Monday, February 29, 2016

Your bonus post

For three years or so I have written and posted a new essay every single day. And yet I have never before written a post on February 29. It's like a puzzle. How could that even be true? It's just the sort of thing Encyclopedia Brown could figure out, but I'd have to flip to the back of the book for the answer. Which I would then read, muttering "I knew that". And I did know, I was just too impatient to think it for myself. 

The important thing is that we bring Bugs Meany to justice.

So what then do we have for you today?

Please keep in mind that as this is February 29, this is all bonus material.

Today at the library we were staffed with, wall to wall, extremely pleasant people. This is by no means always true. Our natural front desk mix includes incompetents, churlish people, fake friendly people, time vampires, crabby people, the very tired, and one highly efficient wiseacre. We don't currently have a total asshole on staff, but it's not like we never have. But it just so happens that today we had a very grounded and friendly sub who knows what she's doing, and all of our collection of long time regular staff who are bubbly, or friendly, or kindly, but not too bubbly, friendly or kindly. And there they were, paired up together at the front desk, one after the other, smiling, gracious, competent, warm, and professional. Man we looked good.

There was a slight issue with the schedule and, partly by chance, one of the very pleasant people, myself, and two of my managers were gathered round to sort it out. I believe the solution to said scheduling problem involved putting another pleasant person out at the front desk. I saw my opportunity and spoke:

"I hate to be critical," I said to our scheduling manager "But if you keep putting all these pleasant people out at the front desk, the patrons are going to get soft."

Sunday, February 28, 2016

More philosophy disguised as a joke

My slight tendency towards paranoia mysteriously causes everyone here to conspire against me. Fortunately they all do this without much conviction or effectiveness.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Snow on ground

In some previous winters of the clerkmanifesto we spent many of our happy blog posts conveying our pleasant surprise at our equanimity, aye, even our joy at winter. We could not, in those years, say enough about the wonder of finding ourselves so charmed by sub zero temperatures (Fahrenheit) and by our easy facility in coping and even thriving within them.

This isn't that sort of winter.

This winter we are mostly concentrating on complaining about the snow and ice on the sidewalks. But we're also willing to put in an occasional bad word for snow falling into our face.

Fortunately there was nothing to worry about on this score this morning. The weather has been unseasonably warm lately. When I woke up today it was already a balmy 34 degrees and the temperature was forecast to soar all the way up to 38 degrees!

So why, when I peered out the window onto the backyard, was it snowing? And not just snowing, but snowing with the snow sticking, laying in a wet and appreciable carpet across all the streets and sidewalks sprawled out beyond the doors of my home. Doesn't that defy some rule of thermodynamics, snow at 34 degrees? Had this water become infected with a mild dose of ice-9?

Grumbling, I headed off for my long walk. The half inch of snow was very slippery and icy and very awkward to walk in. My neighbor, a stand up guy, was shoveling our whole section of the block. This was very nice of him but secretly outraged me for the following reasons:

1. To begin with, it was too warm for there to be snow to shovel.
2. The snow would be melting very soon anyway.
3. Won't my neighbor, shoveling my walk, now be thinking "Well, if you were home all this time, why didn't you shovel?"
4. Seeing as, with his mighty snow blower, my kindly neighbor has already saved us from significant toil in almost every big snowstorm, we are already greatly in his debt. Now our debt will only be larger and more difficult to ever repay.
5. And, it bears reiterating, all of this when there was no point to his shoveling because it will all melt on it's own, very, very soon!

I walked on. I think it might have rained some, on me. Oddly this rain had no effect on the snow except to increase it's slipperiness. Damp and cheerless, I came to a dense pine tree, not much taller than me, that was full of the screeching and twittering of little animals. I peered into the tree and found it was alive with tiny birds, a hundred tiny birds in a little secret magical world at the heart of a pine tree. The birds were not shy of me. This cheered me up for a second. But I had to go to work. So I slipped with irritation further along the snowy sidewalks. These sidewalks were so annoyingly slippery and full of snow that I kept wondering "Why hasn't anyone shoveled this!?" Did I mention what a stand up guy my next door neighbor is?

But when I finally got to the end of my walk, late, because of the slow, treacherous walking, I looked around. 

Every last bit of snow and ice, everywhere, was suddenly completely melted and gone.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Wrap up

Yesterday clerkmanifesto's Customer Appreciation Week wrapped up with the thrilling gift to you of a second kitten. It was a mind boggling week full of gifts and excitement. We have already begun saving for next year's celebration. We had a great time, and we hope you did too. Say hi to your cats for us!

Because our gifts were so grandiose, complicated, and magnificent there were a few minor things that inevitably went wrong. We have received a few letters and gentle notes of concern. To show that clerkmanifesto is a completely open blog with nothing to hide, and to demonstrate our full goodwill, we have decided to address these concerns in a public manner. To the vast majority of you, for whom everything went brilliantly, we just want you to see that in the bizarre event anything should ever go wrong for you here with clerkmanifesto, we've got your back!

Dear Clerkmanifesto,

I was warned that my second gifted cat might have some blemishes, but was surprised to receive a kitten with no legs whatsoever. Please advise.


Dear Anonymous,

Daisy Hill Kitty Kollective assures me that if you look carefully you will find that your cat does indeed have legs! He is suffering from one of the syndromes we mentioned: Stubby Leg Syndrome. The condition is more pronounced during kittenhood, and as your cat gets a bit older he will be able to move around in an odd, crawling sort of way. It would be best if you had wood floors in your house, and, of course, this is not going to be an "outdoor" cat. Enjoy!

Dear Clerkmanifesto,

I enjoyed Customer Appreciation Week, but it appears that you skipped day six. You went from day five (the gelato gift), right onto day seven (refurbished kitten). Did I miss something?


 Dear Anonymous,

We have heard this rumor before, and, as unlikely as it seems, we are looking into it. Our Automation Services Department suspects that the problem is on your machine and they suggest a full reboot of your computer or device.

Dear Clerkmanifesto,

My first kitten is doing just great, thank you. But kitten number two just seems to be pining away altogether and won't eat a thing. I can't see anything else wrong with this cat. Does it have the problem you labeled FFF (Feline Food Fetishest).


Dear Anonymous,

I have contacted Daisy Hill Kitty Kollective and no, your kitten is not suffering from FFF. Your cat has something called "Vet Attachment". We know you requested a kitten that listed constantly to the left, Daisy Hill was out of those, and you were in a good geographic area for a cat with "Vet Attachment". Under separate cover we will send you the name, address, and phone number of the Vet you will need to visit daily. They are within 80 miles of your home address. Have fun. We're sure you'll like them and their rates are reasonable.

And that wraps up year one of Customer Appreciation Week. See you next year! And thanks again, we couldn't do all that we do here without you!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Customer Appreciation Week: Day Seven

Well here we are at day seven of clerkmanifesto's Customer Appreciation Week! What a trip it's been. We hope you have enjoyed it as much as we have, and we hope that our lavish daily gifts have left you feeling truly thanked and appreciated. We know that not every gift has been perfect, but we feel that the ones that worked out were really special, at least that's what we've heard so far from those of you that have contacted us. Not that any of you have contacted us. You certainly don't have to contact us. Just enjoy your gifts. No thanks necessary!

You are probably thinking that after six great gifts there must be something really nice coming to close it all out. You are probably wondering what the day seven gift is. Fair enough.

Because a small number of our gifts so far have had a few slight problems, because there may or may not have been some technical glitches with our first six gifts, we really wanted to make sure that we got gift number seven, our last gift, just right. So we decided to review our gifts so far and take a look at what has worked so far and what hasn't.

Let's take a look:

Day one: 

A year of free subscription to clerkmanifesto, which, through no fault of our own, turns out to already be free anyway.

Day two:

A kitten!

Day three: 

We forgot to include a gift except there's an outside chance you might have gotten a gerbil to go with your kitten.

Day four:

We forgot again to include a gift. Our apologies.

Day five:

Liquefied and spoiled Italian gelato sampler, soaked into hand delivered packaging.

Day six:

Oddly we can't find any data on our day six gift.

So, what pops out to you about this list of six gifts we've sent you? 

Exactly. It is obvious that our day two kitten gift was the absolute, far and away, winner among the gifts.  The kitten makes this whole week a success in its own right, regardless of how exciting some of the other gifts were from the week.

So how do we top a kitten?

We thought long and hard about how to top the gift of a kitten and decided, we can't. No one can best the gift of a kitten.

At that point we realized: go with the horse that got you here. Or the kitten.

Yes, we're sending you another kitten! 

We contacted our kitten provider, The Daisy Hill Kitty Kollective. They did a great job on getting you kitten number one, and we really like working with them. Unfortunately the massive outlay of kittens just five days ago (oddly they're saying it was four!), has left them completely out of "normal" kittens. Fortunately they have enough kitten seconds and "refurbished" kittens to make sure that everyone will nevertheless now get a second kitten.

The The Daisy Hill Kitty Kollective assures me that these refurbished and "seconds" kittens are still absolutely great kittens and will make wonderful companions for your first kitten (and for you and your family!). Also, because these kittens have minor blemishes, they might not be able to be adopted out normally. So basically you are not only getting a great gift, but you are probably saving a young cat's life.

Because some people are particular to the blemishes and small malfunctions of their kitten, The Daisy Hill Kitty Kollective has provided the following checklist of possible problems your kitten will have. Please put a "one" by the blemish you are most comfortable with your kitten having, and an "X" by the one you simply can't tolerate in a cat. The Daisy Hill Kitty Kollective, as a special favor to us at clerkmanifesto, is willing to guarantee you will not receive a kitten with your "X'd" choice. They will also do everything they possibly can to get you a kitten with the problem that is your top choice.

___  No ears and deaf

___  Lists constantly to the left

___ Leukemia

___ Old age 

___ FFF (Feline Food Fetishest)

___ Alopecia

___ HCD (Heightened Contemptuousness Disorder) 

___ Stubby leg syndrome

___ Chronic Cat Flatulence

___ Vet attachment (Must live in the Upper Midwest or own a private jet for this one)

___ Violent cat sweats/chills (We will provide you with two kitty sweaters)

If it's all the same to you simply don't do anything with this form, and your new kitten, with a surprise defect, will arrive in the late afternoon tomorrow!

Thank you so much. It has been a fantastic week, and we so hope your two new kittens will ever let you know just how much you are appreciated here at clerkmanifesto.

From all of us to you: Thank you!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Customer Appreciation Week: Day Five

Yes, Customer Appreciation Week has not gone off without a hitch. Our daily presents to you, to express our deep gratitude at your patronage of clerkmanifesto, have not always been perfectly executed. But there are still three whole days of Customer Appreciation Week. Let us not dwell on the past and get lost in it and in the one or two or three things that may or may not have gone wrong. We have a fantastic gift for you for Day Five, let's get right down to that.

I have mentioned here an impending month long trip to Rome and how it will surely affect the content of this blog in the year to come. As the trip is still far off, those Rome posts have been only slowly trickling in. But I can assure you that many more are coming. One of the posts we presented so far concerned Roman gelato. And indeed we are at this point in my Rome trip research deeply absorbed in the fascinating richness and variety of Rome gelato options. So we at clerkmanifesto thought, what if we sent out a massive sampler package of Roman gelato as a thank you gift to all our readers. This would leave you prepared to better understand our gelato posts in the future while giving you an exciting treat right now.

Don't worry, we have covered everything. Food restrictions, vegan, gluten free, lactose intolerant, SCD, sugar-free? I have tailored your selection of gelatos to exactly what you can eat. The gelaterias of Rome are that deep in their variety. And while, for instance, a gelato without milk, using only fruits and honeys may not technically be "gelato", let's not quibble. These Roman Artisanal producers know what they are doing. I know this because I have spent the last three days, virtually around the clock, working with dozens of these people and arranging for one of the most grand scale International delivery projects that you have likely ever been the beneficiary of. Your gelato samplings, tailored individually to you, are going to blow your mind.

Why, you ask, why are we doing this?

Because we appreciate you that much. Because we want you to know just how much clerkmanifesto values your patronage.

But how will this work, you want to know.

It's simple. Clerkmanifesto has a very special relationship with DSIB Couriers (yes, the people who delivered our day two gift, a kitten). They should be arriving today in the early evening with a carefully packaged, still fresh selection of seven to nine gelatos from two to four different Roman gelaterias. Simply sign the courier's receipt and enjoy one of the most extraordinary food treats you will have ever tasted. A treat, it should be noted, that in any other circumstances you would have to travel all the way to Rome to sample.

But, you wonder, won't the gelato have melted?

The gelato, the, um, the gelato? Melted? 

Oh crap!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Customer Appreciation Week: Day Four

It is hard to believe we have already passed the halfway point of The Clerkmanifesto Customer Appreciation Week. Today is day four. We so hope you are feeling appreciated, but if not, there are still, fortunately, three days to go. But I will venture to say that our generous daily gifts, the ones we have been sending out for each and every day of the Customer Appreciation Week, have probably been pretty exciting for you. 

I myself have been on the receiving end of Customer Appreciation Week celebrations, and I know just how disappointing they can be. They have turned out time and again to be mere marketing ploys. So I can only imagine and dream what it might feel like to have a product I regularly consume, like you do clerkmanifesto, suddenly start sending me a lavish, no strings attached present every day for a week!

So far, for gifts, we have sent out:

1. A kitten!


That doesn't seem right. There should be four items on the list. 


Oh! I remember. Day one was that little mix up where we sent a year of free subscriptions to clerkmanifesto, except the subscription to clerkmanifesto was already free, so we couldn't count that one. Then, to make up for it we sent you your kitten on day two. Then on day three, we, oh, crap, we forgot a gift for day three!

Well, that doesn't mean we don't appreciate you, because we do! Just look into the eyes of that new little kitten of yours.

So yes, there have been a few glitches with our generous daily gift process, but I promise you that you are going to be blown away by our remaining gifts. They are amazing. And I also want to assure you that the oversight on day three, wherein we slipped up and simply forgot to send a gift of any kind, was an absolute freakish fluke. I assure you that there is no way that could happen again. We now have unshakable fail safes in place and you can relax knowing that fantastic gifts will be coming your way every single day of the full duration of The Clerkmanifesto Customer Appreciation Week.

This is our pledge to you!

Thank you so much for your patronage. We appreciate you more than you can even imagine!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Customer appreciation week irregularities

Welcome to day three of our very special Customer Appreciation Week here at clerkmanifesto!

Before we get down to today's business, and to our special "Day Three" gifts, I just want to assert once again how much you, as a consumer of clerkmanifesto, mean to us, the industrial producers of clerkmanifesto. This appreciation goes beyond the mere mercantile fact of the money we make here from your business. Unlike other large companies you have dealt with, our appreciation extends into a feeling of personal warmth. And because of this we have created a Customer Appreciation Week that ventures out far beyond the realm of the usual marketing. In our attempt to express how much you mean to us we have created a week of lavish gifts for you, ones that express our feelings of gratitude regardless of economic considerations. As you open our gifts to you here on our blog, you may be compelled to ask yourself "How can they afford this?"

We can't, and we don't care. We just want you to feel appreciated!

Nevertheless, on a dramatic undertaking such as this there are bound to be a few glitches. Our first order of business today is to take care of some of the, really, quite small problems, considering, that have popped up in the distribution of our gifts so far.

On day one of Customer Appreciation Week we, as you know, provided a lavish credit that turned out, due to no fault of our own, to not have any value. That is why on day two we went big, very big. We sent you a sumptuous gift that you would remember for years to come. We sent you a kitten!

I know! It was amazing. We hope you are enjoying your darling new kitten. Who wouldn't love getting a new kitten?!

Unfortunately we experienced some irregularities with our kitten distributing courier, DSIB, with our kitten provider, Daisy Hill Kitty Kollective, and with the nature of the gift itself. You were likely completely unaffected by any of these irregularities and are probably now deliriously happy, deeply bonding with your little cat that we named, just for you, "Clerkmanifesto".

But to resolve any possible problems we simply ask that you fill out the brief form below: 

Please circle one of the following. Our response to each issue is listed under each selection.

1. Everything is perfect. I love my new kitty.

I know that the vast majority of you will be circling this one, so we figured we'd better put it at the top. We here at clerkmanifesto are so pleased at your happiness and hope that you will enjoy many happy years with your new cat.

2. My cat came missing parts!

First of all let me say we are sorry. If you want we will certainly send you a new kitten with all its parts, no questions asked. But I would like to note that most cats can handle themselves perfectly well without an ear or a tail, and many people feel that three-legged cats can be especially charming. However, if, for some reason, you have something against the disabled, we will not argue with you. Simply dispose of your tiny, helpless kitten, and we will immediately send out a new one.

3. The complimentary cans of tuna that came with my cat tasted funny.

Those cans of food were supposed to be for your new kitten. That is why there were pictures of cats all over the cans. Because you may never have had a cat before please be advised that cats need food and water to thrive, just like people! Contact your local pet or grocery store for more details and instructions.

4. Help! My kitten has not arrived!

Unfortunately a very few of the DSIB couriers sent to deliver kittens instead fell in love with their wee little kitties and disappeared with them over state lines. DSIB is working on this problem and we will immediately send out a new kitten to you which should arrive by this evening. As an apology for the delay we will be including, at no extra charge, a little pet gerbil as well. If you only want one pet simply give the gerbil to the kitten.

5. I don't want a kitten!

We're sorry you were unhappy with your gift. Find a burlap sack and a pond, or maybe a local furrier, you monster!

Once again we apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced, and we hope with these small problems ironed out you can now enjoy your new clerkmanifesto thank you gift kitten for years to come.

Thank you again, from the bottom of our hearts, for your patronage of clerkmanifesto!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Customer Appreciation Sunday!

We are in the second day now of our customer appreciation week at clerkmanifesto. I know that you are used to fake customer appreciation celebrations that are in reality craven marketing gambits. But I want to convince you of our sincerity. You aren't just a number to us, or a path to profit. Our appreciation, unlike so many of the messages of appreciation you've received from the other big time blogs and Internet companies, is truly genuine.

We appreciate you!

So it was especially unfortunate that yesterday, during our big "make a splash", extremely generous kick-off day gift presentation, we made a small error.

It turned out our gift was utterly valueless. We gave out a free year of subscription to clerkmanifesto, which, by the way, is a fantastic deal, only to soon thereafter discover that we don't actually charge for subscriptions. This brought down the monetary value of our gift considerably and caused some disappointment among the general public.

This lead us to rethinking our second customer appreciation day gift. It was going to be a thirty percent off coupon. We thought thirty percent was pretty big, but then we decided that we need to seriously up our game. So we increased our gift all the way to forty percent off, which is clearly an enormous discount. Fortunately a staff member here at clerkmanifesto, who had completed math classes clear through the tenth grade, pointed out that since we do not sell anything for money at clerkmanifesto, any discount on it, even if that discount was super large and generous, wouldn't save anyone any money.

We went back to square one.

Maybe, we thought, all this money stuff is not the way to express true appreciation anyway. Shouldn't an expression of appreciation be more warm and human and personal than just another business exchange? We think so. We want you to have something from us that has meaning and personality. And that is why we are incredibly proud to announce that for day two of customer appreciation week we bought you a...


It should be at your door, delivered by courier, by 5:00 p.m.  If you haven't received it by then please hit the following personal tracking number for your kitten below for more information:


Your kitten has had all its shots and comes pre named and with two cans of cat food and an ID collar.

We hope you enjoy your new friend and that perhaps sometimes you will think of us when you play with little Clerkmanifesto.

Thank you again for your patronage.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Dear Customer

Dear Clerkmanifesto Customer,

Thank you for consuming clerkmanifesto. We appreciate your loyalty and patronage. And that is why we have declared this week to be Clerkmanifesto Customer Loyalty Week. All week long we will be giving you very valuable stuff. How can we afford to do this? We can't. That's how appreciative we are!

To kick things off in style we want you to know that your next year of clerkmanifesto is entirely free. Yes, that's right, free. And if your clerkmanifesto account is already paid in full through the next year or any portion of it, we will be simply adding a whole year onto your account. There is no code, nothing to fill out, and no strings attached. A year from us to you is our first amazing gift and there are still six to go!


You didn't know clerkmanifesto cost money?

 Er, well, hmmm. It doesn't exactly cost money, come to think of it.

Did I mention how good the next six gifts are?


Friday, February 19, 2016


I had finished shelving a cart of fiction books at the library and was heading back to the staff elevator. This path brings me directly in front of a small, glassed in study room. Four people were in the room having an extremely animated conversation in sign language. There are few instances in my life where I wished to know sign language more than at that moment. I badly wanted to catch their attention and sign to them:

"You people need to keep it down in there!" 

Thursday, February 18, 2016


I'm no better than anyone else, well, I suppose I am sometimes, who isn't? But when it comes to that hunger for extracting something more out of the art we love, there I am no better than anyone else. If there's some song I love, or a novel, a painting or a poem, then I am keen to hear the artist's insights and secret revelations on his or her work. Please Mr. Dylan, tell me of your secret messages. The fact that there are none doesn't stop me.

At the Riverview Open Mike Night one of my favorite regulars (see Feline Dementia) told the story of how Don McLean was once asked (again) what the song American Pie meant to him. He replied "It means never having to work again for the rest of my life."

Good one.

I believe some of the power of art comes from its holding in of opposing forces. Art is both whole and entire unto itself, and yet it is all open ended and incomplete. So it is inevitable that we become both hungry and sated in it. But the artist who has succeeded has already said everything important in the art itself. They are no more equipped to guide you into it than any other perceptive person.

Let's talk about me.

Every once in awhile someone will ask me about one of the pieces I write here. Setting aside that I am first delighted and surprised that the person asking has read my essay, and setting aside that I am honored that it has created interest, and setting aside that I am incredibly eager to discuss said piece, and setting aside that, really, I'd be happy to discuss my blog with you for hours, I, sadly, have nothing useful to add.

A favorite old time co-worker of mine, who still occasionally substitutes at my job, asked me about one of my posts the other day. I was delighted for all those reasons stated above. And it was an eminently reasonable and straight forward question. It had a simple answer that I in no way regret giving. But I am aware that all I really succeeded in doing with my answer was to let a tiny bit of air out of that essay I had written. All I had done was to make that piece a small measure more flat.

I knew if I had a chance, I could make those people dance, and maybe they'd be happy for awhile.

What does writing clerkmanifesto mean to me?

It means losing everything I make.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Dear Sherman Alexie

Dear Sherman Alexie:

Someone donated one of your books to my library today. It was in such pristine condition (a freakish quality in any donated book to begin with), that I thought it was a new book of yours. It isn't. You're not going to love this, but I haven't read all of your books. This one is called War Dances. It came out in 2009. But I guess you probably knew that.

I opened your book and read the poem that was at the very start. It is called The Limited.

I liked it. I like your writing a lot, but I always seem to have some strange reaction to it. This time the ending was uncomfortably familiar. 

It goes:

...Why do poets think
They can change the world?
The only life I can save
Is my own.

You might not like this either, and seven years after the fact I can't imagine you haven't heard about it a few too many times to feel entirely comfortable, but, um, Mary Oliver:

...and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I am a person who draws conclusions perhaps too quickly and with too much heat. But lately I have been trying to draw more humble conclusions. I don't know if there is an allowable difference here, or if your poem is consciously issuing a touch of homage, after all, The Journey, by Mary Oliver seems like it must be a pretty famous poem. In this sort of situation the answer, when I find it, is always a little different than I can ever imagine it, and my interpretations are always a little short of what I might have known.

So what say I just throw my hands up, and you can say what you want about it. I can't help but wonder about it all, and so I am writing you, but I am not accusing you of anything. Indeed, I like your poem and do not make that provisional.

But I was thinking about both of these poems, yours and Mary Oliver's, which are both touched by the humility of being human, and I thought they were funny coming from two writers who have turned a few hearts towards light in their work.

It's true, of course, that the only life anyone can save is their own. But I have noticed, in a careful few of the people around me in my life, in pieces of the best art for me, that in saving one's own life, in the accident and virtue and trial of that journey, one sometimes, in strange ways, saves a few other lives as well. 

Maybe that's why poets think they can change the world. But yes, you should probably keep quiet about it.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

You again

I have been an artist of some sort my whole life long. To which you might say "Who hasn't?"

To which I reply "Good for them. I am interested to see all seven billion peoples' work."

I have painted and drawn, cartooned, dabbled in performance art, made movies, been in a band, crafted sculpture, and written. Look at me now. This is the writing one of those listed above, as indicated by all the little letters you're reading via some brain process that's more or less beyond human comprehension. Well done.

On the one hand this art creation has been soul work, centering and celestial. It has been for myself, a religious quest, a moment of truth, a reason for living. It has been pure, engaging, thrilling, strengthening, fun, disappointing, demanding, and interesting. It has been hallucinatory, introduced me to the gods, torn my heart open, and given me the taste of dirt, cork, raspberries, flowers, and chalk. It has tattooed me, damaged me, and restored me.

So, there's that.

On the other hand there's the fame, success, and money aspect of art creation. The striving, the seeking validation, popularity, rewards, adulation, notoriety, attention, respect, and wealth. Or, perhaps even more essentially to me, it has been the stewing around in the bitterness of the spare arrivals of any of those things.

One of these artistic relationships is like a plant, let us say a tough and spirited tree, full of deep roots and tenacious bark, growing in rock and thin soil, but thriving and fierce and wild and lovely. And one is like some horrible infestation of beetles, swarming over the tree and eating it out from the inside.

The reason it's beetles is because you can't save yourself by killing just one, or even a clump, but rather you have to keep killing and killing and killing and killing again. Are there too many to kill? I hope not.

But there is another way too.

Out in the west the Mountain Pine Beetle is decimating forests. The Mountain Pine Beetle is not some invasive foreign invader. It's been there all along. But most of the pine trees were strong and healthy, and The Mountain Pine Beetle could usually find no purchase under its bark. But as the world heated up with Global Warming the pine trees grew weaker, and more vulnerable.

And so besides squishing every metaphorical beetle I see, I also try to work in my cold basement. I try to work in the inhospitable inbetween seconds at my library. I go to my fierce places. I write out here among the rocks, in the abandoned land, in the ice. And most of all I endeavor to forget you, the general you, who are hot, five degrees hotter on average, and slightly poisonous, and full of infestations, droughts and floods. 

Instead I look into the cold night and desperately seek to remember you, singular and particular. I seek no tide, or herd, or consensus, I keep my eye out only for one wild creature, who can read. Let's stick to that.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The bait and switch

These are dark and evil times, full of bitter problems, and most of us suspect that the end is coming soon.

But it has always been just so because this describes all of the times of mankind.

I am generally up for a political scrap, and I am also keen to discuss just what we, or they, (you know, them), should do, about all of our problems. I am ready to rage righteously against racism, disastrous class inequalities, national hypocrisy, religious fanaticism, and the corruptions of Capitalism. But sometimes when I am confronted by passionate misguided people, or even when I am confronted by passionate guided people, I'd rather chat about cheese, or weather, or books, or how pretty it is in Rome. Sometimes I don't want to look into the eyes of inequality, strategize against venal politicians, and sometimes I just don't want to take part in all those seemingly useless arguments and discussions that tend to run away with us all.  I know you feel the same way sometimes too. I have seen it in your eyes when I was telling you about how we're killing all the tigers, or maybe about how all the corporations are bleeding us out like the Matrix AI did with all their farmed humans.

Luckily I have come up with an infallible system of political evasion. My system, which I call "The rope a dope" will not only kill any political tirade, but it also takes the moral high ground. It quickly exhausts any political discussion before anyone can get revved up, but it leaves one's moral and political reputation intact. One can avoid uncomfortable and depressing political discussions, like maybe about world hunger, while remaining the enlightened, caring paragon one is, at least somewhere, probably, deep down inside.

Here's how it works:

A colleague, friend, or family member approaches you with a politically impassioned, possibly do-gooding statement. Or maybe they're just angry or slightly stupid. The beauty here is that it doesn't matter either way. If you want to discuss it, don't let me stop you, but if you don't want to get all involved, and you want to follow my precepts, you will need to heed these three imperatives.

1. Never disagree.

2. Always agree, but do so vaguely, tepidly, and even glancingly.

3. Most importantly, move on and just keep moving on.

And the third here is key. Keep that stone rolling. As befits the name of this technique (The rope a dope), no one can lay a hand on you if you're no longer there. Keep moving the subject matter just out of reach. Eventually your conversational partner will become exhausted, and you will be freed.

You need an example. Here:

Them: I just find the whole Trump thing so offensive!

You: Mmm hmm. But until we look at global warming squarely we have nowhere to go.

Them: But people are so stupid!

You: First we must tackle the rising inequity of wealth.

Them: Er, but the rich control the media and set the discourse...

You: You understand clearly, but most of all I worry about the Panda.

Them: Which panda?

You: A lot of problems would be solved if we were registered to vote automatically when we turn 18.

Them: Have you read anything good lately?

And with that you've made it through to safety. Plus, even though you were avoiding it, you solved a lot of problems in the world anyway.

"But won't people eventually catch on to what I'm doing?" You wonder.

I love writing blog posts that can help people!

Sunday, February 14, 2016


I don't know if it's because of the depth of Winter (it is deepest now), or somehow, strangely, because this is for Valentines Day, but I walked out into a cold night just now and was surprised to find it was cloudy. I searched for a single star and could not find one. Then I had this thought:

What if we had no true night, and the sun was out in the sky at all times, but when the sky grew cloudy and covered the sun, then the world became as dark as night?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Day at the library

I don't tell you stories like the following one very often, or maybe at all. They are full of futility, system breakdown, and failure. A mystery is posed that is never answered, with the added insult of it not being a terribly interesting mystery. But things like this happen on a regular basis at the library. And I want you to know some of that full picture.

A woman comes to me while I'm shelving in fiction at my library. "They sent me up here for The Last Juror by Vernon Grisham. Can you help me?"

I say yes, thinking that I can, perhaps happily ignorant of the fact that I will now spend 20 minutes not helping her.

First we establish that The Last Juror is by John, not Vernon Grisham. Then we walk over to the Grisham section of fiction. I could swear it used to be bigger, but there are still 70 books here. The Last Juror is sadly not one of them, or at least it is not there in alphabetical order.

I tell the woman I'll be right back. I walk over to the nearest library catalog.

At this point you should know that my library suffers from a problem common to many larger libraries, everything is far away from everything else. This can be excellent for the count on my pedometer, but it can make episodes like this one time consuming, and it can leave little old ladies standing around in the "G" section of fiction for protracted periods of time.

On the public catalog I ascertain that there should indeed be a copy on the shelf, so I return. I scour the shelves. I find one book out of order and one paperback that got shoved behind the row of facing books. But I do not find a copy of The Last Juror.

I check on the woman. She'd really, really like this book. I propose going further and my proposal is accepted. I check the end caps and display cubes.  I make the epic journey down to the circulation area and, though it's status should be different than "checked in" for The Last Juror to be most of these places, I look through our unshelved carts in case it's on there. I come up blank. I report back.

She'd still like the book. I put a copy on hold for her and have an idea. There is one copy of The Last Juror on mending status. I suspect that this is likely in preparation for it being weeded from the system. There's been a lot of thinning of the collection going on. I go to an area where there is a cluster of these carts full of books prepared for weeding, but I can't find a copy. However, the carts seem sequential, suggesting there are more carts elsewhere. I get a lead that these are in the librarians' workroom.

As I emerge from the circ area the woman has wandered downstairs. She is ready to leave. She appreciates my help. I cannot quite tell whether she is tired of waiting, feels bad about my looking so hard for her book, or simply has started to feel she is involved in a hopeless endeavor. I don't try to talk her out of leaving.

When I go back upstairs to resume my shelving I stop in the librarians' workroom, mostly out of curiosity, but also with the thought that I still might be able to run and catch her if by some grace I find a copy of the book. There are three carts full of fiction in this workroom, but oddly they start at the author last name beginning with "H" and go on alphabetically from there.

And there my search must end, and so, alas, must my story for today.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The publishing standard

While shelving in the fiction section of my library today I came across three books cozied up to one another. I'd never noticed these books before, but, at a glance, they looked horrible. They were a semi-matched set, trade paperback size, with cover art that was plastic and insipid featuring pictures of heroic looking hospital workers. The books may not be as bad as they seem. I did not dig deeply into them. But in the past I have read enough to know there are plenty of poorly written, imaginatively dead novels out there. And in the past, as I experienced authorial dreams, I regarded books such as these, always a part of my library's collection, as a kind of entry indicator for publishing. But today, looking at this awful hospital trilogy, I suddenly had a vision.

It was a tiny, tiny vision, but a vision's a vision. Just get a magnifying glass if you need to.

My vision was that this is not the entry point for publishing. Nothing and no one that is bad in their field, no art that is facile, no co-worker who is disconnected and obtuse, is the standard or the measure of what it takes to get anywhere. These flukes are more like accidents. Many people are out there writing uninteresting novels, but they may be fantastic at publisher queries, brilliant at developing professional relationships, crafty at selling what they've done, or maybe even just lucky. But a great deal had to come oddly together for those sad books to get onto our shelves at the library, and most of those things are flukes and exceptions. Look around at all of the books we have. The great majority of them are competent, crafted, industrious, and creative expressions of storytelling. Pick something out that you would say is pretty good. Here it is, nice cover, interesting story with a somewhat engaging heroine, a few splashy quotes from other pretty good writers and maybe even a nice one from an official big time reviewer. Hold this book. Read it. This book is your starting point. This is where the possibility of being published begins. Everything below a book like this was merely a mistake.

I have shared the cynicism of co-workers who held up some awful looking paperback and said that we should write one of these and get rich. I have had a strong tendency to look at the bottom, the crassest level of achievement, and make too much of it. But my worst co-worker at the library is not a measure of what it takes to do the minimum of my job. The blandest CD of music on our shelves will not tell us anything useful about music. And the most ridiculous romance paperback is not something there that can tell us how we can write an easy book and get rich. 

As I said it's a tiny vision, but tiny visions add up over time, and if I live forever I will understand everything. And so will you, if you read along here. So hang in there.