The Mellow Man of the Day

One of the lesser-known superheroes to come out of the Golden Age of 1940s comics was the Hour-Man, “The Man of the Hour.” Chemist Rex “Tick-Tock” Tyler develops the drug “Miraclo,” which gives him heightened strength and endurance for 60 minutes. So of course he decides to put on a costume and fight crime. I always kind of liked Hour-Man, mostly because his costume had a hood (I’ve always liked hoods on superhero costumes, I don’t know why) and his schtick was pretty goofy, in a fun and imaginative way.

Today, I found myself wishing all the meds I take could be combined into one pill. But instead of it lasting for 60 minutes, it would last 24 hours. And instead of giving me super strength and endurance, it would give me lower cholesterol, lower triglycerides and lower anxiety.

My dream is a simple dream…

The Road Taken, So Far

I have a confession to make. It’s been bubbling beneath the surface for at least a year or two. I’ve talked to close friends and family about it. It’s probably been in the subtext of this blog (and Twitter and other places on the internet) for a while, but I haven’t come right out and said it. Now I’m going to come right out and say it:

I’m not really interested in libraries anymore.

I’m not saying I don’t like my job. On the contrary, it’s good, solid work that’s frequently fun. And I work with a whole lot of really amazing people who brighten my life. The job is very, very good.

I’m also not saying I don’t like libraries as institutions anymore. I love being in libraries and I think libraries are a crucial part of a free, civilized society.

But I’ve lost all of my interest in thinking about and discussing large library issues. I don’t want to blog about libraries or read articles about libraries or present at professional conferences about libraries. I’m bored with all of that. I want to go to work, do my job, then leave and think about other things. I like my library job, but…

…but I don’t really feel like a librarian anymore. I really like my job, but it doesn’t feel like a career to me. It isn’t who I am.

I went to grad school to get my MLIS because at the time, I didn’t think there was any other way for me to have a career. I was tired of working retail, which is what I mostly did before I got into libraries. I didn’t think there was any way I’d be able to make money by writing or otherwise being a geek. Libraries seemed like the best bet.

Has that changed? In a sense, no. I haven’t really made any money any other way, so I don’t know that there’s any way besides libraries to support myself. But I do know that I’ve got more faith in myself now. I believe that I can work hard and get my writing (prose, poetry, reviews, etc) out there. And I think it may be possible for me to even make a living at it. Basically, librarianship was my fallback, because trusting myself and actually working hard to be what I dreamed of being was too hard. It’s getting easier now. But as it gets easier, as I learn to trust myself and believe in myself, I find myself getting more and more disinterested in librarianship.

Professionally, this may not be the best thing to post. But I want to be honest with myself and the people around me. I feel like I’m at a crossroads right now, and the path I want to take moves me away from librarianship. I still value all of the friends I’ve made in Libraryland and I’m not going to be quitting my job any time soon. But in a certain sense, I’m moving on.

What’s Next?

We’re almost 3/4 of the way through the year. I can see the end of my “365 Days of Neff” photography project. I’ve really enjoyed doing it, and I feel it’s made a real impact on my life, helping pump up my self-esteem and remind myself that I really can be consistently creative and productive.

So I want to do another 365 day project in 2012. I don’t want to do photography this time–it could veer away from “creative project” into “boring routine.” I want to do something different and new. I’m wavering back and forth between writing a poem a day or writing a blog post a day. Either one could really push me away from the comforts of writing when I “feel inspired” and into the realm of “desperately trying new things to keep from being boring and repetitive.”

I’m open to suggestions. Which would you guys rather see? A poem a day or a blog post (which could be poetry or could be a personal anecdote or an essay or a review or a short bit of fiction or…who knows?) or something else? Throw ideas at me. Let’s see what sticks.

The Execution of Troy Anthony Davis

Troy Anthony Davis was executed in the state of Georgia minutes ago. I wish I knew more about his case, but I don’t. I do know that there was sufficient doubt about his guilt to delay his execution until the U.S. Supreme Court denied his appeal.

What I know for certain is this: I truly don’t understand the morality of the death penalty.

I don’t see how taking someone’s life makes anything better. I don’t see how the execution of people by the state is justified at all. This is civilized?

Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

The Caffeine Conundrum

A few years ago, my doctor advised me to cut out the caffeine, as it was almost certainly a contributing factor to my general anxiety and insomnia. I immediately quit cold turkey–not one of my brightest moves, since I was rewarded with one of the worst migraine headaches I’ve ever had. Since then, I’ve cut down on the amount of coffee, tea and soda pop I drink. Even still, sometimes I drink more than other times, and I rarely get through a day without drinking some caffeinated beverage.

But I’m starting to think I’m still drinking too much. I had one 16 ounce mocha this morning and about an hour afterwards, I started feeling really shaky and on the verge of a generalized panic attack. I love coffee and tea, but I’d be happy to switch to decaf or otherwise get my caffeine intake down to nothing. But since I’m prone to migraine headaches, which can often be dealt with (or prevented) by caffeine, I’m not sure I should be cutting it out entirely. This has become a weird balancing act, a study in the alchemy of caffeine and brain chemistry.

The experiment continues…

Two Ears, One Mouth

Growing up, authority figures (mostly teachers) said to my peers and me, “God gave us two ears and one mouth to listen more than we speak,” so many times, it went far past tiresome and into the territory of sweet-mercy-if-I-hear-that-one-more-time-I’m-going-to-punch-somebody-in-the-throat. (It also rankled me because even at a very early age, I was pretty sure I didn’t believe in God. Or at the very least, I didn’t feel the presence of God in the world, didn’t feel the need for God in my life, and found the idea that God gave humans anything more unbelievable than the idea that a baby could be sent by rocket to Earth where he’d grow up to have amazing powers far beyond those of mortal men.)

But still, I’ve come to realize it’s often better to listen than it is to speak.

Author John Scalzi has a really great blog post about how important it is for those of privilege (in this specific case, straight white males like Scalzi and me) to generally shut up and listen when those with less privilege (people of color, people who aren’t heterosexual, women) are talking about what it’s like to be in a position of less privilege. Seriously, go read that blog post, especially if you are, like Scalzi and me, a straight white male. Because it really is important sometimes to shut the fuck up and listen to what other people have to say.

There are many reasons why I love the people in my family, but I’ll admit, I got a bad habit from them. My family is generally much better at speaking than listening. We’re all generally waiting for the other person to stop talking so that we can say the Very Important Things we have in our heads. Some of this is because people in my family are, for the most part, really damn intelligent and knowledgeable on a good many topics. We tend to get around and to change jobs and careers often, so we tend to have a wide range of experiences to drawn on. We tend to be charming, entertaining speakers, so it’s usually fun to listen to us speak. We’re also opinionated as hell and we tend to have egos big enough to make us think that almost everything we have to say is a Very Important Thing, whether it really is or not.

My ex-wife used to try to talk to me about her depression and other psychological issues. (This was before I was diagnosed with generalized depression and anxiety, and I thought I wasn’t “crazy,” just really moody and quirky.) I honestly was confused when she would get upset with me for offering suggestions about how she should deal with her mental issues. I was on her side and was only trying to help! Wasn’t that what I was supposed to do? Finally, she had enough and told me to shut up and just listen. It took a few more times of her telling me this before it sunk in, but it was one of the most important things I learned in our marriage–and one of the most important things I’ve learned in my life. I finally began to realize that the best thing I could do when other people were talking to me was to shut up and listen, not to think about what I was going to say next, not to think about how I would solve the person’s problem, not to think about the Very Important Things they needed to hear me say. Just shut up, listen, and then think about what they said. Stop thinking that what I have to say is important and realize that what other people are saying is important.

I can still get caught up in my own head, still find myself thinking of Very Important Things to say. But I’m continuing to get it through my thick skull that even though (all modesty aside) I’m quite intelligent, have a lot of experience  and am an entertaining speaker, I really don’t know all that much in the grand scheme of things. When someone else is talking, it’s best for me to shut my one mouth and give them both of my ears. It’s respectful, it’s humble, and it’s just the right thing to do.

I’m going to shut up now.

Wanna Live Underground in the Third Age

Just before the epic move, I decided I needed some comfort reading to balance the stress in my life, so I started rereading The Hobbit. Besides superhero comics and Saturday morning cartoons (especially Scooby-Doo), the Rankin-Bass animated adaptation of The Hobbit was one of the first things to really catch my imagination. I read the book and filled my head with fantasies of maps, runes, moon-writing, elves, dwarves, goblins, hobbits, wizards, spiders and dragons.

So I started rereading The Hobbit. Then I heard about the forthcoming tabletop RPG The One Ring, a new Middle-earth game set right after The Hobbit. The more I found out about it, the more excited I got. I broke down and bought it (the PDF came immediately, but the physical game should arrive some time this month), more jazzed about a role-playing game than I’ve been in a long time. To celebrate and help me get even more into a Middle-earth mindset, I finally started reading and listening to an audiobook of The Silmarillion.

I’ve never read The Silmarillion before, but I’ve quickly come to LOVE IT SO VERY VERY MUCH!  I wish I’d read it when I was a kid. I think I would have had trouble with some of the language and the more boring bits, but it’s got gods, elves, dwarves, orcs, giant dogs and wolves, giant spiders, werewolves, vampires, weird magic and epic quests! My inner child is kind of bouncing up and down in his seat just writing that.

(Right now, I’m imagining Jack Kirby had done a comic book adaptation of The Silmarillion. It would have been one of the BEST! THINGS! EVER!)

With all this Middle-earth stuff going into my eyeballs and being absorbed into my brain, I have the major themes of Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings score playing over and over in my head, along with some of the songs from Rankin-Bass’ The Hobbit. Strangely, the Trevor Jones/David Bowie music from Labyrinth has also started playing in my head a lot, mixing with Howard Shore’s score. (Yes, I do realize that Bowie’s songs from Labyrinth are extremely silly and so far down the list of Good Bowie Songs, it’s not even funny. But I adore the movie, and the songs are part of that adoration.) I don’t really understand why Labyrinth is mashing up with Lord of the Rings in my head, but it is, in a fun and powerful way.

The really goofy thing? This entire blog post was written just to provide the context for me to say that Labyrinth and Lord of the Rings has gotten all mixed up in my mind. I was going to tweet it, but I felt that without the proper context, it was just kind of lame. So you all get a blog post instead. Hooray!

Now write me some comments worthy of Mordor!