Monday, April 16, 2018

Thomas Dolby’s “The Golden Age of Wireless” and “The Flat Earth”

This is an essay I wrote for CHIRP Radio that also appears on their blog. Do yourself a favor and have a listen to this great community-based independent radio station!

Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska in the mid-1980s, before the existence of the Internet and MP3 players, meant you had to look a little harder to find new and interesting pop music. Fortunately I had a sister who was plugged in to the few places in town where one could find new stuff that wasn’t featured on Casey Kasem’s Top 40. One day she got hold of two albums on cassette tapes that I dutifully sponged off of her and that introduced me to the brilliant synth-pop of Thomas Morgan Robertson, a.k.a. Thomas Dolby.

In these days of ubiquitous electronic equipment, it’s easy to forget there was a time when it wasn’t possible to just push a button and have coherent sounds (or songs, or albums) come pouring out. Digital sounds didn’t come off the shelf; they had to be built from the ground up and made into something useable, hopefully by someone who knows what they’re doing, musically and technically. Dolby was one of those people. His skills enabled him to make two of the best pop albums to come out of the New Wave era.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Striking Movie Poster for "Red"

[originally published in 2010]

The ad posters for the new film Red caught my eye on the train this morning. It's a very cool design, made even better by Helen Mirren's timeless beauty. Some people are just born to have their faces on screen. I don't know if the movie is going to be any good, but this image is great.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

How to Get a Job: "No Phone Calls, Please."

[originally published August 2010]

by Clarence Ewing

“No Phone Calls, Please.”

If you are looking for a job, it’s guaranteed that you have seen this sentence in printed or online want ads several times. It’s an incredibly frustrating phrase, especially these days when it seems most people do nothing BUT make phone calls on their mobiles, Blackberrys, and wireless laptops.

The reason these four words are so ubiquitous is simple – too few Human Resources people with too much to do. The average HR and recruiting department is not a revenue generator for most companies, so they tend to keep their staffs small. This means at a given company there will be one person doing the work of one and a half or even two people. This includes organizing the hundreds of resumes submitted, reading the documents, picking out the ones that might be promising, coordinating resumé reviews with the people who actually make the hiring decisions (no small feat, I can tell you), arranging interview times, writing the ads and getting them posted, researching what positions they should be hiring for and what qualities are needed in those positions.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The ULTIMATE Purity Test

[originally posted August 2010]

Back when e-mail was new and exciting, purity tests were all the rage. The text below is the last word in purity tests: 2000 questions, covering just about everything. I’ve reprinted the e-mail exactly as I received it many years ago, including names and e-mail addresses of the authors, as requested by them in the test.

Please note that this test is not appropriate for young folks. There are frank descriptions and dirty words scattered throughout the text, but it's nothing that can’t be found on 200 million other Web pages. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

How to Dress for a Job Interview

[originally posted May 2010]

written by Clarence Ewing

Over the years, millions of otherwise competent people have lost job opportunities because they did not dress properly for their interview. 70% of human communication is non-verbal, and what people see is often what makes the biggest and most lasting impression, especially if their opinion of it is negative.

Through the way you’re dressed for an interview, you are trying to tell potential employers that you are a professional, that you are serious about the meeting you are having, and that you won’t embarrass them in front of clients with your off-the-wall or casual look.

From my experience, new college graduates and workers who have not had to look for a job in a while are the most likely to make clothing faux-pas. Generally, the key is to dress conservatively and err on the side of formality. With certain clear exceptions (such as fashion design), an interview is not the time to show of how creative you are, clothes-wise.

Here is a brief, basic guide to how to dress for a job interview. This is, of course, not a set of hard and fast laws, just some general ideas of how to go in order to make the best impression during a meeting:


Men: Hair should be cut or at least combed back away from the face. Face should be clean-shaven, or the mustache/beard should be trimmed.

Women: Women should wear their hair up and back so the employer can see your face and you don’t have to keep brushing your hair from it (which looks like fidgeting).

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Breaking Bad is the Bad-Ass-est Show on Television

[originally published April 11 2010]

by Clarence Ewing

Now in its third season, Breaking Bad, presented by The AMC channel, is finally getting the widespread acclaim it deserves. This show about a cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher who turns to manufacturing methamphetamine to help pay his family’s bills continues basic cable’s tradition of kicking broadcast TV’s butt when it comes to scripted dramas.

The show’s directing, editing and photography are all top-notch. As with any drama that lasts more than a season, though, it’s the cast that makes the show into more than a clever idea. Bryan Cranston, who has already won a bunch of awards for his portrayal of Walter White (or “Heisenberg” as he’s known on the street), is now moving into Tony Soprano territory in terms of the depth and complexity of his character. Aaron Paul skillfully plays White’s partner Jesse Pinkman, who used to be a smart-mouth punk-ass kid when the series started but now, after the deaths of one of his friends and his girlfriend as well as his parents’ disowning him, is starting to embrace his role as one of the more successful drug dealers in the Southwest.

Steve McQueen and The Evolution of The Action Hero

[This essay was part of the Steve McQueen Blog-a-Thon, sponsored by Jason Bellamy of the blog Cooler Cinema. Click here to check out more bloggers’ thoughts and opinions about the Hollywood legend.]

by Clarence Ewing

Without a doubt Steve McQueen is one of the most popular American actors to ever walk the silver screen. He was also one of the most successful – at his peak he was the highest paid actor in Hollywood and he still ranks among the top earning deceased celebrities of all time.

I’m not a huge McQueen fan, although I’ve enjoyed all of the films I’ve seen him in. The movies I know him best from are The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, The Cincinnati Kid, The Towering Inferno, and Hell is for Heroes, all of them great films. Like anyone with more than a passing familiarity with the man, I’m also familiar with the public and personal aspects of his life that earned him the title “The King of Cool.”

The celebrity McQueen reminds me most of is Frank Sinatra. Both were good looking, driven men who came up the hard way and earned everything they got with their talent and will. They both thrived when America was entering the last half of the 20th century, with all the changes in cultural and social mores that went along with it. They were both also physically undersized men who (from my distant viewpoint) perhaps at times trying a bit too hard to prove to everyone how badass they were.

Christmas in August: A Quiz

[Originally published August 2009]

 What better time for a Christmas quiz than in August, when Christmas is still far away from most peoples' minds. Actually, this is me trying to clear out my year-old "Things to blog about" list...

This is an old quiz that was used at a holiday party at one of my old jobs. There are some interesting facts in here - enjoy!

Question #1
The first instrument on which the carol "Silent Night" was played was:
A) A harp
B) A pipe organ
C) A guitar
D) A kazoo

Question #2
In Guatemala, Christmas Day is celebrated:
A) On January 6
B) On December 25
C) On October 31
D) Never

Monday, April 2, 2018

Public Art Bricolage, Lake Shore Drive and Bryn Mawr

[originally posted July 13 2009]

Here are some shots of a beautiful public artwork mosaic under Lake Shore Drive at the Bryn Mawr underpass. The Chicago Public Art Group and a youth organization called Alternatives Inc. created the project with support from Alderman Mary Ann Smith.

Another bricolage is going up at the Foster Avenue underpass, using a Native American theme. It’s going up fast - I’m guessing it will be completed by the end of the summer.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Set the Wayback Machine to Polyester: J.C. Penney's 1977 Catalog

written by Clarence Ewing [originally published June 2009]

My sister gave sent me this collection of photos a while ago. It came from a friend of hers. Here’s how he came across them:

“Last weekend I put an exhaust fan in the ceiling for my wife’s grandfather. While my wife’s brother and I were fitting the fan in between the joists, we found something under the insulation. What we found was…a J.C. Penney catalog from 1977. It’s not often that blog fodder just falls in my lap, but holy hell this was two solid inches of it, right there for the taking.”

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves (mostly), but before I do, I’d just like to make a few observations, especially for the younger generation of readers:

*Please keep in mind that back in the day, long before your Gap’s and your Dress Barn’s and your Abercrombie & Fitch’s dominated retail, J.C. Penney was the big dog in the mid-range fashion game, especially in the Midwest. So it wasn’t like they were offering these clothes on a lark, just having a laugh, if you will. They expected to move a serious amount of this merchandise, and they did.

*If you had ever gone to a ‘70s throwback party and dressed in a way you thought was way too over-the-top, rest assured, based on these pictures you pretty much nailed the look.

*Keep in mind, IT WAS THE '70s. The unnecessarily bright colors, the too-busy patterns, the open collars framing thickets of chest hair, the matching his-and-hers outfits – it’s all indicative of a nation making it’s way out of the purple-hazed, peace-and-love, turn-on-tune-in-drop-out, don’t-trust-anyone-over-30 menagerie of the 1960s and getting ready for the coke-fueled, me-first, greed-is-good consumerist slog that would be the 1980s.

*If anyone at JCPenny is sore that I posted these, too bad, you should have thought about that before your released these sartorial monstrosities on the world 30 years ago.