Observations 2020-08-01

  • Swimming.

Observations 2020-08-02

  • Learning that my grandpa Zaid volunteered to be a Red Cross Disaster Coordinator when he was younger. To help, yes, but also so he could have a permit to drive with a red spotlight on his car. The man has always loved an official car accoutrement.

Observations 2020-08-03

  • WindowSwap, a website where you can see the livestreamed view out of a stranger’s window somewhere else in the world. I watched for a few minutes and looked out of windows in Hawaii, Ukraine, Japan, and Germany.
  • Wondering how many complete copies of The Simpsons exists on fans’ hard drives around the world.

Observations 2020-08-04

  • Heterophonious Fool, an album of devastating Casio synthesizer music by Jack Briece from 1984 (via Aquarium Drunkard).

Observations 2020-08-05

  • The car engines on stands in the windows of an auto repair shop, as if they were hearts on trays in a hospital’s windows.
  • The New Yorker story about a rural telecom co-op that built gigabit internet access for every single resident and business in town.
    • Keith Gabbard, CEO of Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative: “Someone has to build to the last mile. The big telecom companies aren’t going to do it, because it’s not economical and they have shareholders to answer to. We’re a co-op. We’re owned by our members. We answer to each other.”
  • Attending a Zoom training session for get-out-the-vote phonebanking led by a sweet and exuberant volunteer, with a Wisconsin accent, eager to gush about his professional phonebanking headset.

Observations 2020-08-06

  • Reading Who Cares?, a book about care ethics by Joan C. Tronto.

Observations 2020-08-07

  • The beautiful wooden nesting boxes Mom bought at the thrift store, made by Shakers.
  • The cash logistics employee showing up for the night shift with her big white dog.
  • Zadie Smith in Intimations: “The single mother with the single child finds the role of child and adult passing fluidly around their small, shared space, with more ease and fluctuation than either party had ever thought possible.”

Observations 2020-08-08

  • Phonebanking to get out the vote in Wisconsin, my college home.
    • The older Wisconsinites with smoker’s voices, absolutely fed up with Tr*mp, grateful to have someone on the phone to whom they can vent.
  • The dogs with glowstick necklaces being walked at night.

Observations 2020-08-09

  • The idea of firefighters playing with fire during their off in the station… the idea being that they’re firefighters because they love fire, the way music lovers work at record stores.
  • An Eagles song I like: “Try and Love Again.” Hard to deny those drum sounds!

Observations 2020-08-10

  • Looking out the window, wondering when the derecho would hit (and whether we would lose power), when the wind seemed to go from 0 to 100 MPH and the power went off immediately.
  • Gathering in the basement to read and hang out by flashlight-light, feeling grateful for the forced momentary pause… and scared it might be a while until the power comes back on.
  • The neighbors coming out of their homes, some with chainsaws, to survey the damage and chop up downed trees.
  • The most effervescent blue little bug curled up, dead, on my window sill.
  • Spending some of my precious battery life watching Steve-O Top 10 Worst Stunt Injuries video on Instagram.
  • Mom hysterically laughing at TikToks. Dad hysterically laughing at Ben Shapiro’s WAP explanation.
  • Eating most of our ice cream before it could melt.
  • How the homes across the street never lost power — not making me jealous of them, but making it harder to cope with our wait for ComEd’s rescue.
  • The darkness indoors making the night sky seem bright.

Observations 2020-08-11

  • The beautiful (if not overly hip) design of Judy emergency kits.
  • The pleasant surprise of eating a humidity-soaked Oreo.
  • Chomsky on Biden in The Ink.
  • Moving all the food from our inert fridge to the alive fridge at the Loft, a load that turned out to be 75% cheese and 25% kimchi.

Observations 2020-08-12

  • The older woman walking down the road holding a single pink rose.
  • Mom’s bonkers Barbie cake from Dinkel’s Bakery.
  • Watching meteors [again].

Observations 2020-08-13

  • The wooden stick on the ground with a pink mitten taped to the end of it.
  • How the coffee creamer/agitator thingy has its own personal stand.
  • Walter Isaacson absolutely roasting Verrocchio’s painting technique on his way to venerating da Vinci’s (Verrochio’s pupil) in his da Vinci biography.

Observations 2020-08-14

  • The crow tampoline-bouncing on a partly downed tree branch.
  • The huge golden trophy in my neighbor’s trash [another neighbor].
  • Listening to Low’s I Could Live In Hope in the car, being enveloped by it (via Sammy).

Observations 2020-08-15

  • The sorta nasty overly tomato-y premade cheladas Modelo makes.

Observations 2020-08-16

  • Biking around the extended neighborhood, looking for an affordable studio space to buy or rent.
  • Stopping in a 7Eleven parking lot where a group of teens in a car teased their friend twirling a sign for Little Caesar’s: “Twirl that sign!” (Any time teens yell something out of a car I feel like I’m in the 1950s.)
  • Dad’s iPhone photo shoot with a frog he found, Cecil.

Observations 2020-08-17

  • How helpful it is to have names for police’s brutal tactics. Like “kettling”: when police surround protesters so they can’t run for safety, and then beat them, often while announcing they’re required to leave the area at the same time. Politicians are calling protesters traitors and police are calling themselves victims, yet we consistently see that police are the main instigators of violence at protests. And names help us get that message across.
  • The idea of solidarity over disparity. “A society where making black and white people equal means making them equally subordinate to a (mainly white […]) ruling class is not a more just society, just a differently unjust one.”
  • 9, 19, 1939” by Robinson Jeffers.
  • The bowl of water in the sink with a thin layer of grease on top, divided up into little cells that each cast a shadow on the bottom of the bowl.

Observations 2020-08-18

  • Tim Kreider’s new essay, “I’ll Always Remember”:
    • “You probably already know, intuitively, that you alter a memory each time you retrieve it, which is why your stories slowly morph over time until you’re no longer sure whether you remember the original moment, or only the story. […] My neuroscientist neighbor’s personal policy, in light of these findings, is to try never to remember the things that are most important to her, lest she alter them by recall, so that she’ll be able to take them out of cold storage in her old age in mint condition.”
    • That’s why I’ve always tried not to listen to the albums that mean the most to me. The ones from my childhood, like Summerteeth. I’ve loosened up on that in recent years with the idea that it’s more important to enjoy that music while I can than it is to preserve some misty feeling of those records as I heard them as a toddler, a feeling which is bound to evolve anyway. And there are new pleasures (and pains!) to be had from listening to those records as an adult and noticing new things.

Observations 2020-08-19

  • Opening the morning covers to unleash a whole night’s worth of vegan soup farts.
  • Obama’s DNC speech.

Observations 2020-08-20

  • My friend’s new kittens, Junebug and Sluggo, climbing up a screen door, freaking out at the top when they saw how high they had gone.

Observations 2020-08-21

  • The unbelievably badass version of “Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy” from Howlin’ Wolf’s New Album.
  • Delving into random video chat Omegle with Casey, through which we
    • met a super sweet person in Mexico City;
    • convinced two pre-teen girls to take their brother’s Confederate flag off the wall (“Will he be mad?” we asked. “He’ll get over it,” they responded);
    • befriended a group of four thirteen-year-olds partying at Lake Tahoe, who all follow Casey on TikTok now.

Observations 2020-08-22

  • Beginning to record Casey’s album!

Observations 2020-08-23

  • 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.

Observations 2020-08-24

  • 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 2020-08-25

  • 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 2020-08-26

  • 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 2020-08-27

  • 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 2020-08-28

  • 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 2020-08-29

  • 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 2020-08-30

  • 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 2020-08-31

  • Recording more Casey songs!