Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019, year in review

Welcome to my 2019 year in review. 

It's short because...

In the end, nothing much happened.

It is a terrible, terrible thing that nothing much really happened in 2019.

And a bit of a relief.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Ice storm of the apocalypse

It rained in the wee hours of the morning. But it was still very cold. So before I went to work and looked out our window the world was shiny and black. And my wife and I had to ask ourselves "Is it wet or is it all perfectly frozen?"

Because it was the holidays, and a Saturday, there were almost no cars on the road. But it turned out there was one other reason there were so very few cars. One vehicle approached the big intersection we can look out on. It turned left. It was going two miles per hour. And still it slid.

"Is it wet or is it all perfectly frozen?"

The latter.

Uh oh. I had to drive in this. 

I went to the car and drove carefully out of the garage. I slid. I drove along at a crawl. I slid. Fortunately I had the roads pretty much to myself. I looked for spots with traction and slid between them. I inched my way to the highway. Horrifically smashed cars were eerily abandoned along the way, their interiors filled with expanded airbags. No emergency vehicles were on the way to help.

I turned on the radio. All the stations said "There are crashes everywhere. We advise not driving under any circumstances."


But I am driving.

What now?

My route has a lot of those electronic traffic message signs. Often they say something cute, but safety oriented. This time they all said the same thing:



I whizzed past the cars going ten miles per hour. The cars going 30 miles per hour whizzed past me. I was in the sweet spot, theoretically. Safe driving is when you think some cars are driving dangerously slow and some cars are driving dangerously fast. Maybe. Hopefully.

I made it to the skating rink parking lot of the library I work at. I managed to ease my car to a stop, got out, and slid my way relievedly indoors.

All my co-workers were there. One could argue that was not wise, but they all made it.

And they all had many, many, long, long stories.

I heard them all orally, as they don't have blogs.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Just need

Among the many insignificant but excruciating annoyances of working the front desk of a library, there is none that drives me to such tiny agony as the following issue.

But first, as little background as we can get away with here:

At the front desk of the library the most quietly irritating, weirdly protracted, and most time consuming thing we commonly do is the library card registration. There are uncommon things we do that are far more time consuming and complicated, and there are many less pleasant endeavors at the front desk that can get dicey pretty quickly. But a simple card registration always takes a fair chunk of time, involves boring data entry, and calls for a share of rudimentary, repetitive, and sometimes wordy explanation. And I say this all as someone who quite likes, even loves working the front desk of the library. It's just, library card registrations are always a little bit of a drag.

And so here's the thing:

Library patrons can be genuinely contrite and apologetic about all kinds of needs. They might ask to borrow a pen like it's the biggest favor in the world. Checking out without a library card will be treated as if I am making the most magnanimous gesture in the history of public libraries. They regularly apologize for disturbing me at a desk where I am sitting there for the express reason of helping them. They might even express guilt at making me take time to receive their overdue charges money. But the one time library patrons approach me like they're asking for pretty much nothing is when they want a library card.

"I just need to..." They start to breezily announce.

And before they finish I know what they'll say.

"I just need to get a library card."

There's nothing "just" about it. It's unjust.

But fine. Okay.

Just this once.

Don't make a habit of it.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Charging station

My library just got a new portable devices charging station. It's great for when you've lost or forgotten a cable! You just choose an available locker number on the key pad. Then it asks you for a six digit pin. I suggest something at least a little complicated. So I type in something semi-random. Then what I do is I enter the pin into my phone so I'll remember it. Then, at the charging station, it asks me to enter the pin again and, voila! The door pops open.

Inside my little locker there are three or four different charging cables hardwired in there. I choose the one that fits into my phone and plug it in. It's charging! Great. So I close the door (I'm in box number five) and off I go into the library to look at... stuff.

Then after a little bit I return to the charging station. I choose locker number five (I remembered!). Now I simply enter in the six digit pin and, where did I put that?



Friday, December 27, 2019

Bread Tube

We are what Google advertises to us.

Or maybe I have no business lumping you in on this. After all it's my unseemly browsing habits that have lead to this sorry state of affairs.

Since my computer was up, forlornly longing for me to write a blog post on it even though the next order of business was making pizza, my wife and I decided to put some music on. While our selection of songs from that lovely Alison Krauss, Robert Plant album Raising Sand was perfectly sound, the delivery system of YouTube was slightly more problematic.

There were ads. Lots of ads. All of them perfectly tailored to me, theoretically, based on the algorithms of my extensive YouTube viewing.

Here's what YouTube thinks I'm interested in, or should be interested in buying:

1. Medications for complex medical conditions. There are tons of ads for horrible, complicated ailments I don't even understand, but could probably be convinced that I have. The ads mostly list wildly dangerous side effects from these very drugs they so desperately want me to ask my doctor to prescribe for me.

2. The Nintendo Switch.

Yep. That's it.

I do actually have a Nintendo Switch, but almost never use it as it's too complicated to set up for a big screen and playing it handheld is hard on my body, especially my neck and back.

Presumably some of those drugs would help with those problems.

Although since what I most watch on YouTube is far leftist political theory and analysis that's not particularly friendly to Google, YouTube may just be trying to kill me.

Oh well, fair enough. I like the videos.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Boxing Day, 2019

So many of the great old traditions are falling by the wayside. But here at clerkmanifesto we refuse to let them fade away. And though for awhile some of these cultural conventions seemed arcane and even offensive, in these new times, with new understandings of mistakenly discredited institutions like Feudalism and Servitude, it is only appropriate that we revive the grand old observances of the past.

And that is why today, here at clerkmanifesto, we are celebrating Boxing Day!

Boxing Day isn't about us, it's about the little people. It's about the people who toil in our kitchens and laundry rooms. It's about the people who answer our doors and lay out our clothes for dressing and keep our hedges clipped and trimmed. It's about the washerwomen who polish our floors each morning at six a.m. and about the scullery maids polishing our silver. It's about the footmen who serve us and our guests at table, all in quiet anonymity. It's about my sommelier who calmly indulges my obsession with French Champagnes and obscure vintages. And it's about my Master of the House who I consult with so closely I could almost call him my friend, if only it weren't inappropriate, and if I could remember his name.

And so Boxing Day is for them. I let them (outside of the essential barebones staff) all have the day off. And I box up gifts for them; usually leftovers from our Christmas Feast and a crisp five or ten dollar bill.

I encourage you and yours to do the same. As we bring back some of the most elegant traditions of the past, let us not stint.

Let's bring them all back.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019


Dear Staff,

As the supply person for the library I have endeavored to find a solution to our smelly backroom bathrooms. Finally, after a series of uneven attempts, I landed upon automatic scented sprayers, leaning in to the lavender and vanilla side of the odor spectrum. Then I got some cheap shelving so that these dispensers would be perfectly placed to spray to their hearts content. There was an adjustment period where staff members were sprayed in the face and where every time I checked on our automated sprayers it looked like people had strangled and shaken them to get them to work. Some tasteful, explanatory signs seemed to alleviate these problems quickly though.

And so the automated sprayers quietly settled in to our library bathroom experience.

Then one day I went in to the bathroom and found that someone had put cute cartoon eyes onto the top of our sprayers, giving them a surprised look. This was pretty charming I guess.

Much later the sprayers got little gold bow ties. I asked around who was doing this but no one knew, or would admit it.

More clothing showed up.

Shoes. Polka dots. Bangles. Disco lights were added in. Fog effects. The sprayers were dressed in velvet jackets. They got back stories and glamorous pedestals. Little librarian diorama scenes were added. Speech bubbles showed up, and later there were sound effects. Seasonal additions were included. Fangs appeared at Halloween. Pumpkins. A pet turkey for each sprayer appeared at Thanksgiving. And now as I write each sprayer character has a Christmas Tree, miniature of course, but with real twinkling lights and tiny wrapped gifts under the wee branches.

So I just want to say to whoever it is that's messing with this anti deodorant sprayers, whether there be one of you or a whole group:

Thank god for you. You are a gift to our community.

 With regards,

-The Supplies Department

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

New decade

File this one under "Numbers".

I'm here to talk about the new decade. Or, specifically, how one can, excitingly, use the new imminently arriving decade to make things seem much longer, bigger, and older than they really are. For instance I am inclined to sometimes see it as pretty impressive that I have worked at my library for 25 years now. 25 years? Ha, screw that! As of this coming January second, I will have worked four decades at this library! That's a lot of experience. And as to my being 55 years old. Forget it. I am seven decades old now, or I will be very soon. Sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties, aughts, teens, and twenties.

Although I confess all that prodigious age is making me a bit queasy. Nevertheless let's try and just roll on blithely through as we enter into this being a two decade blog. Two decades of blogging. Wow. Although while we're doing that we should keep in mind that this "decade" stuff is pretty small change. Which is easy for me to say, after all:

I have two centuries of writing experience.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Me and Elton John

This is sort of a book review.

Many times when I am over at Elton John's house, and we're arguing about soccer and playing charades with the terrible charades player Bob Dylan, and Lady Gaga says something funny, I want to ask Elton John to tell me about John Lennon and Liberace and Groucho Marx and Elvis and Katherine Hepburn. But then Neil Young suddenly starts playing us a new song so I don't ask. The Royal Family shows up from out of nowhere and one of the Rolling Stones asks me something, usually Keith, well, always Keith because I don't think Mick likes me and Keith tries to make up for it, and Charlie Watts is real quiet, but before I can answer I find myself in the middle of an argument between Richard Gere and someone in The Who. So I extricate myself from that and see if there's any food around the place, but there isn't a single bite to eat!

Then Elton comes into the kitchen with Elvis Costello and Cher and Ringo and some politician I think I'm supposed to know, but can't for the life of me place, maybe because he's English, and we're having a kind of actually nice conversation. It's mellow. And I'm just about to say to Elton "Hey, tell us about Lady Di and Freddie Mercury and Gianni Versace and Oprah and Simon and Garfunkel and Franco Zeffirelli and David Bowie and Andy Warhol and Elizabeth Taylor and Rod Stewart and Billie Jean King and Yoko and Cary Grant and The Queen and The Band and Aretha Franklin." But all of the sudden I get too shy and the moment passes.

But I'd kind of like to know, so I say strongly to myself "Next time I'm going to ask!"

Now I don't have to.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

I am the Internet

I am well acquainted with the famous artists who never look at or listen to their work after they're done making it. 

"I never listen to my albums, and if a song of mine comes on the radio I have to turn it off."

"I don't reread anything I've written after it's published. I just see the mistakes."


"I never want to watch my own movies. I'm only interested in the next thing."

are all representative of the kinds of things I have read and heard notable artists say about their own work. And that's fine for them. But I don't have that luxury. They have millions of people to look at their artwork for them. Millions.

I just have a few.

So, thank you by the way.

But while Cat's Cradle is (fair enough, deservedly) being read somewhere every second of every single day, the vast, vast majority of my own handcrafted 2,500 plus blog posts are floating in the black, anonymous space of the great, sleeping Internet. At any given time it is likely not just that no one is reading any given essay of mine, but that no one is actually reading anything I ever wrote. And while I genuinely count myself fortunate to have had ten or 15 readers of any of my posts, for some of my posts that moment of light might have happened five years ago! Some of even the nicest things I have written have been wallowing in absolute Internet darkness for half a decade now.

And so that is why I regularly, constantly even, go back and reread my old posts.

Or wait, let me put it an entirely different way:

I am on the Internet a lot! I am on it slightly more than I can get away with at work. I check it out regularly at home. I shop on it, watch movies on it, and play games on it. I check the weather on it. It is not accurate but I keep trying. I even work on the Internet! But in all that Internet time I am often dissatisfied. I have a lot of problems with the Internet, a great catalog of problems, many of them exhaustively articulated here, on this blog on the Internet. Sometimes I come to my senses and turn off the Internet. But sometimes I go round and round until I come, in desultory fashion, to my blog.

And I look at my traffic.

And I see that some weird bot in Russia that I don't really understand went to Saturday, October 3, 2015. It's one of those letter to the publisher posts, First Follow Up Letter to Editor. So I go there too. Just like the bot. But unlike the bot, I read it. Maybe the first time anyone has done so in years.

I like it! 

So, as the right sidebar of my blog lists the other blog posts in nearby sequence, I choose one by title, October 6, 2015, My Friend Bob Dylan.

I like it too!

How about October 1, 2015, Dear Jerome Foundation?

I think, "Hey, I should send this letter. I could use $250 in stamps!"

And I realize, this is all I want the Internet to be. I just want it to be this good. And then I read some more of my old posts until I get tired of them and stop thinking they're so great. And then I go to Reddit and watch some cats fall off couches.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Mystery of the pens

Life is full of mysteries, great and small. But none are so vast, so unfathomable, so inscrutable as the mystery of the pens.

Well, actually a few are, but we're going to be discussing the one about the pens either way, so what say we just move it right along?

Every once in awhile I'll get a bunch of fake flowers at the library I work at. There were some very real looking and feeling lilies I once bought. I think they were latex. And a few years ago someone mysteriously abandoned a large grocery bag full of nice red fabric roses. I've been working my way slowly through those and recently just finished using the last eight of them over the weekend.

What do I do with these fake flowers?

I tape them to pens.

As anyone working with the public can tell you, pens disappear. That one fact is fine and obvious; people unconsciously wander away with the pen they use. But from there things start to get weird.

For instance, you might know that people also abandon pens, though not as often. So as our pens bleed out they are partly replaced by stray pens, and crayons, dried markers, and pencil bits. These pens and markmaking detritus are always a little bit worse than our original pens and they don't keep up with our losses. So there is an attritional rate to our pens becoming both steadily worse and fewer. However, bizarrely, certain pens, regardless of quality, never go anywhere. So we might have one or, if we're lucky, two pens that are quite nice that stay at the desk for months while hundreds of nearly identical pens come and go, and all the while all kinds of terrible stray pen and crayon junk fills in the space around them.

As the supply person for my library sometimes all of this is too much for me to take. So to try to change the dynamic I sit down and securely tape flowers to a series of the nice pens we use at the desk. These "nice" pens are gel writing pens, Sharpie fine point clickables, and Sharpie ultra fine point clickables. Each pen costs us a little over a dollar each, what with discounts and purchasing by the box. The flowers are ostentatious and make the pens a little less pleasant to use, but, theoretically, they make walking away with one of them really weird and hard to do as well.

So like I said, I flower up all these pens. Then I take them out to the front desk. I confiscate every single other pen that's out there. Then I stock each station at the front desk. There are two stations, and sort of one auxiliary station. Each station gets:

One Sharpie Clickable Fine Point, with a rose attached
One Sharpie Clickable Ultra Fine Point (Both of these mainly for card signing according to preference), with a rose attached
One Gel Pen (Blue or Black), with a rose attached
Two of our standard issue ballpoint pens, no rose (less than a dime each and so expendable)
One new pencil, sharpened, with fresh eraser, no rose

This is all a bit of a production, but I always feel very satisfied when I've done it. It seems orderly, protective of our supplies, and well balanced.

Then I go away and do whatever it is I do.

After a couple hours, for whatever reason, I invariably return to the desk.

The head of one rose has been ripped violently off its stem, like by a cow who ate it not knowing it was synthetic or that roses aren't really very nutritious. Two of the pens with roses are missing and nowhere to be found. Nearly all of the standard issue ballpoint pens are gone. Two pretty good but not new pencils, with about half erasers, have been added in to our collection. One weird new pen that doesn't work has also been added in. We also have a yellow crayon. And almost everything we do have has been collected at one station making it awash in writing implements. The other stations are close to bare.

This is where I despair. This is where I cry "What's the point?!" This is where I tell the agonizing story of what happened to every co-worker I can find. To a person they shrug and say "Eh. What can you do?" And then they change the subject.

I remember then why I only rarely put flowers on pens. 

Then I have a nervous breakdown and miss several days of work in a row.

I take good care of myself. I get back to seeing the long view of things. I breathe. I have calming warm beverages. And I return quietly to work.

I go to the front desk.

Pretty much all the pens with flowers are where they're supposed to be, all nine, except the one with the rose chewed off still doesn't have a rose. Most of our standard issue pens and pencils are in place as well and looking only slightly worse for wear. Outside of one bonus pencil there is nothing extra at the desk, and the pens are all well distributed across the three stations.  

And that is the mystery of the pens.

Friday, December 20, 2019


It might surprise you to know just how often I shy away from politics on clerkmanifesto. 

All that black blood...

And all that disappointment.

So let's see what I can gently do with this:

It seems safe to say that as you read this the 45th President of The United States of America will have just recently been impeached in The House of Representatives.

There is a lot that I could go into here. There are a lot of dark and angry things to say. There is hope and despair. But we are not here for all of that.

We're here to help.

I know that very few people out there read all that much about politics, and I know that the casual sources for it, which seem like they're supposed to be clarifying, are actually calmly designed to confuse. So even though everyone likes to pretend they know what this Impeachment thing is all about, the unadulterated basics are too often skipped over. So here, simply and without judgement or rancor is what happened:

Donald Trump's parents were killed by a rhinoceros. He was sent to live in a white house with his Aunts McConnell and Pence. He was sad. But then a huge peach grew on a tree in the yard. The peach grew bigger than the whole house! The President isn't allowed to visit the peach but one night he goes out to look at it and there's a hole in it. It's a tunnel! He crawls inside and finds that it leads all the way to room in a hollow pit.

That's where we are now.

He's impeached.

What's happening in that peach in anyone's guess at this point.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Another vision of god

I don't believe in god. But when I do, I know that he keeps everything in Ball Jars. All his little worlds are on great racks of simple wooden slat shelves. They all sit in clear glass jars. There I am in one, typing this on my computer. My wife, who I adore, is to my right on her computer. It's a cozy jar.

I look out the curved glass of the jar and there is god's giant knee, and there are his sandals far below on the bare wooden floor. His toenails are getting long. In the sky his arm moves in its white robe. And I catch a glimpse of him far above, sleeping. Sleeping.

"What is it with god sleeping all the time?" You want to ask.

Trust me. It's better this way.

Although, I grant, your jar may vary.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Future tech

Ten years from now a little tour of our big automated self check in machine is under way at my library. Being something of an aficionado of the machine I am asked to wade in. And so I began explaining:

"As the conveyer belts carry the returned library materials they scan them here for their constituent materials. When the items run under this section microbots dissolve the threads and binders in the book or case. When the returned library item comes to this heavy looking set of rollers the object is sucked in and broken down into assorted raw parts. It is, so to speak digested, with the book or dvd completely destroyed, but with all but a few trace elements prepared for reuse later.

Later comes when a patron requests or selects a book at one of our terminals or online. Then this same machine, at this construction module here, 3D assembles the book using a unique combination of 3D Printing tech and conventional high speed laser printing. The new book or AV material is then propelled down the line, spray labeled, and sorted into one of these bins here according to patron last name."

There are no questions. 

Yeah, they've seen it all before.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Dear Publisher, a complicated assessment

Dear Publisher:

Please consider my manuscript for publication. To be honest this long collection of short essays is not notably great, and I am a good but certainly not amazing writer. Nevertheless I have been asked by myself to send them for your consideration because I think they are works of breathtaking genius!

No, I'm not crazy.

I don't have a split personality, I mean, not in particular.

I'm just a regular person. 

Isn't everyone like this?

Yours (twice, possibly even three times),

F. Calypso

Monday, December 16, 2019

Occam's Razor for the holidays

In the middle of a bright, short Winter afternoon at the library today some mysterious purple, red, and green lights appeared, shining on parts of the library staircase. Being who I am I called it to the attention of several people; co-workers, random patrons, whoever was around the desk at the time. It was not apparent what could be causing these strange glows. And there was a fair bit of speculation. The most popular theory seemed to have something to do with our clerestory windows and refracted light. I couldn't go along with it, and I felt in this day and age where rational science is too easily shunted aside, it's important to let people know. I'm more of a scientific, Occam's Razor kind of person.

So I thought it was poltergeist, celebrating Christmas.

But I think all the crazy explanations are fun too.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

End of an era

Working as long as I have at a library I have found different eras can be marked in many different ways. Some are marked by staff members who make an outsize impression, usually via cruelty but occasionally because of their sheer eccentricity. Others can be measured by particularly troubled library patrons and tend to be more fun to remember than to live through. We can also record certain distinct eras according to obvious standards like "old building", "transitional location", and "new building". We even mark eras by defining technologies: The Rudimentary Computer Era, The Rise of Self Check Out Era, and The Dawn of RFID. 

But I like best the quiet, steadily paced, and less emotional eras marked by the library's reigning bestseller.

The reigning bestseller is a unique kind of book defined by a longstanding, unpredicted, and curiously rising popularity. It is not the 7th book in The Harry Potter Series, where we had 80 copies in our system at release day. But it was absolutely the first book in the series, Sorcerer's Stone, of which we bought six copies when it came out, added another five later, then ten, and ten, and so on, repeatedly, assuming the demand would relent. It sort of did after a half dozen years, but not really.

Which brings me to today, and to the end of an era. 

The Gentleman from Moscow Era is now officially over. The first copy to be checked in and not be on hold for someone has come through our giant check in machine. The Gentleman from Moscow's run was just over three years. It was a beautiful and graceful run. And while The Gentleman from Moscow was oddly not a book I would describe as beloved, it was the most universally liked book I have ever seen in our library system. While it could of course still happen, I have discussed this book with dozens, possibly hundreds of people and have never heard a single word towards it that lacked warmth. Surely there are 50 different people over the years who have had the opportunity to respond to my saying that I have not yet met anyone who didn't like it with a negative anecdote or their own response that the book wasn't quite for them. But it never happened. And it's not like I don't receive vitriolic book critiques in my job. In fact general praise for something at my library sometimes feels like waving a red flag in front of a bull. But not this time.

So farewell to The Gentleman from Moscow Era. I am sad to see it go. It is not so often that an era is defined by an actually delightful book like The Gentleman from Moscow. I have seen eras come and go for truly unpleasant books such as Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, and The Celestine Prophecy. Indifferent cultural detritus like The Bridges of Madison County and The Da Vinci Code have had their perhaps undeserved time in the sun. So when something I really enjoy, like The Hunger Games, or The Gentleman from Moscow comes along to become the monarch of our collection I like to really enjoy the era as it happens.

And to mark the bittersweet day as it passes.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Paleo of self-improvement

I have been trying to be less aggrieved in life. But it's so hard! Why is it always me who has to deal with these unreasonable difficulties!

So I decided I needed an incentive. What if I found some other personal fault of mine, I don't know, like vanity or something, and allowed myself to indulge that vice as much as possible. It could be kind of like the Keto Diet of self-improvement. Instead of cutting out sugar and bread but getting to eat all the meat I want, I'd be cutting out my wounded sense of being unfairly persecuted but getting to be as much of an egomaniac as I can possibly want.

I'm happier already. It's the best idea anyone has ever had.

Friday, December 13, 2019

On the supremacy of libraries

I had a longish talk the other night with one of our (High School) student workers here at the library. I can go years without getting to know student workers, but the point at which we become friendly invariably marks their imminent departure. I have mused on this curious scenario in the past, but my current feeling is that the point at which they're developmentally ready to engage with me is also the point at which they are mature enough to realize they are destined for greater things.

"Greater things than the library?" You ask.

Well you know youth, so unrealistic.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Raining diamonds

I went outside for my walk this morning and it was very cold. But I am aware that "very cold" is going to mean vastly different things to the various constituents of my readership scattered across the globe. In Ojai and New Orleans it might mean it's a good time to bring in for the night the tropical fruits being grown in pots in the front yard. In Thailand it suggests throwing on a t-shirt. In Vladivostok it means that everything outside is now completely dead, but since all my readers in Vladivostok are trolling Internet bots, they are little affected by such considerations as this.

However here, here in Minnesota, it means that my eyes water in the fierce, sub zero wind. Tears roll down my cheeks until they freeze solid. Then they fall off and bounce lightly into the hard-packed snow.

But don't worry. It's still Fall. We'll get ourselves some real cold in the next few months to come.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Where the books are

Working, as I do, when I'm feeling up to it, at a library, my attention is frequently grabbed by the surprise of these books lying all over the place. I suppose books in a library shouldn't exactly surprise me, but they do. Books never really seem like they have anything to do with the real world, which perhaps is why I find them so appealing. Fundamentally they hardly even exist in this plane, being something more like doors into their own private and very idiosyncratic realities. I mean, they're things, books, and their covers are physically suggestive, but the only real way to get anything useful out of them is to sit staring quietly at them for hours and hours. And a lot of the time even that doesn't work.

So I was marveling at a whole cart of these books when a rather clever title caught my eye: Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come by Jessica Pan. This might be a great book. I don't know. I haven't read it, though I might take a look at it later. I just investigated enough of it to find out that it's a humorous memoir about an introvert who is feeling pretty sad and so decides to try living as a gregarious extrovert for a year. This places it squarely in two successful current mini genres. One of these genres is Introvert Books, kicked into genredom by the mega bestseller Quiet, the Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. The other genre is The Sort of but not Necessarily Silly Artificial Personal Quest Memoir. This one is probably best represented by The Year of Living Biblically. One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.

As I said I haven't read  Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come by Jessica Pan, and I don't have anything against it other than the flash of irritated jealousy I have towards anyone whose humorous personal insights, written into essay form, have been collected into a genuine book, that actual people appear to buy and read. And I suppose I'm a bit cautious at the start about its suggested rejection of introversion. But I'm willing to take my spear of envy and my wariness with the grains of salt they deserve. Nevertheless I wanted to say that right in the moment of my jealous disdain I had an idea for a book of my own that I thought I'd like to write:

Extrovert! The Journey of a Pretend Extrovert Who Gives it All Up for a Year to Stay at Home Eating a Variety of Barbecue Flavored Potato Chips


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Numbers for number's sake

A couple weeks ago I hit a small milestone; 2,500 blog posts. That may not seem like such a notable amount to you, but to me... well, it didn't seem that notable either. So I didn't mention it. 

Then, today, I was upstairs at my library shelving and I wondered what I would write about.

"What will you write about today?" I asked myself.

Out of nowhere I thought:

I have now answered that question 2,500 times. 

Do you know how much 2,500 is? 

It is a quarter of a myriad.

What does one do with a quarter of a myriad?

I like to put them in little stacks and admire them.

As soon as I have another few quarters of myriads that's just what I'm going to do.

Monday, December 9, 2019

One more time

For a variety of reasons, mostly a mix of illness, vacation, and paid holidays,  I have had a fair bit of time off from work over the last several weeks. During this time my wife and I spent a lot of that time on our couch pursuing our study of Romantic Comedies. We explored every possible one, for instance, that was available on Netflix. Those that were good enough we watched again. And those that were improved by a second viewing got watched a third time, which is just the point where one can see just how good the really good ones really are, which generally is good enough to watch two dozen times over the years if we pace ourselves properly.

One of the big themes I have come away with in this feverish spate of movie watching was:

"Life is to be lived."

I am pretty sure that exact line was spoken with considerable feeling in the fairly magnificent teen ensemble romantic comedy Let It Snow, but I'm not 100% sure having seen it only three or four times so far.

But I came across this sentiment, or viewpoints much like it, in many of the movies we watched. And though I may sound a bit ironic to you, or even, god forbid, sarcastic, that's probably just my history working against my simple, misty eyed, hopeful feelings here. Life is to be lived. This is a fantastic idea!

Nevertheless, now that I am back at work, six out of seven days of the next week, I am finding it something of a challenge to rise to this immaculate advice. While shelving, registering library cards, and not having my book recommendations taken with the proper gravity, all the movies' excellent wisdom grows dim. Appreciating the day becomes sometimes a struggle. Sometimes I forget a little what I've so recently learned.

But deep down I know that hope is not lost. In my heart I know that if I can just go home and cozy up on the couch with my wife again, if I can one more time watch a few of these charming movies, all will be well. 

I'll really get it this time. I promise.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Ok Computer addendum

In my latest submission to my list of the 100 greatest albums of all time, with each individually being the actual single greatest album of all time, I talked about the mesmerism of hearing a song from Radiohead's Ok Computer playing over the sound system in the food co-op I was shopping in. Telling the story of setting aside all my worldly goods as I was physically and spiritually pulled to a spot in the produce section directly under the speaker, where I stared up hypnotized at it, like under a dark star that could only grant dubious wishes, I generally spoke the truth as I could. But I forgot one thing, one thought that I had.

Standing under the speaker I thought "That's not right to play this song in public" Like it was actually unseemly to play something so beautiful, in public, where people would hear it.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

He's back!

There are always a few famous people at my library in any given time frame. These aren't simply the library patrons that visit nearly everyday, though they too can have a small measure of notoriety, but rather they are the ones who also interact heavily with the front desks or bring so many disruptive issues to the public space that they can't go unnoticed. One of these people, Bag Man, was a mainstay of this "famous" class for several years. He was a full time patron, meaning he generally managed to be in the library for all of our sixty some open hours a week. He ate noisily, had some problematic hygiene issues, and carried with him six plastic bags of possessions that, from a cursory look at them, appeared to be perilously close to simply being garbage. We saw him every day for years.

And then he was gone. 

He stopped coming to the library.

Of course we discussed it, as a staff, because we discuss everything, but in the end there's not much to say about someone whose only new feature is, and continues to be, not being there. So we talked about him less and less. And when one gets to where the only thing to say about someone is "remember so and so" one is inclined to say it less and less often. And though I can't quite say he was forgotten, after all, I can still remember the phone lady, circa 1998, who used to have loud phone conversations with her imaginary boyfriend, he did start to rather fade away in all our minds.

But then last Wednesday he came back.

It was electric. I didn't even see him, but at least six different people told me about it within 45 minutes. Everyone was so excited. "Bagman is back!" Was the joyous cry that ran through the library. Everyone seemed so happy about it. 

I kind of was too. Then I remembered.

"Hey," I asked. "Wasn't he a total asshole though?"

"Oh yeah." My co-workers said, subdued. "I guess he was."

He was recalcitrant, noisy, demanding, churlish, and took up a lot of space, usually taking over a study room or a suite of four chairs. He also demanded a breathtaking amount of hand sanitizer.

On my way to shelve I went to look for him anywhere in his usual haunts in the greater fiction section. I just wanted to see with my own eyes. Did he have shoes? Was he making loud noises that he refused to stop making? I don't know. He was already gone. 

I heard a report that he waved at one of us staff members. This was something he never would have done in the past, and the real piece of good news in the whole thing. Maybe he got his life together. Maybe he stopped being an asshole. There's always hope.

We may never know. But perhaps that would be for the best. I think it's time for the library and him to move on with our lives. 

It always was.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Ok Computer

If I had to list one unifying theme so far in my series of the 100 greatest albums of all time (with each individually being the greatest album of all time), it would be "painful beauty". You know, kind of like Rilke says: What is beauty but the beginning of a terror we can just barely endure.

But today, with the Radiohead album Ok Computer, the greatest album of all time, we depart from our accidental theme built up out of our past choices. It is not painful beauty that defines Ok Computer, rather it is an exquisitely painful beauty.

So really, really different.

I have a very rough, unwritten sketch of what all my 100 greatest albums will be when it's all done. The rest is just a matter of how and when I write about each one. Here's the true story of how Ok Computer found its time today:

I was shopping for food with my wife at one of our preferred local co-ops, Eastside. They were playing particularly good music quietly over their sound system. This is something that happens a lot in co-ops, which makes sense. As I half listened I was picking out just how many organic clementines I wanted to invest in, and wondering at the cheapness of the Brazil nuts, when I noticed the music change.

It was coming from the sky. 

No, it was coming from a dark heaven. I set down my black and shining coffee beans. I physically had to move closer to the music. Searching, pulled, I wandered, slowly hypnotized, to the produce section. I ended up behind some pears. I was at the loudest spot. Rooted to an earth of which I had no awareness of in the moment, I looked up into the pale plastic speaker six feet above me. And the sound fell. And fell. And fell. 

It really is the greatest album ever made.

In writing these I like to provide a link to a song or two if I can find one somewhere on the Internet, and in doing so here I thought what could be more perfect than to link that very ethereal song that came drifting down on me like a mystifying fog in the store. 

I wasn't sure what song it was so I listened to all the twelve songs on Ok Computer to see what song it actually was.

It was all of them.

No Surprises.

Thursday, December 5, 2019



IAA, that is, it's an acronym. If you don't follow any sports you may, by the grace of god and your beautiful innocence, have managed to evade it. You haven't missed much. It means Greatest Of All Time. It's very popular in the chatter surrounding a lot of sports these days. But it's dangerously hyperbolic. 

And kind of silly.

I mean, you don't hear me going on about Caravaggio by constantly calling him "the goat" and putting little goat emojis next to his name every time I mention him. How can one possibly judge a talent against all of time and all of history? One can't. There are always too many variables; limitations of the era, personal tastes, cultural context. That's why when I get really excited while talking about Caravaggio and his painting I keep it more dignified and personal. I merely say: He's objectively the best painter ever, which is a

Wait. We're getting sidetracked.

I wanted to talk about Lionel Messi. Very recently he won his sixth Ballon d'Or. This means "Golden Ball". It's an award for the best soccer player of the year. No one has ever won six of these before. So it has thrown a great deal of fuel on the already burning fire about how Messi is the greatest of all time.

He is very good. Quite good really.

And I do have a bit of a soft spot for him, watching him, as I do, in every single game he ever plays in for years now.

But is he better than Pele? Is he better than Maradona? Or even Ronaldo? Ronaldo? And Ronaldinho? Or the man he nipped to the Ballon d'Or post this year: Virgil Van Dijk? 

I mean, it's just sports. It's not like people have collected any statistics about them. It's not like anyone of note has expressed an opinion on it. 

It's not like we have any footage of these people in action.

So I guess we'll never know.