Observations: Best of December
Mini Jesus in a grotto, red Texas fields, a Single Petal of a Rose.
The furry green moss encasing the trees along I-5 in Castle Rock, Washington.
The innards of the video lottery machines at Bear Paw Pub in Portland, Oregon, exposed by the bartender emptying them of their cash and receipts.
The roosters crowing through the night in Phoenix, Arizona.
The nativity scene someone had tucked into a grotto near a hiking trail.
Accidentally flinging a drum stick into the front row during the first song at our first Liam Kazar show opening for New Pornographers.
The small gray dog who issued out a few dribbles of pee on my backpack before I had time to shoo him away, as his older owner sat nearby, oblivious.
How the phrase “I’ve thought about this a lot” often precedes a statement that could use, still, a lot more thought.
The alien-themed murals and sculptures all around Roswell country.
The snacks Aunt Debbie packed for our journey onward from Phoenix.
The red clay-looking fields and oil refinery flare stacks in West Texas.
The restaurant server with a blue star tattooed on her forehead.
The Xerox bug that replaced numbers in photocopies for years before being detected and patched. I file this under “something to remember when evaluating explanations for some unexpected result.” The super unlikely explanation isn’t always wrong!
The public bank and officer liability ideas put forward by Chicago mayoral candidate Jamal Green.
Material scientist Mark Miodownik in Scope of Work: “There’s a fundamental problem with self-repairing materials, which is that most of the incumbent industries don’t want them. They don’t want them for a very simple reason: they’re making a lot of money at the moment with things that fall apart. They are really worried about self-repair, and roads are no different — there are a lot of roads and that’s big money.”
The dour LA punks who live in modern, bright-white-walled apartments.
My cousin Charles reciting various countries’ national anthems on piano while I accompanied him on miniature drums.
The kitschy sports bar in Gallup, New Mexico from which we watched the World Cup semifinal.
The thermal photo of a beer perfectly chilled to 36.2°F, submitted in a bar review by a Google user.
“[World Trade Center architect Minoru] Yamasaki had originally thought the $280 million budget for the project was a typo with an extra zero.” — Construction Physics
Instagram user @loomamusic’s oscilloscope visualizations of harmony and dissonance.
Mirror Sound spotted on the shelves in the background of Tiny Desk Concerts! (Thanks for the tip, Molly! Thanks for the placement, Bob!)
My aunt Kendall’s new children’s book company, Read and Write Books.
Art by Ann-Marie Greenberg.
The rural gas station bathroom with filing cabinets in it.
The bats squeaking beneath the famous bat bridge in Austin, Texas, heard but not seen.
The beautiful 1969 Fannie Davis Gazebo along the river, also in Austin, Texas.
Robin Sloan: “I want to insist on an amateur internet; a garage internet; a public library internet; a kitchen table internet.”
Robin’s experimental art form Amulet, “a kind of poem that depends on language, code, and luck.” A rare cryptography-related project that has soul and earnest art exploration behind it.
The scribe marks on the ceiling around the concrete column in our converted-warehouse hotel room.
The Blisters’ TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY performance, at 24 Hour Comedy and Music Marathon.
Ai Weiwei in Sixtysix: “Fortunately as an artist I can use a language that is vague and abstract.”
Dad in Pitchfork: “There’s no way to overestimate the benefit that universal healthcare would have for everybody … This is an obscene stress to put on peoples’ lives … It’s a totally dysfunctional way of living.”
Annie Rauwerda, AKA Depths of Wikipedia: “I’m all about cutting open the bean.”
Lighting Casey’s mom Karen’s homemade menorah.
Darryl McDaniel’s (DMC’s) inspiring, energetic NPR interview about his recent children’s book, growing up, and therapy.
Its soundtrack: The Art World of Won Jang-Hyon.
Charlie Engman’s intensely emotional AI-assisted visual work. (Thanks, Phoebe.)
Duke Ellington’s “Single Petal of a Rose.”
Driving to stow away my drums at 3AM or so after my last show of the year. The fog on the streets, the radio tower blinking.
Thanks so much for reading. There are a lot of links in this issue… If you, like me, feel a completionist urge to click them all in order to leave no digital stone unturned (what if I miss an article/piece/song that totally changes my life?!), and you’re stressed by that urge, perhaps I can help by saying: just pick a few (if any) that intrigue you. The other pages might find you in time, and if they don’t, you’ll find other stuff. Eh? Of course, with a surplus of time, you can always blow up your browser tabs, click-em-all.
You can find the daily Observations posts here. I hope you’ve had a pleasant week. Thank you again!
You make me notice more. ✨
“How the phrase “I’ve thought about this a lot” often precedes a statement that could use, still, a lot more thought.” 😄 Also, Aunt Debbie - so close to Little Debbie, who supplies all the road snacks for *my* family