MASSED SQUIRRELS ATTACK RURAL HOME SLAUGHTERING RETIREE – Marilyn Armstrong

Gazing out of her bedroom window, she nothing that each feeder had two or three squirrels clinging to it and there were more of them on the deck and on the railing.

“This,” she said to herself, “Is ridiculous. How many of them ARE there?” She opened the window and yelled out the window, but the squirrels ignored her. They didn’t even twitch a tail.

So, barefoot and lacking eyeglasses, she trundled to the kitchen, opened the back door and yelled at the squirrels. There was a wild reaction as squirrels appeared from behind the rails, under the rails, under the deck, on and atop the feeders … and it turns out there were half a dozen chipmunks there, too.

One big one, the biggest, fattest, most hostile of the squirrel gang stood his ground. She finally opened the door and tried pushing him off the railing. That was when the cadre of apparently karate-trained squirrels came at her from every direction.

Only white bones were left on the deck, left for the sun to whiten and the heat of next summer to bleach. Alas, there will be no one to contract with the gutter installers on Friday.

The manager has been consumed by squirrels.

GREEN GREEN, IT’S GREEN THEY SAY – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Green

Memories of summertime along the river. And now that autumn is ending, the next color will be white!

Green trees and reflections of green in the river

Quietly afloat down the river – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Summer by the Blackstone

A bright green day for the grazing cattle

Green by the bridge

Za’atar!

NEWS ANCHORING: LOOKING INSIDE – Garry Armstrong

The handsome guy who sits at the main newsdesk on your television newscast is more than a guy who just sits and reads. He delivers the script, knows when to pass the baton to a reporter, live or on tape. In the old days, he was the “anchorman” because no one could imagine a woman doing the job. Given the recent discoveries about what a lot of anchors were doing in their “spare” time, there are suddenly a lot of women at the anchor desk.

Make no mistake: they aren’t “anchorwomen.” They are anchors. They pull the news broadcast into a coherent whole and make sure all the pieces show up in the right spot during the broadcast.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. A very big deal. Most reporters would love to be anchors, but don’t have the talent. I was one of them.

Edward R. Murrow

The title of this piece perhaps should thus be News Anchoring. Doing the job. It may be something of a revelation for those who have no idea what it’s like working inside a newsroom. Maybe if you watched “Newsroom” (Jeff Daniels) you have a bit of an idea … but the real deal is a lot more intense.

Walter Cronkite

Plans go awry. News happens while you’re already in the middle of a broadcast and the crew and anchor need to be ready to ditch all the planned material and cover a live event. As in “it’s happening right now.”

Dianne Sawyer

News anchors were really the first television celebrities and stars, both nationally and locally.  You saw them every day and every evening. They were the voices of truth. They told you what was happening in the world, the nation, your state, and your neighborhood. The promotional blurbs assured you that they were giving you. “the straight truth.”

Chet Huntley and David Brinkley

Depending on your age, you may remember Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Frank Reynolds, Douglas Edwards, and Harry Reasoner, just to name a few of the many famous faces who held down the network anchor desks in TV’s early formative years.

Dan Rather

You probably have clear memories of the folks who anchored your favorite newscasts. They were smooth and believable. For years, Walter Cronkite was regarded as “The most believable person in the United States.” I think maybe the world.  Political leaders, even Presidents wanted Cronkite’s trust.

John Chancellor

As a young newsie, I thought anchoring was top of the hill in “the news biz.” It looked easy. You just sat there and read the news. A piece of cake, I thought.

Leslie Stahl

I didn’t have much TV experience at the time I made that evaluation of news anchoring. I was still a 20-something with a future of rapid advancement from college, to local news, to ABC Radio Network in 1967.

Norah O’Donnell

My first assignments at ABC were strictly low level, grunt stuff, even though my first day on the job was also the first day of the Middle East 6-day war. Talk about being thrown into the pit!

Peter Jennings

I had to receive incoming phone reports from correspondents around the world and transcribe them — verbatim — for our in-house reporters. Step two was producing and editing copy for those reporters. This gave me more of a hands-on look at the work of the “talent” as on-air reporters and anchors were known.

It still looked easy although some of the scripts needed work. That was my job. I absorbed the good and bad of news-writing quickly. Network reporters were under tremendous pressure to collect the information, write their scripts, then dash into the studio for their broadcasts.

Lester Holt

From my “outside” view, it still looked easy. The movie “Broadcast News” shows more of this.

My few network TV jobs didn’t test me. I was the grunt, filling in for the veteran reporters. These jobs were filmed and I made no live appearances.  Taped was a whole different experience from doing the same material live. It still looked easy.

My brief tenure with a small Hartford TV station provided experience with cameras. I wrote half-hour news scripts and co-anchored with my boss — the other guy in the small newsroom.

This was late 1969. We had teleprompters. They seemed easy to use. Just read the script as it appears. Look at the prompter, read and only rarely look down at the script. No one said anything except “Good work, kid.”  Piece of cake, right?

Fast forward to Channel 7 in Boston, my first “major market” television gig. It was 1970 and I was one of a very few minorities (nonwhite) faces on Boston’s TV stations.

For many years, channel 7 was regarded as the “also-ran” station among the “big 3” TV stations network affiliates in Boston. The others were channel 4 (WBZ) and channel 5 (WCVB today,  but back then, it was WHDH — which later became the letters for channel 7). It’s easier to remember the numbers!

Channel 5 was the most prominent local affiliate and had the best-known news personalities working there.  Channel 7, an RKO-General affiliate was mostly known for running old movies in prime time.

Channel 7 wanted to get into the battle for news viewership and gain some critical respect. Talk about opportunity and timing. I came through the door at exactly the right time. A reporter of color who looked okay and spoke well. Almost immediately, I was given good assignments and received a lot of air time. I loved it. Like the Edward G. Robinson movie villain, “Johnny Rocco,” I wanted more.

I wanted to become an anchor.

No problem. Channels 4 and 5 already had morning newscasts. It was the dawning of popularity for morning news shows while Channel 7 had “Sunrise Semester” reruns.

After some huddling, channel 7 decided to join in the morning news fray with “Daybreak.”  They needed two young, strong personalities to counter the established anchors at the other stations. I don’t recall if there was much newsroom politicking for channel 7’s new show. The veteran reporters, as I recall, turned their noses up at the project. The hours were ghastly. Moreover, it seemed unlikely to have a chance against the other well-established morning news shows.

Garry Armstrong

I don’t think there was any celebration when channel 7 announced that “Daybreak” would be co-anchored by two of it’s new “exciting young talents,” Steve Sheppard and Garry Armstrong.  There was some newsroom jabber about “ebony and ivory,” which was not complimentary.

There was a divide in those days between veteran reporters and “the kids.” as we were known.  We were hungry for success. The vets didn’t want anyone to stir their soup with new ingredients.

Steve and I were excited about “Daybreak” and what it might mean for us. Yes, we were bright-eyed and bubbling with enthusiasm as we did our first shows. Steve had a nervous habit of tapping his toes throughout the newscast. I used to fiddle with the contact lenses I was wearing for the first time.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience. The contacts would slip. Everything would go blurry as I read. I’d squint, tear up and plod on. The contacts would invariably fall out and I’d frantically hunt for them during commercial breaks. Steve Sheppard, covering for me, would move on with the script as we came out of commercials.

After I got the contact lenses under control, I had a new, unexpected problem. We finally got teleprompters. At first, we were enthusiastic. We could finally look like real network anchors.

We could just stare into the camera and, occasionally, look down at our copy and back up to the camera. Steve did it very well. I didn’t. I kept getting lost. Almost every time I looked down at my copy, I would lose my place when I returned to the teleprompter.

I was awkward and clumsy. Not smooth.

I was angry with myself. It had always looked so easy. A piece of cake. I used to practice with the teleprompter between shows. Techs would set me up, give me suggestions and I’d practice. Nope. An assistant director who became a director and later a long-time friend tried his best to guide me through the nuances of the prompter schtick. I had a few decent shows but in the end, I welcomed being “reassigned” to field reporting.

I accepted the “too bad” consolation from co-workers but knew I was not going to be an anchor. It was not a piece of cake after all.

The late Tom Ellis was one of the best TV News Anchors Boston has ever had. Tom was almost a cult figure during Boston’s golden age of broadcasting. The native Texan had a fresh, engaging way of anchoring.  He didn’t seem to be reading. It was more as if he was talking to viewers, sharing the grim “if it bleeds it leads” stories as well as the feel-good features.

“Texas Tom” as he was known, riveted your attention and held you as he delivered the news. I always admired his style and understood he was doing what I couldn’t do — and doing it very well.

Years later, Tom and I became colleagues when he joined Channel 7 as its prime time anchor. He brought that same “Texas Tom” expertise to our floundering newscasts as he had for the competing stations. Tom was even nicer off-camera than on camera. Ironically, he sought my advice on reporting which I gladly shared.

In retirement, our friendship deepened. Tom laughed when I told him about my anchor aspirations, as well as my opportunity, and ultimate demise.  He chuckled, “Garry, it ain’t as easy as it looks.   I sighed and smiled.

These days, I look at the current generation of TV news anchors. I have my likes and dislikes. However, I have a deep appreciation for their job.  It is even more complex with the addition of new software applications they have to smoothly blend into their delivery along with the teleprompter and script.

No, pilgrim, it’s not a piece of cake.

ALMOST THE END OF THE LINE – Marilyn Armstrong

ALMOST THE END OF THE LINE

Hard to imagine October is done. Finito. My favorite month. The only thing about it I don’t like is that winter is right behind it.

The cold is closing in quickly. I don’t have a good feeling about this winter. Last year, we had basically “late Autumn” until March. Then it snowed like mad for a few weeks. The rest of the season was not snowy. We had a lot of rain and mud and ice, but hardly any snow until my birthday.

Woods and fence blizzard

Welcome to my 72 birthday. It was a 15-inch blizzard. And there I was, thinking we were going to get through winter without snow. One year (during the past 20) we had a snow-free winter, but the following year we had so much snow we had to have our roof shoveled three times to keep it from caving in.

That’s the really bad part of really good attic insulation. The heat from the house never gets to your roof, so the tons of snow never melts. Each subsequent snow piles on top of earlier blizzards.

Farewell, October

The winters of 2015 and 2016 were both like living in Mongolia or maybe Antarctica. One of our cars (we had two back then) was literally buried. You literally could not see it. Driving down our narrow roads was like driving in a tunnel with the snow 10 feet high on both sides from the plowing. I remember when Kaity was very young and she asked if the giant piles of snow and ice were going to become glaciers which they were studying in school.

I explained that I didn’t think so, but who could tell anymore?

Nonetheless, this is still nominally October, so let’s think orange and pumpkin-flavored donuts.

TRUMP STILL IN OBAMA’S SHADOW AFTER ISIS HEAD KILLED – THE SHINBONE STAR

President Barack Obama got Osama bin Laden, the meanest of the mean.

Oval Office Occupant The Donald got Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

WHO?

Oh, yeah, head of the Islamic State (ISIS), “the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader,” according to Donald.

Donald, is under threat of impeachment for abuse of power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals. He’s sooo grasping at any straw to deflect.

Ever the “showman,” Don described in gory detail Abu’s ending, in a tunnel along with his family, where Abu apparently detonated a suicide vest rather than surrender.

“Osama bin Laden was very big, but Osama bin Laden became big with the World Trade Center (bombing),” Trump said, stating this kill by the U.S. Special Forces was the biggest there is. “This is a man who built a whole, as he would like to call it a country – a caliphate and was trying to do it again.”

Poor Donnie was upstaged in the dreaded media last night when the “fake news” broadcast the event.

The White House released a photograph of Trump surrounded by top advisers on Saturday in the Situation Room where he monitored the raid on al-Baghdadi’s hide-out in Syria — much like the famed image of President Barack Obama watching the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. An obviously envious Trump even seemed to suggest that killing al-Baghdadi was a bigger deal than killing Bin Laden.

Nowhere close Delusional Don. Even though he is/was a mean mother, he is/was no where as infamous as bin Laden. Don, you got a guppie.

Abu, 48, the son of an Iraqi sheepherder, was hiding deep inside a part of northwestern Syria controlled by archrival al Qaeda groups according to the Times. Hiding among your enemies. Brilliant.

Or, was he there to broker an alliance? Time will tell.

Abu al-Baghdadi has been incorrectly reported killed before, and American military officials were concerned that Trump, who posted a cryptic message on Twitter on Saturday night teasing his Sunday announcement, was so eager to announce the development that he was getting ahead of the forensics, wrote the New York Times.

“A Defense Department official said before The Donald’s announcement that there was a strong belief — “near certainty” — that al-Baghdadi was dead, but that a full DNA analysis was not complete,” wrote the Times.

Trump claimed that “American troops did “an on-site test” of DNA to confirm Mr. al-Baghdadi’s identity and that they brought back “body parts” when leaving the scene.

“The official said that with any other president, the Pentagon would wait for absolute certainty before announcing victory,” continued the story.

During his morning appearance, Trump put himself in the center of the action, describing himself as personally hunting al-Baghdadi since the early days of his administration. The only thing Delusional Donnie has hunted is glory and profits from his numerous visits to his own estates to play golf and bilk taxpayers.

He crowed that as he watched the action on Saturday with Mike Pence and others in the Situation Room (Not the CNN one with Wolf Blitzer.) it was “like watching a movie.” Wonder if he got to see all the blood and gore from the explosion?

Even more astounding, Trump trundled along Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R -S.C.), usually a strong ally who has been the most outspoken critic of his Syria decision, to join him for the speech on Sunday morning. Then, amazingly he sent cock sock Graham to brief reporters from the lectern in the White House briefing room. an unusual spectacle for a lawmaker, to say the least.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D – Ca.) called on the White House, to brief lawmakers about the raid, pointing out the Trump had informed the Russians of the military operation before telling congressional leadership.

Well, he had to tell his Master, Vlad “Puty” Putin first Nancy. Besides, you’re a woman AND a Democrat and he is apparently employed by Russia.

U.S. Oval Office Occupants typically follow the protocol of contacting congressional leaders, regardless of their political party, when a high-level military operation is conducted. As we know, nothing is typical about Trump except his lying and love for Russia.

“The House must be briefed on this raid, which the Russians but not top congressional leadership were notified of in advance, and on the administration’s overall strategy in the region,” Pelosi said.

Trump told reporters at the lengthy news conference that he did not inform the House speaker of the raid because he “wanted to make sure this kept secret.” In other words, we can trust a liar, but not a woman to keep a secret, eh Donald?

Asked whether he had informed Pelosi, Trump replied, “No, I didn’t. I didn’t do that. I wanted to make sure this kept secret. I don’t want to have men lost, and women. I don’t want to have people lost.”

Trump continued, that he was “going to notify [congressional leaders] last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before.”

No amount of grandstanding attempted deflections or grandiose self-congratulatory rallies will change the fact that The Donald, a narcissistic lying crook, is facing impeachment.

Abu al-Baghdadi may be gone, but there are others who will soon fill the void and the blood bath in Syria will continue as American troops flee.

As Pelosi so succinctly told Trump last week, as she stood to leave after he called her “a third-grade politician,” “Why (with you) do “all roads lead to Putin”?

Donald still hasn’t come up with an answer.