Sunday, January 31, 2021

Sweet potatoes


As you well know, sweet potatoes are not potatoes. This is one of those surprising, on the face of it, facts. And like many quirky, anecdotally friendly facts it's one that the average person will learn so early in life it becomes at once notably odd and mundane.

Because the truth is sweet potatoes look a lot like potatoes. They are named in relation to potatoes. They even act a lot like potatoes. So despite all I know to the contrary, it is hard for me to shake the feeling that they are a kind of potato.

Being, as I am, on the Internet, writing an essay that at first glance looks as if it might be informational, I felt a responsibility to look in detail at this sweet potato versus the regular potato issue. So I did.

And I quickly became unbelievably bored! 

I just have never been interested in what's a tuber and what's a root vegetable. Botanical classification is not super interesting to me. Not deep down. And inevitably yams are going to come into it.


That might be the real problem.

Today I had some kind of frozen sweet potato product. They weren't bad. But they weren't great. The truth is a sweet potato conjures the sense of a potato, only sweet. It's an interesting idea, a "sweet" potato. A sweet potato is like a potato, but sweet, sort of. But also it's sort of It's an uncanny valley situation. It's almost a potato, but the texture is somehow wrong in a disturbing way. It's simply not a potato. 

So we need to let sweet potatoes be sweet potatoes. I was able to enjoy these frozen sweet potato snacks when I stopped trying to have them be potatoes. They are best when they are what they are. They need a new, more independent name.


That's taken. And I absolutely refuse to go into it.

But how about we call them "oranges"?

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Magical blogpost


No doubt this blogpost will seem like magic to you. For as Arthur C. Clarke postulated: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The advanced technology at play here is that this blogpost is entirely reader suggestion driven. Every bit of it is driven by suggestions and comments written in the comment section below. 

To take part simply suggest in the comment section what you'd like this blogpost to be about, and the post will slowly transform to speak to the very thing that was suggested. Thus, if someone were to write in that they would like this post to be about the Tokyo DisneySea Theme Park, readers here would soon find themselves reading about how DisneySea (along with Tokyo Disneyland) is the only Disney Park not owned by Disney, but is licensed by Disney and owned by the Tokyo Land Company. How instead of making these lesser parks, the personal attention thus lavished on these Disney Parks by a company whose (nearly) whole business it is, makes these, by most credible accounts, the best of all the Disney Parks, and specifically makes Tokyo DisneySea, with its seven themed lands based off of real and imagined "ports of call", to be generally considered the finest amusement park in the World. 

So go ahead and wield your magic pencil with a subject suggestion of your own in the comment section below to see how our complicated algorithms absorb and answer to them in the text of this post. They do this not just by artificial intelligence, adapting to keywords in your suggestions, but also through a direct neural interface with the author of this blog, me, and by tapping into my previous 3,000 blogposts for material, making it so that each alteration of this post, at your suggestions, is in a sense authored by me, by my past writings, and by the artificial intelligence program I have written to run this elaborate process.

If you write a suggestion and it doesn't appear to be promptly responded to in this post please give it time. While the automated rewriting process of this post should be instantaneous, the amount of computer processing required for it is generally beyond my means and so the AI changes have to be queued at a Super Computer in Finland that I have limited, low level privileges with. Please be patient and check back later.

Finally, if you see a suggestion or question in the comment section that already seems to be answered or spoken to in the text of this post, remember that this post adapted in relation to the comment. This post is in a sense written in pencil, ever erased in bits and rewritten in new pencil. People aren't being "obtuse" to what's already here, rather, none of this was here when their comment was made.

Have fun!


Friday, January 29, 2021

Lemonade again

I had many complaints about my post yesterday entitled "Negativity".

People found it too negative. They complained about it. They said that for a post expressing disenchantment with negativity it was kind of downbeat, and, well, negative.

Because it was such a short post I can include it right here for you to review:

Sometimes I get so tired of all the negativity and complaining. Mine, yours, theirs, enough with the negativity already! Enough with all the "complain, complain, complain"!

And when I've really, genuinely had enough with all the negativity, when I'm up to my ears in it, I do what everyone else does:

I complain about it.

But I do want to say that while this post, for humorous effect, ended on a negative note, it needn't end there. When I am truly sick and tired of all the negativity and complaining, after complaining about it, I do take my inspiration and propose a whole new positive outlook. I ask that we all try to be positive about things for a change.

Preferably starting with everyone else.

I'll be along shortly.

Thursday, January 28, 2021



Sometimes I get so tired of all the negativity and complaining. Mine, yours, theirs, enough with the negativity already! Enough with all the "complain, complain, complain"!

And when I've really, genuinely had enough with all the negativity, when I'm up to my ears in it, I do what everyone else does:

I complain about it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

To live outside the law




Bob Dylan and I were drinking together. That's all we do. Well, sometimes we talk, but mostly we drink. Lately it's cognac. We were drinking cognac. I can't remember the name of the cognac, sorry. Cognac can get very fancy. This wasn't that kind of cognac.

"I read that book you told me to." Bob said.

"It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat it?" I asked. I hardly even knew he heard me when I recommended it. He just kind of grunts at a lot of what I say.

He grunted.

"Did you see where the author quoted you, as a way to talk about how his friend was about foraging?" 

He grunted again. 

Maybe you thought I was kidding about the grunting. 

I wasn't kidding.

"To live outside the law you must be honest." I quoted, referring to the Dylan line that the book we were talking about quoted.

"Eh." He said, though that might have been a grunt. Not that there's much difference.

"Oh come on!" I cried. "That might be your greatest line. It's biblical but also wise, insightful, and down to earth."

"I probably stole it somewhere." Bob mumbled.

"Did you ever read that poem by Emily Dickinson?" I asked. And then I recited the poem, which is one of the advantages of poems.

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of victory

As he defeated – dying –
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph 
Burst agonized and clear!


"Hey, that's good." Bob said drily. "Maybe I'll steal that too."

"To try slowly and humbly and constantly to express, to press out again, from the gross earth or what it brings forth, from sound and shape and colour which are the prison gates of our soul, an image of the beauty we come to understand- that is art." I replied.

"What does that mean?" Bob asked.

"I don't know." I admitted. "It's by James Joyce."

"We're in one of your blog posts again, aren't we?

"I apologize." I replied.

"Eh." Bob grunted. "S'al'right." And then he swirled his cognac and peered into it as if divining secrets.

"C'mon man." Bob said. "I just like the color."


Tuesday, January 26, 2021






At my job at the library one of my co-workers came by announcing a free class we could take. My County is offering a 4-part series on the power of positivity and how positive psychology can improve our lives and make us better, happier employees and people.

Some of my colleagues took this with a positive light, figuring out the transit time and parking time they can be paid for not working. An included lunch came up as well.

But I was sitting in a little corner, on lunch, with an injured back, grimacing, thinking:

It's hopeless. I couldn't possibly get any more positive than this. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Dear Publisher: Me and Emily


Dear Publisher:

When Emily Dickinson died they found a bunch of poems stuffed in her desk drawers, or her mattress, or her pockets, or whatever. Then they were like, "Wow, look at these amazing poems. They are some of the greatest poems ever written!" And then hundreds of millions of people read them and were all "These are great, but what's a purple host?" 

Oh Emily, I can hear the purple host right now.

When I die maybe they'll find a sheaf of my unsent letters to the publisher. And they'll say "Wow, look at these amazing letters to the publisher. They are some of the greatest letters to the publisher ever written!" And then people will read them and love them and take them to publishers like you. And they will brandish them before you and say "You should feel ashamed of yourself!"

To which you would respond "How on earth is any of this my fault!"

To which I can only reply now, ahead of time: 

"Good point."


Feldenstein Calypso

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Romantic Comedy wizard


As the number seven world authority on romantic comedies I am constantly asked to recommend romantic comedies to desperate people keen to find a good romantic comedy in a world that disdains them. And as a great adorer of the romantic comedy I am always happy to oblige. There are few situations in which I am not happy to grill a person on their Romantic Comedy preferences, general movie tastes, historical reading patterns, preferred acting styles, taste in music, and endless related questions for hours, all to determine the perfectly tailored for them to watch romantic comedy movie. 

But there are only so many hours in a single day!

And there are only so few of me!

And if, hypothetically, more than three people a year asked me for a romantic comedy recommendation, or, um, a lot more than three, hypothetically again, I would need a back up plan.

This is the back up plan!

In this very blog post I have created a series of wildly varying and diverse scenarios that will lead you to the perfect romantic comedy. If any of the following scenarios are true for you, simply click the link below it, and your carefully selected movie will appear before your eyes.

One day, in the months to come, the true romantic comedy connoisseur will find their way to my future Romantic Comedy Finder website that the popularity of this prototype will lead to. After that, desperately in search of more romantic comedies, you will be lining up at my library to receive my one on one advice. 

By then you will be so far gone you will be easy prey for my extremely advanced suggestions like When in Rome, or Sidney White.  

But we get ahead of ourselves. Let us start at the beginning:

1. I hate romantic comedies and never watch them. But I am naturally embarrassed by how poorly this reflects upon me. Maybe if I watch just one really good romantic comedy, that has complexity and is well made, I could like it and begin to be a whole person. And then, maybe, slowly, I can begin to love again.

Try this one!

2. I've seen a few romantic comedies, the ones people talk about: When Harry Met Sally, that one that won best picture, and they didn't do much for me. Do they get better?

Yes they do! Here you go.

3. I have seen loads of romantic comedies and am always looking for something new, but until they make a new one, what should I watch again?

This one definitely bears rewatching!

4. I've liked a few romantic comedies, but sometimes they get a little, I don't know, cutesy. Is there a romantic comedy with a bit of...  salt? Something a bit... off center?

Sure, try this one.

5. I am acclaimed actor Christian Bale and I disdain romantic comedies. I read your post a couple years ago making fun of me. But until I see a romantic comedy movie that makes me burn with shame over my dismissive comments, I must continue mocking everything you love.

I throw down the gauntlet!

6. I'm bored. I'm depressed. I want a movie that delights me with no effort on my part. Silly, absurd, romantic, lay it on me. Oh, it should take place in beautiful, glamorous New York.


There. That ought to get you started. I think you'll find there's something for everyone here. 

You're on your way.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The measure of all things


Sometimes I write things that I think are universal, and I send them out on the Internet, and it turns out... no, it's just me.

And sometimes I write things that are just about me, and I send them out on the Internet, and it turns out... yes, it's just me.

Which is maybe why this is a little room we're in now, among the smallest on the distant, hidden alleyways of the Internet. And why you always have to come close

to hear, 

and then sometimes I'm talking a little too loud.

Do you ever have times where every book you read is so good that its success seems simple? And it feels almost like any book you read, of no special renown, will be wonderful, quietly wonderful? 

And sometimes no matter what book you read, it won't work. And you'll wonder why the author can't get it right. And that while it seems so simple,  a story, a character, a phrase, apparently making a decent piece of art is extraordinarily difficult.

Well I think that must be universal, but maybe it's just me feeling that way.

But maybe, just maybe, whether we love or hate anything in all of art, great or terrible, tiny or magnificent, it's all our own fault.

So let's let all the successes or failures of this one, "The measure of all things", be on you.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Read this blog, get a thousand dollars!


Read this blog, get a thousand dollars. It's as simple as that. One thousand dollars to do with whatever you like.

It's not easy out here on the Internet, and there are so many entertainment venues of such magnificent quality, like, um, Amazon, and Uber, and, er, Google maps, that sometimes it is hard to attract new readers. But we are so confident in the quality of this website, so sure that a single exposure to the content we have on offer will make any prospective viewer into a lifelong devotee of clerkmanifesto, that we are offering a thousand dollars, in cash, to any new viewer.

"Wait," You wonder "What if I've already read your very famous and intriguing blogpost Read This Blog, Get a Thousand Dollars! Am I disqualified from this amazing offer?"


Thursday, January 21, 2021

How to write compelling content for the Internet



I was wondering how to write compelling content for the Internet. So I came to this post entitled "How to write compelling content for the Internet", but all I found here was someone wondering how to write compelling content for the Internet.

No, now my head hurts too.

But okay. I won't leave you high and dry. As soon as someone figures out how to write compelling content for the Internet I will immediately post it here as a blog post called "How to write compelling content for the Internet". 

But beware.

Not everyone considers the same things "compelling". For instance some extremely idiosyncratic types love all that self reflexive, hall of mirrors, fourth wall breaking puzzle type content. But it's not popular and thus so hard to find that fans of stuff like that end up having to write it themselves.

You like that kind of thing?

Well, if I come across any I'll post it under the title "How to write compelling content for the Internet". 

Keep a close eye out.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Benefits of bureaucracy

I am not a fan of bureaucracy. I hate bureaucracy. It's not just its obtuse, inhuman corruption of the experience of living, it's brutal disregard for decency, logic, humanity, sympathy, spirituality, practicality, love, and simple respect, but also its spelling is quite difficult.

I'm not saying I don't know how to spell bureaucracy. 

I do. 

I didn't have to look it up.

But I find it laborious. Typing it is a misery. It seems to demand a great deal of consideration. Its very sounds are weird. It's full of vowels.

So there's a lot there against bureaucracy.

Nevertheless there is one thing I like about bureaucracy.

I work for a library, in a County. And the longer I work there the more they pay me. It's part of their obtuse, inflexible systems. Finally I worked there so long their system said "Give him one last big raise and then never give him a raise again!"

So I got a pretty big raise, a couple weeks ago, all just because I waited in line for it.

For 27 years.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Letters to a young artist: Your choice


Dear Young Artist:

In my last letter to you I outlined the three types of artists:

1. One who conceives of wonders and executes them faithfully.

2. One who just acts and yet produces wonders.

3. And one who conceives wonders but is unable to fully manifest what was in the fullness of their imagination.

The good news is that you can choose which of the three types of artists to be!

But the bad news is that if you're the third type (and even the greatest artists are sometimes the third type!), your choice will not go according to plan.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Letters to a young artist: The three types of artists

Dear Young Artist:

There are three kinds of artists:

The first kind of artist imagines fantastic things and somehow executes them faithfully to their vision.

The second kind of artist just does stuff, but somehow it works out magnificently, full of sheen and glory.

The third type of artist conceives of brilliant, majestic pieces of work, like the first kind of artist does, but somehow their work never seems to come out like planned, or with quite the power and wonder that was in the artist's head at the start.

I'm the third type of artist.

This letter was supposed to be way better and more helpful than it is. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Letters to a young artist: Fame


Dear Young Artist:

Let us talk about fame.

Because of the nature of the market, some measure of fame is required for a person to be a successful, full time professional artist.

You might think "That's okay. I am ready to be famous. I am even eager to be famous."

Oh young artist, fame is not all it's cracked up to be.

Or so I have heard. Somewhere. Though who knows from who. It's not like I know anyone famous, aside from Bob Dylan, who never talks about it, like, ever.

Also, I'm not famous.

"Hey!" You cry out in disagreement. "What about those two times you were featured on the front page of the Metro Section of the second biggest daily newspaper in your midsized American midwestern city?"

That's very sweet of you.

But we're here for you, young artist, to help guide you.

So here is what I say:

Go ahead and be famous.

Not that anyone will likely offer it to you. Sorry, but as Davy Crockett said:

Fame is like a shaved pig with a greased tail, and it is only after it has slipped through the hands of some thousands, that some fellow, by mere chance, holds on to it!

And if you do become famous these probably aren't the letters you'll need.

But it's nice of you to read them anyway.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Letters to a young artist: Practical advice


Dear Young Artist:

I know you're not here.

But I write to you anyway. That is how much I care.

When I was a young artist the old artists did not really take me under their wings as I take you under my wing now. I could say they did not take to me at all. But every rare once in awhile one did, but as like to a cat they saw me as remote and strange and independent, but charming. I wanted a home. Who doesn't? They gave me an old fish and called me cute. And sent me on my way.

In one notable incident a Ceramics teach at Sonoma State University told me I should have a trade to fall back on: Carpentry.

Thank you. But if I were good at Carpentry, the kind of person for whom things lined up, I might have been a notable artist. I might be the sort of artist so good he would be writing, in his middle years, a series of helpful letters to young artists like you!

But that didn't pan out.

Other notable teachers liked me as well. I'm convinced Marc Lesueur did, but not enough to give me more than an A-. Ms Tunick was fond of me in 11th grade, in theory. She liked Grape and me. Everyone else she suffered as fools. She certainly wasn't all wrong, but it's tricky when one is only liked against a terrible backdrop. Michael McClure, who was close friends with Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan, found me to be the only promising writer he ever taught, or I just imagine it that way, even if it wasn't true. And if, by some miracle he did feel that way, he was too cool to admit it, which was astonishingly unsatisfying. 

But when any of these professors really took an interest, they offered practical advice. Practical advice is the most terrible and important thing any young artist (like you!) can learn.

Practical advice is everything for a young artist like yourself! It lights the way!

Alas for you I got F's in practical advice.

But don't worry, I got A minuses in everything else.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Letters to a young artist: Outsider


Dear Young Artist:

I was up late last night editing strange, close-up pictures of a burbling stream above my local waterfall called Shadow Falls. And as I edited these pictures, of which I will include one below, because that's how it is for... us, and for people like us, if there are any, ourselves included, I listened to "Outsider" music; Daniel Johnston and The Shaggs mostly. You might want to consider that you yourself might be an Outsider artist. Although deciding you are one is probably disqualifying. As Daniel Johnston wrote:

Everyone and friends and family

Saying, "Hey, get a job

Why do you only do that only?

Why are you so odd?"

But because you are a young artist, you may not have heard of Outsider Art, so allow me to try and explain it off the top of my head without consulting any sources:

Outsider art is Art that is not very good or skillful or knowledgeable or professional or normal, but nevertheless is so earnest, obsessive, innocent, and/or passionate that it ends up being kind of good anyway, all in its very strangeness and by some magical virtue of its unique commitment. But it's usually pretty difficult art, and you have to open yourself to it to like it at all.

You might be wondering:

"Hey, approaching 3,000 daily blogposts to an audience of eleven, with grandiose stories of the gods and of fixing the world, details of working a low level job at a library, inscrutable jokes, weird pictures of creeks, are you an outsider artist?"

You, young artist, will want to pay close attention to this answer:

No. We are here right now at the center of everything. 

It is the World itself that wanders lost in the desert.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Letters to a young artist: The nature of praise


Dear Young Artist:

One of my co-workers is a birder. And so if I am trying to identify a particular bird I took a picture of, or if I have a particularly good picture of, for instance, a hawk, I might show him the picture. Other animal pictures come up as well. For instance I showed him a picture of a coyote I took as well. He was so impressed with that one that he said this to me:

You could sell these pictures!

In more than forty years of making art I have heard this comment countless times. It seems very flattering. And I suppose it is flattering, in its tiny, tiny way. It is a comment you may hear many times in your pursuit of a life in the arts.

But it's a paltry comment. It is a paltry comment because it splits the difference between the two comments you will actually want to hear:

That's beautiful.


I would like to buy that.


And it admits, nor rises to neither.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Letters to a young artist: Prelude


Dear Young Artist;

Do I wish, when I was a young artist, that an older artist with more than four decades of experience in the arts, set down for me, in a series of  letters, the wisdom of their experience?


But even though this is just my prelude letter to future letters providing the wisdom of a life in the arts, I am already providing you with your first lesson: 

Don't pay attention to what anyone wants.

I mean, unless you want money and worldly success.

Or let me put it another way for you, young artist: I didn't want an old, experienced artist to send me letters full of the wisdom of their experience, and look what happened to me.

What happened to me you ask?

I accumulated wisdom.

And I'm going to share it all with you.

Resist it if you can.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Seditious bastards!






Everything has been running backwards for me lately. For instance today I thought of the title of my small essay here first, then left it to myself to write the text. 

The King of Clerkmanifesto says:

The title is "Seditious Bastards!", it is your job to give life to that title.

How about we overthrow the King then? What say we talk about the weather instead?




The President of Clerkmanifesto has unilaterally decreed, in defiance of the King's Edict, that despite our title, "Seditious Bastards!", we will discuss the weather instead. But I, Emperor of the Themes of Clerkmanifesto, never voted for this President. And I have something to say about this!


Excuse me?

May I just interject here? As the CEO of Clerkmanifesto, I must assert my fiduciary responsibility immediately to state that this confusing, divisive, and disjointed post has so far made us no money whatsoever!




Hey hey hey. Can't everyone just calm down!

Can't we all just get along?



Fine with me.

Yeah, I guess. 

Sure, let's give it a try.



You're all fired.


Who are you?


I am the Lord God of Clerkmanifesto. Tremble before my magnificence!!!!!!

Oh, and try to get along a little better.





Monday, January 11, 2021

Ding dong





Strange things sometimes come into one's mind. And if you're me you may find yourself compelled to put them in your blog even if they don't make any real sense. So here is a joke, of a sort, that I am driven to tell you, like as one possessed by demonic muses. I can't let go of it, I even treasure it despite knowing it makes little to no sense. It feels like it makes sense, but it doesn't. 

Let it be the swan song to the Trump Presidency.

After four and a half years of terrible lies, racism, human rights abuses, and tragic comedy. After a thousand scandals that would have destroyed any other American Politician. After a desperate Impeachment over clear betrayal of the country that nevertheless failed miserably, after a litany of crimes committed in broad daylight, it turns out, in the end, all we had to do was throw a bucket of water on him. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

What am I reading?






The question comes:

"What are you reading?"

Oh my god. So many books! I almost never have so many excellent books that I am reading all at once. I am reading a veritable treasure trove of books, all at the same time!


I have:


The Constant Rabbit, by practically my favorite author ever, Jasper Fforde, which, while whimsically about anthropomorphized rabbits in England, is perhaps the finest piece of hard, contemporary political/social satire written since Orwell, or Kafka, or even Swift!

It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It, by Bill Heavey, a charming and fascinating account of someone exploring and seeking to eat as much wild food as he can forage. I loved this book so much I put it on my Recommended Books all time list and decided on a reread to see if it holds up. It does!

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, by K. Eason. Feminist fable re-imagined and all wrapped up in Space Opera Science Fiction. The beginning at least is promising and, for what it's worth, the reviews were all gushing.

The Absolute at Large, by Karel Capek. Speaking of dark political satire, this is Czech Sci Fi from 100 years ago. Dark, funny, dense, and weirdly modern, I've only just begun it, but already it has taught me the thrilling word "Contumacious" (willfully disobedient to authority) around which I built yesterday's enormously slight blogpost.

Great Streets, by Allan B. Jacobs.  I have only hinted at this in an occasional post, raging at the mechanics of walk signals, but I have become fascinated by Urban Design and street construction and traffic management. This compelling book is the seminal work that has informed all my other favorite writers and YouTubers on the subject.

Isn't it great to have so many fabulous, intriguing things to read!

No, that's a real question actually:

Isn't it great to have so many fabulous, intriguing things to read?


No is the answer.

I go to read one of these amazing books and am so overwhelmed by the largess that I simply can't decide or choose. 

So I go edit my endless photographs of the local creek instead. 










Saturday, January 9, 2021

My favorite sort of joke







Clerkmanifesto has been officially condemned and banned by the authorities as Contumacious!


But worry not, we have utterly rejected their findings, the clever bastards! 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Four keys








I finished processing all the holds there were to be processed at my job at the library, so I opened up a web browser to... browse. The home page there offered me some articles to read. One, from BBC.COM caught my eye:

The four keys that could unlock procrastination.

You know, come to think of it, I have been getting around to doing stuff far too promptly lately.


I'm figuring the first key has to be something like:

As soon as you think of taking care of something, just don't.

I wanted to know what they other three keys were, but I figured I better practice the first one for awhile first.








Thursday, January 7, 2021

Raku again


I was recently comparing the pictures I have been taking, close ups of my local stream in the snow and ice, to abstract painting. And it's a nice comparison; these really are the abstract paintings I might like to paint if I could paint like that. Though as a friend of clerkmanifesto kindly pointed out, I am, as it is, in my way, painting them.

But as I prepared to show you just one more of these fairly abstract pictures (because one picture is worth a thousand words here, but two are still only worth a thousand words, deflating them to being worth merely 500 words each!), another comparison occurred to me.

Many years ago at one of the art schools I went to I became primarily focused on ceramics. And for a time within that I became obsessed with Raku. Raku is a kind of ceramics glazing process wherein one pulls the ceramic piece out of a kiln while it's still wild hot and the glaze is in flux, throws the glowing object in a metal garbage can full of newspaper, watches it erupt into a tower of flames, and then slams down the garbage can lid over the whole fiery process. At least, that's Raku as it was practiced at that school. The oxygen would get sucked out of the ceramic piece's environment, and strange, magical effects would take place. One could control some of it, but not anywhere near all of it. 

It was art on a wing and a prayer. Or crafts. Or whatever. The main thing is that it was compelling to me. I barely even cared about the bowls or bottles I was glazing. It was all about the magical effects that might appear out of my experimental glazes.

While I wouldn't say these photo abstractions of a running brook look like Raku glazing, there are notable commonalities. Metallics, true metallics, especially golds in the case of the photos, are a common effect of both. The whole color scheme can be similar too, with rich reds and umbers, ochres, and lapis lazuli and ultramarine blues. Smokey effects are common to both as well, one maybe because of smoke, and one from the churning and layering of water. But the biggest thing that's shared between the two is a kind of guesswork and out-of-the-oven surprise. I look for certain things in the photos I take, maybe I could call it "blurred clarity", this perhaps being analogous to the glazes I mixed up from recipes in obscure glaze recipe books, and as I reveal them in my computer, and adjust them in my photo editing, they start to either form up into something flat and bland, or they blossom. This all is much like letting the ceramics cool until one could open up the garbage can and see what one has got.

Anyway, all of that is to merely say, one day recently, I got this:

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

How many words is a picture worth?


It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Maybe. On very special occasions. Or if it's been painted by Caravaggio or something.

But I'll tell you this: even if a picture is worth a thousand words, they don't stack. So maybe, just maybe (though most usually NOT), a picture is worth a thousand words, but so are two pictures worth a thousand words, and three, and four, and so on, until eventually one gets to a thousand pictures being worth a thousand words, making each picture fundamentally worth one word each.

This was supposed to be a photo essay about Robins. There is a creek near where I live that I have been visiting a lot to walk along and take pictures around. One day I went there and it was full of Robins. I mean it was teeming with Robins. There were thousands of Robins there and I spent a long while just taking pictures of them. It was amazing. I'd walk a bit up the creek and a hundred Robins would scatter into the air amid a thunderous thrush of wing beats. This happened every ten feet as I went along the way.

I got some good pictures, but maybe not as good as one might think. Even in the crowded flocks Robins keep their distance from not wildly stealthy photographers. And despite their brilliant russet bellies, Robins have a real way of blending in. I even planned a joke when I was photographing. I took a wide picture of the creek in the valley. There were a thousand Robins in the picture, but I knew one wouldn't be able to see them. I was going to feature the picture here with the title:

There Are a Thousand Robins In This Picture.

As you can see I did not put this picture here. It would have used up one of my pictures, depreciating the allotment of any other pictures I might want to show you in this post. 

I have cracked the code.

Over the past year I have been including pictures in some of my blog posts here. It's a new thing, or it was for this decidedly literary blog. I enjoyed it. But I soon found that if I showed five pictures of a flower one picture would stand out. And if I showed a picture of a squirrel, a bee, a butterfly, and a flower, one picture would stand out again. However many words the best picture was worth is the number of words all the pictures together were worth

And that is why today, and more often going forward, I am going to try my very hardest to, when I have pictures to show here, just show one picture.

And so I took a thousand pictures of a thousand Robins. Here is one. I don't know how many words it's worth, or how many Robins it's worth either. But I am pretty sure that including any more pictures will not make it worth any more, and I'd like to keep my average up.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The coyote


I was walking through the snowy woods by my local creek. This creek runs down over a fall and to the Mississippi River. I was walking away from the river towards my home. The woods were quiet. The creek was quiet. The snow was quiet. Around the bend in front of me came a coyote I know.

This story is called:

The Coyote


Why I Will Never Be a Great Nature Photographer

I met this coyote before on a neighborhood street a couple months ago. I was so absorbed in photographing a squirrel at that time that he almost walked right by me without my even noticing. I took pictures of him walking away. He was in the neighborhood hunting turkeys. He hadn't been successful. He was heading tiredly home.

This time in our meeting we became aware of each other at the same moment. "Oh, you." The coyote said, but not out loud and not meanly. I tried to remain cool, as like one might do when seeing a celebrity one greatly admires. I took a few pictures.

I think if I were a proper wildlife photographer I would have just kept on photographing, doing anything I could for the best shot. If I were that person you maybe wouldn't be reading all these words. You would instead be looking at thrilling picture after thrilling picture, going "Ooooooh! That's amazing. Look at his eyes!"

But for me, decidedly an amateur photographer, after a few hurried pictures of the astonishing wild coyote, I felt a little rude.

We were in a little canyon on a narrow trail. I was headed upstream. The coyote was headed downstream. It would not be respectful to pass too close to each other. How does the coyote get to where I am and I to where the coyote is?

We stood there looking at each other for a moment, being extremely polite in our heads. 

"After you sir." 

"No, after you."

"Yes, but how?"

It was a lot of fun to be working out a small puzzle with a coyote.

I stepped off the trail and climbed up into the snowy woods a little, giving the coyote the trail, if he would like it.

He did not like the idea of being so close between the stream and me. So with great alacrity he climbed all the way up the side of the hill and passed me along its crest. I watched him go. I even took a few ungainly pictures of him doing it. They were not particularly great.

The best pictures I did not take. I turned them down for a chat and for good manners.

It is hard to regret it too much, even if I do regret it some.

Monday, January 4, 2021

The mystery of the robin's poop


There is a longer photo essay coming about my walk with 10,000 Robins. But today's story, I mean today's mystery, comes after I had already walked up my snowy local creek on a day it was filled to the brim with Robins. 

After I emerged from that creek of Robins I had a modest walk home through my local neighborhood. I had tucked my camera into my big down parka and was trying to get my fingers to warm up. They get numb with cold when I photograph in the snow and Winter, especially my pointer finger. It has to remain exposed for the proper touch on the shutter.

As it happened though the neighborhood was also chock full of Robins. They festooned all the trees and dashed about in the bushes. I guess they are part of some great Robin migration or something, though to be honest no matter what the time of year it is around here there always seems to be a Robin or two if I need them. I was tempted to take more pictures of them, but having a camera full of Robin pictures made it possible for me to resist the impulse, warm my fingers in my pockets instead, and simply enjoy looking around.

And that's when I felt a wet plop on my head, a heavy splot dropping indisputably on my Barcelona Football Club knit hat. I looked up. Straight overhead was a satisfied looking Robin on a high branch. To tell you the truth I was ruefully surprised such a thing hadn't happened already; so many Robins, so little pooping. 

Ah well.

So I took off my hat and

Nothing there.

I looked around me and 

Nothing there.

I felt my hair and my hat and my shoulders and

Nothing there.


There is something up with those birds.

Though I'm not complaining.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Abstract painting


Abstract painting has never been my favorite style of painting. But I love painting enough that over the years I came to enjoy it more and more. One of the art schools I went to, The San Francisco Art Institute, was absorbed in abstract expressionism when I was there, but I was not happy at that school so it made little impression. My wife's interest is probably what most won me over, and I have been enthralled standing in front of Kandinskys and Rothkos, Cy Twomblys and Pollocks. To remind myself of abstract artists I like I just now stumbled upon Zao Wou-Ki and I'd love to see some of his work in person.

For many years I painted, but as I look back on it I have had an increasing sense that it was never entirely to my satisfaction. I liked my portraits best, but I think there was some slightly missing talent or fluidity that held me back. And I never felt the freedom or sense for painting I might have loved or that had any chance of leading me to working abstractly. 

However, had I ever managed to make large scale oil abstractions, I think, if I been able to do it, I would have had them look something like this:

Of course, or maybe not so obviously, I don't know how they might seem to you, these are not paintings. They are pictures I have taken of my local stream in Winter. They perhaps seem wildly digitally manipulated. They seem that way somewhat to me. And yet they oddly aren't much more altered than any of my other pictures I have posted on clerkmanifesto, ones whose subjects remain clear and articulate, and I'm not so sure how easily I could recreate these strange effects taking pictures of anything else. They really are just close shots of layers of churning water, running and bubbling into ice, all before heading over some falls.

I'm not asking for any awards or praise or alterations of history or new personal gifts. 

But I wouldn't have minded having painted these.