The view of a sunset over Lake Michigan seen through trees.

Hi Observers,

Just in the nick of time, here’s the September edition of OBSERVATIONS. (October edition will arrive not long after this one!)

There’s a lot going on in Wilco/Tweedyworld this fall.

My dad has an album and a book coming out: Love Is The King and How to Write One Song!

And I have a photo book about musicians who self-record, called Mirror Sound, coming out on October 20!

I can’t say we planned to release all these things before the election because we were afraid of the election, because all these releases were planned long-ish ago. But I’m glad we get to push these projects out the door before then, because who knows how our priorities will need to change in November?

I’ve been preparing to show up and be there in the streets, more than what little I’ve done in the past six months. The risks of gathering in public are huge right now, and I don’t want to put myself or others in danger. I think of and talk to my parents in all this decision-making, because it’s more reliable to see my safety through their eyes than through my twenty-something-foolishly-invincible eyes. Luckily we’re on the same team, and they always see the value in showing up to speak out. They show up too.

But I’m balancing those risks with the awareness that our safety is in even greater danger if we don’t show up now. I know you don’t need to hear it from me — we’re all already singing in the same choir — but people who claim to love liberty, like Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, are calling for armed forces to hurt or kill their political enemies. And they’re celebrating citizen vigilantes who take it upon themselves to do it for them. So the immediate risks and long-term risks are all tangled up with each other. If we don’t show up, we’re safer from their repression (with batons and guns). If we don’t show up, they’re also more able to repress (with laws and courts and batons and guns).

It’s scary, but I’m reminding myself that showing up works. It doesn’t guarantee us safety from that longer-term, deeper repression but it seems to makes safety more likely. How much harder is it for them to force people into unmarked vans when there are many thousands of us in the streets instead of just a couple hundred? And how much harder is it for them to convince the rest of indifferent America that it’s OK to kidnap their neighbors when we’re visible and proud to be different from their exclusionary vision of who an American should be? I think it’s much harder.

Yes, police have planes and Stingray sensors that record who shows up — to say nothing of their weapons. And they’ve labeled liberation groups as “domestic terrorists” to justify whatever outsize legal action they take against us. But again here: How much harder is it for them to use those advantages when we’re all out in solidarity? I don’t want to rely on longtime organizers or fearless kids to carry those risks alone. And the risks are lesser for them and me when they’re distributed among all of us.

So I’m voting, and then for any scenario other than Tr*mp’s concession in November, I’m showing up with people who are unarmed, not dressed like soldiers, not wanting to hurt anyone but only wanting to make the country safer. And keeping an eye to my safety, my family’s safety, and our broader safety in a pandemic. I hope that once we’ve protected ourselves from destructive minority rule, we can get back to the constructive things we hoped to do four years ago. Like making sure everyone can see a doctor when they need to.

In the meantime, please stay safe and well. And thank you for tolerating my micro-soapbox here!!!! If you’re still around please enjoy this month’s Observations.

Extreme hug,


  • The older woman walking down the road holding a single pink rose.
  • The huge golden trophy in my neighbor’s trash.
  • The under-construction car wash lit up at night, with its brand-new wiggly wipers still in plastic.

  • The crow tampoline-bouncing on a partly downed tree branch.
  • Dad’s iPhone photo shoot with a frog he found, Cecil.
  • The wooden stick on the ground with a pink mitten taped to the end of it.

Cecil, the frog my dad found.

  • The bucket drummer on the street running excitedly to show his bucket-drumming partner on the other corner the large bill someone gave him.
  • The National Guardsmen peering out of their Humvees in convoy on the highway, looking bored and young.
  • Walter Isaacson absolutely roasting Verrocchio’s painting technique on his way to venerating da Vinci’s (Verrochio’s pupil) in his biography of da Vinci.

  • Trying out Casey’s new TENS electrotherapy machine with her, which has two sets of electrodes, so: Casey and me sitting next to each other on the couch, tethered by little cables, muscles twitching with each electrical pulse.
  • 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.
  • Reading my neighborhood’s local newspaper via PDF.

A Derecho

  • 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.

Stranger Danger

  • 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.


  • The unbelievably badass version of “Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy” from Howlin’ Wolf’s New Album.
  • The Durutti Column! I first heard “Belgian Friends” in high school on the Late Night Tales MGMT compilation. It popped into my head every once in a while since then but I never knew what it was or if it was ever real. So hearing it again was a weird, satisfying relief.

These were my favorites from August. For the rest of the daily posts, see here.

Thank you again!!!