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Skip the team talk; there's work to be done

Back in 2000, when newspapers still had money, I was flown out to California to spend a week in a Times Mirror leadership program for managers.

There was no ropes course, thank God, but we did have to blindfold ourselves and stumble around in some group exercise whose purpose I no longer remember. We had to figure out how to get our parties across the “water” in a variant on the old man-transporting-a-fox-and-a-chicken puzzle. And , though Myers-Briggs claptrap strikes me as what people in Mensa believe in rather than astrology, I can tell you with utter confidence that you should never, never, never assemble a team in which everyone is a J.

No doubt my lifelong distaste for all forms of athletic endeavor, compounded by being herded into an auditorium in high school to hear excruciating motivational exhortations by coaches, accounts for my lack of enthusiasm for corporate team building charades. I don’t wear T-shirts with slogans or polo shirts with logos, and games are for children or parties at which liquor is served.

Let me suggest to you what it takes for a manager to foster a properly functioning team.

First off, you build a team by doing the team’s work, the way an orchestra becomes a team by playing the music in rehearsal, not by pretending to be ninjas.

The manager actually does that work. He (picking an arbitrary pronoun) may not know how to perform all the tasks for which the team is responsible, but he knows some of them and performs them, working alongside the other members of the team.

He sees to it that the members of the team have the resources they need to do the work: training, equipment, supplies.

He gets rid of the Successories posters his predecessor hung on the walls and instead rewards high performance with money.

He also rewards high performance with public and private recognition.

He takes responsibility for his decisions and his mistakes, and he holds the members of the team accountable for theirs.

He spouts only the corporate cant that he is absolutely compelled to, and is otherwise honest with the members of the team.

He encourages voluntary (emphasis intended) activities outside work—potlucks, picnics, outings, after-work drinks—in which co-workers can relax in one another’s company.

He is a buffer between the team and the weasels and inflexible authoritarians elsewhere in the operation.

The thing to aim for is esprit de corps, not Little League.

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 9:00 AM | | Comments (31)
        

Comments

BRAVO once again, Mr. Mac. I have detested these silly exercises since junior high school. (And junior school-esque they are.) It is not that I can't stand working with people; it's that people each have a job to do.

I will never forget one instance in particular in which we were separated into groups in my 11th-grade English class to work on a weeks-long assignment ("Return of the Native," it was). Well, I read the book, and no one else in the group did. I did all the work for the final project, and no one else did. I earned an A, but instead ... all of us got a B. Hmph.

Yes to all that, Mr McI, but ...

Corporations are not democracies, and a manager is not in place by the vote of his staff, but by the appointment of his boss. That means he has to be his boss's representative in the department, not the department's representative to the management (that's a union job). If he's not willing to accept that role, fine, but that means resignation.

And since that's the case, his staff had better understand it. So making it clear that his role is a company role, and that he'll be working to company priorities, is part of the job - even if it interferes with the fun of the out-of-work picnics and his long-sought popularity with the young things.

I think it's a little more nuanced, not to say treacherous, than that for middle managers, Picky. Of course when you take the king's shilling you become the king's man. But if you are merely a management stooge, you will get passive-aggressive resistance from your subordinates.

If you are going to to accomplish the enterprise's priorities, you have to earn the respect of those subordinates who do the actual work, and you don't earn respect without showing it.

I have to disagree about representing the department. Upper management usually doesn't know, understand, or care about how you perform the actual work. You have to advocate for your people if you are going to get them the training, eqioment and supplies they need to accomplish their tasks. None of that will be handed to you.


Picky,

Just a bit of clarification......... yet I suspect I know the answer.

Does your "out-of-work-picnics" (perhaps in light of the current sad state of regular gainful employment for many in much of the U.K. and the U.S.), refer to little ad hoc outdoor potluck gatherings of the hard-luck unemployed (ants and all), or more likely, just extra-curricular get-togethers, after work hours as it were, orchestrated by 'the company', where regular work-a-day employees can commune w/ one another for a spell, kinda let their collective hair down, and nosh to their hearts (and hungry maws) content, all on management's dollar? (He asked, rhetorically. HA!)

........More-or-less, in my jaded opinion, a subversive plot instigated by (managerial) company wonks to create the illusion of benevolence on their part amongst their slavish, under-appreciated plebs, while attempting to forge a forced company esprit de corps, which sadly, for many enterprises who may be verging on the brink of terminal insolvency would be more aptly termed, an esprit de 'corpse'. (That potato salad smells a tad funky, no? Shades of Jonestown. I'd pass on the grape Cool-Aid. Just sayin'.)

Picky, your suggested company manager's almost implicit workplace imperative, namely "long-sought popularity with the young things", is clearly a code for impressing the nubile office 'chickypoos'. Let's not mince words. HA!

This perennial sociological phenomenon manifest at perhaps its basest level was perpetrated in the early Hollywood movie era w/ the then almost ubiquitous studio managerial power gambit, the sleazy casting couch manoeuvre. Many a young and comely "young thing" fell prey to this tawdry quid-per-quo ruse. Getting ahead, and 'giving head' back in-the-day in bygone Hollywood were, sadly, often one-and-the-same for many an aspiring, often slightly desperate, young, and attractive actress w/ their sights on eventual stardom. But I digress. (Should never have followed that yellow brick road. Doh!)

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. De Mille. HA!

Now, let's get back to Prof. McI.'s blackberry jam cake musings, pronto. Yum! Yum!

ALEX

Picky, it would be a union job if we had functioning unions. I've been working for thirty years and never been in a position to join one legally — I'm an "exempt employee", meaning exempt from the protections other workers get.

I've always tried to get my managers to read Peopleware, by DeMarco and Lister. The good ones already have, and I'd urge any manager in any field to read it, even though the examples come from software development. There's a whole chapter, not on what you can do to make teams jell (sometimes there isn't anything), but on the causes of teamicide. Prevent those, and you're well on your way to the possibility of a jelled high-performance team. (Alternatively, you will need intervention from Holger Danske.)

John and John: I understand you. I have been a union officer and have stood for months in the snowbound strike picket. I have been a supervisor trying to do the things JEMcI describes. I have been a middle manager trying to get the job done while keeping my seniors at bay. I have been a senior-ish manager trying to balance the newspaper's future against the insatiable demands of the shareholders.

I am sure that an honest man is honest with his staff, and that his staff are his first responsibility. But I know that one is hired to do a job, and that trying to fool staff into thinking otherwise is treason to them, to the boss, and to oneself.

And Alex : No. Lusting after the hands is the surest way to (a) perdition and (b) unemployment,

I take your point, Picky. I have no doubt that my charges recognize that I am management scum. But we're civil all the same.

I'm not sure it's "either/or" or "both/and" when it comes to these "out of office" kind of events. For a company to work at prime level the employees must know that the management cares about them...not so much cares about what car they are driving or how many bedrooms they have. But "caring" in the sense that they are recipients of good decisions which recognize their qualities, and where they are valued to the point of having security and stability in their employment. That's hard to accomplish with "inner office memos" to an anonymous group. Trust in the system comes from looking in the eyes of the managers and seeing some sense of recognition and value. I'm sorry if that takes managers having to eat hot dogs and play volleyball on occasion. They just might learn something about themselves and their management style by rubbing elbows with the employees who carry the company on their backs. I'm not nearly as negative on this issue as this comment makes me sound, but I'm also not so mellow as to make "out of office" events sound like foolishness or drudgery.


Picky,

"Perdition" and "unemployment", indeed!

As a three-years-retired left-handed 'wrist' who plied his graphic talents for the handful of major unionized animation studios here in Hollywood for almost three decade, from my formative years at Hanna Barbera, to my almost three year stint at Filmation Studios, to the six-years riding the Warner Bros. Animation 'renaissance' wave of the early '90s, and segueing into my protracted career denouement w/ several years at Disney Studios, and my last creative gasp w/ Cartoon Network, I'm fully aware of the dangers, and dire consequences of workplace sexual harassment.

Not merely involving upper, middle, or lower-tiered management types making overt moves toward their managerial peers, or for that matter, the regular 'workees', but also untoward, unsolicited in-office sexual overtures amongst the 'regular troops'. Those often tedious in-office HR sexual harassment seminars for new employees are pretty much de rigeuer these days. (That notorious aforementioned Hollywood casting couch of yesteryear has thankfully been relegated to the Smithsonian, ugly stains and all. Yuk!)

Sadly, over the years, I've seen a handful of fellow studio colleagues formally accused of breaching the official rules of proper workplace decorum w/ alleged inappropriate sexual implications, who have suffered the ignominy, and embarrassment of being 'called out', found culpable, and eventually dismissed. A few, were able to convince an arbitration panel of their innocence, and retained their jobs, but the lingering public stigma of even the accusation of wrong-doing often dies hard. (Our industry is a rather tight-knit, smallish one.)

Shifting gears, a tad--------In this most uncertain period of our current national economic malaise, when labor unions , particularly those fighting for the rights of public employees (as opposed to those unions defending the gains and bargaining clout of workers in private industry), are dealing w/ such vociferous grassroots and politically charged push-back, verging on open hostility, I for one, will be eternally grateful for the efforts of my local 839 Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists' Guild.

Frankly, I could not have afforded early retirement at the age of 62, if I didn't have the financial cushion of my relatively modest union pension (plus full medical insurance benefits), and had to solely rely on my reduced monthly Social Security cheque.

Picky, as a sign-toting, walk-the-line, once thoroughly disgruntled cartoonist, I gladly participated in at least two major union strikes (the summers of 1979 and 1983), in which we week-to-week animation working stiffs walked off our jobs to essentially protest the ominous, and mounting trend of more-and-more of our supposedly made-in-the-U.S.A. production drifting overseas to less costly foreign studios, subcontracted away by most of our prime Hollywood-based animation 'houses'. Unfortunately, these strikes had little impact on the inevitability of tons of production----what was then termed "runaway production"----- going to foreign shores.

Clearly, there are many positives in what profound thinker, the late Marshall McLuhan coined as the electronically connected "Global Village" phenomenon. Yet sadly, in my obviously biased view, "runaway production" isn't one of them.

Picky, I'm admittedly starting to ramble........ so i'll just leave it at that.

Alas, let "the young things" be, and hopefully all will be right w/ the world. HA!

ALEX

I think there's a lot in what you say, Jed. As long as it can be reasonably relaxed: if it's organised by the company it should be because the staff want it, not as some damnfool bonding exercise. Yes to the farewell bash, yes to turning up to the inter-department soccer knockout, yes to having a drink at the same bar the chaps use. No to teams competing to cross the stream using a toothpick, three safety matches, a pint of milk, and a photograph of Florence Nightingale.

Best of all, of course, are those rare occasions when you are invited to something they've organised for themselves - invited because they think you might enjoy it.

I don't know, Picky. I think I'd really like to see the bonding exercise you said no to!

Dahlink, if Flossie Nightingale was involved, it may have been more of a bondage exercise.


Laura Lee,

I trust you are implying, by your interpretation of "bondage exercise" in reference to the 'talents' of renowned field nurse Flo Nightingale, the binding w/ gauze dressings (hence "bondage") of sundry open battle wounds, and not, (he said blushing), a personal predilection for S&M hanky-panky? (By most credible historical accounts the heroic Ms. Nightingale was a most modest, proper, and selfless soul.)

Now, on the other hand, me thinks our fellow blogger, Dahlink's notion of "bondage exercise" in regards to Picky's stated strong objection to coerced in-office esprit de corps, has a whiff of naughty suggestiveness, leaning towards what some more prudish sorts might regard as deviant sexual behavior. (I say, different strokes for different folks. What's wrong w/ a few leather whips and a few dollops of whipped cream between friends? HA!)

Laura Lee, you are long overdue for some poetic offerings.

In light of the horrific and most tragic ongoing natural disaster in Japan, sometimes it's difficult to even muster thoughts of rhyme, or reason, as our shared sympathies and prayers go out to all those poor souls directly impacted by this beyond surreal, yet all too real, unfolding human catastrophe. I pray we are not looking at another Chernobyl, or Three-Mile Island magnitude event.

ALEX

My dear chap, Dahlink said "bonding" and your fevered imagination has betrayed you. Cold bath, old man.


Touché Picky,

(Or should that be 'touchy' Picky? HA!)

Indeed, Dahlink DID say "bonding", and I unwittingly put words in her mouth w/ my "bondage". (Well, ONE "word", to be precise.)

Nevertheless, w/ respect, my main point was that by her suggestive tone, she was conjuring visions of whips-and-chains bondage shenanigans. At least in my "fevered", alleged hyper-stimulated mind.

Hmm...... perhaps my , as you so eloquently put it, "fevered imagination", DID get the best of me, there.

However, I'm not that partial to cold baths, old chap. But a frigid shower just might put a damper on some of those prurient imaginings. Will you at least permit me to use soap-on-a-rope, or is that too kinky for Pinky's taste? HA!

ALEX


Picky,

Apologies for unwittingly calling you "Pinky" in the close of my last dispatch.

Likely a Freudian slip, as my 'fevered imagination' probably shifted into automatic rhyming mode......... the kinky/ Pinky conjunction.

Well, that's about the best explanation I've got, for now.

Have a great week, Picky.

Ta! Ta! for now,

ALEX

I thought at first it was something to do with Pinky and Perky, but I don't suppose you ever had to suffer them.

A poem for you Alex, as I seek to assuage my unease over the flippant remark I made about Florence Nightingale. She was a great woman who did indeed know something about team work.


Whene'er a noble deed is wrought,
Whene'er is spoken a noble thought,
Our hearts, in glad surprise,
To higher levels rise.
The tidal wave of deeper souls
Into our inmost being rolls,
And lifts us unawares
Out of all meaner cares.

Honor to those whose words or deeds
Thus help us in our daily needs,
And by their overflow
Raise us from what is low!

Thus thought I, as by night I read
Of the great army of the dead,
The trenches cold and damp,
The starved and frozen camp,--

The wounded from the battle-plain,
In dreary hospitals of pain,
The cheerless corridors,
The cold and stony floors.

Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.

And slow, as in a dream of bliss,
The speechless sufferer turns to kiss
Her shadow, as it falls
Upon the darkening walls.

As if a door in heaven should be
Opened, and then closed suddenly,
The vision came and went,
The light shone was spent.

On England's annals, through the long
Hereafter of her speech and song,
That light its rays shall cast
From portals of the past.

A lady with a lamp shall stand
In the great history of the land,
A noble type of good,
Heroic womanhood.

Nor even shall be wanting here
The palm, the lily, and the spear,
The symbols that of yore
Saint Filomena bore.


"Santa Filomena"
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Certainly they kissed her shadow as it passed. "Yet her heroism," says Lytton Strachey, "was not of that simple sort so dear to the readers of novels and the compilers of hagiographies - the romantic sentimental heroism with which mankind loves to invest its chosen darlings [ ... ]

"It was not by gentle sweetness and womanly self-abnegation that she had brought order out of chaos in the Scutari hospitals, that, from her own resources, she had clothed the British Army, that she had spread her dominion over the serried and reluctant powers of the official world; it was by strict method, by stern discipline, by rigid attention to detail, by ceaseless labour, by the fixed determination of an indomitable will. Beneath her cool and calm demeanour lurked fierce and passionate fires."


Laura Lee,

Thanks for the touching Longfellow poem dedicated to Florence Nightingale's heroic efforts on the Crimean front.

( I grant you Picky, over time, we sometimes tend to wrap our so-called "heroes" up in neatly 'digestible', lily-gilded little packages-----all sweetness and light----- when in reality there is much more of substance and formidable character lurking beneath the almost mythic, Hallmark card-like image most entertain---- as your earlier Lytton Stachey quote so eloquently addresses. )

Interestingly, on the home front, during this country's most uncivil, Civil War, famed novelist Louisa May Alcott nursed fallen Union troops in federal military hospital wards in Washington, and wrote a series of poems titled "Hospital Sketches"--- her personal musings on the challenges in dealing w/ recovery, death and dying-----basically the ravages, and horrors of war.

Another eminent American person-of-letters, the revered poet, Walt Whitman, spent several years personally comforting legions of wounded and dying Civil War military victims in several Washington D.C. hospitals, writing letters to next-of-kin for incapacitated, or even deceased former young fighting men, on a daily basis providing assorted candy treats, basic personal hygiene items, and tobacco----- in sum, bringing an abiding humane and loving spirit, constant acts of kindness, and a caring physical presence to a suffering and in many cases, slowly dying lot of mostly unsung war heroes. (I guess i'm using "heroes" rather loosely here.)

A well-received book by Roy Morris Jr. titled, "The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War", provides an incredibly vivd and moving account of Whitman's humanitarian zeal and dedication in being there, in both body and soul, for the countless fallen, largely very youthful, Union casualties of war.

Several Whitman scholars have argued that Whitman's profoundly emotional Civil War experiences marked a defining positive turning point in his literary career, which moving into the pre-Civil War years had been stalled in a downward spiral of aimless self-indulgence (far too much promiscuity, carousing, drinking), and extended periods of writers' block.

At least two series of poems came out of Whitman's Civil War 'interlude'----"Drum-Taps" and "Specimen Days".

Alcott and Whitman............. incredibly gifted writers, yet major good samaritans, to a fault, who during one of America's darkest hours went far beyond the call of duty to provide much needed solace, comfort, healing and succor to the wounded, maimed, feverish, and dying of one of the most uncivil, divisive of the great wars. Who knew?

Laura Lee, thanks again for the moving poesy.

ALEX

Alex, Alex--all I meant to "suggest" was that I would really like to see Picky's imaginative teams competing to cross the stream using a toothpick, three safety matches, a pint of milk, and a photograph of Florence Nightingale --wouldn't you?

I recently read Susan Cheever's book on our own Louisa May Alcott, and (according to this book and other sources) not only did she nurse the wounded during the Civil War, but she suffered the rest of her life as a result. She was basically poisoned by the treatment she received for an illness.


Dahlink, Dahlink---- Hmm....... I just had to go and 'elaborate' on your mere 'suggestion' re/ Picky's notion of his office team fording that stream w/ a photo of Ms. Nightingale, etc., in hand, didn't I? Oh well. My bad.

Answering you question, indeed, I would love to see Picky & Co. negotiate that babbling brook (or the River Avon, for that matter HA!), w/ all those aforementioned 'curiosities' in tow. HA!

Dahlink, thanks for shedding more light on Louisa May Alcott's Civil War-related lingering maladies. Sounds like the cure was much worse than the ailment(s) being treated.

Apparently malpractice is as old as the proverbial hills. In Alcott's case it appears the medical error(s) weren't committed w/ mal-intent, but were likely a result of just plain ignorance re/ the efficacy of the medication, or procedures used to treat the famous author's ailments.. A very sad scenario, all round.

Interestingly, after almost two solid years of comforting and bringing cheer to wounded and dying Union soldiers at very close quarters, Walt Whitman, miraculously managed to avoid contracting any contagious diseases, like typhoid, or TB.

The 'better angel', as Whitman was called, was truly blessed.

ALEX

Heck, it's simple! Empty the milk out of the plastic container. Replace cap. Pin (using the toothpick) the photo to one end of the container. Lie face down on the surface of the water in a floating position, resting on the milk bottle. Light the photograph with the safety matches (not easy because of your position, but you're allowed three matches). The fierce flames from the chemicals in the photo will drive the milk bottle forward, carrying you with it. Keep your head until you reach the other side of the stream. Receive well deserved promotion.

Well done, Picky! I knew you'd come up with something brilliant.


Picky,

Hmm.... a plastic milk container juryrigged into an ad hoc floatation device. Brilliant!

Picky, sounds like you've been indulging in a superfluity of kid's action-adventure feature animation fare, lately, w/ your ingenious, clearly suspension-of-disbelief stream crossing scenario.

In your youth, you didn't happen to be a fan of that over-the-top American cartoonist/ inventor, Rube Goldberg, were you?

You may recall, Goldberg came up w/ incredibly complicated and thoroughly convoluted ways to perform seemingly simple physical tasks----devising outlandishly fanciful mechanical contraptions which he plotted in highly detailed drawings, w/ the requisite key letters and numbers labeling the sequential kinetic movements animating all the connecting, working parts.

Goldberg attempted to take some of his 2-dimensional on-paper contraption renderings, and actualize them as three-dimensional, fully-functioning devices. He was basically like a modern day Leonardo Da Vinci on LSD. HA!

(Granted, many of Da Vinci's objects of invention had functional/ practical potential and were thought to be the precursors of several modern day useful devices, whereas Mr. Goldberg's imaginings, were just that, "imaginings", and had little, if any long-term utilitarian value, or function. Fun and humor were HIS obvious strengths.)

Picky, by some odd quirk of fate, could you have somehow channeled into the fertile imagination of the late Rube Goldberg in coming up w/ your wacky, yet clever brook-crossing strategy?

I must confess, burning Flo Nightingale's 'pic' didn't sit well w/ me. Is silver bromide (?) that combustible, anyway?

ALEX

Yep, sometime or other I've been exposed to Rube Goldberg, though rather more to Heath Robinson.

Ahhh - is silver bromide that combustible? I'm afraid I may have to refer you to my public relations advisor.

Anyway, beggar off! if Dahlink was satisfied, what do I care what you think?


Picky,

Touché, old chap.

I love it when you get your dander up. HA!

Clearly, what Dahlink thinks is all that really matters! Couldn't agree w/ you more. One smart gal. No debate there.

And don't get me started on the amazing Heath Robinson--- such a brilliant old-school Brit cartoonist. I actually have a few cherished tomes of his compiled wonderfully detailed, often basic physics-defying black-and-white drawings.

He, and the aforementioned Rube Goldberg were clearly wacky creative birds-of-a-feather, and I would venture to say would have likely gotten along famously w/ one another if their paths had managed to cross. I believe Robinson was much older than Goldberg, although their periods of creativity may have overlapped to some degree. (Too lazy to look up there respective dates.)

Hmm...... hope that you're not keeping that PR advisor of yours on too generous of a retainer? $$$$$ HA!

ALEX

My Captha words are : ducky Isaksson, ----Sounds like a character out of one of the late Steig Larsson's mystery novels.

Alex, in future you shall be Ducky Isaksson - what a splendid moniker! I think you should at least adopt it as your nom de plume. Do you still wield your talent for the occasional piece of professional work?


Picky,

Hmm.......... that moniker Ducky Isaksson DOES have a cool, dare I say, infectious ring about it.

Hmm..... nom de plume? Perhaps.

Picky, let me sleep on that one for a bit, and i'll get back to you. HA!

I suspected that working on those wacky AFLAC insurance animated TV spots a while back at Warner Bros. Animation w/ that loud-mouthed, annoying white domestic duck, would somehow come back to haunt me. HA! Ducky isaksson, indeed.

Come to think of it, my dear Mum, back in Ontario, Canada, was born w/ a couple of webbed toes on both feet (big and 'index' toes conjoined, as I recall), so the Ducky 'proposal' wouldn't be that much of a stretch. HA! (Was that too much information, mommy dearest?)

As to my artistic talent wielding, of late, I've actually kind of smoothly segued (inzy Hollywood cliched term HA!) over to digital full-color nature photography, kind of a 'natural' adjunct to me and my girlfriend's enduring passion for birding....... that's bird-watching for the uninitiated. Yeah, we're confirmed bird-nerds, and proud of it. (However, I'm not a Tweeter.)

Picky, we spoiled sports living out here in Southern California are truly blessed w/ spectacular swaths of bountiful, near pristine natural terrain------ thriving wildlife preserves, state parks, coastal estuaries and wetlands. So almost every weekend we venture out into the wilds of L.A. and environs (L.A., Orange, or Ventura counties), and just try to have loads of fun, and pleasure in tracking down our plentiful wild fine-feathered-friends...... and the occasional bobcat, king snake, coyote, or Western fence lizard that may unwittingly meander into our sights.

I do keep a birding journal, of sorts, w/ little field sketches and such, but unlike so many bird-watching zealots, i'm not all hung up on beefing up my 'life-list' of first-sighted species. We just enjoy the moments, and leave the rest to the anal retentive, more competitive bird counters. HA!

Vigorous nature hikes also have another built-in payoff beyond the birding, in that we are out walking, often 3-4 miles in a single afternoon, although stopping-and-starting while trying to observe birds, and such, doesn't really promote sustained aerobic cardiac function. But at least it's better than lolling on the living-room couch for hours devouring cheese balls, and watching even cheesier TV sitcoms, or lame reality shows. Just sayin'.

Picky, as far as exercising my animation background design talents, since i opted for early retirement at 62, and for almost the past three years have received a Cartoonist Guild monthly pension, I legally (union rules) can only work a maximum of a paltry 40 hours per MONTH. if I go and exceed that amount, I would get docked from my modest pension, or worst case scenario, get my pension temporariiy yanked. (Ugh!) Hardly sounds fair, but that's my 'situation'. Of course I could chose to work for various non-union studios, but then I'm afeared that my latent Presbyterian guilt might start to weigh in. HA!

Frankly, I'm really not missing the rat-race, harsh deadline realities of the animation biz, yet I do miss the more social aspects of communing w/ my kindred spirited, multi-talented, and funny former work-mates. Rarely a shortage of in-studio visual stimulation, lively conversation, and of course, corn-ball jokes, and sicko humor.

Now, alas, you Picky, Prof McI.,, and all our fellow blogging corps at "You Don't Say" are forced to endure my feeble attempts at jocularity. HA!

I'm also a lapsed sculptor (my major at art school back in Toronto in the Pleistocene Age HA!), when my absolute sculpting hero, bar none, was your England's own----the amazing Henry Moore-----who, not so ironically it turns out, had a strong and enduring affection for my fair city, Toronto, dating back to the late '60s when, after a huge public kerfuffle, his wonderful abstract bronze, "The Archer", was finally sited in front of our ultra-modern, new city hall. (Was that ONE sentence? Is there an editor in the house?) It's purchase was funded totally from publicly solicited revenues, from the generous Toronto citizenry who wanted desperately to shake their long-standing image as a culturally atrophied, backward looking art community. This public call to action, and incredible collective giving spirit exhibited by grassroots Torontonians clearly impressed Moore, immensely.

Over the following years Moore's affection for Toronto, and its arty, more enlightened denizens grew exponentially, ultimately translating into his donating dozens of his original, mostly sculpted-plaster-on-wood-and-steel-mesh-armatures giant master-models for his eventual serial cast bronzes, to our Art Gallery of Ontario. A monumental-scale, impressive two form brown-patinaed bronze Moore piece was sited back in the early '70s at the corner of Queen and Dundas streets opposite the pedestrian walk outside the AGO. For decades now, there has been a huge Henry Moore AGO wing/ gallery space, completely devoted to the works of this giant of world sculpture, Sir Henry of Much Hadam (sp. ?)----his little touch of eden not that far from the towering monoliths of Stonehenge.

Lately, I've been trying to recapture my elusive sculptural muse, but she's proven to be a fleeting and slippery sort, not unlike one of those alluring, mysterious kelpies (?)----those mythic shape-shifting Celtic lassies who have the ability to morph back-and-forth from seductive human-form siren, into adorable, sleek and shiny harp seal. Kind of the Irish equivalent of the classic storybook mermaid, if you will.

Trust me. I'll catch HER one of these days! (The fishy breath I can do without. HA!)

Well i've spouted off far too long.

Ducky Isaksson.......... over and out.

Ain't that just ducky? HA!


I WENT out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands; And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

THE SONG OF WANDERING AENGUS

by W.B. Yeats

Dearest Laura Lee,

Bless you for that transformative (in more ways than we might, on the surface, fathom), sweet poem by that most inspired poet of romance, and human longing, William Butler Yeats. "Silver trout" magically morphing into "a glimmering girl....... With apple blossom in her hair....", indeed!

I would that that my comely, yet elusive sculpture muse, incarnate, were so fair. Who knows? She might one day, very soon, appear and entreat me to "kiss HER lips and take HER hand'? (And hopefully that's just the mere prelude to other amorous 'intertwinings'.HA!)

That creative 'fire in MY head" most thankfully still burns. (If I could only get it to descend into my belly.) I trust it will sooner, than later, translate into three-dimensional objects of beauty, and aesthetic contemplation, as my sweet muse whispers sweet 'everythings' into my welcoming ear. What's wrong w/ slightly fishy breath, between friends, anyway? HA!

Thanks again Laura Lee for your inspiration. You are an especially sensitive, generous, and thoughtful soul.

Bless you.

"Ducky Isaksson" out ! -----(aka ALEX HA!)

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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