I had my performance appraisal at work yesterday. Does anyone ever look forward to these? I was expecting it to suck. But it didn't. In fact, it was the best score I've had in two years, the reversal of a depressing trend. I may even get a bonus. So hooray for unexpected non-suckages.
I am a little annoyed with some "training" I see taking place at work, however: "Dealing with Difficult People." Why are they encouraging this accommodation, and why do others have to take the training? Why not have a class, "How Not to Be A Workplace Jackass," or, better yet, "Firing Difficult People?"
I pitched "Thud Ridge" into the trash. Too much of the text appeared to be verbatim citations from radio traffic via a tape recorder the writer kept in his cockpit. While this may add authenticity for readers who are fighter pilots, I was unsure of what was going on most of time and so lost interest. Also, the writer seemed disagreeably full of himself.
However, I must admit to a bias against jet pilots. The ones I've come into contact with seem arrogant and have cheated on their wives - so often that my wife and I wonder if it isn't a stereotype. With the humble grunt or cannon-cocker, you get the impression that while they occasionally may find what they have to do to be fun, by and large they sacrifice. With the fighter pilot or chopper jock it seems that there's something Hollywoodian in their DNA. Certainly there's the flash show-off persona stereotype - in fact, there was one such character in Tour of Duty and in episodes of Blackadder. So there must be some fire behind the smoke.
I am now much happier reading W. Somerset Maugham's "Cakes and Ale," which I have somehow unaccountably never read. Maugham (shown above) was my father's favorite writer; he especially enjoyed his collections of short stories, which often graced our kitchen table in paperback form. Even better, as some of these collections were filmed, Dad and I would stay up late and watch them on TV on Saturday nights. I am thinking specifically of "Quartet" (1948), "Trio" (1950) and "Encore" (1951), all of which are excellent and feature wonderful postwar British actors. I have them on video tape.
W. Somerset Maugham's world is that of the old British Empire, c. 1890-1940 (although he lived until 1965), very, as we now say, "old-school." For me it's a reassuring place, where customs and virtues are in line with the man I would have always liked to be. And yet Maugham is no prude (in fact, he had homosexual leanings). He was a man of the world, used to describing those in the highest and lowest levels of his stratified London society. And he does not shy away from sex and passion - it's just that he describes such things with a somewhat world-weary matter-of-factness. I recall being delighted with his novel "Of Human Bondage" when I read it as a Marine. And his play "The Letter" made a fine Bette Davis film noir in 1940.
I completed 1993-1994 in my digitized car tapes cassette project yesterday, a somewhat embarrassing period. Songs include my very short-lived interest with Alan Jackson ("Chattahoochee"), whose music I listened to via a couple who were into line dancing at the time, and some stuff in the "world music" genre, which was becoming popular in the early Nineties. I never cottoned to world music, which I found dull and cloying, and best suited, I thought, to being used as Muzak for a Whole Foods grocery store. I didn't bother digitizing any of it. In fact, as I recall I simply fast forwarded through it whenever I got to it on the cassette.
But there are some gems, notably an original, lengthy orchestration of Richard Rodgers' "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" suite from his 1936 musical "On Your Toes." The piece has always been a favorite of mine via my Dad's playing of a Boston Pops Lp when I was a kid. But this version has the original arrangements, and it just sparkles with 1930's sass and jazz style.
I've always had a respect for and a taste in 1930's style. I think that's because of all the Little Rascals episodes and old movies and cartoons I watched as a kid. And enough of the 1930's still persisted by the early 1960's - when I was a boy - that I could experience some of it first hand (I am thinking of store fronts, appliances, books - that sort of thing). I think perhaps it's like my children knowing a thing or two about the Seventies, despite the fact that they didn't live though the period or remember it. They got it second hand.
I got a couple of very promising pieces to learn last night at piano practice: a tuneful little work by 18th C. philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (yes, he also wrote music) and a simplification of Clair de Lune by Debussy that I very much enjoy working on. Now we're talking! None of this baroque muck.
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