Thursday, November 30, 2023

Multi-talented person


A regular library patron, who is always interested in my pictures up at the front desk, came to me there. And while I got him four dollar bills, two quarters, and five dimes for his five-dollar bill, he shared his thoughts on me:

"You don't belong here. A multi-talented person like you is too good for this place." He said, and walked away.

Then he came back because one of the dollar bills I got him wasn't good enough.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023



Sometimes when I peruse the vast back catalog of clerkmanifesto I think:

What if, when I felt like taking it easy for a day, or I'm running behind and a deadline for my daily post is breathing down my neck, I simply posted one of my very best columns from out of the almost 4,000 I have already written and published?

This seems like a nice solution. I don't believe there is a single column on clerkmanifesto that is more than a couple of months old that any of you would remember were you to encounter it again.

But what about me?

Yes, I remember them all. 

And I say this without judgment on them:

Choosing one to show you again would take longer than writing a new one.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Unsolvable problems


A library patron came to me at the front desk of my library and told me "The lights at the end of the fiction section seating kept turning off on us."

I set aside my first thought, which was to wonder why the person had walked by the main reference desk and traveled the greatest distance of our entire library in order to inform me of this. Then I immediately began to run down the lighting system in my library. "In an act of technological hubris," I began "We installed a complex array of smart lighting, which has created lights that turn off and on according to a fantastical set of circumstances that exist purely in the minuscule imagination of a series of uncontrollable, entirely autonomous lightbulbs."

The patron looked at me blankly.

So I added, "I will talk to the property management people about this annoying problem." 

They were reluctantly mollified.

So I did not add, "And they will be even less helpful to me than I have just been to you."

Monday, November 27, 2023

Working the weekend


I had a long, really nice Thanksgiving weekend with my lovely wife, but a huge amount of all the free time of those days were spent working on my pictures of co-workers with their magical special animals.

But I don't know if "work" is the right word.

Work is when one does something someone else wants them to do.


Work is when one is so good at something one can extract money from it.

But it's probably not making pictures of people I know a bit pretend to look at pretend hummingbirds.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Why the world remains a few inches out of reach of us all


Continuing from yesterday's theme, wherein we discussed the cruel inheritance from my childhood:

If only I would apply myself!

I did have a moment, after spending another 12 hour day of working on my photoshop/AI pictures of my library co-workers posed with their spirit animals, or daemons, as Philip Pullman called them, where I thought:

What if I put this kind of relentless effort into clerkmanifesto?

And then I thought:

Oh. I do put this kind of effort into clerkmanifesto.

Which is why (Choose one, and only one, from the list below):

A. It is as good as it is.

B. I am so mad that only a handful of people read it.

C. I have had such a good time here these last ten years.

D. The gods return my calls, but only when I cannot answer the phone.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Only the nicest readers

Of the painful litanies of my youth, here is a stellar one I remember hearing from so many an adult:

"If only he would apply himself..."

Oh if only I would.

I later tried applying myself.

The results were decidedly mixed, at best.

But why am I bringing this up now, you ask, when I have achieved so incredibly much!

Wait, you...

you think I've achieved a lot? 

Well I guess there goes my whole idea for this dark little essay out the door.

But, I'm touched.

Friday, November 24, 2023

How long does art take



Technically this post took me 46 minutes to make.

But honestly I don't consider it "done" exactly.

Here's how it begins:

I'm still not showing here on clerkmanifesto my series of pictures of library workers with their spirit animals, or "daemons", as I just slightly prefer to call them. But they are easy enough to see. You can ask at the front desk of my library and I will show you a stack of printouts of pictures of them until long after you lose interest, or you can send me an email and I'll send something, or you can possibly even add a comment to this post, or, simplest, you can go to my Instagram.

Oh, what should I put up on Instagram now? Do I have a new one of these daemon pictures?

Maybe, maybe not.

For a huge part of Thanksgiving day I worked on one portrait featuring something called a "Barred Owl" posing with a children's librarian. This librarian also chose an alternate daemon of a red fox, and maybe even a second alternate of a moose. I focused on the owl, thinking it the real animal. But as that floundered I threw in some foxes later on. Even the moose made a brief appearance as things got especially messy. But although a few of these pictures sort of worked, I wasn't entirely happy with any of them.

Someone, actually a few people, have asked me how long it takes me to do one of these pictures.


Let's see. 

Time me. It is 11:03 pm and I have no idea what I'm about to do. Go!

I looked up the first movie I was slightly interested in. Grabbed a relatively quick piece of it. And did... this.

It is now 11:24. That was supposed to go more quickly. But, okay, 21 minutes.

Now I have forgotten what my point is.

Which, curiously, might be my point.

Or, here is my point:

When I publicly present art and it garners enough interest I am eventually asked, "How long does making one of these take." I invariably answer incorrectly, endeavoring to be truthful. The correct answer is:

"It takes between 15 minutes and the absolute heat death of the universe."


Thursday, November 23, 2023

Maybe it does, on occasion, get strange


I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea for a blog post. I was pretty excited about it.

The plan was that I would say I am thankful for a string of bizarre things. The only one I could think of just then, lying in there in the dark, was "I am thankful for the sixth finger on my left hand." I couldn't think of any others, but I figured I'd work that out later. 

But anyway, after my litany of bizarre gratitudes, I would solemnly conclude:

"And I am thankful for my 600,000 readers who open clerkmanifesto everyday, read it, and think "I don't know why I read this, it's so strange."

But when I awoke in the morning I had forgotten my great idea for the blog post.

So I wrote this instead.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023



Dayenu: It would have been enough

My darling wife and I were driving back from somewhere in the south suburbs, and as a scenic route to our home, we turned in along the river. There, on an expansive grassy median between the river road and expensive houses, were some turkeys.

"Ohhhhhh, look," I said. "Turkeys!" Because turkeys, glorious, round, colorful, wild turkeys, always warrant an observance.

And, as if that wasn't enough, there were more turkeys.

And more and more and more turkeys.

And then more turkeys!

There were more turkeys than we could count. Is Dayenu a number?

I have found that any overly magnificent spectacle of nature takes on a touch of delightful comedy.

I mean, unless it's killing you. Like, maybe seeing a Grizzly with its cubs isn't so funnily wonderful if at that moment the mother is mauling you.

But these turkeys totally weren't killing us. And there was a magical whimsey to seeing more and more of them long after it was already a wonder. They were all very chill, pecking around on the ground peaceably, gathered together perhaps for some annual bounty of nature. 

Maybe there was something good to eat in that grass?

I mean, besides the turkeys.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Coping with the approach of another winter


It gets dark so early now, this late in November, this far north, and the library is cold. I am at the front desk of my library. It's not even half past five in the evening, but it feels strangely like it's two in the morning. I was woken up at six this morning by loud machinery doing some kind of strange grinding on the street in front of where we live. And then, with that dismal door thrown open, sadness dogged my heels the rest of the day.

At work, all my favorite co-workers have applied for slightly better-paying, minor promotions at other library branches. One has already accepted and will be leaving here. I could perhaps bear this one's departure, I have managed before, but the next one considering an offer I would find fairly devastating, both cumulatively and particularly. And then it would only get worse from there.

A mother carries a small child in her arms, past my desk off to the Children's Room. The child is wearing a colorful tiara. As I regard the wee princess she turns her head and looks at me. Her face blossoms into a smile and she waves enthusiastically at me.

So at least there's that.

Monday, November 20, 2023

The coffee shop


It has been a few years now since the coffee shop at my library died. The pandemic knocked it down and the County was glad to then issue the coup de grace. They liked the space. It's now a "Service Center" instead of a coffee shop. A "Service Center" is a place that reluctantly connects people to dismal, insufficient county services. But don't mind me, as a county employee I'm probably puffing it up way more than it deserves to be.



Twenty years ago the library coffee shop was cutting edge. It was the center of our identity. Our very library cards had a little coffee shop figures on them!

And so, people still regularly come in and, looking around confused, finally ask "Maybe this is a dumb question, but didn't there used to be a coffee place in here somewhere?"

"It's not a dumb question at all!" I reply feverishly. "For a long time, there was a coffee shop right over there." I say pointing. Then I explain all the elaborate, opinionated history pretty much like I just did to you.

They are disappointed.

But not nearly as much as me.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Every quarter century


Every quarter century or so I like to run a new project at my library that features my co-workers. 

The last one I did was called 42, and featured 42 portraits of my colleagues as done by me in watercolor and hung up throughout the library. That was 23 years ago, so I am a touch ahead of schedule. This one I have recently begun involves photo portraits of my co-workers, really any one of them who will take part in my scheme, shown with their spirit animal, or, as I'm increasingly fond of calling it, from the book The Golden Compass, (and as I was reminded by one of my portrait subjects) their Daemons. These Daemons are a kind of soul's expression of my co-workers' essential animals made manifest in the world.

I let them choose the animal, take a few quick shots of them, and run from there as far as I can.

The whole process brings up all kinds of interesting issues and revelations, and you will surely hear more about it here on clerkmanifesto as the project runs its course. 

But you may not see the pictures themselves. 

I haven't decided yet. Sometimes I take an odd, circumspect relationship to the detailed personalities and names of my co-workers and my workplace here in this at once public and tiny/large space. For the moment at least, I will let at least the portraits themselves have their own, non clerkmanifesto room.

The pictures are slowly going up on my relatively new Instagram account though, and you are welcome to follow there at:

Saturday, November 18, 2023

One out of two librarians find this amusing


I was shelving some books in non fiction, or listening to an excellent Strong Towns Podcast, depending how you want to prioritize it. I finished the shelving part at least and wheeled my cart back along ranks of people on Internet computers. A large man with gray hair and a full beard caught my eye. He looked almost like he could be a biker. He was a tough looking man! I saw his screen as I rolled towards the staff elevator. Two librarians were standing around at the reference desk.

"Just a heads up." I said. "There's a big man- gray hair, full beard, out at the Internet computers. I saw his screen over his shoulder."

"Yes?" One of the librarians said.

"He's looking at videos of kittens."

Friday, November 17, 2023

The next great movie that I improve

Starting out with Godfather II, I set a standard for my movie improvement photos that will be hard to match.

 As you certainly recall, yesterday I ran a short series of pictures of frames from the brilliant Coppola film, Godfather II, only with my own slight alterations to the images in hopes of addressing some minor flaws within said film. Choosing my next movie to work on was so certain to be a step down from Godfather that I decided to just go with my feelings and not worry about what all the fancy film critics might think about my choice.

Yes, Morning Glory is not exactly at the level of The Godfather II, but it's closer than you might think. This charming comedy, sometimes known as a Romantic Comedy, which is a bit of a stretch, starring Rachael McAdams and Harrison Ford, has a lot going for it. My dear wife and I should know. We have seen this film 87 times now. But, on occasion I have suspected it was lacking just a couple of small things that could deeply improve it. Luckily it was within the scope of my skillset to add these things in to the movie, and in this scattering of stills below, I hope to fully round out this utterly charming and underrated film.

Jeff Goldblum is also in this movie!

Rachael McAdams and Harrison Ford, both being characteristically excellent here.

A dynamic scene near the end of the film. 

I'm almost done. But before this one last picture I'd like to point out:

This movie is not a completely random follow up to Godfather II. No less than three of the stars below appeared in both of these movies!


Thursday, November 16, 2023

Godfather II, slightly improved

Seeing as The Godfather II is one of the best movies ever made, it would be difficult to make any improvements on it. Nevertheless, I have taken a stab at it.

You will recall the preview picture to this project:

I have added just a couple of small details that I felt were missing from this scene. It is my hope that these deepen the emotional complexity of this powerful and suggestive moment from early in the film. Similarly, in the pictures that follow below, you will find a small, non-sequential series of stills from Coppola's masterpiece. None of these pictures have been radically altered. They were so compelling and beautiful to begin with! But with each frame I did make a couple of small adjustments that I feel accent the narrative of this great movie for the better, and add the smallest of touches of harmony to these already thoughtful, immensely artistic images.

I hope you enjoy these alterations and find that they deepen your understanding of the film from which they were taken.


Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Down to the river


I will now finish my photo journal of a trip from my polling place at St. Thomas University, down to the river. 

Because my area of the Mississippi is the only tiny section along it's prodigious 2,340 miles that actually has river bluffs, the river bottoms remain strangely rough and wild here, but also hard to get down to. In this immediate area there is a decent way down to the shore at the WWI memorial, and another one I've only belatedly discovered along a stream running beautifully out of the University campus. This last is the path along which these pictures were taken.

I don't feel my comments add a lot to so many pictures, and I've restlessly altered them more than my lost batch, so I'd best let them speak for themselves mostly. If I can't resist a brief comment though I will indulge myself.

We start still on the campus proper among the old brick buildings...

And here enter the stream path, which starts out very developed...

...And grows increasingly pretty (note the Catholic University's metalwork motif)...

...Then more wild...

Until we go under the River Road bridge where things get a little decrepit. Here we enter the valley of the Bigfoot, legendary creature of the Mississippi, who is shy and rarely spotted by even the most intrepid of fox and skunk photographers!

And down to the bluffs the stream passes through to our mighty river!

To the side are these two versions of this little passthrough cave in the bluff, one more... fanciful than the other...

Finally all the way down to the shore, which is wild and, at low water, festooned with all kinds of garbage, but is strangely peaceful nevertheless.