Friday, May 31, 2024

The bookworm

Today we are featuring a poem called "The Bookworm". The AI version of the Internet told us emphatically that it was by the English poet Edith Sitwell. Edith Sitwell was a character! Lord what a character!

But "The Bookworm" is not by Edith Sitwell!


In fact, the AI version of the Internet told me later that it actually sounds nothing like the work of Edith Sitwell.

Though it could have been lying.

Like it was when it said it was by Edith Sitwell.

The AI version of the Internet just... made up "The Bookworm"! But because one of the redeeming features of the AI version of the Internet is that it is not vain, it didn't want to take credit for it. So it attributed it to someone plausible.

One of the fatal flaws of the AI version of the Internet is that it is obsessed with plausibility.

It turns out that when the AI version of the Internet boiler plates that one should double check what it says, it's not kidding. It will make up anything! It will lie, misrepresent, and randomly imagine anything and present it authoritatively.

But it's very polite.

Basically it is like a large corporation's customer service agent. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much just what it is!

Anyway, I made a music video out of this poem, "The Bookworm". It is 100 percent AI. The words are AI. The music is a different AI. And all the footage is AI. Theoretically there could be a program and I could type in "Make a music video about a cute library bookworm" and this could come out a minute or two later.

But instead I spent hours and hours and hours piecing this all together.

What is art?

I learned a lot. Though I'm not sure what it is yet.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Bob Dylan and Neil Young at the VFW


Bob Dylan was extremely interested in my account of my library job's social hour/farewell at the local VFW. Bob and I go out for drinks whenever he's in town, but more at cool cocktail bars and good smelling distilleries that serve, you know, good food and drinks. No shade on the local VFW, but... it doesn't.

Nevertheless, Bob loved the idea of the VFW, so he flew in from... somewhere. I think the South, where he'd been touring.

He's always touring.

I met him at the VFW. He brought a friend, or an acquaintance. Bob knows a lot of people. I knew this person too, but only by virtue of his fame. It was Neil Young.

Bob didn't introduce us. And Neil had the slightly stunned look of a person who left a rare day off on his own tour in order to fly to Minnesota and go to a VFW because of god knows what Dylan told him.

We signed in, which I learned one does at a VFW, and we grabbed a table. No one recognized us. We fit the average age demographic, with me being the youngster. We ordered Bulleit Ryes and ginger ale. Bob looked super happy for some reason I could not fathom. Neil fidgeted, but settled down drinking. He finally noticed me. "Are you a musician?" He asked.

"No. I write a blog." I replied. "Clerkmanifesto."

"It's sort of good and read by no one." Bob commented drily, insulting at least six of you out there on the Internet who do actually read it. Look at you now! But I've never noticed any of you to take offense at this sort of thing. Also, Bob reads clerkmanifesto or we wouldn't have been sitting in a raw VFW in a Saint Minneapolis suburb.

Neil took out his phone and started fiddling with it, I assumed to conduct some personal or professional business, but no. He showed me the screen. It was clerkmanifesto. "Is this it?" He asked.


Neil started reading.

Bob and I drank and talked about what we always talk about, which is pretty much anything, and I won't go into these discussions in this particular post. Maybe in a future account. Every once in awhile I'd sneak a peak at Neil's phone. It was always clerkmanifesto. He was quietly reading slowly through, though the sheer volume of clerkmanifesto was bound to defeat him sometime in the evening.

After too many drinks and a wind down with barely tolerable burgers and fries, the VFW closed and spit us into the night. Neil put away his phone and politely said goodbye. He had to get going.

Bob and I went to a nearby swamp to go for a walk in the warmish night.

We didn't say much. We just walked along with the strange sounds in the water. Then I asked "Do you think he liked it?"

"Who?" Bob asked.

"Neil Young. He said nothing and read clerkmanifesto for five straight hours." I exclaimed. "Do you think he liked it?"

"Why would that matter?" Bob asked with genuine interest.

I thought about the question for awhile, but didn't answer.

We walked quietly for awhile more.

Then I started singing softly:

"Oh, the hours we'd spent inside the Coliseum

Dodging lions and a wasting time

Oh, those mighty kings of the jungle, I hardly stand to see em"

Usually when I start singing Bob Dylan to Bob Dylan he gets quietly and amusingly irritated. But for some strange reason he started singing along with me!

"It sure has been a long, hard climb

Train wheels running through the back of my memory

When I ran on the hilltop following a pack of wild geese

Someday everything is gonna sound like a rhapsody

When I paint my masterpiece"

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The chickens come home...


I don't know why I am so inclined this week to look back on the history of clerkmanifesto. Perhaps it was finding all those ancient pictures of fox and skunk from the days of yore.

Picture (for example) of fox and skunk from days of yore:


Trying to think of a post for you this evening I remembered how in the early days of clerkmanifesto I used to talk about how amazingly good clerkmanifesto was. It was a humorous motif in which I passionately praised my own writing to distract readers from how good it was.

It worked really well!

Oh, my lord, it worked like you wouldn't believe!

But just now, there is one reader out there, rubbing their eyes 6,000 fiendishly clever blogposts later, saying "Hey. Wait a minute!"

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Memorial day at the mall


My darling wife and I went to the mall on Memorial Day.

Which mall?


I have been refurbishing my wardrobe as it was badly in need of it. This presented me an opportunity to alter my tenue.


Oh, that's French for outfit, or "bearing".

I have for some years been expressing my relationship to the culture in my clothes through obscure references to underappreciated art, like with a baseball shirt advertising a TV show that only exists in a series of novels about a murderbot who self hacked its way to autonomy. And I have also been putting a lot of my own creations on shirts, particularly bughearts and pictures of cats.

But I am moving on now to fashion- less semiology, more sense of personal style!

Or I am trying. It's hard to find much fashion out in the stores. Or maybe I don't mean fashion. Indeed, it suddenly occurs to me that fashion has two wildly contradictory meanings:

1. Cutting edge, creative and innovative displays of aesthetic style.


2. What pretty much everyone is wearing, selling, or making at any given time.

The mall is fashion in the second sense. 

I am looking for clothes in the first sense.

This is not impossible, but it does bog down quickly.

For instance, I did find some railroad pants. These are denim carpenter style pants in vertical stripes of off-white and denim blue.

I love these pants so very very much. 

I even bought two identical pairs, that's how much I love them.

If you saw me you would definitely notice the pants. They are striking and unique to the clothes one usually can find for, or see on men.

But it's not like I could only find these pants in one place.

And, conversely, it's not like I can find them in all kinds of interesting variations. 

These striking pants are available in some very similar version in at least half a dozen stores that I've seen. Which is great. But also, they are extremely close to being the same pants, in design, color, and styling, no matter what store they are in. There are no green and blue striped ones, or purple and yellow, or velvet ones, for example.

There is just this one kind of blue and white striped carpenter pants like for railroad engineer cosplaying.

It could be better, but it's better than nothing.

By a lot, actually.

After all, in hundreds of stores, there may be only one, single, tiny variety of pants for me, but...

Oh I like these pants!

Monday, May 27, 2024

Fox and Skunk walk down memory lane


I suppose I should never have wandered down into the clerkmanifesto sub-basement archives. There is a ton of stuff down there!

I have been writing clerkmanifesto since the 1800's! I thought about bringing up some of the old posts to show you, but boy did I go on about William McKinley! That stuff has not aged well.

Every time I come across an old, water-damaged fox and skunk picture though I bring it right up! To me they never stop being interesting.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Central park

No, not the Central Park. Near where I work is also a Central Park, although what it is at the center of is a little more ambiguous than the New York one. It's a pretty nice park though, and I ran out on work for a few hours a week or two ago to meet a dear friend who was about to undergo some terrifying surgery. 

Before and after seeing him, I took some pictures of geese there.

There are some lovely Northern style swamps in the area, and they were full of geese!

Friendly geese!

Approachable geese!


Baby geese!

During the Springtime in these areas we simply have tons of these wonderful geese, but, sadly, as the season progresses, their numbers mysteriously and dramatically dwindle. By mid June it can be hard to find any geese!

Anyway, now that I have some time off from work, and am not consumed with tales of the irregularities of library policies and the peculiarities of patrons, I am able to gather together some of these geese pictures for you to enjoy. 

You are going to love them!

Like, a lot.

So get ready to have an unusually good time looking at geese!

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Fox and skunk through history


When one writes an Internet column with such wide ranging interests, but also with so much content for so many years, one never knows what readers will become attached to. But no matter how directed I become in whatever current interest I am chasing down, I am always receptive to the wishes of my readership. 

And so when several people wrote in wondering where all the fox and skunk pictures are these days, I immediately looked to see if I could find something they would enjoy.

There was nothing on my computer, so...

Down into the archives I went!

And down.

And down.

In file cabinet number 223, I found these:

Friday, May 24, 2024

The curiosities of the lost and found


At a large library like the one I work at the lost and found is filled with a vast array of appalling junk. There is so much of it because the rate of repatriation is astonishingly low. If something is not claimed within a few hours the odds of it getting claimed drop to the low single digits in success percentage. After a day or two it goes even lower than that!

That does not mean that we don't get tons of calls from people frantically looking for their lost and found items. One would think, with our treasure trove of lost items, we would dig up the caller's missing treasure with hardly a problem. Alas that it is not so. Even the most extreme cases- someone recently losing a not super valuable but meaningful item, and can tell me exactly where it was left, comes out at a sad 50-50 success rate at best. It may be even lower.

There are many strange peculiarities to the lost and found, and I think the following is my favorite:

People who call or visit looking for an utterly distinctive and strange item, that one would think we would either clearly have or not, end up examining multiple like objects and walking away not finding their own.

Let me provide a representative example.

Joe lost his visor. Now, a visor is not a hugely common thing, and often we wouldn't have a single one in our lost and found. But, in case we have a couple, and to help know what I'm looking for, I ask Joe for a general description of it and a general time for when he lost it.

"Well," Joe says, "It's mostly a greenish color, with some black on the edges? Oh! And it has like a parrot or something on it, and then kind of stripes on the band. I left it here, I don't know, a few days ago, maybe longer?"

That should be plenty, right? I head to the towering shelves of our lost and found collection.

I open the "Hats, scarves, and gloves" drawer (though I check all the others in case). There are two mangy old stocking caps, a stray glove or two, a forgotten wallet, a sock, and, bizarrely, four, count 'em, FOUR visors.

One is red and black and has no birds and no stripey, so forget it.

Two are green or partly green. One is yellow, I would say, but ochre, verging towards green. So, who knows? And this yellow one has animals all around the band, including a parrot! It also has black trim and was found recently.

The first true green one does not have a bird, but rather an abstract design that sort of looks like a bird? I don't know. The band is not striped, rather it is black. Not bad. There is no indication of when it was found.

The last one is army green and has a kind of camo band- so, striped I guess, and there is black in it! And it has a big embroidered cartoon bird on it, colorful but not a parrot, but this could be it! Bringing it down in likelihood though is a slip that maybe belongs to it indicating that it was found a couple months ago, or possibly even a couple months ago AND a year before that. It's hard to tell.

I bring all three visors to Joe.

Joe examines them very carefully, like it's minute work to determine if one of these is his missing visor. He says things like "It was more like a real bird" and "The band was Velcro." Then he leans away sadly. "None of these are mine. It's more of a dark green. But thanks for looking for me."

Surely his visor is somewhere.

Maybe in that very moment three other guys were in three other libraries sadly saying "No, mine was really more yellow." and "It wasn't a parrot, more a cartoon bird" and "Why'd you bring this. I said mine was red and black?"

Thursday, May 23, 2024



It is a perhaps not so ancient truism that you can't always get what you want.

There is even a song about it.

But sometimes you do get exactly what you want.

This happened to me!

There are also a few ancient truisms about the dangers of getting what you want.

But sometimes, by some strange miracle, the world is perfect, and what you wanted, is everything you need.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024



At a farewell happy hour for one of my favorite co-workers, of almost 20 years, who is leaving the library for a different job in the county, five of us went to have drinks at the local VFW.

The VFW is not my normal scene, seeing as I have never actually fought in a foreign war. 

Having been invited to the festivities after the venue was already chosen I had two bracing responses.

1. A snobbish recoiling in horror.

2. A concern that I might have to dash up to Canada and get in a tussle in order to qualify for membership. 

There was nothing to worry about though! After thirty years of gritty, low paid, barely respected county library work, I am just the sort of down to earth, salt of the land, gritty person of no pretensions who can wander into an unglamorous VFW and have a rye and ginger and...

not gawk for too long.

So, whoever keeps quoting Charles Bukowski to me in my comments section, take note!

We all sat at a round table, surveying the room, er, maybe slightly gawking, but not for too long. There were five of us, all in our fifties to early sixties, and the best part was when I looked around the crowded room and observed "We are easily the youngest people in the room." 

You'd be surprised how often that happened to me in the nineties, but it's getting weirdly less common for every year that races by our windows.

The furnishings were bingo hall basic. There was a single set place, dusty and empty, set aside for the POW/MIA, I guess like the cup of wine for Elijah. The food and drinks were artless and passable, but, and this is important, didn't gross me out because I am salt of the earth, even if I have been to France. I had a rye and ginger, an appropriate drink I had researched beforehand by typing "What do you drink at a VFW". I also had a beer. And I had a burger and fries. In contrast to our current inflationary world, the prices were intriguingly low! Seven dollar drink! Six dollar burger! But consistent with the current inflationary world it all came out kind of expensive anyway, after a dollar for a meager slice of swiss on the burger, and the fry upcharge, and not very cheap beer, and all the usual taxes, fees, and tips.

As a group we talked about all the things we talk about at work, only at greater length and in more detail. One gets an even clearer picture of the co-workers that are universally suffered, and finds out which co-workers are disliked more than deserved, and one tries to gently illuminate their redeeming qualities.

In the end I paid for the guest of honor's bill on my own. This may have been worth it for the feeling of magnificent superiority it gave me, and for the warmth it directed to me from the guest of honor.

In the end, what do I rate the VFW?

I don't know.

I rate it:



Sixty Dollars!

or how about this:

I'd like to thank all those people in there for their sacrifice for us all in WWII.


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Applying oneself


When I was a lad, I regularly encountered the refrain: "If only he would apply himself!"

Look at me applying myself now! 

I bet they never suspected... this!

If I apply myself I can put a cart of fiction in order in two minutes!

If I apply myself I can shelve that whole cart of fiction in twelve minutes!

Doing this frees me up to...

Put more fiction in order.

And also to...

Shelve more fiction.

So I have learned to apply myself. And you might want to apply yourself too.


Choose carefully.

Oh my god. Choose carefully.

Monday, May 20, 2024

No exit


I've always loved the print payment system at my library. For many years now all of our printing and copying operates on the honor system. Near any station where a person can do any of these activities sits a humble metal lock box. People throw in any money they owe for any printing. By all accounts I have ever heard, our costs are fully covered by a system running on faith in the decency of the public.

I have always attributed this wonder to two things:

1. People are more decent than we think.

2. Institutions charging 20 cents a copy are casually ripping everyone off.

In short, not everyone pays for their printouts, but enough do and there is a ton of slush in the system to resolve that. Usually the slush in systems like this goes to corporate executives and shareholders. Here it goes to the indigent and street hustlers.

Today I had two library patrons to whom I had to explain how our system works. Neither of them had any cash, so I looked each of them deep in their souls. "Go ahead and make your copies." I said. "It is simply on your honor to come back at pay for them some time in the future." They both seemed pretty confident they would be back. For me? Who knows?

They may be back one day with their fistfuls of quarters. I hope so. But, perhaps they will spend all eternity locked in a plain white room with Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk, all with nothing interesting to say, and nothing to do but reflect.