Watching a beautiful house show by Zack Baltich and Jack Kilkelly-Schmidt.
Feeling inspired by Zack’s solo percussion compositions and the homemade instruments he played them on.
Jack’s suction cup stand thing for his classical acoustic guitar.
Drifting off to sleep—it was a long day; not a statement on Zack or Jack’s music!—and hearing musical chords as words in that weird, irrational, senses-misfiring-and-neural-connections-being-made twilight state.
The research that suggests global air travel might actually reduce the chance of pandemic for some types of diseases (DOI: 10.1101/404871).
Casting my calf in plaster in sculpture class.
My hockey player classmate, with whom I’d never really talked, kindly helping prepare the plaster for me.
Applying too little Vaseline beforehand and ripping out lots of leg hair when I removed the mold. You could see some in the final product later.
Watching another classmate get his face cast in plaster by our professor. What my mold did to my leg hair his mold did to his beard hair.
The plaster-crusted blanket kept in the studio specifically for this purpose. Face-molds require horizontality (FRH—every sculptor knows it).
The note on the public printer in the campus center that read: “Hi, I may have sensitive finance documents that could come out of the printer, but it decided to pause and not print them. If you find them, please just throw them away. Thanks.”
Noticing that a sweet but sorta obnoxious classmate keeps the Queen of England as his iPhone background, maybe unironically.
The Balinese pea and jackfruit soup our gamelan instructor made for the class.
Its smell mixing with the smells of our socks/feet.
Watching videos of massive Balinese funeral pyres and weddings while we enjoyed it together.
After the soup break, accidentally stepping over one of the instruments, which is looked down upon in Bali because it shows the soles of your feet to the instrument. I hadn’t learned about that but I was embarrassed anyway.
The distant sound of students sing-yelling “Don’t Stop Believin’” in another dorm building. Again [10-27-18].
Two CRT TVs sitting on the curb, waiting for garbage pickup next to raked leaves.
The bumper sticker for a restaurant: “Has Lil’ Fat Gretchen Fed You Lately?”
Canvassing with Casey for the Democratic Party of Outagamie County (Wisconsin).
The energetic, competent, all-women team at the field office.
The household of two ay-runs: one Aaron and one Erin.
Another voter, H, who started out friendly and kind but who got unfriendly and unkind when I asked her one too many questions (admittedly, I was off-script, but I was curious and thought I had been respectful). It felt like the warmth and humanity between us drained in the space of a second. It was jarring.
The dismal astroturf-y suburban development they sent us to. A lifestyle I don’t want to arrogantly dismiss, but which feels somehow wrong to me. They shirk the diversity of cities without even the nice architectural patchwork of older (yet still homogenous) rural towns or a guiding ideal other than property sales. Of course, cities and older rural towns are partly built by money-focused developers, too. But at least they have the decency to have been built up by many money-focused developers over a long period of time.
How the second sweetest person we talked to was a Republican. The first sweetest was a Democratic mom who warned us that the neighborhood was super Republican-y.
Suffering only one door-slam rejection.
Going to the bathroom in a nice-ish Italian restaurant and walking in on a maybe ten-year-old kid throwing pebbles from the fancy-ish sink into the trash can, and him yelling, “SHIT!” presumably because I had seen his crime.
Recording with Casey (find Case Oats on Bandcamp!).
Adding a favicon back to my website, bringing it up to 1999 standards. [Or so I thought. I wrote the code incorrectly and I didn’t fix it until 11-25-18.]
Realizing I believe in at least one slippery slope argument, the one that says it’s a bad idea to open a bag of chips that’s too big for one serving but which you’ll eat like one serving.
Eating string beans in Chinese form for dinner and Italian form for second dinner.
The 1997 Atlantic article called “Was Democracy Just a Moment?” which made some pretty bombastic claims but also prescient ones about our weird technological corporatocracy.
A claim that sounds scary out of context (and maybe still scary in context): ”Precisely because the technological future in North America will provide so much market and individual freedom, this productive anarchy will require the supervision of [by] tyrannies—or else there will be no justice for anyone.”
An optimistic conclusion: “Ultimately, as technological innovations continue to accelerate and the world’s middle classes come closer together, corporations may well become more responsible to the cohering global community and less amoral in the course of their evolution toward new political and cultural forms.” We have not seen that so far. And even if it were the case, I don’t think we’d want to rely on corporations to the extent we do, anyway.
How I stopped using “very” and “really” in my writing because my teachers taught me that they’re unnecessary. But how that always felt like a rule I wanted to break, because veries and reallies express degree, and degree is meaningful. Of course it’s important to write efficiently and intentionally. But maybe some words that seem superfluous are actually important. And maybe sometimes we ought to let ourselves off the hook of writing efficiently altogether. Repetition and redundancy can be meaningful, too.
See also Neil Genzlinger’s icky op-ed about “really” in the New York Times in 2012 and Jerry Seinfeld’s response to it.
Learning about Old Testament Bible stuff from Sammy, who’s taking a class about it in college right now:
that God favored the feminine Jacob over the masculine Esau;
that a State of Israel isn’t meant to exist until the Temple is rebuilt. So Jews and non-Jews alike who support the State of Israel as a manifestation of biblical prophecy are kind of jumping the gun (there are sects of Orthodox Jews who burn Israeli flags for this reason).
Philosopher Graham Harman’s cool Wikipedia portrait photo.
Wondering what must lurk behind the thousands (millions?) of those removable office ceiling panels.
My friend put a beating electronic metronome behind one once and it was a harrowing mission to find it and get it down.
The tiny leaf floating in a spider web in the corner of my dorm room.
The cartoon face a previous resident drew on an electrical box in the kitchen.
The house in the neighborhood with what looks like a Beetlejuice figurine in the window.
Going to the local family-owned deli to buy a styrofoam meat tray (unused) for a sculpture project.
How the women’s bathroom on the second floor of the campus center has a door and the men’s does not.
The weather being perfect for a new volume of the Dylan Bootleg series.
Walking through a stranger’s burp cloud.
Feeling benign togetherness (i.e. not necessarily patriotism) as a country waiting to wake up and vote.
Imagining a universal basic income but for social media followers instead of money.
This question about moral psychology: Imagine that your parent has asked you to deliver matzah ball soup to your grandpa, who’s sick. You didn’t have to spend much time thinking about the request, because you love helping others and, beyond that, you know it’s the right thing to do (i.e. it satisfies your first principle). But you’re also a little bit pained, because it’s a hassle to put on pants go out to the deli. So you think of a silver lining that could make it feel easier to carry out the act of service to which you’re already (mostly happily) committed: you can pick up a bagel for yourself. Now you want to deliver the soup not only out of your care for your grandpa and recognition of your moral duty, but also, technically, because there’s something in it for yourself. You would deliver the soup even if there were no bagel, and your care for your grandpa and sense of duty remain the objects of our decision to act (at least as far as you can see into yourself), so I think we can feel comfortable knowing that the bagel doesn’t “poison” or diminish the morality of the soup (and we could defend that on Kantian, utilitarian, and other accounts). But I’m wondering about this: Is our interest in the bagel really what I think it is—a mental trick we use to make it easier to fulfill our moral duty—or is it just plain old self-interest? Can we do things for ourselves that are actually motivated by duty or care for others, or is that a delusional way to explain away our simply wanting the bagel? Those questions might only matter if there’s doubt about the permissibility of the bagel in the first place. But I still think it’s interesting to figure out whether it’s possible to give ourselves self-interested reasons (carrots, or bagels, on a stick) to do morally dutiful things and if it’s preferable to do so.
There’s this other, related problem where I feel guilty for delivering the soup in cases where it’s an excessive sacrifice of myself. I imagine my parents (who, in this hypothetical, weren’t the ones who asked me to deliver the soup) getting mad at me (with love) for not taking care of myself and for accepting a task I shouldn’t have accepted. So I add the bagel as a way of watering down the altruism of the soup. Does that make sense? Is it a disgusting humblebrag? Should I save it for my therapist?
The newest BBC Bowie documentary, The Last Five Years, which is cheesily produced but worth it for the footage.
Attending my last college percussion ensemble (Afrocuban drumming) class. :(
Remembering that when you’re (I’m) worried that you might have accidentally offended someone, it’s tempting to comfort yourself by thinking of the ways in which your behavior was justified (e.g. “they couldn’t accuse me of offending them, because this was an okay thing to say”), but it’s probably much healthier to think of the reasons why they likely weren’t offended in the first place. The former response unnecessarily pits you against this person (whom you care about!), imagining an argument where you would “prove” that they shouldn’t feel offended. It also gives in to your anxiety since it takes its premise, that they feel offended, for granted. The latter response actually addresses your worry, since it leads you to rationally consider the likelihood that they feel offended. And if there’s still reasonable doubt it (and if it’s appropriate to do so), you can just ask.
I think the former response above is one example of how caring, a nice thing, can accidentally become combativeness, a not-nice thing. We wouldn’t feel anxious if we didn’t care about this other person. But we let our care make us defensive.
I also think this is what goes on with white people who respond to white guilt with racism, but I don’t have the education or the TED Talk stage to write about that now.
The Green River Project sculpture/furniture design Instagram and gallery (via Phoebe), the latter of which is in a brownstone’s basement and has stones for its floor.
The prevalence of those winter-glove bike handlebar things in New York.
That argumentative move where people doing reprehensible things argue that they’re in the right because they’re honest about the reprehensibleness of the things they’re doing. Or at least that they’re better than other people who do other reprehensible things but who aren’t honest about it.
A short apartment visit and Jeopardy-watching session with Gabe, Abbey, and Sarah.
The storefront that was pitch-black except for a fluorescent light right over a bird cage (with birds).
The super sweet people (staff and otherwise) at the Murmrr Theatre.
The commemorative plaque on the reinforcement columns in the basement, which were put there before circus elephants appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956.
Going full Uniqlo Canadian tuxedo.
Hopefully redeeming myself from the tantrum I threw ~17 years ago (age ~5) because Wilco was on David Letterman and I was too young to stay for the taping.
The NYPD cop ordering our one lonely fan outside the stage door (after Hugh Jackman’s gaggle had dispersed) to wait for us on the other side of the street, motioning about her to me as if to say, This crazy lady! And us, walking over to the other side of the street to meet her.
Watching our segment of the show at a bar in Brooklyn, where they don’t normally turn the TV on, but where they did—with volume—because our friend Sam called ahead. :)
Touring Sear Sound (!) with Tom and Sammy. Meeting Roberta.
Drinking that sweet, sweet LaGuardia airport water.
On the plane, the Yeti Coolers short ad-doc featuring Townes Van Zandt’s son JT Van Zandt.
Wondering if there’s a better word than “independent” to describe musicians and small businesses, because, as super smart feminist philosophers have pointed out, language of interdependence is more accurate and helpful than language of independence.
How an excessive focus on merit can be a coping mechanism for imposter syndrome. If you’ve achieved some of your goals and you see someone who’s struggling to achieve theirs (and you feel guilty for the inequity), it can be tempting to explain it in terms of effort: my life is this way because I worked really hard, and theirs is this way because they’re making poor decisions. But we all know that that meritocracy story is often bullshit. What’s interesting to me is that you don’t have to be an asshole libertarian Silicon Valleyite to impulsively believe in it; you can just be a caring person who wants the world to be fair, and who is trying to find a way to understand its unfairness.
Watching a bandsaw blade cut through plaster.
A nonwhite classmate making a shocking, racist comment about black people.
How, when I was little, I slept with my head facing the bedroom door because I wanted to watch and make sure no intruders came in. At some point, I got more afraid of what could lurk in the corner between the bed and the wall so I faced my head that way and now my neck seems permanently fixed in that direction. (I turn left when I play drums, too.)
The ridiculously huge bathroom in the basement floor of the school wellness center, and me, wondering whether it was the result of lazy architecture or some weird design need I don’t know about (enough space for a stretcher?).
In the waiting room of the counseling wing, the sound of the water feature in the “mind spa” room next door.
Overhearing a tech services employee: “I am so done with fonts.”
Our annual, ritual friends’ trip to Pizza Ranch.
How somewhere along the way in college I stopped writing to the “sound” of the sentences in my head and started writing to the “sound” of the philosophy books and papers I was trying to emulate. It had generally good results in school but I think it will be good to get back to a less stilted, more flowy kind of writing, while hopefully retaining the rigor and logic and other skills I picked up there.
A Writing note to self: Don’t read back what you’ve written until the end of the sitting; just keep going. Reading back can be a form of procrastination. You tell yourself it’s necessary for getting a bird’s-eye view of the piece, but really it’s a way of avoiding the hard mental work of finding the next step.
Goodbye tea/coffee with my academic advisor, who is awesome and with whom I loved working.
Packing up my dorm room.
Saying goodbye to friends!
Deleting the “School” folder alias shortcut on my laptop desktop.
Hearing a loud fart on the library quiet study floor.
The students who set up a fireplace video on the classroom projector to study beneath it.
Wondering how the government deals with the length of embargoed text giving information to readers. [e.g. after the 12-7-18 Michael Cohen document came out, someone on Twitter figured out that one redacted box would fit you-know-whose name perfectly.]
The smoldering pile of compost in a lot along the river.
Seeing the price change on a gas station’s LED sign.
The highway worker picking up a dead owl. :(
How soldiers repurpose/improvise with their officially issued tools and clothes in the field. That has always been interesting to me… how creativity infects a seemingly rigid and DoD-managed world.
Waiting for another album from Michael Cera.
The new White Album mixes by Giles Martin.
Approaching them with some cynicism but being pleasantly surprised. They sound cool. I’m glad they’re presented as an addition and not a replacement for the originals. My biggest complaint is I miss a little hiss.
Noticing the skronk guitar on “Dear Prudence” for the first time.
However annoying “Ob-La-Di” is, it’s an amazing aural painting.
Talking with Sammy about why the imagery/history/thought of WWII is so appealing for lots of present-day young people. We think it’s because the war had cut-and-dried sides of good and bad (apart from all our nuanced judgments of the US’s engagement) while we can hardly even figure out who (or what corporations) are to blame for the injustices we try to fight against today. For young people who are eager to do work on the world and help out, the prospect of a mortal battle against a known, openly destructive (as opposed to secretly destructive) force is a really romantic one. Plus the uniforms were normcore.
The company that gives a three-word name to every ten-meter square of land on the planet, What3words.
The vacuum-sealed boiled corn for sale on the counter at 7-Eleven.
Mom handing a cardboard box to me via grabby claw extender thing.
Letting the spider who has been in our bathtub for weeks stay there. Being amazed at the prolific, hefty poopwork he did beneath the web.
[On 12-10-18, getting this text from Mom: “I’m so sad. The cleaning people just left. They hadn’t been here in a couple of months. And I ran into the bathroom after they left and the spider and his mess are gone. I feel sad and guilty.”]
Everyone in the neighborhood outside, tending to the snow.
The shadow of snow piled up behind the frosted bathroom window.
The trash cans frozen shut.
My canvas Blundstones losing badly to the snow.
Endlessly, desperately trying to unsubscribe from Groupon newsletters.
Wondering what Dick Van Dyke is up to?
Calling in a broken street light to Chicago’s 311, getting a text back that included a TinyURL link. They also sign some texts “- Mayor Emanuel.”
The Aeon article about epistocracy, “The right to vote should be restricted to those with knowledge.” Being surprised that it was less elitist than it sounds but still uncomfortable with its, um, elitism.
Craig Mod’s essay about “giv[ing] edges to something that fundamentally doesn’t have an edge, that doesn’t have a container around it,” why it’s worthwhile to do that, how you can do that (e.g. with a book).
Thinking about an early video of Kraftwerk performing in 1970 and how they were doing that at the same time that, for example, Neil Young was releasing After the Gold Rush. It reminds me that there has always been a lot of disparate kinds of music going on and that it’s okay if what you’re working on doesn’t fit in to the “core” of culture. I think that a lot of musicians, especially rock musicians, are worried about guitars going away or rock going so far out of fashion that it’s only in the academy (the way some people think jazz has gone). But I don’t think you have to settle for relegation to the academy if history shows that new styles add but do not replace.
Apple might deserve to be the biggest company in the world for this alone: they ask you to wait for service at tables instead of standing in line.
Wandering around the Design Within Reach store while I waited for my iPhone battery replacement.
The super friendliness of the employees there. They give you a bottle of water when you walk in as if to say, “You’re gonna need this.”
Overall, being blown away by the furniture but also being annoyed by the messy craftsmanship on the underside of a few multi-hundred-dollar chairs.
Attending the community meeting on Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards development, which threatens the Hideout and all of independent Chicago music by partnering with Live Nation to build two to five new venues.
The Sterling Bay executives’ excessive reiteration that they live in the same neighborhood, take their kids to the same parks, and sit in “the same traffic” as all of us.
Their barely concealed disdain for us, which would come out in snickers or bad faith answers some of the time. There was something so disgusting about it. We (as independent venue advocates) have humor too (I swear!) and we can come to the table with maturity and respect for Sterling Bay’s interests. (Katie Tuten, co-owner of the Hideout, said outright, “I do believe—I hope—you have the best interests of the city [at heart].”) But they seemed completely disinterested in approaching the meeting that way. They can be frustrated or annoyed by our perspective; those meetings are full of angst and poor communication and I would be exasperated by them, too. But it seems like they view the meetings as a bone they throw, rather than as a totally reasonable, justified part of the process of building a neighborhood from scratch. It wasn’t an earnest, “Let’s figure out how to do this together and make it better” thing (in tone at least; they incorporate some community ideas like graduated/shorter buildings, but some say they planned to do that all along, anyway). They were flippant.
Their insistence that they would hand over the “public open green space” to the Chicago Park District and even set up a trust for its maintenance, but their glossing over the fact that they set the price too high for the Park District. They told us that we can’t have the things we want (like publicly owned park land) because no one can pay for it, but no one—on Sterling Bay’s side or ours—ever spoke about a lower price. Of course, they have a bottom line and it’d be unreasonable to demand that they just give their property away. But if they’re as interested in turning over the park land as they say they are, they might be more willing to budge on the margins. It’s hard to say for sure without seeing the terms of the proposal, which, characteristically, we haven’t seen.
The managing principal’s recognition that it’s hard to build an “authentic neighborhood” all at once.
How building a better rapport could be as simple, in some cases, as avoiding uses of jargon. Few things alienate people more than trade-specific buzzwords and that the executives couldn’t foresee that seems to show they have empathy-deficient tunnel-vision.
Katie and Tim (of the Hideout)’s admirable speeches about slowing down the development’s tax package approval until after Rahm Emanuel, whose brother is a Live Nation board member, is succeeded as mayor in February.
I will say it takes vision to look at a land site like the completely barren, industrial area it is now and imagine a whole new neighborhood rather than the more modest goal of building a single new building. I think there should be a (social) space for big, ambitious projects like that, but they should be heavily constrained by local government—more than just by zoning laws and a city council vote, i.e., government should prescribe a process whereby super-developers are required to consider other stakeholders and maybe where limits are put on the concentration of equity in the project.
Beyond the threat to the Hideout, a bigger picture where Live Nation and a few other companies own most tours, festivals, and venues—and where booking agents, venue owners, and artists lose control of their livelihoods. It’s scary but I’m hoping for a future (better antitrust laws? actual enforcement of antitrust laws?) where we figure it out.
The construction worker swinging a Toughbook laptop around by the handle.
Another construction worker marking the ground with a spray paint can holder with these artful flicks of the wrist.
The bunny tracks in the snow in our yard.
Three different major publications tweeting “epic” in headlines.
Thinking for a sec about how weird it is that garbage collection is a part of our social arrangement. It makes sense that we would need a public service to move waste around. But garbage collection is more than that: it’s tax-funded, on-demand (or on-schedule) DESTRUCTION of objects. Yeah, we need that for banana peels, but also for old art projects? For shitty furniture we don’t want? I don’t know how we’d tell the difference between reasonable waste and unreasonable waste to put into the system—and we probably shouldn’t—but it’s (mildly) surprising that the system exists at all.
Also, insofar as destroying objects is a public institution, why couldn’t we also have a public institution for offering up stuff we don’t need anymore to other people? Why’s that left up to the private sector (e.g. Craigslist)?
How one silver lining of winter is that you can leave leftovers in your car and they’ll be refrigerated.
Keeping my wallet in a front pocket instead of a back pocket and feeling a new lease on life.