Ba-ba-ba-ba-BAHHHHHHH Bah (da-da-da-da-DUH) Ba-ba-ba-ba-BAHHHHHHH Bah. That's how John Barry's bombastic theme for the 1965 James Bond flick Thunderball starts, with big orchestral chords; I know every note of the incidental music by heart, I think. I watched the first hour last night. My childhood friend Doug and I watched this, oh, about seven or eight times in the movie theater (no VHS or DVDs back then) when we were ten years old. It was a highly influential work for me. It certainly fueled a lot of our swimming pool play during the summer, when we'd happily take our guns and equipment underwater to fight off the hired minions of SPECTRE. (A major interruption was in having to come up for air. Bond could afford scuba gear but we couldn't.) James Bond was the major spy during the craze years, and presented a generation of American boys with a substantial problem: how to be like him in an environment (school) where this was clearly impossible.
My friends and I were always perplexed about how we were supposed to reenact James Bond's relationships with all those beautiful women. First of all, we weren't entirely certain what he was doing with them, and secondly, none of the ten year-old girls at school looked remotely like Bond Girls. Instinctively, however, I reasoned that when they did, we would figure out what to do with them. I also suspected that Bond's habit of slapping girls on their behinds was a poor way to make introductions, and probably wouldn't work for me personally. A pity. Along came Helen Reddy style feminism when I was fifteen and totally screwed everything up. I think my generation - well, we males, anyway - was robbed. James Bond turned out to be a cruel joke, and to this day I can't stand watching any of the new movies - especially now that he has a female boss. PAUGH.
I did some minor garage work recently. I'd like to get this project finished by the end of the month. The big remaining task is to prepare the floor for the epoxy paint. I need to work on an oily area where our old minivan leaked and leaked and leaked, and smooth down where I filled cracks. This is hot, sweaty and uncomfortable work as the garage tends to get really hot when the weather gets hot.
I listened to Tchaikovsky's Sixth ("Pathetique") Symphony in the garage the other day. It really is an amazing work, one of the very greatest symphonies in the standard repertoire. The first movement is full of tension, stress and conflict, occasionally broken up by one of Tchaikovsky's lyrical melodies (one used as a popular song by Glenn Miller: "This is the Story of a Starry Night"). The second movement is one of Tchaikovsky's amazing waltzes, possibly his best. The graceful cheerfulness of the main theme is interrupted by a middle section that is troubled and fretful - a suggestion of the final movement. The G major march that forms the third movement builds with an incredible power. When I heard the sixth performed live, the audience broke out into immediate applause at the end of the march movement. An audience is supposed to hold applause until the end of the symphony, but you can't with this piece - you just want to stand up and cheer. The last movement - which gives the symphony its "pathetique" title - is sorrow and despair itself. In fact, when it was first performed, as the strains of the final notes ended, people could be heard sobbing.
For generations after Tchaikovsky, his sixth symphony represented the concept of death to Russians, and there were occasions when it would be in very bad taste to play it. (I came across such a story in a documentary about Stravinsky.) There is every indication that the composer used the symphony as an occasion to create an intensely personal summing up of his life, which was soon to end. Everyone knows the story of how Tchaikovsky contracted cholera as a result of knowingly or unknowingly drinking contaminated water, but according to Professor Robert Goldberg in his lectures, Tchaikovsky was more or less ordered to take his own life as a result of a scandal involving his homosexuality. The whole subject is speculative - this wikipedia article gives an overview - but the cholera business is certainly nonsense. No educated man of Tchaikovsky's culture, social circle and class would have died in such a manner; death by cholera was a lower class, peasant death.
Anyway, Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony is an amazing piece of music. If you like classical music you've probably heard it. If you don't, give it a listen. It's an excellent and accessible way to dip your toes into the world of orchestral concert music.
Today I've been an employee of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for eighteen years, hiring on on this day in 1993. I began in the same fashion that I've pretty much followed ever since: being a smart ass. On my first day at work I attended an orientation meeting. During one part, the EEO counselor, a black woman, came in and asked the following question during her short talk about workplace harassment: "If I said the word 'tailhook' to you, what would you respond?" (obviously fishing for an reply about the celebrated USN tailhook officers party scandal which involved subsequent sexual harassment charges). I raised my hand and replied, "It's a device used on naval carriers to halt the forward momentum of jets upon landing." As the session was full of post college, entry level engineers destined for examiner positions in high tech units, I saw a bunch of smiling while male faces. The woman persisted, and one cowed twentysomething admitted that, yes, horrible male sailors did and said horrible things to women. He smote himself upon the chest, cried Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa! in a loud voice and flung himself out the sixth floor window. The others all looked at the floor shamefacedly and began to weep for their past sins against womenkind.
Okay, perhaps I made that last part up.
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