Thursday, December 31, 2020

The year in quotes

Though I am having some trouble finding any evidence of it, I am under the impression that I memorialize each year here with a selection of quotes from out of the past 364 of my daily blogposts. This serves as a rough way of looking back on this ending year as we wandered through it on clerkmanifesto.

For some of these quotes you will have to infer a bit of the context. Some of the quotes stand freely on their own. And some quotes I'm still trying to work out and so hardly can expect you to do any better with. But whichever of these apply, I present these quotes as is and without explanation.

And so without further ado:

The Year in Quotes, 2020

For every moment we dwell on the flaws of other, we will equally burn with our own.

When one wants to treat everything like a nail, one surrounds oneself with a lot of hammers.

I have my moments. And then I have a lot of other moments.

Time is just whatever happens in between washing our hands.

Every day we know generally speaking what will happen tomorrow. We are accurate enough 99 times out of a hundred. That is an amazing level of accuracy! But fucking hell that one time...

If we can get one book to one person we don't care how many people have to die!

I like to keep my jokes around here at a "modestly funny" level because I can't figure out the trick of making them "very funny"

Pandemic lockdown t-shirt: If you're reading this, one of us is probably in the wrong place

Sometimes people read Clerkmanifesto and mistakenly think I am very critical because I am very critical. So they give up before they understand that I like everything.

The Internet is a place where all human knowledge and all human ignorance are gathered together unsorted in one convenient location.

People die all the time, but almost never the right ones.

A daily library blog so witty, insightful, daring, wide ranging, and brilliant that you will soon tire of it.

When you're close enough, everything is beautiful.

Actually, I know of one, and only one virus in all the great wide world that does not kill. 
Love. Alas that it is a reluctant spreader.

We should just leave existence alone. It seems to like taking care of itself.

There are almost too many portents!
So if you get a dark portent, hold on. A brand new portent should be coming along just about... now.

I believe we can all learn to accept death, provided it keeps a polite distance.

If something evil is in power its opposite, its opposition, is only in one sense "good".
In another sense the opposite of evil is the incompetence that allows for it.

If the tides go far out, they must come far in.

Just because you crack the code doesn't mean it will do you any good.

One of the great and melancholic surprises of this world is how often nothing can be better than something.

Much like my childhood dog Cashew, promises abhor a vacuum.

Sometimes saying nothing is the most eloquent thing to say. But usually saying something is better. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A striking view of Saint Minneapolis


In my tireless boosterism of the beautiful city of Saint Minneapolis I like to occasionally feature interesting photographs of the city so that people will say:

"Gosh, that Saint Minneapolis city is real interesting!"

I don't generally care one way or the other if these people move here or visit our lovely city. I mainly just want them to say "Saint Minneapolis" because too many people are still calling the city by its old names of "Saint Paul", or "The Twin Cities", or "Bloomington", or whatever crazy expired names people insist on using. This is like people who continue to call Volgograd "Stalingrad" or Alabama "Alabama".

It's unwholesome.

So here are some pictures of a morning just before Christmas Day, in Saint Minneapolis, just after it snowed, when the early sun is lighting the skyline on fire (metaphorically). These pictures are of a Saint Minneapolis neighborhood (borough?) known as "Minneapolis". But what say we don't get caught up in these local neighborhood names. Anyone locally will readily recognize this as:

Saint Minneapolis

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Writing advice to change your life!


It is late at night. As I often do just before bed I was reading whatever of my old blogposts had been accessed on the Internet in the last six hours. I don't trust that actual humans read these old posts of mine, but something somewhere does because there they are in my blog stats, in the "Now" traffic tab.

I read a five year old post called "Advice". 

It concluded with this line:

Don't hand out advice unless you're prepared to have a couple of bites of the horrible stuff yourself.

I liked my quote so I wanted to put a kind of marker for myself to come back to later. I tracked down the post (now in the 'writer' part of my blog tools instead of the 'reader'), and I made my little fix. Then I noticed right before the post "Advice", was this post, "Writing advice to change your life!",  the one you're reading right now. 

It was written more than five years ago.

However this blog post was just a draft. It had never been published. I opened up the essay of "Writing advice to change your life!" and it had no text.

I thought "Well that's disappointing." How will I get any writing advice to change my life now?

So I figured I'd better finish writing this blog post now.

I recently watched a documentary about one of my favorite authors, Ursula K. LeGuin. In an author talk in the documentary she said, unlike the many writing advice books, she doesn't offer a lot of writing rules to share. She said you make your own rules for each thing you write, she said, but then she added emphatically:

You have to follow them.

What do I believe?

It turns out that I believe you shouldn't hand out advice unless you're prepared to have a couple of bites of the horrible stuff yourself.

But I only know this because once I wrote it down somewhere.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Richard Smalls

I yelled at a library patron today. YELLED. I screamed at the top of my lungs.

No, I wasn't mad.

I was helping a regular named Richard Smalls. He doesn't hear so well anymore. That might be an understatement. It would be more accurate to say he only hears anything in extreme situations, like explosive devices being set off within a hundred feet of him or someone yelling short, declarative sentences as loudly as they possibly can, usually three or four times in succession. An added problem to this situation is that Richard Smalls has become so unaccustomed to hearing anything anyone says to him that he has gotten out of the habit of understanding anything when he does hear it, as in: 

"I need your library card."


"I need your library card!"



"One more time?"


"Oh." He said. "You need my library card. I don't understand. What do you mean?"


I didn't explain it to him. I said "Yikes. I dropped my pen!" Then I crouched down behind the service counter where I couldn't be seen, lay on the floor, and took a 15 minute nap. I was exhausted.





Sunday, December 27, 2020

Ice the sequel


Despite having written nearly 3,000 blog posts I have never had an Internet success quite so dramatic as the one I encountered with a blogpost called "Ice". "Ice" was the thrilling tale, well, no, it wasn't thrilling, I don't know why I said "thrilling", it was the tale, well not really a tale exactly, it was more about how I went for a walk and there was some ice and I ended up taking some pictures of it.

You really have to read it for yourself, which you probably already have what with it being so famous and everything. Or, I mean, it will be famous when it's released. Sometimes I write as far as a week or two ahead of time in clerkmanifesto, and so my posts are timed to release on a daily basis in the morning. So the thing is, "Ice" hasn't yet "hit" the Internet. I'm just anticipating it being, like, super big, due to its, er, pictures of ice.

So I figured I better get cracking right away on a sequel.

This is that sequel!

At this point you are probably wondering "How on earth do you get away with writing on the Internet such utterly confusing and largely ridiculous things like this that I am now reading?"

Two things:

1. Have you seen how low the bar is on the Internet? You probably haven't even noticed how low the bar is because you are under the ground the whole time you are on the Internet! That's how low the bar is.

2. I can get away with it because I have such interesting pictures of ice to compensate. Today's post has three more pictures of ice I took this afternoon. Three! Much of these three pictures are entirely different ice than the ice in the pictures in the original "Ice", which is a blogpost that grossed over a hundred million dollars!

But we covered all that.

Here is more ice:

Saturday, December 26, 2020



Dear Editor, 

Perhaps you are wondering why I haven't written for awhile, proposing that you publish some voluminous collection of my many, many essays.

I haven't had the heart.

You, a publisher of literature, of all these wondrous books I have shared my life with, seem so distant and glorious, like as one among a distant pantheon of unreachable gods. Or better you are glorious and untouchable like the very stars in the sky. You are too far and strange and incandescent. What is there for me but to wonder at your cold, mysterious light? Would I petition the stars? And if, mercurially, I chose to do so, would I take their magisterial silence as an encouragement?

No. I will let it be. I am not called. I will not be the voice of anyone but my own peculiar self. You will run your kingdoms as you will.

But nevertheless, sometimes, late at night, pouring over my work, I will wander out onto my balcony and look up.

And marvel. 

Friday, December 25, 2020


I was walking along the creek I love in the heart of Saint Minneapolis. It was a cold, gray mid December day, and the paths down below the river road were barely brushed with snow and gloriously quiet. It was bleak down there, but a kind of bleak loveliness, not one easy to photograph, but one I found myself increasingly enjoying.

But finally, as it must eventually be so deep in the city, the spell of peace was broken by two women coming up the path. I politely cleared off out along a side path so that we could avoid any meeting, but I guessed wrong; the side path was where they were heading. I headed then to the stream instead, just above where it plunges over a 30 foot fall, and they passed to my right.

"Getting some good ice pictures?" One of the women called out cheerily, having seen the large camera around my neck.

I smiled tightly.

Jesus, these people, for god's sake! Ice. Ridiculous.

I waited for the women to disappear into the woods. I savored the retuning silence. Then I looked down at the creek. It was, actually, rimmed and bordered by very interesting ice.

I took a picture or two.

These could be good!

So I took a hundred more.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Biden's Netflix cabinet


At my house we watch a lot of the light comedies and especially romantic comedies on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Some are good, some are bad. But they all take place in the same America (even the ones that don't really take place in America but instead take place in small fictional countries that are still somehow America). It is not the America that you or I know or live in. Oh, it bears a fair enough resemblance to our America. Its cities are our cities, and look the same, at least the nice parts of them. It is full of coffee shops and charming restaurants and nice neighborhoods you or I have walked through. Its people talk like us and have the same celebrities and politicians and sports teams and cars and parks and stores and weather. And it is diverse too, just like our America. There are black people and gay people and Indian people and French people and Korean people and gay black Indian French Korean people.

But it is a different America too. 

Everyone is middle class or very rich in this Netflix America. No one is really poor. And no one is racist or sexist or homophobic. It is like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream came true. The sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners have sat down at the table of brotherhood. They may even be dating! Little black boys and little white girls have joined hands as sisters or brothers. Yes, Netflix comedies are exactly that dream come true. They are that Rainbow America. There is no systemic homophobia, or racism, or sexism, or classism there. And it is not absent in the way people cruelly pretend it is absent in our true America, out of willful manipulation and greed and fear and cruelty, all while it so clearly and catastrophically is present, but rather it is absent in Netflix America because it is actually an America that looks like ours but just doesn't have any of that

So black men fall for white princesses and no one thinks twice about it. No one ever treats a black man differently. Opportunity comes down to the content of character. Transgender, Chinese, it doesn't matter in Netflix America, and not just when everyone is behaving at their very best, like in our America, but because in Netflix America that's how every single person actually is.

And so I have been following the first stirring of what the Biden administration is going to look like. It is a Netflix Rainbow! First woman this, first gay man that, first Latino this, first black woman that.

They are the perfect cabinet for Netflix America.

But in our America, the real one, there are fascists and racists. There are people ranting about Christianity who don't understand a single thing Jesus said. There are bullies who keep getting promoted, and kids going hungry. There is a country burning down and rich people gorging themselves on human lives to fill an emptiness that cannot be filled. 

The Biden cabinet should look just like it does, and I am glad to see it, just as I am glad to see the casting of all these Netflix movies and shows. But this Biden cabinet should be of this America as well, engaged with the fight for our America. It should have poor people and strange people and passionate people. I'm not sure it does. I think these are all Netflix people ready to work on Netflix problems. They got where they are, to positions of power and wealth, in this America, so it must be working, pretty much just as it is. Netflix America and a Netflix cabinet.

Except maybe for that Deb Haaland, proposed first Native American United States Secretary of the Interior. She seems all right. I won't close my heart to hope.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Pet squirrel


We start with a picture:


I recently read an article about how in the 1800's squirrels were a popular pet. But they were also pets before and after that century. Did you know that both Warren Harding and Harry Truman had pet squirrels at the White House, and they were both named Pete! Pete the pet squirrel.

Do you see that picture of a squirrel we started with? I was busy taking pictures of bark during a short, misguided period awhile back where I was thinking of turning clerkmanifesto into a "Bark" Blog. This would be a blog that strictly showed pictures of tree bark. I was sure it would be my avenue to fame and riches, although in retrospect I can't for the life of me see why I thought that. Anyway, I was taking bark pictures and this squirrel showed up. 

Was he curious? 

He, and let's call him "Pete" (why not?), gave me a good, inquisitive, and not unfriendly look. A long, charming look.

So I took Pete's picture. 

It was, I'll admit, more fun than taking pictures of the bark.

I got the picture home and looked at it on the brilliant color and resolution of my computer screen, just as you may be viewing it now, and I thought:

"I could see having a squirrel pet!"

I mean, if my family were to get a pet we would definitely go cat.

But look at this guy! Just look at him!

Squirrel would easily be the second choice.

Although your rodent mileage may vary.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

My player: Riqui Puig


There is a running gag in The Peanuts where Charlie Brown's hero is a terrible professional baseball player named Joe Shlabotnik. And somehow his struggles as a Major Leaguer to hit .003 (he hit an unimportant bloop single with nothing on the line and no one on base once), and his resultant dropping to the Minor Leagues, reflect Charlie Brown's own relentless string of failures.

I have been thinking of this lately.

And then I was talking with a librarian yesterday about Daemons. In Philip Pullman's fantasy novel The Golden Compass, people have Daemons, which are a kind of animal companion that is a physical manifestation of their souls, intensely linked to them, physically and emotionally. Maybe they're a little like a spirit animal, but more direct and publicly tangible. The question came up around the idea that if we had them, what would our own Daemons be?

Some part of me might fancy having a Tiger or Wolf as a Daemon, but I know that that is not me. 

If I had a Daemon I think it would be something more like a crow.

A crow.

Eh, I can work with that.

But the thing that links these ruminations is something about how sometimes the things we identify with can shine a light on us, or even serve to define us.

I started following soccer because I was so taken with the borderline magical skill of Messi. And though I have, a couple times, with tongue in cheek, compared my library work style to how he plays soccer (walking the pitch, taking it all in, seemingly completely uninvolved in the game all around us, when, suddenly, bam, a flurry of game (library) changing brilliance!). And there have been a couple other players over the years I have made personal analogies to as well. 

But these are all tigers and wolves.

Now, finally, I have found my own Joe Shlabotnik.

Playing midfield for Messi's team, Barcelona, is a slight young man named Riqui Puig. 

Say it with me: Rickee Pooch. 

I guess that's how they pronounce names in Catalonia. 

Anyway, he is less than 5'6" tall, this young Riqui Puig (Pooch!). He is but 21 years old. He doesn't weigh much either. He is a clever dribbler and a person who can thread a pass through a field of moving people to meet a trajectory that a doctoral mathematician would need a few hours to work out. He may be tossed around by stronger, bigger men like there is nothing there, only to somehow appear on the other side of them and spirit the ball on a darting run up the field before they even know what happened. He's fun to watch. He always seems to play well and exuberantly, and to be an excellent influence on the game, even going so far as to be the finest player on the pitch at times.

Coaches hate him.

He rarely plays.

When the coaches have pregame and postgame press conferences the press always asks "Why don't you play Riqui Puig?" (It is nice that I'm not the only one who feels as I do about Riqui Puig).

And the coach, (there have been three so far, because besides not playing Riqui Puig, they also keep losing, so they keep getting fired), always answers something like "There are a lot of good players fighting for their position and it all depends on the best player and their attitude and blah blah blah."

But what the coach is always really saying is:

"I would rather die than play Riqui Puig. He looks like he's having fun!"

I've become his fan. I love to watch him not play in a kind of agony of frustration. Or, on special days, when he comes on for the last 20 minutes of the game and is indisputably great, to revel in the unrewarded triumph and to exult over the injustice of it all.

My crow, my own Joe Shlabotnick. My Riqui Puig.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Bark blog


I know that you come here to this blog to read witty, insightful, er, to explore clever, biting analysis of current, no, no, I know! to find thoughtful, humorous reflections on...

Oh dash it! I have no idea why you come here!

But for some reason I think lots more people should come here.

And that is why I am thinking of converting clerkmanifesto to a 100% bark blog.

Instead of coming daily to this blog and seeing stories of my friendship with Bob Dylan, witty takedowns of Republicans, funny library stories, colorful cultural insights, elegiac reflections on the beauty of the world, amusing letters to the editor, off kilter guides to literature, music and art, and occasional direct dictation from God, you would instead come to this blog every day and see pictures of bark.

I know, I know, this could be big!

This could be a huge breakthrough for clerkmanifesto, the one we've been waiting for!

But what do you think?

Would you like to see, instead of an essay like this, a picture of bark everyday?

Right! That makes so much sense! You'd like to see what that would look like.

It would look like this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

So what do you think? Would you prefer a bark blog?

I love writing clerkmanifesto, but contrariwise I am also enormously fond of bark, adulation, and riches.

So it's too big a decision for me. 

I leave it to you. Let the public decide.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Crosby Farm Park

There is no accounting for place. And here in my beloved city of Saint Minneapolis there is one regional park I love above all the others: Crosby Farm Regional Park.

It was a farm in the 1800's. Owned by Crosby.

But enough history already! My god, all the history!!!

Why do I so love this park?

I don't know. 

Remember way back at the start of this post when I said "There is no accounting for place."? This is what I meant.

Crosby Farm Park is a mostly flat wild area along the Mississippi River. It's a bit swampy and there are a couple of wide, shallow lakes in the center of it. There are a variety of paths in the park, from paved ones to those of windy dirt. There are good woods in the park too. To be honest it's pretty typical of the area, especially all the wild areas along the Mississippi River around here and in its local flood plains. I just... like this area a tiny bit better. It seems prettier. There's always a little extra magic for me in it. 

Prepare for a lot of pictures today.

I have already talked briefly about a long bike trip I took down to Crosby Park last week, and I showed some graffiti pictures from that trip, and also a picture of a notable tree in the park. But today I will share the bulk of my photos from that journey, hoping that in the sheer volume of my photography I can convey a little of what feels so special to me about Crosby Park.

I will try to keep my commentary to a minimum, and I'm going to leave my pictures in the order they were taken. As a bonus I have been talking here a fair deal about my new electric bike, so you'll get to see a few pictures of its handsomeness in my photo-journal below:

These four pictures below warrant some comment. There was an area full of these luminescent white posts. I assume it's all part of some kind of reforestation project in the area, but I really don't know. I preferred to think of it as a Christo Installation.

End of Christo exhibit.