Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Begging week: Day 3, The Dylan Collaborative


Welcome to Begging Week Day Three!

If you've been paying any attention, and responded to any of my begging, you will by now understand that each day of Begging Week will bring you to a different page of Life is a Fountain. I mean, if my begging works. And if you hit the link and go to said page you will find something SUPER ENTERTAINING.

Today I am begging you to visit the Dylan Page at Life is a Fountain,



To see our collaboration! Yes, Bob Dylan and I have collaborated!

Here's what happened:

Bob and I were drinking Cognac, again. We're kind of stuck on Cognac. We like it, there's a lot to try, I got Bob somehow to invest heavily in it, and it would be weird to waste super expensive cognac. So we drink it, and love it, but have started to talk about Scotch. We're both restless drinkers, always wanting to try the next thing. There's always next things.

I said "Have you checked out Life is a Fountain yet? It has a Dylan Page."

"There are a lot of Dylan pages." He said ruefully. "But yeah. I wish you wouldn't film me like that." He paused, and, strangely talkative, added "I like the cartoon characters in your library though. You should do that with one with one of my pictures."

Bob is very reticent about any use of his music, fame, lyrics, writing, persona, and history. But oddly he's always looking to get his visual art out there. It's okay. I went looking for the oldest stuff of his I could find and set to editing it on my phone. I knew he would enjoy not being talked to for half an hour.

I showed him a picture.

"Yeah. That's good!" He said to my surprise.

Check it out here, please?

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Begging week: Day 2!

Today I am going to explain to you all about Begging Week here at Clerkmanifesto!

You will soon see what surprising benefits there are for you in Begging Week!

You will understand how Begging Week works. And you will know just exactly what this mysterious Begging Week really is.

There is a very helpful FAQ all about Begging Week, very entertaining really, over at 

I'd love it if you went there.

Actually, because it is Begging Week, I beg of you: Go there.

But, I can say here that Begging Week goes on for... 

Well that's in the FAQ.

Though at least I can tell you that the main point of each day of Begging Week is to...

Well that's actually in the FAQ too.


I don't want to pressure you. 

I'll tell you what. I'll just sit here on the sidewalk with my link, and you can avoid making eye contact with me.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Begging week

Hello, and welcome to begging week on Clerkmanifesto!

This is day one! 

There are going to be seven days, all concerned with begging. I will be begging you.

Before we get into the begging discussion I'd like to get right into my first day's first beg:

Please, please fill out this survey on the "Forms" page at Life is a Fountain. I beg of you!

Did you do it?


No, I understand that everyone is different. 

 There is only one beg per day during Begging Week. And it's over.

But can I just say:

Almost everything you see on the Internet, almost every email you receive, and almost every clickable link you see, is just a beg.

So do I want special credit for this act of honesty. Do I hope for a boon for being upfront about that which is so normally hidden?

No, my quiet, noble heroism is its own reward.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Enough is enough!


As I sit here at the front desk of my library I finally have to say, enough is enough!

I can no longer reasonably justify making fanciful pictures on my phone all day. My blog, my two blogs! (visit Life is a Fountain blah blah blah), are overwhelmed with peanuts characters getting library cards, Daffy Duck throwing fits in the back room, and figures from Norman Rockwell Paintings conducting business at, well, at the very desk I am sitting at right now. 

My grip on reality is fracturing!

I don't really work in a world peopled by Addam's Family characters, Maxwell Smart, and figures from Winnie the Pooh. Dragons Love Tacos dragons do not apply for library cards! And my making it so on my phone, hour after hour, cannot be healthy. Also, whatever happened to my quiet ruminations on the state of library work, or reviews of forgotten novels, or amusing accounts about supply procurement for the county? I vow to return immediately and without fail to these quiet studies,  these calm, elegant illuminations, and these gently humorous anecdotes that have brought you here to my website for all these years. Indeed, these are the bread and butter essays that have built me a

Oh my God!


I'll try to snap a quick picture, but then, if you value your life



Saturday, June 26, 2021

Work life balance


From the moment I got a phone, a real phone, my effectiveness as a library employee has been on a roller coaster ride. There was a small dip at the start as I discussed phones incessantly with all my co-workers and texted them from six feet away. Then I, metaphorically, climbed quickly as I found podcasts and audiobooks and became one of the most quietly dedicated shelvers and materials processors the library has ever known. But, of course, what goes up must come down, and I have never known a quality shelver who stayed a quality shelver. Somehow we all get distracted. For the industrious types it's usually by some niche library project they can obsess and stew over to their hearts content. For me the downfall was finding out that I could insert Peanuts characters into random pictures I took of my library.

What a thrilling, heedless fall it was! I plunged, hands in the air and a look of terrified ecstasy on my face. But that too had to level out finally. All those co-workers saying "You sure do like that phone, don't you?" And all those library patrons saying "Ahem."

"Oh." I say startled. "Were you there long?"

"Just a few minutes really."

"Do you want to see a picture of Charlie Brown's little sister Sally, in the library?"


I'm not through the roller coaster yet. I'm still whizzing along, though it's more level in its twisty way now. I've combined the two divergent elements. The other night I shelved every single one of our requests, three carts worth. It's amazing how much one can get done quickly when one applies oneself. Fortunately I had a reward; with no requests left to shelve there really wasn't anything left for me to do except edit pictures.




"Ahem." You say?

Want to see a picture of Charlie Brown's little sister Sally, in the library?

Oh, you're still here? How nice.

Do you want to see one where she's delighted about having asked the Children's Librarian a question?

For a lot more pictures like these, visit Life is a Fountain, the Stolen page.

Friday, June 25, 2021



On Life is a Fountain, which is where you are sort of supposed to be now, reading this, and maybe are, and maybe aren't, I have a page called:


When I created Life is a Fountain I made a lot of pages that had to do with the things I have always written about. There are pages for Bob Dylan, and for Libraries, for Books, and Music, and for Animals, and Nature, and Politics. But "Stolen" was new. Stolen was a little shady. Stolen was about how, if I'm not going to be famous (and I'm not), if I'm not going to be read by thousands (I'm not), if I'm not going to get any money for working at writing and art every week all week long (I'm not going to get any money), then I am free to help myself to the entire history of art right up until the present. I'm free to make whatever I like with all things created by other people.

I'm not talking about plagiarism. Even if I don't say that "Lucy" is by Charles Schulz, I am not passing it off as my own, and I have a reasonable assumption that you will understand the real creator of said character. But I have no real care about his credit, his co-option, or his estate's rights. On Stolen, all is grist for the mill.

I don't know who first said "Grist for the mill", but it's mine now!

This is an interesting question about Authorship, and copyright, and Capitalism. It is a real discussion about Art, and ethics, and fair use.

Sometimes I am very interested in it. 

Sometimes I just want to put Daffy Duck at a check out desk at my library.

Funnily enough I have not put very much material yet on the "Stolen" page of Life is a Fountain. This is not because I have insufficient substance for the page. Rather it is because everything I have produced lately, in vast quantities, has belonged, exactly, there.

Daffy Duck waiting somewhat impatiently for someone at a desk at my library:

Lucy and Linus making their way through a Norman Rockwell painting:

A Donkey with low self esteem that I ran into on my creek yesterday morning. I think he found some thistle!

And finally, Totoro, delightfully standing in our Non Fiction section, waiting for me to shelve some books:

Thursday, June 24, 2021



I thought maybe I wouldn't go on about this constantly, but now I am reconsidering that. Maybe I will keep telling you here that we have moved, and how Clerkmanifesto is now:

Life is a Fountain

It's not a fountain? 

That's a joke you might get better over at Life is a Fountain, which will have today's clerkmanifesto content, but with more pictures! Better computer radiation! And vastly higher resolution fonts! So head on over there.

As soon as I figure out how to send email newsletters from Life is a Fountain, and settle into a way of doing that regularly, Clerkmanifesto is likely to become just a sleepy backwater of my vast Internet Empire. 

Of course learning how to send Newsletters from Life is a Fountain, refining its content, and packing it to the gills with baubles and snacks, is all having to wait in line, and for scraps of attention, behind my current obsession, image combining. This is where I take fictional characters and put them into my real life. These are very time consuming to do and can even occasionally overwhelm me. So sometimes I have to ask myself what makes them so compelling.

I think I have an answer. 

They simply don't work out that well about 80 percent of the time. Also I can't really tell whether they do work out until they're done. So there's the gambler thing going on in it- the idea that this next one is really, this time going to finally, finally be fantastic. And as any gambler can tell you, once or twice a day it actually does come through. It is fantastic! There's something about getting Linus into the library I work at, sitting on a chair in just the right way, that is so utterly satisfying to me. It somehow makes the world feel more like my world.

Also, new materials and ideas are everywhere! I work at a library! This afternoon I was shelving and came across a kind of picture book of The Fire Next Time. Immediately I had to do a mash-up with James Baldwin! I took some pictures of a couple of the more likely pictures of James Baldwin. I carefully masked out just James Baldwin. Then I started trying to match him with the increasingly large numbers (but never enough!) of pictures I now have of all our desks, seating areas, and counters at the library. It matched up okay, but I needed to do another layer to put in a computer wire that the masked cut out of Baldwin had blocked. But when it was all together, the black and white source picture of James Baldwin was a bit of an off match. So I applied a whole bunch of filters to try and bring it together, and...

It was okay. Not a great one.

Oh well.

But maybe the next one will be amazing!

Wednesday, June 23, 2021



The rhetoric is that we are in an age of ever increasing technological improvement. And there is a fair case to be made for it. The great majority of the processes of the library I work at have only been improved by the digital age and by technical and mechanical developments. Requesting items, managing check outs, processing returns have all been made wildly better. Even our materials are better from technology; higher quality, more ubiquitous pictures in books, easier to get and watch movies, items one can check out from the library without even going to the library.

Sometimes I sure wouldn't like to go to the library too!

But despite this tidal wave of advancement, not everything has improved. And for a case in point I present our intercom system.

When I started it was beautiful. There was, at the circulation desk, sitting on the counter, a big, sturdy microphone. It had a base it sat on so you could lean down and talk into it if you wanted, but mostly one would pick it up to use it. There was a large button on it, like a giant space bar at the bottom. When it was depressed the mike was on. That was it. It was clean, analog, easy to use, and sounded quite good. We liked to call people back to the desk with it to tell them they had returned their VHS without a video cassette inside. It saved a ton of work to catch them while they were still in the library. We didn't call people back for not rewinding their videocassettes. We had bigger fish to fry.

Eventually, as we updated our library and remodeled it, our intercom got woven into our phone system. Hit #150, wait a second or two, then talk. It was okay. We started doing our closing announcements through this system and that's the biggest part of what we used it for. Sometimes it would activate by accident and we could hear faintly the interactions at the Reference desk for awhile until someone alerted them. It also went through periods where it produced a low, steady, mysterious static when not in use. That was pretty annoying.

Finally, recently, we downgraded all the way to our new phones. One now dials a connecting number as before. After this the phone weirdly rings until it connects, like the intercom system is hooked in through a switchboard operator who waits for our calls, but is busy, and so takes a while to pick up and connect us. When it does connect it makes a truly gigantic and horrible blast of feedback noise, both in the users' ear and throughout the whole of the library. It is a massive SCREECH that rivets everyone's attention. At that point one is free to deliver one's message, usually involving an apology for the noise.

The other night it fell to me to do the closing announcements, something I do as experimentally as possible in faint hopes I won't be asked again. It's okay, but I already have too many creative outlets as it is. There are, by tradition five closing announcements; at 20 minutes before, 15, 10, three, and to say that we are closed.

For the first announcement I apologized for the horrible SCREEEECCHH!, and I informed the public that we are all helpless before it. But having used that approach up, at the second announcement I went with something more like "That gorgeous chime you just heard is the gentle herald of the fact that in 15 minutes the library closes". It was variations of that then as we worked our way towards closing: "You probably didn't hear that faint, dulcet tone of our intercom system, but...". When I finally got to the "Library is Closed" announcement I really didn't even need to make it. Everyone was already gone.

Actually, maybe our new intercom system works better than I thought.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

If you build it


There was a very eighties book and movie involving some guy building a baseball field in his cornfield in the middle of an Iowa farm. It was done so that dead baseball players could play a game of ball again, or something like that. It featured an era defining line that I found notably irritating back in those days: 

If you build it they will come.


If you build it they will come.

If you build it they will come.

I guess the idea with that ubiquitous quote back then was to say, just go for it. If you make the commitment, put yourself out there, lay it all on the line, model, invest, fashion, manufacture, build, produce, labor, and create, then surely you will...


Well, actually that was never clear.

It was the eighties. I think it had something to do with money.

Visit us at our palatial new digs at

Life is a Fountain!

Monday, June 21, 2021



Now that the newer version of Clerkmanifesto, Life is a Fountain, is open for, not business, I guess, frolick?, I recommend reading today's post instead at Life is a Fountain

More particularly this following photo essay will feature on the Life is a Fountain Blog page, and will differ from this Clerkmanifesto blogpost mainly by having more pictures.

Why does it have more pictures? You ask.

I don't know. On the other hand the version over there doesn't have this super cool introduction, so it's all kind of a wash.


After three weeks of dry, wicked hot days, Summer came, and it rained and was cool. Strangely I have felt hot all day, as if my body is observing the Season, not the Temperature.

In between shelving and the other assorted library tasks that I performed in accordance with what I feel is appropriate for my job, I inserted fictional characters into my world. This curiously takes a lot of time on my phone, and sometimes it works better than others, but when I look at Charlie Brown standing behind the genre fiction area that I am shelving in I just get so... happy. And I feel like my world is a little different.

Here then are a handful of pictures from my work life today:

Hobbes of "Calvin and Hobbes" having a read of the draft of one of my blog posts while sitting on the rollers we use for deliveries from other branches.

Mark from "Doonesbury" standing at our service desk, musing on library work.

Snoopy riding our Check in Machine's conveyor belt, thinking about, well, I don't know what he's thinking about actually.

Gerald, of "Gerald and Piggy", who is usually pretty even tempered, getting cross in the Non Fiction section. Probably at something shelved incorrectly.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Life is a Fountain

My new website is Life is a Fountain

It occurred to me that the Internet has no competition.

Because it has no competition it sets all the terms. It has monopolized the discourse. It lords it over everyone! It has become BOSSY.

So I have decided to create another Internet. 

It is called Life is a Fountain!

The Other Internet.

It's not quite as big as the Internet you're familiar with. Actually it's quite a bit smaller.

You can't buy stuff on it.

There aren't any maps and it won't tell you if your local café is open.

It does not hold a vast wealth of scientific papers or the literatures of ancient peoples.

You probably can't share with your friends on it, or make travel plans, or find a recipe for every dish in the world, or diagnose your illness, or translate languages, or find a job, or date anyone, or see what movies are out, or conduct business, or play a game, or learn how to play the clarinet.


And I say this with full humility,

I think Life is a Fountain is way better than the regular Internet!

Actually, that might not be full humility. 

It's probably like two or three percent humility.


Just, check it out. Please.

It's called Life is a Fountain. It's at

As I write this no one has ever ever been there!

I consider it the inheritor and evolution of this blog you are reading now, clerkmanifesto. 

Life is a Fountain will be in what is known as Early Access for awhile. That's a time for me to iron out it's roughest spots and develop its basic ideas, and for you, if you would only be so kind, to leave your input. There are lots of forms and comment places on Life is a Fountain, and it would mean a lot to me if you left your thoughts on what you like, or don't like, as I go forward with it.

Life is a Fountain will run concurrently with Clerkmanifesto indefinitely. The posts here will also largely be carried on the BLOG page of Life is a Fountain. But my main energy will be towards Life is a Fountain, and it will be, going forward, the more articulated version of what you see here.

Thank you for reading this, and I hope you enjoy the more Carnivalesque Life is a Fountain.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Pleasant evening

We were out with a very old friend.

No, she is not particularly old, I mean, no older than my wife and I. It's just we were all friends from long ago. And we walked on a perfectly beautiful Summer's night in St. Minneapolis, clear around a lake. The boats were beautiful in it, reflected like a picture from Portugal, in the low flat water. A turtle crossed the path slowly. There was an enourmous raven. There were ducks with small babies already paddling beautifully. We kept going on our long walk until we were all sort of hobbling with our own personal ailments. We are old friends after all. 

We sat talking into the night. We reminisced about things we all remembered different pieces of. Then we drove her to her hotel across from a tangle of construction and a lit up Cathedral. Tall buildings surrounded us and, though it was night, one of these was wrapped with screens at the top that showed clouds in a blue sky. I got kind of excited seeing the buildings close up that I can right now turn and see out my window.

We haven't been out much for awhile.

There is a kind of joy in not missing anything from the past.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Very old... Cognac


I was having a drink with Bob Dylan. It probably seems like I have drinks with Bob Dylan a lot because of how much I write about it here. But we just have drinks occasionally and I write several essays about each time we do.

Anyway, we were pretty thick in it with Cognacs. Bob looked up from his snifter and said "I was thinking of retiring to Becketwood."

Becketwood is a retirement home on the Mississippi River here. I mean, it seems very nice, but not the sort of place one would go if one had, for instance, two hundred million dollars.

"It seems really nice." I said. "But it doesn't seem like the sort of place one would go if one had, for instance, two hundred million dollars."

"I don't have two hundred million dollars." Bob said a bit sullenly.

"A hundred fifty million then."

Bob had no counter to that. 

We sipped cognac.

"I don't think you've dealt with the wage slave service industry so much, uh, lately." I observed. "You might prefer a more bespoke assistance when you, um, er, get older." I suggested gently to my 80 year old friend.

He took it in stride with a begrudgingly accepting nod.

I took a sip of Cognac. "You have a hundred and fifty million dollars?" I asked in a hushed voice.

He didn't answer. But a couple weeks later he sent this fantastically beautiful $7,000 bottle of Cognac to me.

I saved some to drink with him the next time we were together. We were sitting over it when I said "You know what my favorite cover of one of your songs is?"

"All Along the Watchtower?" He guessed.

"Sign on the Window by Melanie." I said.

I played it on my phone as he took a sip of the deeply colored and subtly scented Cognac.

"Not bad." He said admiringly.

But I did not know whether he was referring to the Cognac or the song.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Phone trouble

Uh oh. I sure was on my phone a lot today! 

My phone journey started out with all the good things the magical smart phone brought to me and my worklife. How it improved my productivity. How it made me less angry at my job. How it made me embrace labor.

Isn't that how it always starts?

It ended with me obsessively photographing pictures in all our books and then standing over my phone doing intensive edits where I mash together two fictional worlds, or sometimes a fictional world and our own world. During this process I am lost to the Universe altogether. 

I come out of a deep and extended trance. A co-worker is nearby.

"Look" I say, showing them my new picture on my phone. "It's Gerald and Piggie on the plinth from The Lorax!"

"Oh." They reply.



Well, I thought it was two hours well spent!


Wednesday, June 16, 2021



Picasso once said:

"Good artists copy, great artists steal."

Well, people said he said that. But he didn't. It all probably comes down to T.S. Eliot saying "Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal." And all the nonsense followed from there. Misattributions, reworkings, and a distorted entry into the cultural lexicon.

How do I know all this? I stole it from an article I read on the Internet. I hope Ian Shank was right about all this. But if one can't trust Ian Shank who can one trust?

Who, you ask, is Ian Shank?

Mr. Ian Shank

a poem

Mr. Ian Shank

Strode across the hills and broke them,

Rode across the hills and broke them--

The barren New England hills--

Riding to hounds

Over the cow-pasture

Mr. Ian Shank smoked

And danced all the modern dances;

And his aunts were not quite sure how they felt about it,

But they knew that it was modern.

Upon the glazen shelves kept watch

Matthew and Waldo, guardians of the faith,

The army of unalterable law.

Good artists copy, great artist steal, but some of us, unnoticed, just finally stepped outside of the Pantheon,

and under so few eyes, start to feel the curious freedom of doing anything, absolutely anything.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Pandemic over


Because the pandemic is over I am going out for a drink tonight with a friend. But it was hard to find any place open because of the pandemic.

"Wait, isn't the pandemic over?" I asked.

I was in the middle of the library where I work. It was open. It was full of people. We weren't wearing masks. It was like a dream. But it wasn't a dream. I was in a real place asking of anyone "Isn't the pandemic over?"

"Kinda." Someone walking by answered.

Finally, after a lot of searching I found some kind of Cider cocktails/Crepes/Cheese Board place in an obscure industrial part of town that is loosely rumored to be open tonight.

"How about this one?" I asked my friend.

"Sure." He said.

"And we don't mind climbing over the heaps of dead bodies to get there?" I asked.

What's done is done, we concluded.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Inches from a new name


There is news to report in the development of my new website, known here, temporarily, as Clerkmanifesto 2.0.

Big news!

But first let's catch you up. Clerkmanifesto, where you are now, has gotten to be a little too small of a box for me. I have also had cause to worry about the support for its meager features. So, like a wee caterpillar, I have sewn it into a chrysalis and promised to make us an exciting, new, full featured, giant website. It will be so rich and full of content and wonders that it will REPLACE THE VERY INTERNET!

And it shall emerge from its metamorphosis as a DIFFERENT CATERPILLAR!

So the big news is...

The new website, Clerkmanifesto 2.0 (I swear I am mere hours from revealing its actual name) is, well, um, it's not that great. Wordpress, the ubiquitous web tool I am working with, is far less intuitive, easy to use, and flexible than I hoped. And I have always been, I'm afraid, an unhappy student. 



It is almost in full working order, almost.

The front door can almost be unlocked. Except it's not really unlocking, more like prying off the boards.

You see, this Clerkmanifesto 2.0 is like an old, ramshackle house, on a distant planet. Only it turns out to be on Earth, but it's in a slightly altered timeline from our own.

No, that's not quite it. 

Though "ramshackle" feels pretty accurate. "House" isn't bad either. "Altered" works as well. And you can explore it. There are a lot of rooms. Some are even curiously decorated. Occasionally you will find an old wardrobe, open it up, step through it, and find yourself in a field of wild flowers. 

But mostly you will just find yourself in another room.

"Wait. What room is this?" You will ask. "And why is everything crooked?"


So in the end it is kind of like Clerkmanifesto, but more twisty, and everything is kind of rusty, and it all works slower.

And we learn once again: We cannot escape ourselves, so we might as well lean into it.

I know, I'm pretty excited too.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Orange cognacs with Bob


I'm afraid I introduced Bob Dylan to European Soccer. 

These things never go how you expect them to.

We were going through a period of sampling orange cognacs at the time. I like orange cognacs. Bob was willing to be convinced at that point, but wasn't quite...yet. We were getting very close with the Grand Marnier Louis Alexandre. We had a lot of special version Grand Marniers we were working our way through.

Then I tried to show Bob a soccer clip on my phone.

"Is this your Messi fellow again?" He rasped with that touch of irritation he likes to affect.

I ignored it and Messi commenced to do something bewildering. Suddenly Bob got attentive, but not at Messi.

"Who's that?" He asked with interest, pointing to an animated speck on the screen, not much contributing to the play, but bounding about like a puppy.

"That's Riqui Puig" (pronounced "Ricky Pooch") I replied.

After that it was all Riqui Puig all the time with Bob.

"Who is Riqui Puig?" you ask?

He is a young midfielder for the Barcelona team. He very rarely gets to play. The coach doesn't like him. The coach is grumpy, and finds Riqui's exuberance irritating. The fan base is split three ways on Riqui Puig. One group hates him in support of the coach who they feel deserves their devoted respect and protection because he is the coach and so must know what he's doing. One group tries to remain neutral and fails. And one group utterly adores Riqui Puig, devotedly, for his spirit, his passion, his darting runs, and his occasionally daring and brilliant forward passes.

Bob is in the last of these categories. 

"My next album is all about Riqui Puig." Bob told me the other day.

Yes, Bob, now 80 years old, is working on another late masterpiece. And apparently this one will be about Riqui Puig.

"How can that be any good?" I asked.

"No one will know it's about Riqui Puig." Bob said wryly.

"I will!" I exclaimed.

There was a lull in the conversation.

"Let's try the Grand Marnier Cuvee Quintessence." Bob suggested.

"Whoa. That's pretty." I said admiringly of the impressively elegant bottle.

It tasted like oranges, yes, but also of hazelnuts and peaches.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Leaving the gold in the hills

I want to see the shitty wonderful.

I just want everything to be shitty and wonderful, like it is.

It's so easy to find, in the world, the shitty. Just look at all this crap around you. Badly run, cruelly done, lying, greedy, cheesy, measly, hard done, selfish, stupid fucking shit.

But wonderful is just as easy. It's not just the nearest tree you can find, wonderful!, but look at your heart, listen to this song, can you smell the Summer, taste this berry, feel this breeze late at night? Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

But oh the shitty wonderful, where is that? That's where the trouble happens. That's the glorious reckoning. I need some shitty wonderful RIGHT NOW.

Stolen and free. Generous frugality. Sloppy, lazy genius. Unmarketable unfashionable ugly loveliness. Failure failure failure shining with the inner light of success.

I was driving home from my almost shitty wonderful job. I was looking for something on the radio.

Then I found it. 

Racist Sexist Boy
by the Linda Lindas.

This is shitty wonderful, I thought.

Shitty wonderful, shitty wonderful, shitty wonderful. It was some 10 to 16 year old girls in Los Angeles doing a punk song in the L.A. Library. It was a little terrible and really great. Shitty wonderful.

Maybe it was already too wonderful.

I never understood those too cool people who only liked the great new thing before everyone else found it, and it became popular, at which point they turned their back on it. But maybe it's this. Maybe they just want the shitty wonderful. 

I looked up the Linda Linda's and, while I still admire the young people's spirit, and their song, finding out that their parents are all deeply connected, influential figures in the arts and culture, and that the Linda Lindas have just been on Jimmy Kimmel brought me down. 

Wonderful, yes. 

Shitty, yes. 

But the shitty wonderful was slipping through my fingers.

Who, you ask, wouldn't want to clean the shit off of wonderful?

But there is a terrible balance to the world. 

There is the horrible law of equilibrium. 

And it says for every time you clean the shit off of wonderful someone, somewhere will snuff the wonderful out of the shit. 

Friday, June 11, 2021

New art!


Read on, because this is not going to be that great!

Recently I wanted to write about "a thing worth doing is a thing worth doing well". And I wanted to tell you about how that wasn't working out for me, and I couldn't do anything well, and it was all hopeless and I quit!

It came out really good!

Maybe the trick is that if a thing is worth doing I should try and do it poorly. 

But it is said:

If you set out to achieve nothing you will surely do just that. 

I think that's from the Torah, or maybe Bennett Cerf's Book of Riddles

I might, on the other hand, have made it up myself. But I doubt it because usually history has got us covered.

So the point is that if a thing is worth doing then it seems likely that someone has already done it. So chill out. It's all been taken care of. 

Thursday, June 10, 2021



I was working out at the front desk of my library and a patron came in to pick up a book that had only recently been processed. That meant that it was somewhere in the back room, in a bin or on a table, where people working on the phones were preparing requested material. So I went back to look for it.

Two of my co-workers were back there, talking.

Now the thing about these two co-workers is that they are the best interviewers I work with.

I don't mean job interviewers, or anything professionally relevant. I mean social interviewers. Drop by for a chat with either of these two figures and they will ask you excellent leading questions about your weekend, your hobby, your health, or your vacation plans, usually whatever interests you the most at the time. 

Then they will stay for the answer! 

Then they will ask follow up questions!

They could go professional with it.

They must be great at parties.

This makes them quite popular around the library I work at.

So as I hunted for this patron's book through the two bins of hold items back there, and I emptied them on a work table, I was thrilled to get to hear these two have a conversation. "What" I wondered. "Does it sound like when the two best interviewers who work at my library, interview each other?"

I don't know what kind of secrets in the art of conversation I was expecting to discover. It turned out that it simply sounded like two sensible people having a very civilized, back and forth, exchange. One would ask something. Then the other would composedly answer and then ask an engaging question back.

Maybe they were keeping their secrets close to their chests because they knew I was there? 

One day I'll crack their mysterious code.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Things worth doing


Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.

Or so it was said by the 4th Earl of Chesterfield back in the mid 1700's. And what with him being an Earl and all, I have tried, since he first mentioned it in a letter to his son, to live by his words.

Until now.


What if you can't do things well? 

I mean while I'm doing them they seem pretty well, but after they're done they tend to look a little... crooked.

What if the standards are too high? 

What does "Well" mean anyway?

And what if it's difficult to do things well? What if it's simply no fun to do them well? What if there are complications in the process of doing things well!!? Everything has complications!!!!!

What if you do it well but it's sort of crooked and it's not your fault at all? What if there are mitigating factors beyond the scope of your control!

And then, what if you somehow, by some miracle, manage to do a thing well, but no one even cares. What if doing it well has to be for your own satisfaction? What if you do it super well and absolutely no one says "Wow, you really did that well!"?

These are very serious questions!

Do you know how long it takes to do things well? 

I don't know about you, but it takes me forever to do things well! So then a person can hardly do anything at all because first they have to learn how to do the thing, then they have to practice it, then they do it several times, then discard the duds, and then, finally, finally, FINALLY!, do it well. That could take years!!! What if there are a lot of things worth doing? Won't only preternaturally gifted people be able to do more than, like, two things total, ever!? And then if everyone is doing things so damn well, won't it all inflate the quality standards for how well things have to be done? If everyone is knocking out excellent stuff because they are committed to doing things so well, won't we all have to meet an unreasonable standard just to do things well?

I am here to tell you that I can't meet that standard! 

I try to do things well but they always seem to come out... funny.

So I'm just going to sit here, quietly, in a dim corner. And frankly, I hope to god that sitting in a corner is not worth doing at all. I'm not sure I can bring much to it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Email address

I recently touched on the difficulty in transcribing email addresses when registering library cards. There are a variety of contributing factors to this: The wax in my aging ears, the masks everyone is, for probably a short time, still wearing at my library, the lack of diction training in modern America, and the plexiglass shield between me and the library patrons. Sometimes too there is the sheer illogic of people's misguided email choices; is always going to be complicated to communicate. But despite the many problems all of the above causes, the main problems come down to people's delivery of said address. 

To illustrate the problematic issues with which people tell me their email address I am enclosing a fairly representative transcript of such an exchange: 

"What is your email address?" I enquire, in the process of creating a library card.

"You want that now?"

"Yes, please." I politely request.

 "Chay, arr, doo, somblesore." They tell me. 

That's how it starts. I get most of it, but I'm not entirely sure. "Did you say "Double-U"?" I ask.

"Yes. Goo, april, sore, ambel, gee, bar."

"Wait, "M-E-R"?" I ask.


"N-E-R?" Working it out.


"Go ahead." I urge.

"Dot." They say.

"Dot." I echo.

"Elygeeatchteeemayan." They say, like it's one thing.

"L-A-G-8-T-M-A-I-N?" I ask.

"No, Elygeeatchteeemayan." They reply.

"L-A-G-H-T-M-I-N?" I ask.

"No, Elygeeatchteeemayan." They reply.

"L-I-G-H-T-M-I-N?" I ask.

"No, Elygeeatchteeemayan." They reply.

"L-I-G-H-T-M-A-N?" I ask.

"Yes. Elygeeatchteeemayan." They reply. 

Then they say nothing. 

"At..." I say, to lead them on.

"At." They say.

Long pause here, so I say "G...?"  in a leading, questioning way, hoping they will do the rest all at once. We're in the home stretch.

"G" They say.

I have a feeling I know where this is going, but I don't want to jump the gun.

"M" They say.

"" I ask, unable to go through the whole thing.

"At Gmail." They agree. "Dot com."

"I put it all together. "So, it's just your first name, dot last name, at gmail dot com?" I ask.


The one thing I do not ask, though I am dying to know it, is why didn't they just say "Wilner-dot-Lightman-at-Gmail to begin with?" Or even more simply, why didn't they simply say "First name dot last name at Gmail" and save us ten minutes?

I refrain from asking them because I have learned here at the front desk of my library that some questions have no answer. And some of those non existent answers will take a dangerously long time to listen to.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Registering library cards


A young couple walks into the library. By the angle of their trajectory, their body language, and several dozen other indicators too small to name or consciously notice, but by now understood by me in my very blood, I know for a fact that they are coming to me at the front desk of the library to get a library card. 

I also know, by so deep a raft of experience that it borders on the psychic, what city they live in.

And I am furious. Why have they passed three libraries closer to them, indeed left their home library system, to drive across town, all to come to me to get a library card? Why are they interrupting my, my, my...

Well, the point is that I could be doing something important!

And that I hate them. I hate them and their stupid library cards.

They're not even going to check anything out!

I hate doing library cards. I hate it with a furious rage!

Hate hate hate hate hate!

"And why do you hate them?" You ask.


I don't know actually. 

There's a lot of typing to it, and so many canned speeches and explanations, and it's just so much the same thing every time. But the real reason is: Maybe I just have to hate something. Maybe it has to be the measure by which everything else is okay at the front desk: Crazy people, book requests based on incorrect titles, problem returns, life advice, lost and found searches, computer passes, library fine resolution, complaints about the librarians, it's all okay. I'm delighted to be of assistance.

But library cards? No. That's a bridge too far. That is a sin for which there is no redemption. They can never be forgiven. They have sealed their doom!

Well, there is the one thing:

If when I ask them for their email address they tell it to me in a  clear, efficient, and coherent manner, all is forgiven.