Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The sad return


After nearly two weeks of vacation, I am back to work at the library.

"Oh, you were gone?" My co-workers ask.

"You didn't notice that everything has been bland and colorless around here for the past couple weeks?"

No. They didn't.

So maybe I'll just walk around listening to podcasts then until it's time to retire.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Not a review of a cat store


I don't believe I have ever been to a cat store. You know, a store for cat... things. And so I am not keen to review the first one I have ever been to. It seems too precious, and delicate, and dear. And I want to nurture it. I want any cat store to survive in a cruel world that is not kind to strange and miraculous things. 

Like some first, tiny rare flower I might have always longed to see, there the store Cat aMewsement was, shining like a holy grail in one of our old neighborhoods, St. Anthony Park.

It was open where the bookstore used to be.

So my wife and I went delightedly in!

Pinch me. A real life cat store!

And it sort of sucked.

This is not a review.

Like that tiny rare flower when you first see it and say, wait, this is the flower? Why doesn't it have any colors or petals? Maybe I am color blind? So it was Cat aMewsement didn't have any cats. It did have some cat products and products for cats, I guess, all of which were not interesting.

It also had, and I can't emphasize this enough, a dog section.

This is not a review.

Two stars.

Cat aMewsement is doing god's work!

Not particularly well at all.

This is not a review.

It is a tale of woe.

Monday, May 29, 2023

New Yourk Times


This morning we drank coffee and read the entire Sunday New York Times. It took more than four hours. I can't say I didn't learn things. Here is a list:

1. The entire New York Times is now written by AI! Although it is possible that all AI is instead written by the New York Times.

2. Neo Liberalism is over! 

3. We're kind of fishing around for something just like Neo Liberalism, but maybe with a different name.

4. Vermeer was apparently a very talented artist, and the big, comprehensive exhibit of his is worth seeing if you can be taken on a private, after hours tour of it.

5. Prizes like the Pulitzer, Guggenheim, and Nobel are very nice, but they aren't everything. No one who wins any of them thinks they deserved it because everyone is very humble.

6. Martin Luther King Jr. was a complicated person who dressed well. Some people thought he was too progressive. Some thought he wasn't progressive enough. But don't worry, he wasn't a communist.

7. Ron DeSantis is not a good person, but don't worry, if it becomes necessary The New York Times won't do anything about it.

8. Rent in Vienna, Austria is quite reasonable.

9. Something about the T.V. show "Succession".

10. I wanted there to be ten things I learned from reading the entire Sunday New York Times.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Hey hey, my my


It was one of the loveliest afternoons... ever. My darling wife and I wiled away a full afternoon sitting outside on a perfect late Spring day at a restaurant we had long forgotten. Sitting there we easily remembered things from forty years ago. The River was behind me and the restaurant speakers played songs almost perfectly from the sixties, really meaning something more like '65 to '75, all of it strictly just a little before our time. 

The baby boomers might kill everything before they're done, but they were the best too. 

It's better to burn out, than to fade away.

There were Beatles and Rolling Stone songs. The Kinks. The Who. Dylan. Hendrix. Finally there was a Neil Young song. I was wearing a picture I'd made of him on my shirt; him with wings, playing a guitar.

 They give you this and you pay for that.

Does Neil Young mean it: It's better to burn out than to fade away?

Yes, but it's an elegy.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Vacation blog post in honor of the Tao


When I am not on vacation I write blog posts. 

And when I am on vacation, I write blog posts.

I write blog posts!

Sometimes before I am on vacation I write a ton of blog posts, and out they come, post, post, post, in a steady dispensation while I frolic through vacation, heedless of blog posting.

But not now. I am on vacation and I am writing a blog post! 

But it is a very simple blog post, as befits a person on vacation.

Although all my blog posts may, in the end, be simple.

And yet at the same time they are all a little too complex for anyone to really understand.

This one might be a little like that.

Friday, May 26, 2023

From: The Book, by God


Verse One

If you have come here looking for one, simple, secret rule to explain everything, and to tell you how to live your life, you are in luck!

I have the simple, secret, easy, magic answer right here.

Unfortunately it is long and complicated.

Thursday, May 25, 2023



Yes, yes, yes. It's all party party party around here right now.

And I love a cocktail.

I have probably always loved cocktails, but they didn't have them when I was younger. Not really. One was just supposed to drink distilled spirits, and generic, commercial beer. There was wine though. A person could drink good wine if interested.

The closest thing to the modern cocktail we had in, say, the ending decades of the 20th Century, outside of a few drops of dry vermouth in one's gin, was maybe the Tiki Bar. These were cute bars where one could get violently colored (and tasting) drinks made from the cheapest rums, liqueurs, and canned juices. 

So not very close. 

The contrast with the modern is extraordinary. The places I have been going out to this past weekend have amazing cocktails with astonishing ingredients. I have a reasonably good knowledge of liqueurs, historical drinks, and unusual alcohols, but I am regularly thrown for a loop in any ingredient list on these cocktail menus. And the adventure in taste can be greater than with any of the food, as good as that sometimes is.

I love a cocktail. And I am curiously full of trust when it comes to these. I find when ordering one I have become less inclined to choose what I like, and more inclined to choose based on pure bewilderment. Here is a list of some of the evocative cocktail components on the drinks menus of where I have been this last weekend:

Brown butter wash

Tattersall bitter orange

Banane du Bresil

Rainwater and Malmsey Madeira

Tarragon boozy simple saline

cherry smoked velvet falernum

bell pepper

oscar quevedo flowers

Carpano antica


Well, it goes on. And how does it taste?

I'm actually not sure...

And now, as my favorite cocktail youtuber says, to the bar!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023


Having grown up with it, and endured long exposure, I can navigate traditional American tipping. In a restaurant I add a heavy 20 percent on the total bill, a bit less if something is really wrong, and 25 plus if there's something unusually wonderful going on with the service. I love the idea of Europe, where the price is just the price, but there's still a great deal of tipping round the edges. On any trip to France I might try to get sorted on the situation by perusing the Internet, and I find it always unsatisfying. "Tipping is absolutely not required." Every authority invariably preaches. "Waiters are properly remunerated." All is good so far. But then we come to "So just round up, add a euro or two. And at more expensive restaurants it is customary to add five or ten percent to the bill."

Oh. So... that's very clear?

Last night I was at a restaurant that was at pains to assure me that they were taking care of the staff, all of them, by adding a 20% service charge to every bill. Cool. They even added "No further tip is required." But they couldn't resist offering me the opportunity. "Of course, any further tips are up to you." They concluded.

In practice, at the conclusion of the meal, the perfectly fine, to that point, waitress, asked if I understood the service charge. I thought I did, but no. Apparently some people got some of the 20 percent and she got 11 percent. 


That seems fair, or wildly unfair. Probably wildly unfair?

I don't know.

I am pretty sure that a service charge though is probably the worst of all worlds; a mandatory tip to rob it of being the freely given thank you that a tip is. Thus it leaves any actual tip as an unresolved question.

How many layers of tipping can we get to?

The one place that I have ever been that completely nailed it, as it did in several things through the years, was the late, lamented Kopplin's Coffee. They introduced the perfect cappuccino to Saint Minneapolis, were impeccable in their quality, always sourced from the best local places, and at some point raised their prices to compensate their staff properly and became a "No tip" operation. 

No tips. 

They didn't accept them.

Tips, for good or ill, mostly ill, are like light, or roaches, or water, or zombies- if you leave even a crack, they will find a way in.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The gift


I have been talking a little more than usual lately about not believing in god. It's a little more complicated than just that. And though I may have some seriously dark questions about your religion, peoples' varied beliefs in Greater Powers is of no great driving concern to me. From my lofty perch here on clerkmanifesto, at the slumping podium with an old armchair on the banks of a muddy river at the end of an abandoned alley full of cats, in Internetland, I let loose my torrid proclamation:

Believe as you will.

But for me? There is no god. And god does not mind that I feel that way.

But this does not mean that I don't believe.

I believe in more things than you can shake a stick at!

I believe them with a fever.

And here is one:

The Universe is so large, and full of so many pieces, that some of them, one, at least, was made just for you.

You do not own it. 

It is not yours.

It exists in full autonomy and independence, and it carries no debt.

But by some strange magic that is bigger than your overwhelming gods, it was made for you.

It's just one of those strange things I know.

On this day... 

Because of this day...

I know.

Monday, May 22, 2023

The no-win situation


It was the last day before I was off at the library for 12 days. I get particularly sensitive when I know I'm going to be gone from work for an extended time. I don't want to carry any bad feeling with me into a vacation or into any long time off. I am especially careful to not make any mistakes, get in any fights, leave anything under-stocked, and to leave anything in any of my spaces others might use. I don't want to be thinking or worrying about work or co-workers when I'm blissfully away from it all.

So it was concerning to me, on this last day of work, when it seemed like a long time colleague wasn't talking to me. Had I offended her? Did she overhear me saying something that hurt her feelings? What was going on?

I don't like being disliked.

So later that day when I was sitting with that same co-worker while I was assigned to the phones, and she started chatting with me, quite normally and volubly, I was relieved. As perhaps too often happens with me, I think people are thinking about, reacting to, and considering me far more than they ever are. And furthermore I too often leave myself and feel too exposed to the opinions of others about me, rather than nurturing my own sense of self. 

I needed to focus on being with myself!

Which, alas, put me in this ironic situation:

I was uncomfortable when she wasn't talking to me, and now that she was, I wished she would leave me alone.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

The only definition of AI you will ever need


This weekend, a highly social one, I will be seeing a variety of old friends, and ones I have not been with for awhile. And since I have a long history in the arts, surely the question of what I have been up to in that regard will come up.

I currently wear, almost exclusively, t-shirts with my own AI generated designs on them. So, using them as my example, I will almost certainly explain that I have been doing a lot of AI photography these days.

I imagine, though it is perhaps far more likely that it won't happen, that I will be asked:

"But what, exactly, is AI photography?"

And this is the answer I have prepared:

AI photography is when I tell my phone what sort of picture I would want, pick the ones I like, and then take all the credit for them.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Shangri-La along the Mississippi


The flood waters have receded some along the banks of my Mississippi River.

Oh, you have a Mississippi River too?

Everyone should have a Mississippi River!

I stumbled along the shore and deep sand and tried not notice all the garbage the high water left behind. Mostly the marooned trees are what seemed picturesque, so that's what I took pictures of. Then I told my phone to make everything perfect. All this automation magic, from my beloved self check-in machine at the library to my synthetic photo manipulators on my phone, share a fatal flaw:

No matter how broken the world is, no matter how broken they are, no matter how terrible are their inputs, they nevertheless think everything is always wonderful.

But sometimes I think everything is wonderful too. 

And so in those moments we can work together.

Friday, May 19, 2023

The onion Bento


I am always looking for a way to eat good foods in appropriate portions. And lately, in response to this search, I have employed the Bento Box. These are perfect for bringing to work, and the two boxes I have acquired have wonderful, distinct compartments (five!), inspire the imagination, and seal up a charm. From there it's just a question of what foods to populate the box with.

Today it was onions.

Well, there was some very good goat brie, and some Prosciutto, rye crackers, but ultimately it was all about the onions. In fact, it needed more onions. I had roasted onions, and they were the highlight of the whole box. And I also had pickled onions, which were tangy and a bit spicy. Some fried onions would have been perfect, but I ran out of time or energy in my preparations. Alas.

But boy, I love an onion.

My challenge for the future:

An all onion bento box!

In ten years of writing clerkmanifesto I figured I must have covered my affection for onions before, so, in preparation for this blogpost I looked into my history of 3,700 blog posts. 

Sure enough, five years ago, there is this.

"Oh no!" I cried. "I've already used up my Stone Soup story!"

Well I certainly wasn't gonna tell you that ol' Stone Soup story again.

But I wasn't going to let it stop me from talking about onions.


Onions, onions, onions!!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

The mask conundrum


In these relatively early days of the normalization of Covid, the issue of masks seems to be settling out. Looking about my library I work at, most people don't wear masks now, though a tiny minority still do. I take no great Internet-appropriate view of this situation. This means that I am not particularly outraged about any aspect of it. Wearing a mask is mainly a personal risk mitigation issue at this point. Wearing one properly will decrease your chances of contracting (and spreading) airborne diseases. Wearing a ventilator would be even better protection. I don't wear either, but I understand that it's all a matter of how much risk one is willing to expose themselves to. 

Nevertheless, there is one kind of mask wearer I regularly see at the library that is mystifying to me. 

Or let me put it another way: Of all the kinds of mask wearers during the pandemic; the face shield wearers, the pristine N-95ers, the bandana folks, the "free handouts only" surgical maskers, etc., the very last kind of people I would have guessed to be still at it in the masking game are what I call the chin maskers.

Chin maskers are the people who walk around with ill-fitting masks either not covering their nose, or dangling from their face like they just emerged from an exhausting bit of surgery, or who have simply let the mask end up strapped below their mouth like a chin guard. These are the people who, when talking to you (the most important time to wear a mask), would lower their mask out of the way so as to be heard clearly. And to my total surprise, it turns out that these very people, the people who use masks ineffectively, of all people, are the ones who continue to sport masks. 

At the height of mandatory pandemic masking, I thought these chin maskers were garden variety political lunatics, passive aggressively expressing their contempt for any law that would dare try to... stop... a... plague. 

But since they have not abandoned masks, long past when they freely could, clearly I was wrong.

It turns out they believe in masks more passionately than almost any of the rest of us.

However, it turns out, their belief is more religious than scientific.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The fine line between condelusion and lies


At the appointed hour I headed out to the front desk of my library. There are two computers, the high one and the low one. I take the one freely available, which is the high one, and I commence Internet browsing, oh! and helping people when it comes up.

Five minutes later my desk partner arrives. They politely ask if I prefer the seat I am at, or if I consider the schedule to designate seats. I do not consider the schedule to designate seats. I don't care what seat I'm at. I go to whatever seat is available.

My co-worker doesn't care what seat they're at either.

Since that's resolved I expound a little: 

"I want to say there's no difference, but at the high seat all the people come to you, and at the low seat everyone ignores you and you have to flag people down to get them to you."

My co-worker surprisingly disagrees. "Not for me." She complains. "When I'm at the high computer everyone comes to me, and when I'm at the low computer everyone comes to me."

Then, for the following 55 minutes, I help every single person who comes to the front desk while she looks at her phone.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The Wes Anderson ouvre


I arrived in Internetland today to find my Internetland newspaper complaining:

"Stop making Wes Anderson parody videos!"

I have not linked to this article as it has not met my standard of merit.

Someone in Internetland, using a slightly elevated suite of the same AI tools I'm occasionally whacking about with here, made a viral video of Star Wars as directed by Wes Anderson.

I have linked to this as it does meet a minimum standard of merit.

There is also now a Lord of the Rings sequel to this and a slow spill of imitators.

The article has a whole range of problems with these Wes Andersony fripperies. They're not fresh. They're not a fair representation of the intelligence of Wes Anderson. And they're not satire.

But I don't think we have to cast quite so dour an eye on any of it.

What these little short films really serve to demonstrate is that Wes Anderson has a universe, like the Peanuts, or the Muppets. And the great universality of the components of all these creative universes is equally matched by their distinctiveness. It would work to make a version of The Matrix with Muppets and it would be The Matrix, yet it would still be appealing distinctly as A Muppet Movie, at least conceptually. Both are distinctive and yet nevertheless one could fit them together modularly.

So when we watch The "Star Wars by Wes Anderson" pretend preview, in all its imperfections, we, I want to tell the author of this "Stop making Wes Anderson parody videos!" article, are not mocking Wes Anderson, or saying what he does is small, rather we are saying that the way he makes films is actually so great and powerful that there is something appealing about seeing it expressed in endless iterations.

Are these fake Wes Anderson previews groundbreaking, deeply insightful, or adept skewering of his work? No.

Are they cute and do they make me want to see a Wes Anderson Star Wars?

Yes. If he's interested.

And for that matter, a Wes Anderson live version movie of The Muppets, or a Muppet version of a Wes Anderson movie, are of equal interest to me.


And who then am I to resist...

The Muppet Tenenbaums:

Owen Wilson/Kermit:

Scarlett Johansson/Miss Piggy