sad.  I'm sure there will be a ripple effect.  When malls lose anchors, smaller stores see a decline in business and close.  Newspapers, already on thin ice, lose a big advertiser.  This is more than a department store shutting its doors.

So, why did it happen?  I consulted the home office newspaper, in York, for some insight.  Not much available.  It appears to be the standard stuff-- competition from the internet, a decline in mall traffic, America's love affair with the department store is over...

I'm not going to shed fake tears because I wasn't a steady customer.  However, the death of Bon Ton really does make me sad.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Week 1

It's sleeping Homer's first appearance of 2018, and regular blog readers know that signals a vacation.  I'm off for the next few days.  Newswatch 16 Saturday and Sunday Morning will be in the very capable hands of Jim Hamill.

Plans?  No, not really.  Maybe catch with some friends, definitely catch on some sleep, a little shopping, a little photography.  Nothing major.

I had some scattered days off in January, but this is my first full week off since October.  While I enjoy my job, it's nice to get a little time off to recharge the battery.

I'll still be updating the blog.  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Unfinished Thursday

In a recent discussion of radio greats, I neglected to mention Jack Buck.  He did St. Louis Cardinals baseball games on radio for decades.  Plus, he was CBS Radio's Monday night football guy for twenty years.  Buck called 17 Super Bowls.

I also mentioned Larry King.  He jumped on to the national stage with an all night radio show on the Mutual network.  It ran from midnight to 5:30.  The first half of the show would feature a guest and call-ins.  The second half was open phones.  The last half hour, which very few stations carried, was just Larry talking with the morning Mutual news person and a meteorologist.  Very informal, and a lot of fun.

For a while, King did both radio and CNN.  Eventually, the radio show was cut to 11 pm to 2 am, and it was repeated at 2 am.  It was awful.  Stale, canned, boring, and tired.

Even so, Larry was the guy who kept the lights on at Mutual for a long time.  If you wanted King's show, the network forced stations to take a lot of its other programming and it wasn't very good.  Mutual went away shortly after King left the stage.

Late March marked the 45th anniversary of the $10,000 Pyramid on CBS.  Very few of those early shows remain.  The Game Show Network runs the $25,000 Pyramid weekday mornings.  It's amazing how well those old shows hold up.  Dick Clark was a great host.  He moved the game along without getting in the way.

Walmart is renovating several of its Pennsylvania stores.  It's something KMart and Sears didn't do.  Who is on the verge of closing, and who dominates American retailing?  Bon Ton is done.  I'll have more on that soon.

Even though this next entry doesn't belong here...  I was very sorry Barbara Bush passed away.  She supported and championed literacy programs for decades.  Bravo!  I read where the Bush family spent millions of its own money helping libraries wrecked by Hurricane Harvey.  
A great person and a great cause.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Buck Rogers

It was odd that I was tweaking my Art Bell blog entry as Ray Bradbury was on an old Johnny Carson, playing on WNEP2.

I like science.  Always have.  As I've noted here before, being a kid in the late 60's and early 70's was great.  We were going to the moon and exploring space.  There was a new technological advance just about every day.

However, I was never interested in science fiction.  Star Trek and Star Wars bore me.  Fans will counter that both series are rich in characters.  The "space" thing is almost secondary.

Do I think there is life on other planets?  Yes.  Look up at night, especially if you can get out of the cities.  All those stars.  All those planets.  Odds are, there is something out there, even if it is microscopic.

Do I believe in UFO's?  No.  I can list one thousand reasons.

What about conspiracy theories?  Being a professional skeptic, I do think there are many areas in which the government has withheld information, on a variety of topics.

Science fiction might only be a matter of dreaming what is someday possible, and I see a great need for that.  Dreams can come true.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

First Person: Pot and Wind

Let me tell you about my Monday.

The day started with a preview of a new medical marijuana dispensary opening in Scranton, the first in the city.
For me, the jury is still out.  Some, but not all, think marijuana works in pain management and seizure control, and pot is better than opioids.

The skeptic in me sees this is the first step toward legalization of marijuana for recreational use.  I'm sure it will be a very nice cash cow for the marijuana industry-- and the state, which is running out of things to tax.

It's like alcohol.  If you can safely use it in the privacy of your own home, fine.  But, the last thing we need is more impaired people behind the wheel.  Some experts view marijuana as a gateway drug.  There is conflicting research in that area.  Check the states with legal marijuana.  They had to hire more police officers to deal with marijuana related crimes.

We were lucky.  It was breezy and misty during our stay at Keyser Oak Plaza.  The big rain was holding off, and I was very relieved when we finished our last report at 6:30.

Photographer Erich and I were on our way to another story when my phone rang.  Assignment editor Mary was sending us to Lutherwood apartments, off Lake Scranton Road in Scranton.  There was a problem with the roof.  We were about ten minutes away.  The building looked okay from the road.
The view from the parking lot was a different story.  The wind peeled the rubber membrane off the roof.  The parking lot was littered with particle board and insulation.  Amazing.  Erich maneuvered through the minefield and found a place to put the truck.  He shot video.  I sent photos back to the station and did a little social media.

Crisis management tip:  An assistant Scranton fire chief got to us right away, and made sure we knew no one was hurt.  I can imagine the panic of friends and relatives of residents here.  In a story like this, seconds count.  It was smart to get to the media fast.

Our luck rain out.  Heavy rain arrived.  A cold rain.  The wind was sending it sideways, so an umbrella would have been useless.  We got soaked, but our discomfort was nothing compared to what the building's residents were experiencing.  It took about two hours, but we got everything we needed for a noon story.  Assignment editor Mary granted us permission to do our editing at the station rather than in the truck.  We needed the chance to dry ourselves and our equipment.  Thank you, Mary.

I'm going to tell you something strange.  I've been writing news since college in 1979.  I started receiving a paycheck as a professional broadcaster in 1981.  When there is a big story, and this was big, I still have a twinge of self doubt.  I wonder if I have the skill to do the story justice.  After looking at the video and picking out the best parts of the interviews, I sat down at a computer and started banging away on the keyboard.  It didn't take long.  The video was outstanding.  Several of the building's residents gladly told us about their experiences.  The story came together nicely.  As always, I worry far too much.

News director Carl and I discussed the script.  I recorded the audio and handed it back to photographer Erich.  He matched audio and video.  Great job, and it was back in the truck to go back to the scene.  There were peeks and breaks of sunshine over Scranton.  It didn't last long.  the rain returned.  The wind kicked up, the rain returned, and our noon live report was quite a challenge.

By the way, Carl, thank you for the new and dry cap.

It was then back to the office to tie up some loose ends before leaving for the day, and handing the story off to the daytime Scranton crew.  I hit the office door at 2:30 am.  It was out at 12:30 pm.  No complaints.  I was heading out to a warm home, not an evacuation shelter like the Lutherwood residents.

So much could have gone wrong.  I am thankful we got the job done.

One other note by hitting the "publish" button for the day.  Harry Anderson died yesterday.  65.  Judge Harry Stone on "Night Court."  Great character.  I'm really not in to magic, but he made it interesting with some really cool "Tonight" show appearances during the Carson days.  This makes me very sad.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Art of Radio

It is with mixed feelings that I discuss the death of Art Bell.  The radio talk show host died Friday at the age of 72.

Bell trolled the overnight hours, and for a while he was big.  500+ radio stations, 15 million listeners per week.  There wasn't a UFO or conspiracy theory he didn't like and embrace.

I tried listening several times, to see what the buzz was about.  I just didn't get it.  To be brutally honest with you, he seemed nuts.  Every theory got on the air, most unquestioned by the host.  You could say anything, assert anything, and get away with it.

I love the First Amendment.  There is no bigger defender.  Bell had the absolute right to do his thing. Radio stations had the right to point their satellite dishes to the signal coming from to Art Bell's Nevada trailer.

On the other hand, there is a big part of me that thought it was irresponsible for so many radio stations to give so much time to someone I really viewed as unstable.

The overnight hours are currently filled with radio shows of a similar genre.  They are popular.  I get that.  Radio is still a "mass" medium.  You program what believes gets the most listeners and makes the most money.  Me?  I'm listening to news, classic rock or sports talk.

Even though Art Bell wasn't my thing, my sympathy goes out to his family, friends, and fans.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Andy's Angles: The Avenue

Looks can be deceiving.

I intended for this to be a blog entry on the darkness of Lackawanna Avenue in downtown Scranton, but my camera phone really overcompensated.  The street looks much brighter than it actually is.

Downtowns can't survive unless people feel safe, and people are apparently okay with the way things are.  It's not uncommon to see people walking to early buses, taking an early morning jog on downtown streets...

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Andty's Angles: Samters

I always enjoy seeing old buildings being adapted for new use.  Samters in downtown Scranton is getting its third lease on life.  It first was a clothing store.  Then offices, mostly occupied by the state.
Now, the building is being turned into apartments.  I had a chance to peer through the first floor windows Tuesday morning.  It seems the building is fairly gutted.  Not pictured here are the blueprints of the available units, displayed in the windows.

It's fairly clear that retail is not the answer to a downtown's problems.  Apartments are and it's nice to see more people will eventually call downtown Scranton "home."

Friday, April 13, 2018

Education Week

I do apologize for the lack of variety on topics this week.  I'm like a dog with a bone.  Once I get a hold of something...

It's another entry on education to close the week.  There are a few other education ideas I'm mulling over, but they can wait.

As I was prattling on the other day about how junior high can be just as influential, possibly even more so than high school, I left something out.

I had a 9th grade Civics course taught by Hyman Markowitz.  Loved it, and Mr. Markowitz was such a kind and patient man.  He left us several years ago.  I know his relatives check in here on occasion.  Mr. Markowitz was a great guy who taught me a lot.  It was a great foundation for a jobh in the news business.

Again, the other day, I lamented how I run in to so many young people who have problems forming complete and coherent sentences.  I also encounter so many young people, and adults, who know very little about how their government works.  Let's fix that.

Most afternoons, I manage to catch John Hancock's show on WBT in Charlotte.  John spent a couple of years at WARM in the mid 80's and working for him was a great time.  Anyway, John kicked off a discussion on influential teachers recently.  

It's tough to explain, but there were so many times I felt a teacher's influence long after I left school.  I'll remember words spoken, lessons learned, years ago.  Education doesn't end the day you receive the diploma.  The good teachers leave something with you that lasts a lifetime.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Thursday Scrapple

I know airlines ship hundreds of animals every day, without a problem.  I still wouldn't put a pet on a plane.

It's 2018.  You have to wonder how problems like Syria can still exist.

KMart in the Pittston Plaza closed for good Sunday.  You have to wonder how much time the entire Sears/KMart company has left.  And, you have to wonder what chain is next.

I know the reasons behind the increase in gasoline prices, but something about the whole system makes no sense to me.

There is no defense of his alleged behavior, but watching the fall of Bill Cosby is such a tragic story.

Chuck McCann passed away the other day.  83.  Funny man.

I loved seeing so many people participate in Sunday's Scranton Half Marathon.

The Wilkes-Barre Police report shows one or two people really can make a difference in a big organization-- positively or negatively.

I have a dental check up next week, and I'm really looking forward to it.

The NFL is ditching "color rush" uniforms on Thursday Night Football.  Most people seemed to hate them.  I really didn't mind.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

And Another Thing...

My internet friend, Joseph Peter Klapatch, wrote a book a couple of years ago.  It's called "The Old School," and it deals with the history of Olyphant Schools and the start of the Mid Valley School District.

Regular blog readers know I hated just about every second I spent in two schools in Olyphant.  The building you see on the book's cover was condemned in 1976.  It should have happened a lot sooner.  You don't see the building just across the street, with all the warmth and charm of a state prison.  While a few faculty members were outstanding, there were so many who were lazy, angry, and burned out.  I questioned why they chose teaching as a profession.

I learned something by reading the book shortly after its publication.  Back in the day, towns put the big money into junior high schools-- not the high schools.  The reason was that a big percentage of the boys quit after junior high because they had to help support their families.  Junior high was their last schooling.

Don't ask me how, but I did manage to graduate.

As I was prattling on about education yesterday, I gave some additional thought to Joe's book.  While I had a few great teachers at the senior high level, some really influential ones were at the junior high.  That's good and bad.  Two out of my three math teachers were simply awful.  It's not the only reason, but it's a factor why I'm not a fan of math.

On the other hand, I had three great English teachers at the junior high, then located in Dickson City.  Guess who writes for a living?  I have no idea where to find one teacher.  Another passed away.  I tried contacting the third late last year.  It didn't work.  I'll try again.  A "thank you" is long overdue.

To review, I'm a single and childless individual.  I don't know what's going on in junior highs and middle schools.  I do see so much "career oriented" activities in high schools, and that's great.  I wonder what's happening in the earlier grades, and I hope it's starting the nudge toward jobs, careers, and dreams.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

STEMming the Tide

For a single and childless individual, I sure have a lot of opinions on education.

Here's one.

There's been a huge STEM push in recent years.  It stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

Wonderful!  That's where the jobs are.  Many STEM programs aim at leveling the playing field for young women.  After all, men dominated those fields for a very long time.

Please, think about this.

While you're balancing your equations and trying to build a better mouse trap, don't leave English behind.

I run in to so many young people who cannot construct a decent basic sentence, written or verbal.  They have problems expressing thoughts.  It makes me sad.

I was lucky to have some great junior high and high school English teachers.   My parents never said no, during my early years, when I asked them to buy me a book.  I proudly attended a liberal arts college.

Please, never lose sight of the fact that you can have a head full of great technical knowledge, but you are lost unless you can transmit and translate what you know to someone else.  In science, there are trends and fads.  Great communication never goes out of style.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Follow Up Monday

For the first time in months,  I'm late with a blog entry.  Sorry.  There was an unexpected early start at work.

The Major League Baseball season began in late March.  The minor leagues followed a few days later.  I've been noticing a lot of empty seats.  It's time to face facts.  The season is too long, it starts too early, and there are too many teams.  League contraction and shorter seasons will never happen.  There is too much money to be made.

The NFL has been toying with shortening the pre season and expanding the regular season to 18 games.  No, please.

Even though I haven't been to a theater in years, I do look at what's doing well at the box office.  It seems we like monsters, space and raunch.  No judgement zone.

I try to avoid letting the weather affect me, but I'm really tired of the cold.  I'm not looking forward to broiling either.  That's why I like the moderate fall.

All fires frighten me.  The Saturday evening New York high rise fire was particularly disturbing.

KMart in the Pittston Plaza closed for good yesterday.  Watching the chain spiral into the history books is just plain sad.  Stores were old and tired.  There was no investment in the product.  It's no wonder shoppers stayed away.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Andy's Angles: Hazleton Snow

Even though I'm really itching to get back out on my bike, I'm trying not to let the long winter get me down.

The picture you see above was taken around 4 AM Monday, at Broad and Church in downtown Hazleton.  Heavy snow.  It would have been a prettier picture if it was January-- not April.

Joe Snedeker's long range forecast calls for a warm up beginning late this week.  I have a vacation beginning at noon, April 17th.  Maybe I'll be able to bike on my time off.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

About the Cover: The Anthracite

This month's blog header is the Anthracite Center in the middle of downtown Carbondale.

Below is a cut and paste from the Anthracite Center's web site.  Clearly, it needs updating.

Anthracite Center Holdings and Hospitality Services both became the anchor tenants in the former NBT Bank Building (formerly First National, Pioneer American, and PENNSTAR Banks) which has been helping define the downtown Carbondale skyline since its construction in 1928. The new owners of the building transformed the beautiful main lobby of the bank, including the impressive York Safe & Lock Company vault, meticulously maintained original marble tile floors, ornate ceiling architecture and lighting fixtures, while updating and modernizing the space – molding it into a unique community and private event space, with a large, open mezzanine, able to be enjoyed by all.

Downtowns can be dark and uninviting places.  It's nice to see something to light up Carbondale.

Overlooking the main lobby is a fully restored turn of the century style board room, ready to provide your meetings and presentations a professional space with vintage charm and classic styling. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors of the building include multiple professional office suites filled with vintage charm and modern amenities – perfectly suited for a single professional start-up company or a full team ready to relocate and grow.

Construction plans are in full-swing for converting the lower-level into Breaker Boys Cigar Club & Lounge, an up-scale bar/restaurant, featuring a walk-in humidor and separate smoking room located in a records vault.  Phase 2 of the Anthracite Center master plan involves a Roof-Top Lounge, atop the nearly 100 foot tall building, with breath-taking views of the entire City, which should be complete in late 2017.
Anthracite Center Holdings and Hospitality Services both became the anchor tenants in the former NBT Bank Building (formerly First National, Pioneer American, and PENNSTAR Banks) which has been helping define the downtown Carbondale skyline since its construction in 1928. The new owners of the building transformed the beautiful main lobby of the bank, including the impressive York Safe & Lock Company vault, meticulously maintained original marble tile floors, ornate ceiling architecture and lighting fixtures, while updating and modernizing the space – molding it into a unique community and private event space, with a large, open mezzanine, able to be enjoyed by all.

Overlooking the main lobby is a fully restored turn of the century style board room, ready to provide your meetings and presentations a professional space with vintage charm and classic styling. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors of the building include multiple professional office suites filled with vintage charm and modern amenities – perfectly suited for a single professional start-up company or a full team ready to relocate and grow.

Construction plans are in full-swing for converting the lower-level into Breaker Boys Cigar Club & Lounge, an up-scale bar/restaurant, featuring a walk-in humidor and separate smoking room located in a records vault.  Phase 2 of the Anthracite Center master plan involves a Roof-Top Lounge, atop the nearly 100 foot tall building, with breath-taking views of the entire City, which should be complete in late 2017.

Friday, April 6, 2018


A new movie, titled "Chappaquiddick" opens today.  Clearly, it deals with Edward Moore Kennedy's crash that killed a young woman with Luzerne County roots.

It doesn't rise to the level of obsession, but I think I'm like the rest of America.   The Kennedys are always of interest.  When channel surfing lands me on a JFK assassination documentary of History of National Geographic, I linger to watch.  For the record, I don't believe in a massive conspiracy.  However, I do think tons of information has been withheld from the American people.

It's the Kennedy way.

ABC and NBC great David Brinkley was once asked why every Bill Clinton scandal, and there were many, made page one...  and it was hands off Kennedy, Brinkley said he didn't have a good answer.  It simply wasn't done back in the 60's.  Pity.  We deserved to know what JFK was really like.

I have mixed feelings on the family.  I respect their sacrifice.  Few families have given more.  Two public murders.  Absolutely horrible.  On the other hand, I resent how there was two sets of rules.  One for them.  One for everybody else.

Ted Kennedy got away with homicide in 1969.  Much of the legal activity that followed was done behind closed doors.  It was embarrassing to watch his presidential candidacy implode in 1990.  Roger Mudd of CBS asked Kennedy why he wanted to be president.  Teddy didn't have a good answer.

The privilege carried to 1999.  JFK, Jr. and two others died in a plane crash.  The autopsy was rushed.  Established procedures not followed.  We'll never know what was in JFK, Jr's blood.  If there was something present, the deaths of the other two would be homicides.

Will I see the movie?  No.  I've ready plenty about Chappaquiddick, and I'm sure the movie will prompt another wave of television shows and magazine articles.  49 years has not dimmed the curiosity.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Media Notes

Dan Patrick isn't coming back to NBC's Sunday Night Football.  His call.  Too bad.  Patrick is one of the good ones.  It means more Mike Tirico, and you know how I feel about that.

Number of Baltimore Orioles games on free TV this season:  0.  Awful.  The same goes for the Washington Nationals.

I caught Imus' last show last week.  He dropped the mic very early, at 7:20 am and didn't do a full show.  That last broadcast was rambling and disjointed-- a tough listen.  After some nasty remarks about Rev. Sharpton and Howard Stern, it was over-- but not before proclaiming himself as one of the best ever.  Classless.

Watching "Roseanne" is not in my plans.  I'm not surprised it did well, but the numbers exceeded my expectations.

The Indianapolis 500 jumps to NBC next year, after more than 50 years on ABC.  Even though the race doesn't generate the interest it once did, this makes me sad.  Tradition.

Why are people so surprised that Facebook involves no privacy, whatsoever?

Because of "Scrubs,: I'm a huge Zach Braff fan.  "Garden State" was also excellent.  New sitcom, "Alex, Inc."  Ugh!  Likeable character.  Nice, overly sassy wife.  Precocious children!  Why does every sitcom have precocious children!?!?!?!?  There is potential for a really good show here, but this one will have a hard time winning me over.

Happy baseball season is back.  Not happy John Sterling is back.

Brockmire returns to IFC April 25.  Great series!  Not for the kids.

Stephen Bochco died over the weekend.  74.  Bochco is responsible for "Hill Street Blues."  I'm not one for police shows, but I do respect the man and the show had on the industry.

The TBS ratings for Monday night's NCAA basketball championship were off quite a bit.  I sort of understand it.  Villanova/Michigan really wasn't a great story.  The game was tight for a while, but a lot of people lost interest when Villanova built up a lead.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.  For me, it was not a "where were you when..." event.  I was six years old, and I don't remember it.

Here is what I do remember about that week.  At my home, it was a ritual.  CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite at 6:30 PM.  WDAU News at 7.  Every night.  No exception.  In the morning, it was the CBS Morning News at 7, and Captain Kangaroo at 8.  Why?  Quality programs, and the other stations didn't come in well.

Back to the point...  I don't remember actual coverage of the King murder, but I do remember, vividly, watching the riots that followed.  Cities were on fire.  Back then, my family had several relatives in Bridgeport, Connecticut and surrounding areas.  While it has made significant progress, Bridgeport was a rough town back them, and my family was worried.

As those black and white images flickered on the screen, I wondered what made people so angry, and why they would burn their own cities, their own homes.  Race relations, inequality, and the loss of a hero are tough concepts for a six year old grasp.  My parents tried to explain.  So did Cronkite.  It was frightening.  It still is.  50 years have passed.  It still hurts to watch that film  It also hurts to realize that, in some areas, we haven't made a lot of progress in the last fifty years.

There will be a few other "50 year" blog entries in the days and the weeks to come.  I decided to make a logo.  As always, my goal is to keep it simple.  The memories are not happy ones, so I chose grey tones, black, and a bold 1968, because it really is a year that shaped American culture.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Five

In his CBS News interview, the now-retired Don Imus listed his top 5 radio people of all time.  Of course, he included himself.  The other four are Arthur Godfrey, Jack Benny, Howard Stern and Wolfman Jack.

That started me thinking.  Of course, any "top" lists are extremely subjective.

My top five, in no particular order are:

*Edward R. Murrow:  He brought War World II into American living rooms.

*Paul Harvey:  compelling radio on 1200 stations for 60 years.  It was all him.  No interviews.  No sound bites.  The power of the spoken word.

*Rush Limbaugh:  a skilled broadcaster who saved AM radio.  He proved syndicated talk can work in mid day.

*Howard Stern:  not the first shock jock, but he defined the genre.  Fearless interviewer.  He put satellite radio on the map.

*Casey Kasem:  the legend of American Top 40.  He was the voice of Sunday afternoons.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:  Imus, Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell, Dan Ingram, Wolfman Jack, Cousin Brucie, Howard Cosell

I'm sure I'm missing dozens more.  There are some local legends-- like Robert W. Morgan in LA, Wally Phillips in Chicago, the Ganbling family dynasty in NY-- but they are just that.  Local.
There was a quick thought of adding Larry King to the list, but he mailed that show in for years.  Jim Bohannon has been putting in a solid overnight effort for a long time, but when was the last time you heard anyone talk about it.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Howard 100

Last week, March 25, was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Howard Cosell.

Few sports broadcasters have had such a huge impact on American culture.  He might be at the very top.  Every impressionist did Cosell.  He made Monday Night Football must-see-tv.

I always felt Cosell's biggest contribution wasn't Monday Night Football.  It was ABC SportsBeat.  It was like a TV news magazine, but devoted to sports.  it was the serious journalism the sports world needed.  Unfortunately, it didn't last long.

The man is a legend.  for years, Cosell did an afternoon radio commentary for the ABC networks.  I read where he would walk in to the booth, without a script, deliver the commentary, and bring it in exactly on time.

In a fascinating biography, I learned Cosell was motivated by looking for approval from an absentee father, which he never received.  There was also a huge desire to be known as more than just a sports guy.  There was a short lived variety show on ABC.  He also talked with ABC News and Sports president Roone Arledge about anchoring news broadcasts.  It never happened.

Was I fan?  Yes, partially.  There were many times when Howard Cosell was hard to take.  He was angry, bitter, and cynical at the end of his run.  You can't deny his talent.

Most of all, Howard Cosell was a man of courage and conviction.  He took unpopular stands and didn't back off.  I admire that.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter!

Easter was always one of my favorite days, and times of year...  Springtime, new clothes, eggs, chocolate, ham, home made bread, warmer weather...

Of course, the day is more than bunnies and eggs.  If you are inclined to do so, please remember what the day is all about.

Happy Easter!