Saturday, March 31, 2018

The bridge

One of my co-workers came back to the library from lunch. She was breathless and shaken. What she thought happened is that someone jumped from the bridge barely north of here, onto the highway below. We made our way to the windows and sure enough it was closed and full of emergency vehicles.

Someone tragically jumped to their death just a couple hundred yards from here, and all I could think was:

This is what happens when you don't allow a third renewal.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Who we know, and who we don't

Yesterday I told you about my fascinating co-workers who might, say, write "garbage" on a piece of garbage and then set it next to a garbage bin instead of in it. That sort of thing; negligent, heartless, thoughtless people who go to twice the effort to avoid the mere single effort of doing something useful.

And what's fascinating about them is it all takes place in an anonymous milieu. I may have 30 co-workers who could have shelved these books here in a functionally deranged location. It could have been a volunteer, or maybe a patron. But it's all so jaw-droppingly strange and mundanely passively aggressive that it is almost impossible to connect it to a real person. Say someone, maybe in a wide circle of your friends, murdered someone to get out of having to go get the family car washed. You know the murder happened, you have a limited pool of suspects, and you have a rough idea why it was done, but it would be hard to even suspect any of the people you're friendly with of doing it because it's just too empty, and nihilistic, and weird. How do you fit that with someone you know?

But sometimes around here, rarely, I actually, by luck and accident, see it happen. And so it was the other day at the front desk. We were busy and I saw one of my colleagues talking at great length with a patron. I thought nothing of it until half an hour later said patron came to me at the front desk. She needed to check out with her license because when she returned her knitting books not long ago she's pretty sure her card was accidentally left in one.

A bit confused by her resignation I told her I could go look for her card. She looked even more confused and said she spoke with someone earlier at the desk who told her we couldn't do that, but if she checked back in a few days we could see if we found her card.

I went and got her card.

The veils had been lifted. By chance I knew who had done what would have been utterly mysterious in any normal circumstance.

And it made perfect sense.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Fascinating co-workers

My co-workers are fascinating!

Who piles up books in a tower in a box they know will need a lid put on it? Who takes the last piece of tape off the cob and doesn't replace it? Who told a person they couldn't get them a library card when they actually could've gotten them a library card? Who rigs a bin to fill up the minute they're no longer responsible for emptying it? Who took the trouble to write all over a bunch of cardboard, just outside the doors of the garage, "for recycling" instead of taking them through those doors, 15 feet further, and throwing them in a giant recycling dumpster?

I don't know.

I used to get mad.

I spent years getting even.

Now I'm just fascinated.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How about we change the names

I was putting some books in order when a branch manager from some other building in our library system came through. Acquainted as I am with most people around here we exchanged pleasantries. Then this person, er, Paul, Paul Lewis, who is over on the witty side of things, asked "And how's the blog? Have you written anything inappropriate lately that would get you in tons of trouble? I'm asking for a friend."

This was kind of amusing so I answered "Well, I did put out a rather incendiary piece recently called Paul Lewis, Branch Manager."

"That sounds fascinating." He said with appropriate breathlessness.

"It's 600 pages." I added.

"Long, but there's a lot to explore there."

But what I thought was: "Hmm, I guess I'd better not write any blog posts about Paul Lewis."

And yet oddly, 45 minutes later, that's exactly what I find myself doing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


It's a library, so it's all about questions. If a library patron comes up to me and says "Can I ask you a question?" I am always confident there is an answer I can manage somewhere if I apply myself. I like almost all of the questions, but if it's too easy I secretly feel a little disappointed. Too hard of a question can be interesting, so long as it's not an "endless mode" question. That's where you think you're being helpful and then realize there's always another question and the person asking doesn't really care about the answers.

I've been working here for a long time so my co-workers ask me questions. "Let's ask Feldenstein." They say. "He knows things." Which I find terribly flattering but also a lot to live up to. A couple of days ago one of my co-workers asked me a question which I answered accurately and comprehensively, but leaving room for error. Then another co-worker came up and the first co-worker asked her the same question all over again.

I didn't like that so much.

My worst co-workers well illustrate the Aristotelian virtues of moderation because they so perfectly occupy the two extreme approaches to questions. On the one hand a quiet new co-worker never asks any questions, which I become more and more aware of, and see more and more the small things she gets wrong. There are probably a couple big ones too. On the other hand I have one or two co-workers who ask questions all the time, but they're the same ones, over and over, which is just as disconcerting.

For myself, I don't love asking questions, but I love knowing things, and sometimes making up what I know only takes me so far.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Internet is not very bright

Yesterday in this space I mentioned that the Internet isn't very bright. This is why books came first, graduating super early, being something of a prodigy. Then finally photography and radio made it out about on time. TV, notoriously dim and hulking, was held back for a few years, but eventually had to be given a real job, and then last, after ages of remedial education and long stints in Reform School, the Internet was dribbled into the world where it now stands around breathing heavily.

Yes, that's it, right now, lurking back behind you, looking over your shoulder.

"This one sucks." It says in a thick, bored, irritated voice.

If it's right in this case, it is purely by accident.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


Usually when I talk about complaining at the library that I work at I'm complaining about the complaining. If it's not one of my co-workers tearing on for twenty exhausting minutes about some terrible, but completely normal injustice of our work world, then it's me tearing on for twenty minutes about some other grave injustice, usually following their twenty minutes, and that can be even more exhausting. Oh these managers and patrons and policies and departments! If only they would... whatever. I have the perfect solution for them, but they're not likely to, well, be other than they are. So let's go over how they are one more time because let me tell you, it is infuriating. Don't get me started.

I'm pretty sure I said yesterday to one of my co-workers "Don't get me started." And they said, real careful like:

"Okay. I won't."

And I thought "Uh oh."

But by the time I get to this space, clerkmanifesto, I don't rant hardly at all. And when the Internet thinks I'm ranting it just goes to show:

The Internet is not very bright. 

Oh man the Internet is not bright at all!

My standard approach here is to somehow, against enormous odds, enjoy everything. I don't complain, I illuminate, satirize, and, at the last minute either accept or refuse to accept, just to prove to the gods that there is free will and they screwed themselves, which is why they're so cranky and vengeful all the time.

So on the occasions I talk about complaining at work I am usually against it. I speak of its dangers. I seek another way. At the last minute I like to pull out a ray of sunshine when no one expects it. I know all too well how complaining can drive one down, embitter us, and stain our very souls.

But all that being said I think it is only fair to point out that, when one shows up to work some Friday morning, and everything is kind of messed up, and one of your co-workers has all kinds of crazy, typical, and illuminating stories to tell you, well, it can be pretty fun to complain with a full head of steam, and for us all to be better than these people who have wronged us.

Just so long we are.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


Some baby connected to someone in the back room of my library came in for a visit. She was a fairly cute baby who laughed a lot, which was amusing and even a little contagious.  The subject of hair came up and some other library staff-related baby was shown in a picture via a phone. The pictured baby had some thick black hair, for a baby at least, and we were informed that in this baby's culture after a month they would shave his head.

As the relatively rare Jew at my job I felt obliged to tell everyone how we do it in my culture:

We just wait 50 years and it starts to go away by itself.

Friday, March 23, 2018

All my black co-workers are leaving


The subject of race will be making an appearance in this blog post. You might have suspected as much from my title: All my black co-workers are leaving. But I just want to let you all know, right from the very beginning, that I am completely color-blind.

I see everything in black and white.

Ha ha ha ha. That's just a little bit of race humor to break the ice.

No, right, I absolutely agree, there is nothing funny about race in America. I'm sorry. It won't happen again.

So let's get to it:

After a four year total library system focus on diversity, multiculturalism, and race and the history of racism in America, after multiple mandatory viewings of the (excellent) PBS Documentary Race: The Power of an Illusion, after diverse hirings (well, at the lower pay levels), expensive countywide initiatives on employee retention, countless break-out sessions, in service days, and required continuing education classes on race and diversity, it just so happens that all of my black co-workers are now leaving and moving onto other opportunities.

At this point, if this were one of my normal blog posts about, say, anything other than race, I would caustically and wittily sum it all up, illuminating the issue and solving the problem pithily.

But it's about race.

I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


You have got to have a hobby around here.

I was talking with a co-worker about another co-worker and it quickly became clear that this third co-worker's problem was that she had no hobby. When time becomes slack, and the work gets thin, and the day grows long, she has nothing to fall back on but chatting with her co-workers and complaining. These are fine, good even, in moderation, but one has also got to have a hobby! Well, that and also a little sunshine. One has to have a way of self-entertaining, one has to have a reason to want it to be slow at work. A simple desire to not work will not suffice in the face of there being not much work to do and yet still plenty of time to be put in for the day. One needs a hobby.

It does not matter what the hobby is. My co-workers have all kinds of hobbies. There are strange ones, like Polish Hate Speech, meaningless filing, or the Milwaukee Brewers, and there are more usual ones, like going to Italy or Singer Songwriters who wish it was still the seventies. Really almost any hobby will do. My work hobbies include writing, Spanish Soccer, video games (research and reading about, I don't play them at work), cooking, leftist politics, travel, and of course books, which is a natural for working at a library. That's seven hobbies! Is it good to have seven hobbies?

Well, no, that's a bit much, but don't go by me. I've always been a bit of an over-achiever in this kind of territory.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


The Vernal Equinox is upon us. I guess somewhere in Missouri or Virginia that means charming little flowers, budding fruit trees, and adorable baby butterflies. Indeed somewhere in America right now a tiny child is in a field of wildflowers saying "Oh Mommy! Lookit all the baby butterflies!" And a fawn will go ambling by them, dappled in sunlight, and there will be a rainbow too, laughter, and a warm breeze.

Oh the warm breezes.

But that's not how it is where I am when the Vernal Equinox hits, oh no, not in Minnesota. It is far too early for that. No buds, no flowers, and a butterfly would go hypothermic in a couple of minutes around here in March. Once a baby butterfly starts shivering you've only got a handful of moments left to warm it up and save it, so act fast.

The Vernal, or Spring Equinox in Minnesota merely means slate gray skies, borderline freezing temperatures, and heaps of ugly, blackened mounds of compressed snow that's no longer even slippery, so encrusted has it become with grit, garbage, and exhaust fumes.

It's not pretty. Or hopeful. Or spring-like.

And yet we do have one curious, Vernal Equinox specific phenomenon that happens only here in Minnesota, and only at this specific time of year:

Schrodinger's Water.

Walking to work today I got a full dose of Schrodinger's Water and, while dangerous, and treacherous, and a little hair-raising, it is pretty fascinating. It is also rare and mysterious, and, like anything that happens only very rarely, it's worth trying to appreciate, if one can, even if sometimes it seems like it might be trying to kill you.

You don't know what Schrodinger's Water is?

Schrodinger's Water is a state of water wherein it is neither liquid or solid until someone steps in it.

It is both at once, or neither, until one either splashes, or slides.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Dear Publisher: Let me explain

Dear Publisher:

I bet you're looking at all this and thinking "What the hell?"

I'll admit this is not a very organized submission.

Yes, this is a submission. I am hoping you will consider these, er, materials, for publication.

I bet you are wondering why it all seems to have been mailed in a paper bag, and why things are all stuffed into this odd, thrice used package willy nilly, and why it came 40 cents postage due. Probably you are wondering why the writing samples vary in paper size, font, legibility, and amount of food stains. I bet you are even wondering why I am writing you in my pajamas, or you would be, if you knew, because that surely can't be professional. I bet you are wondering why there are Target receipts and folded up post-it notes that say things like: "home and away Karl ove Knausgaard" shoved into the "envelope". Please disregard these, they got into my submission by accident. But at this point you are probably even wondering about this letter.

I want you to know that I understand your confusion. And I can explain.

I don't submit materials for publication very often, hardly at all to tell you the truth. It's the rejection. The rejection hurts. Also the rejection enrages me. And did I mention that it hurts? Well, it does, so much that it's hard not to keep talking about it with you. But I'll try. So, the thing is, I am not at all inclined to submit my tender works of writing unless I am feeling VERY CONFIDENT about them.  I am not likely to send my work to a publisher (like you, hi.) unless I am feeling that my writing is brilliant, beguiling, wizardly, hilarious, and riddled, like some delicious blue cheese, with genius.

I sometimes feel like this.

But the feeling does not usually last very long. For instance, I am feeling it right now as I compose this sentence, but by the time I finish this sentence the feeling will probably be over. Yep, it's over. And when I reread that sentence the chances of it coming back are one in a hundred.

So this, I hope, will explain to you how when I am up late at night, and I am reading over old blog posts of mine, some from my collection of roughly 1,900 short essays, and the feeling comes over me that I am the greatest writer of my era, and I think such fantastical and underappreciated works of genius must be shared with the world!, I know that time is fleeting. I must strike while the iron is hot. If I don't start cramming stuff in an envelope (of some kind), if I don't get it addressed and stamped and out the door in the next fifteen minutes it's not going to happen. I'm going to turn back into a frog, so to speak. My work will have ceased being so urgently brilliant, and you will never hear from me because, once again, it will all be hopeless. All hopeless.

So that's why this was done in such a rush and I shoved everything together as fast as possible without regard to order, coherency, and attractiveness.

I hope you will understand.

And maybe you would, if ever I sent this, but I don't know why I would really. What's the point after all?

Anyway, thanks, I guess.

Feldenstein Calypso, author

Monday, March 19, 2018

I try to be honest about myself

My manager came out of the managers' office and said, conversationally to me and another co-worker, "We're going to have a skeleton crew here tomorrow."

After hearing of a couple of people who would be out for illness and vacation I asked "Will I be working tomorrow."

"Yep." My manager said "You're here."

"Oh great." I responded. "I love working with me. I'm such a pleasure to be around."

My co-worker said "Be careful what you say, or she'll schedule to work with yourself at the desk."

"Eh." I said, nonplussed. "That's happened before, and it's okay. One of us works really hard and the other just goofs around the whole time."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

My friend the onion

The years go on by, but some things do not change. And so it is with onions, and me, that is, for me and onions.

Surely I liked onions from an early age as I'm pretty sure they played some part in the favorite food of my childhood; spaghetti and meat sauce. But I doubt I was aware of them, as such, until I was seven. I did not know them until an event of great importance took place in Second Grade. We had a sort of in-class play. The play was Stone Soup. You know the story, where a stone makes a wonderful soup for a hungry village, just with a little help of a small contribution from everyone; a bit of cabbage, some garlic, a carrot, some salted beef, and so on.

I was assigned the onion.

I don't know why it played out like this, but I had an onion in my desk at school for weeks and weeks in the run up to that play, and in its aftermath, as the soup we made was only fictional. Having this onion around to smell and look at was wonderful. I felt an immediate affection for the onion that has never faded. Now I bring onions to work with me. I have a little drawer in the kitchen that I long ago took over for my own. I always keep a couple onions in there. Most days I eat one.

Perhaps you think it not quite right to eat one's friends.

The would be true if you were friends with cats, or people. But I have come onto the Internet today to let you know that if you are friends with onions, it's okay.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Without Rex

Sure, sometimes I can be an amusing co-worker to have around. But then too, like so many people with a humorous nature, I can be so taken with some private bit of whimsy that it can be a challenge for other people to enjoy. I'm okay with that. I can enjoy it enough for all of us. For my co-workers, for everyone reading this, and for all the people of the Internet.

And so it is with my jokes about Rex Tillerson.

I know. You're all like "Who?", because in these end times of American politics catastrophes happen with such devastating and hilarious frequency that something that happened four days ago is ancient. One Trump day, it turns out, like some kind of drugged up version of dog years, equals 119 normal days. 

This explains why it feels like he has been President for 137 years. Functionally, emotionally, he has been.

But I, despite this, have not forgotten long departed Rex Tillerson. Rex Tillerson has captured my fancy in his summary dismissal. Who can say why? I can't, but no matter what has gone wrong all day at my library, and small things go wrong all the time, I am there to sigh, and to look downcast, and to say, mournfully, "This wouldn't have happened if Rex Tillerson were still Secretary of State."

I run into a co-worker in the back room. "God I miss him." I say. "I suppose we all do."

"Who? What?" They reply with some concern and alarm.

"Rex." I respond heavily. "Rex Tillerson. I just feel so empty without him as Secretary of State."

"I miss him too." They say, because people around here are nice enough to play along. "I can't even remember the name of his replacement."

"It doesn't matter." I say hopelessly. "No one can ever fill his giant shoes. He had size 14 shoes."

Our main check out computer went down and a fix for it could not be found. I was on the phone with the head of our Automation Services for awhile, but no go. I hung up. My co-workers surely expected some elaborate broadside from me against our threadbare, uncommunicative, and inefficient Computer Department. I put on a stern face before my co-workers. Breath was held all around me. I cried out "This wouldn't have happened if Rex Tillerson were still Secretary of State!"

Of course, it's all kind of funny the first time, and though it continually amused me, I can see in retrospect, in telling you, how it wears out its welcome. I can see how it's not all that funny at all. And I'm sorry. Something happened here and I used to be a good deal more amusing. But that was back when Rex Tillerson was Secretary of State, and everything was better. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Unanswered question

I came downstairs after shelving a cart of fiction, and I was on my way to shelve a cart of non fiction when I came upon two co-workers consulting in a particularly intense manner. It looked like some serious, deadly serious library business. I heard one of them suggest flatteringly "Let's ask Feldenstein. He knows things."

"Oh!" I said.

The two exchanged a look.

"Where do you get lye from?" One of them asked me.

Resisting all the rich opportunities for puns I replied straightly. "Ashes." I answered.

And I was so delighted to know things, and to know the answer to their question that it didn't occur to me until hours later:

What on earth were those two up to?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The clientele

I was out at the front desk of the library, and for some mysterious reason there were a lot of two to four-year-olds wandering around in all the areas that my desk overlooked. At first I thought maybe a storytime let out or something, but no, it was just one of those weird confluences. Suddenly we had about a dozen preschoolers and toddlers bopping about, not interacting with each other, just doing their own things; stomping, shouting, staring, and spacing out. It was pretty entertaining. Words kept popping into my mind to describe them; drunk, daft, stoned, spaced, psychopathic, hypnotized, entranced, and enchanted.

But then, as happens with these strange confluences, they were all gone. The main floor area reverted to being populated entirely by a wide range of adults, not a child in sight.

And yet oddly, it occurred to me, all the same terms applied.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Rex Tillerson, Rest In Peace

Maybe it had to happen eventually, maybe it didn't. But a nation mourns. Rex Tillerson has been let go as our Secretary of State.

Beloved by many who knew him, and deeply admired for his work on behalf of, uh, important, er, stuff, Rex "The Fightin' Tuck" Tillerson was one of the most acclaimed Secretaries of State of his or any other time. The Consortium of Petroleum Historians has ranked "The Fightin' Tuck" Tillerson as their number two all time Secretary of State, behind only the luminous Jacob L. Martin, about whom schoolchildren still sing:

Jacob L. Martin,
Invented the paper carton,
Went to the holy see,
But was protestant he,
"Revolution" Italy cried!
Then Martin died.

Die, die, die Martin die! You weren't really Secretary of State, just an Interim for two days. So die, die, die Martin die!

(Repeat ad infinitum)

This might be the most well known school yard chant since the (totally justified and badly overdue) retirement of "Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees..."

But we're not here to talk about Jacob L. Martin. We're here to talk about the accomplishments of one of our other great Secretary of States! Maybe even our greatest: Rex Tillerson! Just look at what this amazing man accomplished in little over a year:




Oh, well, we'd be here forever if I listed them all!

Let's just say, the greatness is gone from the Trump administration, and without the Fightin' Tuck Tillerson, salad eater, global warmer, and Eagle Scout, at its beating heart, failure is going to swallow this administration whole, without remorse, and we're all going to die. Die, die, we'll die like Jacob Martin.

Die, die, die Martin die! You weren't really Secretary of State, just an Interim for two days. So die, die, die Martin die!

So kind of a sad day.

Farewell, Rexy Fightin' Tuck, we loved you even more than Jacob L. Martin. Just by a little.

Donald Trump, a perfect President until now, has utterly destroyed America with one stroke of his pen, and he now has not a single friend or supporter in all of America. But it's too late. It's all too late.

May God have mercy on us all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Teen program for me

We have a lot of teen programming at my library. And it's fine. It tends towards technology oriented things, like Maker Space, with 3D printers and other cut-rate sophisticated geegaws. And that dovetails well with what I would call its "mainstream nerd" focus, featuring things like board gaming sessions and Cosplay Proms. But I do kind of keep an eye on the programming and outreach, looking for what might be oriented towards the kind of kid I was. These programs that they do have are a little too outgoing and promising to serve the constituency that would have been, well, mine, once upon a time.

And that is why I was thrilled at my library's new teen program. I think it's the sort of thing I might have liked. Finally. And there's not a lot to it. They bring in half a dozen old plush velvet arm chairs and group them loosely, and not all that sociably, about a greater portion of the teen room. They throw large bags of varieties of chips on tables scattered in the area. Then they hand out three bongs and an eighth ounce of pot to pass around. Then they leave you alone for six hours.

It's called Slacker Space.

Monday, March 12, 2018

How Jewish are you?

The other day I was compelled by honor to measure myself and the status of my Jewishness against The Ten Commandments, at least as they are translated into a fairly simple minded English. Depending on how one scored the results I am either a Tzaddik, that is a kind of a Jewish Saint, or the worst nightmare of my distant Shtetl ancestors. We would have to consult the Talmud to know for sure. Though on the other hand one can get the Talmud to say anything one wants if one tries hard enough.

Anyway, this little test I gave myself created quite a ............ well, I forget the word, but it means something like "not much interest."  And naturally people theoretically wanted to know how Jewish they were in relation to The Ten Commandments, only in actuality they didn't, as far as I know. And so, by no particular demand, I have created this little test, er, for those people, in case they might be out there. 

How Much of a Traditional Jew are You?
Read the commandment below and then choose the answer that best fits your response.

1.    I am the Lord thy God, thou shall not have any gods before me.

A. You're the boss! Please don't smite me!

B. Ohhh, there are other gods? Interesting...
C. You seem a little needy and insecure. Would you like to talk about it?
D. Jesus doesn't count does he? Cause he's you, too, right?

2.    You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything.

A. This is my favorite commandment!

B. I like it too. I have embroidered it on my special Tallit.
C. No worries. All my idols are invisible magic ones.
D. I promise to sell all my idol "doubles" on ebay. How's that?

3.   You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

A. I am uncomfortable even breathing the holy word, and wish you would quit blasphemously fully spelling out G-D like you do. Please stop. 

B. I mostly just use it to open jars.
C. I mostly just use it to make injuries hurt less.
D. Well, aren't you Mr. Bossy. There's still seven more of these?

 Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

A. Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, though I add an hour on each end to make sure.

B. I keep every second holy just to make sure it's covered.
C. "Now" is the holiest day of them all.
D. Making money is the holiest thing one can do. But, okay, I try and relax a bit on Sunday morning.

Honor your father and your mother.

A. Mum and Dad are the best.

B. I try and I keep getting cancer and yelling at everyone I know.
C. Oops, I thought it was "Iron" your father and your mother. They are mostly wrinkle free. Will I get any points for this?
D. Hail Satan!

You shall not murder.

A. I am a faithful fruitarian.
B. I only kill by the laws of Kashrut.
C. I only murder when my handler at Mossad tells me to.
D. It was self defense all 627 times, hallowed be his name!

You shall not commit adultery.

A. Neither in mind nor body.

B. Absolutely, as soon as I marry.
C. Never for pleasure.
D. Does this apply to Presidents?

You shall not steal.

A. I'd rather die!

B. Oh, "A" puts it rather strongly. Er, I mean, only if I were starving.
C. Right, like "A" and "B" and then some occasional "tips" that people would surely want to give me if they knew me personally, which is not stealing anyway.
D. Never! I run a completely legal Fortune 500 Corporation! Hollowed be His name.

 You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

A. I am blessed with wonderful neighbors, but no matter what I would always honor their say.

B. Okay. Sure. Whatever.
C. They lied about me first!
D. Which neighbor? The dog poisoners or the one who keeps sneaking into my house to read my mail?

You shall not covet your neighbor's house, wife, or property.

A. As you wish my Lord. I put my faith in you.

B. As you wish my Lord. I turn away from my neighbors sweet, sweet, aegian blue Honda Civic Coupe.
C. I don't covet it. I just really think I deserve it more.
D. Right, don't covet, just work really hard to get one of my own. Gotcha!


For every A. answer give yourself three points.
For every B. answer give yourself two points.
For every C. answer give yourself one point.
Sorry, no points for any D. answers.

Add your totals.

You score 25 to 30:

The Torah is the holy word of G-D

You score 18 to 24:

The Bible, while fictional, is an inspired work full of inspiration and guidance

You score 8 to 17:

Gosh, I never read these before. They were interesting!

You score 0 to 7:

Praise Jesus. Hallelujah!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The blog post

When it comes to writing this ever daily blog my ideal is that I have several, maybe five, excellent posts all lined up and ready to go, like tiny time release magic spells I'm eager to disperse into the wild. Pixies with teeth. Harmonic butterflies. Purple breezes, shots of grace C maple syrup. Beyond those maybe I'm resting, or recharging, or maybe I'm even working on a handful of new posts I'm feeling pretty good about.

But sometimes I have no posts. Sometimes I have been writing a lot of murky, time consuming bits about the ten commandments or butter or something, and a deadline is fast approaching, and though while shelving up in non fiction I took out my yellow post-it pad to write some brief observations, I observed nothing. Nothing has happened at the library for hours. I said nothing accidentally amusing to tell you about. I have no good ideas. I just keep thinking the same old ideas I've thought before. Do you want to hear about who all parks in our Van and Carpool only parking spots?

Well, I did too the first time.

And so I looked blankly at my blank post-it for a long time and I shelved books instead.

And then I resorted to my last straw.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

In praise of butter

Can someone please tell me what is the deal with butter? I went to the store the other day and it was like $7 for a pound of organic butter.

"That's really expensive." I said, as I put it in my cart. But it's possible I was just mindlessly observing the tongue-clicking shoppers' tradition: Everything is always so frightfully expensive, and it wasn't this way before!

The truth is if that butter were $22 a pound I might pick up my grumbling a bit more, but I'd probably find a way to buy it nevertheless. It's that good. What's the old joke about French Cooking they like to make in the movies?

"What are the three secrets of French cooking?"

"Butter, butter, and butter."

Ha ha ha ha ha.

One could probably cook grass clippings in butter and they'd come out tasty, or at least good enough to lick the butter off of them.

I mean, if one can afford grass clippings. Unbelievable what they ask for grass clippings these days!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Following the ten commandments

Sometimes after reading the news and having imaginary rants at Republicans I reflect upon their false Christianity. And I do believe that Christianity has an intelligible enough worldview to make it clear that one cannot be a Republican and a Christian. I do realize there are a lot of people driving this delusion pretty hard, but it does not change the fact of it; one cannot drive a car in two opposing directions at once and get to both places one wants to go.

But not wanting to hold others to a standard different than myself I am compelled, even in the heat of my passion, to turn the light on myself. If I am willing to condemn the Christianity of others, what is the measure of my Judaism?

Granted I do not believe in this great, smoky, wrathful Jewish God. I observe nothing and celebrate no holidays. Granted I count my Judaism from the Marx Brothers, Yiddish, Israel Zangwill, and far left politics. But even with that I admit there must somewhere be some accounting. And I probably believe there must be an accounting because I am Jewish.

But alas, the Torah is, to my mind, a vastly more murky document than the New Testament. Fortunately it does possess something perhaps usable as a central pillar. It seems not unfair to use the Ten Commandments as a kind of a core. And so I have decided to measure myself against these. If I dare condemn exploding Muslims as false Muslims, Republican Christians as mere thieves of the word far too indulged by real Christians, I had better take my measure as a Jew against something. And so in the interest of fairness here is how I measure against a central tenant of my people, the Ten Commandments.

Wish me luck.

 I am the Lord thy God, thou shall not have any gods before me.

Taking the first phrase "I am the Lord thy God" as a sort of a welcoming stage setting, an author's introduction so to speak, I'm going to focus here on the explicit commandment "thou shall not have any gods before me." And... I don't! Sure, I may have a few gods side by side, or I may have no gods at all, but nothing "before". So I'm one for one!

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything.

Does cheese count? No? I think I'm in here

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

Er, as long as swear words aren't a misuse I think I'm okay. I could consult the Talmud, but, well, fuck the goddamn Talmud.

 Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

If you were thinking I was going to justify my way to success, well, at least here I can't. I don't remember the Sabbath day hardly ever, and whatever days I try to keep holy end up being random and the holiness has holes.

Honor your father and your mother.

Fuck them and fuck the Ten Commandments. That's a two way street.

You shall not murder.

Oh. I do. All the time. And I'm sorry.

You shall not commit adultery.

Okay. Good. I actually quite agree here and comply entirely!

You shall not steal.

Um, well, all comedians are thieves. And property is a bit of a mixed bag. And no, I don't think I'm willing to pass on myself or this commandment here.

 You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

My neighbor totally said I could! 

That's a little jest. Ha! But actually, easy peasy. You say shall not and... okay, I don't.

You shall not covet your neighbor's house, wife, or property.

At first I was going to say I'm okay here, because I covet not these things, but my list here is pretty simplified and in reality one is not allowed to covet anything. I sometimes covet my "neighbors'"  blog success.


How did I do?

Five for ten. If it's a test I failed. If it's baseball, the sport of Jews, I am like a god.

I guess I'm more the baseball kind of Jew.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Singing frog

I have worked with him for roughly 15 years and I have been writing about him for a few months, ever since, through the agency of his flippancy, I secured his full permission to do so. But there is always something new to learn or notice. And so today I saw how Dan is like a magical singing frog.

First let's run through the fable of the singing frog. As great as any fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, or fable or magical story by Aesop or Hans Christian Andersen, the singing frog is that bitter, elegant short from the heyday of Warners Brothers' Cartoons. Known as "One Froggy Evening" this cartoon eschewed their stock of characters to present a man who finds a singing and dancing frog who, it turns out, only sings and dances in his presence. The man dreams of cashing in with this amazing frog, ultimately renting a theater to display his talents, but every time the frog is before others he reverts to bland, froggy croaking. Eventually the man is ruined by his attempts and dumps the frog who, decades later, is found again by another man seeing dollar signs, and the cycle starts anew.

So two of my colleagues were in the break room talking baseball. And they were musing over a Twins player and local boy made not quite as good as everyone dreamed, though still pretty damn good, Joe Mauer. They were discussing his family and all their history and connections in the twin cities community and it was all familiar to me. The reason it was familiar to me was because I had heard it in far more luxurious detail from Dan, who, as far as I could recall, knew all the Mauers personally.

Dan is a font of Twin Cities knowledge, geographical, historical, personal, and especially as it relates to sports. He grew up in a large Italian family in, and I love this, the Peanuts neighborhood, St Paul, right back behind where Charles Schulz's dad's barber shop once was. He follows every local sport with an almost professional attention, with a particular focus on Hockey, which he played to a College level, and Womens' Basketball. He also seems to know, or have some personal connection to every local figure who ever comes up. So somewhere I heard, perhaps a bit more than I even wanted, long tales of Joe Mauer, all the Mauers, and all their connections to all of his family.

So to my collegues, musing over the Mauers, I said "If you want to know about the Mauers ask Dan. He knows everything and more."

They were quite interested. I strove to remember what he'd told me and inform them, and as I was flailing about Dan walked in. With relief I cried out "Dan! They're talking about the Mauers and Joe Mauer. Tell them all about them!"

Dan said "What did you want to know?"

They threw him a string of information, all things I knew Dan had far deeper stories and facts about.

And Dan said "Ribbit."

Or something like it.

It is now five hours later and the library is dead quiet in a late winter snowstorm. I know for a fact I could go out to the empty front desk, where Dan currently is, and merely mention the Mauers, and Dan would talk to me for a half hour straight, or more, regaling me with tales of the storied sports family and their history. 

But I won't do it. I saw that cartoon.

I know that way leads to ruin.