2017-09-13 – “bye bye, barbie”


(2017-09-13) bye bye barbie main
Putting the “meat” in “meetings.”


Regular readers of this blog (good one!) know the extent to which I’ve relied on workplace-generated bad feelings as a source of cartooning motivation and material. Bad bosses, idiot coworkers, office pet peeves, blah blah blah. As I was drawing this one—and I’ve been composing it in my head for two weeks now—it occurred to me that this is one of the few (perhaps the only) work-related cartoons I’ve drawn that is motivated solely by positive feelings. Well, sort of positive.

Barb, my kind-of boss, resigned. It was a bit of a gut punch. I’m usually pretty good at reading subtle vibrations about these kind of things, but I had no idea she was looking to leave (beyond the level of looking-to-leave that pervades my current workplace, I mean). It’s not too much of a stretch to say that Barb is responsible for founding my company. And it’s an outright laughable understatement to say that she’ll be hard to replace, from both a professional and a cultural standpoint.

I say Barb is my “kind-of” boss because I think our current workplace is supposed to have what HR people and business consultants (and God knows how much I try to emulate them) call a “flat organization.” I think that’s supposed to mean that no one has any title or rank, and that the workplace is therefore an egalitarian paradise. Or something. The point is that Barb wasn’t my on-paper, org chart “boss.” Or maybe she was (it’s only been four years, so we haven’t had time to iron out some of these subtle points). Anyway, Barb is the kind of person one tends to look up to, draw inspiration from, and follow the lead of regardless of what her title is. In my professional experience, this puts her in extremely limited company.

Barb was my boss at Curatio, and the scene depicted here (with some quasi-artistic license) was pretty typical of her management style with me (ie, not a micromanager, in case that didn’t come through). Twenty-plus years into my career (such as it is), it was still pretty novel to have a boss who actually trusted and looked after my interests to such an extent. The story I like to tell is that when Curatio was “wound down” (that’s corporate-speak for “shuttered,” by the way), Barb and I were both among the layoffs. Faced with unemployment, Barb’s first actions included…putting two good(ish) job opportunities in front of me. THAT is a captain who sees to the well-being of her troops!

We didn’t socialize all that much outside of work, which is my loss. I always thought (and said on multiple occasions) that I’d always sensed that Barb was someone I would have wanted as a friend regardless of what setting I met her in.

As someone who wears his feelings on his sleeve way more that I would like, I’m pretty cowardly about expressing some feelings. For instance, rather than SAY a lot of this stuff to Barb, I’m going to put it down in my blog—where it is certain that NOBODY will see it (not really: I am going to point Barb to it when we meet for lunch today).

One final question: Barb, did you ever watch “Columbo?” If so, do you remember one of his most consistent habits (aside from the cigar and the dumpy raincoat, I mean)?

2017-01-27 – “best laid plans”

Play ball!

A couple of years into my BIOSIS employment, I put together a co-ed softball team. The problem here was that finding fields to play on and leagues to play in was a bit harder in Center City Philadelphia than it was back in Connecticut…which is what I was used to.

The good news is that I was eventually able to find a league that would take our team. The bad news is that the “co-ed” part of the league kind of fell by the wayside, so our team of can-do hearties wound up squaring off against team after team of south Philadelphia meatheads. Most of the idiots on these teams were interested in nothing more than running up scores and trying to score with the women on our team.

From my standpoint, it says all that needs to be said about this league that, in 30 years of playing baseball and softball,  I sustained my worst ball-playing injuries (broken wrist, concussion) in these “for-fun” games.

Our games were played on random weeknights at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center down at 17th (I think) and Fitzwater. The field was in extreme disrepair and was usually littered with crack vials (this didn’t stop shortstop Pat McGovern from playing barefoot). Play was frequently halted while locals strolled through the outfield, and it was necessary to keep a close watch on anything you brought to the field. Sadly, at my last game on this field, the baseball glove I’d used from junior varsity through college was stolen. I had it coming—it should never have been in any equipment bag I brought down there.

All that said, we DID manage to have our share of fun in (and after) these games. I think we played for five or six seasons in this league, under names that included BIOSIS (good one!), Ruddy Ducks, Purple Cannibals (shown here), and Tsunami.

For the trainspotters: in this comic, Joe (#7) is pitching, Beth (#2) is at second base, Mike (Hilden #20) is at first base, Megan (Kile #6–she created the design for the Purple Cannibal shirts) is in left field/short field (four outfielders in this league), and I (#3) am in left center/left field. Somewhere in a computer archive I have rosters, stats, photos, trading cards, etc.

If any former BIOSISians, Ruddy Ducks, Purple Cannibals, or Tsnamis ever stuble onto this site, I’d love to hear any recollections you have from those Switchblade Park glory days…

2017-01-20 – “Jonny come lately”

Better late than never!

Phew! Made my deadline! And by “deadline” I mean “before I see most of these guys tonight at happy hour.”

Here we have my second foray into filling the gaps left in the original Cubicle Count run. So, welcome, Keith (officially), Pat, Jennifer, and Carrie—where would happy hours (to say nothing of the BIOSIS day to day) have been without you? And welcome to Todd, Andy, and Jeanne: you may not have worked at BIOSIS, but if happy hour time counts, I spent as much time with you as I did my coworkers!

Oh, and sorry about your transition to the comics page: I’m still having the all-too-familiar hard time getting characters to look like the people they’re based on. Sigh.

Drawing this made me really want to hop down to Cherry Street Tavern, the backdrop here and the scene of so, so many laughs and bouts of memory loss. Good times! Probably!

2016-12-02 – “Hi Ho, Cherry (Street) O” (preview)

Funnily enough, this is about as clear as my ACTUAL memories from Cherry Street!

So last night I had the extreme good fortune to reconnect with a couple of the old crew from BIOSIS. Appropriately enough, we reconnected over beers (though of better quality and lesser volume than in the old days), and naturally enough there were retellings a’plenty of the BIOSIS glory days. Hanging out with these guys never stops being great.

Of course, I took the opportunity to plug this little blog (I mean, really, if there’s ANYONE who’s going to find any value in these old Cubicle Counts, it’s these guys). But—quite rightly—Keith called me out on something I had myself noted in the commentary on another blog entry (“Interro-BANG!”): a lot of the most important people and events from the BIOSIS days slipped by uncaptured in the Cubicle Count records. It’s a gap that I intend to address (again, see “Interro-BANG!”); I have quite a few ideas for new strips already lined up. Indeed, I already have one almost completely sketched out.

As a show of good faith—and to ensure that two essential BIOSIS institutions (Keith and Cherry Street Tavern) get added to the Cubicle Count canon—I’m going to throw this preview out there.

Cheers, gentlemen! And stay tuned…


1991 (or 1992) – Frenemy!


I don’t know that “frenemy” was a word back in the early 1990s, but I (and pretty much everyone in my social circle from that time) can absolutely attest that it was a “thing.”

I’m going to forego the backstory and witty comments about this drawing, except to note that this is the fourth panel of a four-panel strip that was created for a smaller-than-usual audience (considering the limited audience I usually draw for, this is saying something!).

Even by itself, though, this panel stands up as a pretty good snapshot from this era, wouldn’t you say, Beth?



2011-02-11 – “No status at all” (Curatio CME Institute)

Come on, large straight…!

Curatio currently ranks at #2 on my job length-of-tenure list, checking it at 7+ years (close to 8 years if you count my service as Beth’s understudy).*

The company changed a lot in the time I was there, and nowhere was that more evident than in the tradition known as “weekly status.” When I first reached Curatio, this meeting was an entertaining free-for-all where all six (!) participants just let the one-liners, putdowns, and practical jokes fly (who can forget the classic Elayne D&D die roll at Denise’s expense?). It was perfect cartooning fodder, and in fact somewhere in my sketchpad I have a very preliminary drawing of a typical scene from those old status meetings. But aside from that one sketch—though the idea always nagged at me—I never got into drawing any Curatio-inspired cartoons.

One random week (much to the bemusement of my coworkers), I took a bunch of camera-phone pictures during the status meeting, and I used them to rough out this drawing. I’m not sure why I never finished inking this in. Short attention span is a pretty good guess.

This drawing does a fair job of capturing my view of these meetings. But the fact is that status meetings during the era of this drawing were pretty button-down affairs. Witty one-liners had by this point long been supplanted by beaten-to-death corporate buzzphrases, and that doesn’t translate well to cartoon. I’m not sure exactly when or why status jumped the proverbial shark, but I’m guessing it had something to do with Donner and the optospectometer.

I should note that this drawing is based on what my pictures captured. Denise—if you ever see this—you were indeed having the mini-freakout depicted here. And I am certain I was playing Yahtzee.

*The two companies that I worked for the longest were both well-established businesses…and both wound up closing. Hmmmm.

unfinished business

Cubicle Count was something I’d all but completely forgotten, but now that I’ve revisited them I’m feeling irrationally proud of the strip. It’s certainly not an issue of thinking the drawings are good or that the strips are funny or clever, it’s more just the satisfaction of having stuck with a project like this for a while.

Before I close the book on the original (!) Cubicle Count run, I should throw the few unfinished strips I found onto the pile.

None of these strips have dates, but I can tell from what’s going on in them roughly when I drew them.

“Dazed and unenthused”

This first one dates to October 1991. I can tell this for the following reasons: the protagonists (Joe Riley, Kathryn Kerby, and Beth Ahrens—sorry Beth, your only CC appearance got left on the drafting table) are from the department I would eventually transfer to, Special Analysis (I know, I know). This was before Joe (“Riley-tron!”) was temporarily transferred to EID and before Kathryn and Beth left the company. Also, this was supposed to be a Halloween-y strip. The idea (which I am surprised I remember) was supposed to be along the lines of Dawn of the Dead, with the EID staff (here represented by me and Celia) in the zombie role and Joe, Kathryn, and Beth the outside observers lamenting our sad plight.

Though I remember the concept, I DON’T have any idea how I intended to wrap up this strip…which is probably why I never finished it. I also have no idea what dialogue I had in mind for the characters, though Joe (panel 2) and Kathryn (panel 3) are obviously speaking. Without remembering what I had in mind, I can say almost for certain that the panel 4 drawing would have had Beth delivering a punch line. Beth from that era seldom failed to get the last word (a trait she shares with Beth from this era).

Drawing-wise I’m pleased with how everyone translated into their cartoon alter egos (though Beth in panel 3 has that slouchy, short-armed posture that I dislike in a lot of my drawings). There’s no way anyone but me would know this, but Beth in panel 1 is reaching to open the door to the fourth floor.

“Fly (off the handle) boy”

This next one was from around December 1991. I was starting to hang with Tracey more, so we had a little bit of a workplace pal routine starting to take shape.

I’ll be damned if I can remember the story behind the “no baby” callout in panel 1. If I remember correctly (no sure thing), Tracey was pregnant with her first son at this time. As I understand the biology of it, pregnancy is kind of the opposite of “no baby.”

As with the previous unfinished comic, I have no idea where I was going with this one.

“Them’s the breaks”

This one dates to June-July 1992, and it answers the question of why there was a several-month gap in the strip: I broke my left wrist and arm playing softball that year, so I couldn’t draw. The proof is right here: my one attempt to draw the strip right-handed.

Kind of a gimmicky, stupid idea, but I was probably dying to draw at this point, so I’ll cut myself some slack here.

“Squirting the law”

And, finally, the one storyline I really wish I HAD finished. This was to be a multistrip wrap-up to the Cubicle Count run. I had gotten my transfer to Special Analysis (“yayyyy!”), and the plan was to leave EID in a blaze of glory by using a squirt gun full of Wite-Out to deliver Tracey, Celia, and my other EID friends from the nefarious grip of…I don’t know. Paul was hardly a villain, so I don’t think I’d have Wite-Outed him. Perhaps I would have drawn Bernadette Freedman (the EID department head) or Joel Hammond (arrogant perpetually self-satisfied EID section chief). Well, we’ll never know now.

It amuses me to see how little I’ve changed. Tracey’s panel 1 dialogue is unfinished, and I just KNOW it’s because I wasn’t sure how “Wite-Out” was spelled. I’m OCD enough that I would HAVE to get that right. But at least I’d finally learned to leave toom for the strip’s title: see how Tracey’s talk bubble politely leaves space at the top of the panel.