Spencer Tweedy

  1. Observations 10-12-18

    • The student with a full-head, bee-suit-looking face mask.
    • The marks the leaves leave on the ground from their seepage after rain, which are kind of impressively dark and long-lasting imprints for little leaves to leave.
    • The video of Brett Kavanaugh gripping his wife’s shoulder the way someone might manhandle a child, and how it would be gross and disrespectful even in that case.
    • My gamelan teacher being a sweet, great parent to his five-year-old kid whom he brought to class, and telling us about his childhood in Bali, where he would practice gamelan so late into the night that he would fall asleep next to it on the temple floor. Apparently it’s normal to keep a pillow and blanket near the instrument there for that reason.
    • Watching an English-speaking bartender and a Spanish-speaking regular use Google Translate to communicate with each other.
    • The student who raised his hand to bring up Nazi Germany in a philosophy class (a heavy no-no, if not for insensitivity then for intellectual laziness) inadvertently in the shape of a Nazi salute.
  2. Observations 10-11-18

    • The metal coat hangers clanging together and ringing like wind chimes.
    • The skinny, ‘50s-wood-paneled drinking fountain nestled in a crevice in the wall like it was custom-made for the building or else the wall was built around it.
    • The student whose voice sounds exactly like Stephin Merritt’s wearing a Taylor Swift shirt.
    • How the outside world looks so vibrant after taking off hazy safety glasses (similarly to 10-9-18).
    • Learning about the Daoist practice of (ostensibly) redirecting one’s sperm into one’s brain by refraining from ejaculation.
    • Wanting to carry a point-and-shoot camera again (like a Ricoh or a Yashica) but not wanting to be redundant with my iPhone, a long-running battle between tech-absolutism and having fun.
    • Lifting weights while listening to Tanya Tucker.
    • Noticing that I get tired every day at 4PM, as a pattern.
  3. Observations 10-10-18

    • Eating my first non-stale Swedish Fish (thanks to my snack package from Aunt Debbie [10-1-18]).
    • Drinking so much tea (~20 ounces, a lot for a lightweight like me) that the blood vessels in my ears caffeine-constricted and made my hearing quieter. Or at least that’s my theory.
    • Eating a piece of Lou Malnati’s pizza imported to Wisconsin (by me) from Chicago.
  4. Observations 10-9-18

    • How quiet the outside world is after spending the morning in a wood shop.
    • The YouTube channel where these guys just cut stuff in half with a super high-power waterjet.
    • Meeting a dachshund named Sinatra.
    • My mom “ragecrafting” political buttons (e.g. “Fuck Trump,” “Fuck Lindsey Graham”) in cute ‘70s pastel colors.
    • The hipness of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, whose website links not only to its SoundCloud but also to its public GitHub repositories and a Medium publication.
    • My friend telling me that I look like a turtle, but a hot turtle, not like Mitch McConnell.
    • How Field Notes donated $10 for each of the first 500 notebooks sold in their Puerto Rico edition.
    • Low-tech Magazine’s new solar-powered website inspiring me so much my chest hurt (via Coudal).
      • Wondering whether their solar-powered server design, which they explained in a guide, could be packaged into a turnkey product so more people can have solar-powered (and decentralized!) websites, or if that would defeat the DIY and recycled-parts nature of it.
      • How being aware of my draw on the website’s solar energy store caused me to avoid opening pages redundantly (e.g. navigating back and forth from the homepage to subpages), a cool but not necessarily positive effect of the experiment. I wouldn’t want users of a solar-powered website of my own to feel restricted in any way.
  5. Observations 10-8-18

    • The semi truck straps flapping in the wind like a Steve Reich instrument.
    • Listening to The Faust Tapes on the highway.
    • Listening to Preet Bharara explain, on his podcast, the difference between an FBI criminal investigation and an FBI background investigation, and why it was so silly for anyone to argue that Brett Kavanaugh had a right to be a Supreme Court justice.
    • The Cha Cha Jimenez NPR interview about turning the Young Lords gang into a human rights movement.
    • Ordering a Stabilo highlighter after seeing Casey’s.
    • The new version of Cargo Collective’s web hosting service. So cool and there’s nothing else like it. (I don’t use it but I’ve admired them for years. It’s the same people who run butdoesitfloat.com I think.)
    • Finding an empty mayonnaise packet and a caterpillar on the street. Moving the caterpillar to beneath a tree. Leaving the mayo packet.
  6. Observations 10-7-18

    • Dreaming about doing push-ups and waking up with sore arms.
    • The t-shirt with a photorealistic illustration of a buff, flexing panda on it.
    • “Hips Don’t Lie” playing over the gas station radio.
      • The old-school, automatic shoe shine machine in the bathroom. Making a note to visit its manufacturer’s website, which was engraved in big letters on the machine’s instruction plate. The website being exactly what you hope it would be. It even has a hit counter, which read 365 on 10-9-18, 374 on 10-11, 377 on 10-14, and 389 on 10-17.
    • The semi-truck sleeper cab with a “Happy Hour” neon sign in its window.
    • My version of Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” theory: it takes me at least ten hours (spread out) to get any project close to where I want it to be.
    • Learning about my dad’s altercation with a Brett Kavanaugh supporter in San Francisco, at first, from my elementary school drum teacher/friend Jeff Fortin’s tweet of the JamBase article about it.
      • Stopping myself from watching the video because I knew it would make me too mad [I watched it since then].
      • Wanting to say these things to the fan, but getting them out of my body here instead:
        • I understand that the crowd’s reaction and my dad’s response felt like “mob rule” (in your tweets), but what is mob rule in this case if not a bunch of people civilly (albeit a little rudely, with laughter) disagreeing with you? Is everyone else a mindless sheep just because they’re on the same page, and that page is different from yours? Isn’t that selling them short?
        • I understand that performers have a bully pulpit, and that when they direct attention to you it can feel unfair. But I don’t think that my dad abused the power of being on stage. I think he took you seriously. And I think he gave you space to express yourself.
        • I understand that, as a fan, it’s disturbing when people we admire disagree with us. And it’s even more disturbing when they disagree with us in a public, fraught way. I felt empathy for you when you said you were a fan and that you love my dad. But more than anything I feel mad that you care so little about making life better for victims of sexual assault (Kavanaugh’s or otherwise). And that you see my dad as an aggressor, and yourself as a victim.
    • Watching a cook at a Japanese restaurant prepare orders with a Hello Kitty apron on and with seemingly no stress.
    • Getting fully soaked from walking just a half of a block in the rain (it was kinda fun).
    • How the mini-tacos in 7-Eleven look like they were scaled down on a computer and then 3D-printed.
  7. Observations 10-6-18

    • Four years in, going to a tailgate for my college’s D-III football team for the first time.
      • Feeling a little bit sorry for the players on our team, who pour a lot of energy and care into it without much prospect of winning, let alone professional play. But mostly feeling indifferent because there are other emotional fish to fry. And we play in bands even when there’s not much money to be made from them—they must just like to play ball.
      • The number of players on the sidelines with crutches.
      • The near-complete lack of diversity on the opposing team.
      • Eating a vegan hot dog.
    • David Sedaris’s badass Guardian essay about walking (via Austin Kleon).
    • Overhearing students talk positively about a hypnotist who had performed on campus earlier.
    • Going for a run at night with Elijah, and the TV glow peeking through the window blinds of houses, a well-documented melancholism of life but still poignant to see for yourself.
    • NewModels.io making me feel so excited about internet publishing, and even a little envious because I’ve wanted to make something like it for a long time but I didn’t think to put the academic, political, and aesthetic pieces together in the way they did.
    • How there’s reading for reading’s sake and reading for clearing-your-Instapaper’s sake, and the former seems way more valuable than the latter.
    • Combing through the Lindsey Buckingham solo anthology (deluxe).
    • Singing “Your Man” (the Scotty McCreery “Baby Lock Them Doors” song) during YouTube karaoke at the house.
  8. Observations 10-5-18

    • How it is hard to divorce the word “fecund” from its similarity to “fecal.”
    • The 1976 General Foods ad explaining why scary-sounding ingredient lists aren’t so scary with a mix of defensiveness, condescension, and admirable directness (found in that Facebook “mid-century ad” page).
    • Going to an art opening with a “scent curator.”
      • Watching two patrons walk in and almost immediately touch the paintings. Feeling simultaneously (1) indignant that anyone assumes that’s okay and (2) down with the cause of making art accessible, touchable, personal.
    • The used nylon glove on the ground.
  9. Observations 10-4-18

    • My classmate talking about her houseplants: “I love his leaves.”
    • The bell-like sound a miter saw makes when its blade stops.
    • Staying in the campus center late enough to see the overnight attendant change the schedule sheets on the conference room doors.
  10. Observations 10-3-18

    • How, although the leaves started falling as long ago as 8-27-18, most of them are still on the trees.
    • The big, rubber wheels on the new marimba in the school percussion studio.
    • The dean’s office door bulletin board with Wendell Berry and Richard Brautigan poems on it. Wondering whether the duplicate copy of Brautigan’s “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace” was an accident or for emphasis.
  11. Observations 10-2-18

    • Being moved by the simplicity and far-ahead-of-their-timeness of Brâncuși’s sculptures during my professor’s sculpture history lecture.
    • Thinking, as I’m sure a lot of other people have, that sculpture and painting and studio art should have a crediting system for helpers and assistants the way that recorded music does, but not being sure about how that would work or whether it would ruin some sanctity or freeness of those media. Artists should be able to present their work with whatever degree of mystery as they want, and I can see how a crediting system could impose a certain way of thinking about ownership (whose is this?), causality (who did this?), identity (what is this?), and whatever else on them. (It gets even more complicated with dynamic works, interactive works, performance works…) But on the other hand I feel like if recording musicians accept that they need to document others’ contributions, artists of other forms should, too.
    • Another sculpture class thought: wondering how works are affected by our using the imperial system. We round up or down so often in measuring and cutting materials. How would works (or the canon, ooh) be different if we used a metric guide instead, or none at all?
    • Googling polygon angles and re-learning about elementary math for a new sculpture assignment. Using my phone calculator for arithmetic.
    • The “wow! wow! wow!” sound our sink makes every time you turn it on.
    • The mind-melting, newly released footage of Lennon and Harrison recording “How Do You Sleep?” (with a comatose Klaus Voorman on bass). It sounds so fucking good.
      • Feeling relieved at John’s saying about the song, during an interview later, ”If I can’t have a fight with my best friend I don’t know who I can have a fight with.”
  12. Observations 10-1-18

    • Getting a huge care package of snacks from my aunt Debbie. :)
      • Accidentally slicing a little cut in my hand while opening it, my second such slice in a week [9-25-18].
    • The student DJ at the radio station talking with super-endearing passion about contra dance music. On the dances: ”it’s the most fun you can have with your pants on.”
    • The exchange student reading Plato’s Republic with the book in one hand and a little folding translator computer in the other.
  13. Observations 9-30-18

    • Going through my entire Dribbble.com subscription list to find cool designers to send to Sammy, feeling nostalgic both for the heyday of the site and on behalf of the designers who seem to have quit the biz when skeuomorphic design went out of fashion. I think design is better because of the shift but a lot of awe-inspiring illustration skill was left behind (a lot of people have written about that).
    • Sheepishly ordering a pumpkin spice latte at a coffee shop, only to find out that they had run out for the day.
    • The screenshot of a monkey drummer from the Kiev National Circus (thanks Uncle Bruce).
  14. Observations 9-29-18

    • Hope Hall’s (great) advice for emotional health in The Creative Independent reading like Confucian aphorisms.
    • Watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the Mr. Rogers documentary, and feeling, apart from so much warmth and love from Mr. Rogers and the people who worked with him, anger and dejectedness thinking of the people who tell us that it’s not okay to care. As a twenty-something figuring out how to balance gooey emotionality with the realism that we associate with adulthood, it is a noise jamming my signals to hear Fox News hosts or any cynical person tell us that caring is immature, unrealistic, irresponsible. I want to be mature, and I want to see the world realistically, and I want to be responsible, so I take their accusations seriously. I’m even willing to find goodwill in them: they see Mr. Rogers’ way of being as a risk, as something that could harm you or other people. (If you value feelings more than rational thought, they say, you could get trampled or you might demand a participation trophy you don’t deserve.) But the way I see it, Mr. Rogers didn’t ask kids to ignore the harsh reality of the world; he asked them to acknowledge it. He didn’t ask kids to value feelings more than rational thought; he asked them to think about their feelings. So when cynical cultural conservatives say that they’re in touch with reality, and anyone who cares like Mr. Rogers did is a fool, I think—and I say this with anger, and uncertainty—they’re hypocrites. Because only someone who is ruled by self-pity about their own sacrifice of childhood hoping and caring could tell other people to make that sacrifice.
      • The schmutz on Mr. Rogers’ house sneakers.
    • “I Can Sing It But I Can’t Say It” by Honeybus and its similarity to “Cold Hard World” by Daniel Johnston (both songs talk about checking out library books to get the attention of a librarian).
    • The student practicing harp outside on a fire escape.
    • Being scared, for the second time in a week, by a piece of lint shooting out from a corner of the floor on a draft.
    • Falling asleep to the sounds of the “Cha-Cha Slide” wafting out of a dorm, across the quad.
  15. Observations 9-28-18

    • Watching a student come into the campus center, walk over to a couch, and immediately lie down sideways on it, backpack on and all.
    • The classic car show on the street in front of our campus, and some of their older owners, sitting silently in the driver’s seats.
    • The instructor of the Balinese gamelan ensemble [9-26-18] pronouncing “Spencer” like “Princess.”
    • Getting a really, really sweet check-in text from another friend [9-27-18].
    • Songs from a cover band at Oktoberfest floating across town and onto campus.
  16. Observations 9-27-18

    • Drumming for a friend at her living room show in a super sweet, cooperatively run art house.
      • The house tambourine that happened to be shaped like a Jesus fish.
    • Killing a mosquito while listening to a homework-assigned interview with philosopher Peter Singer about the ethics of our interactions with animals.
    • Getting a really, really sweet check-in text from a friend.
  17. Observations 9-26-18

    • Thinking that my room (and the world) had literally gotten darker to my eyes because I was feeling sad, but then realizing that it was because a cloud had passed over the sun. Classic mistake.
    • Watching the BBC documentary about Ronnie Lane, The Passing Show, and crying!
      • How Ronnie’s main bass traveled through the years, played by different bandmates in different bands of his.
    • Rehearsing with the school’s Afrocuban drum ensemble and being slowly brought back to life with every cowbell hit.
    • My classmate in the Balinese gamelan ensemble telling us during a break that he was having a bad day, another classmate volunteering to give him a hug (which he graciously accepted), and then all of us standing up to form a hug-line for him.
    • My mom posting about a kind of unexpected development with her liposarcoma, which had been treated a few years ago, and watching loving comments pour in (to both of us).
    • Using a power saw, alone, to finish an assignment (a cardboard replica of my childhood “TV chair”) in the sculpture studio at 3AM.
  18. Observations 9-25-18

    • Slicing a pretty big gash into my thumb during sculpture class.
    • Running my head into a nail (hammer-side, thankfully) during sculpture class.
    • The sparks shooting out from nail-gun nails hitting the concrete floor during sculpture class.
    • This quote from ancient philosopher Mozi: “What is the cause of great men abandoning the administration of the government and the common people neglecting their work? It is music!” (Apparently he wasn’t against all music, just the elaborate Cirque du Soleil-type.)
    • This Ursula K. Le Guin quote: “This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.”
    • My friend, who has diabetes, rattling off insulin pump brand names and talking excitedly about the new one she just ordered.
  19. Observations 9-24-18

    • The announcement of my dad’s new solo album, Warm. :)
    • The student eating lunch in the dining hall with his pink retainer on a napkin in front of him.
    • The student pop-lock robot-dancing to a jukebox on a platform in the quad, and the other students taking Snapchats of him from far away.
    • Learning that George Harrison referred to augmented chords as “the naughty chord” from a Rolling Stone interview with Jeff Lynne.
    • Almost certainly finding a vocal splice in Jeff Lynne’s 2012 version of “Telephone Line” by ELO, at 3:05.
    • The guitar solo on “Really Love You” from Paul McCartney’s Jeff Lynne-produced solo record, which sounds like it quotes Roger McGuinn’s solo on “Eight Miles High.”
    • How you can be Paul McCartney and still have only 2,000 plays on the auto-generated (but official) YouTube videos for some songs in your catalog, which is both reassuring and scary.
    • Playing drums at the weekly student jazz jam and really bombing on a solo.
    • Realizing that the reason I recorded fewer songs of my own in college than I did in high school (which I beat myself up about, because it’s college! I have my own gear! I should be able to record an album a week!) might not be just because of laziness, but also because free time in high school is in big uninterrupted blocks of time after school each day, while free time in college is spread out into an hour here, an hour there. (Those hours are useful, duh, but not great for deep project diving.) I’m also no longer convinced that I have more free time in college than in high school after all, even if class itself takes up less time. I’ll still beat myself up about it but I’ll try to remember that the only cure is to make some more stuff now.
    • Hearing my housemate’s phone buzz through the ceiling above me with messages from group texts of which we’re both a part.
    • Having a glass of almond milk before bed most nights since getting back to college, because my mom sent me here with a Costco case of it.
    • How everything you need to know about anthropology is in “Plastic Cup” by Low.
  20. Observations 9-23-18

    • Going for a walk along the river with a friend, an activity I never imagined myself doing on my own volition as a kid but which feels like a vital part of mental healthcare today. How those little things feel more important to me now, even as a very young adult.
    • The moss, looking abnormally oily and Nickelodeon slime-like just beneath the surface of the river.
    • The contractor installing a light fixture on a bar patio wearing full Packers gear (athletic shorts, t-shirt) and drinking a Michelob Ultra.
    • Hearing Mavis on the radio in a CVS.
  21. Observations 9-22-18

    • Katy Kelleher’s essay about ugly design in the Paris Review, one of those awe-inspiring pieces that shows us how to connect abstract ideas with concrete observations.
    • Laying a pair of socks on a copy of a Kant book I bought for school, then taking them off in case it was a violation of the categorical imperative (would I want someone to put socks on a book I wrote? [on second thought I probably wouldn’t care]).
    • How it is usually baseball or football players who take the public hot sauce to a table for private use during meals in the dining hall—or else it’s my confirmation bias noticing the times that they happen to be the hot sauce hoarders.
    • The multigenerational horde of people showing up to play Pokémon Go on our college campus. People walking through the quad. People pulled over in cars.
    • Reading a picture book about the Chernobyl disaster at a thrift store.
  22. Observations 9-21-18

    • Avoiding walking under the edges of trees, where deer ticks live, after hearing two stories about Lyme disease recently.
    • Attending a percussion recital that made use of William Sloane Coffin sermon quotes, recorded and randomly triggered from MaxMSP. Agreeing with every quote I heard.
  23. Observations 9-20-18

    • My M.O. in the sculpture studio, where I’m taking an intro-level course: get out three different rulers, first thing.
    • The mailbox painted with vintage-hot-rod-style flames.
    • Writing lyrics while driving with Siri dictation.
    • The bicyclist with the longest rat tail I’ve ever seen.
    • The popularity of rollerblading in Madison, Wisconsin, relative to seemingly every other city I’ve been in.
    • Driving back from my dad’s show in Madison under heat lightning.
    • A “Let’s Go Rain” moment: the rain stopping when I got out of the car, the second time that happened this week. Me, kinda sorta thinking, in that non-belief-y sort of way, that it was a gift from the god-force. But then the rain starting again during my walk, and me, thinking, “Oh. That was stupid to have thought.”
    • The waste of spending one’s luck on illegal parking spots, if it turned out luck worked like a bank account.
  24. Observations 9-19-18

    • The two men wheeling a printer-copier on a rolling cart, outside, in the rain, like it was a patient on a gurney.
    • Dropping the brand-new Glide with Scope floss that I bought last week into the toilet.
    • The impressive amount of noise that mosquitos make (in a quiet room) relative to their tiny size.
  25. Observations 9-18-18

    • A hearse driving by at the same time as a car with a booming, bassy stereo, and me, imagining that the music was coming from the hearse instead of the car.
    • Learning about (and using) the “crow’s foot” measurement marking method of carpentry.
    • Eating little BelGioioso mozzarella cheese balls for the first time since the betrayal [9-13-18].
    • A professor saying “diven” instead of “dove” for the past tense of “dive.”
    • Wanting to learn more about how vitamins in energy drinks make us feel more energetic.
    • The moral dilemma between feeling like I should markup books (as all good readers do) and wanting to give a fresh copy to the used book store when I sell/donate it later, especially in used books that I bought without any markup in them. Using Post-it notes in the meantime.
    • The conventional wisdom that tells us we should make it as easy as possible to do the creative work we want to do—e.g. put a guitar next to the bed, keep a notebook on the nightstand—in conflict with the poisonous thought that if you do anything to make your creative work easier, it’s a sign of a lack of determination or passion. Deciding, pretty confidently, that the latter thought is misguided, because making your environment more hospitable to work is an act of determination, evidence of your passion. Why should caring about your creative work mean that you should make it harder for yourself to do it?
  26. Observations 9-17-18

    • The mosquitos, who never really came in full force this summer, coming back with a vengeance.
      • How they penetrated my innermost sanctum: my drum booth.
    • The crack in the toilet bowl that looks exactly like a smooshed/fossilized dragonfly.
    • The weird combination of ‘80s dance sounds and high-passed, tinny electric guitar on Prince’s Dirty Mind (thanks Ridley).
    • Learning about the difference between “hermeneutics of faith” and “hermeneutics of suspicion” and thinking that both concepts can apply to dealing with trolls/politics. Then, the phrase: “ya gotta get hermeneutic on their asses.”
  27. Observations 9-16-18

    • Waking up in our hotel room to the bona fide smell of poop. Since no one had pooped the bed and the smell was coming from the window, wondering whether an Incredibles-esque super villain had enveloped the neighborhood in a stink bomb.
    • Watching a guy chug an entire tallboy can of something (probably energy drink, maybe beer) outside of a gas station, and then drive off.
    • The weirdness of billboards advertising specific surgeons’ return to specific hospitals, like they’re professional athletes. (The problem isn’t the reverence for surgeons, which is probably a good thing, but the sense that there’s a product to lure customers toward.)
    • Watching Enemy Mine, an ‘80s movie about a war between humans and the reptilian Drac race, on a warbly VHS in a bar. My friend predicting that it would end either with the main reptile character’s giving birth or dying, and him leaving before he could see both parts of that prediction come true.
  28. Observations 9-15-18

    • Wondering when (or whether) someone is going to solve the “public bikes have no helmets” problem.
    • The woman skateboarding with a huge pizza in her arms.
    • The retro blue, yellow, and red stripes of the buses in this city.
    • The guy in full business attire, rifling through a bin of rubber duckies at a gift shop.
    • Sitting under a tree that was raining acorns on us, wondering whether a prankster squirrel was making them fall.
    • The rideshare driver playing Wendy Carlos’s classical synth arrangements. ”Some people hate it and ask me to turn it off. I just turn it up louder.”
    • Watching real grown-ups use a beer bong.
    • The precarious-looking wooden balconies of the student apartments here.
  29. Observations 9-14-18

    • Watching construction workers pour concrete into a huge building foundation from our hotel room across the street.
    • The beautiful, illustrated graphic tee… with Papyrus type at the bottom.
    • The rideshare driver waiting for his passengers while drumming on his steering wheel with real drumsticks.
    • Attending a Wisconsin wedding.
      • The Donald Trump Jr. lookalike.
      • Among older couples, the husbands struggling to keep up with their wives on the dance floor.
      • How some people are really in their element at wedding parties.
      • Overhearing a guy talking about alternating between driving his normal car and his Tesla. ”You gotta alternate.”
      • Getting punched in the gut—playfully, but hard—by the bride.
  30. Observations 9-13-18

    • Ignoring the expiration date on a BelGioioso mozzarella cheese ball—a big step of courage for me—and being betrayed by it. It was rotten.
    • Noticing (or projecting) disdain on the face of a classmate during a discussion about the “college students are coddled and taught that everything they feel is right” popular op-ed belief. He sides, or would side, with the reactionary op-ed writers.
      • The same classmate talking about buying cigars.
    • The mom and her son struggling to fit a massive rolled-up carpet into their mini-van.
    • The sign advertising “custom knees” (emphasis mine).
    • The hay wagon crossing the highway, Frogger-style.
    • Finding myself in a sports bar where a bong trade show was happening. The incidence of caucasian dreads among attendees.
    • Claes Oldenburg talking about a plastic toy ladybug in a sculpture-in-progress of his, in the New York Times Magazine: “I told her to get lost, but she’s still here. Maybe she’ll stay.”
  31. Observations 9-12-18

    • The classmate whose family member recently died from suicide participating in an ethics class discussion about suicide.
    • Overhearing a student football player on the phone: “He’s the kid with the big thighs.”
    • Learning a little bit about Chinese: that only 3% of characters in the language are pictograms, contrary to popular Western belief, and that it’s a logographic system, compared to English’s phonetic one.
  32. Observations 9-11-18

    • Vocal students from the conservatory playing choral music loudly from a phone in the school dining hall.
    • Waiting for a gaggle of geese to cross the road in front of my car.
      • Googling to find the right collective noun for them.
    • “Swan Song” by Bee Gees—not even my favorite song from Idea—being stuck in my head.
    • Deleting Twitter from my phone for I think the first time, to take a breather.
    • Peeing extra carefully, now living in a house at school with many women.
    • Staring at the body wash aisle in Target, thinking that the national (positive) trend of tempered masculinity had penetrated the market because all of the soaps were floral… but then realizing that there was a separate men’s section. Buying a men’s body wash because, I think, I preferred its smell and not because I wanted to affirm my own masculinity. But I’m not sure. And ruing adding my dollars to the sales figures that say women buy bright, flowery products and men buy dark, gritty products.
    • How, in my experience, younger professors tend to have more complicated syllabi and wordier lectures, which might be because they need to prove to students (and to department colleagues) that they know what they’re doing.
    • The male, cisgendered student who proclaimed, defiantly, during a pronouns-and-names sesh, “I am DEFINITELY a ‘he’.”
    • The professor who, while explaining an ancient Chinese philosophical concept, said, “Rice hasn’t been developed yet; we’re dealing with millet here.”
    • The professor of French who accidentally let a door slam in my face.
    • Putting Burt’s Bees chapstick on while eating Tic Tacs for an inadvertent multi-mint mouth bomb.
    • Talking to a custodian in Packers Country who is a Bears fan because when she worked at a mental hospital, players from Chicago would visit patients there.
  33. Observations 9-10-18

    • Putting a Nerf dart from the N-Strike era in a bin with darts from the Velcro dart tag era and thinking, somewhat insensitively, that I was teaching them about integration.
    • Investigating the animal sound from 9-7-18 and finding that mice had had a gathering there with Smarties from a nearby Halloween-leftover bowl, leaving wrappers and tiny turd evidence behind. Breaking the news to my mom carefully, like it was a serious tragedy (she really doesn’t like rodents, as least not in our house). Judging that the mice must have done a coordinated, military-style operation to get into and out of the candy bowl, because it was pretty deep. I’m talking mice standing on each other’s shoulders and slingshotting Smarties.
    • Going without deodorant and smelling my own B.O. for the first time in a long time! Feeling perversely satisfied by it, like, “Oh, I can still do that.”
    • Clogging the toilet in one of my final acts at home before starting the new (and final) college school year. But plunging it before I left.
    • Noticing the reverby bongos on “A Day in the Life” for the first time in my life.
    • Assuming that memorizing lines on Drunk History must be like preparing for your b’nai mitzvah (as a non-Hebrew, non-trope reader).
    • The jazz vocal student at my school’s conservatory scatting with an old school growl that you don’t hear often anymore.
  34. Observations 9-9-18

    • Feeling stupid for staying up till 6AM (for no fun/productive reason).
    • Hearing from Sammy on the phone from college for the first time.
    • Experimenting with matcha green tea powder in my oatmeal, it being delicious, and feeling like I deserved a Pulitzer Prize for it.
    • Buying potatoes from Hayden at the Wicker Park farmers’ market. On the ride home, with the potatoes in the backseat (not buckled in), braking quickly to avoid rear-ending someone. Feeling relieved that the potato container didn’t spill (while everything else in the backseat did). Getting home and promptly dropping the potato container, and all of the potatoes, on the ground. (We kept and washed ‘em.)
    • The NPR story about a doctor who saved premature babies by keeping them in incubators in a Coney Island “freak show” attraction. The host referring to people who were saved by the program as “former babies.”
    • My great uncle’s Rosh Hashanah turkey.
    • Feeling relieved at having finally sorted the piles of stuff in my closet that had been sitting there pretty much since my family moved in, more than a decade ago.
  35. Observations 9-8-18

    • Biking with Casey in the forest preserve, the same woods I biked when I was little, my end-of-summer goal. The feeling of contentedness from exercise, seeing those woods again, and the mfing pre-fall wind.
      • Stopping by the lagoon.
      • Watching people fish for food.
      • The bench plaque that read “In honor of all those whom [sic] served in Operation Iraqi Freedom / Operation Enduring Freedom.”
    • Watching two young, short kids struggle to use a ketchup dispenser and helping them while their dad watched football.
    • The two men repairing a washing machine under lamplight in an otherwise dark, empty laundromat.
    • Collecting signatures to get a mayoral candidate on the ballot in Chicago. Most people being nice, but one guy shooting me down (I’m an inexperienced canvasser so those moments sting).
    • Adopting a new “no flipping the LP while the turntable plate is still spinning” policy after almost ruining a record (and the needle).
      • Playing a record I bought based on its album cover more than four years ago, thinking pessimistically that I would never actually listen to it, and loving it (Drums Like Machine Guns / Mincemeat or Tenspeed split from 2007).
  36. Observations 9-7-18

    • Walking out of my house right at the moment a non-Google Street View camera car drove by.
    • Learning that the last battle of WWII was fought by the U.S. Army with the German army against Nazi loyalists (via Sammy/Wikipedia).
    • Hearing an animal-rustling sound in our dining room cabinet but not wanting to investigate without backup or a self-defense device. And not wanting to prematurely terrorize the creature(s) inside.
    • The blue paint-skin on a convertible peeling off, revealing yellow underneath.
    • Waiting for my friends on the patio of a restaurant. A couple in their mid-fifties were the only other people there, smooching and drinking BYO-Miller Lite. When one of them went to the bathroom, the other one, a white, blue-collar-looking guy approached me. He showed me the Navy tattoo on his forearm and told me, when I asked what he does in the Navy, that he’s an active duty machine gunner on the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, home on shore leave. I don’t think he was delusional or fucking with me, but I can’t rule it out. Here are some of the things he said to me (paraphrased).
      • “I like Trump.”
      • “I like Putin, too. He’s strong.”
      • “I used to be a Democrat.”
      • “When we [the Nimitz crew] go back, we’re going to Russia. […] They’re gonna bomb us in Syria.” [I replied in disbelief.] “Well, that’s what my phone [the news] told me.”
      • “The Cold War?” [I had said the current situation with Russia feels like a new Cold War. He didn’t know what the Cold War was, maybe the biggest red flag that he wasn’t who he said he was.]
      • “What I really wanna do is fuck North Korea up.”
      • “Never call it a boat.” [I had jokingly referred to the USS Nimitz as a boat, knowing that’s incorrect but thinking he’d get it.]
      • “The other day, these three Hispanic guys were making fun of me at the bar. I kinda smacked one in the face. Then my buddy punched the other one. I don’t wear no Band-Aids.”
        • “That’s my problem with them. They’re violent.”
        • Me: “It sounds like you just met a couple of assholes.”
        • He agreed.
      • Here’s where it crosses a line. Warning. “The problem in this city… [looks over shoulder] is these n*****s shooting everybody. They’re selling drugs to whites. They’re just shooting all the time.”
        • “The other day, they killed this guy over by the Blue Line. I think he was gay.”
        • Looking around, my heart pounding, even wondering whether I was on a candid camera show like What Would You Do? (The opening in his Miller Lite box was big enough for a camera.) Weighing the feeling of obligation to respond against the feeling of obligation not to engage with racists.
        • Me, responding to the word and not the fucked-up notion in general: “I’m really not comfortable with that language. I don’t think it’s okay to say that word.”
        • Him, deciding whether to be pissed at me or keep his white-guy camaraderie going: “You know what, you’re right. I shouldn’t use that word. [pauses] These blacks are shooting everyone and selling drugs.”
        • Me: “You know that not all black people shoot people and sell drugs, right?”
        • Him: “You’re right. There are some good ones.”
      • “I smoked crack twice.”
      • “You [me] look like a sportster. Do you play baseball?”
      • “When I get in jail they let me out quick.”
        • Me: “Why? Because you show them your Navy tattoo?”
        • “No. They just do [alluding to whiteness, I think].”
        • Me: “Are you in jail often?”
        • “No.”
      • How it struck me that he seemed desperate for connection with another white dude, even at the expense of his own beliefs. He backed away from talking positively about Trump when I didn’t go along. He admitted he was wrong to use the N-word. None of those concessions really changed the way he thinks or made him less likely to punch a Latino person in the future. But they did reveal this desperate, dumb, borderline pathetic (but ultimately angering, presumptuous, entitled) desire to connect with someone. As long as that someone is a white guy like me.
    • Playing on my childhood playground [8-26-18] with my friends.
    • The cat walking alongside us, seemingly showing off by running up trees and then pausing dramatically, who turned out to be my bandmate Henry’s outdoor cat.
    • Obama’s comments on the anonymous Trump staffer op-ed: “The claim that everything will turn out O.K. because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders, this is not a check. They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 percent of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this White House and then saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10 percent.’”
    • The Noisey interview with Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo (via Austin Kleon):
      • Casale: “I saw the blood running out of Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause from their exit wounds in the noonday sun [during the Kent State shootings]. I was closer to the gas-masked National Guardsmen than they were but the Guard shot over the heads of the crowd I was in and killed and wounded students behind us. Later I would theorize that I lucked out because the Guard was made up of guys the same age as myself. They might have not had the guts to shoot at students so close to them that they could see our faces clearly.”
  37. Observations 9-6-18

    • How it’s inefficient at best and angering at worst when people use “FINAL” in filenames. You do revision numbers and then you settle on a revision number at the end!
    • Always closing suitcases or equipment bags when not in use to minimize the chance of bugs getting inside and reemerging at a later date/place.
    • The painted fake F-holes on a Framus bass.
  38. Observations 9-5-18

    • The mattress on the sidewalk with bullet-hole-looking holes in it.
    • Opening an old tool box and unleashing a decades-old horseradish smell.
    • The concept of a “classically trained dumbass.”
    • The noise floor and weird harmonics of a Farfisa keyboard.
    • Going to Guitar Center for an emergency studio supply and elitistly joking about needing a belay/buddy system to avoid getting sucked into the store.
    • Using a Topo Chico bottle as a guitar slide with Topo Chico still in it.
    • The Judy Collins song “Farewell to Tarwathie” where she sings over whale recordings, a genius but emotionally cruel arrangement.
    • The Columbia Journalism Review profile of Tucker Carlson: “What happened to make a rich white man the vox populi? How did I, a mom in the Midwest who can’t afford health care, become the humorless, censoring, liberal elite?”
  39. Observations 9-4-18

    • The construction workers who set up a block-long, yellow plastic tube on the sidewalk in front of the studio door and driveway, elevated on little stands every few yards.
    • The warning lights blinking on my dashboard, more numerous and varied than I’d ever seen at the same time before.
      • Thinking the car might explode and I might die.
      • Realizing that, when we think “I might die,” it’s not necessarily because we think it’s probable, but just because we’d rather not be caught off guard by it. Just in case.
      • Calling a roadside assistance number and talking to a representative who sounded like a very young kid, hesitant about every question (“Um… Do you have, um, a V… a VIN?”). :(
      • Politely hanging up and googling the problem to find out it was a rain-soaked wire. The warning lights turned off when the wire dried out.
    • Resting a kick drum microphone on a pillow and imagining that we were making it comfortable or tucking it into bed.
    • Moving all of the gear for a session (drums, keyboards, mics) to one house, then back into my basement across town for better acoustics.
    • Watching Crazy Rich Asians with Casey. Going into it with an open mind and coming away happy with the multidimensionality of the characters and the not-totally-Hollywood story.
    • Waking up from a nap with the phrases “stank you” and “stankrifice” in my head.
  40. Observations 9-3-18

    • The wiener dog in a stroller at Target.
    • The graffiti on the sign for the Kimball Avenue highway exit, and how hard it must have been to get it up there.
    • Double- and triple-checking the artist title in iTunes after putting on Palm’s new metal record.
    • Revisiting Fruit Bats (“The Ruminant Band” and “You’re Too Weird”).
    • The hammered couple giving/receiving a lap dance a few seats down from Casey and me at the bar, and us, commiserating with the bartenders about it.
  41. Observations 9-2-18

    • Asking Mom whether it would be okay to open a garlicky pasta leftover container in the car, her replying, affirmatively, “That’s a good stink.”
    • Singing my greatest creation: a “Sweet Child o’ Mine” / “Sweet Caroline” mash-up.
    • Eating at Waffle House, a special occasion for us Chicagoans. Loving it and marveling at the behind-the-counter servers’ lane, a clever combination of fast-foodiness and normal-restaurant service. Hearing Tame Impala on the jukebox.
    • Mom remembering that when websites “came out” in the ‘90s, people said “point com” before they learned (decided?) it was “dot com.”
  42. Observations 9-1-18

    • Betraying the bananas we brought on our road trip [8-30-18] by considering buying a new, fresh banana at the gas station.
    • The eery Steve Jobs-lookalike dropping off his son at college.
    • Being mistaken as a student many times on my brother’s college campus.
    • The sweaty students accidentally blowing their B.O. into my face by standing in front of a room fan.
    • The nervous but passionate professor presenting about curricula to parents. Feeling her balled-up energy in my mirror neurons.
    • The rock kid with his rock parents, wearing all black, with long hair and tattoo sleeves.
    • The sound technician with long, curly, bleached-blond Dog-the-Bounty-Hunter hair, running a PA for the student welcome ceremony.
    • The strawberry squished into the metal sidewalk plate (one of those ones with the diamond tread pattern).
    • The automatic gas pump malfunctioning, squirting gas everywhere. I stepped in it and then the car (and hotel room) smelled like gas for the rest of the trip.
    • Finding an amazing farm-to-table restaurant in a tiny mountain town, having a freak-out over the caprese salad. I’m not a foodie but it moved me.
      • The patron with a pager on his belt.
    • How every hotel in the region was sold out because of a football game. Driving a hundred miles to find one with a single room left.
      • At one sold-out Holiday Inn, the front desk staff lighting up talking about a local, family-owned amusement park. ”They never sold out. They’re not out to rob you.”
      • The elephant-themed lobby decor of the hotel we finally settled into.
    • The neon Sapp Bros. Coffee sign emerging from the fog, giving the sky a red glow around it.
  43. Observations 8-31-18

    • More mountains.
    • How old-school, state-run rest stops include portraits of their administrators or state officials on the wall.
    • Listening to Aretha Franklin’s funeral on the radio.
    • Mom demanding that someone hand her a (proverbial) joint every time a song from her teenagehood came on ‘70s radio.
    • The attended gas pumps in New Jersey (still weird to me after the Rubber Band Gun NJ/PA/NY tour in March).
    • The Red Lobster employee in line at Chipotle.
    • Watching parts of John McCain’s funeral on C-SPAN, and the contrast between its somber, joyless tone and Aretha’s funeral earlier in the day. Each is an okay way to honor someone depending on their wishes, but I couldn’t help but feel like Aretha’s was more in touch with something fundamental about humanity, based on the parts I saw of each.
      • The frustration of Aretha’s legacy being entangled with McCain’s, at least in the press. People inappropriately drawing equivalency between them.
    • The error on VH1 TV that placed a historic civil rights photo over the audio for a Papa John’s commercial.
  44. Observations 8-30-18

    • Mom insisting, “I’m a millennial.”
    • Opening a salt packet with no salt in it.
    • The Indiana literary/feminist history text decals on the window of the state-run rest stop. Appreciating the effort but judging the cheesy copy and bad typography.
      • The pretty blue-green rust/spill on the concrete.
      • Walking laps around the stop to stretch our legs.
      • The guy changing his bunny carriers’ litter in the parking lot.
    • Listening to Jimmy Carter talk about housing as a basic human right on public radio.
    • The small-town law offices of Spike Meckler.
    • Vaguely misremembering the promotion for a TV special revealing the subject of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” (it was actually a memory of the promotion for her memoir in 2015).
    • The moon, huge and orange behind clouds, getting higher and lower, bigger and smaller as we drove through the mountains.
    • How I swear the bananas we brought on our road trip got brown since we left Chicago (less than 24 hours).
    • Staying in the hippest cheap hotel with the most rambunctious lobby attendant. You would think coke was in play.
  45. Observations 8-29-18

    • Waking up to the news that Shabazz Palaces are opening for Lauryn Hill on her upcoming tour.
    • Remembering the fear I felt, circa 2009, about accidentally scrobbling pre-release Wilco music to my Last.fm account.
    • The postal worker with mismatched shoes.
    • “Saint” by Blood Orange.
    • Heading out at 2AM for Sammy’s and my last meal before he heads to college: Impossible Sliders at White Castle.
      • The super sweet drive-through cashier.
    • Arm-wrestling with Sammy, a rare alpha activity for us. Winning round one and feeling survivor’s guilt; losing rounds two and three and feeling happy for Sammy and scared for myself.
  46. Observations 8-28-18

    • Seeing the remaining cicadas in Chicago in terms of Ken Burns’ Vietnam (which I’ve been watching with Sammy), like they’re soldiers trapped behind enemy lines.
    • Holding a door open for three young sisters and each of them saying, sweetly but Stepfordishly, “thank you” to Sammy and me.
    • How the start of the school year coincides with SAD.
      • Wondering whether students would “perform” better if that weren’t the case.
      • At the very least, the school day should start at 9AM.
  47. Observations 8-27-18

    • Accidentally looking directly into the flash of a camera.
      • The orange Strobies logo.
    • The parent who had clipped a big, plastic portable fan on to her baby’s car seat carrier.
    • The planetarium.
      • Museum smell.
      • The flickering of the plastic planets in a solar system display.
    • The flyers, everywhere on the North Side of Chicago right now, advertising “$1500 CUSTOM WEBSITE,” from Edgewater to the Loop.
    • The Korean spa.
      • The laminated signs above masseuses’ stations: “ANDY,” “JAKE,” “DANNY.”
      • The wooden foot rests with wood-burned, script warnings: “Don’t take it.”
      • The blood vessels in my butt cheeks pulsing after sitting on a sauna floor.
      • Eating hard-boiled eggs cooked in a fire sudatorium.
      • The video of a chef cutting beef with scissors.
      • Talking about a smell with Sammy, referring to it as part of “the smelltrack of our lives.” (I’m proud of that one.)
      • The miniature staircase leading up to the dumpster outside.
    • My discomfort with the word “last” (as in “last decade” or “last work”) since it can be taken to mean “final” instead of “most recent.”
    • Learning that Marimekko is a Finnish brand, not the name of a single Japanese designer.
    • Wondering whether the temperature of water affects plants when they slurp it up.
    • How the leaves have started falling already.
  48. Observations 8-26-18

    • Mom checking to make sure that the bunnies on her graphic tote bag weren’t doing anything “bad” before heading to a wedding with it.
    • The playground in the park of my old neighborhood, renovated so that it’s soft and accessible now.
    • The man with a pistol and two clips in “We the People” Constitution-themed graphic holsters.
    • The sound of CTA trains going by near the backyard wedding.
    • The former neighbors talking about home improvement projects.
    • Austin Kleon’s roundup of quotes about holes on his blog.
      • After a visitor at an art museum fell into a work that was a giant hole, Gizmodo wrote, “Attendees of previous showings of the work have questioned ‘whether there really was a hole in the floor or whether it was simply a circle painted with an extremely dark black paint.’ Presumably there will be no doubts going forward.”
      • Kurt Vonnegut: “You will see this story over and over again. People love it and it is not copyrighted. The story is ‘Man in Hole,’ but the story needn’t be about a man or a hole. It’s: somebody gets into trouble, gets out of it again.”
      • The Looney Tunes episode “The Hole Idea,” which aside from its hilarious hole-related quotes, features completely overt misogyny.
    • Eating a fortune cookie with a Capital One ad on the back of the fortune.
  49. Observations 8-25-18

    • Taking a shower for the first time since Wednesday.
    • The subtle difference in pretzel taste, plumpness, salt concentration, and texture between two different brands in identical plastic barrels.
    • The middle-aged, classic-Chicago-looking brothers smoking cigars in the nature preserve.
    • Talking about renaming myself Spencewatt Tweedy.
    • Ohmme’s record release show, in the round, at Thalia Hall.
      • The Hecks wearing matching white polo shirts and reminding me of Devo circa their 1978 Paris concert footage (check YouTube!). They would just need to choreograph a little bit more.
      • Ohmme kicking ass.
      • The fan with neon-green hair glowing in the dark.
      • Ken Vandermark waiting for the cue to join Ohmme on stage, but with no backstage, standing in the crowd with his bass clarinet.
    • The condensation on the windows.
  50. Observations 8-24-18

    • Sitting outside with Sammy, working on our laptops.
    • Closing the screen door so that the cats don’t escape, then remembering our last cat died in 2012.
    • Finding my first skateboard in the garage.
      • The heart cut-out in the grip tape.
      • The fake scratches I made in the bottom of the deck so that it looked like I knew how to grind.
    • Riding Mom’s scooter around the neighborhood.
    • Playing the Hungry Brain with Warner Brownfield.
      • Doing the age-old can’t-find-the-opening-in-the-curtain thing.
      • Warner’s beautiful, free, fun, outsider country music, like Michael Hurley meets Skip Spence.
      • The friend’s mom who told me “you kept the band honest.”
      • Having a conversation with a person I look up to, “drummer to drummer.”
    • The Lyft driver, Luis, who loves the Doors, telling me about the time he saw Robby Krieger at City Winery; about almost getting kicked out for yelling all the song titles after Krieger played the first notes; about meeting Krieger afterwards and asking him four questions (“What was it like to hang with Jimmy? How much acid did you do? What was it like being in the time with all the hotels and stuff?” [I can’t remember the fourth one]); about Krieger smiling and laughing at most of them, but responding to the acid question (paraphrased), “We did more acid than you can fit in a ten-gallon bucket.”
      • I have to say, I’ve never liked the Doors, but the version of whatever song Luis was playing sounded haunting and kinda cool at 3AM on the empty highway.
      • How Luis has collected more than thirty versions of “Light My Fire.”
      • How Luis is disgusted by the grave-robbers who stole Jim Morrison’s head. (I found no evidence online of people stealing Morrison’s skull, but someone did steal a bust that sat on top of his grave.)
  51. Observations 8-23-18

    • The outside smell and feel at 6AM reminding me of biking to high school in the mornings.
    • Accompanying my grandpa to a civilian national security meeting.
      • The county government official who used the word “preponderance” five or six times in thirty minutes.
      • The prospect of DNA as a digital storage medium.
      • The FBI SWAT agent, who walked and talked kinda like Colonel Erran Morad, describing a people-sniffing dog as a “full-time dog” (in contrast to part-time human SWAT agents), claiming gangs protect Chicago from MS-13 and crystal meth, talking about blowing shit up and about finding Fentanyl laced in weed.
    • The super nice parking garage attendant lady.
    • The day’s lessons from my grandpa “Zaid”:
      • about the sheriff who, while evicting Zaid and his mom from their apartment when he was four years old, noticed that he had no toys, and gave him a nickel to buy himself one;
      • about walking into a bar that served free hot dogs to customers instead of the usual nuts and pretzels, and the bartender who let them stay and even gave them cash when he noticed they were homeless;
      • that “some people are just good… not everyone is a bastard.”
    • The cigar shop with a poster in its window, “15 BADASSES WHO SMOKE CIGARS.”
    • Rehearsing in a dark bar and watching a little sliver of light come in through the door’s skinny window and dance on the walls.
    • Mark Borchardt’s North of the Internet interview: “I don’t waste too much time thinking about the abstract, because then, all of a sudden, what is tangible will get swept out from underneath your feet.”
  52. Observations 8-22-18

    • Finding a dead bird in the middle of the street, moving it beneath a tree.
    • The New York Times story about an English professor who translated and rearranged an epic novel so that it used every word in a dictionary exactly once, making it a “complete reordering of one entire English dictionary into a single work of art.”
    • The Tested story about how Rolls-Royce worked with a Detroit automaker to help make Merlin plane engines during WWII.
      • Rolls-Royce had been making every engine by hand until that point.
      • The Detroit company, Packard, adapted to British metrics and tooling to fit their parts. They did such a good job that Rolls-Royce honored warranties on engines made by Packard decades later. It was cute.
    • The Reader story about Jungle Green! Specifically, about how Andrew put up hundreds of handwritten flyers around town advertising his records, and the responses he got from those.
    • Alex Chilton’s Bach’s Bottom again:
      • Chilton stopping a take to tell Richard Rosebrough, actually really sweetly, that his drumming was lacking spirit. “The shoulders! That’s where it lies.” (I’ve been there.)
      • Imagining that critics were probably pretty pissed at the ramshackle nature of the record, but appreciating that it’s basically a rehearsal recording with moments of great music interspersed. That’s kinda bold and it’s fun to listen to.
    • The bathroom rug, red, blue, and sinewy, like dyed veins and arteries.
    • The best friends with matching Adidas water shoes (wearing as everyday shoes).
    • The black latex glove on the ground.
    • The coconut Italian ice from Miko’s.
  53. Observations 8-21-18

    • Responding to a booking request the Blisters received a year ago, for an infeasible show, and getting an auto-reply that said the venue had closed.
    • Playing Hideout with Hue, on a bill with Jungle Green.
      • Jungle Green kicking ass like they always do.
      • The soundman, Jordan, being nice and patient and competent.
    • Alex Chilton’s Bach’s Bottom (via Sammy).
      • Thinking that Paul Westerberg is probably the same age that Chilton was when Westerberg said, “[Chilton] doesn’t need our help, he doesn’t want our help, but, damn it, he’s going to get it whether he wants it or not,” but being wrong about it (Westerberg was ~28 and Chilton was ~37 when he said that, and he’s 58 now.)
  54. Observations 8-20-18

    • Running in the drizzling rain.
      • Noticing that no earthworms had surfaced on the sidewalk.
    • How my bug bites, from a forest trip at the beginning of August, form an almost symmetrical pattern on my thighs, like a stigmata.
    • Eating a great shrimp taco at Chicago Taco Authority.
  55. Observations 8-19-18

    • Flying home.
      • Waking up before sunrise, riding to the airport in foggy, predawn San Francisco.
      • The super low, gray clouds hanging over the bay.
      • The former Marines who happened to be next to each other in line, talking about their Pentagon office days.
      • The rumbling of the airport floor.
    • These Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead stories:
      • Pharrell talking about “The Flower Called Nowhere” by Stereolab being the best song to get a blowjob to.
      • Neil Young:
        • saying, “I’ve been singing the same song for thirty years and I just sing it differently every time.”
        • setting the record straight on his “better to burn out than to fade away” lyric, that it was meant to encourage people to live and to create, not to self-destruct.
        • modeling a good attitude on criticism: “People are liking the record now, but I’ll have more peaks and valleys. I’ll put some other record out and people will say it’s a piece of shit. They’ll laugh. It’s inevitable. It just goes up and down, and the tops are not really that much better than the bottoms. So long as you’re moving.”
        • acknowledging “it’s not as easy to grow up now as it was in the sixties. The world is a much more dangerous place. There are a lot less dreams being realized,” making me feel even more sheepish about my interpretation, in a Talkhouse article, of his stance on my generation a few years ago.
      • DJ Jubilee teaching special education, watching his catchphrases get co-opted by Top 40 artists, still feeling fulfilled by teaching.
      • Walter Becker illustrating a question I’ve wondered a lot about: “We’re getting a lot of credit just for surviving and persisting and doing more or less the same kind of music, which, depending on who you talk to, is either considered a kind of integrity or a failure of imagination—or both.”
    • Learning, from the How I Built This interview with the founder of RXBAR, that fruit processors are dedicated to specific colors of fruit, e.g. a “red fruit processor.”
    • Wanting to learn more about CrossFit, guessing that The New Yorker would have a poetic deep-dive about it, being correct.
    • Bouldering with Sammy at the new indoor climbing place.
    • Starting the Ken Burns Vietnam series.
    • The Peter Garland / Ahi Takahashi album, Another Sunrise (via Sammy).
    • How, in the SiriusXM satellite radio channel guide, “Howard Stern” is its own category.
    • Attempting a capture-and-release operation of a kitchen fly with Sammy, and aborting mission (target escaped).
  56. Observations 8-18-18

    • The otherwise cool boutique selling vintage-stylized 1984 shirts.
    • The Keith Haring art on luggage.
    • How every Lyft driver we met lived outside of the city, in Oakland, Sacramento, or the mountains.
    • The parade floats, sitting alone (but together) on the pier.
    • The tiny little micro-bar, a maybe twenty-square-foot hole in the Mission. Too crowded to enter.
    • The dismal, narrow thrift store, more cluttered than they usually are, like every donation just gets plopped on top of the stuff that came before it, and its owner, an older woman who derisively refused to haggle with a calm dude for a hat (~$20 down to $8), “[I’d] never do that. Never do that.”
    • Walking past and peering into the evening services of Catholic storefront churches. The fluorescent overhead lighting, the bars on the doors and windows, the unattended drums and conga sets.
    • Watching a second-floor house show from the street. Looking for a door and a friendly attendee on a smoke break to let us in, but finding no one.
    • Seeking out the most Chicago-esque bars in the Mission (ones with regulars, without a schtick, with naturally occurring grime).
    • The older couple in formalwear—a three-piece suit, a dress—sharing a chocolate sundae at 11PM in the diner.
    • Eating tater tots and ice cream, packing for our 5:30AM wake-up.
  57. Observations 8-17-18

    • Reading Craig Mod’s newsletter about his 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat and thinking, for the first time, that I might like to try something like that one day.
    • Staying indoors in beautiful, sunny San Francisco until 2PM and feeling bad about it.
    • The street-performing duo playing wooden flutes through belt-clip amplifiers, phasing against each other.
    • The sixtyish man with a European accent, waiting for the bus, helping a blind woman navigate past a cable run on the sidewalk.
    • The homelessness, way more apparent and concentrated than it is in Chicago’s downtown.
    • The custom-painted, tiger-stripe motor scooter.
    • The guy doing tricks with his hardshell suitcase like it’s a Tech Deck skateboard (e.g. bouncing off of tree, spinning around).
    • The guy wearing a head-to-toe, pink jumpsuit with matching pink shoes, who happened also to be in a wheelchair.
    • The local-cultural thing of playing music through big, battery-powered speakers on the street, something you virtually never see in Chicago.
    • The white-goateed guy at the bar, friendly-drunk, raving about Anchor Steam beer, telling me about his dream to make a shirt with an upside-down eye of the pyramid and the word “REVOLVE” on it. Me, correctly guessing that it was meant to represent the reversal of the world power structure.
  58. Observations 8-16-18

    • Flying to San Francisco.
      • Feeling naked without my backpack.
      • The airport employee who emerged from a rolling overhead door, driving one of those three-wheel, electric carts, eating a banana.
      • The announcement over the gate PA, “Looking for San Francisco flight passenger Morrissey.” (Not that Morrissey.)
      • The older passenger who accidentally started playing music (Indian pop) through his phone speakers instead of the headphones that he had requested from a flight attendant earlier.
      • Having drink-cart Diet Coke and feeling like a debauchee for it.
      • Reading Neil Strauss stories about Mötley Crüe and Ozzy Osbourne’s pee-licking and Jack Daniels-chugging at the same time as feeling like a debauchee for the Diet Coke.
      • At the end of the flight, trying to get out of my seat with my seatbelt still on.
    • The SF MUNI logo (I had forgotten about it!). Almost illegible but worth it for the fun.
    • The startup billboards.
      • LA has Emmys, SF has startups, Chicago has pizza and lizard-like injury lawyers.
    • How, even though it’s also summer (and warmer) in Chicago, it somehow feels even more like summer in California.
    • The sun-faded Shen-Yun 2017 poster in the donut shop.
      • The name, “Happy Donut.”
      • The owner, recognizing a man who stole a dollar from her tip jar two days ago, annoying him into giving it back. Him, limp-running away afterward.
      • The awning, “21 Varicties.”
    • The man wearing a suit and a six-inch-wide, red button: “It’s My Birthday!”
    • Entering a weed dispensary for the first time, for an acquaintance’s comedy show.
      • The headlining comedian, a kinda melancholy, young substitute teacher, calling me “half Michael Cera, half Ichabod Crane” and “heroin-chic.”
    • The contractors installing new strands of crystals in the Swarovski store ceiling after hours.
    • The psychedelic Dee Dee TV public access show re-runs.
      • The Pride footage of lots of naked wieners and even people touching them.
    • The Wired story about how Cloudflare uses a 24/7 video feed of shifting lava lamps to generate random cryptographic keys for its cybersecurity tools (thanks Uncle Bruce).
    • Jenn Pelly’s great piece in the Guardian about the final traveling Warped Tour.
      • Wondering whether bands on the lineup like being described by the head of the festival as part of a “nostalgia tour.”
      • The two clear proposals she presents: keep Warped alive but make it more inclusive (Pelly’s preference), or “burn it to the ground and start something new” (a fan’s punk AF preference).
    • Paul Ford talking about web/app development as a reliable, old-school craft on his podcast, Track Changes.
    • The Ray Kroc quote about paper cups in that Atlantic piece about disposable straws: “I don’t know what appealed to me so much about paper cups. Perhaps it was mostly because they were so innovative and upbeat.”
  59. Observations 8-15-18

    • Pulling one of my own eyelashes out of my mouth.
    • The guy walking two dogs with a graphic Band-Aid over the bridge of his nose.
    • The quasi-art of choosing Pro Tools track colors, making a palette out of a song.
    • The humidity.
    • The sunset, already an hour and a half earlier than the peak of the summer.
    • Staring up at Trump Tower.
    • The artist space in a former auto repair shop, its kind/cool owner, and eating a squillion-course, delicious meal together with a really generous, hard-working friend.
  60. Observations 8-14-18

    • The weathered pregnancy test packaging on the ground.
    • The sunflowers growing in the tiny strip of soil between apartment building and sidewalk.
    • The robin’s egg blue propane truck.
    • The joy of my cousin’s piano-playing (8-11-18) emanating from the basement.
    • Working on Sammy’s beautiful new music.
    • The photo portfolio of Whitten Sabbatini, timeless and tasteful and communicative.
    • Watching mind-boggling Aretha Franklin videos with Mom and relatives.
  61. Observations 8-13-18

    • Smashing my thumb in the car door.
    • The light scorn I felt toward the teenager with a valet key on his keychain in the case that he chose to carry it, adding needless weight and jingle to his keychain, or the pity I felt in the case that he never learned a valet key is removable.
    • Another truck notice, “NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR OBJECTS COMING FROM ROAD.” Doubting again (8-10-18) whether that’s a legal rejection of responsibility and, in this case, whether it would be necessary even if it were one.
    • The shirtless punk (classical definition) with a barbed wire tattoo that wraps all the way around the chest.
    • The can design of Parson’s Beer (a Revolution beer for Parson’s Chicken & Fish).
    • Holding a friend of a friend’s six-week-old baby.
    • Listening to a relative talk about a song through the lens of a breakup (“this has to be about heartbreak”), remembering the way they talked about music at the beginning of a relationship (“I understand all the songs now”).
    • Considering that so much of the art-making we look up to as kids, especially in photography, is the product of an adult’s ability/privilege to travel and to stumble upon unusual situations and interesting people. The excitement of being an adult and getting to stumble upon your own unusual situations and interesting people.
    • How deciding to poop without a phone in-hand is a modern form of ascetic practice.
  62. Observations 8-12-18

    • Waking up with “Blue Sky” by Allman Brothers Band stuck in my head.
    • The WWE figurines at Walmart.
    • My heart pounding while I watched an older couple fall over on a stationary motorcycle. (They were okay.)
    • The 1921 book, How to Psycho-Analyze Yourself by Joseph Ralph, my uncle gave to my mom for her birthday.
      • The amazing gold lettering on its cover.
      • The Psychoanalytic Review review that criticized it for being too prude and celebrated it for “aid[ing] the great work of mental hygiene.”
    • The young relative announcing, at the perfect comedic moment, that he hated all of us. (It was a temporary, Mountain Dew-induced tantrum.)
    • Watching stars, and satellites, and meteors during the Perseids shower with family.
      • How it seems like most of the time spent watching a meteor shower is actually spent complaining about the meteors you missed while you looked away.
      • The wonder of spotting satellites, which seem somehow more distant and foreign than visible planets.
      • The campaign merch boondoggle of Trump’s Space Force.
  63. Observations 8-11-18

    • Recording more songs with my Skip Spence-y friend (8-9-18), getting blasted by a loud burp through the vocal mic into my headphones.
    • My nine-year-old cousin reciting “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” and “Für Elise” on piano, playing guitar along with him.
    • Standing in a cardboard box and feeling surprisingly comforted by it.
    • Eating noodle kugel while driving.
    • The subtle, editorial taste that pokes through on Vine compilations.
  64. Observations 8-10-18

    • The businessman wheeling a whiteboard across the street.
    • The painted notice, “NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR BROKEN GLASS,” on the back of the plumbing company truck. Doubting whether that’s a legal rejection of responsibility.
    • Continuing my closet cleaning project (8-1-18).
      • Finding a strip of paper from middle school on which my best friend and I had written the calculation for conception: PENIS^(2^3) + ∠VAG(10!) = |SPERM|^(2+(7^0)) ± EGG^3(3/4) = BABY
      • Putting a box for a Western Digital external hard drive in the box for a Seagate external hard drive and feeling like I had made a turducken, a disrespectful, blasphemous dish.
    • The memory of pacing around the classroom, crying, after drop-off in preschool, stopping at the mirror of a toy kitchen set to watch myself cry.
  65. Observations 8-9-18

    • The two Canadian motorcycle couples (Ontario plates), riding together on 94, one with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth.
    • The catfish delivery truck. A truck just for delivering catfish.
    • Drumming for a friend’s beautiful, Skip Spence-esque outsider country songs.
    • The ghoulish wall painting, including pointy nips, of a dancing woman at the Mexican restaurant.
    • The dad jogging, doing jumping jacks on the corner while his infant lay in a stroller.
  66. Observations 8-8-18

    • The tiny little tree with a tiny little stabilizing brace on it.
    • The antique and junk metal store.
      • The 19th-century-lookin-ass wooden hut on its campus.
      • The lawn full of rusting industrial equipment.
      • The leather saddle, mossy from rain.
    • The RVs towing SUVs. Feeling like it’s both cute and excessive to do that.
    • Leaving the house in ripped jeans (from natural causes), having just showered, thinking it’s generally a good bet to look disheveled but smell nice, or at least a better bet than the opposite.
    • Playing at the Empty Bottle with Hue.
      • The friendly and competent soundperson, Shay/Shae. Soundpeople are so often jaded or bad (or both), it’s really nice when they’re nice.
      • Heading to a seemingly usual, bemuraled corner store for a snack, finding a portal into a Ukrainian super market instead, complete with produce and a seafood deli. Buying imported, peanut-flavored Cheetos called Flips, a sesame sugar cracker, and an apple.
      • The band that left three nearly untouched salads in the green room.
  67. Observations 8-7-18

    • The nerdiness of people who travel with, and set up, slacklines.
    • My earache, hopefully from a sinus infection and not from blasting monitors or naegleria fowleri in the creek (8-4-18).
    • The older couple on the beach, in non-beach clothes, listening to oldies on an iPhone, taking pictures of the water with an iPad.
    • The learner sailboats trailing the bigger, teacher sailboat, looking like ducklings following their mom (Casey’s aunt’s observation).
    • The eighteen-year-olds reminiscing about the blogging era.
    • The twenty-two- and -three-year-olds (Casey and me) reminiscing about Palm phones, especially the Palm Pre, whose UI was more modern-looking than iOS’s at the time.
    • The little kids carefully handling cash at the beach snack stand.
      • The kid who found $6 left on the counter and shouted to everyone, “Did anyone lose $6?”
    • How lisps and other, more subtle speech idiosyncrasies travel across generations in a family.
    • How some people, particularly older people, can sit and do nothing but think for hours at a time. I can sit-and-do-nothing-but-think pretty well but I’ve got a long way to go compared to 93-year-old pros.
    • Nile Rodgers talking about how Bernard Edwards died while on tour in Japan, and the gratitude he felt for the Japanese authorities who respected Edwards’ body and gave Rodgers time to be alone with him, in Strauss’s book (8-6-18).
      • “So midway through the concert, we were doing ‘Let’s Dance.’ And all of a sudden, the bass dropped out at the beginning of the verse. I thought, ‘Damn, that’s clever.’ I went, ‘Good job, ‘Nard!’ And I turned around and didn’t see him. He had passed out, and the roadies had picked him up and placed him behind the stage. And he was just sitting there playing.” The beauty of Rodgers assuming the best, and being excited by Edwards’ talent.
  68. Observations 8-6-18

    • The toy store with a security camera monitor over the display shelves.
    • The tidy workshop, with little spectacles and vintage stone grinders, in the jewelry store window.
    • The two older women with matching, laminated lanyards: “Celebrating 50 Years of Friendship!”
    • The electric wheelchair on its own, dedicated carrying trailer, brand name: “Jazzy Select.”
    • Singing “Immigrant Song” in a seductive, cabaret voice.
    • My pants cuffs, at their highest of the summer.
    • Johnny Cash, in Neil Strauss’s Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead, affirming rap music: “I was working with Elvis when all these older people were saying that he’s leading our kids to hell. I thought that was the strangest thing I’d ever heard […] Then all the rock artists that came along, they said that about them, too. But it doesn’t bother me. Maybe gangsta rap does have some [bad] influence on young people, but damn, I think the six o’clock news is probably the most violent thing we hear today.”
    • Bruce Springsteen on therapy, in the same book: “I found [therapy] to be one of the most healthy experiences of my life. I grew up in a working-class family where that was very frowned upon. So it was very, very difficult for me to ever get to a place where I said I needed some help. […] But all I can say is the leap of consciousness that it takes to go from playing in your garage to playing in front of five thousand, six thousand, seven thousand people—or when you experience any kind of success at all—can be very, very demanding.”
    • How, sometimes, parents who are social workers end up with the most challenging kids of all.
  69. Observations 8-5-18

    • Fitting my sleeping bag into the carrying sleeve on the first try, a task that used to take two or more desperate attempts.
    • The bible study coffee shop advertising an “Everlasting Youth Initiative.”
    • Re-realizing that there is no perfect run through life, no perfect career, no maximum potential to meet, and how soothing that is. It discourages some people from trying (if I can’t “win,” what’s the point?) but it encourages me, because it means that work is still worthwhile even if we miss some opportunities or if others are impossible to meet.
  70. Observations 8-4-18

    • The refreshing, muddy water of the creek.
    • Riding in Hayden’s pickup truck bed.
      • The wind drying our hair.
    • The army of plastic snowmen lawn ornaments on a neighboring farm’s lawn.
    • The diversity of folding chairs at the festival.
      • Two with hydraulic rockers.
      • Two with headrests, reclinable.
    • The band members sluggishly carrying gear to the barn.
    • It’s possible that blues scales need to be banned, at least for white people.
    • Eating Avrom Farm chicken, my only allowed chicken.
    • The father-and-sons punk band.
      • The bassist son reminding me of Steve Albini and my friend Gabe.
      • The guitarist son reminding me of young Dad.
    • Al Scorch commanding the audience in a special way, singing new, sadder, slower songs.
  71. Observations 8-3-18

    • The Sysco restaurant supply truck that says “Follow me to your next great meal.” What if someone really did that?
    • The “Speed Monitored by Aircraft” signs, but never seeing a speed-monitoring aircraft.
    • The race for sheriff in Rock County, Wisconsin.
      • Judging by lawn signs, the race is pretty close.
      • The old, country church marquee: “GARY IS THE ONLY CHANCE 4 CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP.”
        • Gary may have an edge.
    • Getting lost in Albany, Wisconsin.
      • Stopping by the river and a tiny thrift store.
      • The comforting, mysterious marquee outside the fire station: “DON’T WORRY.”
      • The disappointment I felt when I saw the other side read “BE HAPPY.”
    • The badass vibraphone player, looking and acting like Will Forte if he became an experimental musician.
    • The danger of using the word “tight” to describe bands, since laypeople may hear the general definition (like “sick”).
    • The band Dehd, playing with matching green guitars, inspiring me and everyone else with their simple, energetic thing.
  72. Observations 8-2-18

    • Breaking my key off in the studio door.
    • The Geraldo Rivera lookalike, wearing a black button-up (chest visible), ribcage-height jeans, and Skechers-ass sneakers.
    • That crazy, new Holger Czukay retrospective box set (thanks Billy).
    • The fence painted with “fallen soldier” silhouette art, then the pickup truck with “fallen soldier” window art.
    • The parking garage door with a little pedestrian door in it, like an industrial version of a hobbit home.
    • Walking down a not-moving escalator.
    • The strobing building lights.
    • The strobing license plate light.
    • The automatic sprinklers watering the DMV lawn.
    • “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah poking through the bagel shop radio.
  73. Observations 8-1-18

    • Rehearsing with two groups from ten to six.
    • Revisiting that viciously sad, beautiful Mary Lattimore record.
    • Moving my record player to a more convenient location, so I’ll actually use it.
      • Listening to Dusk’s and Buck Meek’s new LPs.
        • Buck’s record has one of the best covers ever.
    • Using my grandpa’s little, green, plastic pocket knife for the first time since I got it from his workshop after he died last summer. I watched him use it in that workshop when I was little.
    • Finding my cousin’s old, bedazzled Sidekick in my closet, worrying about unleashing a pent-up Sidekick spirit by flipping it open.
    • The New York Times article about Ryuichi Sakamoto asking a restaurant to let him curate their music playlist because he was so annoyed by what they had been playing (via Billy).
      • “Mr. Sakamoto objects to loud restaurant music, and often uses a decibel meter on his phone to measure the volume of the sound around him.”
    • How my perspective of food changes in light of pharmaceuticals’ outsize impact on our bodies. If such a tiny dose can affect us so profoundly, isn’t it scary to put many more times that amount, in the form of bread and cheese and sauce, in our bodies all the time? I understand that drugs are precision-focused to do certain things, and foods are made of basic parts whose impact we can generally predict. But the comparison still freaks me out.
  74. Observations 7-31-18

    • Waking up at eleven and staying in bed till two, a first for the summer.
    • Accidentally spelling “font” as “phont” more than once.
    • The impromptu Jackson 5 dance party with Mom.
    • The new Bernard Purdie record, so good and inspiring because it’s better than what one might expect from ‘60s veterans’ new records (thanks Billy).
    • The infant’s play gym strapped to the roof of a Forester.
    • The bank teller who acted like my request for change was some bizarre, new form of performance art.
    • The purpose-built, yellow Kodak photo-processing PCs at Target.
    • Recycling printer ink that had been sitting around, waiting, for years.
    • Getting a professional massage for the first time since past festival seasons’ fancy backstages.
      • The masseuse’s cigarette tar sniffles.
      • My Adam’s apple pressing so hard into the face hole I thought I might choke.
      • Smelling like a delicious, chemical version of cucumbers for twelve hours afterward.
    • Hoping Fig Newtons stay afloat in this new, fig-unfriendly world.
  75. Observations 7-30-18

    • The plainclothes cops on the street, who happened to be women, which seemed unusual to me. (It turns out only 13% of U.S. police are women, according to DOJ.)
    • The amazing archival folk footage on Dust-to-Digital’s Instagram (thanks Dad).
    • Vacuuming schmutz out of my car.
    • The Susan Alcorn pedal steel performance at Experimental Sound Studio.
      • Arriving late and watching via live projector feed on the gallery wall.
      • The daunting complexity of the pedal steel.
      • The Band-Aid on Alcorn’s left wrist.
      • The audience seemingly looking back at me and other viewers through the cameras in the live room.
      • The bathroom, in a tough spot (next to the projector wall, with a silent, attentively listening audience).
      • Afterward, the Q&A with Ken Vandermark.
        • Vandermark’s kind manner of speaking.
        • Alcorn’s comment about the “deceptive simplicity” of country music.
    • The laundry exhaust of neighboring homes reminding me of my childhood best friend’s house.
    • The apartment with stock travel photos taped on the windows, facing outward.
  76. Observations 7-29-18

    • Walking to the tiny cafe on the corner, running into two friends from Chicago along the way.
    • The massive, industrial, metal door, painted pink.
    • How, for years, one-touch automatic window buttons have been reserved for front seats. The renewal of faith I felt at being in a minivan with one-touch window buttons for the back seats.
    • The paintings of eggs on the wall of the breakfast restaurant.
    • The paintings-come-to-life in an egg and gouda cheese sandwich on a carrot cake waffle bun, one of the best things I’ve eaten in my entire freaking life.
    • Trying to read Asimov’s Foundations, struggling to get into it, falling asleep by the pool instead.
    • Dinner with family friends, music friends, neighbor friends, and girlfriend colliding.
    • Listening to Beatles the whole way home.
    • Sacha Baron Cohen getting bigots who would balk at men who wear dresses to wear dresses on Who Is America?
    • How the hell do you fold a fitted sheet?
    • The consistency of Kanye’s Twitter profile picture in the greater inconsistency of his life. Feeling surprised and confused that he hasn’t impulsively (or calculatingly) changed it over the years along with his music, clothes, and politics.
  77. Observations 7-28-18

    • The apartment building with an adorable little walkway straight through the brick.
    • Going to an estate sale on a purchase mission from Mom.
      • The cool-looking, middle-aged woman leaning against a tree, wearing aviator sunglasses, friendlily telling me I looked “too young to be into vintage.” Me, explaining my purchase mission from Mom, but also that I do like old stuff, mostly music instruments. Her, saying, “They don’t make ‘em the way they used to.” Me, saying, “Except microwaves.” (They’re made better now.) Her, agreeing. Admiring the house’s architecture together.
      • The white-haired guy who arrived on a bike, talking to himself about the house’s nice tuck-pointing. Structurally sound, great brick work…
      • The mom calling after her son, Orion.
      • The most Chicago-looking dad of all time, with a gray mustache, and his happy, shy, schlubby son, dollying away a piece of furniture they bought.
      • The house, frozen in 1900-1950.
        • So much wood, so much wicker.
      • The sadness of dismantling someone’s home, piece by piece.
      • The happiness of giving each little thing a new life, like scattering a bunch of seeds to maximize the chances of survival.
      • The racist “mammy” statues.
      • The model trains.
      • How, on the one hand, people buy junk that will get sold in their estate sales, later.
      • How, on the other hand, that doesn’t make the time they spend with the stuff they buy any less valuable.
      • The employees of the sale with stupid, toylike walkie-talkies.
      • The excited crowd of buyers in line CHEERING ME ON when I got out of the house with the stuff I bought. (The purchase mission: failed. Mom’s targets already sold.)
    • On the highway, the boxy, green Volvo station wagon with a massive dog in it.
    • The extra toll machine crossbars stacked in the tollbooth, like reinforcements in waiting.
    • The poor lighting in a video of Trump from the White House. How just about every creative asset his admin, campaign, or the RNC produce is tasteless or nonfunctioning (e.g. the Obama-joke 404 page). How it seems to show, in a trivial way, that creative, curious people don’t want to work for them. How, also in a trivial way, it’s a breakdown in the Trump-Fascist parallel, since Fascist iconography was disappointingly great.
    • The dozens of sunburned, white families tolerating a two-hour wait at the vacation food hotspot.
    • Falling asleep and stretching my skin on a blowup vinyl raft.
    • The possibly Mennonite women on the beach. The bearded man reading the Bible behind them.
    • The group of twenty-year-olds smoking cigars and drinking Fanta (glass bottles).
  78. Observations 7-27-18

    • Tracking drums with one of my favorite bass players.
    • Eating Indian food leftovers (7-26-18) outside under one of those gray summer skies.
    • Accidentally falling asleep while others were recording.
    • Re-watching the N.E.R.D NBA All Star game half-time show with Liam (an all-time great, but on a much smaller scale than Prince Super Bowl XLI).
    • Listening to part of Nathan Salsburg’s beautiful new record for the first time, on a run.
    • The young girl on a purple bike, giving me the stink eye every time she passed me on the track.
      • Wondering whether she was (justifiably) afraid of me because I’m white. Imagining how a Proud Boy-type might pervertedly see that as “reverse racism.”
    • Out of all the new-fangled things we have, HQ (the iOS game) feels like maybe the most movie-like one, like a benign Idiocracy.
    • The baby silverfish bug I found in the closed Q-tip container. Successfully completing a capture-and-release operation.
  79. Observations 7-26-18

    • The badass, tiny, older white lady, crossing the street and stopping traffic with her cart, wearing pink shorts and a big sun hat, enthusiastically waving thank you at the cars she stopped.
    • Her moon, the overweight, bearded white dude with stains on his shirt, wheeling a cart with three thirty-racks of Busch Lite and Little Debbie’s snacks in it.
    • The construction worker whose beard looked dyed black, repairing a sidewalk seemingly by himself, throwing two-by-fours off of a tilted dump truck and grimacing.
    • The dental surgeon’s office.
      • The moody lighting in the waiting room.
      • The nauseating, textured, brown vortex commercial painting in the x-ray room.
      • Accidentally insinuating that my mom might not want to call the administrator because she was black?
    • The shirtless biker wearing a bandana, looking exactly like David Foster Wallace.
    • The way digital highway signs emulate the physical ones.
    • My underwear, from the batch I bought at H&M in Canada when I forget mine at home on a Blisters tour, working in tandem with my pants to make it hard to play the drum beat I was playing.
    • The four-dollar Indian food from Devon, spicier than I bargained for, making me think I was gonna puke.
    • The guy at the bar, smiling all night, happening to use a wheelchair, ogling girls’ butts.
  80. Observations 7-25-18

    • The window curtains clichédly blowing in the wind, letting in a sliver of bloomy light every time they split apart.
    • Eating mashed potatoes right after brushing.
    • The ice cream distributor workers wearing winter parkas between walk-in freezers in 80-degree weather.
    • The professional mover with a bald head who looked like Furiosa from Mad Max.
    • The shrimpy, older Hispanic dude wheeling a library ladder down the street.
    • The deep, deep relief of shaving an itchy rat-beard off my face.
    • Mojitos and guacamole with Casey.
  81. Observations 7-24-18

    • Emailing, writing, watching baking shows with Casey.
    • The yummy eggs she cooked.
    • Switching to Siteleaf so I don’t have to git commit every new post like an NSA contractor.
      • The Siteleaf website being so clear and humane it makes me wanna cry.
    • Casey’s microwave with time preset buttons (1 second, 10 seconds, 1 minute?) instead of a number pad. Wondering which interface is more useful, tentatively siding with the presets.
    • The phone call with a friend who sounded somehow weary but still optimistic.
    • Shopping for pet cowboy hats, finding the world’s most important dog-in-wig portrait instead.
    • The summer smell, better than usual.
    • The Elevator Constructors Union Local 2 license plate frame. Learning that there’s an Elevator Constructors Union Local 2.
    • The Costco shrimp that Mom brought home.
    • The ‘80s plastic rocking horse that Mom brought home.
    • Having hardly moved at all after seven days of constant physical work.
    • Vacuuming the pieces of protein bar I left while frantically eating, post-festival-teardown, at 5:45AM on Monday (7-23-18) morning.
  82. Observations 7-23-18

    • Getting home from work at 5:30AM, being due to be back by 8AM, waking up for all my alarms but then falling right back asleep, waking up again at 10AM, heading directly from bed to car.
    • The temp worker afraid to get garbage juice on brand-new designery jeans, spilling garbage ketchup on them, being good-natured about it.
    • The temp worker who quit because our sleep-deprived boss didn’t respond to his request to borrow a dolly quickly enough.
    • The beautiful, old, hand-painted bathroom signs in the park district field house.
    • The directness of the Metra slogan, “Next time, take the train.”
    • Having been at a music festival for days colors your perception of music for a while. Lackluster music becomes more exciting imagining it outdoors, live, and heroic.
    • The fucking drum sounds and drumming on Howlin’ Wolf’s The Back Door Wolf. Badass no matter where you spent the last week.
    • Driving on Elston, watching a funeral home worker wheel a coffin through a narrow doorway, bump it into the door frame, disappear into a dark room.
    • The scary-looking white dude, wearing a track suit, staring at me while I walked up to the studio.
    • Trying to make an almond milk shake, making chocolate ice instead. Snowball-, not food-grade.
  83. Observations 7-22-18

    • How backup toilet paper holders are, mainly, a measure of defense against freeloading roommates, one or more get-out-of-jail-free cards from leaving others without toilet paper.
    • How every construction rental company has its own unique flavor of fence base type and sandbag shape.
    • The barometric pressure doing a number on my sinuses.
    • The hustle-obsessed coworker throwing ice bags off a truck onto carts, singing NSYNC, refusing a food vendor’s request for help in a really rude way, making her cry, making it up to her. Later, joking to other bro food vendors about it, talking about fucking her. Also later, telling me he still felt bad about making her cry.
    • The French-Bulldog-faced garbage removal man (7-20-18) telling me about his old life in the Caribbean islands, moving to the U.S. in the ‘60s (”for the pussy”), becoming a computer repairman, owning fifteen rental buildings in Chicago, selling them all to avoid dealing with “lazy” black tenants (he is black himself), retiring in 1999, working garbage removal part-time, quitting last September but coming back because his boss (7-20-18) needed him and, apparently, because he likes it. His in-laws who stole watches from him. Pointing to the gold watch on his wrist, shrugging, “I only need one.”
    • Feeling proud that a good chunk of the lineup here has performed before at shows I booked in Wisconsin.
    • My big, 40oz, stainless steel water bottle, the one I’ve had for two years, that rolled over in my car with me in May 2017, getting stolen from beneath a tree.
    • (Sandy) Alex G singing through closed teeth.
    • It is amazing how much heavier used porta-potties are than fresh ones.
    • The Lauryn Hill fan lingering in the park for hours after closing, stopping every staff member who happened to pass her, talking about meeting Ms. Hill like a disaster victim in shock. Me, politely trying to figure out how she happened to have an All Access pass around her neck. Her, responding, “I’m very well-connected.”
    • Hammered barbacks on a seesaw.
    • Delirious hugs and beers after festival teardown at 4AM, the familiar buildings off I-94 in pre-dawn.
  84. Observations 7-21-18

    • The former Ohio country GOP chairman breaking my brain by resigning in (seemingly sincere) protest of Trump’s Putin stance, then saying, right afterward, he might still vote for Trump in 2020.
    • The security guard wistfully recounting a story about a super skilled chainlink fence assembler: “The guy was a legend.”
    • The merch sellers preaching: “When you wear a beret, you want it to fit right.”
    • Seeing a friend I haven’t seen in a long time, being glad that he seemed happy and centered.
    • The high school interns shooting hoops with ice cubes (basketballs) and CO2 tanks (nets).
    • Being loudly and long-ly honked at by an ambulance because my work golf cart blocked its path, scrambling to start it up and move it, feeling startled and embarrassed, but also defensive, because I had parked it reasonably, had been focused on a task, had heard no siren, no onlookers had warned me.
    • Learning more about my coworkers, their marriages, solo projects, non-summer-festival day jobs. One works in ads and is fulfilled by it because copywriting is like poetry. One proposed at 21 without a ring. One dumpster dives, but I already knew that.
    • Stage strobe lights flashing in daylight.
  85. Observations 7-20-18

    • “Tourists” as a way to refer to touring musicians.
    • Being saved by a friendly dog-walker from parking in a street cleaning zone where there was no notice.
    • The highway sign that read “Posen / Harvey / Midlothian.” The sound of “Midlothian.” On the way back, a bonus: “Dixmoor.”
    • The warehouse attendant who says “have a good day please.” The forkliftist who treated me like I knew what I was doing.
    • The terror of driving a big box truck that I had backloaded with weight.
    • The garbage removal contractor who drives a tinted-window Cadillac with a vanity plate. His employee, whose face looks exactly like a French Bulldog, who speaks in an indecipherable Caribbean (?) accent.
    • The high-school-aged coworker, who had been a fan of my tight golf cart turn yesterday, getting fired for making a homophobic comment. Feeling disappointed that he said it. Feeling temporarily hopeless against the huge system of beliefs and norms that need to change in order for him to know better. Feeling uncertain about the degree to which he cared about the incident. Hoping it would be a lesson.
    • The big, uncomfortable-looking dude wearing a mall-type airbrushed hat. The questions it begged.
    • The mismatch of gruff, bald stagehand and old-school, satchel-on-head ice bag.
    • The way artists/art almost become secondary, an afterthought, from the perspective of people who really run an event.
    • The ornate, curly tattoo of a woman’s name on the arm of a super young coworker.
    • Farting in a freezer truck. On accident the first time. On purpose subsequent times.
    • The tight Q resonance of walkie-talkies. The fun of driving back into radio range.
    • Confetti in a puddle.
    • The streetcar rails paved over, but peeking through, on Lake Street.
  86. Observations 7-19-18

    • The badass, stark red type on the side of a box truck for a chemical company.
    • The neighborhood burger joint that announced itself, in neon letters, as “HOME OF THE BURGER.”
    • The bus ad for a gym that said “Man boobs are sad,” shaming (some) trans people and potential customers all at once.
      • The realization, later, that the ad might be better if it were, “Man, boobs are sad.”
    • Moving a pyramid of oversized Legos, losing bricks along the way, reattaching them, losing more, reattaching, losing… until, at some point, just playing with Legos.
    • Doing a tight turn on a golf cart, a high-school-aged coworker saying, impressed, “You nice for that.”
    • The temp worker complaining to a friend on the phone about making tacos for her boyfriend, who came over to eat them and then left.
    • The truck exhaling like a horse, but more so than a truck usually does. It was cute.
    • The work cart shaking the farts out of me.
    • Nothing makes fatigue surface like talking to a stranger.
    • The older black woman security guards who called me “Tweedy,” whom I brought leftover pizza for the night shift, who told me they’d write me into their wills (as a thanks for the pizza).
    • The Pace bus entirely full of middle-aged, white Cubs fans, brightly lit and blue against orange-gray Ashland.
    • The niceness of the “R” in some versions of Smirnoff Vodka’s logo.
  87. Observations 7-18-18

    • The park district employee who noticed me struggling to re-secure a fence that I had opened for him and came back to help me with it.
    • A red balloon!!!!
    • The stage assemblers grunting with every lift, feeling it but also almost certainly exaggerating. Sounding like (they want to be) a pirate crew.
    • The signage material that smells like really bad ramen and sweat. The truck full of porta-potties that went by and smelled better than the signage material.
  88. Observations 7-17-18

    • The round man with a white handlebar mustache, wearing all brown, walking through the park eating a sandwich and whole dill pickles out of a ziplock bag. He had three pickles.
    • The gang of daycare toddlers playing in the park, yelling “byeeee” at us and waving as my coworkers and I drove past them in a forklift and golf carts. Us, mimicking their shrill voices, shouting “byeeee” back.
    • The coworker mad, even disgusted, that managers had ordered a paper product in yellow instead of blue.
    • I’ve heard multiple groups of twenty-somethings talking about their favorite Spongebob episodes/moments in the past week.
      • Also, autocorrect error: SpongeBOD.
    • The team of kids’ entertainers (imagineers?) rehearsing as excitedly and sincerely as they would if kids were actually there, playing tag and talking to each other like toddlers. My coworkers and I working on a fence nearby, ogling them, feeling a mixture of wistfulness at a more playful kind of work, judgment at what seem like impossibly chipper demeanors, happiness at the reality that people dedicate their lives to helping others feel joy, and pride that all of us—them in their rainbow parachute, us with zipties and Leathermans—were adding value to life.
    • The young Buddhist monk (shaved head, robe, etc.) tending to the garden outside the Buddhist temple, crouched and slowly picking berries/vegetables, talking to an older woman standing on the other side of the fence, living an extraordinary life nestled in a mostly white, very Western neighborhood.
    • The massive, college-football-shirt-wearing dudes who moved out of the way when I walked past them on the sidewalk, reminding me that we’re lucky to have such an elaborate system of rewards and punishments that make it possible for me (or people with advantages like mine) not to feel scared, generally, when confronted with people who are bigger than me… Nietzsche hated that shit.
    • The same lesson, learned again, that excessive self-doubt doesn’t right wrongs, doesn’t protect you, doesn’t help others, doesn’t help anyone. It’s just a drag and it can actually put emotional pressure on the person you sought to protect.
  89. The Creative Independent

    Hannah Street Elliott interviewed me for The Creative Independent. We talked about school and music. (Always school and music.) I’ve been reading The Creative Independent since it launched so it was cool to get to be a part of it.

    The Creative Independent interview

  90. JHS drum demo

    JHS Pedals came to the Loft to make a video with me and their new 500 series modules (Colour Box preamp/EQ, SuperBolt distortion, and Emperor modulation). They sound great—the Colour Box can get really close to a 1073.

    Watch it on YouTube here.
    Check out JHS 500 here.