Friday, July 12, 2024

Fun is what we do in the absence of anything else

 



At the desk:


A library patron was looking for a book that was supposed to be on hold for him. There was a cart of unshelved books sitting nearby. He asked one of my colleagues "Can I just take a quick peep at this cart?'

My colleague replied "Yes."

I added, unbidden, "But there's a 14-second time limit."


A library patron came to the front desk. My desk partner asked, "Can I help you?"

The woman said, "I just wanted to use this stapler."

I held up a paper clip and a staple remover. "Would you like a staple remover or a paper clip?" I offered.



And then finally it came time for me to do it all alone. I was relieving a co-worker at the front desk to work an hour shift by myself with the public. After telling me about all the difficult people they had to deal with in their hour, my colleague departed, saying "Have fun."

"There's nothing else to do." I replied.












Thursday, July 11, 2024

The genius

 







I haven't spent much time on the photography side of clerkmanifesto lately. Nor have there been any of my strange music videos, or AI video, or any other of my visual art bits. Indeed clerkmanifesto has been in its classic, old-school mode lately- just a bit of prose wandering around what I am thinking of, and an assortment of stories from my life at the library. But while in this space fancy pictures have gone on hiatus, at my library there are 70 elaborate framed photographs of mine on display, right in the beating heart of this busy library. 

And they are popular! 

For any hour I spend at the front desk I will see wide varieties of people wandering around and taking a good long time to look at them. Small groups and families avidly point out little details in the pictures to each other. And it is a regular occurrence to have someone come to the front desk strictly to exclaim over them and sing their praises. Sometimes it's to me, sometimes I just overhear it all.

It's a heady experience for an artist whose acclaim has scrupulously kept to the mild, hard-not-to-doubt-yourself side of things for 40 years.

As so often happens I am reminded of something from a romantic comedy. I feel like that undertaker in the greatest romantic comedy of all time, Moonstruck. It's near the start of the movie. Cher is doing the books for the local mortician in his back room. As the mortician leaves the viewing room he overhears two women talking about him and his great skill in doing the makeup of the corpse for the viewing they're attending. They call him a genius, and as he comes into the back where Cher is, he grabs a bagel, takes a bite, and proclaims "I am a genius!"

Cher comments on the cream cheese he just got on his tie.


People come up to the front desk and ask excitedly "Who made these pictures?"

"No one knows." I say. "But he is a genius!"

This hardly fazes them. "Well, they are such fun! Tell him that they are great!"

"Oh, he knows. He knows."










Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Feast or famine

 






In the sheer chaos of understaffing, new hires, sub training, random sub appearances based on their availability over our need, and a generally disorganized, laissez-faire approach to how we do things, I walk into wildly varying staffing situations at my job these days at the library. Currently our circulation staff, working right now at my library, numbers twelve people. This is a lot! But at 5:00 that number will drop to three, one of whom I suspect might call in sick, leaving us a staff of two, one-sixth of what we have now. 

The nice young man in black and white checked pants helping someone to my right is someone I have not seen since we trained him in half a year ago. A temporary worker walking by was pointed out to me by a longtime co-worker who has returned this very day to take back his old hours. Did I know the person pointed out to me? No, I can't remember. She seems vaguely familiar. He then told me her name, but I have already forgotten it. The chances of me ever seeing that co-worker again seem too low to go to all that difficulty of remembering her name.

Briefly remembering a name might not seem difficult to you, but I have only survived here through a meticulous conservation of energy.

Maybe the oddest thing is that around here two people get about as much done as twelve. I don't know how that works. I'm not saying it from the perspective of two better workers getting done the work of twelve poor ones, but rather something about the strange, pulsing inertia and momentum of a larger library like this producing times where the work is done equally by twelve or two people. If we had twelve people for a sustained period of time we would be very caught up and our large staff would increasingly have to find involved, largely meaningless things to do. Likewise, if we were always down to two people, we would fall into a state of desperate, limping chaos. But these gluts of workers, and these shortages of workers, at least as they occur for a day or two, have functionally the same effect on the efficiency of this library.

It seems very mysterious. But maybe it's just me.

Maybe everything every day is wildly different, but I...


have become...


unflappable.




Tuesday, July 9, 2024

The Tonight Show joke

 






It's not that I don't tell jokes here.

Some of my posts here are nothing but jokes. But my jokes are particular. They can be surreal, formal, deeply involved puns, dry satire, or circumstantial whimsy. But it is extremely rare that I write an official nighttime talk show monologue joke. You know, like the kind that Johnny Carson would read in his opening remarks. Or, sorry, I don't watch regular TV, so, like Jimmy Kimmel, or Jimmy Fallon would. It's one of those topical jokes that is a not-very-funny take on the news of the day.

I have told this joke to a few people today and, while at best, they mildly chuckled, ultimately they did agree it was suitable for an evening talk show comedy intro. It goes like this:


Amid calls that he step down as a candidate because he is too old, confused, and out of touch, President Biden, expressing his firm commitment to staying in the race, sent a strongly worded telegram to every Democratic member of Congress today.




Although come to think of it, this is a little too perfect. No doubt some version of this joke has been made on late night talk shows, regarding too old politicians, dozens of times already.





 





Monday, July 8, 2024

Volunteers

 





I was coming back into the staff area after an hour at the front desk. Two super nice older lady volunteers were finishing up with emptying our usual endless lot of book bins. This is always a big help, and I was overcome with feeling for the nobility of volunteers.

"I've been here for years." I proclaimed. "But I'm just a mercenary, coming to the library for my job. You two come here and empty all these bins just to be nice. You are the real heroes around here!"

They laughed and then joked with me. "Oh, they secretly pay us a ton of money under the table." One of them said.

"Well it can't be as much as they pay me!" I exclaimed. "I don't even know what to do with it all so I just buy more and more County Commissioners."

But after we finished with the joking back and forth I suddenly was overcome with doubt. 

"Just to make sure," I said, "I wasn't being sarcastic or anything. I meant it."

One of them looked kindly at me. "We know." She said.








































































Sunday, July 7, 2024

Death, taxes, and debates

 






The debates came up with one of my co-workers out at the front desk of the library. "Isn't there supposed to be another one?" I asked.

She didn't know and wanted to, so I looked it up.

"Yes." I informed her. "There's going to be one more presidential debate on September tenth."

My colleague groaned.

I said "I know. It would be so much better if they both died of old age before then!"

This got me going. "John Lennon dies. Prince dies. Martin Luther King dies, but when you really need someone to die it just doesn't happen!"

My co-worker, probably because of being a long time Beatle fan, agreed with me. But if she were more of a Lord of the Rings fan she might have quoted Gandalf at me:


"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement."


To which I might have replied: 

"I'm not so much judging. I'm merely suggesting that god might want to get a little more involved here."


Actually, it's probably for the best that she's a Beatles fan.





Saturday, July 6, 2024

They're art

 




My art show is up at my library. I like how it's going. 

The show itself is full of dozens and dozens of pictures of my library richly festooned with cartoon characters, wild animals, biblical and movie references, and only slightly unsettling alien invasions and monster rampages. 

But if you've spent anytime here on clerkmanifesto you surely will have seen most of the pictures that are in my show.


Despite my niggling disappointment that not every single person who walks into the library loves my pictures, or even glances their way, fairly speaking this collection is pretty popular. Families circle around the pictures pointing out details to each other. I heard that a neighborhood Facebook group heaped detailed praise upon them, and even some of my co-workers, who I would have thought had had enough of all these pictures by now, have said some enormously kind things to me about this show.

But above all, little kids get very excited about my pictures. And honestly it is wonderful to see them running around pointing their little chubby fingers at various featured bits, and crying out to their little child gods in delighted exclamation.

But curiously every time I see the children laugh joyfully at my pictures I think of a scene from the movie Love Actually

I can't find a clip of it and I've only seen it 30 or 40 times so I'll have to sort of paraphrase it. The character who is in love with his best friend's new wife is on the phone at a maybe high-end, London art gallery that he works at. His art gallery is showing large photographs of Christmas themed nudes, like, black and white pictures of naked people with tiny Santa hats over their nipples. A group of school girls are looking at these pictures and giggling. Our character on the phone briefly interrupts his call to admonish the girls:

"They're not funny." He says. "They're art."


Why do I think of this scene?

I have decided it's a kind of reminding joke I tell myself. Whatever the faults there are of Love Actually, this is a fine little comedy bit about the pomposity of art, packed, neatly, into a tiny scene of the movie. I have been inclined to believe in the endless hunger and ambition of the things I have made, but I have finally grown less interested. Making one smudged little three-year-old cackle is enough praise for any work, large or small. 

The rest is gravy.


































Friday, July 5, 2024

Bitter holiday political banter







The elder branch manager of my library was leaving the library on the evening of July the third. "Don't forget to leave milk and cookies out for Captain America." He said. 

Oh what's the point? He just leaves behind a bunch of constitutions that the Supreme Court says we can't use anymore. 




Thursday, July 4, 2024

The road to fascism

 






One of our relatively new branch managers came by the front desk of my library to see if there was anything good for the children's room sitting in our donation bin.

"You know that new Supreme Court ruling doesn't just apply to the President? It applies to you too." I offered cheerily.

"How so?" She asked warily.

"As a branch manager, you cannot be tried or prosecuted for any crime so long as you claim it was done in your role as a library manager."

"Good to know." She observed wryly.

"In fact," I added. "If you wanted to take home that board book you're holding, no one could ever stop you."

She briefly glanced at the board book. I think it maybe had a picture of a truck on it.

She didn't say anything, but I could tell she was already beginning to grow mad with power.






Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Our future leader

 





All the drama at my library this week has to do with indulgences. A difficult library patron has taken to asking desk staff to take his food to our back room to microwave it for him. I have not been involved in any of the drama, though last week he did ask me to microwave his food for him.

I said "No."

He wasn't happy, but it has gone far worse for others. Apparently he was hostile to two of my colleagues at the front desk when they told him they could not warm his food for him. The circulation manager was brought in as tensions rose, and, infuriating all my co-workers, the manager resolved the situation by warming the mean person's food for him and delivering it to him at his computer.

Aside from the more common sense idea that we don't cook patrons' food for them in our staff areas, we actually have a much publicized library policy that we don't allow warm food to be eaten in the library anyway. But before it ever got to the point of this person raging against his food not being warmed, another of my colleagues had warmed his food, as a point of least resistance to his aggression. This only led to him being more furious when he was refused in the future, which led to the manager compounding the problem by passing the problem forward.

There are times when a careful, limited indulgence can resolve a situation. But nearly always, when someone is asking for something wholly, or even slightly unreasonable, indulging them doesn't resolve the problem, it merely delays the problem while also doubling its size.

And like with a child, only indulged to avoid the difficult work of addressing the issue, one ends up with the worst possible thing:


A President.









Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Workers' paradise

 







Yes, the library I work at is mismanaged. The people in charge at every level act like royalty. We are increasingly understaffed. No one is paid fairly. And our standards are going to hell. Also, many of the library patrons are extremely unpleasant and increasingly hostile and aggressive. New hires barely know their alphabet, and the old hands are increasingly crabby and bitter.

And sure, I can tell you a few examples of all of the above from my own experience, but really I wish you could simply hear the steady litany of complaints from all my co-workers, as I do, all day long, every day. Nothing could be more convincing. Though a bit much to take, they are almost eloquent in their frustration and disgust.

And so it is that my co-workers leave. They leave for all and any of those many above reasons. They leave this library branch. They leave the library system. They leave the County employment. And some of them even leave the country!

Gone, gone, gone!


And then you know what happens?


They all want to come back.

They all want to come back to work at my library!


Aha!


This, my library, is a fucking workers' paradise!



Either that, or everything else out there is unbelievably horrible. 










Monday, July 1, 2024

Carefully engineered comedy routines

 





A library patron returned a book to me at the front desk of my library. The book had been in a little bit of a tussle with some water. The library patron was quite willing to pay any penalty for this, but as is my wont when patrons go all George-Washington-and-the-cherry-tree with me, I am inclined to forgive if possible in appreciation of the honesty, and to try to re-enact the fable.

I sent the patron on their way and stood up the book, titled "Insomnia", on the desk to hopefully dry it out to a useable condition. Eventually my desk partner, Dan, noticed the book and asked me about it. 

I explained briefly about the situation, holding the book up, and asked him if he had read it. 

Taking the bait, Dan said "No. I haven't. Have you?"

"I was up all night with it."




Sunday, June 30, 2024

Advanced blogging

 









I have written 4,000 or so posts in this space, and usually I've got so many ideas in my head that I have to secretly sneak several of them into each sentence. 

It isn't for the fame, the adulation, or the money that I have wanted this large readership. It's just that I think it takes an enormous team of people to excavate all the little nuggets I have packed so densely into my prose. That sentence alone references blog posts 235, 992, 1,221, and 3,687 while also being a play on Tennyson's poem. 

You know the one I'm talking about. It's the one where Tennyson says:

"For all we have power to see is a straight staff bent in a pool."


"Wait" You cry. "I don't see how your sentence references that Tennyson line at all, if it even is a Tennyson line."

See. It's just for this kind of reason having discerning readers is so valuable!

As Tennyson once said:


"Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?"


But you probably knew that's what I was talking about all along.












 


Saturday, June 29, 2024

Politics

 











I like to learn things. 

I also really like to learn things I already know.

This maybe isn't learning anything at all.


Did you see the Presidential debate the other day?

I didn't watch it. 

There wasn't anything there for me to learn. I already knew all of it. I would have just been sitting there, hoping to be disappointed.


























Friday, June 28, 2024

The life lived

 






In a favorite book of mine, The Lord of the Rings, as Frodo gears up reluctantly to leave The Shire, he is supposed to keep it a secret. But he gives the game away, at least to his closest friends, because he's always wandering about moonily saying things like "Shall I ever see this tree again?" or "Is this the last time I gaze upon this vista?"

I might be getting a bit like this.

Having pegged out our retirement at one or two years now, I find I can tolerate unpleasant developments at my library with a bit more... distance. But I have started to look upon things with increasing wistfulness as well.

"Alas." I murmur to myself. "Will I ever explain to a library patron again about our carpool parking spots and commiserate with them about how unfair it is to them as a single person who is lonely and never does anything with anyone else?"

I mean, I might, and I might not. It happens about once a year. So conceivably that last one was my last time.


This week I am putting up a show of my fictional photographs of the library at my library. I have done a fair few art projects at my library, some formal, some completely rogue. This one is pretty formal. I mean, I have permission. It could be the last one.

"Lo." I mutter sadly to myself. "Will I ever hang up my art for the people of my library system again?"

Probably not.

Or how about this:

Will I ever have to try to answer the question "How come you don't do something with your talent?" again?

I guess I'm almost ready to let that one go.













Thursday, June 27, 2024

Communication breakdown, or triumph!

 






I learned today that another long-time co-worker at my library will be leaving us soon. He is moving to California. I learned this directly from a colleague, who had learned it from another of our co-workers. That co-worker had learned it from another co-worker who had found out about it in a series of texts from a former co-worker who had apparently learned it directly from the person moving to California.

So you know it must be true.

All of this may make me sound like the last person to know. But the truth is, as I told the colleague who told me and who learned it from a co-worker who learned it from a co-worker who learned it from a former co-worker who learned it from the person leaving, I had already heard this news from the co-worker who learned it in a text from a former co-worker who had learned it from the person moving to California.

So don't worry. I've still got my finger on the pulse of things around here.






Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Everything's amazing!

 





Yes, I can only keep it going for about four minutes, but have you noticed that everything is amazing?

Every damn thing is amazing!

Like, that guy is wearing culottes and a giant belt. He looks like a pirate! He's even got a great curling mustache! And that kid has a stripe in her hair. Like, a yellow horizontal stripe. Kids are playing with scarves in the kid's room. An old man with deep crinkles around his eyes said hello to me. A small child with a yellow belt in karate walked by. How do I know? He had a little karate uniform and it had a yellow belt!

It is amazing.

You can't make this stuff up!

Well, I mean you could, but it wouldn't be very interesting.






Tuesday, June 25, 2024

I more prefer the baking contest shows

 





Not to be paranoid, but...


If I were the producer of a terrible reality show that followed the goings on behind the scenes at a major near urban library, and my shows were growing flat, and my viewership was going down, and viewers were losing interest in all the strange library workers they were following in our weekly show, I would try the following:

1. Have six or seven people quit or leave the library and don't replace them. This will help create a more high-pressure environment and make room for new story lines.

2. Make sure that among the people gotten rid of we include the most universally liked person and the most universally disliked person. While these people are entertaining, they are stabilizing influences on the culture. Without them contentious new factions will be sure to form and general social standards will change.

3. On random occasions flood the library with substitutes and new people to be trained in, making sure that their skill levels, training, and responsibilities are wildly diverse and completely random.

4. Afflict the staff with illnesses, injuries, and family deaths, so that occasionally sheer chaos ensues, and sometimes whole shows have to focus in depth on one or two library workers because there's literally no one else around.


But whether or not a TV producer has engineered all these changes at my library, or they are completely by chance, all of these things are happening around here at my library right now. 

Which makes for very entertaining TV. 

If you like these sorts of reality shows, that is.



Unfortunately, I don't.







Monday, June 24, 2024

New sub redux

 







Yesterday in this space I was discussing a new substitute worker at my library. She does not get any of my jokes, or she doesn't think they're funny, or both. But that's okay. I can work with that! It doesn't have to be the end of all communication. I can talk to people without my sense of humor. Or without their sense of humor. Or both.

It's just like walking.

While missing one leg.



You put your right leg down carefully.

Then you gently shift your weight to your left...

Ooops!


Whoa.


So you get up again, brush yourself off, and carefully plant your right leg. Then, easing gingerly forward, you...

Tumble to the ground again!


Hmmm, tricky, but surely not impossible?


The key is to keep getting up.



And, eventually, they might find the sheer number of falls funny.





Sunday, June 23, 2024

New sub

 






There is a new sub working at my library today. She was not introduced to me. She does not know how anything works here. But she knows how the library in general works. 

In the afternoon an anonymous schedule put her on the automated check in machine. There are many unique things about our machine here so she has many questions. She is very apologetic about asking me, but also a little impatient with the answers. She knows, she knows, she knows.

I introduce myself. I ask about her. I give her a lot of information. And I tell jokes. She doesn't laugh at the jokes or seem to understand them. Maybe she doesn't have a sense of humor? 

Maybe I am not funny?

She reminds me of the Internet.

You're the one that asked the questions Internet. I'm just answering here. 





Saturday, June 22, 2024

Strangers

 






There are so many new people at my library these days. This is the result of so many old people leaving. One would think we would have to hire new people for this to happen. We haven't managed to do this, but apparently, like nature, libraries abhor a vacuum. And so in these spaces where the old people were, new people wash in like rain in potholes.

Some of these new people even have the same names as old ones! Is, for instance, the new Mai similar to the old Mai? I don't know! It's all too exhausting to get to know the new people. Do they even work here? Or did they just wander in and get caught up in all the vacated spaces. Maybe they have nothing to do with the library and are just spinning around like fallen branches caught up in whirlpools. Who are they, what are they doing, can I help them?

I don't know. But if they're still here in a month I'll ask them.





 


Friday, June 21, 2024

Retirement

 







Around my house we have been discussing retirement a lot lately.

But don't worry, I won't be retiring from clerkmanifesto!

In fact, once I retire I'll be able to give it my all.


Just kidding. This, strangely, is already my all.






Thursday, June 20, 2024

It's not a bug, it's a feature

 







As I follow the European Soccer Championships, actually called The Euros, I find myself in an oddly neutral position to the whole thing. Yes, I always sort of want one team or another to win, or sometimes I just want one team to lose. And I would like Spain to win the whole tournament if it could be so. But unlike with many years involving Barcelona and Argentina, my mental health isn't involved in anything that happens. I can endure any result pretty comfortably.

And this is teaching me some strange things about my decade long relationship to soccer. 

I have been watching a good number of goals scored in this tournament by accident. Called "own goals", these have been shots where a defending player has tried to clear the ball out of the area, or just been in the way and the ball bounced off of him, and it went into the goal! No one is trying to put the ball in the goal here, on the contrary, but it goes in anyway!

And watching these repeatedly it suddenly occurred to me:

It might not be the beauty of the game that so appeals to me, nor the wild story lines, nor the heart pounding excitement, nor the dreams dashed or coming true, nor the dazzling talent displayed in top level soccer.

No, alas, I think I might be drawn to the injustice.







Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Sea change

 







As I emerge from the cloud of constant pain and attention to my cracked rib, I find that the world has changed in my absence. 

It's only been two and a half weeks cloistered from the society, but there have been more staff changes at my library in that brief time than there has been all together for years. So many people have left in this period, and yet it's strangely hard to feel their absence. 

I don't miss anything right now. 

The weather has grown unstable, with storms rushing terribly in and raging. Then it's beautiful out. Then it's hot and muggy. Young people show up and they're old. Miraculous inventions appear but no one knows what to do with them. Rabbits are everywhere, but somehow they have improved. Small children walk by and the same exact things happen over and over, but they are slightly different.

And surely that can't be.


And here I am at the front desk of the library again.

I don't know what happened.

I think I just got younger.






Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Pain

 






Getting over the worst part of my broken rib, and feeling something approaching a return to almost normal, my upper back suddenly went into lockdown. It seized up like a wall of bricks. It is very uncomfortable, painful, and hard to separate out from the traumas and trials of the rib injury, but it is also entirely its own thing.

My reaction to this is very emotional!



HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TRUST THE UNIVERSE?





Oh child, you are not here to trust the universe, you are here to trust yourself.












Monday, June 17, 2024

The record of your deeds is recorded in the book of life

 







Since we're talking about soccer...

Allow me to bring to your attention a player starting for the Spanish National Team in the European Championships: Lamine Yamal. 

Lamine Yamal is 16 years old.

In the movies they generally don't even have 16 year olds play 16 year olds. It's too much trouble. They're not really up to the task. So they cast older people for those roles. But there's Lamine Yamal, actually 16, playing an intensely competitive game with the fastest, quickest, strongest, and most talented humans in the world, and doing it really well. A lovely diving save just prevented him from being the tournament's youngest scorer ever, but he did provide a dazzling assist.

Of course, we all did some pretty amazing things when we were 16 too.

Surely as good as Lamine Yamal.

No doubt that someone wrote it down somewhere.












Sunday, June 16, 2024

Let us not dwell on our failures

 








As my fevered interest in the game of soccer slowly wanes over these years I am finding a small resurgence of interest taking place right now as the biggest international tournaments outside of the World Cup all happen at once. This weekend the Euros got underway in Germany to establish the best European team, and any day now the Copa America will get going to put forth the best team in the Americas.

In a month we'll know all.

It is a lot of soccer, but I might be up for a good bit of it. Perhaps being a little less invested in the winners I can enjoy some of these games more widely. There are many talented young players to watch, stories to chart, and there is plenty to root for. At this point I despise some things about soccer, I love some things about soccer, but also I just find some things about soccer strangely interesting.

How about I tell you one of these last ones now?

I saw this today in a game I much enjoyed wherein a favorite team of mine, Spain, thoroughly beat Croatia in one of the first games of the Euros. This exchange is something I have seen many times in soccer games. It goes something like this:

A player kicks a through ball way downfield to a forward, putting him in a great position for a shot or a pass to an open teammate. The player receiving the ball then proceeds to do something absolutely terrible. I think today he kicked it like thirty feet over the goal. Whatever it was it was a mess. And at the conclusion of all this, the player who completely screwed it up turned way back towards the passer and gave him the thumbs up.

It seems like there would be an apology in there for messing everything tragically up, but it's not like that. It's not like that at all. The thumbs up doesn't have even the slightest feel of apology.


The thumbs up seems to be saying "Good job there. Keep it up. Sure, we didn't score, but don't worry, it wasn't anyone's fault so keep giving me all your passes. You have done the right thing."













Saturday, June 15, 2024

Homeless

 








My lovely wife and I went out walking in our city. At some late point we stopped and had a prosecco sitting at a metal table on a sidewalk next to a busy street. It was lovely and unpleasant, which I found confusing. The sidewalks were full of life. People walked by. Parents rode along with bikes jimmied together with giant buckets carrying their children. Couples dated. A man came along eating an ice cream sandwiched in two cookies, which is a specialty of a nearby eatery. People picked up pizzas, went desperately looking for their dog that ran away, and biked happily along until, and this is where we come to it, someone honked at them and nearly killed them with their car.

Yes, bisecting in the most savage way, a city of life and humanity, were two massive streets, four lanes or more wide, with loud, fast, polluting cars racing by. It was like there was a nice city trying to claw its way out from ugly and dangerous design and... not quite making it.

There is a cartoon I once saw, maybe a little famous in the Urbanist community, where the streets are not removed, rather they are simply deadly abysses, a perilous drop. People cling to the little ledges of sidewalks and, crossing the street is done on narrow planks. I love that cartoon, but also don't feel it does it quite justice; the normality of the streets everywhere, their sense of danger and carefully ordered alienness to a person on foot.

But we drank. We walked along on a warm summer night. And the whole time we talked about where to live.

And never came to an answer.







Friday, June 14, 2024

Ribbing

 







They say that a cracked rib takes two to six weeks to heal. So after eight or nine days I tried to go back to work. 

It didn't go so well.

In a couple more days after you read this I'll try to take another stab at wage labor.

As I write I am closer to two weeks into my healing now, and today I am a bit better, but I wouldn't describe my improvement so far as steady. It sort of wanders around.


I spent a lot of the morning working on my mad scientist grafted songs, including Bob Dylan singing about drinking with clerkmanifesto. But as compelling as I find it to graft the head of a raccoon onto the body of a walleye, I'm pretty sure it's unwholesome. My response to this aberration of the natural course of things is along the lines of "This is remarkable! I can't believe such a thing is even possible! And look at me, I can do it." 

But I can freely see that a more natural response might be "Ew."

So I think I'll dial all that stuff back a little bit for now, and maybe include it in an optional footnote sort of way here for the people who are like "But wait, can the raccoon swim underwater?"

Maybe all this expression of humanity comes from experiencing a day in which, for several ten-minute periods, my rib cage didn't really hurt. It's very encouraging. Maybe it makes me want to wholesomely make all my own things from scratch.

Like this little post I wrote and that you have almost finished reading.

Yes, you're nearly there.

Good job.

No, not yet, hold on...


And there you go.






 

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Mad Scientist

 








Laying in bed with a cracked rib, I reread a favorite Jasper Fforde book of mine, The Big Over Easy. It has a mad scientist in it, the sort of person who is interested in grafting haddocks and kittens together. Sure, she is monstrous, but who am I to judge. Look at me!

Today I have taken a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay and had, with the assistance of some diabolical AI, the Velvet Underground layer a song version of it over their own "Lisa Says". Then I cut up two one hundred year old films, a moderately famous silent era drama and an experimental piece about a city in the rain and, yes, grafted it all together, like a kitten and a haddock!

And I came up with a very sad music video of about two minutes duration.

Will you like it?

Probably better than that silly "Venice: I Can't Drive Through" one.




















Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Venice: I can't drive through

 








A couple days ago we featured some pictures that diabolically reimagined Venice, Italy with its canals paved over for the convenience of cars. While evil in design, and meant as the darkest critique, we nevertheless found it fun to make.

So we tried our hand at a music video of it all.

It is a little more on the comical side of the equation, but I think it's in the spirit.

I hope you enjoy it and find it catchy!












Tuesday, June 11, 2024

The canals of Paris

 






As I continue to prove my thesis that cities without cars, and where the roads are replaced by canals, are all improved, I find I may have wandered beyond my expiration date. While my demonstration yesterday of Venice with roads instead of canals was extremely convincing, I find in looking over my previous cities of Nice, Rome, and Kyoto, my argument is damaged by a few of my penchants.

1. The lack of people make the cities look like the victims of post apocalyptic floods more than the beneficiary of delightful urban renewal.

2. Lack of ground access to buildings makes it look challenging to get around.

3. Heavy focus on already charming alleys, some of which are almost car free anyway, soften my point.


So with all this in mind I am taking my campaign to Paris, France. I may still suffer some of the flaws from the list above, but I am improving.

Is Paris better with canals?

Do I just like canals?

Has my thesis wandered off the map?


These questions and more will surely be answered today and in the weeks to come!













































































































































































































































































Monday, June 10, 2024

Proof by the inverse

 








Many of my recent posts have been the piecemeal beginnings of a doctoral thesis on how any city is improved by getting rid of cars and replacing the roads with canals. It has been pretty convincing. But it has also been fun to do. So I have pretended that you are not yet convinced at all, and need every possible argument I can come up with.

So far I have put canals in Nice, France. I put some in Rome, Italy, stopping to install a few extra fountains there. And most recently I added extra canals to Kyoto, Japan, a place that has a canal or two, but clearly would not be too bad off with a few more.

These all came out quite nicely, if I do say so myself, which I find I usually have to. Nevertheless I found myself imagining the reader saying "Sure. Those particular cities did look a bit better with canals instead of streets, though they look a little post apocalyptic too. But what if you took a city of canals and instead replaced all the canals with streets?"

Ohhhhhh. What a good idea!

So I have taken Venice and put streets in over the canals. It does look worse! And it was quite the desecration, like scribbling over a Rembrandt.

But it was kind of devilishly fun doing it.

I may do Amsterdam or Bruges next!


Anyway, here is Venice, disimproved. Though, on the other hand, it probably won't flood so bad like this.