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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Common sense and restraint

I enjoy the editorial comments of Mencken’s Ghost in a local newspaper. I know his real name and have been reading his stuff for years. He usually hits home with his remarks which I’m sure annoys some people, especially those on the left. Maybe that is why I enjoy his writing so much. In a recent column he talks about the lack of common sense and restraint of some Americans.

While shopping at a Scottsdale Walmart recently, he picked up a 15 pack of Schick double edged razors for $5.47 or 36 cents per razor. Nearby, he watched a tattooed covered guy in his 30s along with his tattooed covered wife. The guy saw an end cap display of Gillette razors for $7.80 each that contained one three edged blade cartridge. Replacement cartridges were $3 each. But, the Gillette razor had an Arizona Cardinal’s logo which fascinated the couple. In fact the wife exclaimed “That’s awesome!”

Was this couple poor, not smart, rich eccentrics who are slumming, a couple of losers with no common sense, or were they just conned by an attractive display built by the Gillette representative? Who knows for sure but I would say they lack restraint and common sense and probably are not rich. You can decide for yourself.

Next example: Mencken is reflecting on a nanny that he and his wife had employed when both of them were working and their son was in grade school. In her early twenties at the time, she was smart, single, and attractive. She also was always in dire financial straits due to her love of partying, smoking, paying six dollars apiece for drinks at bars, and dating losers who mooched off her.

Creditors called his house just about every day. He would advise the girl to save her money and use her flexible work schedule to get a college degree or learn a trade. She didn’t take his advice, but she did ask him to delay giving her some of her weekly earnings, because, she said, “If you give all of it to me at one time, I’ll have it spent by the next day.” No doubt, she is still living on the brink of bankruptcy and getting calls from creditors.

Was she an airhead and irresponsible; or just wanting to have a good time while young and not worrying about the future? Maybe she is all three but on the bright side, she might have met Mr. Right who really loved her and was rich. That’s a big risk though. Being conservative as I am, I believe in having a good time while simultaneously putting away something for a rainy day.

It’s called being an adult and living within your means. Does that make a person boring? Maybe, but it beats being broke.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Good luck, job hunters!

I'm glad I am not out beating the bushes looking for a job. It's highly competitive today and you better know all there is to know about current technology if you want any chance to succeed. Then, next week when the technology takes another step forward and leaves your knowledge from the week before obsolete, you have to re-invent yourself again to establish another positive online identity.

According to Dilemma #1 on the CareerBuilder list, you need to have your name showing up in search engines like LinkedIn and making sure you are carefully leveraging the site. You also need to be on additional social networking sites like Plaxo, XING, or Viadeo and be sure you are on Facebook for professional networking. Don’t forget social media sites like Twitter and be sure to create a blog using a platform that will sync to your LinkedIn profile.

I don’t know about you but I don’t understand what a lot of that even means. My first job after college in 1969 was at Lever Brothers Company calling on headquarter and retail accounts selling Lever products like Dove Soap, Imperial Margarine, Close-Up Toothpaste, and many other items.

Nothing listed in the first two paragraphs above were heard of yet so I went to the want ads in the Kansas City Star newspaper. Want ads are extinct now but they were a good way to find a job in the 1960s. I saw the ad from Lever for a salesman and made a call on a pay phone for an appointment.

Since the appointment was a few days off, I had to type up a resume to submit to the interviewer so I got a book from the library about how to do a resume, and typed one up on my 1955 Smith-Corona typewriter.

When I arrived for the interview, I felt that I was ready although I was nervous as hell. I had my checklist covered: shined black shoes, dark blue suit, conservative white shirt and tie, good haircut, close shave, no political or religious buttons, nothing weird hanging out of my nose, and hopefully a polished, professional demeanor.

The interview went well and after one more interview I got the job. I don’t know if I was that great or the other guys interviewed were a bunch of stiffs and I didn’t care. I had a $140 a week job and a 1968 Ford company car. Combined with my wife’s teaching job we were pulling in a cool $13,500 a year, not bad in 1969 dollars where two steaks and a bottle of wine went for about $10!

I have no problem with the technology of today; it is what it is. Today you need all the items mentioned above to even have hope of an interview. I got mine with one call on a pay phone and when I typed my resume on that long gone Smith-Corona, I don’t think I even had liquid paper to correct mistakes.

Good luck, job hunters!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Before TV, there was radio

"Hello, Mr. Radio"........Electric Light Orchestra, 1973

Election Day in 2010 was on November 2 and the broadcast media crush was quite a contrast to the November 2, 1920 Election Day, exactly 90 years before. Unlike 2010, 1920 was a presidential election but there was no television flowing into the nation’s homes to influence voters. Radio was even in its infancy so the main form of campaigning was through the “whistle stop” which took candidates across country campaigning in every significant town via the platform on the back of trains.

James Cox and Franklin Roosevelt were the ticket for the Democrats. Their opposition for the Republicans was Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Cox and FDR did whistle stops from August until Election Day but it didn’t help as the Republicans won.

That election was the beginning of media coverage for election returns. A guy named Frank Conrad, who worked for Westinghouse was desperately, along with his crew, completing a radio transmitting station on the roof of the tallest building on the Westinghouse campus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their goal was to be ready on election night to broadcast the returns to the few folks in the area who had radios.

On October 27, the facility was complete and given the call letters KDKA. On November 2, four men recorded the election numbers that were received from the Pittsburgh Post via telephone and a gentleman named Leo Rosenberg read them over the air through a clumsy array of wires used as a microphone.

On that night broadcasting was born. The next day, the Westinghouse switchboard was flooded with calls from people wanting to know how they could get a radio. Radio had the excitement in the 1920s that the Internet would have many years later. Imagine if you can how those people felt in that era. One day, they are seeing live entertainment in clubs or theaters and the next they could turn the knob on a box of tubes in their living rooms and get the same entertainment for free.

During the 1920s, many colleges had radio clubs and as the decade progressed, sporting events like the baseball World Series were broadcast along with many highly followed prize fights and musical programs. Election results continued to be important programming. Today, we have several TV networks on election night feverishly reporting every trend and vote throughout the night and into the early morning.

Eventually, entertainers like singer Rudy Vallee, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and Amos ‘n’ Andy ruled the radio waves through the 1930s and into the 1940s as radio was a primary form of entertainment until about 1950 when Television started replacing it as a major entertainment forum. By then the “Golden Age” of radio was over.

Today, radio is mostly used as background entertainment for music or to possibly listen to a sporting event while doing something else.

Frank Conrad died in 1941 at 67 but he got to see radio flourish from the humble beginnings at KDKA to the number one form of entertainment at the time of his death.

 Frank Conrad and crew feverishly broadcasting election returns
                 in November 1920 to the few people who had radios.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Era of Adult TV Westerns

Westerns were always a popular genre in film starting with the ten minute production of “The Great Train Robbery” in 1903. The popularity continued through the silent era with stars like Hoot Gibson and the Farnum Brothers. As sound film evolved Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, and others cashed in.

In spite of some adult western features like “The Westerner” (1940), and “The Ox Bow Incident” (1943) the Western was primarily aimed at rural and juvenile audiences. With the popularity of TV in the early ‘50s, stars like Rogers and Autry got their own shows along with transfers from radio like “The Cisco Kid” and “The Lone Ranger.” By the mid ‘50s, classier productions like “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” and “Davy Crockett” came aboard the tube.

The month of September, 1955 provided a watershed moment as John Wayne appeared on CBS to introduce a new show that would change the public’s vision of the Western. The show was “Gunsmoke” and it was the first of the successful “adult” Westerns. It was to run for twenty years and make a star out of James Arness, a personal friend of Wayne.

With the success of “Gunsmoke” came ”Cheyenne”, “Have Gun, Will Travel”, and “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.” These shows were a lot different from the kiddie fare provided by Gene, Roy, Hoppy, and Cisco. The adult Western caught on with TV because of the success of early ‘50s Western films like “High Noon” (1952) and “Shane” (1953) which carried adult themes.

Adult Westerns were a natural for the tube. They captured the interest of parents while having enough action scenes to attract the kids. It was a perfect setup for the networks.

In the 1955-1956 season, there were nine Westerns in prime time on television. By the 1958-1959 season there were 31! Shows like “The Rifleman” with Chuck Conners, “Tales of Wells Fargo” with Dale Robertson, and "Wanted, Dead or Alive” with Steve McQueen were ratings winners along with “Yancy Derringer.

                                         Chuck Conners as "The Rifleman"

In spite of the success of the adult Western, it was not without its critics. By the late ‘50s and early 60s, many complained about the excessive violence, most notably Newton Minnow who was the head of the FCC during the Kennedy Administration. He referred to television as a “vast wasteland” in a 1961 speech which singled out the Western in particular.

As the 60s began, the popularity of Western was declining. Violence was one issue but there also were too many of these shows so the public was growing a bit weary of them. Besides, Nielsen ratings were showing that Westerns appealed to an older demographic; one that was not as likely to buy many of the sponsor’s products.

The “smooth detective” was becoming a popular genre after the fade of Westerns although shows like “Gunsmoke”, Bonanza”, and “The Big Valley” hung on for several more years.