Friday, March 31, 2023

Am I hungry?

"Am I hungry?" I ask.

I don't know. Are you hungry?

I will try to answer then since you did.

Here is my answer:

Yes, no, I don't know, all the time, never.

I think that captures the feeling.

Did you know that Ramadan is currently being celebrated? In saying that I wondered whether it was more of an observance than a celebration. So I asked my co-worker who is celebrating Ramadan and with whom I am much paired with working today at the library. She said it is very much a celebration. It is celebrating how god will be rewarding them with something better than they can even imagine.

I like this because the whole fasting thing of Ramadan seems to kind of beautifully play into it. One fasts, or in the Muslim sense of it, does something for god, and then one gets to eat, which, let's face it, when it's good, is better than we could have imagined. Just because I have no clue on the hunger thing doesn't mean I'm not enthusiastic about eating! 

And so my co-worker and I have been talking Ramadan this afternoon, mainly about the fasting. She has a very hard time with fasting, but, as long as it's not Summer (with the longer daylight fasting hours), she doesn't find the fasting hours of Ramadan too taxing. I understood that it's the getting up really early to make food for her family that she finds most difficult. I, in turn, told her that I don't have very much difficulty with fasting myself. In fact, as I just reflected, outside of some coffee, it turns out that as it stands I haven't eaten anything at all for 23 hours.


I guess I am hungry.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

The Plagiarized Winnie the Pooh: We Reflect


So you wonder: "Was that the end of the story?"

"I'm sorry." I reply. "I would have been more clear about it, but we had to have this part where we discuss whether it was the end of the story first."

"So now is it the end of the story?"

"It's the end of one story. There are others."

"Ones with me in it. And Pooh?" You ask.

"And Piglet, and Eeyore, yes. Don't you remember?"

"Yes. I remember. But then when I think of them they seem different. I remember Pooh, but I forgot how I got to be there."

"You belonged there so we're reminding you. Do you remember the day where Pooh and Piglet tried to catch the Heffalump?"

"They didn't catch it?"

"No." I say.

"Because Pooh wouldn't know what to do with it. Did I catch it?"

"Would you know what to do with it?"

"I would if you told me."

"I'll tell you, and other things too."

"And Pooh. You'll tell Pooh? Because he doesn't remember things so well. And he'd like to remember them better."

"I would like that too." I said.

"I'm going to have some tea now." You said.

"And a cookie." You said.

"And a lot of honey, for Pooh." Someone said.

"Will you come?" You asked.

"I might." I said, because it was so nice of you to ask.

"The bouncing didn't hurt Pooh when he fell?" You wondered.

"Too soft." I said.

"That's good." You said nodding your head. 

Then you and Pooh left because there wasn't any more story for today.

"Is that the end of the story?" asked Christopher Robin.

"That's the end of that one. There are others."

"About Pooh and Me?"

"And Piglet and Rabbit and all of you. Don't you remember?"

"I do remember, and then when I try to remember, I forget."

"That day when Pooh and Piglet tried to catch the Heffalump——"

"They didn't catch it, did they?"


"Pooh couldn't, because he hasn't any brain. Did I catch it?"

"Well, that comes into the story."

Christopher Robin nodded.

"I do remember," he said, "only Pooh doesn't very well, so that's why he likes having it told to him again. Because then it's a real story and not just a remembering."

"That's just how I feel," I said.

Christopher Robin gave a deep sigh, picked his Bear up by the leg, and walked off to the door, trailing Pooh behind him. At the door he turned and said, "Coming to see me have my bath?"

"I might," I said.

"I didn't hurt him when I shot him, did I?"

"Not a bit."

He nodded and went out, and in a moment I heard Winnie-the-Pooh—bump, bump, bump—going up the stairs behind him.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Casual relationships with library patrons


I am friendly at the front desk of my library. I know a lot of library patrons. Sometimes we chat. It is all very light, in its way.

For example today there was Ted, out at the front desk. I haven't seen him for awhile. "Hey Ted." I say. "I haven't seen you for a couple of weeks. How're you doing?"

"I just found out I have cancer." Ted replies matter of factly.

"Oh, Ted. I'm so sorry."

"Yeah." Ted says. "It's probably terminal."

"I'm so sorry." I respond again.

Then he wants to tell me about some guy who worked with the CIA in Nicaragua in the eighties.

So I let him.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The joke I try not to make


As I have more than once referenced here, my father used to like to make the same jokes over and over in public. Some of these jokes I have affection for, but I have always been wary of doing the same thing. I would rather my humor be spontaneous and inventive, and less, er, ceremonial.

But over the many years that I have worked at the library there are certain jokes that I am inordinately fond of. And so I have to resist using them too often. I only trot out my drivers' license joke on special occasions for instance. 

But my making change for people joke is the most difficult for me.

I try desperately not to make this joke, but I'm afraid it simply comes out more than I would like. Without discipline I would probably end up making it every single time.

The library patron comes up with a bill, usually a twenty, and they say "Can you make change?"

And I say "Change?" 

And then I pause for effect. "Change is hard."

Monday, March 27, 2023

Writing in the fourth person


You will be familiar with the first person point of view in writing. I use it most often here at clerkmanifesto, and it might be my favorite as it gives me free reign to be myself and express my own experience even when writing on more general themes. I also like reading novels that use this form, one where the story is told from the storyteller's perspective. It's an especially personal way of writing.

Second person writing is a far less common form of writing, perhaps most frequently used in technical writing, like for instruction manuals or guides of various kinds. You have always felt this form is underexploited, and so have I. But I think we can both see how easily it can go off the rails because presuming upon the actions and feelings of the readers can be a dicey proposition, and I myself have been driven to rages when told to insert sprocket A into gearset 3 when no one has even numbered the gearsets!

Third person is the most common authorial voice. Also known as the omniscient voice, in this style of writing the author exists outside of the story or information and presents the material from a more dispassionate remove. This is popular for its cool neutrality, but also because of writers' tendencies to have a god complex. Writers actually are gods though, in their small ways, so please don't hold this too much against them.

These have always been the only styles of writing I have ever heard of or known. But in the process of plagiarizing Winnie the Pooh, I have noticed an increasing tendency in myself to write in and notice a new form. It is a form I have used historically in clerkmanifesto without exactly knowing it was a new form, or that it deserved its own name, or even that such a thing existed.

But now it is all clear, and I have a name for it as well.

I call it, naturally enough, the fourth person point of view. Besides the obvious reason for this name, being that one through three have been sequentially taken, there are other good reasons to call it fourth person writing. One is the neat way it doubles the second person form of writing, which is what it multiplies off of. Because in fourth person writing, you the reader are not just directed, or spoken at, as in second person writing, but you explicitly take action in the text. You are introduced into the content of the narrative as an active participant.

"Me?" You ask, both taken back and yet slightly intrigued.

Yes, you.

"You should patent this!" You cry out excitedly.

I know.

But really, I just want everyone to be happy. 

Let it be my godlike writer's gift to the world.

Another good reason to call this fourth person writing, and maybe the best one, is because it references the cinematic device of the fourth wall. The fourth wall is an imagined element through which we see a work, but one we do not mention to retain the illusion of the work. By breaking the fourth wall, or by using the fourth person voice, we admit to the fiction of what we are doing. We play with the deeper truth that you (yes you) and I are collaborators. As much of the illusion work of art is done by the reader as it is by the writer. The fourth person voice is a kind of wall-breaking play at being more upfront about what's going on around here.

"What is going on around here?" You ask suddenly.

"I don't know." I frankly reply. "You tell me."

Sunday, March 26, 2023



Many months ago a new adaptation of Persuasion came out on Netflix. But even as we are ardent Jane Austen fans in my house, and passionate devotees of the Romantic Comedy, we failed to watch it.

 Oh, it was many times proposed to us. But we had heard of its lack of success, its ill breeding, and the lowly consideration it was held in by the critical community. So even though it seemed a perfect movie for us, we passed it by.

But somewhere inside of us, as we watched cooking competition shows and old sitcoms, wondering at yet another disappearance of the Romantic Comedy genre from the filmic landscape, we wondered if, perhaps we made a mistake. A terrible mistake. Perhaps we had forgotten that the views of the critical community were often darkly out of step with our own. Perhaps we had been persuaded out of what was right and beautiful for us.


But, over time, and by strange chance another opportunity came for us. After all this passage of life maybe we should and could watch this Persuasion

And so we did.

It is the best Austen adaptation since The Jane Austen Book Club. Or possibly even Bridget Jones Diary. Or maybe even Clueless. Or

dare I say it


since the Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice!!!

Thank god for second chances.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

God is always right


Today I was reviewing some of the history of Clerkmanifesto. Perhaps my recent, unmarked passing of the ten year anniversary of my daily posts here, sometime last week, made me nostalgic. And maybe once again I was puzzling out how, while for everything I can find to read and watch on the Internet, I do so alongside ten thousand to ten million other readers and viewers, but for clerkmanifesto it's just... us. 


Sometimes, rolling through the past work, I wonder what it is about it. What ingredient is missing? What has kept ten years of my writing out on the deepest backstreets of Internetland, where the wind howls and the cars rust? Tumbleweeds roll by.  A baseball field tucked into  acres of parched corn lies unused. And next door to me, the things you thought were on the Internet, but couldn't find no matter how hard you looked or thought should be there, play backgammon with each other and never answer the door.

But there is a classic joke, and I prefer a joke here:

A great flood is coming. A man waits in his house. A car drives up to the house. The driver calls out urgently to the man "Quick, get in the car. The flood is coming!"

The man replies "No. Thank you. I trust in God."

The car drives away. The waters rise. The man goes upstairs as water fills his house. A boat arrives at an open second floor window. "Get in the boat!" The boat driver says. "The waters are rising!"

"No, thank you." The man says. "I trust that God will save me."

The terrible flood rises some more. The man climbs onto his roof as his house is subsumed. A helicopter flies over and a rope ladder is lowered down to the man. "Grab the ladder!" The helicopter people cry.

"I have faith that god will save me!" The man calls back.

The helicopter flies away. The waters rise and sweep the man off the roof. He drowns. He is dead.

He demands to be taken to god.

The man says to god "What happened? I had absolute faith in you, and yet I perished in the flood!"

God replies: "What? I sent a car. I sent a boat. I sent a helicopter..."

And so I imagine dying, long from now, and going to see god. And I will say "First of all, thank you. Second of all, what was the whole deal with Clerkmanifesto?"

And god will reply "I sent a car. I sent a boat. I sent a helicopter..."

And I'll say "You did?"

And god will say "Forty-seven N. Oak Street, Buffalo, New York?"

And I'll say "No. That wasn't my address."

And god will say. "Ah well. Let us not dwell on these things."

Friday, March 24, 2023

The Plagiarized Winnie the Pooh: The Wrong Kind of Bees


When you got back to the tree with the umbrella Winnie the Pooh called out: "Whew! There you are." Then he added "The bees definitely suspect something." And then he amended that loudly to "The bees mistakenly suspect something." But that last part he said more to the bees than to you.

"Should I unfurl my umbrella?" You asked.

"That would be great," Pooh said. "But we should do it properly. We need to convince the Queen Bee most of all. Can you see the Queen Bee?" Pooh asked.


"Ohhhh. That's too bad. Well, maybe open up your umbrella and walk around under it saying 'Oy gevalt, it sure does look like rain is coming!' And I'll sing some kind of song one would expect a cloud to sing."

"If clouds sang?" You asked.

"Exactly!" Pooh exclaimed, delighted by your understanding.

So you walked about wondering if it would rain while Winnie the Pooh sang this little song:

"I am a little cloud,

Trying not to schvitz.

I always sing aloud,

Not meaning to kibitz.

The rain is coming soon dear bees,

It is my cloudy wish,

And now my song must end,

For I am out of Yiddish."

The bees though only seemed to become more excited by Pooh's song. After the first verse one of them even landed on Pooh's nose! So Pooh called down to you. "I just remembered something!" Pooh called down.

"What's that?" You asked.

"I'm vegan." Replied Pooh, sadly.

"You're vegan?" You asked.

"Yes." Pooh answered. "And I don't think these are the vegan kind of bees."

"So they probably don't make the vegan kind of honey?" I asked.

"Yes." Pooh answered. "And that's the kind of honey I like.

"Is it?" You asked, trying to figure it all out.

"Yes." Pooh answered. "So I think I'd better come down."

"How?" You asked.

"I hadn't really thought." Pooh said. So he thought, but not being able to put his head in his paws his thinking wasn't fancy. "Do you have a gun?" Pooh asked.

"Silly bear." You replied.

"Do you see any soft places then?"

"Yes." You said. "I see a soft place."

"I'm going to drop, then." Winnie the Pooh said.

He didn't drop.

"How soft?" He asked.

"It looks pretty soft."

So he dropped.

And he fell.

And he bounced a couple of times.

And then it was over.

"I was the soft place?" Winnie the Pooh asked. "Wasn't I?"

"I have some honey at my house." You said.

"Is it vegan honey?" Pooh asked.


"Good." Pooh said.

"Oh, there you are!" called down Winnie-the-Pooh, as soon as you got back to the tree. "I was beginning to get anxious. I have discovered that the bees are now definitely Suspicious."

"Shall I put my umbrella up?" you said.

"Yes, but wait a moment. We must be practical. The important bee to deceive is the Queen Bee. Can you see which is the Queen Bee from down there?"


"A pity. Well, now, if you walk up and down with your umbrella, saying, 'Tut-tut, it looks like rain,' I shall do what I can by singing a little Cloud Song, such as a cloud might sing.... Go!"

So, while you walked up and down and wondered if it would rain, Winnie-the-Pooh sang this song:

How sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the Blue!
Every little cloud
Always sings aloud.
"How sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the Blue!"
It makes him very proud
To be a little cloud.

The bees were still buzzing as suspiciously as ever. Some of them, indeed, left their nests and flew all round the cloud as it began the second verse of this song, and one bee sat down on the nose of the cloud for a moment, and then got up again.

"Christopher—ow!—Robin," called out the cloud.


"I have just been thinking, and I have come to a very important decision. These are the wrong sort of bees."

"Are they?"

"Quite the wrong sort. So I should think they would make the wrong sort of honey, shouldn't you?"

"Would they?"

"Yes. So I think I shall come down."

"How?" asked you.

Winnie-the-Pooh hadn't thought about this. If he let go of the string, he would fall—bump—and he didn't like the idea of that. So he thought for a long time, and then he said:

"Christopher Robin, you must shoot the balloon with your gun. Have you got your gun?"

"Of course I have," you said. "But if I do that, it will spoil the balloon," you said.

"But if you don't," said Pooh, "I shall have to let go, and that would spoil me."

When he put it like this, you saw how it was, and you aimed very carefully at the balloon, and fired.

"Ow!" said Pooh.

"Did I miss?" you asked.

"You didn't exactly miss," said Pooh, "but you missed the balloon."

"I'm so sorry," you said, and you fired again, and this time you hit the balloon, and the air came slowly out, and Winnie-the-Pooh floated down to the ground.

But his arms were so stiff from holding on to the string of the balloon all that time that they stayed up straight in the air for more than a week, and whenever a fly came and settled on his nose he had to blow it off. And I think—but I am not sure—that that is why he was always called Pooh.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

The ol' soft shoe


I believe in breaking rules for patrons at the library. Indeed in our fine-free, licentious era there are few gifts, subversions, and exceptions I won't make for people. And I support my colleagues in doing the same at their own discretion. But I do believe in one thing: 

It always must come with a little soft shoe.

I will provide a simple example. A library patron comes to my front desk with five books. "Can I return these here?" They ask.


No, they can't return them here. We have a million-dollar machine that I'm quite fond of, and that has a little feeder door they walked right past, for whatever varied reason, to give me their books. If people all returned their books to us, personally, at the desk, my library's circulation department would grind to a halt, or maybe it would simply return to how it was before we got the big check in machine (that I'm quite fond of), at which point, eschewing as we are all the fine advances of civilization, we might as well skip the whole library thing and live around campfires in the snow telling each other stories and chewing on dried buffalo.

Which is fine, as a solution. But as far as I'm concerned, it's all one or the other. 

One, or the other.

And so, since we have libraries I say:

"No, sorry, all our returns go in the slot in the lobby, to the right," And then, as they are crushed, defeated, and their whole day is ruined because they have to walk back 15 feet the way they just came, I relent. "But just for you today, I'll take them here and throw them on the machine in the back."

The patron is suffused in relief.

An exception is made.

But the ol' soft shoe strikes again. The desired result for the patron has occurred, but I have danced my little dance upon it, and their act has been marked.

And everything will run beautifully in the future. 

At least until we can hunt the buffalo again.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Plagiarized Winnie the Pooh: The Dark Cloud


You and Pooh went out with the blue balloon. You didn't bring anything else with you feeling it would detract from the balloon. And Winnie the Pooh went to a muddy place and started rolling around in the muck so he would look like a small dark cloud to bees. Then, holding onto the blue balloon together, you walked over to, and under the tree, and there you let go. But Winnie the Pooh didn't.

 Winnie the pooh lightly floated up the tree, nearly to the top, and stayed there, maybe twenty feet away from the trunk.

"Yippee!" You shouted.

"Isn't this splendid?" Pooh called. "Do I look like a dark cloud?"

"You look more like a bear." You said. But you felt that was a little harsh, so you added "Like a dark bear? Holding a balloon?"

"Not like a dark cloud in front of a clear blue sky?"

"Not. As. Such." You said, like it was a difficult reply when really it was quite straightforward.

"Perhaps it looks different from up here, especially if you're moving around like a bee.

You tried looking blurry at Pooh, but he just looked like Pooh, but blurry, and muddy.

Everyone fell quiet, except the bees. The wind wasn't blowing and so Pooh floated in the sky without going anywhere. He could see honey, he could even smell honey, he could almost taste honey, but he had no way to get to the honey.

"Hallo." Pooh called down softly.

"Hallo." You called back.

"I think the bees suspect something." Pooh called in a big whisper.

"What do they suspect?"

"They just seem suspicious."

"I mean, they might think..." You suggested.

"That would not be so good." Replied Winnie the Pooh sadly.

There was some more buzzing-only silence.

"Hallo." Pooh called again.

"Yes." You said.

"Do you have an umbrella at home?" Pooh asked.

"I think I might." You said, though you would be the one to know for sure.

"I was hoping you could bring it here and open it up. Then you could walk around back and forth under it, every once in a while looking up at me and saying 'Oy, it looks like it might start raining any second now.' I think this might help persuade the bees."

"Silly old Bear!" You laughed, but only to yourself because you were terribly fond of Winnie the Pooh. Then you went home for your umbrella thinking "Maybe I should say 'tut tut it looks like rain' instead of 'oy'." But then you decided to stick with Pooh's original request, because it didn't seem right to change the original.

Well, you both went out with the blue balloon, and you took your gun with you, just in case, as you always did, and Winnie-the-Pooh went to a very muddy place that he knew of, and rolled and rolled until he was black all over; and then, when the balloon was blown up as big as big, and you and Pooh were both holding on to the string, you let go suddenly, and Pooh Bear floated gracefully up into the sky, and stayed there—level with the top of the tree and about twenty feet away from it.

"Hooray!" you shouted.

"Isn't that fine?" shouted Winnie-the-Pooh down to you. "What do I look like?"

"You look like a Bear holding on to a balloon," you said.

"Not," said Pooh anxiously, "—not like a small black cloud in a blue sky?"

"Not very much."

"Ah, well, perhaps from up here it looks different. And, as I say, you never can tell with bees."

There was no wind to blow him nearer to the tree, so there he stayed. He could see the honey, he could smell the honey, but he couldn't quite reach the honey.

After a little while he called down to you.

"Christopher Robin!" he said in a loud whisper.


"I think the bees suspect something!"

"What sort of thing?"

"I don't know. But something tells me that they're suspicious!"

"Perhaps they think that you're after their honey."

"It may be that. You never can tell with bees."

There was another little silence, and then he called down to you again.

"Christopher Robin!"


"Have you an umbrella in your house?"

"I think so."

"I wish you would bring it out here, and walk up and down with it, and look up at me every now and then, and say 'Tut-tut, it looks like rain.' I think, if you did that, it would help the deception which we are practising on these bees."

Well, you laughed to yourself, "Silly old Bear!" but you didn't say it aloud because you were so fond of him, and you went home for your umbrella.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The elevator personality

Hey, doesn't that title sound like a juicy, almost interesting listoid from a pop psychology book? 

The Elevator Personality (Type number seven) is a personality that constantly goes up and down.

But no. I'm not here for that.

I'm simply here to talk about the personality of my elevator at the library. The back, "staff only" elevator, not the front one.

The back library elevator is like a peaceful, almost slumbering, old man, patient, and deep in thought. There is some deep wisdom there with this elevator, if you're willing to look for it, though sometimes it is hard to mark it out as different from the elevator's slowness or absence. 

I like to take the elevator upstairs when I have a cart of books, empty or full. I almost never go to the basement for anything on the elevator, and three floors is all this elevator covers. But even with so few floors, when I press the button on any floor the elevator takes a very long time to come.

"Don't hurry." The elevator hums quietly. "It is better to let the world move itself around you than it is to move yourself."

While the elevator is coming the up or down arrow is lit, or in the elevator the number of the floor is. But before the elevator doors roll open, everything goes still. The light goes out. Nothing happens. We wait.

"Did we push the button?" We wonder after a while. "Maybe we didn't push the button."

And then:

The door opens.

Is it just a really slow elevator? Or is it giving us an opportunity?

Does the door open, 

before the doors open?

Maybe we stay on the same floor all the time, and the world rises and falls all around us?

I cannot answer these riddles. You cannot answer these riddles.

Only the elevator can answer them, and we, if willing to wait, can listen.

Monday, March 20, 2023

The balloon part of the plagiarized Winnie the Pooh


Winnie the Pooh knocked on your door but it didn't make a lot of noise. So he knocked harder, but maybe your door is kind of soft?

You answered it anyway because you had a feeling.

"Good morning." Winnie the Pooh said politely.

"Good morning Winnie the Pooh." You said.

"Do you have a balloon?" Winnie the Pooh asked.

"A balloon?"

"Mmm. I was walking along, on my way to see if you had a balloon, and I had a thought. I wondered all of the sudden if maybe you had a balloon. It might be the sort of thing you would have and so I wondered while I was walking to see if you did."

"What would you like a balloon for?" You enquired, just being curious, and not judgmental in any way.

Winnie the Pooh looked around very carefully, and up and down just to make sure, and then behind you, and then behind him, and then he whispered a little louder than he meant to: "Honey."

"I don't think you can get honey with a balloon." You said.

"Yes." Pooh said. "But I think I can."

Funnily enough you had been at a party at your friend Piglet's house and they happened to have balloons at the party. You had had a big green balloon and one of Rabbit's relations was given a blue balloon, but he was maybe too little for a party, and after he fell asleep someone carried him home and you ended up with the blue balloon too.

"Would you like a green balloon or a blue balloon?" You asked Pooh.

He sat down and put his head in his paws and started on some careful thinking.

"It's like this:" He said. "When you're going after honey with a balloon it's better if the bees don't see you. A green balloon will blend in with the tree and they might not notice you, but the blue balloon can blend in with the sky and so they might not notice you either. So there are clever things about both balloons."

"The green balloon is on my ceiling and I can't reach it." You said.

"I like the blue balloon much better too." Winnie the Pooh said. "I can look like a dark cloud hanging under it."

So you gave Winnie the Pooh the blue balloon. 

"Good morning, Christopher Robin," he said.

"Good morning, Winnie-ther-Pooh," said you.

"I wonder if you've got such a thing as a balloon about you?"

"A balloon?"

"Yes, I just said to myself coming along: 'I wonder if Christopher Robin has such a thing as a balloon about him?' I just said it to myself, thinking of balloons, and wondering."

"What do you want a balloon for?" you said.

Winnie-the-Pooh looked round to see that nobody was listening, put his paw to his mouth, and said in a deep whisper: "Honey!"

"But you don't get honey with balloons!"

"I do," said Pooh.

Well, it just happened that you had been to a party the day before at the house of your friend Piglet, and you had balloons at the party. You had had a big green balloon; and one of Rabbit's relations had had a big blue one, and had left it behind, being really too young to go to a party at all; and so you had brought the green one and the blue one home with you.

"Which one would you like?" you asked Pooh.

He put his head between his paws and thought very carefully.

"It's like this," he said. "When you go after honey with a balloon, the great thing is not to let the bees know you're coming. Now, if you have a green balloon, they might think you were only part of the tree, and not notice you, and, if you have a blue balloon, they might think you were only part of the sky, and not notice you, and the question is: Which is most likely?"

"Wouldn't they notice you underneath the balloon?" you asked.

"They might or they might not," said Winnie-the-Pooh. "You never can tell with bees." He thought for a moment and said: "I shall try to look like a small black cloud. That will deceive them."

"Then you had better have the blue balloon," you said; and so it was decided.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Starts with night

A person with whom I am friendly (partly due to having worked at the library with his mother for many years) visited the library and we chatted. He had spent time in L.A. and worked as an extra in the movies. And he wondered why I hadn't gone into the movie industry what with my L.A. childhood and my blog and everything. I'm not sure I understood the point. But I said something about my blog not having reached the requisite amount of people for its fame to catapult me into a career in film.

He has read my blog, or heard of it, or something along those lines. I'm actually not sure what his status is in relation to my blog, though I would be genuinely surprised if his involvement were comprehensive enough for him to be reading this now, wondering as he reads if this is a rough sketch of him

But he then said he could understand how I might have a lack of popularity because I write from such a narrow subject.

Of course, if you had asked me, I would have said I write about some of the grandest, most sprawling themes and subjects possible. But perhaps it is hard to entirely know ourselves. And then surely it is even harder to know our effect on others. For instance, Monday and Tuesday I made delicious hamburgers for my meal at the library. These had ketchup, fried onions, parmesean cheese, and arugula on a sesame seed bun. I thought "Oh my, how delicious I am making everything smell with these fried onions." But many of my co-workers, and apparently a few library patrons, felt very differently about this smell. I think to the point where people were actually mad at me about it!

So I'm saying that maybe I do write along very narrow themes, and that all the library stories are very much special interest stories of the most extreme kind.

And if that's going to be the case, I might as well tell you this story.

It is as narrow as I can think of.

A man could not find the DVD that was on hold for him, and, as it wasn't anywhere that, by any stretch of the phrase, it was supposed to be, I instituted a broad search. The movie was Night of the Iguana. I looked on unshelved carts, and I looked through our entire collection of shelved "N" DVD's. But I didn't find it. And here's where things get particularly narrow for you:

When searching through a mass of DVD's, it is best to search out the first word of the title to try and track it down. So I looked for the word "Night" starting the title of any DVD. 

It turns out that "Night" is the single most common first word for any movie ever made!

Isn't that interesting?


How do you feel about the smell of frying onions?

Bonus index of just some movie titles on our shelves right now:

Night of the Following Day

Night of the Grizzly

The Night House

Night of the Living Deb

Night of the Living Dead

Night Drive

Night and the City

The Night Before

The Night Shifter

The Night

The Night Clerk

Night to Remember

Night Catches Us

Night Comes On...

That's just a start! There are so many that there is even a name for it:

Movie night.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Plagiarized Winnie the Pooh part 2

Once upon a time, very long ago, or maybe, like, last Thursday, Winnie the Pooh lived in a forest under the C.

("Was the forest in the ocean?" You ask, trying to work it out.

"Oh, no, I said it wrong. He lived under the "C", which was in a circle and hung over his door.

"Is this why you couldn't tell us this story until now?"

"Have you studied copyright law?" I ask, impressed.

"Winnie the Pooh has." You say.

"Then we can move right along.")

One day Winnie the Pooh was walking in the forest, and he came to an open place, and there was a big oak tree in the middle of the open place. At the top of the tree he heard a buzzing. 

He was sure buzzing meant something. It meant an important animal, but he couldn't think which. So he decided to list all the animals: Aardvark, Alligator, Antelope, Anteater, Arithmetic, Armadillo.

That seemed like enough for the "A" animals. So he decided to start on the "B's"

"B's? Or bees." Pooh wondered.

Then he needed a think so bad that he had to sit on the ground and put his head in his paws. 

"You can't buzz without bees." Winnie the Pooh thought significantly. 

Then: "You can't be a bee without buzzing."

And after a while: "And if you're being a bee, besides buzzing, you make honey."

The thinking was going really good! So Pooh said:

"If you're making honey, some of it might be for me."

This made him get up and say "There really isn't any reason I can think of to make honey and not have any for me." So he climbed the tree.

He climbed and climbed and climbed and started singing a song, which you might know, but if you did know it you'll need to make a new tune for it now. Although you'd also have to do that if you didn't know the song. And never mind all that because I will now sing it for you with my own tune:

Isn't it a funny

How a bear likes honey,

Buzz, buzz, buzz,

I wonder why he does?

But as long as this song was. And no matter how many times he sang it. He was still not at the top of the tree. So he climbed further, and further, and further. Which is when he thought of a new song.

It's really rather funny how if bears were bees,

They'd build their nests at the bottom of trees,

And if bees were alligators,

They'd use elevators,

But alligators, bees, or bears,

I'm tired of all these stairs.

He was tired of all the climbing, which may have affected his lyrics at this point. But he was almost there. If he just stood on this branch.


"Oh bother." Said Pooh in a hurt voice. Or maybe a preparing for hurt voice. And then he fell ten feet to the branch below him.

"Maybe I..." And he fell another ten feet to another branch and forgot what he was going to say. He'd almost thought of a new thing to say when he fell twenty feet and landed on a new branch.

He then fell onto another branch, but wasn't there long enough to say anything. Then another. Then another that he remembered slightly from on the way up, but that somehow didn't seem very important at that particular moment. 

"It all comes from." He said, and fell through two branches and did two somersaults with a twist that would have been very nice if he meant to do it, and then landed in a gorse bush. "Liking honey so much." He concluded.

So he crawled out of the bush with prickles in his nose and found he still liked honey just as much as he ever did. So he started to think again.

And he thought of you.

("Me?" You ask, a little thrilled at having come into the story, which you forgot you were promised would happen while you were worrying about the bear falling down a tree.

"Yes, it was you."

Which is a lot to take in because you have found traditionally books are about other people, which was always okay, but maybe a little unfair that it was all the time.)

So Winnie the Pooh went round to your house, which was in another part of the woods, and behind a green door.

 Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders.

("What does 'under the name' mean?" asked Christopher Robin.

"It means he had the name over the door in gold letters, and lived under it."

"Winnie-the-Pooh wasn't quite sure," said Christopher Robin.

"Now I am," said a growly voice.

"Then I will go on," said I.)

One day when he was out walking, he came to an open place in the middle of the forest, and in the middle of this place was a large oak-tree, and, from the top of the tree, there came a loud buzzing-noise.

Winnie-the-Pooh sat down at the foot of the tree, put his head between his paws and began to think.

First of all he said to himself: "That buzzing-noise means something. You don't get a buzzing-noise like that, just buzzing and buzzing, without its meaning something. If there's a buzzing-noise, somebody's making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you're a bee."

Then he thought another long time, and said: "And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey."

And then he got up, and said: "And the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it." So he began to climb the tree.

He climbed and he climbed and he climbed, and as he climbed he sang a little song to himself. It went like this:

Isn't it funny
How a bear likes honey?
Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!
I wonder why he does?

Then he climbed a little further ... and a little further ... and then just a little further. By that time he had thought of another song.

It's a very funny thought that, if Bears were Bees,
They'd build their nests at the bottom of trees.
And that being so (if the Bees were Bears),
We shouldn't have to climb up all these stairs.

He was getting rather tired by this time, so that is why he sang a Complaining Song. He was nearly there now, and if he just stood on that branch ...


"Oh, help!" said Pooh, as he dropped ten feet on the branch below him.

"If only I hadn't——" he said, as he bounced twenty feet on to the next branch.

"You see, what I meant to do," he explained, as he turned head-over-heels, and crashed on to another branch thirty feet below, "what I meant to do——"

"Of course, it was rather——" he admitted, as he slithered very quickly through the next six branches.

"It all comes, I suppose," he decided, as he said good-bye to the last branch, spun round three times, and flew gracefully into a gorse-bush, "it all comes of liking honey so much. Oh, help!"

He crawled out of the gorse-bush, brushed the prickles from his nose, and began to think again. And the first person he thought of was Christopher Robin.

("Was that me?" said Christopher Robin in an awed voice, hardly daring to believe it.

"That was you."

Christopher Robin said nothing, but his eyes got larger and larger, and his face got pinker and pinker.)

So Winnie-the-Pooh went round to his friend Christopher Robin, who lived behind a green door in another part of the forest.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Some library philosophy


At some point in my long library career, one full of many ideas about libraries, I came to an understanding that if lots of library patrons consistently believe we should have something, no matter how ridiculous or unlibrary-like it might seem, we should probably have it. A ruler? Free paperclips? Kleenex? Unless we have a good reason not to have them, the community at least helps to define what a library is. You will pry books out of our libraries' cold dead hands, but if you also think we should have a 3D Printer, you're probably on to something even if I'm not sure why.

But I've known this for a while now. What I have only recently come to understand is that the converse of all this is also, importantly true:

If the library gets rid of something, and nobody misses it, we didn't need it, even if people had been using it.

With that said, let's talk about the courtesy phone. As tempted as I am to relate to you the entire history of the courtesy phone at the library I work at, there is not enough time in the day! So I will just cover this:

For a long time, we had a phone at the front desk that people had to ask to use. 

People used it all the time

We even had rules about that phone's use that people constantly abused and infringed on just to use the phone more.

But one day, mostly because the technical capability came available to us, we stopped allowing use of our phone and put a courtesy phone out on a counter in the lobby instead. It has no restrictions and is readily available to anyone with a phone number to call.

Hardly anyone ever uses that phone!

I am a fierce advocate of adding things to the library on a trial basis to see if they work. Free staplers. A borrowable power tool collection. Puzzles. University lectures. Concerts in the Fiction Section. Coffee kiosks. Martini nights. I say try them all. But there is always limited time and space at the library. And so as we seek and experiment with what to add, it's also a good idea to take things away, and see if anybody notices.

I mean, except for books.

Never the books.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Plagiarized Winnie the Pooh, Part one



In which we meet Winnie the Pooh, who we might have already heard of somewhere we can't remember, and some bees, who we definitely know, and then there are stories

Here is Winnie the Pooh coming down the stairs, his head thumping along each step, thump, thump, thump behind you. It is the only way he knows to come down the stairs. Sometimes he thinks maybe there could be a better way to come down stairs, but there probably isn't because he can't think of one. Anyway, he's down at the bottom now ready to be introduced to you. Winnie the Pooh.

When I first heard his name I thought the same thing you're thinking now: The Disney character?

"I did think that." Said you, being much impressed.

"But this Winnie the Pooh is not the Disney character."

"He's not? Then why is he called Winnie the Pooh?" You ask.

"Because that was his name before he was Winnie the Pooh." 

"You do know that Winnie the Pooh and Winnie the Pooh are the same thing?"

"Yes, but-"

"How can there be more than one Winnie the Pooh?" You want to know.

"There can't be, really, deep down." I said. 

But just in case, if anyone asks us, this is the legal Winnie the Pooh and that's all I'm going to say about that.

Sometimes when Winnie the Pooh comes down the stairs he likes to play a game and sometimes he likes to hear a story.

"Ohhh, what about a story then?" You say.

"What about a story?"

"Will you please tell a story to Winnie the Pooh who I think might like to hear one?"

"I was already planning to tell him a story. But what kind of story would he like?"

"I think he would like a sweet story with him in it, because he is that sort of bear. And maybe it could have me in it too, because that would be more comfortable, for him, if that's okay." 

(Don't worry. It will have you in it too.)

"I already started it." I said.

Because I have.


The original text of this passage follows below. This is just in case you were wondering about the differences betwee my cover and the original. But you don't need to read it if you're content with my rendition:



Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-Pooh.

When I first heard his name, I said, just as you are going to say, "But I thought he was a boy?"

"So did I," said Christopher Robin.

"Then you can't call him Winnie?"

"I don't."

"But you said——"

"He's Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means?"

"Ah, yes, now I do," I said quickly; and I hope you do too, because it is all the explanation you are going to get.

Sometimes Winnie-the-Pooh likes a game of some sort when he comes downstairs, and sometimes he likes to sit quietly in front of the fire and listen to a story. This evening——

"What about a story?" said Christopher Robin.

"What about a story?" I said.

"Could you very sweetly tell Winnie-the-Pooh one?"

"I suppose I could," I said. "What sort of stories does he like?"

"About himself. Because he's that sort of Bear."

"Oh, I see."

"So could you very sweetly?"

"I'll try," I said.

So I tried.


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The dump hour

The last hour of the last day of the week at my library is what I call "The Dump Hour". This is when households across the metro gather together anything that is remotely related to any library anywhere, come to my branch in the last hour before we close on Sunday, and dump it onto our return machine. 

Rumble rumble rumble goes the machine under the onslaught of Dump Hour stuff!

Here come 11 books weeded from the Minneapolis Public Library in 1988!

Here are 24 magazines from the nearby St. Paul system that will need to have a date stamped slip inserted into each them.

Here is a random, mysterious old hymnal that no one has ever read, and no one ever will.

Here is one item that may have been a book of ours, once, long ago.

These three things belong to the school library of a famously posh private school called The St. Paul Academy. F. Scott Fitzgerald went to High School here.

Here are a series of the Interlibrary loan books we painstakingly requested for a patron, one by one, from all over the State, now coming back all at once.

And here are 138 children's picture books checked out from our branch and coming down the rollers like an great train that is so long it disappears into the distance. 

Three sliced loaves of bread come through.

They do not look fresh!

The library orphan, looking at ease, rolls by. "Hello." The library orphan says winningly as he is diverted into the exception bin.

"Hello." I respond.

A cup of coffee rolls along. Fortunately it is almost empty.

Then a gray hat comes down the line.

I grab my head in alarm. 

Hey, that's my hat!

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Fantastic Mr. Fox


I needed a book to listen to at the library and Fantastic Mr. Fox happened to be available. The voice actor is pretty good. They really go after all the voices in the book, the brio of Mr. Fox, the piping voices of his children, and the over the top caricatures of the awful farmers. Sometimes it all seems like too much, but then the book sometimes seems like it's too much itself, but I think maybe that's the point with both the book and the voices.

Because of all this I wasn't sure how much I really liked Fantastic Mr. Fox for awhile. 

But suddenly, maybe rather far along, there was one moment...

I was reading the part of the story when the Fox family has dug away from the homicidal farmers and are now just perfecting their access to the farmers' food. It was here, all at once, that the curious ethical and political considerations of the book struck, oddly late: This book is all about stealing from the rich! I love stealing from the rich stories! In fact this is a book where all the heroes really do is just... steal stuff. That and avoid the nasty people trying to stop them.

The moment this ethical construct struck me it also seemed to strike one of the characters, Mr. Badger. 

Mr. Fox and his family escaped the murderous shovels of the Farmers by barely managing to out dig and out burrow them. Then they went to the brink of starvation while hiding deep underground from certain death, until Mr. Fox came up with a plan to tunnel right up into the Farmers' food storehouses. After the first successful breach that gave them full access to delicious chickens, Mr. Fox and his children ran into Mr. Badger, who was starving and despairing due to the situation with the farmers' murderous vigil. But after the good news about chickens, and after inviting him and his family and all other afflicted burrowing animals to the lavish feast planned by the reinvigorated Foxes, Mr. Badger enlisted into the Foxes' crusade. And it was here that he had a moment of ethical reckoning.

"Aren't we just stealing?" Mr. Badger asked Mr. Fox with concern.

Mr. Fox basically replies "There is no parent whose child is hungry who wouldn't steal food to feed their child."

And though it is not a mushy book, and Mr. Badger and Mr. Fox don't seem to have a deep relationship, instead of discussing the point, or any of its ethical ramifications, Mr. Badger surprisingly just says, with real affection, "I love you Mr. Fox."

And that is when the book won me over.