Monday, August 31, 2020

The Plague, by Albert Camus

The Plague is a philosophical novel by Albert Camus. Some people call it existentialist, but Camus, who is French, didn't really like that, much in the same way that Charles Schulz didn't like that his cartoon was called Peanuts.

Or maybe not like that at all.

The Plague is about a town where a plague happens. This makes it pretty timely since, well, in your town right now, wherever your town is, a plague is happening! 

Which, as Camus would say, and I paraphrase with inappropriate gusto, totally sucks.

There are some super timely fiction classics out there now:

1984, in which truth is broken in authoritarian takeover. This reflects the current breakdown of truth under a burgeoning authoritarian cult slowly taking America apart.

It Can't Happen Here, a slightly more obscure classic by Sinclair Lewis satirically presaging the above.

The Plague, which is a philosophical novel by Albert Camus. Some people call it existentialist, but Camus, who is French, didn't really like that, much like how Charles Schulz didn't like that his cartoon was called Peanuts.

Oops, sorry.

I already said that.

That's kind of embarrassing for a Camus scholar such as myself.

What's that?

No. No I haven't ever read The Plague by Albert Camus. I mean, I'm thinking I might try.

It just seems so... exhausting.

But I did recently order a T-shirt of it.

Sunday, August 30, 2020


When I go out walking in the swamp behind my library, down into the Mississippi River gorge, or, most often of all, out into the flower beds of my neighbors, I look for pictures. I take pictures of birds and squirrels and rabbits, bees, hostas, and flowers, and if I'm lucky a few of those turn out in a way I am pleased with. So I show them to you here.

But they're not the only lovely things I see. I see rivers and ponds where I go. I see fabulous clouds. And I see trees.

I just find all of those a lot harder to photograph in a good way. But I take the pictures of them anyway. I take them in a kind of hopeless way. I take them as a token of the great warmth I feel for them. And I tuck them away.

Lately I have been digging a little more deeply, bit by bit into the photo editing software I use. Mostly I have done it to extract wilder and wilder colors from my pictures. But I am restless too, and I like to experiment. Recently I pulled out some of the dusty and not so dusty pictures I have of trees, and I managed to get them not all the way, but partway to the terrible affection I sometimes feel for them.

And that's what I'm here to show you today. They're just trees I liked. I honestly never thought they'd be pictures I like too.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Unexplained phenomenon

Surely the Internet would be more intrigued if I had compelling photos suggesting extraterrestrial intelligence is visiting our planet, or perhaps yet more evidence of the deep corruption in our police forces and city government. But, perhaps fortunately, the Internet doesn't spend much time here at clerkmanifesto. And you who are here instead are just as likely to be captivated by smaller mysteries.  Tiny mysteries. A mystery on a bee!

But let's step back just a bit for a moment.

There I was processing my day's photos. There were the usual scant few good ones and the mostly not good ones. 

Here is my favorite from that day:

Also in that series of photos were a bunch of shots of a honey bee. They all turned out pretty blurry. Hoping that maybe one of them could be punched up into a nice enough photo (it couldn't) I noticed something peculiar.

Here, let me show you the picture (warning: lots of unretouched blurry pictures of bees coming up):


So maybe if you look closely at this picture you will think "What is he trying to indicate with the white circle on the bee's right wing?" 

When I noticed that white circle I thought "Is that white circle on the screen of my computer?"

It didn't wipe off. So I looked at another picture:

There it was again. But since I couldn't exactly remember where the circle was in the last picture I now wondered if something was on the lens of my camera. 

But none of my other pictures not of the bee had this white circle.

So I looked at all the other blurry bee pictures:

 Okay, so it is definitely on the bee's wing. A strange white circle.

I took the clearest shot I had of the bee and sharpened it up (as well as I could):

Then I zoomed:

And I zoomed:

And I zoomed:

And I still had nothing.

Although I will say that in the super close up view of the inside of the white circle on the bee's wing, if you look very carefully, it looks a lot like a UFO sitting in a field in the woods.

I hope the cops don't find it.

Friday, August 28, 2020

What it takes to fly

As a person more drawn to a dark view sometimes, or, as we like to call it over here, "realism", I am especially happy to be able to report some happy news from out in the gardens and fields, from nature.

Lately in all my pictures and in looking closely at all the flying animals living around me, I have noticed that flying isn't too hard. Chunks of feather are lost from beaten wings of birds, but they flit on through the skies like nothing much is wrong. Bee wings wear away to almost being stubs, and they zip around in the air nevertheless.

Here, look at this:

Because this bee looks a bit like a stuffed animal bee (cute, fluffy!), or even a dead or asleep bee, I have to attest that I saw this very bee, half wingless! fly away with my own eyes!

And while I've yet to achieve the ability to take even rudimentary pictures of birds in flight, let alone ones missing chunks of feathers,  I do have a butterfly picture around here.  I followed this one to its landing on a flower only to notice the handicap it carried that clearly was not one at all:

I'm just saying:

It's good news. I take the lesson and carry on.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

More Messi and me

As I write this, credible news sources report that the all time greatest soccer player and person whose goals I like to describe here in some of my least popular posts, Leo Messi, has expressed his intention to leave Barcelona, his football club of 20 years. What will happen now is anyone's guess, but the mere possibility of this enormous legend leaving the club he is so magnificently identified with, while still not far over the peak of his considerable powers, is the kind of thing that causes me to reconsider things that I never thought I'd reconsider.

Like Messi I have been with my employer, the library in my case, for decades. Like Messi I am strongly identified with them by the public. and like Messi I always thought I would play out my whole career in this one place.

But like Messi circumstances and staff have damaged the institution I love. Like Messi institutional and management incompetence have hurt my library and squandered my talents and joy. And like Messi this is not the same top notch institution I was once so proud to represent.

While I, possibly yet like Messi, still hold out hope that my institution can find and reclaim itself, and that I can still sail through my final years here in grace and harmony, I too can accept the possibility of dramatic change. I too can see, against all expectation, that something different may be required.

So let it be known to the libraries throughout the World:

I am available.

I am asking for a hundred million euros a year, and I really only want to work for a serious, great, and truly competitive library. I need to make the most of my few remaining library years.

But at this point everything is in the air.

And everything is negotiable.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Library three times a day

Work is all full of people I know.

And who know me.

They tell me about their lunch, or little pieces of their dreams, or about a book, or they tell me nothing at all.

They say "Hi" when I arrive.

They hold the door for me when I leave.

And during the long days and nights we circle each other like planets, drifting vastly apart in the wings of a library full of different purposes, only to come near yet again into the same tiny orbit and a shared purpose:

Answer the phones.

Help at the desk.

Process the requests.

Work out with each other everything we think is wrong with this place.

At home I am never lonely, thank the gods. But at work I am lonely like healthy meal habits; three times a day.

Everything is regular here and vast and far apart. We run in orbits. At work we circle the Sun once a day.

And what is the Sun in this metaphor?

Please don't ask such a lonely question. 

I have already used up my three times today.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Favorite color

Because I sometimes write about the visual arts here on clerkmanifesto people are always asking me "What's your favorite color?"

That's nice.

 I like questions so much I sometimes make them up just so I can answer them.

My favorite color?

This, I guess:

Or sometimes this color. There's overlap.

A couple days ago one of my top five favorite YouTubers, or, wait, let me put that the right way:

The greatest YouTuber there is (with there being five greatest YouTubers of all time), Captain Disillusion, did a video about color.

I learned that color is a fiction. 

And that Isaac Newton was smarter than...

everyone ever?

And the rest of it I basically didn't understand.

But the main point is that this: 

Is all in our heads.

And this:


And this too:

Are all in our heads.

But then, what isn't?

I guess I'm still trying to work that out. 

Some things are all in our heads. Some things aren't.

Sometimes that's an important question.

Sometimes it isn't.