Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Electric bike

 

 

 

 

After 30 years of shopping for one I bought an electric bike.

That's a long time to shop. 

It built up a lot of feelings in me. 

Now I have the electric bike and I am a little overwhelmed. It's so big. 

Big in size, big in expectation, big in personality, big in personal mythology, big.

I have ridden it, but mostly so far I stare at it, warily, trying to work it out.

I haven't yet worked it out.

Thirty years ago they didn't really have electric bikes. That's when I started shopping.

 

It's pretty cold out and getting colder. When the snow comes again that should do it altogether and I'll put my bike in storage for four or five months having hardly used it. 

I would have loved having this bike best when I was 12, on the streets of the San Fernando Valley, where it was Summer most of the time and my neighborhood was 100 percent steep hills. My bike has a way of making hills like they're nothing. It's already my favorite thing about my bike.

I would also have loved having this bike when I was thirty, and my back didn't hurt most of the time, and I could bike through the Fairgrounds to my new job at the library.

I might also love having this bike next summer, when I can load my camera in the panniers and head to the wilder parks along the River that are too far to walk to and take pictures of bears and coyotes, bald eagles and raccoons, skunks and fossils and wildflowers and blue cheese caves.

I put a bell on my bike, an extra light, and a rear view mirror.

For some reason I wanted to say in here: "Everyone should have an electric bike."

But it turns out what I need to say is: "May you all get what you want in less than thirty years."

And:

"I think thirty years is better than never."

 

 

 





 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The biggest question consuming America's libraries

 

 

 

 

 

Today I am going to be telling you about the biggest question consuming America's libraries.


But first, don't forget to hit that thumbs up!

And click the "Like" button. I know it doesn't seem like much, but it really helps the blog out by raising this blog's Internet algorithm so more people see it.

Also, support my patreon. You can support at any level. All supporting patreon members of this blog have access to extra content that can only be seen by private supporters, like "Behind the Scenes at the writing of The Biggest Question Consuming America's Libraries", and my bonus mini feature: "The Second Biggest Question Consuming America's Libraries".

Subscribe!

Share!

And if you like my content consider buying "Squid by Mail" from Shellfishery.com where purchasers through my link can get a free vial of squid ink (great for writing or for pasta!) for each pound of squid purchased through the end of the year!

This blog is sponsored by Penguin Random House Simon and Schuster (yes, all one thing!) in honor of their purchasing nearly every other publisher in the world. Even though they are a paid sponsor, when I recommend their books it's only because I like them and not because they sponsor me. It's also because they make all books now so... just accept it.


Check out our merch! Get 40% off, this week only, by typing in the code: penguinsquid. All shipping is free for orders of $50 or more, or it's also free for any order that includes squid or a Penguin Random House Simon and Schuster Book.

Finally, clerkmanifesto is a library supporter, so support your local library by suggesting that they link to clerkmanifesto on their website. This enrolls them in our Two Percent for Libraries Program which has now raised 14 million dollars for public and private libraries.

Now that that's taken care of let's get to the biggest question consuming America's libraries.

The biggest question consuming America's libraries is:

 

Why does Gentlemen's Quarterly come out monthly?

 

Thanks for reading today's post and for your support.

 

 Come back tomorrow when we discuss:

 

The Three Things that will save the American Library (number two will shock you!). 

 

We might also briefly touch on what you can do to help support this blog. 





Monday, November 30, 2020

Last flowers

 





My first Spring and Summer of photography ended up centering on flowers. But in the Fall that began to bleach away as the flowers shriveled and disappeared, all their lovely work done.

Where I live in the Twin Cities we have been trickling deeper and deeper into Winter for more than a month. Those flowers have been disappearing for longer than that. Almost everything is dead now, in that classified way the lives have here, where they hold a tiny kernel of life unseen, but beating secretly, in their hearts.

So each time I find some faded flower and take its picture I have lately thought:

This is it. This is the last flower of the year.

But I didn't want to let go. Because I love the flowers.

The birds let go.

The butterflies let go.

The bees let go.

I'm the only one left.

The birds are in the trees.

The butterflies are in Mexico.

And the bees are dreaming the long, inscrutable dreams of bees.


I'm here. But I think it's time.


The only thing to do is to accept the change that cannot be held back.


So here you are then, the last flowers of the year:



















































































































































Sunday, November 29, 2020

Black Friday

 





On Thanksgiving Day I went roaming the River and in the neighborhood around here hoping to see the wild turkeys. I did not.

But on Black Friday, there they were.

Make of it what you will.

I, who am inclined to make much of almost everything, am not so inclined to make much of this one. This flock I know, of wild turkeys, is not of a personality to dwell upon human holidays. And though we might be aware that our day of thanks is marked by the killing and eating of tens of millions of turkeys, the wild turkeys are not ones to give much thought to it. This is not out of malice, or even ignorance. I simply believe that the wild turkeys are not inclined to relate themselves to their distant, unknown, domestic brethren any more than we are much thinking, as we order cheap little wonder products on Black Friday, of the millions of people working miserable jobs, toiling in bleak factories to make the stuff.



Whoa, that got dark fast.

Maybe let's talk of other things.

Let's talk some more of turkeys!

I heard of a turkey in Oakland, CA that has been indiscriminately attacking people, possibly because he was stressed to the breaking point by all the people suddenly around due to the changing park use patterns of the pandemic. And having heard other stories of hostile turkeys I keep a kind of caution about me when I come upon the local flock. But they are never anything other than polite to me. On Black Friday I had my closest encounter yet when a turkey I had been photographing had to cross by me in order to join his flock. He was but four feet from me, and I could feel my heart in my throat as he thrillingly passed.

He was moving with too much alacrity for me to photograph (their heads really move when they walk). And for my lens and situation he was, frankly, too close for me to get a good picture. I mean unless he stood still for awhile for me to rearrange everything. 

If I did get a picture it might have been like this:






But that was taken from (a bit) farther away.


I squatted at the edge of the street and took a lot of pictures of these turkeys on Black Friday. I never feel I can have too many turkey pictures. One never knows when one might get something special.










Well, they're all special.


At one point I was crouched at the edge of the street. The main rafter of turkeys (I know! Look it up!) had already passed me by. I was just watching them make their way down the street when a large and elderly Tom limped up along the sidewalk to my left. Then he stopped.

I took pictures of him.



























Then he started making a kind of quiet, keening sound.

I got worried. Had he lost the rest of the gang (yes, in addition to "rafter" they can also be called a gang!)? I actually started to say "They're just up the street there fella." when I remembered that we don't speak the same language.


So I took some more pictures.

















And then I heard a noise. 

I looked up. The flock had come back for him!


So it was a happy story.



And Thanksgiving is over. So there's that too.






 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Paywall

 






I hate to do it.


I started clerkmanifesto as a free and open gift to the Internet. I followed the rules. I wrote content every single day for almost eight years. I shared it, as it was recommended, and as I was supposed to, in all the social media I could find and in every place that would allow me to. But there were ever fewer and fewer places on the Internet to share. Indeed it has become easier to share poisonous huckster scams on the Internet than it is to share free gifts.

Maybe people only value the things that it costs them to get. Alas.

And so in this way one day my blog here stumbled upon pure gold. 

I hurt my finger. 

There was interest among my 37 subscribers in seeing a picture of the dark bruise under my pointer fingernail. For years in the creation of my blog I would simply have just shown it. But my lack of popularity had darkened me. And in that darkness I saw, hung on a tree, glowing, so to speak, a forbidden fruit.

I plucked it.

I PLUCKED IT!

I would not show a picture of my fingernail wound unless we could get clerkmanifesto up to ONE MILLION subscribers.

I would make the world pay to see the fruits of my creativity!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!


And it worked!

My number of subscribers soared up, in a fever of interest, to 37 subscribers!



This being close enough to a million I relented and showed my finger.

This is what it looked like:











All of this happened five weeks ago.

And now clerkmanifesto readers, our numbers vastly inflated from 37 to an amazing number I long thought I'd never see, 37, are interested in seeing how this fingernail bruise has progressed.

But there is no going back once one has tasted the sweet fruit of Capitalism, clickbait, paywalls, fame, manipulation, marketing, and profit.

After all those years of simply showering my gifts on an uncaring and uninterested Internet, I withheld. And only then did they come to me. Only then did I taste the fame and glory I felt was mine!

Well too much is never enough!

I do have a picture of my wound from now, five weeks later.

But I have paywalled it!

Ha!

If that's how you want to play it Internet, then that's the way we'll play it!



I will not show the new picture of my advancing fingernail injury until my demands are met!

No one will see the state of my finger wound without paying the king's ransom I now set.


I demand


ONE


views of this post before I show my latest finger update!


Ha ha ha ha ha! Yes, it's evil, but what do I care any...


Oh.


We did it?


Already?


Jesus, it's almost scary how fast this ransom thing works! 

Here you go then:




















Friday, November 27, 2020

Thanksgiving turkey

 





I'm on no high horse here. And if I toss a few stones around, as I am apt to do, it's my own glass house that might shatter.

But nevertheless...


On an impossibly gray day, known in my country as Thanksgiving, late in the afternoon the sun was already setting somewhere in the gloom, and I decided to go for a walk. 

I took my camera.







I wondered if, on a Thanksgiving Day, I might see the wild turkeys.



That is what I hoped.




I didn't see the turkeys. But this, from a few days earlier, is a picture of a couple of the ones I was wishing to visit:









I did see a cardinal, deep in the protective mesh of tree branches that made it hard to photograph. This was just after leaving my home:





I took dozens of pictures, struggling as my camera tried to focus on the branches instead of on the bright red songbird among them.










And eventually I made my way to the River.



I found a new path that took me to a sandy beach where it was dark and dim and cold, and the water was full of ducks.






Loads of ducks.































Then I headed back through the neighborhoods. Neighbors were inadvisably having Covid-19 Thanksgivings, fueling a deadly Pandemic, though most of the groups I saw were thankfully small. One of the biggest groups seemed to be hanging out on their front lawn, shivering, which was safer. So that was good, I guess. Either way I understood then that with all that holiday activity I was unlikely to see any turkeys.

And then I came to the house, with a big side yard, where I last saw more than 20 turkeys.


This turkey:







And this one:








And this:









But on Thanksgiving Day there were no turkeys there. There was only a wide and empty lawn and a distant squirrel in the small woods behind.


Instead, on the sidewalk in front of that house, was this:








First, let me say, Mea culpa. I am on occasion fond of some smoked turkey, thinly sliced, with onions and good homemade mayonnaise on a fresh and crusty sourdough bread.

But 46 million turkeys are killed for every Thanksgiving! 

Killed and eaten!!!

And on the sidewalk where turkeys live there is this?

"We are so grateful for our neighbors!!"? With a picture of a turkey! Turkey! The symbol of Thanksgiving because it's Dinner!


"We are so grateful for our neighbors!!"


Your neighbors are turkeys!!!!!!



Although maybe that's what you meant.



If so, carry on.






 




















Thursday, November 26, 2020

Ten ways to overcome writer's block

 






Recently in this space I recounted my curious imperviousness to writer's block. Because there are some writers among my readers here, I received requests for my specific techniques to combat this dreaded writerly ailment. And so in response I have composed this following list of




Ten Ways to Overcome Writer's Block




1. Just start randomly writing. Something will come out. It worked for me just now!


2. Make promises you think you can't keep. Using me as an example again, I promised ten ideas, but at the time I only had zero ideas. Zero ideas! Now I have done two ideas already. Much like my childhood dog Cashew, promises abhor a vacuum.


3. Just admit any writing by anyone is not going to be very good. It hardly ever is. The whole writing endeavor is all pointless really. But what else are you going to do instead, read blog lists?


4. Hey, c'mon, chin up. Whatever you write is gonna be brilliant. Don't listen to the sour advice of writer's blogs. You contain multitudes!


5. Don't worry about subject. Just write whatever is in your heart and make it beautiful and profound and interesting and compelling while being deeply sophisticated and yet accessible to a wide audience. Also it should have an incredible title and should be funny and wise and amazingly lovely, but with a great rhythm and "page turner" kind of quality. No pressure.


6. No. Scratch that, scratch number five. If you're stuck just start writing about something that happened to you. It can be the most incidental thing. For instance I couldn't think of an example of an incidental thing that happened to me so I used the example of an incidental thing that happened to me.

You just read it.


7. Wow. Are we at seven already?


8. Don't be afraid to stall for time by "writing in place". That means just write stuff you know you're going to delete anyway. Then,


9. Pull a switcheroo! Keep all the stuff you were going to delete anyway. I got number eight out of this method. Actually I also got number seven too! You may just delete yours, but you could get a whole bestselling novel. Who knows?


10. Alas, I already used up my joke where, in a confident piece about writer's block, I end up frozen, with nothing to say. But oddly there is some small wisdom hidden in there: 

Sometimes saying nothing is the most eloquent thing to say.


11. But usually saying something is better. 







 

 






Wednesday, November 25, 2020

How this reaches you

 

 

 

 

Taking everything into account, it works pretty well for me to write on the Internet. I suppose I'd prefer a regular column in the New York Times. A series of bestselling collections in books would also be preferable. And I might find the ability to project my blog posts into the minds of all dreaming people everywhere to be irresistible, but those were always the more unlikely ways it would play out. The more likely is that I would fill notebooks no one would see except for possibly some rejecting editors and a few friends. 

So instead, in between those extremes we have the ever ready and available Internet. Each day I work out my careful message. Each night I tie it to the leg of a Passenger Pigeon. All night the intrepid bird flies. And each morning my message is delivered to the Internet fairy. Who gives three grains of magic corn to the pigeon. Who is returned to me.

Or something like that.

The point is that I write.

My writing is made available to everyone in the entire Universe who has access to the Internet.

And the chips fall where they may.


Actually I have not yet been able to find any of the chips.

But I have made good friends of the pigeon.























Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Writer's block

 




I do not fear writer's block. 

I know that keeping to my strict schedule of a blog post every day places a serious demand upon my creativity. And I know that that demand can ill afford the burden of writer's block. But I am secure. I am confident. I am assured. 

I am so confident because above all, in these seven plus years of steadfast writing, I understand that if I come to the brink, if I arrive at the night before a blog post is due, if the clock is ticking and I must come up with a short essay under threat of absolute failure, I know deep in my heart that, always and reliably, I 










Monday, November 23, 2020

The day America broke

 

 

My name is Feldenstein Calypso. I work at the front desk of a library during a global pandemic. In my country this pandemic has bubbled hideously, as like in a great, seething black cauldron. Green and menacing the viscous pandemic gurgles and simmers, rolling down the sides of the pot, smoking noxiously so that it is hard to even see in the room.

What smoke?

What fumes?

I don't see any smoke and fumes.

We are offering limited services at my library, but the pandemic, running down the sides of the cauldron, is causing the fire underneath to burn wildly out of control. This causes the pot to bubble more and more so that it looks to explode in the wild heat. 

So naturally the library patrons come in and ask:

Do you think you'll be opening up more soon?

The boiling pandemic brew performs a mild eruption, flinging a hot green mass against the side of the face of this inquiring patron. They casually wipe it off and look to me for my answer.

"We were headed in that direction." I reply. "But now that everyone is going to die we'll be holding off for a bit."

"A shame." They say. "But I guess you do what you have to." 

Then they add "Thanks for being here."

The politeness is nice.


One of my co-workers had multiple dangerous pre-existing conditions in her home so right at the start of the Pandemic she opted out of work. For eight months she has stayed home and didn't work in order to be safe to herself and to those around her. 

Then this weekend she called in. "I'm thinking of coming back." She said.

"As the Pandemic is finally coming to its most dangerous, wild, deadly, and contagious stage, but just a couple short months before the vast hope of the vaccines can kick in,  that is when you're thinking of coming back?" She is asked mildly.

"Yes." She replies.

Who is she?

Well, besides being my co-worker, and it being a real story, she is America herself.

In a mile long race, hobbling along awkwardly in last place, but at least four fifths of the way through, we stop and declare ourselves the winners.

Well, maybe not "winners", but I guess you do what you have to.




Sunday, November 22, 2020

Very specific photography requests






Adding pictures to my blog was an experimental side project. And I've been enjoying it. It has also been extremely popular. Not popular in the sense of bringing new readers to clerkmanifesto. Nor popular in the sense of causing more comment, praise, or fame. And not popular in the sense of people liking it. But you know what I mean, popular

And when one gets overwhelmed with a surge of popularity like this one does try, within reason, to meet some of that popularity as one can. And that is why today I have opened up my blog today to your photography requests.

I will do my best to provide photos as you request them today. I don't have pictures of everything, but I'll try to come up with something as close as possible to your requests. So go ahead and tell me what you want to see today.


Hey Clerkmanifesto!

Long time reader, I mean, I read a couple of your posts once. Funny. I would like to see a picture of a pumpkin floating in water. Thanks.

Nigel



Interesting idea Nigel. Okay, coming right up:












Clerkmanifesto,

Yeah, I've got one. Could I see a bridge? Over a river I guess, maybe with a pumpkin floating in it?

-Duncan






Thanks for writing in Duncan. I happen to have a bridge picture. I hope this works for you!





















Hi Clerkmanifesto,

Love your blog and look forward to reading it someday. I'd kind of like to see a picture of clouds, maybe reflected in a river, with, say, a moody sort of a pumpkin floating in it.

Thanks, I'll take my answer off the air!

-Ruth





Sure Ruth, I've got one of those!















Clerkmanifesto:


I'm loving this photo request thing today, but so far it's a lot of pumpkins! I'd like to spice it up (no pun intended, maybe!). How about some tree branches. Reflected in a river. Um, well, with a pumpkin floating in it, but otherwise different because of the tree branches.

Thanks,

Brenda




Right Brenda, tree branches coming right up!






Hi Clerkmanifesto,


I'm really excited to be on your blog finally! I really like what people are requesting so far, but I have sort have been thinking of pumpkins that are more translucent somehow than those in your pictures. Do you have any more like that, maybe floating in a river?

This is fun!


-Cassius




Hey Cassius,

Love your choice and happen to have something that fits the bill. I hope you like it and that you had fun being on my blog!











Hi,


I got super excited when I saw Cassius's request because it was just the sort of thing I was hoping to see a picture of too. But somehow I pictured the pumpkin floating in the river to be slightly more translucent than it turned out to be. 

Can you do something more like that?

-Brent




Hey Brent, glad you weighed in. I do like to think I have a bit more translucent pumpkin picture, but translucent gets pretty subjective. So I especially hope this one works better for you. Thanks for writing in.










Dear Clerkmanifesto:

Wow, I feel like you've covered a lot of different subject matters and I must say, I am impressed! But the joker in me wants to throw you a curve, so how about this: Do you have a picture of a hollowed out pumpkin floating down the Mississippi? That would be kind of cool to see.

Don't feel bad if you can't come up with it.


-Terrance



Hey Terrance, thanks for the nice note. I'm sorry, but you're right. I just can't come up with any pictures of a pumpkin floating in, HA! Got ya! What's this one?!:










Okay, last letter for the day. Make it a good one guys!




Hey Clerk!

I'm a regular commenter, first time viewer though. It's kind of fun to get to ask for a picture of absolutely anything I can think of! I suppose you're thinking the joke is that I'll ask for a picture of a pumpkin floating on the Mississippi River. Do pumpkins even float?

 Anyway, if they do, I'd love to see one floating on the Mississippi. 


Thanks,

Horace




Hey to you Horace. Interesting request that oddly reminds me of where we started, so a fitting end to our photo journey. Here you go:


































Saturday, November 21, 2020

Futurist









Recently, just after I ordered an E-bike online, I had an epiphany.

I am a Futurist.

That was the epiphany. 

I have been shopping for an E-bike for thirty years. When I first started shopping for an E-bike they didn't exist. Then, slowly, they had some really crappy ones to lure in people like me who were dreaming so hungrily of them that they might make ill-advised purchases. Then they started having insanely expensive ones (they still have plenty of those) and I'm not rich. Finally in the past couple years they started having decent ones that seem to be affordable and reliable. So I socked money away until the time was right and I ordered one. 

The process took thirty years. I played the long game. 

I'm a futurist.

At least, I think I am.

The other thing that made me feel I must be a futurist is VR. I dreamed of VR before those headsets existed too. My whole relation to video games has been future oriented and VR was an extension of that. When Pong was around VR was an impossible dream, but that didn't mean a person couldn't dream it. A few years ago I was able to buy a VR headset. It was astonishing, a small miracle. I'd still have it but I sold it for an upgrade that didn't work out, and unfortunately the market is in a weird phase. I am hoping it will pull through it, but I'm kind of waiting it out for now. 

It's just around the corner.

I'm a futurist.

And then today I was out walking around with my astonishing super zoom camera that can take close up pictures of things hundreds of feet away. It can also take thousands of pictures and require no film or development. I don't think I even dreamed this one ahead of time. It just slowly came available and one day I was so gobsmacked that it existed that I bought it.

Anyway, I took a picture of a turkey,







 and I went down to the river, thinking of all these things.

And I had an epiphany:

I'm not a Futurist.


I just like magic.

Arthur C. Clarke said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

But it's not just self powered bikes, time travel, and VR that I realized I'm interested in.

Any sufficiently excellent art is indistinguishable from magic.

Any wild animal you get a good look at is indistinguishable from magic.

Trees, for god's sake, are indistinguishable from magic.

And so is love.


It was a fun and a very sophisticated and scientific feeling to be a Futurist there for a week or so.

But I'm simpler than that. 


I just like magic.