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Home > Perspective


In other words, work

By Josh Selig 26-07-2016

Inuit have 50 words for snow because they do 50 things with snow. Not every Inuk and not every day but, cumulatively, Inuit are deep into snow.

I don’t use snow very much, so I have only three terms for snow: Slush (old snow), snow cone (fruity snow) and snow. I do, however, have 50 words for work. I am a workaholic. Work is my snow.

So, just as Inuit wake up each day and see snow from the Stikine River to Kotzebue, I wake up and see work. My job is to create and produce preschool TV shows. This requires more work than you would probably expect. Why? Because my shows are animated, and animation is the most labour-intensive way to tell a story ever devised by humans.

A Siberian husky: well versed in all things snow

A Siberian husky: well versed in all things snow

If an animator completes four seconds of animation a day, he or she is considered speedy. Mould grows faster. So why do I make shows for preschoolers?

I chose to work for this audience because I believe human beings peak at age four. From then on, it’s all downhill. I serve a demographic that has no pretense and has not yet discovered alcohol, tobacco or firearms.

And just as Inuit find it helpful to name their snow with lovely words like kayi, tlapa and naklin, I have found it helpful to name some of the forms of work that I do.

Mail Jail. This is any work associated with answering emails. I don’t know about you, but my inbox is like a spawning ground to which one day all salmon must return. Not replying does nothing to deter them. Out-of-office messages seem only to entice. In a sentence, one might say: ‘I cannot go to dinner, I am in mail jail.’

Sufferead. Like most people in my industry, I am required to read about one cubic yard of scripts per week. I tried to teach myself to read two scripts at the same time, using one eyeball on each script, but that just gave me vertigo. ‘I’m suffereading a pilot script about a biology teacher who one day wakes up as a fetal pig,’ one could say.

Bala-bala-bala. This is any work that involves talking, including meetings, pitches and speeches. In China, when someone talks too much, the Chinese roll their eyes and say, ‘Bala-bala-bala.’ I like this phrase because I am of the mind that people are at their most engaging when they are silent. In context, one could say: ‘Ever since his bloody Ted Talk in 2005, he won’t stop his bala-bala-bala.’

Death By Numbers. This includes looking at show budgets, understanding what Brexit did to my European copro, and microwaving popcorn. I am, simply, not a numbers person. I do have an accounting department at Little Airplane, but I can never understand what they’re talking about even when they use their big flashcards with the puppy emoticons. In a sentence, one would say: ‘Time for some death by numbers at the finance meeting, I’ll bring Pokémon Go.’

Look At Me. This is any work that is intended to draw attention to oneself and one’s latest accomplishments. Such work can take the form of a falsely modest, self-congratulatory Facebook post (‘I owe this great honour to my team, without whom I am nothing’) or a press release intended to make your competitors envious and your mother proud. Used in context, one would say: ‘I need to do some serious look-at-me before Mip so that people know I’m still here.’

There you have it, my shortlist of words for work. One day, I do hope to retire and become listless. I hear Alaska is nice.

today's correspondent

Josh Selig Founder and president

Josh Selig founded Little Airplane Productions in 1999. He is the creator and executive producer for the Emmy-winning series The Wonder Pets! (winner of the 2009 Japan Prize for Best Television Series) on Nick Jr, 3rd & Bird for the BBC's CBeebies and Small Potatoes on Disney Junior.

Selig has received 10 Emmys for his work as a writer on Sesame Street and a Humanitas award for his work as head writer of Little Bill.