Friday, June 30, 2023

Not self aggrandizing


A patron came up to me at the front desk of the library. They were checking out two books by the author, Stuart Gibbs, of a series I am currently reading. But before I could comment on this the patron said they wanted to thank me. 

Thank me? 

Apparently, according to this patron, I was so nice when their car was stolen with ten library books in it, and I was calm and helpful about it. And so every time they see me they really want to thank me. It meant a lot to them at a stressful time.

"Hmmm." I said suspiciously. "Are you sure? That doesn't sound like me at all." 

But I said it all a little bit winningly, just in case they were on to something.

"It was definitely you." They seemed awfully confident about it. 

So who knows, maybe they were right.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

And now a bit about my inspirations


I was bumming around Reddit the other day. Reddit is not very good, but it is the most vaguely Internet-like thing left on the Internet, what with all its endless stuff and commentary to poke around at. And as we inexorably descend to the point where the Internet is just shopping, bureaucracy, and bots talking to each other, I am still keen to draw some measly entertainment from the tattered remnants of the Internet dream as they flap in a wind about to tear them off forever.

"Er, and what did you see on Reddit?" The curious reader wonders.

On Reddit, I saw the question posed: "What movie blew your mind the first time you watched it?"

There wasn't a ton of joy for me in this question. All the answers seemed predictable even before I read them; The Matrix, Star Wars, Memento, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, Jurassic Park, and so on. So I turned to musing on my own experience to extract entertainment: 

What movie blew my mind the first time I watched it?

There were a few, but I was looking for that special diamond in the rough. Something that wouldn't be in the usual responses.

And I thought of Babe.

Babe blew my mind.

Back in the days of Babe's release, my lovely wife and I used to walk out of our neighborhood, across the edges of the University, to the near suburbs where a decrepit theater with sticky floors showed movies for one dollar.

One dollar!

My god! Even way back then that wasn't very much money!

Now these dollar picture shows weren't first run movies exactly, young 'uns (oh, right, I don't think there are any young people reading clerkmanifesto), these were movies just out of their initial theatrical runs, scraping up a bit more money before heading for (oooh, just wait for some old timey stuff now!), their video rental release. This was in a pre information glut era, before the Internets rose thrillingly from their launch pads to head to the stars and then instead crashed into our cites and lit them on fire. So I'm not sure how much we knew about the movies we were going to see.

But I do remember we were late for this one.

And we walked in to the theater to see the movie underway, with impossibly cute mice on the screen explaining what was going on.

These little mice were fantastic!

Then the movie turned out to be full of talking animals!!!


Some were magnificently cute. (So much cuteness was itself a little mind-blowing).

And all of it, as I recall (it's been a while since I've seen Babe), was miraculously in a live action format of stunning verisimilitude.

The problem with magic is how quickly we can start to take it for granted. My mind was so blown away by Babe that there is in me, more than a quarter century later, a small part that wonders why half of all movies aren't made like this to this day! All of the sudden, watching Babe, it seemed like one could make a film with anything, of anything! But at the same time after ten minutes of the movie I just took it all for granted. Which, weirdly, is amazing, because it involved a cute, talking piglet (and other talking animals), all of which, DO NOT NORMALLY TALK.

But it is in the nature of these things that, in the end, it all would have been pointless if the movie wasn't ridiculously charming.

Fortunately it was.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Put this in your newspapers


Hostile as I am to the modern press, owned or run as it is exclusively by the rich and powerful, I decided it was time to sum up my feelings in a brilliant quote for the ages. This should be a quote that can speak to anyone who is even mildly interested, and yet still contain a winking cleverness that expresses my own inimitable style.

Fortunately, I found one of these close at hand:

"If you don't read the newspaper you're uninformed. If you do read the newspaper you're misinformed."

-Feldenstein Calypso

Part of what I love about this quote is the repetition of words and phrases, but with small, simple twists that turn everything on its head. It has some of the structure of a joke: It starts out looking as if it will be conventionally respectful of newspapers, and focus on the foolish people who eschew them, but with a short, elegant, and surprising turn it completely and plausibly skewers everything a newspaper fancies itself to be.

It reminds me of another favorite quote of mine that actually is a joke rather than a social analysis. By curious coincidence, reading also comes into this one:

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

It's short and full of movement. These quotes set a cadence and expectation and then elegantly subvert it in an astonishingly economical space.

I wish that I had thought of that quote about newspapers! But I did not. 

Amazingly, though, it was laying around unclaimed! Over the past couple of decades, the general attribution has gone to Mark Twain, as it often does with clever quotes pulled out of the ether. But Mark Twain was decidedly not the author of this quote. 

No one was.

So I thought I'd scoop it up. Call dibs. Stake my claim. 

How does anyone own anything, I ask you? 






And while I'm at it I might as well take that clever "Too dark to read" quote too. Groucho Marx usually had it ascribed to him though he did not say it. There was a jockey who someone attributed it to glancingly, except had it all regarding a horse (which suggests how long ago this was), and I question the whole thing. I think such a great quote would be better given over to the clever fellow who once said "If you don't read the newspaper you're uninformed. If you do read the newspaper you're misinformed."

It kind of sounds like something he'd say anyway.


Tuesday, June 27, 2023

I get carried away


I can't say how productive my journey through AI photography has been. 

But then what is productivity?

And who cares?

I like these questions!

I am likely thinking of them because I have been spending hours fiddling with pictures, often in aimless directions, just to see what I could get to. There is a promise with this technology that I can do things very quickly, like put a rabbit on a patch of grass in my library, but somehow that seems to lead to me doing vastly more things, which slows everything down until, hours later, I find myself working on the same picture that I had completed so quickly!

Am I improving the picture?

I don't know if that's the point even.

Here is a rabbit scene from my library whose inspiration I can't even trace anymore. This would be at a kind of medium level of involvement:

Here is something an hour or two further along down the road:

Could I spend a few more hours on this?

Sure. Although I will grant you that it is already a tad cluttered.

Or how about this one.

Yesterday at work I took some pictures of Impressionist paintings for...

future use?

This is the original picture I took:

I'm not sure who the artist is on this, though he was a good one. And I really had no idea what I was thinking of doing with this picture. But I brought it into photoshop anyway.

This is where we ended up hours later:

I rest my case. 

Which is easiest to do since I don't have one.

Monday, June 26, 2023

New and improved


A regular reader of clerkmanifesto will have seen all of today's pictures before. That doesn't mean they will remember them. But this is not meant as a walk down memory lane.

Recently I have been considering making a series of postcards of two or three dozen of my photographs. And in that space I have been going through my pictures, and, when possible, upgrading them. So while you might have seen these pictures, and while they have featured on clerkmanifesto, all of them here are altered or improved in some small or large way. Sometimes there are added details, shadow corrections or reflections, and occasionally there are even wholesale thematic reworkings.

Thus, while you may have seen these, and even, it is remotely possible, remember them, they are different.

 And so, with your gracious forbearance, I present them for your reconsideration.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

The second chance


While I was shelving in the fiction section, an elderly lady hailed me down like I was a cab. I removed my earplug through which a novel was being read to me, and I asked how I could help. She asked me the date.

 I told her that it was the Summer Solstice, June 21st. This merely confused her so I reiterated the date without any of the planetary fluff.

Then she showed me her Daniel Steele book, and pulled out of it her date due slip. She pointed to the due date. "Does this say July 8?" She asked. 

"It does." I replied. "It isn't due for 17 days." I reassured.

She wasn't reassured. She was confused. "So is it due yet?" She asked.

"No, it isn't due yet." I said.

"When is it due?" She asked.

"July 8." I replied.

She walked away.

"I don't think that went very well." I thought to myself.

Fifteen minutes later she was back.

She asked all the same questions again.

This time I answered each one as clearly and briefly as possible.

It went far more smoothly, but it was way sadder.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Trifling front desk dialog


In replacing a co-worker at the front desk I am brought up to date.

"It wasn't on the schedule, so I wrote down that the Teen Maker has just started." My co-worker says, gesturing to the back corner of our library.

"Oh, is that where they make teens?" I inquire with great interest. "I feel silly. I always thought they somehow emerged spontaneously out of children!"

Friday, June 23, 2023

The tiny destiny


After a long weekend, with too many troubling things in it to be quite relaxing, and where I spent an astonishing amount of time on my computer inserting lions into my photographs, I decided enough is enough.

And like so many people who decide enough is enough, I ended up at the mall.

I wandered out of Macys, or Nordstroms, I'm not even sure which, and there was a toy store. It was pretty fancy, and it even had some giant animals in it; a dinosaur, a giraffe, and right outside the front entrance, and almost full sized lion.

I am pretty sure it was a sign.

I hope a good one.

Perhaps I test your patience, or your ability to be wowed in any way, but I photographed it to show you, and did what I have been so compelled to do all these days...

Thursday, June 22, 2023

An abundance of lions


I'll be honest. Even though sometimes I feel like I shouldn't be.

Sometimes I don't think clerkmanifesto is as great as other people also don't think it is.

A case in point:

Having lost, sort of, many of my pictures last year when my computer died, I decided to go on a small organizing kick. I resolved to pull pictures off of clerkmanifesto, particularly the good ones, to store in folders on my desktop. So I started running through the history of clerkmanifesto, not reading, but just looking for pictures, and capturing those that spoke to me.

It all got very quiet.

I wasn't that happy with this last year of clerkmanifesto photos.

I loved some of the things from the past few months, and I loved a lot of the older material where famous characters were clipped into my library, but all the experimental filters, the AI pictures, and the ones soaked in programs that made things painterly, or impressionistic, the mirrored shots of diffused nature pictures, just...

 made me sad.

They weren't as good as I remembered. Maybe they weren't as good as I ever thought they were. It was a comedown.

I am not indefatigable. Indeed, I am easily defeated. But in rare, strange places I am not able to give in. Something in me constantly rises. And meeting defeat in those strange places hurts, but I cannot, in these rare places, make it stick. This strange relentlessness is true in just two or three places in all my longish life, but, by some stroke of good or bad fortune, it is true here, in clerkmanifesto. Let the Internet ignore me. Let people extoll my talents to my face only to never return to read this blog again. Let my own work curdle in me.

 What of it?

And so, I just take my file of disappointing, overfussed pictures, and think:

Maybe all they ever needed was lions.