Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Halloween

I was working on a series of pictures of Saint Minneapolis in the Autumn. These were pictures from when I wandered with my darling wife in the city on my birthday, and I took a photo of Fox and Skunk everywhere I saw them. 

But then, in the midst of working on these, I made a picture that came along effortlessly. It was from down in a fantastical place near St. Anthony Main, in a strange pocket of wild in the beating heart of Saint Minneapolis, nestled beneath old mills and falls that built the city. And though this picture is not very scary or spooky, or even all that fanciful, and even though it takes place in the harmlessness of day, and it has no particular symbols of the holiday, it nevertheless decided to leap off of my screen and cry...


This, this picture below, is exactly what it feels like where I live right now.

So I thought it deserved its own post: 

Monday, October 30, 2023

Fox and Skunk free with every picture


A fabulous reader asks:

"So do you just tell the computer to add Fox and Skunk to your pictures?"

Sort of?

Nevertheless I grow a bit defensive. Aren't I the crafty magician of the photographs? The creator of strange worlds? The wizard pioneer of these dazzling new technologies?

And anyway, it's more like I tell the computer to add Fox and Skunk in a hundred different ways and contexts, and it doesn't work, and then I have to try again and again.

But, yes, I do roughly speaking just tell the computer to add Fox and Skunk to my picture. But, and this is important, I always ask nicely.

Anyway, I tried to add more than just Fox and Skunk here today in the hopes you'll be impressed.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Fox and Skunk in the toyshop


In a local toyshop I saw these Fox and Skunk figurines and thought "I would play with these!"

And then I thought "That's silly, I'm a 59 year old man."

 Everything hypothetical is gone. 

I remembered: 

"I do play with these."

Saturday, October 28, 2023

French Kiss


In one of the five greatest romantic comedies of all time, Meg Ryan is traveling by train through what is presumably Provence, and she says something like "Beautiful, beautiful. It's all so beautiful!" And then she eats a bunch of cheese even though she's severely lactose intolerant.

Despite this being one of the five greatest romantic comedies ever made, I could not credit it particularly on the writing, or the plot, even if both, roughly, have their moments. It is so bizarrely great because the performances of our two leads are on a level rarely achieved in any genre of any movie ever. This is Meg Ryan's greatest romantic comedy performance, and the Academy's credibility will never recover for not even nominating her for best actress, let alone begging her to accept the award. The fact that Kevin Kline (miles better than award winner Tom Hanks as a mannered Forrest Gump in the repulsive movie of the same name) is nearly as good despite having to play a pathetic rapscallion, makes for the greatest one-two in a romantic comedy since Moonstruck, or, even, and I can hardly believe I'm saying this, possibly the best ever.

I sometimes refer young people to this wonder of the genre and they come back mildly unimpressed. Whatever. They get caught up in the implausible, almost silly plot and lack of commitment to reality, like so many do with romantic comedies, and lose sight of the charm and unearthly abilities of the leads. The higher things.

But I digress.


Because all I wanted to say is that the way Meg Ryan reacts to France, which is so beautiful that all sense and proportion turns off, exactly expresses the beauty of Saint Minneapolis right now, in the two precious weeks of Autumn we are lucky enough to experience here.

Should I be out photographing this fleeting and astonishing wonder?

Sure, but it's hopeless. I have taken a few pictures, spiced them up with Fox and Skunk, and am always happy to trot them out for you, but it's all a facsimile. Even the lowliest neighborhood out here is beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. More beautiful than words or pictures. Which is what Meg Ryan managed to convey, and Kevin Kline managed to agree with, even though there was no dialogue to that effect.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Fox and Skunk, heralds of the season


I was in the craft stores this weekend. And while I was hoping for some charming and cheesy Halloween tableaus, capitalism is so hungry it has already moved on, in its ceaseless desperation, to Christmas. Is no one inclined to buy Halloween things five days before the holiday? 

Has capitalism grown so mad with hunger that it can't think straight?

Capitalism has grown so mad with hunger it can't think straight!

You heard it here first, if you never read Marx!

Or anyone else who read Marx.

Which is fine. You're busy. And I respect that.

And look, I'm not going to change the world here. All I can do is put fox and skunk into it. That is my correction. Beyond that, it is all out of my hands.

And so I present a few pictures of fox and skunk, as they explore the first tableaus of super fake Christmas:

Thursday, October 26, 2023

My birthday rights


Because it is my birthday tomorrow I have been thinking...

In the past on my birthday I have focused mainly on myself, and on what special things might come my way because it is my birthday. But I have grown older and wiser, more magnanimous, and now I think:

What about all the other people who have the same birthday as me?

There are over 21 million of them!

I wish them all the joy in the world!

Still, 21 million is a lot of people. It is so many that one could populate one of the largest cities in the world with just the people born on my birthday. The birthday city! One could extinguish the local supplies of cake and candles there overnight! Drivers' License Bureaus would be overwhelmed. Halloween in the City of Birthday would be buried in scraps of discarded wrapping paper.  Greeting card stores would burst on the scene in mid-October, make small fortunes, and go bankrupt before Thanksgiving.

I mean, if we even had Thanksgiving there. This would be a very international city with every kind of person from every kind of place and culture. But best of all, on October 27th, one could walk around the streets of this strange new city and instead of saying "Hi." or "Good day.", one could simply say...

"Happy Birthday!"

And one would almost invariably be right.

"Wait, why "almost" right?" The reader asks.

If I had to live in the City of October 27, I would have smuggled in my wife.

I can do that. It's my birthday.


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Book sales


My library's big, annual book sale is taking place over the weekend. Technically it is not a "Library" book sale, but a "Friends of the Library" book sale, and so operates separately from us library employees.

Now I love books, don't get me wrong. And I see their greed inducing, covetous, they're-all-mine appeal. I even own ten or twenty books! Nevertheless, there is a part of me that sees people walking into the sale, or gravitating to our library bookstore, that wants to grab people, wave my hands at the huge library, and cry "Don't you understand! These books are all free! We have thousands and thousands of books. We can get you almost any book! And even better: when you are done reading it you simply return them here. You don't have to store them unused!"

I don't say anything though. I understand as well as anyone:

What is the point of your money, as little or as much as it may be, if you don't buy things with it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

True tales of resilience


I'm at the library. I'm at the front desk with nothing to do, I mean, except when people need my help, which is like... all the time. Or no, maybe only 80 percent of the time? 

So we'll play a game.

I spy with my little eye a...

A man with one eye! 

Oh my, he's coming by! 

No lie. This guy I spy with one eye is nigh!

"Hi." tries the guy with one eye.

"HI!" I reply to the guy. I don't pry. I'm shy. 

I look at a fly. I look at the sky

He wants some scratch paper.

Wait, what does that have to do with anything?

Plus it doesn't even rhyme.


I give him some scratch paper. 

He seems happy even though he ruined my blogpost and is missing an organ.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Bald Grape


Time heals all wounds, leaves a little scar, and eventually you're all scar.

This is a birthday post.

Happy birthday.

You know who you are.

What do you think of when you think of a bald Grape?

Hopefully you don't think "Aren't all grapes sort of bald? Who wants wine made from hairy grapes!!!"

Hopefully, as a passionate reader of clerkmanifesto, one who keeps charts and scores and spreadsheets, you instead think:

"Grape: Noted friend of clerkmanifesto, with a nickname of "Grape", he must have shaved his head at some point."

He did!

And since on his birthday we reminisce in one way or another about him (with a weird miss on that tradition in the crazy year of 2016, it haunts us to this day), we are surely going to be discussing something to do with his bald head.

We are!

I wasn't there when he shaved his head. But I will make this instructive preliminary point to any younger readers:

People did not commonly shave their heads around the early 1980's. So when Grape shaved his head it not only had an ahead-of-his-time quality, also his father was very upset.

Or so I heard.

I wasn't there when Grape's father allegedly got upset that he shaved his head.

But immediately after it all happened Grape and I went backpacking in Yosemite. There was a valley of granite there, carved into fabulous swirling potholes by running water high in the wilderness. We lay on a rock by the kind of idyllic stream I'm always trying to fake in my pictures these days, and Grape, with no hair on his head, told me all about the baldness.

I remember every word of that conversation!

No, just kidding.

All I remember is what, based on that conversation, I thought. I thought Grape's mom was upset that Grape shaved his head. And her way to express it was by saying she was mad that Grape would make his father so upset with his shaved head. 

Personally I think Grape's father was fine with Grape's shaved head.

But who knows?

Does Grape know?

He might. But it's not important now. 

It was forty years ago. 

His hair grew back.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

For Cory Doctrow, and Thomas Kinkade


Yesterday I perhaps, without full kindness and consideration of myself, compared my AI photo constructions of Fox and Skunk to the possibly vapid, but enormously popular, paintings of Thomas Kinkade.

But on the other side...


There is an argument that is occasionally, half-heartedly made, that Thomas Kinkade's painting is so insipidly derivative, and so desperate to please in its pathetic scenes of relentlessly idealized country houses by adorable babbling streams under arched stone bridges all bursting with flowers and nostalgia, that the paintings themselves almost turn dark and strange of their own accord. Possibly, the encouraging critic hopefully contends, the hopeless and desperate pursuit of likeability and charm is so intense that it invokes something almost hallucinatory that will drive us all to reconsider...


Now that's art!

And along the lines that this is part of what my own Fox and Skunk pictures are doing, I relate the following.

Last week my darling wife and I popped over to a local bookstore (on foot) to listen to the writer Cory Doctorow. For those who don't know him he is the most intelligent and thorough critic and activist in all of tech. I know that sounds to be an oversized and extraordinary claim, but someone has to be that person...

 and he is.

Talking to him before his talk was a bit strange for me, and possibly a subject for another time. But either that day or recently on some podcast I listened to, my friend Cory was discussing issues of copyright in AI. A copyright skeptic like I am, he expressed his skepticism that AI, or, as I call it, the theft of everything, is any kind of a real copyright violation. The bites that AI takes, as he puts it, of original material, are of each thing too small to be that kind of theft.

But I'm not here to go deeply into his take on this AI copyright stuff, (which says artists aren't going to be the ones who benefit from this kind of copyright expansion, and that I generally quite agree with). I am only here to discuss something my very dear friend Cory Doctorow said on the way to making his point.

He said he hasn't seen any good AI art, though he didn't say it was impossible.

I say that AI as it is, that is, a fake intelligence, is not capable of making art. But, importantly, it can be a tool in the creation of art.

I boldly present my case for this below; pictures so bursting with colors and novelty and prettiness that, hopefully, they get a little lonely and strange and wild. I don't know that you'll question everything,

But two or three things is fine.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Thomas Kinkade


Possibly the most famous artist of my adulthood was Thomas Kinkade. Or maybe the word for him is "successful"? Or possibly he just made a lot of money marketing his art? He was worth 66 million dollars when he died and had a fancy nickname of "Painter of Light" for his penchant of painting idealized country scenes that... uh... had light in them.

Aren't all paintings paintings of light?


Anyway, because the idealized naturalism of Thomas Kinkade was generally considered the lowest common denominator of art, he was casually reviled by the art world I grew up in. He was an easy joke until his death about ten years ago. Perhaps he is slowly being forgotten now, but I wouldn't put him beyond the reach of a revival.

Everything that was once "a thing" will probably be a thing again. At least once, but sometimes forever.

So you might consider popping out and getting a Thomas Kinkade original painting as an investment. He flooded the market with pseudo originals and "altered prints", whatever that means, but if you can verify a real painting of his you could maybe snatch it up for 15 or 20 grand. On the plus side I don't think you'll be bidding against museums just yet.

Or, to my horror, you could forget about investment and just enjoy my series of fox and skunk pictures, which do seem to share certain colorful qualities with the work of Mr. Kinkade.

And if you're interested in some "altered prints" of the below, I'm sure we could figure out how to arrange that.

Friday, October 20, 2023

How a library works


It is a rare and curious event when I find myself in the position of having to explain how the library works. To a large extent we all take it for granted. And I suppose I might take it even more for granted than you. After all, I have likely been to the library a few times more than you. I have been to the library, any library (but mostly one particular library) approximately, 7,241 times. I have lived part of my life in a library! So when I am talking about how it all works, it's suddenly so strange, like a word one keeps saying until it loses its meaning.

Well, a story, from today, to explain.

A little girl and her father were with me getting a library card. She was excited about this because she really liked books. But she was a little unclear on how it all worked.

"Who can buy all these books?" She asked, waving her hand at the entire library. "Is it one person. But it's so many books! How do you do it?"

It was a nice question.

I waved my own hand at all the neighborhoods surrounding us. "Everyone who lives around here pays a little bit of money every year." I said. "And gathered together it's enough to buy all these books and have a place for them. Then anyone can come here and take what they want until they're finished with it. Then they bring it back."

Oddly, this seemed pretty sensible to her.

I, on the other hand, found the whole thing shocking.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

What is today's blog post about?

A reader writes in to ask:

"What is today's blog post about?"

But the reader is not content with just that question. The reader has some editorial thoughts:

"I hope it isn't one of those twisty, self-referential posts where we muse on the nature of creation with the use of gymnastic-like narrative slipknots where a complicated buildup is pulled tighter into a massive tangle that suddenly resolves into being nothing at all.





 So, yeah, I hope it's not that."

To which I can only reassuringly reply:



Wednesday, October 18, 2023

A fox and skunk Halloween


It's the most wonderful time of the year! 

Or that's what the song says... about Christmas. 

But if they thought about it surely they would amend it to be about America's new favorite holiday- Halloween! And why wouldn't they amend it, it was two Jews who wrote the damn song in the first place!

But I digress. Or, actually, since I started out that way, rather, I'd like to digress now and talk about Halloween.

I love and prefer the Disneyfied, faux scary but almost scary, colorful lights version of Halloween. But fox and skunk live in a different world than you and I. And so their Halloween, as you will see below, while not entirely removed from my ideal, more cozy, picturesque Halloween, has a bit more verisimilitude to it.

These houses are probably abandoned?

These houses might not be haunted?

But we won't know until the sun sets. And do we really want to stick around for that?