Monday, December 11, 2017

The glorious ray of light!

In these terrible dark times of environmental degradation, mad, faithless leaders, and self-loathing greed run amuck, we look to God, who merely says "Play amongst yourselves."

So in between torturing and robbing and assaulting one another, we do.

And we try to be thankful nevertheless. But there is so little to be thankful for.

And then one morning we wake up and check The Champions league Draw and Real Madrid is playing PSG.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

And life is beautiful.


Now I know you are thinking "Yes, of course this is wonderful. But doesn't one of them have to win? Won't one of them be made stronger?"

And I say:

Oh, put away your darkness! Behold joy! The loss here for either team will be hard and unremitting, an early exit, a humiliation, a condemnation, and a portent of doom. And yet what is the other team's victory? A moment, but temporary, a tiny step with all hope of doom and disaster still richly in play. A triumph made puny by the very fact that all they have done is beaten a round of 16 loser.

Oh sweet world!

That we are all going to die soon choking in our own poison is as nothing now, for Real is playing PSG!

My heart soars at the smell of blood in the water. Whose blood? Either of their blood will do.

Plus it should be a good couple of games.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Enrique Postmortem

For the most part I scrupulously held off on my analysis on the coaching tenure of Luis Enrique, waiting to see how that last year finished off, and until I had the full picture.

Image result for luis enrique

Now maybe I do. In as much as I ever will.

I have decided that he was a modestly capable man of few ideas that he held tightly to himself. He was the strong, silent type, a bit gruff, a bit stinting, whose reticence covered over a sparseness of invention. And we all spent three years filling in those blanks.

Give a sensible, unadventurous man a fortune and, in a world so friendly to the rich, he is likely to come out with at least another small fortune a few years down the line. And so Luis Enrique, with his fortune of a team, captured a treble, a domestic double, and a Copa, a fortune indeed for any coach in three years, and yet one qualified by his being the richest man in football. I don't believe it to be overbold to say he inherited one of the finest soccer teams ever assembled. He walked into a team with the greatest player yet to lay his foot on a ball, full in his prime, but also four others who were likely among the then top ten in the game in that year: Iniesta, Suarez, Neymar, and Busquets. Xavi, fading, his last year being the first year of the trident, could still be placed in the top 20 in the game, possibly along with Pique. Alves, Rakitic, Bravo, Mascherano, and Alba would have all found themselves at various places in the top 100. Enrique's diminishing returns speak more about his career than his total haul of trophies, and a more inspired coach, without requiring too much luck, could have taken such a team to even more dizzying heights.

Related image

After all, let us look at this three year history of Barca. In year one they bumbled a bit on their way, until, after Suarez served out his suspension, the trident caught fire and commenced to burn thrillingly through Europe. Enrique stood merely in the position of unleashing the fiercest hounds we may ever see running the front line of a soccer team. Convinced by the power of this he doubled down on them in season two.

 The team looked likely to sweep through all of Spain and Europe again, and were perhaps even better in the heart of that season than they were in their first triumphant one all together. But unmanaged and uncontrolled fires cannot burn forever, and the unbelievably brilliant team, a still nearly perfect eleven, but now more fragile and with little to back it, burned out exhausted, and they nearly lost everything. Naturally enough this was the first point at which Luis Enrique's shortcomings came into full view. Fully reliant on a combination of old tactics and makeshift ones to serve the sizzling talents of his forwards, he, at the first impediment, exhaustion, was slow to react and understand, and he was reluctant to change or experiment. As the underlying problems slowly convinced him, being a man of no great finesse, he overreacted and prepared through the summer for a third season heavy on rotation. Unfortunately here he tried to kill two birds with one stone: trying to buy for the future and for the present with the same new players, and only one of the many 22 year olds acquired was able to add value to the team.

Image result for umtiti

Buy outside as big as possible for the present. Develop from within for the future. And plug the small gaps that are left after this, only when you have no other choice, with something in between. Enrique skipped the first and second that summer and went right to the third.

In the third season the outlandish talent still carried the team into contention and occasional triumphs, even miracles. But a structural core of passing and control and stability of tactics, to work the magic off of, started to come apart under sometimes futile insistence that players not capable of such a level be given chance after chance to step up. Only able to take his lessons bluntly, Enrique, after the player burnouts of year two, overprotected and parsed out his players and his team's energy, remaining shy of presses and alternate approaches and players, all while waiting for the kind of magic sometimes unsuited and unequal to the shifts, talents, and diverse tactics of the highest level teams in Europe.

A signature moment in this was in the heart of a disastrous PSG game, when Luis Enrique turned to his assistant Unzue and more or less seemed to say "What do we do?" That Unzue merely shrugged his shoulders was emblematic of the failures of their merely acceptable tenure. "When in doubt, wait." Seemed to be their watchword. And it made Enrique increasingly poorly suited to a team of such outsized talent. In the end Enrique seemed to be at the mercy of that talent, but unable to truly craft and wield it.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Introducing the B blog

I have commandeered an older side project of the clerk manifesto and retrofitted it to be my B blog. I have a kind of standard for my main blog, the clerkmanifesto, and sometimes keep things off of it for a variety of reasons. Here are some:

1. I don't want to offend my audience, and though I consider them enlightened and fully treat them as such, I would rather err on the side of caution.

2. I don't feel like it's the place to ramble on too much about the Barcelona soccer club as I'm pretty sure my thoughts on them are not of interest to most of the people reading.. anything... in the world.

3. I want to keep a reasonably consistent tone and a presentation based, with extremely particular exceptions, on a pure short essay writing format. No pictures. No links. No artless screeds.

4. I'm cautious of experiments, as they tend to blow up and muck up all those beautiful tapestries I have hung up in the luxuriant rooms of clerkmanifesto.

So with all that in mind I decided it would be nice to have a less careful blog, less religiously written, less reliable, and of a lower, more experimental standard. Posted anytime, without ambitions, and prone to fits of activity and long slumbers, think of this as my mad scientist lab in one of the basements below clerkmanifesto. This is where I will do things I might regret. You may get blood on your shirt. You may have to read about soccer or the perfidy of people who don't think like I do. Older, strange clerkmanifesto posts might get reposted here. And you could even wonder if I'm losing my mind. If any of that is appealing to you please sign up to receive this via email, over on the sidebar links.

If it's not interesting to you, I hope you will read clerkmanifesto instead, which is a masterpiece of American letters. This is more like the bonus features. If you like this but don't read clerkmanifesto as well, I'm sure I don't know what to do with you. You poor bastard.

A few side notes: 

A. This is retrofitted over an older side project concerning The Last Harbor Library, a project that was too ambitious for me to maintain. You can see the remnants of it in the older posts here.

B. If I really like something I write here I don't feel any compunction about hoisting it up to clerkmanifesto proper, like a minor league player getting called up to the bigs! Just think how exciting that would be for a B blog blog post! 

C. There are few enough eyes as it is on clerkmanifesto, and there will surely be far fewer here. So it would be extremely nice, if this project is at least provisionally interesting to you,  even if you aren't a commenter normally, if you left a little comment here. You can even just anonymously say "Here". Thanks.

Oh, and welcome to the B blog.


Friday, February 7, 2014

10 Little Known Facts

Anyone curious enough to hop onto the Last Harbor Public Library Blog probably knows the basic facts about our library, the kind you'll get on any five cent tour you might take of it, or from a quick scan of its Wikipedia page. You know it's considered to be Frank Lloyd Wright's last masterpiece and that it was built by Northern Minnesota's most famous (and only) billionaire, Everett Browning. You also probably know about how he built it for his daughter (on tours I like to make the joke that the Last Harbor Public Library is thus a children's library, which is funny because our kid's section is about the size of my thumbnail). Because I have spent the last few years working here, and delving into the idiosyncrasies of this library's history, I am well acquainted with a vast array of little known facts about our famous library. When I conduct a nickel tour of this building (as I often do) I include the best of these facts. But I see no reason not to lay out these little known facts here, and save us both the trouble of a tour. If you're still smitten with the Last Harbor Library and have to come for a visit, I suggest you take the ten cent tour. If I'm your tour guide you may want to say "You'd better skip to the even littler little known facts" and I will endeavor to do so.

Ten Little Known Facts About the Last Harbor Public Library

1. There was no budget for the building of the Last Harbor Public Library. Wright was supposedly told by Browning "It's simple. Build what you need to build. I will pay for it."

2. Amelia Browning, for whom this library was built, was nine years old at the start of construction. She was considered a genius, and was said to be involved in the library's design. While this seems preposterous, seeing photos of young Ms. Browning lecturing the elderly Wright, who looks on fascinated, does a good job of changing most people's minds.

3. No material in the building of the library comes from more than 300 miles away. Funny thing is nearly all the books do.

4. The Last Harbor Public Library is a public library. There is a veritable encyclopedia of documents that gives Amelia Browning absolute control of it, but it is open to all and is supported in numerous small ways by the city of Last Harbor as a public institution.

5. Amelia Browning wrote a book of poems when she was 12 called Mr. Wright Builds a Library. It was published. It was pretty good. Our library does not carry it.

6. Frank Lloyd Wright was concerned that the library would be overcome by the overwhelming views of Lake Superior. His original design strongly limited dramatic vantages of the Lake and limited lake facing windows. In each design revision (there were 14) he added more windows facing the lake.

7. The Last Harbor Public Library only has rare books by accident. The library (read: Amelia Browning) is interested in the content of books and circulating them, not in their physical value (I believe I have heard her use the word "fetishists" in this context).

8. Though most people viewing our collection assume we must be some kind of academic library, we are actually very much a popular library. The vast majority of books in our collection were very popular at some point in the past 5,000 years, just, very, very few are so now (very, very, very, very few).

9. There is a secret room, but it's not much of a secret if I say more than that.

10. The Last Harbor Public Library has opened every single day, 365 days a year, for 17 straight years now.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Five Questions for Winter

Five Questions for Winter

I received a few sharp words from my co-workers for my recent post in which I not only suggested that no one at my library does any work, but actually demonstrated them in the act of not doing it. These sharp words stirred up several questions in my mind.

1. Why are my co-workers reading this blog when they could be reading any number of books from our thorough collection of Medieval Literature, like The Mabinogion for instance?

2. Do my co-workers not know they're not working? I could demonstrate it for them so they become more familiar with what it looks like. But not now because I am too busy writing the library blog.

3. Would they rather I lie to the public here? Lie! In a library, the repository of human knowledge and truth! I am scandalized at the mere suggestion!

4. Do they think that all this not working is some fault of their own?  There is nothing to do here! Nothing! This is due not to worker laziness. It is due to the fact the only person in all of Last Harbor, Minnesota, who would actually want to read The Mabinogion, which is the sort of thing our collection focuses on, is upstairs, so industriously refining our collection and micromanaging our library that she has time to read neither it nor this blog.

5. Are my co-workers unaware that this time belongs to them, to be enjoyed, because once the summer season arrives again they will all be fantastically overwhelmed? Have they forgotten the throngs of tourists who under no circumstances are interested in one of the greatest buildings in the world, our Frank Lloyd Wright designed masterpiece, when it is minus 20 degrees out, but are fanatically interested in it when it is a steamy, ice cream eating, 60 degrees out at the height of summer? Have they forgotten the endless tours, the convincing of people that even though we own not a single book by James Patterson, they might really like The Mabinogion (they won't), the complicated issuing of library cards to people living across the planet so that they can check out three books one time in order to never read them? Have they forgotten the mad carnival of events, shows, architectural lectures and confused tourists who descend on Last Harbor mistakenly thinking there is something of note to do here besides this library ("No, I'm sorry. I believe you're thinking of Grand Marais. No, moose rarely wander into town.")?

Yes, my co-workers have forgotten. All people who live in an extreme climate share this in common: they are incapable of remembering the other seasons or any other conditions than the current ones. It requires so much effort to contend with these conditions that there is no room for that small bit of imagination that allows one to conceptually travel in time. It is, as I mentioned, minus 20 degrees out right now (I was neither kidding nor exaggerating). For us it is like this always and ever will be. But I have now lived up here for a bit less than three years, and so still retain, barely, a bit of the ability to see in the long view. I know that if you take the average of the whole year it is merely cold here, not insanely freezing, that it is not always dark, but balanced between light and dark pretty evenly, and that though we all have nothing to do now, averaged through one of our summers, we do our share of work. And so I say to anyone contending with a bitter, shut in winter, pick up a copy of The Mabinogion, or tune your internet dial to this blog, and stay calm when the truth is spoken.

Friday, January 24, 2014

It's What We Do!

It's What We Do!

In my last post I collected a stray library patron to provide cover for me as I headed off to report on exactly what your Last Harbor Library staff was up to on a cold, midwinter, midweek afternoon. It is all part of my plan to differentiate our library blog from other library blogs by giving you a no holds barred look at the behind the scenes operation of our library. Other library blogs like to keep you appraised of exciting events at their library. We have no exciting events, thus my alternate approach.

To help us along on our tour I have pictures. I start with my hijacked patron, Kent Carlson:

I said all I could manage to say about Kent in my last post, so I'll move right along to the first co-worker I encountered, Beth Selly, a Library Page who I asked to cover the front desk:

Beth, when we found her, was in the back room with the only cart of unshelved books in the library. It wasn't full. There were about 18 books on it. She could have shelved them in five minutes, but was using them as a kind of cover, much like I was using Kent as cover to pursue my real agenda. Her real agenda was to read. She was reading The Face of Battle by John Keegan. I asked her to watch the desk for me and she agreed nicely enough. She brought her cart and book to the front desk. She said "Hey, Kent." And never, at any point during any of it, did she stop reading
The Face of Battle by John Keegan, which, it turns out, is an esteemed book of military history.

Next up was Librarian Assistant Linda Howe. She was leaning against one of our massive pillars and sketched a distracted wave at Kent and I with her cell phone. Here she is:

She was on her phone giving detailed instructions about everything to her elderly father. Her elderly father seemed to be endeavoring mightily not to understand a single one of them.

In the staff offices we found our Computer person, Lila Twofeather animatedly recounting an episode of the TV show Louie to Programs Manager (not TV programs!), Jay Sobanski:

I think you may be starting to get the idea, so I will run through the rest of the list a bit more quickly.  

Vicki David, Librarian, listening to jazz, complicated jazz I am not sure I understand as music.

Clare Tompkins, Student Worker, eating a bag of pretzels very slowly and with great concentration.

Mike Dahlberg, Janitor, messing about with his phone.

That was most of our staff. Of course, there was one person working who I have not accounted for here, so Kent and I headed upstairs to check on her. Amelia Browning, Head Librarian, was at the librarian's desk, engaged mysteriously with massive volumes of things, a pencil, several ledgers. She looked up at us.

"Kent here, and I, have toured the entire library" I said. "Other than myself, not a single staff member is doing a lick of work, though they all seem fairly contented."

"And what exactly is the work you are doing?" Asked Ms. Browning.

"Blogging." I replied. Kent snickered.

"Well, write it up." Ms. Browning said as she waved me away with a backhand gesture of her hand.

And so I have.



Friday, January 17, 2014

We respond to our new blog followers

The Question of Over Staffing

I have received two indications that people have found their way to this newly minted Last Harbor Library Blog. The first was an actual comment on the blog page itself. A patron, or a person who roams very widely and randomly across the Internet, wondered what the books were that are in the background of the picture of our ferocious leader, Amelia Browning (below).

  It would be easy for me to glibly say that whatever the books are behind her, they will definitely be Classics. Very Important Classics! However, I took that picture, in our library, and so can find exactly what those books are. It turns out the truth is much, much worse than their being mere classics, and I think will indicate to you how profoundly confused our library is about what anyone in our town, or who visits our town, would ever want to read. Ms. Browning, in that picture, is standing in front of a prodigious shelf of books of Greek Literature. Indeed, it is but a small part of what we have of Greek Literature. I have tried to match up where she is with what we can see over her shoulders. Mostly what we can see is the Godley translations of the Persian Wars books, by Herodotus, who, it turns out, lied like a rug. I think we can also see some books by Hesiod (widely considered to be the first blogger), there might be visible a book that's sort of by Heraclitus (it's largely of things other people said he said. Heraclitus is famous for "No man ever steps in the same river twice." and has been dining out on that quote for millennia), and finally there's a good bit of Hippocrates. I won't insult you by identifying who he is, but I cannot resist mentioning that not every library on the North Shore of Lake Superior carries 2,400 year old books on what to do about "Haemorrhoids". 

If you wish for more detail and to peruse specific volumes Ms. Browning will be quite keen to walk you through the collection there. I'm far too busy writing a blog (in the spirit of Hesiod) to help you further than I have already done here.

The second indication that someone found our new blog was more blunt. Kent Carlson, a regular, walked up to the front desk, leaned on it, and said, with a twinkle in his eye "I hear you're over staffed."

This sounded familiar, but it took me a moment to place it. I let that viewpoint of our staffing drop in my very first blog post. "I said that, didn't I? We're over staffed?"

Kent nodded.
" I guess I should see if it's actually true. Would you care to come with?"

Kent gestured in a rather grand manner for me to lead on, and I headed to a readily accessible staff area.

Anna Selly, Page

If you have ever worked with the public you probably have one question right now. "What are you doing taking a wild patron back into the private works of your institution?"

Bah! I say. It's good for you, builds character, lets you see things with a fresh eye. Plus, and here is the big boon: when one has an august patron in tow, one is suddenly on library business. If I wander the library while I'm supposed to be at the front desk I am liable to attract the piercing glares of my colleagues, or, worse, my employer, whose glare can leave scars. With Kent in tow I might get a question or two ("What's up?" or "Is there anything I can help you two with?" To which I could answer "Mr. Carlson was interested in some of our operations."), but I will attract no enmity.

 Of course, to tow a patron around they have to be of the right stuff. Kent Carlson is. He is large, bald, older, quiet, wry, and has absolutely nothing to do. I know he has nothing to do because:

1. He spends almost as much time in the library as me.

2. He spends almost as much time in Kelsey's Pub as he does in the library.

3. He does not read.

4. He does not drink.

Kent Carlson, patron

I know that I earlier referred to Mr. Carlson as "august".  I know that he may be seeming less so to you now. But our library is so under visited in the winter that mere voluntary presence lends even the most dissolute character gravity. Also, managing to spend your whole life in the town of Last Harbor, make no great enemies, and acquire no police record, puts you quite high on the august curve. And for human beings it all comes down to the curve. Kent Carlson would be nearly a pauper in New York City, and he would be nearly a King in Madagascar. He would be insignificance itself in Los Angeles, but in the Last Harbor Library, he is august.

And that is the story of how Kent Carlson and myself went on a survey of the staff of the Last Harbor Library. Because it was mid afternoon we saw most of them, and we saw what they were doing. I look forward to telling you who and what that all was, and to answering the question of whether we are over staffed, but it will have to wait until my next post. A blog post should never be too terribly long, and this one is already half way to being so.