Observations 9-21-20

  • Anand Giridharadas in The Ink:

    The fight to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg [is] a fight over what your days are like.

    You want your feet to hurt less at the end of the day. They want to crush the union fighting for your breaks…

    You want to wake up in the morning thinking about the business you’re going to start. They want you to wake up in the middle of the night sweating about the health benefits you’d lose…

    You want to learn what you need to be a good citizen and get ahead in a tough economy. They want you balled and chained with debt, paying them interest forever. That’s why they will do anything to steal this seat.

  • The beautiful screenprints by Sister Corita Kent (via Alan Jacobs’ newsletter, in which he points out the building in which she worked is at risk of demolition).

Observations 9-20-20

  • Damsel In Distress” by Rufus Wainwright.
  • Oh, God! (1977) with Dad and Sammy — a movie that says it’s possible and necessary for us to make the world better, not to wait for divine action. George Burns plays God. John Denver plays neo-Moses. Worth watching!

Observations 9-19-20

  • Mom chasing Sammy around the kitchen with a decade-old can of Silly String she had just found while cleaning out a drawer.

Observations 9-18-20

  • Playing our first live show since the start of quarantine, at the drive-in theater in McHenry, Illinois!
    • Seeing so many people in the audience with Tweedy Show masks, shirts, even Costco pajamas.
    • Dad’s breath, visible in the cold.
    • The beautiful, shimmering projection on the massive movie screen behind us.
    • Starting the show “Mi Sheberach” for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and everyone.

Observations 9-17-20

  • A special episode of the Tweedy Show for Zaid (my grandpa’s) 88th birthday.

Observations 9-16-20

  • Feeling grateful the leaves are still on the trees even though it feels like fall.
  • Cascada by Jorge Boussac, a haunting/endearing Uruguayan record slightly reminiscent of SpongeBob interstitial music (via my friend Isaac).

Observations 9-15-20

  • Recording a song with a beloved friend of my parents and now my friend, and enjoying his scatting in his scratch vocal takes.

Observations 9-14-20

  • How well photos of loved ones do their job — they keep them on your mind. I have a photo of my friend’s mom, who died last year, on my bookshelf and I look at it almost every day. I used to think photos like that make you numb to their loss, turn them into static fixtures. But this photo doesn’t; it reminds me of her every time.

Observations 9-13-20

  • The beautiful piano and electronics arrangements on Beavercore by Jockstrap (starting with “Beavercore 1”).

Observations 9-12-20

  • The oxygen thingies (nasal cannulae) hanging from the rearview mirror of a Jeep idling in the auto shop parking lot.
  • Watching Parasite with Casey. Soo beautiful, sad, intense.
  • The misinformed comments on my post about supporting Illinois’ Fair Tax amendment, which will slightly cut taxes for everyone earning less than $250,000 and slightly raise them for everyone earning more than that, generating $3 billion per year for schools and healthcare. Ad campaigns funded by super-wealthy Illinoisans are so effective that even working people think an effort to make taxes fairer is somehow out to get them. It stinks.

Observations 9-11-20

  • Hoping that, if Neuralink-type thingies eventually help us think, we’ll still make decisions and even mistakes based on the rickety, semi-rational, ineffable way we think now. Art partly relies on it!
    • I wonder about all the Luddite movements of the past. Did old-school carpenters worry that electric saws would make carpentry inhumane? I think carpenters and woodworkers are making plenty beautiful things that bear the mark of human touch with electric saws, so if the analogy holds up, that could be cause not to fear AI hybridism. But it’s worth thinking about!
  • Basil projectile vomiting at the socially distanced hang.

Observations 9-10-20

  • Cleaning out the wire scraps, exploded batteries, mini motor parts, and LEGO wheels from my childhood project toolbox.
  • Climbing on the prospective studio building’s roof by using a big, old-school TV antenna as a ladder.

Observations 9-9-20

  • Driving over a screw, which got stuck in my tire, which I immediately drove to a tire shop, in which a super kind possibly teenaged mechanic named Junior patched it for $15 in 15 minutes.

Observations 9-8-20

  • Emergency audio interface troubleshooting session after a storm power outage knocked ours out last night.

Observations 9-7-20

  • The pool maintenance technician with a huge blackletter tattoo, “SPENCER,” across the full width of his shoulders.

Observations 9-6-20

  • Driving past a cross on which someone had written “Oy vey.”

Observations 9-5-20

  • Stroking my face mask as one would stroke a beard.

Observations 9-4-20

  • The surprisingly loud plop of the acorns falling on our wooden deck.

Observations 9-3-20

  • The long-ago-fallen tree in the woods that looks like a twisted black licorice stick.

Observations 9-2-20

  • The light reflections bouncing and morphing in the plastic patio window panes.

Observations 9-1-20

  • Maintenance: oil change, COVID test, prospective new studio building inspection.

Observations 8-31-20

  • Recording more Casey songs!

Observations 8-30-20

  • Dan Pfeiffer in The Message Box, paraphrased: We need to talk about Tr*mp’s authoritarianism, but we should be careful not to reinforce the strongman image he wants when we do so. “The key,” Dan says,

    is to emphasize that Trump operates from a position of weakness, not strength. I have seen versions of the below message that test very well with the swing voters — independents and soft Republicans — most drawn to Trump’s strongman persona.

    “Trump pretends to be strong, but he is too weak and insecure to be President. His incompetence is why the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that can’t get COVID under control. He talks a tough game, but Trump has never stood up to anyone in his life. He bows down to dictators, gets his marching orders from CEOs, and hides in his bunker when things get tough. Trump simply isn’t up to the the job of President.”

  • That makes a lot of sense to me, but I’m worried there’s also some sense in which we do damage by playing the strongman game. Ideally, we could shift our values so that strength (or some cartoon notion of strength) isn’t what really matters in an election. Ideally, we could push forward other traits like patience, humility, and egalitarianism. But I guess that’s long-term work, and right now we have to deal with the world as it is.

Observations 8-29-20

  • Phonebanking for Wisconsin Democrats again. A rougher experience than last time.
    • An older Republican on the phone who sounded as close to Elmer Fudd as a human can sound: “We hate Democrats! You wanna spend all our money, you idiots! Senator [sic] Pelosi should be sh*t!”
  • The short documentary John Was Trying to Contact Aliens. Just as great as everyone says it is. I highly recommend it.

Observations 8-28-20

  • The National Guardsmen peering out of their Humvees in convoy on the highway. Lookin’ bored. And young.
  • Enjoying a TENS electrotherapy machine with Casey. Sitting next to each other on the couch, tethered by little electrical cables, muscles twitching with each machine pulse.

Observations 8-27-20

  • Helping out at a food drive with Sammy, via Paw Salvation.
    • The particular type of enthusiastic beautiful energy displayed by serial volunteers.
  • Reading my neighborhood’s local newspaper via PDF.

Observations 8-26-20

  • Thinking about the protesters whom that teenager murdered in Kenosha. And thinking… tentatively… about how it reflects positively on our humanity that his violence hasn’t immediately caused full-blown conflict. As close to the brink as we are. It would be a gift to people like him to fulfill their war fantasies.

Observations 8-25-20

  • Dad’s birthday!
  • A 1AM leftover seafood grazing session in the kitchen, attended by Sammy, Mom, and me.
  • The Durutti Column! (I first heard “Belgian Friends” a zillion years ago on the Late Night Tales MGMT compilation. It popped into my head a few times since then but I never knew what it was or if I had even really heard it. So hearing it again was a relief in a way I didn’t even know my mind wanted.)

Observations 8-24-20

  • Finding an old mini rubber band from my braces days on the dusty under ledge of my bed.
  • Comradery, an interesting new Patreon-like site meant to give creators more control of the platform they use to distribute content. It’s cooperatively run, meaning its members get to decide how the platform develops and how it uses its profits.
  • Seeing a huge hawk (?) in my neighborhood.
  • The incredible arrogance of Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin officials, as told by Sruthi Pinnamaneni on Reply All.

Observations 8-23-20

  • Stopped at a red light, watching a bucket-drumming performer get handed what must have been a large bill, and him running to his bucket-drumming partner on the other corner, super excitedly.
  • How the smell of others’ homes gets in your clothes. (Something foreign in COVID time but remembered today, as Casey and I safely recorded in a friend’s home studio.)
  • The difference between coping mechanisms that deal with uncomfortable feelings and those that deal with the causes of those feelings (when there are findable causes).
  • The under-construction car wash lit up at night, with its brand-new wiggly wipers still in plastic.

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