Thursday, October 31, 2019

Florence generic cafe review

By the time you read this my wife and I will be in Florence.  I am reading a lot of reviews in preparation for this trip. I find these compelling, occasionally useful, contradictory, truly pointless, and addictive. Along with the travel vlogs I watch I feel I have a sense for the collective tone and quality of these reviews as a kind of ur-review, the ultimate review that sums up each category of establishment. Today we will continue with the generic cafe review.

Generic Florence Cafe Review

5 Stars

If you are looking for an Italian coffee place look no further than this. This is a classic, old school, order an espresso and knock it back at the counter kind of place. We loved it here and adopted it as our neighborhood place and before you knew it we were pals with Luigi and the gang. We went here many mornings and I would almost always order their omelette with avocado, which was delicious. They had full American breakfast too, which is nice for a taste of home. We got pasta here once and it was quite tasty, and their pizza is to die for. You can get it by weight to go! A couple times we dropped in later and they had live music and great cocktails. We actually clubbed it a bit there because it's kind of a happening scene, though maybe a young crowd for us. 

It would not be right to not say that their gelato is amazing. It's super rich for gelato, and they have this great hazelnut chocolate sauce people line up for in the mid afternoon cause it's homemade and they always run out. If you go for dinner (very recommended) definitely get reservations, that is unless you go early or late, but if you get in you won't regret ordering the bistecca. And don't forget to bring your swim trunks because their swimming pool's a surprise, but it's pretty cool.

Also they make their own beer which is great, because there aren't a ton of microbreweries in Florence yet. We definitely plan on checking out their dart tournament. It's also a good place for Karaoke. 

They sell some really nice shoes too, so check that out.

Such a great cafe!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Florence generic museum review

By the time you read this my wife and I will be in Florence.  I am reading a lot of reviews in preparation for this trip. I find these compelling, occasionally useful, contradictory, truly pointless, and addictive. Along with the travel vlogs I watch I feel I have a sense for the collective tone and quality of these reviews as a kind of ur-review, the ultimate review that sums up each category of establishment. Today we will continue with the generic museum review.

Generic Florence Museum Review

5 Stars

Well, if you're going to Florence you really can't miss this. It is an amazing place and even though I am not much of an art person it took my breath away. These paintings and sculptures are just so beautiful! It is super crowded but worth it! We got reservations online, which is easy to do, and for only 60 euros we got to go through a special line instead of waiting in the huge line outside. I don't think I could have taken that. My feet were so tired from all the walking!

But as much as I adored the gorgeous art there was just so much of it. I am definitely going to have to go back. We missed the amazing Michelangelo that's here just because there is so much to see, and it's all amazing.

Also, be sure to check out the fancy cafe (expensive cappuccino anyone?) which is worth it for the fantastic views. We shared an espresso that cost a small fortune, but we have no regrets.

I do regret that we only allotted half an hour for this incredible monument to the best humanity has to offer. If we could have blown off our lunch reservation we would have, but we were meeting friends, so the rest will have to wait for another trip. I already long to gaze upon these powerful paintings once again. This museum is a don't miss indeed, and it's a reason on it's own to go to Florence, which already has so many other reasons.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Florence generic restaurant review

By the time you read this my wife and I will be in Florence.  I am reading a lot of reviews in preparation for this trip. I find these compelling, occasionally useful, contradictory, truly pointless, and addictive. Along with the travel vlogs I watch I feel I have a sense for the collective tone and quality of these reviews as a kind of ur-review, the ultimate review that sums up each category of establishment. Today we will continue with the generic restaurant review.

Generic Florence Restaurant Review

5 Stars

This was easily one of my three favorite Florence restaurants. In fact, this was my third favorite and I would eat here every night if I could!

It is a real authentic neighborhood kind of place, located in the Oltrarno, which means across the river. This is where the real Florentines live to hide out from us tourists. I don't blame them! I like to spend as much time as possible over here, and the restaurants are way better in this part of town, and more reasonably priced too. The night I was here it was just us and locals. Although I guess some of them could have been from other places too. We were ignored for 45 minutes and were starting to get mad, but then for some mysterious reason they got really nice to us, so all was forgiven. Vasily, our waiter, was really proud of their food which came from their family farm in Piedmont. It was delicious. You must try their bistecca, which is a huge chunk of beef that's still raw practically in the middle. I like my beef, and though I wasn't in the mood that night we are definitely planning on going back for it!

We had the house red wine and it was delicious. Vasily said it was the right choice and that their house red is every bit as good as some of the nice wines on their wine list. I know a good deal when I hear one so I drank a lot of that wine! I had pasta and it was maybe the freshest pasta I have ever had. It was so tender, and the sauce was perfect. Vasily said it was made with sheep's milk cheese! I asked him why the pasta was so good. He said they grow their own wheat, but I think he was kidding me. I'm not sure. I was pretty drunk by then.

I don't remember whether we had dessert or not, but I do know that it was delicious!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Florence generic gelato review

By the time you read this my wife and I will be in Florence.  I am reading a lot of reviews in preparation for this trip. I find these compelling, occasionally useful, contradictory, truly pointless, and addictive. Along with the travel vlogs I watch I feel I have a sense for the collective tone and quality of these reviews as a kind of ur-review, the ultimate review that sums up each category of establishment. Today we will start with the generic gelato review.

Generic Florence Gelateria Review

5 Stars

They say you can't get great gelato right near the city center, but this legendary place is the great exception. Just make sure you don't go into the nearby gelateria, also called a gelateria, as it's not nearly as good. 

This place is amazing. I love gelato. I could eat it all day! But when the gelato is this good you want to take your time with it. Except not too much time or it melts! 

Anyway this gelateria (place that sells gelato) is a little family owned gem, where they make their own gelato from real ingredients they get from people who sell it to them. It's super authentic, owned by a family of just the nicest people. Giuseppe was fantastic, so friendly, and he talked to us for hours about the local soccer team in Italian, which, sadly, is not a language I speak. He knew enough English though to translate all the flavors for me. Four of them were chocolate and I love, love, love chocolate. There were exotic flavors too, like pistachio, which supposedly tastes nutty, and lemon sage. Weird, but intriguing! Try that one out!

You can get gelato in a cup or a cone and they have about 15 different sizes and varieties so just point vaguely at something and they'll talk to you in Italian for awhile and then give you one of them full of ice cream. Except it's not ice cream, it's gelato, which apparently is a little different than ice cream (though not much, it's like halfway between soft serve and ice cream).

I think this is by far the best gelateria in Florence, and maybe in all of Italy, although I've only been to two of them altogether, and because I was still full from lunch I didn't have any gelato at this one.

Do not miss this if you go to Florence!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Theme revision

Yesterday I set forth a scheme for writing a lot of blogposts in a short time for a long trip. The scheme, or theme, or rule was: Only one sentence per post.

It took three hours to write the first one. It just went on and on. It was long and packed with confusing commas. I kept having to figure out where I was in it and how not to stop. Plus, I like sentences. I love them! Look, here's one. Here's another! Sentences are like breathing. It's way easier to do them regularly than to do one big one for a long time. 

Hemingway knows. So does Michael Phelps.

So I have a new theme. It's to write as many sentences as I want!

No, that can't be right. Isn't that just regular blogging?

I guess I can try that. Not that there's much of a market for it.

Ah well, someone's gotta put these Easter eggs into the Internet. Might as well be me.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Exciting theme announced!

Yesterday, right here, in this very space, where you are right now, metaphorically at least, though you might actually be in the same exact physical space, like, on a computer at the same desk or something, unless of course you read these in batches, in which case instead of yesterday it was a minute ago, though if it was that you are surely in the same space, but anyway, yesterday, or a minute ago, I teased the exciting new theme that, unlike the challenging, demanding theme of writing about the greatest albums ever, a theme I've now put on hold, would allow me to write the necessary 11 remaining blogposts that would keep my blog going while my wife and I were off, detached from the Internet, exploring the little known Italian city called Florence, and though I teased this new theme yesterday, or a minute ago, and at the time didn't know what it was going to be, in the course of writing this I have indeed discovered the perfect theme that will facilitate the quick, effective, and winning writing of nearly a dozen new, exciting, interesting, easy to read blogposts, all written under the same surprising, unifying theme that this post itself has already employed, that is the theme of, well maybe not "theme", more like rule, but I mean the same thing by either of them, and that theme or rule is: 

Only one sentence. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Florence plan

In the great unbroken streak of this blog (thousands of days in a row with a new post every day) I have had to contend with a few large vacation trips. My strategy has generally been suited to my personality. I have crammed, writing 10 or 15 or even 35 blog posts over the course of a few days, arranging them to steadily release during my vacation. To do this I usually come up with a scheme, like an imagined account of my trip ahead of time, or getting drunk, or a theme like the hundred greatest albums of all time.

That last one is my current device. As you have been reading over the last several days I have listed off albums, each one the greatest album of all time. It has taken me all the way to today, October 25, sadly a mere four or five days into our trip to Florence. And then I realized: 

These take a long time to write! 

They take longer than the posts with no theme whatsoever!

I have to remember these albums, listen to these albums, research them, compose thematically in harmony with them, think about what they mean in relation to the other albums, all music, life on earth, I have to edit them into sensibility, and I have to explain why why why. It's complicated.

In short I need a new scheme!

I've got to get moving. I have mere hours left. I need a scheme, a plan, an approach so fool-proofed that each successive blog post writes itself.

Oh, you thought these already write themselves?

No, I write them. That's why I keep mentioning me in them, hoping I can have just a tiny bit of the credit.

But it's easy to miss, I guess. They're all just so natural and free flowing, like a beautiful cool breeze flowing through the Internet. The faint sent of flowers and lemons edging around your computer as the clouds billow and...

What's that?

Oh, sorry. Right. We rather drifted off there, didn't we?

We're here to announce our exciting new theme. It's perfect. You will be amazed and full of delighted wonder. No, seriously, it is a great theme.

I'll tell you tomorrow when I think of it.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Blues for Allah

The first time I saw the Grateful Dead I was young, high on mushrooms that had hideously been blended into a milkshake, and high as well on windowpane acid. It was enormously exciting from the time we lined up at Oz records to buy the just released tickets (waiting with Barry Manilow fans whose tickets were simultaneously releasing, an appealing and unusual pairing), all through the car ride in a blue station wagon, the daring magic kool-aid test drugs, and all the way to the start of this first independent (on our part, we were 16 or 17), fabled, long-awaited concert.

Which I hated.

Totally hated.

Uncomfortable, lonely, abandoned by friends who fit naturally and blissfully into the scene, all my Grateful Dead Concerts were the same- alienating, making me feel wrong and left out, lost. I don't like dancing in public. I couldn't relax enough to hear the music which always tended to be of mixed quality anyway, and seemingly made for dancing. It took me awhile to realize I had picked the wrong team. I was just me.

And so I have always loved the joke, defying an old refrain about the Grateful Dead, in which I said "They weren't much live, but they sure had some great albums."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

No, seriously.

I'm not saying those noodly bootlegs don't have their moments, but I mean listen to this:

Franklin's Tower

Everything about this is too delicate, gorgeous, to survive the wild. It is not a party or a dance. It is all delicacies, woven of twigs and flowers, grass and stones. A quiet place in the woods, a deer looking up, silence. A riffle of wind in the tree leaves weaving into the sound of a creek bubbling down a gentle hill.  This sweet voice full of gentleness and care. The perfect interlacing and syncopation of instruments, impenetrable and unmissable, words that mean nothing, quietly spoken and full of sense, and a guitar of impossible complexity spilling out without effort. It's too good. It's so lovely. A spell that will break under the first movement, like that deer dashing off into the trees never to be seen again. Everything will ruin this. 

The greatest album ever made is so little and sweet and strange. There really isn't anything like it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


To my delight, as I have begun compiling a list of the hundred greatest albums ever (being 100 albums that are in and of themselves the single greatest album ever made), my choices have leaned slightly more... obscure. Oh, not wildly obscure, Dylan, Neil Young, and Miles Davis are all there, but it's not the notable things like Blood on the Tracks, or Harvest, yet (though it is Kind of Blue). And Lucinda Williams has appeared, along with the maybe not wildly known Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. This has not been by design. It just worked out that way. So it's a nice learning experience for everyone, albeit one without serious challenges.

Until today!

You cannot hear this album. It is not commercially available. It never made the radio. There are no YouTubes of it. I can't link it for you. You have not heard it. You probably never will.

My friend made it, like, 25 years ago! 

Go ask him for it.

Because it is the greatest album ever.


Today is my friend Grape's birthday. I like to say a thing or two about him here on that day. But I won't cheat. I have written before in this space about Grapesongs. Grapesongs is not gratuitously included. It would make its way to my list regardless of dates. I doubt anyway it will do any favors to my friend. My 20 regular readers won't be catapulting Grape to fame. Grape has a middle reader book that just came out that I quite like, called, get this, Grape, and I'm sure he'd be far more keen in anyone's interest in that over some ancient foray he took into singer/songwriter glory. I don't even know if he can play the guitar anymore. It's history. Maybe it's just an old dream to my friend now, curious, a mysterious disappointment he made peace with.

But when I get tired of using my own blog as the poster child of everything wrong with the Capitalist winner-takes-all art system, of the stupid Internet that managed to shock everyone by being even more hostile to art than the world it replaced, there is always Grape and his lovely masterpiece of an album, never published, sitting in my family's music drawer to bear the brunt of our cultural disasters. Let it stand for all the things unsung, to marketing over content, to the quiet way that the best things in life are not destiny, they are moon shots and prayers in the dark. They are triumphs one at a time.

Like in my heart.

One is enough, isn't it?

Because this is a beautiful album.

It is a serendipity for me to realize, hey, I can include this album on Grape's birthday. But it is not disingenuous or convenient. I sing these songs all the time, to this day. More than 20 years on I will wake up with these songs. I live my life with this soundtrack. Witness I Can't hide is as part of my consciousness, elevating, informing, leavening, as much as, say Homeward Bound, or Oh Very Young

"Just come and walk with me. It ain't so heavy when we talk it through." 

That's all I'm doing with this blog.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

World Gone Wrong

We wouldn't get too far on my list of the hundred greatest albums of all time (with each individually being the greatest single album ever made) before we ran headlong into Bob Dylan, bashing our heads into him and saying "Huh? Hey, where, what." 

And Bob Dylan says...

Watch where you're going, man. You'll hurt yourself.

Bob Dylan is the single greatest songwriter in the history of music. Not every album of his will be one of the hundred greatest albums ever, but I can come up with seven of his like I'm rolling a rock down a road. I mean, as I said, he's the greatest songwriter in the history of music.

So isn't it weird, isn't it a little funny that the greatest album ever made, by the greatest songwriter, is a bunch of covers?

Maybe you're thinking "You just like to pick the weird ones."

I do! I like it sooo much! But what does it matter. That's apocrypha, a side note, irrelevant.  Because I mean it. Oh, I mean it. Oh I mean it so bad. Oh. Oh. World Gone Wrong is the greatest album ever made.

And it's all mine. It's all mine! It's ragged and dirty, broke and hungry too.

All the friends it ever had are gone.

Dylan, past his pure, incendiary relevancy, put out an album of folk blues covers called Good as I been to You. People liked it. "That's nice" they said. And it was, I guess. Then he put out another one and people said "Oh, another one." And they turned their heads.

And gave it to me! Dark blues so gorgeous, so torn apart and dark, and so minutely understood that the man who alchemically, musically, lyrically, reinvented western civilization out of them can set them down and present them graciously. They are the 20th Century,  his source material in an act of shuddering respect, understanding, revelation, and homage.

He also finished his record contract with it.

It's a piece of work set down by a master. No one bothered to pick it up until I came along. I was shocked to find it just lying there. But believe me, it suits the album. 

It's mine. So I give it to you. We can share it.

Blood in My Eyes

Monday, October 21, 2019

Nirvana Unplugged

Look, I'm not going to bring you out of the saddest album ever made without care. The heartbreaking Lucinda Williams Live at the Fillmore needs a baby step out. In this case another live album, this one sung searingly by someone who shot themselves a few months afterwards.

That's about right.

Not only would I rather not jar you with an upbeat album, I'm not sure I have any on my list. 

It's no bed of roses here on earth. If you're reading this god, you might want to think about what you've done.

From Wikipedia:

Cobain suggested that the stage be decorated with stargazer lilies, black candles, and a crystal chandelier. Cobain's request prompted the show's producer to ask him, "You mean like a funeral?", to which the singer replied, "Exactly. Like a funeral."

I'm pretty sure Kurt Cobain's voice is the last great reinvention of Rock n' Roll. I didn't know you could tear a voice. And just keep tearing and tearing and tearing and keep going without destroying it.

All the way to 27.

This is my generation.

This is the greatest album ever made.

Plus it includes the greatest cover ever recorded by a human being:

Where Did You Sleep Last Night

full of history, America, builds like a religious chant, sucks you in, then explodes and destroys all life on earth. It's personal.

May we all rest in peace.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Live at the Fillmore

Fine. Yesterday we hearkened back to the beginning; We asked, what was for us the first greatest album ever made. And we found a "best of" album, by the Beatles, called the Red Album. And that's all well and good. You read my description, wept, listened to the album, went to the library and got a copy, listened to it, and said "Oh yeah. These. These are good songs." Like it was a surprise.

Well it was a surprise to me too in in 1978.

But what is the most recent album I listened to where I said to myself:

Holy shit. This is the greatest album ever made!

This is the subject of today's thrilling blogpost!

It's our first live album too.

The Live at the Fillmore of our title refers to Lucinda Williams Live at the Fillmore. It is the greatest album ever made.

Oh, you think that's a device now, don't you?

It's going to get ugly then.

In my first of the 100 greatest albums of all time I extolled Neil Young's On the Beach as possibly the saddest album of all time. It's not. This is. This is. Her voice is more broken. She's older. More dreams have fallen. She doesn't expect them to come true. This is not a disaffected rock star, as gorgeous as that can be. This is a person! You! You can count on your blessings. I'll just count on blue.

Take Ventura, please.

But first we must talk about Caravaggio. We must talk about magic. 

Caravaggio paints a collar bone, a shoulder, and your heart melts and it makes no sense. A bit of cloth, a moment, a splash of light. Well here it is. What does Lucinda Williams write about here?

Fucking soup. She makes fucking soup. She sings about fucking soup and I'm crying.

Driving. Showers. Watching waves. Throwing up in a toilet.

Being purified.

This is the greatest album ever made.

She puts Neil Young on and turns it up.

No, seriously, it's in the song. She knows where she comes from. Everything required is here.

The sort of cool Minnesota radio station where I first heard Lucinda Williams did a poll of the best 893 songs of the 2000's.

Ventura didn't make.

You can count on your blessings. I'll just count on blue. Fuck Minnesota.

You choose:




Literally the most exquisitely unbearable song to listen to ever written (at your own risk):

Bus to Baton Rouge

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Red Album


The Red Album by the Beatles?

A "best of" album as the greatest album of all time?

Yes. To my exceedingly minuscule shame, yes!

"But, your choices have been obscenely sophisticated. Dark, mildly obscure Neil Young, the strange internationalism of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Even Kind of Blue came with the humbleness of choosing perfection, classicism. But a best of album, by the Beatles, whose catalog is already practically all greatest albums of all time?"

Look, all I said is that I was going to write about the 100 greatest albums of all time, each being something I thoroughly felt as the single greatest album ever made. It's not objective, it's subjective.

Except, fuck it. It is objective. It is all objective. Everything everywhere is objective. Don't be fooled.

The Red Album is the greatest album ever made.

We have to start at the beginning. This is my fourth album out of a hundred. But we're starting at the beginning. We have to start at the beginning.

For my Bar Mitzvah, I think in 1978, as it slightly lagged my birthday, I received from someone (thank you) a present of the double album 1962-1966 known colloquially as The Red Album.

I listened to it.


I cannot say where other people mark the moment they were no longer a child. I suspect there is no rule for it. Maybe many people don't even have a moment like that. Maybe some people never made a real transition. But I did in a complicated way. And it was at the moment I heard John Lennon sing Nowhere Man.

I did not even know what love was before that, what art was, what it meant to open one'e eyes. 


Each of the songs on "The Red Album" were enthralling: Michelle, Girl, Paperback Writer, but I was being primed. Kindled. Stoked. When I hit Nowhere Man everything blew apart- the meaning of love, the wrongness of God, the horrible error and beauty of being. 

This is an old memory, but I heard Nowhere Man and I had to go out to the front lawn, to the right of our driveway, at my family house on Paul Revere Drive, and just... deal with it. I had too many feelings. I had way to many feelings. I had to play it in my mind over and over. I never recovered.

I was, in that moment, created and ruined.

I suspect the world was too.

Nowhere Man

Friday, October 18, 2019

Kind of Blue

As we got started on the 100 greatest albums of all time (not a collection, rather 100 albums that are each the greatest album of all time) I found myself, if not exactly on the far fringes, at least traveling the edge of town. But as I did so I intimated that this was not by philosophy or design. I warned you that we would find ourselves in the very heart of town as well, where no surprise awaits anyone, and the heralding trumpets have worn out all the speakers.

Which leaves me...

kind of blue.

You can read a million things about Kind of Blue. It is minutely covered. It is religiously heralded. If you type in "What is the greatest jazz album ever" in your local search engine it comes up first. Yes, one can find top ten jazz lists that leave it out, but, it's a device. "Look at me." It says. "I left out the best Jazz album ever." And more power to them. Why waste space on something so obvious. One might be able to turn some neophyte on with Charles Mingus, or Cannonball Adderley, but Kind of Blue? Forget about it. It's already been taken care of.

And anyway, what are we supposed to say about perfection.

There are a million things written about Kind of Blue. You might as well read this one:

Kind of Blue is perfect. What do you do with perfection?

What if Jazz itself sets out and says "We shall strive for perfection, but perfection is unattainable. It is this journey to the impossible that makes us great. It is a pursuit of the unachievable that marks our endless quest and journey, giving us a quixotic beauty and ineffable purpose." What if Jazz says all that and then one day Miles Davis takes half a dozen legendary geniuses into a studio with barely any preparation and achieves the unachievable- perfection?

I guess jazz dies.

Not fast, no. Think of it like a mountain then. Things rise and fall towards the peak. New highs are reached. But then...

Kind of Blue.

Some ultimate top is reached. Perfection. Everest. It's all downhill from there. Oh a decade or so on and albums are still near this mighty height, even very near. There are other greatest albums. But it's all downhill. The shadow grows larger. Some ingredient in the great wind has been removed and slowly jazz begins to just... hold on, become a magnificent museum piece, like classical, maybe even like Rock N Roll. I'm not saying great things can't still happen. I'm not saying daring experimentation is done. But look around you. These are the foothills. We burn through everything now as a culture. The trees, the oil, the water, the gold, the cool air, jazz.

So yes, what do we do with perfection?

Listen to it.

Blue in Green

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Mustt Mustt

As I list off the 100 greatest albums ever (once again please remember: not the 100 best albums, rather albums that are each of them the greatest album ever made) I will undoubtedly be pitching in my share of choices easily recognizable to the lay music lover. Coming along I will be making my case for albums well lionized and more or less worshiped by the literati. And why not? I'm no kingmaker. Nevertheless it is a pleasure to find myself off the beaten track already with this collaboration between the Qawwali singer (sort of an Islamic mystical devotional music type) Nusrat Fateh Ali Khhan and some Canadian music guy named Michael Brook whose contributions seem a bit more ambiguous in the project to me. But it is the greatest album ever, so, well done Michael Brook!

But you don't want to hear about how this is possibly going to be my only album featuring primarily Pakistani music. And your concern is not with this album's (relative) obscurity (and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was actually pretty famous anyway when it came down to it). You just want to know why this is the greatest album ever made.

I don't know.

When Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sings:

Dum must qalandar must must, dam must qalandar must

it's not, like a big moment in my life.

And then he sings Dum must qalandar must must, dam must qalandar must.

And then he sings more things that sound a lot like Dum must qalandar must must, dam must qalandar must. 


Sakhi laal qalandar must must
Sakhi laal qalandar must must

Jhole laal qalandar must must
Dum must qalandar must must, dam must qalandar must

And, it's really good. It's

I mean, wait.


Isn't that... the face of god?  

No, it's just music. But... 

This guy's voice. Warbling, screaming, tearing your heart up, bouncing on mad rhythms. I don't know what he's singing about and I know exactly what he's singing about. A small groove is located, a trance is entered and cannot be contained, ecstasy is unleashed. The sky is raged against, exalted. Heaven bursts apart in a shower of swirling sounds. A trance is entered. A trance is entered. A trance is entered.


Isn't that... the face of god?

Yes, that is the face of god.

Mustt Mustt

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

T-shirt interlude

I can't say that people in Minnesota freely express their feelings. There is something here called "Minnesota Nice" which has to do with pretending to be nice while concealing all other feelings. But like any repressed feeling, the ones in Minnesota must find a way out. So they appear on t-shirts. 

I'm taking this brief interlude from the 100 greatest albums of all time to mention an appealing pair of these expressive t-shirts I saw at the library yesterday. Both were in GIANT letters.

The first was on a woman whose shirt boldly proclaimed 


I mean, I guess it was a tad chilly.

The second was a man who came up to the front desk. His shirt had paw prints running down the sleeve and another large saying on it:

"No outfit is complete without a few cat hairs."

He was checking out a book about a cat. 

He was dressed for it.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

On the Beach

Here is how I like... things.

Acloholic drinks...................herbal, bittersweet
Vacation destinations..................Italian



Sad sad sad sad sad sad sad! I like sad music, sad sad music!

Since I like my music sad it seemed only fair to start my 100 greatest albums of all time (wherein each album is individually the greatest album of all time) with a nice, dark, depressive, deeply sad album. And so I have, choosing the eminently bloozy, grim, bleak, heartbroken, dark, melancholy, and gorgeous masterpiece On the Beach, which Neil Young, the album's creator, called "One of the most depressing records I've ever made."

Neil Young was just being modest. It's far and away the most depressing record he ever made. It might be the most depressing record anyone ever made. Relationship shattered, fame coming to pieces, friends all dying of heroin overdoses, stoned out of his mind, this thing is a dismal work of lucid wonder, stirring the depths, unaccountable, striking notes that thrum the core of the earth, the deep ocean. All our unfathomable hearts are played to at half speed, but with all the time in the world. This album is being pleasantly drunk as the rain pours down outside your window and some bleak future is for a moment nearly blissfully forgotten. It's out of time, an unsolvable mystery that would do you no good if you could solve it. It is a broken dream you strove after all your life but never wanted.

The world is turning. I hope it don't turn away.

In all the history of music we can profitably walk away with only this:

"Though my problems are meaningless, that don't make them go away."

This is the greatest album ever made.

On the Beach

Monday, October 14, 2019

100 greatest albums of all time

I have for some time kicked around the idea in my head that I would run a series here of the 100 greatest albums of all time. And now I've decided to actually do it. So if you despise music, now might be a good time to check out of this blog for awhile. I'm thinking about three weeks or so. I won't have done all 100 by then, but I will probably have temporarily exhausted myself and need to write about Florence, Italy for awhile. At which point, if you hate Florence it might be a good time to check out of this blog for awhile.

Viewed through a certain lens I am primarily providing people subject based opportunities to not read my blog. And it's working! There's just you now. No pressure.

So here is how our album survey will go. It will not be in order. It is not a ranking. This is not the best 100 albums, rather it is 100 albums, each of which is the single greatest album ever made. Each album will be one I have listened to and thought:

"This is the greatest album ever."

And meant it.

As a twist on my usual anti-linking I will, if possible, provide some kind of link to a (hopefully) representative song from the album. Probably on YouTube. If you love the album in question and buy it I will get...


Why should I?

Oh? Really? I never thought of that. That's kind of touching. Thank you.

See you tomorrow then with our first album, which is: 


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Two kinds of workers

There are two kinds of co-workers at my library, and maybe in this world, and I am hoping you might like to think carefully about what kind you are. 

But only if it's not any work to you, and no trouble.

One kind of co-worker gives you work because, hey, we're all working here and they want to help.

One kind of co-worker sometimes does your work for you because, hey, we're all working here and they want to help.

Saturday, October 12, 2019


One of the common refrains upon the election, such as it was, of Donald Trump to the Presidency was "This is not normal!" And with that phrase came the admonition "Don't accept it as normal!" But something about our brains is not right. Maybe it was a once upon a time evolutionary advantage and the only way to get us spreading out of our cozy African homes was to have us react to insane things like snow with furious outrage, lost toes, and long, miserable nights huddled together trying to stay alive raging against the gods, all followed by ice cream.

Yum! All is forgotten!

Whatever it is, human beings make everything normal, whether that thing be dessert or a sudden fad for systematically killing off 20 percent of all our neighbors. Or, let's be realistic here, having 80 percent of our neighbors kill us off. We're definitely a 20 percent crowd here.

Now as a member of the 20 percent crowd I like to politely excuse myself from the table as I cast dark assessments on the human race. Not only have I refused to allow for the normality of the Republican Party and Donald Trump, I believe that if you don't express some clear, true rage at the deep injustices of your Country you will one day cease to be allowed to do so. This is advice The New York Times would do well to heed. And I'm sure they would, if only everything weren't so... normal. Normal, normal, normal, normal, too late.

But for all my begging off, there comes a time when I see I am, alas, made of the same sort of stuff as everyone else. While there are big crazy people out in the world ruining many lives, down here at the library I work with my share of little versions of the same, the little crazy people who maybe just ruin an hour or 15 minutes of your or my life. These people might lazily misshelve a book so you can't find it. They might tell you to call someone else to solve a problem they could and should take care of in five seconds, causing me to have to do it instead, later and extending the length and complexity of your chore. They might mysteriously turn your five minute library card registration into a 15 minute process. They might just tell you the wrong information because it never occurs to them that getting it right might be important. I know the people who do these things, or most of them. And I am ever shocked and horrified when I come upon the evidence of their disturbed actions.

But I also have to work with these people. I don't have the power to fire them. I'm no good at being personally mad at people all the time. And so as soon as they're doing some simple thing normally, like changing a bin, putting a book on a cart, telling a patron where the bathroom is, or saying hi to me, I set all the madness and incompetence aside. In a short time I even start to question my extremely low regard for them. There are too many incidents of rotten behavior to remember any particular ones clearly, but not enough for there to always be one that just happened. So maybe I'm overstating their incompetence. Surely a person who walks around speaking and looking fairly normally couldn't peel off the last tape from a roll and just... leave the cob empty, or lie to a patron they're supposed to help. Surely I made too much of it all. Everything is just so... normal.

And then I am working on the automated check in machine while one of these colleagues is 20 feet away on the phone. My lovely wife calls. I sure would like to talk to my wife! She asks for me! My co-worker says "He's on automation right now. Can I take a message?"

My wife, well acquainted with the spatial and work dynamics of the backroom is appropriately confused, and she says so. 

My co-worker relents. She puts my wife on hold and travels the six feet necessary to not have to raise her voice, and tells me I have a call.

The same mad things happening in the big politic happen down in the little one. I'm sure 40 percent of my co-workers think this particular terrible co-worker is perfectly fine. And who among us would countenance impeaching her? Everything is fine here. Everything is fine here. Everything is fine here. And so I submit my report to you. I'm the fucking New York Times.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Advice to the Emperor of China

The President of China is a terrible person. But I don't say that Xi Jinping is a terrible person because of the swaths of murder, repression, tyranny, and assorted terrifying crimes against humanity he has committed. Although these things help it along. I'm just saying that any big time leader of a big country has gotten their hands, er, dirty, or, um, swamped in blood, and I'm not here mainly to talk about that.

I'm here to talk about Pooh, 

as in Winnie the.

Xi Jinping, the President of China has repeatedly been compared to Winnie the Pooh.

And he doesn't like it. He doesn't like it so much that he has more or less banned Winnie the Pooh in China.

So far I have remained temperate in my comments here. I'm not saying it has been easy, but I am a reasonably judicious man. I can discuss most things, even ones I feel wildly passionate about, like injustice, with at least some element of coolness. But seriously, what kind of total monster would be embarrassed to be compared to Winnie the Pooh. I am so moved that I must speak to Xi Jinping directly. He's probably here, so:

 Xi Jinping, 

You should be so lucky in your life to be half the bear that is Winnie the Pooh! Who the hell do you want to be? Rabbit? Cause you remind me a little of Rabbit. If you were a composer and you were compared to Mozart, would you ban music? If you were a soccer player compared to Messi would you ban soccer? If you were compared to the greatest blogger in the world would you ban Clerkmanifesto?

Yes you would. Because you're a monster. A MONSTER!

I sentence you to...

Winnie the Pooh. And House at Pooh Corner. Try them out, oh tyrant. Let their wild sweetness soften that wee heart of yours a little. Then read them again. They're really good, aren't they? And Pooh is wonderful.

I like Piglet too.

And then the next time you get compared to Pooh maybe just chuckle that distinctive chuckle you have, enjoy a pot of honey, and then perhaps forgo having some dissidents brutally beaten and incarcerated. 

It would be a start.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Blood for books

Dear Library Patrons,

As you know, our most popular program is Read It Down wherein one can bring in a child (or yourself, if you happen to be a child), and said child can read at the library to earn credit against library fines. We operate at an exchange rate of one dollar per 15 minutes reading, which is chintzy, but nevertheless can add up if your kid really gets into something juicy. Show 'em the Dahls. This program, as you know, is very popular. And Read It Down skirts child labor laws too, we think, somehow. We're not sure exactly how but are hoping it has something to do with reading being good. Look at you, reading right now! Don't you feel healthy?

But the one complaint patrons like you have with our Read It Down Program is the same complaint pretty much everyone has about everything: 

"What about me?"

Yes indeed, what about your Read It Down?

Well it's coming, albeit with a few changes. For adults only, it just so happens that early this November we are having a blood drive! And while the occasional library patron might donate blood out of the goodness of their heart, we thought to ourselves "What about a little reward?" That is why, this coming blood drive, every pint of donated blood will be worth $5 towards your fines. That's right, $5!

We're calling it:  Bleed It Down.

So come on down in November and absolve your sins (well, library sins) with blood (well, yes, blood).

So looking forward to your visit,

The Library