Sunday, May 31, 2020

The virus

"Language is a virus"

-Laurie Anderson

Doesn't this one look like it's going to be a deep essay? 

Anything could happen, but probably not that.

When I started to wear a mask the first thing that amazed me was how hard it was to breathe in it. After all, there I was wearing a mask to try and stop the spread of a horrible communicable disease that (mostly) kills by making it hard to breathe. What irony. What a terrifying way to die. What an insidious virus. So more and more I put on a mask and

It took my breath away.

I'm not here to talk about the efficaciousness of masks.

Oh, sorry, I said "I'm not here to talk about the efficaciousness of masks."

Wait, come closer. "I'm not here to talk about the efficaciousness of masks!"

Wait, let me slip off this mask so you can hear me. ""I'm not here to talk about the efficaciousness of masks."

Great. And now we both have the virus.

But not that virus, fortunately, so wear your mask!

"What virus then?" You ask.


What, do you think language doesn't spread and kill?

Exactly. All viruses are killers given suitable conditions. Watch:

"One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear."

-The President, two days before the first of more than a hundred thousand American deaths (at press time).

But it's true. One day language will disappear. And he may have been actually referring to language. 

I mean, he doesn't seem to like it.

It's a virus.

And every virus is a killer.

Actually, I know of one, and only one virus in all the great wide world that does not kill.


Alas that it is a reluctant spreader.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Four birds

"Flowers, flowers, flowers, flowers!" One of my imaginary readers cries out. "I am fine with all the flower pictures, I guess." Allows this imaginary reader. "But what about the woodland creatures. I want to see more woodland creatures!"

Well, I am...


Absolutely. Coming right up.

I try to be very responsive to my imaginary readers.

I try to be responsive to my non imaginary readers as well, but I find you to be less demanding, never yelling "Woodland creatures!" into the middle of a blog post, for instance.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

You can be however you like. All of you, real or imagined.

Either way today I am going to show you woodland creatures.

Specifically birds.

Four birds.

Here is the first one.

You may be thinking "Yesterday we got a very scholarly, detailed lesson on the parts of a dandelion flower. What kind of bird is this?"

I dunno.

Here's another bird.

I know this one! It's a duck!

He's really colorful!

I apologize if I'm getting too technical.

See if you can guess what this one is.

Yes, it's a pigeon. They are more common in Venice than here, but we get a couple every once in awhile. This one seems very nice. A very nice pigeon.

And lastly we have our local go to bird for photography.

The common and ever present robin.

That doesn't mean they shouldn't be appreciated!

This robin was very friendly and I appreciated him quite a bit.

And I appreciate you too. Thank you for your request. 

Don't be afraid to keep 'em coming.

Friday, May 29, 2020


As I write the morning after, I can still see smoke on the horizon as part of the city smolders. Riots broke out yesterday in Minneapolis complete with shootings, looting, fires, and small explosions. The local Target was gutted and dozens of businesses along Lake Street were vandalized, some burned to the ground. All this, as you likely know, since it appears to be International news, was precipitated by the cold blooded murder of a black man by a police department that as yet remains unaccountable.

I would like to propose a simple solution.

Hold the chain of command responsible. 

We have organizational structures in which the higher one is in management the greater the rewards are, but the responsibility and risks of that position are not commensurate with those vast perks. A worker in a big enough system, good or terrible, is always expendable, but a CEO of the same will be made rich no matter what damage they do. And so likewise it is a start on justice to send those cops to jail, which as I write has not happened, but the Sargent, or Captains who sent them out on the street have also failed their community, job, and position in their egregious misjudgment and management in sending and enabling those police onto the street in the first place.  The culture of policing will not change until the beneficiaries and managers of cop culture also pay a price when it inevitably is exposed. It's a good time for firings, imprisonments, and demotions all along the line of people in charge of those cops.

Of course, it's not really simple at all. Clearly we need an autonomous police and justice system just for the police.

But who will police them? 

I'd be willing to volunteer help at around the fifth tier down. The only people I distrust as much as the police are the people who police the people who police the people who police the people who police the police.

It might have needed one more but I decided to spare you.

Now I write late at night on Thursday, unable to sleep with loud cars occasionally racing by occasionally full of people yelling. I guess that's what one does if one is driving to a riot. It's hard to see the glow of fires as the local businesses and police station burns, but I can see fireworks which somehow adds a bizarre twist of celebration to the apocalyptic night.

Meanwhile more people died of the Coronavirus today in Minnesota than ever have in a single day.

We've had piercingly clear skies in the weeks the city shut down. Now the half moon is tinged with a smokey orange.

Fire and explosions and I'll try to go to sleep one more time...

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The humble dandelion

I give you the humble dandelion.

This is the seed head, the most famous part. Go ahead and make a wish...


Today it was windy. When it is windy it is very hard to take super macro pictures of exotic front yard flowers like lilacs and tulips and bleeding hearts. They move around a lot in that wind. And in the best of circumstances using a long, intensely macro lens requires an unbelievably steady hand. A hand usually, but not always, steadier than my own. But in the wind, with the flowers dancing to their own music, one can generally just... forget about it.

Or at least one can try, even if I'm not inclined to.

But down in the lawns and wild scrub are dandelions. They are low and noxious and scrappy and really interesting. They don't move around much. And here is the thing I have learned:

When you're close enough, everything is beautiful.

Did you know you can eat the leaves of dandelions, and they're sort of good if you can work with the powerful bitterness of them. One can also make a tea from the root if one wants, though having done it I don't exactly know why one would want to.

Also you don't have to look far for a dandelion. They are readily available.

So I found one.

One more thing. You don't have to explain to anyone what a dandelion is.

I took a picture of the famous seedball above because it turns out it's sort of a standard, maybe even a weird kind of rite of passage, for a close up photographer. And the leaf was for your background information.

But as always, I'm all about the flower.

Recognize it?

It rarely shows up in bouquets, but the odds are that you have ripped your share out of the earth and thrown it away like so much garbage.

I'm not faulting you. I certainly have done the same.

But it's a pretty little flower.

I was surprised it was not just the fancy array of petals I knew about, but it's full of little stalks.

At the risk of being educational the stalks are anthers, styles, and bilobed stigmas. So the lower part of the stalk is an anther, the upper part is a style (don't worry, I cant tell where the anther leaves off and the style begins either), and the other sort of two-leaf sprouting things are called bilobed stigmas. 

But here's the fun part: It's not one flower. It's a flower cluster!

This, above, is the flower. Each petal, or ligule, along with its curlicue sprout thing (anther, style, and bilobed stigma) is a ray floret, which is, as I understand it, its own little flower. It's dozens of flowers!

I can go one more bit closer, almost towards the microscopic, but it won't tell us much more.

To be honest I have no idea why this one bilobed stigma is so wonderfully curled. But I'm sure it knows what it's doing. These flowers seem pretty successful out in the world.

On this one the backdrop, a petal in front of more blurred petals, looks like the surface of a Sun, or some strange planet.

Most of the pictures here were of flower that was on a lawn where every attempt had been made to weed it out, but one of the close ups here was from another dandelion growing in the wild woods of the Mississippi River gorge. The last of these above was taken under laboratory conditions.

I think Coldplay would like them.

They're all yellow.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

It's flowers all the way down

This is one of those extra posts, so I don't have a lot to say except:

I like how when I look closely at all these flowers it's sometimes like they're made of more flowers.

And then two of this following tree blossom to give the full sense of it:

These look like they're just about to bloom:

A dense field of flower buds at the heart of a flower.

And this is already a tiny blossom, here with its little yellow tulips in the middle.

I ask you if things look a bit off...

Today I had a cart full of fiction to shelve. This doesn't happen so often for me these closed pandemic library days. In the elevator I noticed a book near the start of my top shelf by an author named Rilla Askew.

I got very excited!

I tilted the book to an odd, 45 degree angle so it stood awkwardly out in its row, but with its spine clearly reading:


(Heartsong being the name of the book). 

Then I looked for someone to share it with.

Two librarians were deep in conversation at the front desk, so no go there. However, there was a librarian in the phone room. I wheeled my loaded cart towards him, and...

The phone rang!


But I heard the murmur of distant voices. Two people were shelving out towards the end of Science Fiction. I headed over enthusiastically, but they were talking animatedly, and it was about work!


So I gave it up.

I just wanted, all I wanted, was to point to my book, with my finger casually at that author's last name on the spine, and say:

"Look. It's Askew."

An awful lot of times when I'm at work I have no friends here but you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Zoom for solitary people

As I (slowly) get (slightly) better at taking pictures I find myself getting a little bit wistful about certain of my past photo essays. It's not exactly that I want a do over, but rather sometimes I'd just be happy with doing it again, only a little better.

I can do that!

My first case in point here is from a photo essay of a week or so ago. It was about being entranced by a bit of future tech in the original Blade Runner movie where the photographs are so high resolution that our main character could zoom way in to domestic scene to reveal a naked to the eye detail that reveals valuable information; to wit, a clue.

Now, living in the future largely anticipated in the 80's movie, I was able to do this with my pictures of flowers, although I'm not sure what the clues I revealed are. I think they're there, I just haven't worked them out yet.

In the following pictures I'm kind of fudging this future tech, not zooming in on the resolution so much, which to some extent I can do, but rather getting increasingly close to my subject matter. So I guess in that sense my concept has morphed. 

What I am really doing is taking you on a brief trip into a flower.

You'd like to visit a flower, wouldn't you? Who wouldn't like to visit a flower?

So now let me introduce you to our tulip:

 The front door is open, so we will approach respectfully

A little closer

And now, at the front door, peering in, we knock.


And we step inside.It is golden in here.

There are these little trees and strange forms

We walk up to one to get a better look. Shall we go a bit closer?

Then we lean in to try get a sense for this looming tree at the heart of the flower

It is getting hard to know what we see at this point. Have we reached the limit of the flower? No, rather of the photographer, alas. But either way...

Our visit is over.

Thanks for coming with me.

Maybe in a week we'll be able to come back and do it better.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Remembering pandemic rules

While the world, and my country in particular, seems pretty keen to forget that people are dropping dead like flies in an ongoing pandemic, I am aware that my blog is still operating under pandemic rules. I am, it turns out though, as vulnerable to the sins and virtues of normalization as the next person, assuming the next person is carefully chosen to be right about my level when it comes to normalization. But what I'm really saying is that despite these so called pandemic rules of mine suggesting a looser approach to my blog, where I might plop any inconsequential extra post at any time of the day, I find I have, with the exception of a lot of added photography in the standard posts, drifted back to my extremely regular methods and one post a day at 8:30 a.m. Central Time.

But then I remembered: What about pictures? What about pictures just because I took them? What about pictures thrown up here at 10:58 just because?


Mind meld

I might have been a little bleary and half asleep.

Wait, let's go back a step.

Have you ever seen Star Trek? It's a science fiction TV show about, oh, sorry, right. You said yes.

Excellent. So much easier.

Well there's this thing that Spock does. Spock is a character on Star Trek who...

Right, right, great. You know Spock. Excellent.

So he does this thing called the Vulcan Mind Meld. It's, like, a Vulcan telepathic cultural sort of thing. He puts his hand with a deliberate, unusual spreading of the fingers on someone's face and they form a telepathic link.

In the middle of the night last night I strangely woke up with my hand on my face very much in the formation of one doing a Vulcan Mind Meld. If felt oddly comfortable, though it was also most curious. I left my hand as it was and I thought "This is just like Spock's hand doing a Vulcan Mind Meld!"

And then I thought excitedly "I can tell what I'm thinking!"

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Anuj and me

Today for you I provide yet another episode from the correspondence of myself, library blogger, and Anuj, founder of Feedspot, who controls a list of top 50 library blogs on the Internet, where I currently reside at number 31, but I have ambitions.

As we check in I am responding to Anuj's latest letter suggesting that I might mention, if I would, the Feedspot list of Top 50 Library Blogs on the Internet.


How lovely to hear from you.

You, my friend, are a go getter!

I respect that.

I do try to mention feedspot and your top library blogs list on my blog as often as possible, usually in my posts about our personal friendship. But it's all a bit awkward due to the fact that I am still only number 31 on the list of top library blogs. I don't want my many, many readers (easily more than 12 on most days!) to see the feedspot list and think I am a less important library blogger than I am. If I were higher on the list I would probably mention the list a lot more. I wish I had a good friend who could move me up on that list, but I hate to presume...

Of course, I wouldn't say all this if my rightful place wasn't number one on the list. I would rather drop (wrongly) to 37 on the list than for you to do anything unethical!

Also, how do I change the description of my blog on feedspot. It's all... weird. Have you read it?

Anyway, it was thrilling to hear from you. Keep up the good work.

Your friend,


Hi Feldenstein,

Please share across the changes needed in description. We will get it updated.

Feedspot editorial team extensively searched on Google and social media websites to find the best Library blogs and ranked them based on several factors such as.

1. Blog content quality

2. Post consistency

3. Age of the blog

4. Average number of shares on social sites for your blog posts

5. Traffic of your blog and more..

And if you keep posting quality content regularly and get more shares on social sites, your rank will improve with time for sure.

If you can briefly mention about the Top 50 Library blogs list in your upcoming blog post or article, we'd greatly appreciate it.

Please let me know if you can do the needful.


Hi Anuj,

I am always so delighted to hear from you!

I totally mention the list of best library blogs, like, all the time! Usually I just put our correspondence on my blog, because I'm proud of our friendship and I feel it says it all best.

Yes, you've clipped in that explanation about how my blog can get to number one on the list before. I can only briefly touch on my earlier response, which was basically to say that either your algorithm or someone on your team is making a terrible mistake since my blog is easily number one when it comes to both points one and two, ranks highly for point three, and though low in ranking on points four and five, those are not important and could be fixed anyway if only you would trust your heart by moving me to the top of the list.

But you must follow your own star, Anuj my friend.

At your request I have included several possible descriptions for my blog. Feel free to use whichever one you like best.

1. Clerkmanifesto is the library blog you have been looking for, and it will soon be number one on the Feedspot list as soon as a few procedural details are worked out.

2. A daily library blog by someone who believes the glass is half full even though it's really empty.

3. The cream rises to the top, and dead things float.

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

5. "My personal favorite blog of any kind, library or other, and possibly the single finest thing on the Internet." Anuj Agarwal, Founder, Feedspot  (but only if you mean it).

Thanks for taking care of this! Any choice is okay with me. I am personally fond of "Four" and am thinking of putting it on my masthead for awhile. Of course I prefer "Five".  One can dream...

As ever, I hope you are well in this challenging time,

Feldenstein (your friend)