Observations 7-2-20

  • Imagining that everyone to whom you owe an email forms a union, issues sanctions against you.

Observations 7-1-20

  • At the bar, dumping out dozens of years-old Coke and Sprite cans, most of which had, by some bizarre alchemy, emptied themselves. Pouring the brown, Chicago River foam-esque sludge of whatever remained down the sewer drain.

Observations 6-30-20

  • Finding a legal pad with divider lines of just the right brightness.
  • Becoming a member of Joyful Noise’s Church of Noise, “a non-profit community [meant to] financially support adventurous music … that might not otherwise exist in a purely capitalist system.”
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah’s great Washington Post op-ed from 2010, “What will future generations condemn us for?”

Observations 6-29-20

  • The photos of rosaries, wallets, and shoes taken from people detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, saved by a photographer working as janitor at a “processing center” in Ajo, Arizona, horrifyingly similar to the piles of shoes and shaving brushes at Holocaust memorial museums. (The photos are worth seeing.)

Observations 6-28-20

  • The real estate listing written by an auto repairman in which he spells “lunch breaks” as “lunch brakes.”

Observations 6-27-20

  • The couple having a wine night behind the cracked curtain of a very well-lit salon, takeout food on the waiting area coffee table, reality show on the TV.
  • The pile of empty Gatorade bottles beneath the asphalt paving machine’s driver seat.
  • “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” played on the neighborhood church bells, making the already beautiful song even more ethereal.

Observations 6-26-20

  • Sam Anderson’s beautiful quarantine essay, “The Truth About Cocoons.”

Observations 6-25-20

  • The plastic toy police badge shining in the grass outside the elementary school playground.
  • Chris Newman of Sylvanaqua Farms, a Black-indigenous-American farmer, talking about his vision for a co-owned farming collective that can compete at scale with today’s industrial farms, reminding me of what Bookshop.org is doing for bookshops (against Amazon), and what Basecamp is doing for email (against Google). We can only take power away from monolithic power hoarders when we’re able to provide something as convenient, as useful, as reliable as the service those monoliths provide.

Observations 6-24-20

  • Talking with Lawrence Azerrad and Greta Kline (Frankie Cosmos) about music and design in a livestream for SF Design Week.

Observations 6-23-20

  • Acting as assistant to the friendly but sorta linger-y contractor that Casey hired to replace her dishwasher.

Observations 6-22-20

  • Continuing to ship lots and lots of Tweedy Show t-shirts.
  • The rain falling straight down, perpendicular to the sidewalk.

Observations 6-21-20

  • Attending the musicians’ march I had tried to attend on 6-14-20.
    • The older, white, gray-pony-tailed fellow marcher wearing a plain yellow t-shirt, yellow striped pants, and carrying what I think was a flute.
    • The inspiring, kind leaders of the march, members of the Blck Rising collective.

Observations 6-20-20

  • The McMaster-Carr hardware catalogs for sale on eBay for $500, $700, even $900.
  • The Chicagoan wearing an American flag mask and an American flag tank top, who happened to be Black.

Observations 6-19-20

  • Casey and me visiting some friends for a first-of-our-quarantine, socially distanced, outdoor hang.
    • The sound of their neighbor’s electric bug trap zapping bugs every few minutes, never failing to make my head turn. :(
    • Biking at night in hot summer Chicago air with Casey.

Observations 6-18-20

  • The video of producer Barker’s homemade plate reverb, rigged up with MIDI-controlled piston-like electronic mallets, mounted on the wall like a painting.

Observations 6-17-20

  • The ABC News video of park rangers delivering nearly 100-year-old tortoises back into their native Galapagos environment, a hike that required the rangers, at one point, to wear the tortoises like backpacks.

Observations 6-16-20

  • Basil sleeping while curled into a perfect circle in the crook of my arm (our frequent routine).

Observations 6-15-20

  • The Chicago Police officer standing on the sidewalk, reading a “Demands of Black Lives Matter Chicago” flyer I had taped to a lamppost yesterday.

Observations 6-14-20

  • Heading to another neighborhood for a “Musicians’ March” protest only to realize I got the date wrong by one week in the future.
  • The satisfaction of using sign-writing Sharpies — no repetitive coloring-in, just super wide, black, thick marks.

Observations 6-13-20

  • Riding bikes on rural roads with Dad.
    • The “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
    • The tabby farm cat in the middle of the road.
  • “Having Second Thoughts” by Don Gibson, and everything else on his Best of Hickory Records Years album. Sounds soo good.
  • Revisiting and loving Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.

Observations 6-12-20

  • How hard it is to tell between incremental actions that work toward a radical vision (e.g. police use-of-force amendments) and incremental actions that distract us from our vision. It seems like, sometimes, proposals that seem too small or too weak are genuinely the best first rung on a ladder toward our goal. (And that it’s smart to build ladders.) But I think people are right to be wary of false first rungs.
  • The community garden overseer beckoning Sammy and me toward him on our way to a protest, asking us if we knew what’s “really going on” in our country (“cops killing white people”); explaining that he works with, and so he knows, “them” (Black people); pointing to the Pride flag in the garden as evidence that he is not and could not be a bigot.
  • “Hi Jack (I’m Just Dying)” by Sadistic Mika Band.

Observations 6-11-20

  • The 60 Minutes segment about Italian composer Francesco Lotoro, who’s spent decades recovering and performing musical compositions that Jews had written while imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps. He visits survivors and survivors’ children and it is so beautiful to see the light in their eyes, the gratitude they feel that someone cares about their ancestor or their parent’s work, that someone is keeping it alive.

Observations 6-10-20

  • Jonathan Poneman, cofounder of Sub Pop, on an episode of the How I Built This podcast: “[The ’90s indie music industry] didn’t calculate with spreadsheets. They calculated with their hearts and their senses.”

Observations 6-9-20

  • Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh in his book How to Love (via Brain Pickings): “A flower is made only of non-flower elements, such as chlorophyll, sunlight, and water.… Humans are like this too. We can’t exist by ourselves alone. We can only inter-be. I am made only of non-me elements, such as the Earth, the sun, parents, and ancestors.”
  • Eating watermelon that Mom had sliced with a knife coated in garlic, making it garlicky watermelon.
  • Cornel West on one of the major news network shows, talking about the broader Black community “dishing out love warriors” in the face of injustice, how beautiful and generous — to themselves, to everyone — that is.

Observations 6-8-20

  • Mom sobbing while watching the livestreamed graduation ceremonies of Sammy’s and my former elementary and high schools.
  • Petting Casey’s cat Graham, and Graham returning the favor by coating my hand in a matte layer of fur.
  • Seeing a big shooting star in Michigan.

Observations 6-7-20

  • At the instruction of a TikTok user, reading the 13th Amendment for the first time and learning that slavery is currently, in 2020, legal — as punishment for incarcerated people. The “as punishment” clause is no comfort, and especially not when you consider that so many people are unjustly incarcerated. To say “slavery was never abolished in the United States” is not a euphemism; it’s a fact.

Observations 6-6-20

  • The metal scavenger’s truck with an owl figurine crammed into one of the pickup bed’s tie ports and a kitchen knife crammed into another.
  • Twitter user @KT_So_It_Goes reminding everybody that protest is patriotic, that working to make the country safer and fairer for everybody isn’t counter to the Constitution; it’s one of the best expressions of its ideals:
    • “[the Founding Fathers] weren’t perfect … but the fact that we get to have this conversation at all is owed to those who tried to protect the people from the oppressive systems they knew too well. … the american idea is not a fixed condition and to treat it as such is anathema to the people who incepted it. … there is nothing more patriotic than demanding redress for a systemic injustice; there is nothing less patriotic than demanding the injustice stand because that’s the way it’s always been.”

Observations 6-5-20

  • Packing Tweedy Show t-shirts with Mom, discovering that the paper packages fart when you squeeze them a certain way.
  • The word “garlicky.” Not every day you get to use a word with “licky” in it.
  • The wonderful and attainable dream of replacing much of policing with social work.

Observations 6-4-20

  • The phrase “moral cuisines” from a sample of a book called The Righteous Mind.

Observations 6-3-20

  • Watching Raising Arizona with Mom, Dad, Casey, Sammy, and Basil — a movie with a police chase in it — when a real-life police chase passed our neighborhood. We paused the movie and watched the rest of the chase on TV, scared for everyone.

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