Archive for September, 2014

Music tells us of days gone by

You can tell a lot about a particular era by listening to its music.

My Dad was a veteran of WWII, and a member of the Greatest Generation.  He was also a music lover, and had a record collection that included many albums from that era.

Listen to the music of this generation and you’ll hear tales of hardship, sorrow, hope, and perseverance. They struggled through the Great Depression (Brother, Can You Spare a Dime), fought a war in Europe (Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition), celebrated the return of prosperity and youthfulness (Rock Around the Clock)  and mourned the loss of innocence with the assassination of a president. And that only brings us to the 1960.

The power of musical storytelling was particularly strong during the war years. In The Last Time I Saw Paris, Kate Smith reminisces about the French city and ends with, “No matter how they change her, I’ll remember her that way.” A sobering ending– she’s referring to the Nazi occupation of Paris.

Songs also brought hope of life and love after the war. The White Cliffs of Dover imagines a return to normalcy in war-torn England. (“The shepherd will tend his sheep; the valley will bloom again; and Jimmy will go to sleep, in his own little room again.”), as well as We’ll Meet Again (“Don‘t know how, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”) Likely a theme for many separated couples.

There was also humor, most prominently from Spike Jones and his City Slickers (think Weird Al Yankovic, circa 1940s) and Der Fureher’s Face (“When the Fueher says ‘We is the master race,’ we Heil! Heil! Right in the Fureher’s face.”)

It would be difficult to overstate the role music played during the war. With television still years away from the mainstream, radio was the entertainment media of choice, and combined with the popularity of Saturday night dances, the songs and lyrics spoke to my Dad and others of his generation.

For those of us who follow, there are lessons about that difficult time in our nation’s history, and about the people who pulled us through.

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Joking at the office? Keep this in mind

I’ve always been a bit of a jokester. In my last performance review, my boss mentioned my sense of humor more than anything else (I hope that’s good).

Years ago, a striking lesson taught me the best way to joke at the office, or anywhere else for that matter.

A coworker on the other side of the building had just moved into a new office, complete with a window — a rarity for that particularly company.

He was sitting there, quite pleased, when I stuck my head in. We chatted, spoke about his kids’ photos, etc, and I left with something like, “Cool office. You look right at home.”

The next day he stopped by my office to thank me. When I asked why, he said, “You’re the only one who didn’t make fun of me.” Apparently, others asked who he slept with to get the office, etc.

That hit me like a lightning bolt, and changed the way I joke with people.

Now, I focus on comments that are funny, but positive. For example, if asked about my boss, my reply is something like, “She’s awesome. The best. Very smart, supportive, and never hits me on the nose with a newspaper.”

Okay, it’s a little corny, but you get the point. It’s clever, gets a chuckle, and leaves a positive feeling.

Do no harm
There’s an old saying about truth in jest, and I’ve learned that negative jokes can leave people wondering if you’re serious.  Years ago, at a going-away party, my outgoing boss said, “I’ll miss all of you — well, all but one of you …” I thought he was clearly kidding, but a coworker later asked me who the boss meant.

Be funny and kind at the same time. Sometimes that takes a bit of creativity, but the goodwill it generates is worth the effort.

Your turn? How do you kid around the office?

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