It's the 150th anniversary of "Taps" coming up! Can you imagine the pressure on the poor bugler who has to play this 150th anniversary performance? Everyone is hushed and expectant; there's nowhere to hide. What pressure!
Far more pressure, however, was experienced by Keith Clark, the former principal bugler of the U.S. Army Band, who had to perform in front of millions (via broadcast) at the funeral of JFK in 1963. He cracked (misplayed) a note - but was forgiven. In fact, the missed note quickly became a metaphorical device for writers. Here's that interesting story.
I attended an all-day training session about corporate stuff yesterday. Getting me to sit in place to listen to management jargon is tough. I heard my current least favorite phrase, "Eat our own dog food." This is a singularly nasty mental image; I wish they'd retire this one, pronto. My favorite mixed metaphor heard during the day was, "We can't ignore the pink elephant in the room." ("Ignoring the elephant in the room," of course, is a popular phrase meant to invoke the idea of studiedly ignoring the major fact in the discussion... but pink elephants are only seen by one class of person: thoroughly inebriated to the point of hallucination. It was also a bizarre Disney song.) When the speaker let this one slip I looked around the room to see if anyone else thought it funny, but I saw no reactions.
Of course Maslow and his wretched Hierarchy made it into the conversation... it seems you can't have a discussion about personnel management without him; at least, not in the 28 years I've been exposed to the corporate culture. There are times I wish I could travel back in time and assassinate him before he could formulate his theories. I also heard "It is what it is," which always causes me to grimace, it being the pet phrase of a spectacularly boorish executive we once suffered through. He left before his first year was up, but his legacy remains. Popeye the Sailor Man - "I yam what I yam" - should sue for copyright violation.
My specialty in these meetings is to bring up original, well-articulated points without using corporate jargon. I can tell if I'm hitting a responsive chord by noting how many people nod their heads in assent or smile while I'm talking, and hearing my comment referred to later on. What always irritates me, however, is getting a "That's a good point" or "That's a good question" in response from the facilitator. I know it was - I'm not an idiot. This feels patronizing. But I suspect that it's a rote method to buy some added time to think of a reply.
It's also time we retired Albert Einstein's purported quote about the definition of insanity, "Trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." This has come into vogue in meetings, big time, and whenever it's invoked people sagely nod their heads, as if receiving the Wisdom of the Ages. The problem is, Mr. Einstein lived in the era before computer software became common. I have repeatedly "tried the same thing" multiple times with software applications and gotten different results. Is there some process running in the background causing a problem? Has a condition changed somehow that you cannot detect which influences the outcome? Is the LAN busy? Authentication problem? It's not insanity - it's sound troubleshooting technique.
I am now reading a provocative book by favorite modern novelist, Umberto Eco (shown above), The Prague Cemetery which gives a fanciful origin of European wars and intrigues. Eco is a wonderful writer. A reviewer once mentioned that you cannot read one of his books and not feel like your IQ hasn't been elevated a few points. Conspiracies, occult knowledge, coups d'etat - Dan Brown may have gotten more fame out of this style of thing with his (silly) DaVinci Code, but it's really Eco's stock in trade and he does a much better job of it.
(Funny thing is, Eco's book reminds me a lot of another work - a highly-regarded 1988 Blue Oyster Cult Lp, Imaginos, the songs for which involve an account of world history and European wars being influenced by a human cult led by extraterrestials!)
I haven't gotten there yet, but Eco's book involves a real historical book, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic hoax that is one of the most balefully influential books in world history, adopted as it was by the Nazis and used as partial justification for the Final Solution. It describes a Jewish plan for world domination; no less a man than Henry Ford financed the printing of 500,000 copies which were distributed in the United States in the 1920s. I think Eco's protagonist, a forger of documents, is responsible for it - but I haven't read that far yet.
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