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The Bookshelf

Doug's bookshelf: read

AntwerpWarsaw BikiniIcelandHow the Soldier Repairs the GramophoneThe Original of LauraBrief Interviews with Hideous Men

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Time Since Reboot

  • 1011 days, 19 hours, 28 minutes, 7 seconds ago

2011 In Reading

As I mentioned last week, my personal year-in-reading list would be pretty pathetic due to the tiny amount of books I finished this year.  Lucky for us, not everyone had such a feeble anno litterarum.  Online literature, arts and culture magazine The Millions has once again collected notable writers’ and book-lovers’ thoughts on their favorite or most memorable reads of the past twelve months.  I plan on going through these selections and adding some heft to my to-read list for 2012, and encourage you to do the same.  Click the image below to access the list, and enjoy:

 

The Millions - Year In Reading

Back In The Straddle

Hitchens - orig via esquire magazineSo of course it would take the inevitable (but still jarring) winking out of one of our brightest lights and most gifted authors, Christopher Hitchens, to shame me into posting something in this long-forsaken space.  As someone who, at the very least, holds reason and good writing as being of the greatest value (if hardly standing accused of being a very reasonable person or erudite blogger myself), it is unforgivable for me to leave this oft-cultivated/infrequently-updated slice of internet – dedicated, as it is or was, at least, intended, to being a diary of the creative mind – remain unattended for so long.  Steps have been taken to rectify that atrocity.  Before jumping in to my pornocopia* of self-aggrandizement, however, please consider bookmarking and reading some of Hitchens’ essays and fond retrospectives at your leisure.  Not a word you read – whether you agree or disagree with the points being made – will leave you anything but richer for having read them.  RIP, Hitch.

 

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A brief rumination on what has transpired since last I blogged:

In short: commitments and stress have eaten away at all my spare time and all my vision.  Visitors looking in on the state of grammaticaster.com from time to time will no doubt have noticed the sharp drop in activity after mid-year 2011.  Aside from blogging – photography and leisurely pursuits such as running and reading have diminished as well.  The end-of-year book list?  Isn’t going to happen – largely because the size of the total population is too depressing and I doubt I’d be able to conjure up any semblance of a top five or ten.  The half-marathon I was going to run?  Didn’t happen.  (This was partly due to not being able to perform even mild street-jogging for a week after one session – that is how long it takes my stupid knees to recuperate.  But time was an issue as well.)  The portfolio – poised for grander things in 2011 – has grown even staler than this blog.  The only activity I was able to adhere to was the daily snapshot project, which still exists on its modest little tumblr site and is ported to twitter, facebook, and the grammaticaster sidebar (see left) for the internet audience to enjoy.

What good is living in a creative mecca without the time or energy to dedicate to creativity?  What good are pages and pages of good ideas, and stacks of unread books, when I get home too late and too exhausted to do anything but vegetate and eventually pass out in front of the television?  The refrain which grew ever louder from July to, say, November was "life is too short."  And it is.

Life is too short, for example, to waste on people who add no value to it.  That may seem harsh.  But I have always been an advocate of keeping the peace and being the bigger person in the midst of personality clashes and petty squabbles.  I am not going to worry myself with that anymore.  Chameleons can vary their colors to fit their surroundings, but in the end they are always going to be filthy, cold-blooded reptiles.  People who have no respect for me or the people I love should no longer expect to receive any respect – even a paper-thin disguise of forced respect – from me. 

Life is too short, for example, to devote to an occupation that leaves no time for the enjoyment of anything else.  I am very good at my chosen profession – both the technical day-to-day aspects inherent in the spreadsheet- and calculation-heavy, standards-dependent accounting world and at managing and communicating with clients who may not always have the knowledge or the time and patience to deal with what we auditors are asking of them.  I cultivated that side of my personality very well and am proud of the levels of precision and tact I have been able to attain.  But it takes a special kind of person to take on 60-70 hour weeks of public accounting work.  It takes someone with the drive to make partner in a big accounting firm and someone with the fortitude to ride out the constant waves of corporate consolidation and market changes inherent in the business world.  I do not, nor do I want, to possess those traits.  Auditing is my profession, not my life.  As October rolled on, I often confided to my wife that my stress did not arise from the difficulty of the tasks I was given or even the number of jobs I was being asked to juggle at one time… the stress came from the inescapability of the job itself.  There was never a time away from work, even when I was supposed to be enjoying a holiday with my family or a weekend with my wife and dogs (or even a single romantic evening, for that matter) that I wasn’t consumed with the notion that no matter what I was doing, I should be working.  At the end, work was always present.  At my desk, in the field, in the car, in the shower, in my bed in the morning, on the couch with spouse and pets at night, on quiet walks, on sightseeing trips, on vacations home… work was always looming and the tasks were never done.  And as friends were canned or left for more stable or less demanding positions, and as the question of who exactly I was serving, and what the priority was supposed to be – the public or the client’s interests or the firm’s bottom line – and even as my responsibility and reputation with my superiors supposedly grew, the lifestyle slowly but steadily fell out of favor with me. 

As an aside, there was one fantastic respite from the accounting doldrums:  the annual International Balloon Fiesta.  My father drove across the country to share the experience with my wife and I, and I was able to get some spectacular photographs of the event.  You will see the results eventually, but at the moment my desktop – where my photo-editing equipment resides – has stopped powering on.  I have exhausted all the moron-tests (is it plugged in, is the surge protector on, etc.) so now I’m afraid I’ll need to take it to a computer doctor.  Once I have power and access to my software and photo libraries again, I will post wonderful balloon pictures here.

In addition to my work-stress, my wife had recently been expressing some nagging bouts of homesickness – especially in the wake of our week-long June vacation that took us back to Alabama and the company of our old friends for a short while.  She hadn’t been as successful making new friends and acquaintances as I had been (which is way out of the ordinary, let me tell you), and seeing our lonely, empty little house that we couldn’t sell made her wistful for the old days.  While I wasn’t exactly longing for home, I did regret that we often took our friends for granted and more often than was necessary opted to spend time to ourselves rather than with people we enjoyed.  And I have fond memories of that old house too, of course, having talked her into buying the damn thing to begin with and spent nights with paintbrushes, toolboxes and drills making it our own. 

So it was in mid-October my wife sent me a LinkedIn post from the fellow who recruited me straight out of college years ago.  My old company in Birmingham was in the market for a senior internal auditor, and she thought I might like to explore that possibility.  It may have been that I was in the middle of a particularly painful assignment in Santa Fe, or it may have been the accumulation of all these factors listed above.  But whatever the instigator was, I was inclined to shoot a short, informal email via my phone to my old recruiter inquiring about the position.  That act set a series of what now seems like lightning-quick events into motion, culminating in a series of long-distance interviews and an extremely impromptu flight to meet the internal audit department in person… and on that same trip, a respectable offer of employment.  I accepted it that very night, and turned in my letter of resignation the following week.  The allure of being able to throw my knowledge, expertise and passion into a position serving a single client with clear objectives, broadening my experience and at evening’s and week’s end, being able to leave that work at the office and throw my passion into my other passions again, and the allure of being able to do all this on a larger salary while paying for one living space instead of two – the incentives were too strong to ignore.  And as a colleague (who, as fate would have it, was also making a career change at the same time) told me: happy wife = happy life. 

It also occurs to me that an entire football season has passed without me writing a single word about it.  The end result is that my beloved Tide are going to the national championship game in New Orleans to face LSU – a rematch of a game I suffered through in person earlier this season.  It is icing on the cake, people.  Blah blah Trent didn’t win the Heisman trophy.  Blah blah BCS bias, computer rankings, etcetera.  This is the cherry on the sundae.  Our season was made with 42-14.  Everything else is gravy.  I intend to enjoy it (from the first row of the Superdome… look for me on TV January 9th).

What now?  We are one month in to our new life in our old home.  The boxes are semi-unpacked.  The pets are semi-chilled-out.  There are kinks in the system – my wife’s car has catastrophically died, we aren’t receiving mail, the water department thinks we used 89,000 gallons in August.  But there are also glimmers of the life to come:  I enjoyed the Iron Bowl with the very closest of my friends at Lake Martin, my wife and I participated in a progressive dinner with some very fun neighbors and hopefully made some new and lasting friendships, I bought a new car.  During the day I am enjoying adjusting to my new position surrounded by friendly, cheerful and helpful coworkers, and at night I have time to breathe and think (and unpack… but that will give way to other pursuits in time).  I will be migrating my photography portfolio to a new site in the coming weeks, and will be actively planning new photography and writing projects – if nothing else than to simply produce some sort of creative output again.  The schnappschusse! project marches on.  And I will read many many more books in 2012.  Progress on these and other life pursuits will be chronicled here at this blog.  Friends:  expect to get more invitations to gather and enjoy Leslie and my company.

Here’s to the turning of the new leaves.  Here’s to the rekindling of the old fires.  Here’s to old friendships, old haunts, new pathways, new passions.  Here’s to Christopher Hitchens.  Here’s to poetry, photography, the processes and the products.  Here’s to Birmingham and Albuquerque.  Here’s to Crestwood North, our quirky little neighborhood where our key fits perfectly in the lock.  Here’s to the Alabama Crimson Tide – back in the Crescent City for redemption and revenge and that pretty crystal football.  Here’s to family.  Here’s to art.  Here’s to figuring it all out, one step at a time, never getting there but always getting closer, which is all that matters.

Goodnight friends.  And roll tide.

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* Not a word, but dammit it just fits.