Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Fountain of Salmacis



Since I’ve been too busy of late to post …


So cool to discover something that gives me the chills. Something I would’ve listened to thirty-five years ago, when first foraging through the varying echelons of progressive rock. Back in those days, impoverished, I’d tape record off my boom box whatever grabbed my fancy as soon as I’d hear the first notes of the tune. Emerson Lake and Palmer. Yes. The Who. Moody Blues. The Doors. Jethro Tull. And listen to it over and over until the magnetic tape worn out.

Later, after a painful trip to the dentist, my mom gave me some money to buy some cassettes. I bought Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin IV. That steered me in an entirely new direction, for, a year or so later, I met some friends and began listening to Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Judas Priest, and other, harder offerings of 70s rock than the keyboards, sustained chords, and non-4/4 time signatures of prog rock.

This past August on vacation for whatever reason I listened quite intently to Genesis’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Stuck with me. Stuff I could’ve listened to way back then, but, as chance would have it, was never played on a radio station I was listening to at the time. This is old Genesis, 70s Genesis, Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett Genesis, before the remaining Genesis crew (Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks) morphed mid-80s into the soulless corporate hit tune generating machine. In other words, intensely interesting and cool Genesis.

I particularly dig this song, “The Fountain of Salmacis,” off their 1971 album Nursery Crime. (Yes, Phil Collins has been around that long – as well as Peter Gabriel.) I like it because it has as its theme characters from Greek mythology. I like it because of those incredible apocalyptic chords at the end. I like it because of the dual dueling lines of lyrics in the chorus. I like it because it has an epicness about it packed into its eight minutes that you don’t hear in songs of the last two or three decades.

I like it because it gives me chills.




THE FOUNTAIN OF SALMACIS

From a dense forest of tall dark pinewood,
Mount Ida rises like an island.
Within a hidden cave, nymphs had kept a child;
Hermaphroditus, son of gods, so afraid of their love.

As the dawn creeps up the sky
The hunter caught sight of a doe.
In desire for conquest,
He found himself within a glade he’d not beheld before.

Where are you, my father? / Then he could go no farther
Give wisdom to your son now lost / The boy was guided by the sun

And as his strength began to fail
He saw a shimmering lake.
A shadow in the dark green depths
Disturbed the strange tranquility.

The waters are disturbed the waters are disturbed / Some creature has been stirred
Naiad queen / Some creature has been stirred

As he rushed to quench his thirst,
A fountain spring appeared before him
And as his heated breath brushed through the cool mist,
A liquid voice called, son of gods, drink from my spring.

The water tasted strangely sweet.
Behind him the voice called again.
He turned and saw her, in a cloak of mist alone
And as he gazed, her eyes were filled with the darkness of the lake.

We shall be one / She wanted them as one
We shall be joined as one / Yet he had no desire to be one

Away from me cold-blooded woman
Your thirst is not mine
Nothing will cause us to part
Hear me, O gods

Unearthly calm descended from the sky
And then their flesh and bones were strangely merged
Forever to be joined as one.

The creature crawled into the lake.
A fading voice was heard:
And I beg, yes I beg, that all who touch this spring
May share my fate

We are the one / The two are now made one,
We are the one / Demi-god and nymph are now made one

Both had given everything they had.
A lover’s dream had been fulfilled at last,
Forever still beneath the lake.

[cue apocalyptic chords ...]


Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Tale of Two Jobs




From January to April I work two jobs. This is my second year doing so. The night job is something I never thought I would (or could) do: sell, basically, though it’s low-pressure. The day job is something I’ve done for four different companies over fifteen years.

I have discovered I love one and hate the other. Funny, how things turn out.

I think it boils down to how I’m perceived as a wage slave. Er, employee, I mean. I feel valued and respected in the one, and just a replaceable cog in the machine of the other.

By day I process payroll for over 600 employees, spread out in three divisions over twelve physical locations. I have two days every two weeks to get everything submitted to our payroll company. I hold myself to a high standard: 99.9 percent accuracy. My average payroll is $650,000, so that leaves me a margin of error of $650. It’s stressful because a lot of hands touch the payroll besides mine – those of the employee, the manager, and the payroll company. But it’s fun and zen and I enjoy doing it and rarely can a mistake over $650 be laid at my feet.

What I hate, though, is the death-by-a-thousand-cuts that happens during those other eight days of the pay period. Yeah, I have certain reports and tasks that need to be done, activities that comfortably fill those eight days. But I have a phone, an email address, and “superiors” who can walk in to my office. After giving it a bit of thought, I realize that every week I get about 35-40 “problems” tasked to me to resolve. Some are little, some are big, a few are interesting, most are hassles I care little for. About a third can be fixed on the spot. Ten percent of the remaining turn out to be debilitating, morale-killing grindhouse projects.

By night (and Saturdays with some Sundays thrown in) I prepare tax returns for clients. Federal and any state, though primarily New Jersey and New York. It’s a job that fits neatly into a pie chart divided into three sections: One-third relationship and rapport with the client, one-third knowledge of tax law, one-third expertise with the computer system. Every night I go in there’s a thrill, I must admit. Any one thing in any of those pie chart sectors could go awry. Last night, for example, I had a young married couple in and had them laughing, talking about their honeymoon at the Amalfi coast, had their federal return completed with a nice fat refund, but, for the life of me, I could not get New York to tax only the wife’s New York income and keeps its greasy hands of the husband’s New Jersey income. It was a software thing. No overrides worked. I felt a little embarrassed. They were a little peeved. They will return on Monday, so I gotta figure it out by then.

What I love, though, is the camaraderie I have with the other tax pros there. We all help each other. We empathize when another has a nasty client. We tell war stories with glee. And there’s a friendly competition to see who can bring in the most $ on any given day. I’m not micromanaged. I’m not given problems to solve. All I do is serve the client by promising him or her the best refund possible or the least liability owed. And I offer tips and suggestions for an even better tax year for when they return to me in 2019.

Now here’s the million dollar question – if I had a million dollars, would I still go to work? And my gut tells me (I need to rely on my gut because my head has consistently messed me up for, well, most of my adult life) … my gut says that I would continue the night job. In fact, I think this is a soft urging to tell me to get out of the payroll business. For I have discovered I’m having far too much fun selling and interacting with clients.

Make no mistake, it’s not all Fourth-of-July fireworks and parades doing taxes; it can be quite stressful, but the stress is of a different breed than the stress I feel having those 35-40 problems shoveled atop me every week at the day job. Proactive stress versus reactive stress. Eustress versus distress.

I guess that’s all I wanted to say. The weird dichotomy I’m living through right now is so mind-blowing to me that I haven’t been able to put it into words until now. And I’m not sure in this post I’ve done a good job of it.

Carry on, and don’t forget to get yer taxes done by April 17!


EDIT:

Oh – forgot to mention perhaps the biggest reason for this dichotomy: I NEED my day job whereas I DON’T NEED my night one. Right from Day One I went into the tax thing as, “I’ll do this to see if I like doing it and I’ll continue to do it until it stops being fun / amusing / interesting.” That’s a great attitude to have going into a new job. Perhaps the key attitude. Most of us are wage slaves so we need that job to keep on the hamster wheel society says we must tread evermore on. What a key difference the outlook that you don’t NEED a certain job is to the enjoyment and mastery of it.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Diversified Airlines



Imagine:

An innovative airline launches a worldwide advertising campaign to promote its two newest, bestest airplanes.

One is called the “Diversified” and is exuberantly exclaimed to be built with the best diversified workforce in the world.

The other is called the “Qualified,” and is exuberantly exclaimed built with the best qualified workforce in the world.

Tickets go on sale today, the same price for both aircraft, to a destination anywhere.

Question:

Which one would you buy a ticket on?


*******


Now, we all know the answer.

But some might protest, “The most diversified workforce will naturally be the most qualified workforce.”

To which I’d reply:

Maybe. Maybe not.

Then I’d further respond:

Why do you assert this? Are you postulating some ironclad law of human nature? For it seems to me, were I to be partnered with another individual in the cause of attaining a specific goal (such as building the best aircraft), we’d fare far better if we were closer in thought, attitude, skill and education than if we weren’t. “Homogenous,” so to speak, in regard to thought, attitude, skill and education as opposed to “diverse.”

Or are you using a different variable to measure “diversity”?


 *******


Has anyone anywhere over the last forty or so years asked the question, “What exactly is meant when the culture speaks of ‘diversity’?”

And: “Why, exactly, is ‘diversity’ ‘better’?”

I’d really like to know.