“managing for performance”

managing for performance

I tried working on something frivolous… I really did. Somehow it seemed a little pointless.

It’s mostly the negative stuff that gets its claws into me, that feels meaningful enough to work on till it’s done. The paradox is that the drawing of it often makes me happy. As a blog it may seem a bit of a downer, but as therapy it’s working so far!

We’ve been getting freelancers in to cover some gaps at work, and the two great designers I kept chasing both ended up getting senior roles at the biggest agency in town. The agency I had been eyeing off a couple of years back as a creative career path. As opposed to the managerial path I’m on now. So I had a few moments of angst.

But the therapy worked. Management isn’t quite the dark side, and embracing it sounds melodramatic, but I can be a good boss.

And that will be good enough.

“reanimation”

I’m flicking the switch. Turning over a new leaf. Beginning as I mean to continue.

Moved to a new floor at work today, got some staff changes coming, caring less to sleep more, getting back on the exercise bike, and pumping some juice back into my creativity. Frankensteining some of the old avatars, good and bad, to add some colour back to the greyness of my managerial life.

They might be a bit rough but more drawings are coming.

“balance #16”

This is probably a little aspirational. After a bruising few weeks I came home from work last night, before a day off, feeling like I’d done everything I could. And that I could leave it behind.

All of the balance pictures have been about keeping the difficult things in my life up in the air, with varying degrees of success. I was the boss for a couple of weeks, and could easily have drawn some convoluted sprint through hoops and over obstacles, carrying the weight of confidences, the grind of insomnia and long hours, the pressure of my own expectations.

This isn’t meant to represent failure, but the idea of stopping to give myself a break, of the fallacy of crashing though by effort and momentum alone.

I wish this had been more eloquent, and the drawing more polished, but for tonight it will do.

“reversal”

reversal

A quick and colourful drawing to christen the next notebook. Nothing too dire, powerwalking through town on my lunchbreak with a headache… feeling light on my feet but brain encased.

The flower/faery man often has a chrysalis layered renewal thing going on, emerging from dirt and negativity. This can close the loop and return the favour.

“heralds”

heralds

This was going to start off like so many recent posts – been tired, took along time to work on this, bla bla. But it was worse, a new insomnia and a new level of stress. Waking up at 5am and not being able to get back to sleep. Waking up at 4am, waking up at 3. Going to bed early and falling asleep in a blink, but dreaming about work, waking up in a panic about deadlines with a pounding heart.

Looking for an analogy that’s not trite. Like a card game, with a sequence of trumps. Throw in a yearly cystoscopy. Top that with abnormal tissue to be burnt out and sent for biopsy. Call the universe’s bluff with a negative result, no cancer just “inflamed” tissue. An even hand, block your urinary tract infection with a course of antibiotics and referrals for tests.

The analogy runs out when you try to describe the feeling of shock at the urinal at work, pissing out blood and clots, bright red against the white porcelain, fear of embarrassment overpowering it, waiting impatiently for the automatic flush to wash away the stain.

There’s some mostly irrelevant and gruesome details that lead to walking into the emergency section of the hospital at 8.30 the next morning. Ironically, I’d slept quite well.

I’m ok with most medical procedures, but I don’t like catheters. The only thing worse than a catheter, is having them tell you a little later that the treatment isn’t working and they have to upgrade to a bigger model.

Their best guess is that it was the scar in my bladder starting to bleed, and 16 hours of flushing it out with saline did the trick.

I half-heartedly toyed with some ideas for a picture, a skeletal chicken, some cock substitute with impalement, but they were even weaker metaphors than a card game. Better to look away, back to this drawing in progress. Insomnia? Work stress? Pfft. I can trump that.

“apogee”

apogee

After a break in transmission, a (mostly) lighthearted look at my recent work / life balance. Think Icarus flying by the seat of his pants.

In the downtime, I spent most of my spare time rebuilding the blog. No one really cares about the details, but I coded it up as a custom theme with a super tidy grid. And finally fixed the comment function that I didn’t realise was so broken… come on over and test it out!

heroism as opiate for the teenage masses

Just finished reading “The Eye of the World” by Robert Jordan, published in 1990 as the first of a 14-novel 23-year epic – “The Wheel of Time.” Oddly enough, it tied in with some recent thoughts about undead stories, how they pander to self-importance.

A lot of the early sci-fi movies are supposedly about the fear of communism – “they’ve secretly taken over!” – or nuclear bombs – “they’re unstoppable!” Likewise there are lots of theories about the “meaning” of zombies and vampires. A good one I read was that the burst of vampire movies in the 90s was in response to AIDS, where the ultimate risky transgression would be to drink blood. The accepted wisdom about zombies movies is that they’re some sort of response to the collapse of society or community, seemingly always in connection with consumerism and rampant capitalism, whether in the 60s or now. Whatever the reason, there’s a drought of vampires but a horde of zombies in the new millenium. Pun vaguely intended.

More than any metaphor, I find it interesting how undead stories tend towards exaggerated individualism, a teenage need to be unique and powerful. I am a vampire, I function outside the rules of society and know things normal humans can’t even guess at. I am a normal human, the rules of society have broken down and I function above the sub-human majority who are clueless zombies. The difference seems to be that vampires tend to be the bad guy (or at least anti-heroes) because they have to kill “normal” people to live. The zombie apocalypse seems to give you free rein to attack any individual or social group, to destroy any institution.

So what does this have to do with a high fantasy novel?!

“The Eye of the World” seems to me like the quintessential post-Tolkien Dungeons & Dragons plot, enjoyable but pre-digested. A boy living in a village who is secretly the heir to a long lost something and is the key to everything, living in a lesser modern era after a nostalgic long lost age where everything was better. A girl who he fights with initially, but secretly loves, who turns out to be a princess or a sorceress or something other than a damsel in distress. A dark and evil god who is awakening / escaping his prison / returning, generally from the frozen north or the volcanic south. With or without a white bearded mentor, elves and dragons.

The thing that annoys me now, but I used to buy into wholeheartedly in my youthful readings, is the idea of the preordained hero. A young man who doesn’t really have to do anything but accept who is he to excel and save the day, like all of the TV talent shows where the intrinsic skills of the contestant allow them to skip all those boring years of practice and hard work.

Now I like the hard-bitten warders and rangers in the stories, who have survived the pain of losing their kingdoms and families, who have worked selflessly and anonymously for the greater good, and then end up wiping the arse of the self-indulgent teen hero.

Give me self-determination over fate any day.