Monday, December 31, 2018
Over the past year I have produced 365 blog posts, unless it was leap year, in which case there will be an extra one squeezed in there somewhere. You may have missed one or many of these posts. And while you could sit down right now (or, er, remain sitting) and read them all, here, on my website, on the Internet, where these posts quietly await such things with a kind of plaintive longing, I accept that you may only have a few moments in this busy world. I understand that you might like to get clear on just what all went on at clerkmanifesto in the past year, but you'd like to do it without any effort, and maybe all in a couple minutes.
So with that in mind I have collected a representative line (or two) from my essays from each month of the year to represent our journey; a year in review by way of brief quotes. And so here, in brief, is 2018 on clerkmanifesto:
Truth with its paltry rewards still beats the alternatives.
The world is practically drowning in luck, until, finally, the luck runs our way, and then it's justice.
Magic is the absence of illusion.
The speed at which I work has absolutely no effect on the speed of time.
In America those with time have nowhere to go, and those with somewhere to go have no time.
A good idea is a good idea, until it is taken under consideration.
The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.
Which explains an awful lot about our world right now, but then, who cares.
If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all except "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Which, I think, speaks volumes.
Everything that touches you, everything you see, everything that ever happens to you your whole life through, it's all personal.
It's just not all against you.
Golf is a peaceful game, but like everything else down here, only from the clouds.
I'm a glass is half full kind of guy even if it's actually empty.
You have to order the Universe or it will be ordered for you.
Happy New Year to you. And though that's just a paraphrase of a quote by several billion other people, I still mean it.
Sunday, December 30, 2018
It's a good news/bad news situation as viable wolf populations have returned to France.
The European Gray Wolf went extinct in France in the thirties, but in the early nineties a pair of Italian wolves crossed the Alps into France. Now there are over 500 wolves in France and they are considered to be "Demographically viable", which means, and I'm just winging it here, they are viable in a demographic way.
The really great thing about this is that there are way too many rabbits in France and everyone is hoping the wolves will eat up some of the rabbits. Also looking like winners in this ecological triumph are the sellers and manufacturers of Grandmotherly disguises, who will be expecting increased business for their line in small, outlying villages. Of course, the sheep herders of France are not happy about the situation and have even brought their sheep to Paris to express their dismay.
However, it is not the sheep herders who need to be kept happy...
it's the woodcutters.
Saturday, December 29, 2018
Readers and Neighbors:
Last night it snowed for a long time. But oddly, towards morning, the temperatures warmed a little. The snow turned to rain. And so by the time I went for a mid morning walk in my neighborhood much of the city was wallowing in two or three inches of pure, icy slush. It was extremely unpleasant to walk in. In fact, one couldn't exactly walk in it, it was more like stepping, or picking ones way through.
So that's what I did. And instead of ruminating on high things, you know, like birds or, er, the top parts of trees, as is my nature on leisurely walks, I ruminated unavoidably on the condition of the sidewalks. Many of them were in very bad shape for walking, but a few had been shoveled clear and were quite passable.
I judged. I identified the guilty. And I handed out dispensations and condemnations.
The area where I walked today has apartment buildings, a few modest houses, and many really huge and fancy houses in shiny condition. Only the main streets had been plowed and I was forced to the sidewalks. But the streets revealed the first sinners: Public Works, also known as the city. They also got the first, tentative dispensation. Though guilty, I could forgive them for awhile because the snow falls everywhere at once and it takes time to get to everything. I was willing to give them a morning pass at least.
I was not, however, willing to give any sort of pass to the Apartment sidewalks. As a renter, after all, isn't that something I'm paying for? Isn't the ratio of renters to sidewalk incredible high? I doubt there could be more than five or ten feet of sidewalk per renting apartment where I live. I'm disinclined to give businesses, the most likely in our capitalist culture to lack any humanity, any allowances. Their cost in doing this right is small and they will take allowances here strictly as exploitable weaknesses rather than understanding gifts. However, and this is important, the apartment buildings, including mine, had been almost entirely shoveled and were the best places to walk of my whole journey.
Which brings us to the other end of the spectrum, the more humble houses. There were not a lot of these along my way, and they ran about fifty-fifty, some shoveled, some not. I did not want to forgive those which let me down, but I understand it's hard to work, and deal with the holidays, and get up early enough to shovel. Plus it was an odd snow, hard to make sense of, and we'll just hope these people who can't really afford to pay anyone to do it for them will manage to get their act together for the next snow.
Which brings us to the final and greatest offenders, the opulent houses, those all well cared for, full of brick and paved stone drives, many with half a dozen bathrooms, one with a tennis court, many sporting high up river views. All these pretty, million dollar houses were, but for a scarce few exceptions, not shoveled at all.
This, I'm afraid, is unforgivable. Every one of these houses shows signs of work from the last five years that had to have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. More than one place I passed is adding some monumental wall, or a seventh bedroom at a level of style that surely costs more than the whole house my wife and I just sold. These homeowners have every tool at their disposal to clear their sidewalks, from shovels made out of diamonds, to drivable sidewalk snowblowers stored in their own beautiful, heated brick sheds, all the way to simply paying some company an amount of money they could hardly miss from their lavish budgets to keep their sidewalks in ever perfect condition.
To those millionaire homeowners I offer no dispensation, but, if you are one of them, you will see that I did wrap this note around a brick and throw it through your front window.
Happy New Year,
Friday, December 28, 2018
Over the lovely, long Christmas weekend, holed up with my wife, I read a lot. Most of what I read was in the realm of Science Fiction. The high point was probably a book called A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and it did a good job of representing much of what I read in the other books during that time. There was a group of interesting people living together on a spaceship. They had their complicated family histories that they were largely divorced from, and they had made a new family on a working interplanetary ship that did space stuff. There were different, interesting aliens as part of that, with their own different biologies and cultures. And there was advanced tech, both alien and familiar, including full AI which was one of the main characters in itself. All intelligible worlds, but at varying levels of strangeness and alieness.
But the last thing I read during this long weekend was not a Science Fiction book. It was a book called Brunelleschi's Dome. It was about Filippo Brunelleschi and the building of the Duomo in Florence back in the 1400's. And as I was reading along I suddenly realized that the whole book was very familiar. It reminded me very much of all the Science Fiction books I was reading. It was all like some vaguely plausible cultural account of aliens. Fourteenth century Florence was bizarre! It required a suspension of disbelief to accept that the Wool Merchants Guild pulled the purse strings of Florence and lorded over building an epic Cathedral for a couple hundred years, spending vast sums, then just leaving a giant hole in the roof for a few decades waiting for some genius to figure out how to build a dome there. Or how about that there were wars and battles fought with mercenaries that would occasionally be settled without fighting and just determined by the tactical agreements of Generals. "Ah, I guess you've outflanked me there! You win! Drat." The plague would sweep through and kill a fifth of everyone in town and meanwhile artistic masterpieces in a half miserable city of 60,000 would come along at a rate like good songs in the sixties. Revered artists would be thrown in jail for a couple weeks. They'd go to Rome and secretively poke around in the ruins for a decade, come back, and reinvent perspective after its 1,300 year absence. Everyone seemed to know everyone; Brunelleschi friends with Donatello, hating Ghiberti, Borromini and Bernini hating each other. Michelangelo hating Leonardo. Everyone simply over the moon about everyone who was already dead, which maybe explained all the smuggling of dead bodies. Just like all the Science Fiction books it was familiar and weird at the same time.
Though all the stories of Florence and future space are equally remote and bizarre, there is one, nice, strange difference. Though I will never be able to visit a large, funky spaceship that bores holes through the spacetime, Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise, The David, or Brunelleschi's dome can, apparently, actually be visited. That seems good. At this point I think I'll need to see some proof.
Thursday, December 27, 2018
In my role as the supply person for the library I have been doing what I can to consistently acquire scented bookmarks to give away at the front desk. My first forays were supported out of the supply budget, but then Administration got a touch huffy about it and insisted on other funding. These weren't supplies. These were giveaways. I tracked down this funding from out of our branch budget, and the supply line of scented bookmarks began to flow once again. We just opened the "Candy Canes" and "Gingerbread Men" that recently came in the delivery. I've managed to resist opening "Popcorn" and the fascinating "Pizza", keeping them in check for later, darker times.
The original idea of these bookmarks was to mollify children, or maybe delight them. My original impulse was that I just wanted scented bookmarks, for fun and to smell, but the children thing was an excellent justification too, and I looked forward to giving to them. I find kids like them in a shy, sort of surprised way which is fun to watch. It's a tiny bit of magic- a bookmark that smells! The bookmarks also make for great conversation pieces among co-workers and bring a bit of festive fanfare to the front desk, which can sometimes dip into somberness.
But my favorite thing with these bookmarks I did not expect: I love giving them to cranky grown-ups! The older, grimmer, more closed down and grumpy looking the better! There is nothing quite like seeing some sour man or woman in the midst of some mundane bit of business with one of my co-workers and being able to ask them, only a little ironically, "Do you want a candy cane bookmark?"
They raise an eyebrow at me.
"They smell like peppermint!" I add.
They take one. They half cautiously put it to their nose. I love watching that part. I always feel they enter into at least a tiny piece of whimsy by doing that. They smell it.
"It's a candy cane bookmark!" I exclaim.
They may or may not say something back. They don't usually smile or anything like that. Though it's splendid when they almost do. And they always seem to tuck the bookmark carefully away in a pocket. Theirs.
"Or would you rather have a gingerbread man one?" I ask, handing over a gingerbread man bookmark for them to smell.
This they take with less hesitation. They smell. And this part always surprises me because of how I said "would you rather have...". They quietly tuck the second bookmark carefully away in another pocket. That one is theirs too.
It's a lot of fun.
I don't think these people get given a lot of stuff.
Eh, not many people do. Good thing we have libraries for it.
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
I know Christmas is over and whether one is nay or yea (or huh) on the Holiday, I'm pretty sure everyone is ready to dust off their hands and move on. But because today is still a related holiday we have a brief moment to gather ourselves and reflect, what with it being Boxing Day and everything.
Holy crap, wait a second. It's Boxing Day?
It's Boxing Day!!!!
Wait here please, I have to go dispense presents to my servants! I'll be right back.
Oh, I forgot. I don't have any servants.
And this is America. So even if I were rich and had servants I couldn't call them "servants", I'd have to call them something else, like "employees", or "Hey you, what's your face", or "The United States Senate". So I probably wouldn't have to get them anything in a box anyway.
I'm afraid I just panicked.
So, having long been a fan of Christmas, here is what I learned this year about Christmas:
I'm not that big a fan of Christmas itself. Christmastime, yes, but I'm not a fan of Christmas Day.
Oh, we don't particularly celebrate Christmas at my house. And as far as the day, it really was a lovely, cozy sort of day. My wonderful wife and I went for a fascinating, longish walk through neighborhoods so unnaturally quiet that it was like the Rapture came. So it was a nice day, but as a holiday it was nothing to me. It was mostly sad, and only more so for being the last day of a joyful string of days off.
I love Christmas season: The lights, the music, the bubbly shopping mall spirit, The Peanuts, rampant consumerism, snow and cookies, Scrooge, good will, Santa. But Christmas, actual Christmas Day is the end of all that. It's all the things I don't like: Family Dinner, traditional foods, piety, disappointing presents, and Baby Jesus in a Manger.
Christmas is brilliant except for Christmas Day. Christmas Day is just the funeral for the Christmas Season, grim, formal, dead.
May it rest in peace.
Tuesday, December 25, 2018
As you may or may not know I write a brief essay for publication every single day, 365 days a year. I have done this without fail for over 2,000 consecutive days now. And when I say "every single day" I mean it. Even on my birthday. Even on vacation. Even on Halloween. And yes, even on Christmas.
No one is reading Clerkmanifesto on Christmas. It is a holiday! It is THE HOLIDAY. The cities are locked down. The fields are full of crows. Lights glow in the hearths and soft covers are thrown over somnolent computers everywhere. No one is cruising the Internet looking for a touch of only slightly difficult to digest enlightenment on the greatest holiday of the year. No one is here at all, but I write anyway. That is my commitment.
"But wait," You cry out, "I am here."
I got you this.
It's not much.
Monday, December 24, 2018
I spent the morning reading the news so you don't have to.
Well, you have to read my summary of it here, but it's pre-digested for you, so you can absorb it into your brain using less time and less acids.
That might not be the best analogy.
That also might be the best analogy!
And so here are our top Christmas Eve stories:
1. There has been a sudden, massive die-off of plankton in the oceans. Plankton provide 70% of the oxygen we breathe.
Plus side: I knew it! I knew it! It felt like there was way less oxygen to go around!
Minus side: We're all going to die.
2. The President of the USA was blackmailed into withdrawing troops from Syria by the dictators of Russia and Turkey.
Plus side: Clear evidence of The President betraying America could cause his core support to drop from 38% to 37.99%. The end of this disaster is near.
Minus side: Clear evidence of The President betraying America could cause his core support to rise from 38% to 39%.
3. Santa is coming tonight!
Plus side: Elves! Flying reindeer! Magic in the air!
Minus side: -----REDACTED FOR MY SMALL CHILDREN READERS----
Sunday, December 23, 2018
A message from the American Library Association:
Dear Library Professional:
We are delighted to announce a new upgrade in the names of library professionals. While we cherish the proud history of the term "Librarian" we are also aware that this storied title has, in the past decades, become more and more loosely applied. At this point, to many lay people, it means pretty much anyone who works with books in a library. Instead of fighting this understanding we have decided to accept it, and, at the same time, upgrade the title formerly known as "Librarian" to a term more befitting of the great training and stature of the work done by these people.
From this point forward all people working with books and materials in libraries, regardless of training, will be know as "Librarians".
Meanwhile, also from this point forward, the highly trained professionals formerly known as "Librarians" will henceforth be known exclusively as "Bibliogoblins".
Congratulations to all the newly minted librarians and bibliogoblins among you, and keep up your noble work.
In regard and fellowship,
Lucius Allesandra Mesomorph, Bibliogoblin (MLS, 1992)
Secretary Chair of the ALA Naming Rights Committee
Saturday, December 22, 2018
One would think that after seven straight hours of eating nothing but chips and ice cream I wouldn't be feeling so well. But I feel fine, for the most part. Though there are some surprising complications.
Today was the Holiday Potluck at my library. I usually struggle a little with the holiday potluck. I tend to be a bit squeamish about other people's food. And to be honest there is not a high "foodie" standard around here. I can handle some of the straight up flour sugar butter chocolate kind of stuff. But the feedlot pork in a crock pot sort of disturbs me. As do the bright blue chain grocery store cookies whose popularity astonishes me. But I've slowly learned, or am learning, over the course of 24 or so annual potlucks, to occasionally keep my horrified opinions to myself. I've learned to focus on the few things I like and don't find terrifying. I've learned to bring in the kind of junk food I love but scrupulously avoid on a day to day basis so that I'm not sick all the time.
So I brought to this potluck six bags of my favorite chips from the co-op. My favorites of what I brought are the Bacon Habanero tortilla chips, which taste exactly like the very rare and elusive bbq corn chips of my youth, but I also scored really well with the red wine potato chips which I've never had before and are tart/sweet and taste a little like raspberries. I was really excited about this potluck just for getting to eat those six bags of chips all day. But also one of my co-workers, before the potluck, said "What should I bring?" and I suggested that they bring in multiple pints of Ben and Jerry's, which was one of my alternate choices to the chips. The co-worker liked the idea!
So in addition to six bags of chips to choose from I had several pints of Ben and Jerry's to choose from too. It's been a long time since I've had Phish Food. I sure do like Phish Food.
So I was pretty excited about this potluck. I counted down the days to it. And now, having had about 245 handfuls of chips, and five or six servings of ice cream, I have to admit it's over.
Like I said, to my surprise, I feel fine, physically.
But I also feel sad that it's all over. And now it all seems so strange that I merely have to come to work tomorrow again, with nothing to look forward to.
Friday, December 21, 2018
A co-worker was telling me a story about how she admires co-workers who can just work steadily. They set up their task, like maybe shelving three carts of books at the library, get to it, and step by step get it done.
I was a little surprised because I kind of thought this co-worker was that type of worker.
"No, no." She said when I suggested it. "I'm easily distracted and I can only work for awhile before having to wander off. But I wish I was that way. I really admire co-workers like that."
"Well that's the difference between you and I." I said.
She looked a little surprised. "You mean you're like that?"
Thursday, December 20, 2018
He's a big guy well into his sixties. He used to wear this strange, giant hockey jersey, gold and black, from some team I remain unclear on, was it Russian? I think he recently switched to a new shirt. I think he's an "own one shirt at a time" kind of guy. He gets obscure military books from interlibrary loan. And he likes to tell me stories from when he worked on the edge of the Intelligence services during the end of the Vietnam War. These stories can be a tad allusive and hard to follow. They often involve strange, outsized characters from the CIA.
Usually all our interactions happen at the front desk of the library, but yesterday we spotted each other when I was upstairs shelving some non-fiction books. He popped over to tell me that one of our new employees is fascinating.
I started wracking my brain for who that could be. We've been training in a slew of new circulation workers this past month and none of them could easily be defined as fascinating. Maybe I missed something?
No, he was talking about one of the substitute librarians.
I am not generally keen on the substitute librarians. But I should first say there are currently two kinds of substitute librarians. One kind, a more rare type, seems to know that at the library we also have a circulation staff and some complex, wide ranging systems. These librarians might find themselves with cause to ask some of those people questions, or have a reason to mingle among them in order, for instance, to track down a book. I'm okay with this type. The other more common type tends to isolate themselves at the desk where they fill in, feeling perhaps that everything not at the desk is beyond their purview. It is possible to co-exist with them at work like they are ghosts, ephemeral. It is possible to never know their names or talk to them.
The person the big guy was talking about was one of these latter librarians. And when he said "He's like Pee Wee Herman or something." In a kind of incredulous, amazed tone, I knew exactly who he was talking about.
But he's hard to describe.
He looks a little like Dobby the house elf. He has this strange pony tail that comes from out of his hair in a place I've never quite seen before. The hair is strangely straw-like. Earlier, when I had walked past this substitute at his desk and nodded at him, there was something in my brain that vainly tried to match him to some type, to some category: Wood elf, a Martin Short character named Ed Grimley, Transgender, Disabled American Alien, all with none of these categories working, leaving him spinning loosely in my head.
Thus, I suppose, the "fascinating" comment from the patron.
"He's like Pee Wee Herman, but not a funny Pee Wee Herman. Like a Pee Wee Herman in real life."
Okay. Maybe I should talk to that librarian sometime and learn more about him.
And like that my visit with the patron was over.
But then the big guy was back, ten minutes later.
"I bet you're good at shelving the books on the bottom shelves." He said.
Like with many bizarrely offensive statements I didn't understand it at first. Then he added "I'd be good at shelving the top row."
Ah! He was noting that he was taller than me. This was, a. obvious, and b. only by like nine or ten inches! I patiently explained to him that the mechanics of shelving don't work like that, and that my ideal to shelve shelf was shelf number four. Whereas his ideal shelf to shelve would be shelf number five.
He retreated once again.
But the third time is the charm.
He came back with a library book, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks. Had I read it?
No, I hadn't.
He had read everything by Oliver Sacks and he loved this book. He could put it back, but, well, did I want it?
"Sure." I said. It looked interesting and I think he was somehow trying to make up for his idiotic comments referencing height and shelving.
My shelving finished I headed back downstairs with my Oliver Sacks book. But I stopped off at the Reference desk and held up the book. "Have you ever read this?" I asked the substitute librarian.
"No." He said.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
I'm not saying anyone does this consciously, but I'm pretty sure everyone I work with has a roughly drawn co-worker ranking algorithm humming along at the edge of their subconscious. I'm not talking so much about who they think is a good or bad worker, rather more what their sense of alliance, collegiality, and friendship with their various co-workers is. It's really just a secret list of who their favorite co-workers are.
I'm not saying this applies to me. All my co-workers are my favorite co-workers, except for the horrible ones, but I often see these lists at work from the other end. I know that if co-worker A is here then co-worker B will not really be saying much of anything to me other than maybe a friendly greeting, but take co-worker A out of the equation and co-worker B might stop by for a chat.
Recently it was pretty quiet at the library and I was on the phones when one of my co-workers came over. He was very chatty! We gabbed along in our uneven way. He can be a little adversarial with me but this quality was toned down pretty strongly. There was less of the spiky comedy too and more chat about life and filling each other in on future plans. It was a moderately pleasant enough five or ten minutes, and when it was over I looked around.
Co-workers D and E and F and G were all gone.
Well, that made sense. I'd have guessed I was about fifth on that co-worker's list at best. I didn't take it personally. Like I said, I don't have my own list, but I do like to keep track of where I am on everyone else's.
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Because I live in the bitter north of my rather large country, in Minnesota, when I see geese, or any migratory birds in the Winter I expect them to be flying south. It's just one of those childhood lessons that stuck with me: Birds fly south for the Winter. Winter is in a few days. Ergo all the birds should be flying south.
But south of what?
They're not all going to the South Pole. All the birds in the world are not going to fit on a single point on earth that technically has no width or length. They're just going south generally. There is a lot of south. In fact the further north you go the more south there is. The more south you go the more your options become curtailed.
Today I was walking along the Mississippi River and I saw geese. They were flying North. Up the river they went with me wondering after them. Then, just past the train tracks they took a sharp right turn to leave the river and head East.
Maybe we were the south and they'd already arrived, and now, their schedules freed up, they were just screwing around.
Because I live in the snowy north it is a bit bracing to remember that I live halfway between the North Pole and the Equator, right on the 45th parallel. This is a perfectly acceptable place for a bird to have flown south enough. When I was walking, looking at the geese as I was, I was actually closer to the Equator than I was to the North Pole. Though by the time I got to work I was closer to the North Pole.
Where it smells like peppermint and pipe smoke. And where the only things left that fly in Winter are reindeer.
Monday, December 17, 2018
Although my wife and I aren't leaving on our trip to Florence for ten months I have begun to peruse the guide books. And I have been immediately drawn to how many of these guidebooks try to helpfully rank the sights for me, usually working on a three-star system:
Three Stars: Don't miss!
Two Stars: Worth a visit if you can.
One Star: Go if convenient or of particular interest to you.
Now when I say I have been "drawn" to these rating systems, I mostly mean that they attract me towards them only to leave me in frothing rage at their blithe lack of nuance, cookie cutter opinions, and sheer lack of understanding.
Soon, no doubt in this very space, I will tell you how I would rank the cultural sights of cities, and how something like The Doria Pamphilij or San Luigi dei Francesi, both in Rome, could be better bets than The Colosseum or The Vatican Museum.
But not today.
Today I am too irritated at an aspect of all of this, an aspect I will call Local Relativism.
Here, take the best tourism sight in your city. If you live outside of North America you can't play. I'm terribly sorry. If you're in New York we can try, but it might not work. But you all can follow along and feel superior. Has everyone else chosen? Good.
I chose The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, wait, no, The Mall of America. The Mississippi River? Oh, oh, Minnehaha Falls!, no, no, go back to the Mall, no, Foshay Tower or the Spoon and Cherry or...
Scratch that. I have no idea what to choose. I don't know, I couldn't decide.
But I'm relieved you so confidently chose yours!
Let's say you live in New Orleans and you chose, random example, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. That's your three star sight. Your benchmark. And I vaguely remember it as a fascinating place from a long ago trip, although I may be remembering a different cemetery.
But now let's put that three star sight in Rome.
No longer is it number one on the list. It is, and no offense is meant by this, now the 11,243rd best sight in the city. Which is not bad, really. But do you think all the 11,242 sights above it have three stars?
No, they don't. The fancy review guidebooks will have given maybe eight places in Rome three stars. This leaves 11,235 places, all more highly regarded than St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, having not gotten three stars.
The reason they only have eight three-star places in Rome is because they are comparing Rome to Rome. It is like taking 84 different people who are all 7 feet 3 inches tall and deciding who is tallest. Then saying only four of them are really really tall.
Four 7'3" tall people are really really tall
Five 7'3" tall people are pretty dang tall
And five 7'3" tall people are kind of really tall
All of the others are merely listed, albeit acknowledged as "Tall".
At this point, the very point where you might just be beginning to see what I mean, you might also be wondering what has me so upset.
I don't like the way the guidebooks keep giving The Medici Chapel, in Florence, one or two stars. We are planning on staying across the street from The Medici Chapel and I am taking it personally! That's our Medici Chapel! Those are Michelangelos in there! If we had one knee of one of those sculptures in my Twin Cities we would be known as The Michelangelo's Knee cities.
But it's Florence, so, whatever, one star.
But the second issue is even more important, but is, oddly, not travel or city related.
Messi was recently chosen as the 5th best soccer player of the year.
In case I haven't found a way to lecture on this to you Messi is inarguably the greatest soccer player who ever lived. But he's been doing it for awhile now and people have gotten a little tired of it. "Eh, he'll have other years." They say. And so they choose The St Louis Cemetery No. 1 as the best soccer player in the world for a year. Because each year of Messi soccer is 7'3" tall or like one of the best sights in Rome or Florence; there are just so many!
People like to talk about things like this as subjective. Maybe that's fine. But the moment you pick favorites, have a contest, or try to helpfully award stars, objective gets to enter into it. And once it does
1. Messi is better than everyone else at soccer. It's weird but actually objectively true. You can still watch this in real time.
2. Rome is a very nice city to visit if you do it properly. I am suspecting the same for Florence but I have lost faith in the guidebooks who tell me so.
3. If you try to compare Michelangelo's knees unfavorably, even slightly so, to anything else in art or a city, you're just going to look silly.
I'll admit I'm a little worked up about this, so it might not make total sense, but you'll have trust me on it. I can't fix it. I'm afraid I've injured my fingers from typing too hard.
Sunday, December 16, 2018
To all the dog owners out there with dogs yarking obsessively in their yards and windows, lunging at anyone anywhere simply because they're so "friendly", and trying to generally eat strangers I say this: The problem here is not with the dog, but with the dog owner. Dogs are trainable. And the only way to love a dog is to train it properly, probably in a series of exhaustive courses that your dog will love but you won't.
It's called sacrifice. It's called the greater social good. It is caring.
On the other hand you can get a cat. Short of being wildly irresponsible, or a monster, you can do whatever you want as far as cat management goes and still freely claim to love your cat without being a liar. And no one will care.
Least of all your cat.
Saturday, December 15, 2018
My birding walk yesterday started innocently enough. I was just down to the river path and not 50 yards along when a bird with a red head flew right in front of me. Then another. I don't usually see groups of this bird, which I call a "Red-headed Woodpecker" because it is, it turns out, by sheer luck, called that. But there were at least five of these birds flitting about in the trees, a bit restlessly as far as I could tell, and probably up to something. But I didn't stay to see how it all turned out.
After all, I had to move on to the geese, though I didn't know that's what I was doing at the time. Yes, more than one geese. There were 16 million geese I was moving on to, though I didn't make a careful count of them. And the surprising thing about encountering 16 million geese is that I almost didn't see them at all. In the Winter around here most of the action is in the trees up over the Mississippi River Gorge, or in the sky above me, so I don't spend much time peering down into the dark, half-frozen waters. But something caught my eye, below me. Magically I found myself looking down upon a string of elegant geese, on a flyway journey down the Mississippi.
Bjork put it best:
A train of pearls
Cabin by cabin,
Is shot precisely
Across an ocean.
Actually, she wasn't talking about geese, but I'd really rather not go into that.
And watching those precise and steady and tireless and graceful birds the half frozen bed of the river came into my focus. And there I was stunned to find that it was
Full of birds, bobbing in the water, nearly blotting out the ice. A savanna of birds, like from some epic nature documentary of some place you will never go to and never be at at the right time and that it is all too late now to ever see because the natural world is only a shell of its former self. But lo, there were geese, and geese, and geese, and a million more geese, and I'm pretty sure I saw three or four ducks because it was a party.
No, seriously, it was a party.
And then there was a turkey in my path.
I am acquainted with two flocks of turkeys. The northern flock, by the U, is made of giant, Pleistocene sized turkeys who blot out the sun while merely lumbering around on someone's front lawn. The southern flock is regular sized turkeys but an unusual lot of them. This was a southern turkey who thus felt more approachable. But he didn't want to be petted and ran across the street to gambol about in the snow with 18 other turkey friends of his.
And then something screamed, a hideous cry.
That was a blue jay.
I didn't linger. Oddly, on the whole walk, I just lingered once, but it hasn't happened yet. And it didn't happen when a tan, almost yellow bird, twenty feet across, wingtip to wingtip, both fell and lifted out of the trees ten feet to my left, sending a kind of force wave into my soul. A hawk. The largest hawk I have ever seen, sinking towards the river to acquire speed only to rise heavily into the sky, strength and massivity balanced into something perfectly useful.
And that was it. I appeared to be done with the birds and was nearing where my path turns from the river. I started to think of how I would write about it all. And as I was crossing over the I-94 Freeway I wondered at how strange it was to see all the birds I ever see but not to see an example of one of my regular wonders, the bald eagle.
Which is when, exactly then, a bald eagle rose up from over Highway 94, which was over the river, and this bird just cleared the balustrade of the bridge I was on, and just cleared my head as well, surprising us both, and then flung wildly up into the air.
And I stopped, I finally stopped. And I laughed.
Friday, December 14, 2018
Someone told me a joke at work today.
I know what you're thinking: "Oh my god! A joke! Please tell us it quick!"
In due time.
It was a cute and charming joke. You're going to love it. But first we have to talk a little bit about telling and hearing jokes.
It is hard when someone tells you a joke, because they will tell you a funny joke first. And if you like it you might say "I should remember this joke because it is funny and I can tell it to other people and they will laugh just like I laughed." But if you laugh at someone's joke they will usually tell you another joke because they are excited about all their joke telling success. This second joke will usually be mildly amusing, though not as funny as the first, and you may say to yourself "Maybe I should remember this one too as a kind of backup. But now, while you are trying to remember the first and second joke, the joke teller will be on a roll and they will tell you a third joke. This one will be like the first two, but not as good, and there might be something wrong with it, like it will have Hitler in it, or blondes. And you will think "I could remember this, but I should probably just stick with the first and second jokes. Only, I don't remember them anymore."
Instead you will remember a different joke, that you once heard, which you will now tell the person who told you three jokes. And you will only remember that your joke wasn't as good as the first joke they told you when you're halfway into telling the joke, but it's not like you can stop in the middle and say "Never mind. I just remembered that this frog joke isn't all that funny." So you finish it as best you can.
And then you and the original joke teller part ways, and you have no idea anymore what that cute joke they told was.
But I remember. It was this:
Why don't anteaters get sick?
(scroll way down)
Because they're full of little anti-bodies.
Don't worry, I won't tell you any more jokes. I don't want to mess up a good thing.
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Because I think search engines, like Google, are broken and evil and hate my blog and all things non monetizable, I sometimes find myself testing clerkmanifesto related searches to acquire proof of their malfeasance. And so there I was doing some careful research by running an open Internet search with a large chunk of text from one of my posts. I don't really remember what I was specifically trying to prove, but I'm sure much was indicated by how "Clerkmanifesto" did not come up in the results. You would no doubt be hearing a lacerating account of corporate hegemony and the hostility towards human diversity if something quite surprising and delightful did not, instead, show up almost at the very top of these peculiar search results:
Yes, Google, faced with a chunk of my prose, trying to match it to the most vast collection of writing ever collected in the history of Humanity, thinks it is most nearly like the writing of William Shakespeare.
Ha ha, just kidding, I don't know what forsooth means, but I do know that Google must think I am one of the greatest writers to ever plow the keyboards. I am humbled, truly humb...
The other results?
Yes, there was one result that was higher than Shakespeare. It was:
Full text of "Catalogue of the Everett Public Library: Accepted by the Town, May 3, 1880"
I'm still trying to work out what that one meant.