Thursday, April 18, 2024

Our millionth subscriber


At 2:11 a.m., on Tuesday morning, clerkmanifesto welcomed its one millionth subscriber. I got the Google Blogger Plaque just this afternoon and have hung it in a place of honor in my library. Having a million subscribers reading clerkmanifesto is a great honor, and, as promised, I will be donating $100,000 to the home for forgotten bloggers.

As few as 17 years ago, blogging was the second biggest money maker in the entertainment industry, and thousands of talented writers, eschewing their best novel writing years, made ample incomes writing personal columns on an Internet oozing with personality.

Now, sadly, those days are long gone, and famous bloggers that were veritable household names, like Neal the Pat Peterson, The Divine Doreen, and Let's talk Pickles, are all but forgotten.

What do you mean you've never heard of The Divine Doreen?


I'm not bitter.

I just want you to know that if my $100,000 can pay for just one, vintage, lower east side pickle barrel to remind Let's Talk Pickles of his glory days, then all my work here will have been worth it.

Yes of course he still loves all things pickles.

Lord, the Internet is fickle!

For instance, my subscriber count that just a few days ago hit one million, has now dropped back down to four!

I hope I can keep my plaque.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Temptation song, the lyrics

It's late at night as I write now. 

Earlier, while sitting at the front desk of my library, 

I wrote a post for you, 

But compelled by mysterious forces, 

I set my words into verse.

Not so unlike this now.

Since we don't much truck with poetry around here,

At clerkmanifesto 

(at least, not with my own), 

there was only one thing left to do:

I got together with my robot friends, 

and made it into a song.

(This one below isn't it. It's actually a song version of the above!)

The real song is called "The Temptation Song".

Horribly, this platform won't let me just make an audio post, at least, not in any way I understand. So I have to make it into a video. And then I have to post it to YouTube, embed it here, and hope you can watch it.

This video is not as fancy as the Emily Dickinson one, mostly because I want to go to bed before midnight. So it's just a few still pictures. 

But it's good enough to let you hear the song.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024



While this show of my photographs of library workers with their spirit animals is up at my library, and meeting with a strong interest from the general community, I am occasionally encountering a curious question. It goes something like this:

"If you can make art like this, why didn't you do that for a living all these years?"

There are a lot of answers to this question! 

Many of them don't go together. 

How does one answer a question that has many clashing answers?

With art!

Monday, April 15, 2024

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The clerkmanifesto song


Clerkmanifesto has a song now.

It's called "Dead Things Float"

Here is the music video link, but I've also tried embedding just the song without the video version.

To watch on YouTube

Or try here:

Or with this:

I mean, one of these methods is bound to work.


I've been staying up too late,

telling you my stories

Obscure clerk manifesto,

Home of all my glories


Clerk Manifesto

Clerk Manifesto

The cream rises to the top

Clerk Manifesto

Clerk Manifesto

Dead things float

Come hear my song

Singing ten years now

It's getting pretty long,

It's everything I wrote.

I know you know it's dreaming,

Not everything can float.


Clerk Manifesto,

Clerk Manifesto,

The cream rises to the top,

I'm the least successful goat,

Clerk Manifesto,

I cannot help but gloat,


Dead things,

Dead things,

Dead things float.


Dead things float.

I'm the least successful goat

I may be con deluded,

Bout everything I spoke,

I know just what the clue is,

Not everything's a joke,

Come here to the manifesto,

Dead things float.

Dead things float.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

An attraction unto myself


The library was a little bit wild during the day today. School was out and the weather was fine and this place was hopping. People were everywhere, phones were ringing, and the library cards were flying.

Oh man, they were flyin'!

Until five o'clock, when, seemingly all at once, it got deadly quiet in here.

Maybe everyone had had enough library for the day? 

But not me. My work was not done. We go to eight around here. So I went out to the front desk of my library for an hour and tried to look approachable.

I didn't register a single card. I didn't help anyone find anything. And I didn't provide a single direction to anywhere in the library.

For the whole of the hour I answered four questions.

They were all about me.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Reminiscences of the great eclipse


I try to keep clerkmanifesto topical. And though this daily column is an intensely personal expression, it also marks out the great events of our lives. I have covered in this space the world-turning election of Donald Trump, the shock of the pandemic, and the little-noticed replacement of our Universe with an alternate one that is in every way identical to ours with the odd exception of not including closs.

I don't exactly miss closs, but I sometimes wonder what it was.

And so I didn't want to let the eclipse pass by without reflection here. After all, clerkmanifesto is a lot like a solar eclipse- it may not be safe to look directly at it.

Last night, as I was falling asleep, to my great fortune, I thought of a beautiful post to write about the solar eclipse. I almost got out of bed to write it, only to see the moon slowly pass between me and it until it was wholly obscured in darkness. When I could see again it was morning, and it was gone.

On the day of the eclipse, a pair of solar eclipse safety glasses fell into my hands. But clouds ruined the event for everyone in Minnesota and I never used the glasses at all. Today, though, I occasionally nostalgically put them on. People laugh at them and then ask me why I'm wearing them all these days later.

"That eclipse was so great," I say. "That I'm having trouble letting go."

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Our new library project is finally completed!


My library has finally done it! After three years of work, and over 14 million dollars, we have finally converted our collection.

It is now made out of blocks of wood!

Every single book in our collection is now a hand carved facsimile of an actual book! The process has been amazing, and the result looks fantastic. 

We started by requisitioning nearly half a million custom processed blocks of wood:

These were prepped and packaged overseas:

In our onsite workshop local craftspeople hand carved the blocks of wood into rough facsimiles of actual books.

From there, finishing details were hand painted by the brush staff to give the blocks of wood, or "Bookdummies" as we have come to call them, an authentic look.

Sometimes multi-book "dummies" were created, according to careful specs, for the higher shelves.

Here is a picture of the shelving when we were staging the pre finished books:

And here is a picture of the nearly finished project on the main floor:

It has been a huge project, and one with considerable expense, but the long term benefits to our library aesthetics and future acquisitions budget are incalculable. 

We open this new collection to the public in just under a week, and we are so excited for the library patrons to finally see what we've been working on!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Gandhi autograph


A children's librarian was going through our book donations and found an easy picture book about Gandhi, called I Am Gandhi. There was a sticker on the cover that said "Autographed Copy!" This caused a bit of a double-take when one looked at it. But of course the book was written only seven years ago, and the author was Brad Melzer, not Gandhi.

So no Gandhi autograph, alas.

The librarian started to walk away with the book, but I stopped them and asked for it. I signed the inside cover, "Gandhi", with a bit of slapdash flourish, right next to what I took to be a genuine Brad Melzer signature.

No point in disappointing anyone else.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

I wrote a hit play!


Ever since my project of portraits of my co-workers, posing with their spirit animals, got off the ground and elicited interest and enthusiasm, a scene from a movie started repeatedly running through my head. I always meant to write a post about this scene, but I wasn't sure how I would articulate the way in which the scene expressed my feelings.

So I waited.

And now that every day I watch crowds of people (well, several toddlers at least) pour over my display of artwork, the scene from this movie comes to me more than ever. It is towards the end of the movie, and the movie is called Rushmore. In it, a precocious teenager who just wrote, directed, and starred in a High School play about the Vietnam War, is, in his moment of triumph, finding that everything he wanted is slipping away from him. Inappropriately plied with alcohol by Bill Murray's character, he throws a bit of a fit that breaks the patina of his composure and reveals the strain of his adolescent development. "I wrote a hit play! I wrote a hit play!" He insists, as if having created something popular, or of power, should come with special rewards, respect, license, and love.

And so it is for six months, in the shadow of my popular and much discussed photography series, and as my work world remains nevertheless the same, filled with its constant small indignities, irritations, and lack of special dispensations, there is, sounding like a bell in my head (albeit with a touch of humorous irony) "BUT I WROTE A HIT PLAY!!!!!".

I am not sixteen though. So I try to keep it to myself.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Origin story


For a little while in the 1950's in California, famous musical artists Nat King Cole and Cole Porter lived next door to each other. And as they both liked to garden they formed a friendship over their shared backyard fence.

One late Summer they both found themselves with bumper crops of cabbages coming in. They liked to tease each other about whose cabbages were biggest and who could grow the most cabbages. Indeed, they argued about everything regarding those cabbages- when to water, the best fertilizer, and how to control the pests that would try to feast on their harvest. But there was one thing they absolutely agreed upon, and that was just what a person should do with cabbage once it was picked. 

Cole Porter and Nat King Cole both strongly felt that cabbage, all cabbage, should be shredded raw, and then tossed liberally with mayonnaise, cider vinegar, and a bit of mustard.

They felt this so fanatically that it became known all around town as "Coles' Law".

Sunday, April 7, 2024

So you wanna see my snails???


In my slight, but wildly entertaining column yesterday, I mentioned my hours of labor on photographic projects that came to absolutely nothing, nothing, that is, outside of my slight, but wildly entertaining column.

But did I give up?


I spent many more hours working on snail pictures.

Did I get there? Did I finally crack the code? Did my perseverance pay off?

I don't know.

What's with all the hard questions? 

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Here the fruit of my labors!


It was my day off!

I leapt out of bed, ran to the computer, and started weaving my magic.

Working with a series of pictures I recently took of graffiti on a long walk by abandoned railway tracks, carefully edited, and then a series of meticulously AI generated snails removed from their backgrounds and subtly altered, I managed, after five hours, to produce this!

No, I mean this

These comments. 

The pictures didn't turn out.

Friday, April 5, 2024

My audience


I have been perhaps a little too negative about having my show of my photos of co-workers and their spirit animals up at the library. First, right after the show started, it seemed like everyone was just walking by all the pictures without even glancing their way. Then, on the second day, some anonymous co-worker concern trolled my show by expressing their concern to a manager that some of the people who willingly took part in posing for the show might not want to be in it, theoretically. So that kind of bummed me out for a bit.

But the truth is that lots of people look at my pictures. Some of them even for more than ten seconds! Some of them yes, I have to say it... with enthusiasm! And it's very nice.

And watching all of this I have learned more about my constituency. My very biggest fans are...


Toddlers love my pictures!

Only, so many of the photos are hung so high up on these metal display racks that these little wee children can mostly only see one low-placed one on the way to the kids' room, the one with a seal. The tiny kids point at it and thrust their hand into it in a fit of artistic appreciation.

I thought "These toddlers really love my work. I've got to put more pictures down near the floor where they can see them!

So this very evening I went out to the racks and did a little rearranging. I moved three more pictures to the lower part of the panel where the toddlers always stop to admire on the way to the children's room. These are now too low for adults to see, but perfect for three-year-old's. And sure enough, as I was filling in some holes in the display I'd caused when I moved things around, a toddler wandered by. He halted his whole family and thrust his arm into one of my newly accessible pictures. He seized one frame briefly in his tiny fists. He pushed his smeary little hand into another. And then he started freely babbling, in a delightful tone (to me, at least):

"wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!"

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Concern troll

I have recovered from the shock of putting up my portraits only to have to endure people just... walking by them like they didn't exist. Over time now, it has slowly become clear that my pictures are an attraction for people and that, despite that weird first couple of hours, I can regularly find people checking out my co-worker portraits with anywhere from fleeting to active interest.

Toddlers in particular like them, but that's a story for another time.

So after a couple of days I was actually feeling pretty good about my show. Look at me, I have made art and people actually look at it! 

So that's... cool. 

But you know the Universe, it simply can't stop self-correcting.

There are two theories to this. 

Either the Universe is an asshole or..

It's built on a fulcrum.

There might be more than two theories, actually.

Anyway, I was making some lunch in the breakroom, a patty melt if you're curious. An old librarian who's a newer branch manager came in. They used to be good at their job. Now they're a manager. They said "I had a staff member write me and express concern about people's pictures being publicly displayed and how they might not want that. So I wanted to check in and see what kind of permissions you got."

"Let me get this straight." I said. "A staff member who is not in this show is concerned that someone, who is in the show, hypothetically, will be upset by it?"

The manager affirmed this.

I explained that I told all the people when I photographed them the same thing I told this manager when I photographed them (this manager is in my show)- that I was going to add in their animal and eventually I would probably have some kind of show or more public display of them when I was done with it all, and if they wanted to take part I would need to take their picture.

The manager said that's what they thought, but because of this message from another staff member they wanted to check.

I said I understood their perspective, but that the person raising concerns should have received far less consideration and was, frankly, up to no good.

The manager said that they thought the person raising concern was doing it from a good place.

I said we would have to agree to disagree then.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Library coincidence number 174


As a connoisseur of coincidence, I cannot resist bringing the latest one I came upon working at my library's front desk. 

This is a true story!

A notable library patron visited us for the first time in a few years. Once upon a time, this man came to the library every single day with an assortment of all his belongings, and an array of what looked to be assorted garbage, packed into four to six Target shopping bags. He never went anywhere without his Target bags. Because of this predilection for Target bags, he was known to the library staff as "Target Bag Man".

Upon reflection, this wasn't the most inventive nickname, but for years we didn't know his real name, and, let's face it, "Target Bag Man" was very descriptive. Target bag man was obsessive-compulsive about germs and used a lot of our Kleenex and hand sanitizer long before the Pandemic briefly made it de rigueur. He likely slept rough in the grounds and swamps in the back of our parking lot on many occasions. Target Bag Man was a lonely, sometimes noisy, unfriendly, daily figure of my library for many years and may even appear in an old blog post or two from those times.

But slowly Target Bag Man moved onto other things, and now it has been quite a long while since I've seen him. He came to my desk today to ask for an envelope. "Target Bag Man!" I thought but did not say. He looked old, a lot older, but his coldness and refusal to touch things remained. I gave him an envelope. He walked away.

And as he did another man came to the desk. "I thought the library might be able to use these." He said. He handed me a bulging plastic bag.

 It was stuffed full with Target bags.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The sadness of the artist


It was a long journey to get three wire stands full of my Plexiglas framed pictures of co-workers up for a handful of weeks at my library. There are 75 pictures of 54 different people floating on a little art show island in the library sea. My months of work and dreams come to their ultimate fruition- a grand show at my library.

And having just finished putting them all up, I sit down at the front desk and...

watch people pass them by without a glance.

Oh yeah. I forgot about this part. 

Monday, April 1, 2024

The title statement for my portraits of library workers show


To celebrate, here is the title statement I am planning to use for my show of library portraits supposedly starting tomorrow at my library.

 I'll follow it with some of the pictures from the show that I probably haven't shown so far in this space.