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JUNE \ MAY 2016


JUNE 30, 2016    KOBES

It was five years ago today that my television colleague Mike Kobik died unexpectedly.  Here is what I wrote then.  Some additional photos that I haven’t previously posted on this website:

From the days when we were covering Penn State football in 1985, Mike switches a highlights show after a game in Syracuse (left) and directs the Paterno coach’s show at WPSX-TV (right).  He didn't always look so glum; in fact, he was cheerful and great fun.  But we were serious about our work.

On the Pittsburgh edition of Evening Magazine, a feature took us behind the scenes of Call-A-Bet, whereby people could tune their TVs to harness racing from The Meadows and phone in their wagers.  Here is Mike directing the racing telecast with Tom Clark switching.

Finally, Paul Wiederecht saw my article about televising the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, and he passed along a link on wiedep (his YouTube channel) to a backstage video compilation set to a Bobby McFerrin hit from that year.

At the rowing venue, we see some of my Pittsburgh friends, such as Stan Sobolak and Tom Huet on the left and Mike Kobik on the right.

One other passing to report:  Miriam Wagner, the widow of the Methodist pastor from my high school days, died at the age of 88 on June 1, 2016.  From her daughter Patty’s letter to Miriam’s friends:  “I think Mom would tell you that she loves you, and that she’s fine.  She had time to say goodbye to her family.  She talked about what mattered, and in her last days thought it was ‘strange, and rather interesting, being the one to die now,’ when she had sat at the bedside of so many others.  In the end, she was very ready to go.  We all would have rather she stayed, but we can’t begrudge her going: she missed Dad so.”  They were married 62 years.

A memorial service for Miriam was held last Saturday in Delaware, Ohio.  On that day in Pittsburgh, a local pastor published an op-ed piece against prejudice, particularly against fear of Muslims.  I think the Wagners would have approved.



In June of 1926, my 13-year-old future mother posed on the running board of what appears to be a 1924 Chevrolet.

This picture of my grandfather Harry Gladstone Buckingham is dated September 1939, when he was 54 years old.

My mother recalled that when she was a little girl, she thought every adult man had a crease in the middle of his forehead.  However, it turned out that her dad was unique.  The cause was an unfortunate youthful encounter with a baseball bat.



I insert two spaces between sentences, just like Mrs. Powers taught us back in high school typing class.  On old-fashioned typewriters, all the characters were the same width.  The big fat pica period took up a tenth of an inch, as much as an “m” or a “w.”  Thus, for better readability, we were instructed to end sentences with a period followed by two spaces.  Kids today have proportional fonts on their computers, and they’re told one space is sufficient.

Some of us older folks simply feel this is wrong, as wrong as ending a sentence with a preposition.  Like Mark Evanier wrote a year ago, we don’t care what people consider “correct” nowadays.  We continue to type according to the manner up in which we were brought.

By the way, I was taught to touch-type.  So was Eric D. Snider’s mom.  He reports that before going to bed one night, Momma Snider took an Ambien to help her sleep and also sent an e-mail message.  But her left hand drifted one key to the right, good became hoof, and the message ended like this:

“Lovr my ambirn though.  Hoof nihhy.”

I myself once typed something like that in class.  Mrs. Powers remarked, “Well, at least this proves you weren’t looking down at the keys.”

Another double-space blogger is TV veteran Earl Pomerantz, winner of Emmy awards for The Lily Tomlin Special in 1975 and The Cosby Show in 1984.

Twenty months ago, Earl reflected on his early career when his boss rejected his comedy-writing efforts.  “It was not that I was attempting to be different or boldly original in these cases.  I was simply opaquely ‘out of sync’ with the ‘conventional human reaction.’  Now I was not only not thinking the way the majority of people think — I was also not feeling the way the majority of people feel.”

I, too, often have atypical reactions.

For example, suppose a couple learns they’re going to have their first baby.  Everybody’s gonna jump for joy!  When the child is born, no matter whether the news is “It’s a boy” or the exact opposite “It’s a girl,” everybody gushes “How wonderful!”

However, my instinctive response is “How unfortunate!  That couple’s carefree days are over.  Now they’ll have to forget about themselves and rearrange every waking moment around the needs of an immigrant newly arrived in this country — an annoying, demanding stranger who has no reasoning ability.  And no height.”

As Randy Newman sang, more or less:

Short people got no reason

(I couldn’t resist adding a couple of pieces of clip art.)

Anyway, Earl went on:  “I have noticed that, even now, I continue to find myself promoting what is the equivalent of the ‘ninth most popular’ opinion concerning certain matters of the day.  In this space recently, I have expressed my position on the likes of suicide — ultimately a personal decision — and on spousal abuse involving NFL participants — why be surprised when a man in a violent profession behaves violently when they are off the clock?  But not a single ‘professional observer’ has considered these positions worthy enough to include in their widely disseminated public pronouncements.”

Well, Earl, I’m not a professional observer, but in this space I’ll narrowly disseminate your worthy thoughts, including others from last fall:

“Deflategate” makes us wonder why both football teams can’t use the same properly-inflated ball.  Other leagues function that way.

In personal injury lawsuits, compensatory damages rightly go to the plaintiffs to repay their medical costs or whatever.  But where should punitive damages go?  Not to the already-compensated plaintiffs, but to the rest of society (the people) like a fine.

Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame, but with a plaque detailing not just his on-field accomplishments but also his later misdeeds that got him banned from baseball.

It all makes sense to me.


JUNE 18, 2016    PARDON ME?

The Donald claims to be a Christian, but apparently he neither loves mercy nor walks humbly with his God (Micah 6:8).  He has little use for the concept of contrition.  See here.

Cal Thomas:  You have said you never felt the need to ask for God’s forgiveness.  And yet repentance for one’s sins is a precondition for salvation.

Donald Trump:  I will be asking for forgiveness, but hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness.

Mark Evanier remarks, “There are people who believe that never admitting you're wrong is the same thing as being right.”

Trump also opposes granting forgiveness.  Rather than pardoning Americans who came to this country illegally, he would arrest all 11 million of them and send them back to Mexico or wherever.

Ten years ago I wrote a piece pretending to be a college student who’s similarly heartless — and similarly clueless about what Jesus said.  It’s this month’s 100 Moons article.


JUNE 13, 2016    CUP CROWDS

The puck bounced my way!  One, my local team won another title for the City of Champions; two, I was able to avoid the celebrating mob.

Last night the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup by winning Game 6 in San Jose.  Had they lost, the series would have been tied at three games apiece, forcing a deciding Game 7 to be played back here in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.  And my presence would have been required.

The playoffs consist of four best-of-seven rounds.  This year they provided me with employment for eight nights plus a “set day,” which is more than usual.

Two long months ago, the Rangers opened the first round in Pittsburgh, and I was in a mobile unit as the Madison Square Garden Network’s graphics operator.  Then I moved inside the building, where a control room way up on Level 7 sends pictures to the video screen (or “jumbotron”) suspended over the ice far below.

The photo above is by technical director Mike Kendlick.  I was behind a keyboard for one game against the Capitals and three against the Lightning. 

Following the Pens’ overtime win on May 4, Edward Coll shot this picture above from atop a garage on the corner of Fifth Avenue.  I would have been in the crowd of gold-shirted folks in the lower right, waiting to cross Washington Place and retrieve my car from the garage.

But do you think that’s a “crowd”?  That’s nothing.

As the playoffs heated up, the Penguins were in position to win the Cup if they could beat the Sharks in the final round.  Many more media types than usual converged on Pittsburgh for the Final, and the league arranged many more accommodations for them.  Once again I was inside a truck in the TV compound, this time working Games 1, 2, and 5 for NHL International.  Our pictures were fed to broadcasters in China, Finland, and other countries around the world.

My coordinator John Vivirito and I were puzzled whilst preparing for Game 5.  As far back as we can remember, our statisticians have been giving us power play stats like this: “Tonight, the Penguins are 2 for 4 with 7 shots,” meaning that they had 4 power play opportunities, during which they put 7 shots on goal, 2 of which went in the net.  We wanted to type up the series stats.  It was easy to find out that the Penguins were 1 for 8.  With how many shots?  No one knew.  That number wasn’t in the stats summary, nor was it reported in the four individual box scores.  Has the NHL stopped keeping track of power play shots?  Why were we not informed?

Perhaps the championship would be won in Game 5.  Everybody in town wanted to be there when history was made.  The average price for a ticket sold on the secondary market reached $1,631, according to SeatGeek.  StubHub’s cheapest seat was over $1,400.

Even at those prices, the building was filled with 18,680 fans, a Consol Energy Center record.  And there appeared to be an equal number outside, spilling into the streets.  Just before puck drop, Angel Johnson took this picture of her monitor in the control room.

A big video screen along Fifth Avenue enabled at least some of those without tickets to watch the game.  The back of it is seen here from Duquesne University’s Power Center.

Jacob Klinger of PennLive wrote that fans on the steps of Epiphany Catholic Church, the red brick building in the background, “had to peer through several trees just to see the big screen TV.  Those in front of them on the grass looked through two glass walls at the corner of the arena, their views obstructed by the panels of the windows.  Some couldn't tell what score it was without asking those around them.”

There were so many people on the streets that the city brought in a second giant screen and set it up in Market Square, two-thirds of a mile away.

I wondered how I would be able to get to my car after the game.  If the home team won, the jubilant spectators inside the building would stream out to join the screaming mob outside.  A huge rowdy throng would celebrate the win.  The police had announced they wouldn’t try to stop the merriment at first.  They would wait 90 minutes before moving in to urge people off the streets.  But traffic would take a long time to clear out, and there would be drunks.

Many of the departing drivers would be joyfully tooting their horns three times, for the standard chant of the Penguins fan, “Let’s! Go! Pens!”  Usually in the third period, somebody in the arena repeatedly blasts an air horn three times, and the crowd joins in.  The same three notes are used for an alternate chant, “H! B! K!”, honoring the “HBK Line” of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel.  And over at PNC Park, every time a TV camera finds Pirates fans they respond with the same three notes, except over there it’s “Let’s! Go! Bucs!”  I’m getting tired of these three notes.  At least the standard football chant has some rhythm and melody to it:  “Here we go, Steelers, here we go!”

As it turned out, however, the Cup was not clinched on Thursday.  Even before the Pens allowed an empty-net goal that sealed their loss, disappointed fans outside started to drift away, hoping to beat traffic.  The police were able to reopen one of the lanes on Washington Place.  When I crossed it half an hour after the game, it looked like this Twitter photo.  Most of the people were gone, leaving only a layer of trash like the aftermath of a Kenny Chesney concert.

I exited the garage onto Fifth Avenue, and after only a couple of blocks of traffic, it was smooth driving all the way to my suburban apartment.

Had the Pens lost on the West Coast last night, they would have returned to Pittsburgh for Game 7, and the throngs also would have returned.  But they won!  The Penguins are Stanley Cup champions for the fourth time!  And though there may be celebrations in the ’Burgh, I can continue to enjoy domestic tranquility in the ’burbs!


JUNE 8, 2016

My best friend from college passed away last winter.

Today would have been Jan Olson’s 69th birthday.

I’ve put together a piece called Remembering Jan.



Those of us who watch Full Frontal, Samantha Bee’s excellent topical series on TBS, were surprised when the first airing of the latest edition on May 23 turned out to be a rerun from the week before.

It was an “operational error,” we learned later.  Bee tweeted, “Last night’s FULL EPISODE is on YouTube.  We love you and we promise that we will never hurt you again.”

This was far from the first operational error in the history of television.  In a new article, Tales of ’78, I describe an even more obvious goof by NBC nearly four decades before.

I was working in cable TV then, so I’ve also included tales from that year about our coverage of a tennis tournament and a fireman’s parade, and a preacher’s magic trick, and the HBO debut of Robin Williams.

MAY 27, 2016    WINDOWS ’62


Meet Milo, an incredibly cute Jack Russell terrier.  He belongs to “PittGirl” @JanePitt, local writer Virginia Montanez.

But notice also Milo’s window.  It looks exactly like the casements that my family installed when we built our new house in Richwood, Ohio, 54 years ago!

The Andersen Corporation’s products still use the same locking handle on the side, the same crank to open and close the sash, the same screen that clips into slots on the inside of the frame.  I also observed these features recently in a doctor’s waiting room.  It’s a good design, so why change it?

This is all by way of introducing this month’s 100 Moons article.  There you’ll find almost two dozen construction photos from our 1962-63 project — from drawing the floor plan, to preparing the lot, to placing my mother's African violets beneath the bedroom window, to relaxing with coffee in the kitchen.

Therein I note that, except in the living room and family room, “the windows are high on the walls, with sills about 4½ feet above the floor.  This allows more flexible furniture placement, because even tall pieces like dressers can be located directly in front of windows without blocking them.  It also provides privacy, because anyone on the outside (looking in) can't see much except the ceiling.”

Click the box on the left to go to that photo album.


MAY 23, 2016    ON THIS DATE

That is I on the right, 51 years ago today, all suited up for high school graduation.  My golden National Honor Society pin is in my lapel.  I didn’t know this photo existed until a few weeks ago, when I was in need of Terry Rockhold’s senior portrait for the item dated MAY 1 down below.

In 1965, Cubberly Studios pasted all our portraits on a poster.  It’s displayed at class reunions, as you can see here.

They also printed smaller 11” by 14” photos of the poster, one of which I have.  I removed it from its frame to scan Terry’s portrait.

Apparently — and the following is all conjecture — the frame also contained an odd-shaped piece of a color print, hidden behind the main photo.  It must have fallen out unnoticed and landed on a nearby magazine.  I didn’t discover it until four days later.

It appears to have been taken by my father in our back yard after church on Sunday, May 23, 1965.  That evening the high school baccalaureate service would be held in the Baptist church, and the actual commencement ceremony would take place the following evening in the high school auditorium.

Later he trimmed the print to fit in the bottom half of an elliptical frame.  (No clue as to what was in the top half of the frame.  A baby picture?)  Now I’ve enhanced the photo, as you've seen above.

That same weekend, I also donned my black cap and gown for some black-and-white Polaroids.  I later colorized this one.

Something else that I’d forgotten came back to me while watching a “Peanuts” special on TV last fall.

During the Apollo 10 mission to the moon, “Charlie Brown” was NASA’s communications handle for the Command Module, and “Snoopy” was the name of the Lunar Excursion Module. 

In that spring of 1969, “Snoopy” (or his Sopwith Camel?) swooped down to an altitude of 44,000 feet above the lunar surface, in a dress rehearsal for that summer’s actual landing of Apollo 11 on the moon.  I’ve since looked up the exact dates and times.

I remember the morning when “Charlie Brown” left lunar orbit to carry the astronauts home.  Around 7:30 A.M. on Saturday, May 24 — that would be 47 years ago tomorrow morning, and nine days before my college graduation — I was hosting the semiannual Classical Music Marathon on Oberlin’s student radio station, WOBC.  I was finishing up an all-night shift.  I stepped outside the studios briefly to visit the restroom at the other end of the third floor of Wilder Hall.  Somewhere in the building I caught sight of a TV set with live pictures from the spacecraft.

When I returned to the microphone, I mentioned this to my listeners (assuming I had a few of them, up at dawn after studying all night for finals).

I reported that the astronauts were showing us a large part of the face of the Moon, gradually growing smaller as they sped away from it on their return to Earth.  They were only the second group of humans who had traveled that far from our home planet.

It was quite a view, for those of us who were awake to see it.



“Pardon me, ma’am, may I see your birth certificate?”


“State law.  You can’t use a restroom if it doesn’t match your original God-given gender.”

“But you let that other woman go in with her two little girls.”

“All their papers were in order.”

“Well, I don’t carry my birth certificate with me.  But I’m obviously a woman.  Can’t you see that?”

“You look like a woman, but they’re doing evil things with hormones and surgery these days.  You could be like Caitlyn Jenner.  You could really be a man wearing a dress so you can go into the ladies’ room and molest those little girls.”

“That’s ridiculous!  I need to go to the bathroom!”

“Sorry, it’s the law here.  I’m just doing my job.  You can try the gas station on the corner.  Next?”

Ken Jennings tweets:  Now is the time to invest in TransSit, my chain of all-gender pay toilets located just across the state line from North Carolina.


MAY 15, 2016    WELCOME TO 1,376 NEWBIES

I'm told that this website has had 1,630 total visitors since the middle of January, 84% of them new.  In an average week, 109 people each viewed two pages for 3 minutes 39 seconds.  A typical visitor was in Ohio, used Google Chrome, and reached the site via a search engine.



JULY 24, 2006

Ten years ago I flew into Milwaukee to televise baseball, Pirates vs Brewers.  But the top of my left foot was puffy and swollen, from the middle toes all the way back to the ankle.

After the game I returned to the Pfister Hotel and painfully removed my left shoe, which had been pinching the top of my foot.  In case I needed to explain the problem to my doctor after I returned home, I took the photo at the left.

The swelling was even worse later that week, as shown below.  Eventually a different doctor determined the cause to be gout.

JULY 27, 2006

I’m now on medication to control my uric acid, and there have been no further flare-ups.

However, when I recently turned 69 years old, a new problem developed.  I became reluctant to walk very far because my toes were complaining again.

This time there was no visible swelling, but I did develop a corn on the outside of my left little toe, as though my shoes had become too small.  I hoped maybe the difficulty would go away.  Then last Saturday I read the following on Mark Rothman’s blog.  (He’s a retired sitcom writer about my age, co-creator and producer of Laverne & Shirley.)

Everything was going along swimmingly until a few months ago.  I was starting to develop trouble with my feet.  They had both gotten bigger!  I used to wear an 11 triple-width, but now my right foot required a 13 triple-width and my left foot required a 12 triple-width.  With two different sized feet, I had to get a pair of size 13 and a pair of size 12.

I mentioned all of this to my sister, to see if this seemed unusual to her, and she regaled me with tales of her own growing feet.  Not too long ago she was a size 8.  But recently, within a very short amount of time, her feet expanded to a size 9, then size 10, then size 10½ wide.  She says she now wears “clown shoes.”

Unlike her, I don't consider my shoes to be disproportionate to my overall leg.  I'm just glad they make them that big.

JULY 24, 2006

MAY 12, 2016

I Googled around and discovered it’s not unusual for senior citizens’ feet to spread out.  In my case, my smaller toes (especially on the left foot) are now pointing outward, leaving a huge gap between themselves and the big toe.

Yesterday, therefore, I paid a visit to the shoe store.  The kindly clerk helped me replace my 9½ narrows with 10½ mediums.

My feet are much happier now, and I’m walking everywhere again!



This sketch depicts the Grandmother of Our Country.  Did her son George actually say he owed everything to her?

More generally, when we find a quotation is it really real?

See my article Washington's Mother.



On the HBO comedy series Veep, the self-important young politico smirks to the undistinguished stranger at the bar, “Remind me again what it is that you do that’s so interesting.”

She replies, “I work at CVS.”

He perks up.  “Really?  CBS?  I would love to work at CBS.”

“There’s always openings.”

“Do you seriously think that you could get me something?”

“Maybe late night.”

Late Night’s perfect!”  And off they go together.

I always did think CVS and CBS sounded alike.

I noticed one actor who looked familiar, so I consulted imdb.com to find his name, which turned out to be John Slattery.  It wasn’t that easy.  Veep has aired 40 half-hour episodes, and how many actors do you suppose have appeared?  I  counted 713 names.  On average, a new face shows up every 101 seconds.


MAY 2, 2016    TERRY

Terry Rockhold, my best friend from high school, has been gone almost ten years now.

Last May, with our 50-year reunion coming up, we were asked to recall the members of the Class of 1965 who are no longer with us.  I wrote Remembering Terry Rockhold.

Now you can read it, in a slightly-revised version, on this website.