Dreams and Fantasies

Creating little magic (RW63)

There is a day in spring when everyone puts on as little as they can and you are wondering "Where were all these beautiful people hiding?". On days like that, when people are wearing flowered dresses, musical situations can happen. Back in the 90:s John was walking down the streets and a gal he knew very well, a theatrical person (albeit not a thesbian), was coming the other way. She put her finger to his lips, said "close your eyes" and put her headphones (from her Walkman) on him and there was a mixtape playing and the understanding was he would keep his eyes closed. For the next several hours (!) they were going around the city, she was guiding him and he lost his geographic sense completely. The mixtape played over and over and he did not think to open his eyes even once, he never felt unsafe or that she was leading him astray. By the time he eventually did open his eyes (in a situation that was like sitting with your first girlfriend in a tiny closet until the closet becomes your whole universe), they looked at each other and she walked away. What do you do about that?

Dan admires that this kind of stuff happens to John consistently throughout his life. John explains that you have to invite it by being ready to do magic for other people. Like one day he was walking down Broadway and on the opposite side of the street there was a gal he knew, and they were mid-block so in order to meet there had to be some agreement about who does what and just as they came next to each other and were about to say "What do we do next?", one of those double busses drove by on his side of the street and as the bus goes between them, she naturally assumed they would resume their conversation afterwards. But as the bus came, John started to sprint and from her perspective he was just gone and then he went on with his day. She just stood there for a while waiting for the punch line, but he never returned. The whole town would feel like their club house. Don't break the spell by commenting on it! Those were the days when you wouldn't say "I'll call you" (which you would never do anyways), but you might never be seeing each other again or you would get married. This is how magic works!

Another example is John changing people's burned-out light bulbs without making any reference and people would wonder why that light bulb was working again, which John finds hilarious. People were even wondering if there were Gnomes! This little magic is unlike replacing somebody's tooth paste with Preparation H and not like "Hey honey, I made your favorite soup!" When you live with somebody else, you expect that it was the other one who changed the light bulb and there is no magic.

John has big paint buckets of rocks that he was pulling out of the soil when he was first beginning to garden. John's neighbor had a situation where rain would create a pothole in front of his house and he was bumping into his driveway. John would every once in a while dump a bucket of rocks into this pothole. They looked like the other rocks, but there is no reason why those rocks would appear in his pothole. John has no idea what his neighbor thinks, it doesn't serve him anything, they never talk about it, maybe the neighbor doesn't even note it, he just knows for sure the city didn't do it. John is not even doing it as a favor either, but to keep the mystery going that there are Gnomes in our neighborhood that keep fixing his neighbors driveway. John will never say anything, even if he would ask him directly. How much better is it to feel that either the earth is regenerating or that there are Gnomes?

John's childhood notion of wanting to be an ambassador (BW205)

During his USO tour in January of 2015, John also played a show at the US Embassy in Niger. Operating on a child’s notion of what the Foreign Service actually is, part of John really wanted to be an ambassador. The ambassador to Niger was around his age and as they went through the routines John realized that this was just an office job in a place where it is hard to get Hershey bars. John does not want an office job and he worked his whole life to now have an office job. The fact that the title is Deputy Ambassador to Niger doesn’t change the fact that it is a) an office job and b) hard to get Hershey bars. After that realization, the bloom is a little bit off the rose for him. It was an eye opener for John that he had been a fanboy for something. His fanboy knowledge had never really found an expression and he had never had a chance to just be that fan, particularly since he is a liberal in a very liberal culture and being a fan of the military is not one of the fan options.

In response to the Paris bombings, the people in the streets of Niamey, Niger, where John had been a week and a half earlier were rioting in the streets, burning Christian churches, protesting in front of the French embassy and burning things in effigy. John had just been playing in the US embassy across the street! Now there was a coup happening in Yemen, there were bombings in Mali and all of the military bases he had just visited were in play in these events. A month prior, he would have seen those stories in the newspaper and filed them right on top of this stack of things to read later. This is heavy stuff, particularly because this has traditionally been an area of interest to John. What are our responsibilities as civilian Americans? We don’t have jingoistic ideas about the American purpose and place in the world, but we have a realistic idea of what America is and what she can do. We want America to do a good job and we want the world to be a nice and safe place. You can’t be an isolationist, but you can’t be a neocon either.

John's imaginary Torture Chamber (RL180, RL189, RL281)

John wants to sequester Dick Cheney in a shipping container buried in the desert, give him small doses of LSD, and play Prisencolinensinainciusol on repeat for him until he goes mad! His room will be pretty plain and there will be a sink for him to drink water that has a little bit of LSD in it. Although he is in a shipping container buried in the desert, there will be fake windows with some Trump-loyal palm trees outside and when he opens up the shades he will see a diorama that looks like the outside at first, but little by little things will change slightly, like ”Was the dessert always that color?” Outside the window the sun will come up and go down in the desert. (RL180)

John will do a supercut of all the TV footage of Cheney giving a press conference with accompanying stuff about what is going on around him, made like the montages you see in a Vietnam film that have the song This is the end, my friend in the background, but the soundtrack will be done by Right Said Fred. They will broadcasting this loop and little bits will get slightly modified over the years so it will not quite be how he remembers it. There will be one-frame-dick-shots cut in and they will videotape Cheney all the time. (RL180)

They will start to tilt the floor just a millimeter at the time, like one of these optical illusion things where it doesn’t look tilted, but something is up there. There will be just enough LSD in the water that Cheney can’t quite be sure if he is imagining it or not. After 2 years the floor will have dropped by 2,5mm (0.01 inches) in one corner. Why is the floor moving? Is this the same water-glass I take my pills with every day? Who moved it? They will move his glass just a little bit in the middle of the night and put tiny thumb prints onto it. If they pour a little bit of water on his crotch he will start thinking he is wetting the bed. There will be a little bit more water in the toilet every day. They will keep putting slightly smaller shoes in the room that won’t fit him anymore. John got so far in this thought experiment as to imagine how they would drip the precise amount of LSD into the water. (RL180)

Right next to him in the shipping container will be Lawrence Eagleburger and Condy Rice. The problem is that John wants to get this done before Dick Cheney dies of a heart attack and he doesn’t want him to die of a heart attack on his watch either. By now, Cheney's heart is just mostly made of aluminum, so John might have several decades left. (RL180)

Limp Bizkit with their grossly misogynistic, genre-bending garbage-person music is the biggest crime against humanity. They were a seven-string guitar Grunge band with the worst human ever produced by the collision of a sperm and an egg. There is a room for this person in John's Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfled underground dessert isolation concentration dungeon and LSD test facility. It won't say that on the sign, it would say "Biological Research Area". But there is a room for Fred Durst there. It might be right next to Dick Cheney and they might have lunch together, which would be a form of torture to both of them. Fred Durst made John very angry from the first day he arrived on the scene, any success he has makes John angry, every failure that he himself considers a success makes John angry. (RL189)

He would put him in a room with a sink and a metal prison bed and over the course of many many months he would gradually put trace amounts of LSD into his water, and he would gradually move the walls of his room so it was no longer square, but without a reference point. The bed would gradually stop being square, a little bit narrower at one end and a little bit wider at the other, but that would be true of the room, too. The bed would also inexplicably rise about an inch over the course of a month and his shoes would get bigger, so he will think he is getting shorter. Then the dimensions of his room will change together with all the other things. The lines will still look parallel, meaning he could look down the line of the bed and it would be parallel with the wall, but the bed will seem like a rhombus. John would do that to him, he would watch the CCTV videos of him trying to navigate this new space, slightly tripping on LSD, but not quite enough to identify what was going on. John would do that for hours, he would cackle and eat microwave popcorn and see this as a form of pleasure torture. (RL189)

Ultimately, when John had exhausted the pleasure of driving Fred Durst insane, he would throw him in a poo pit and set it on fire. That's how John feels about him. He would quit his job, or get a job just to be able to quit it, and make his job torturing Fred Durst, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. John compares it to all the hagiography that's happening for Scalia now. We all hated him while he was alive and we still kind of hate him, but he was a smart guy. He was a monster who turned back the clock and ruined not just the judiciary, but America, but he was still a very articulate, smug, clean old man and John never wanted him in his torture dungeon. Lawrence Eagleburger will have a room there, even though he was just following orders. Maybe he could be a trustee who does the laundry and the sweeping-up, or he could take the twins out of their cold bath. (RL189)

Dick Cheney won't have any working clocks in John's underground testing facility. The LSD in his water is going to be microdosing him and because he probably never had LSD before he will wonder what is going. At first he will feel pretty good and he will be able to think with clarity, because LSD gives you good feeling, but as the concentration increases and he will be tripping more and more, his only baseline will be that he was feeling pretty good for the last couple of months, but all of a sudden his fingernails can taste colors. Would he know where he is, why he is there and how he got there? John is not going to start with Dick Cheney, but with Laurence Eagleburger, one of the architects of the neoconservative political movement. (RL281)

The US Army has been building facilities in shipping containers around the world for a long time. The barracks at the naval base in Djibouti in Africa are all climate controlled shipping containers stacked on top of another. There are some with 8 beds in them, some with 4 beds and some are the general’s pad (John visited Africa on his USO tour, see Shows and Events). The Army sells them for surplus and you can buy them pre-made. John would need to figure out a way to have the walls never be 100% square and have them change over time. It sounds like the materiel is available. (RL281)

Cheney will go to sleep in the expansive palatial guest quarters of some Texas donors, an extremely large ranch-style compound where he is staying as an honored guest, and he will then wake up in a very small apartment with only simulated windows and won't know that he is in a shipping container underground. John wants there to be some kind of on-boarding process and Cheney will think he is in a cabin on a classic cruise liner at first. The window will be round, he will be able to see water and waves and the apartment will rock slightly. Every once in a while he will hear some bells and a horn. After 10 days or 10 months, the sun will start to go up on down irregularly and he is not going to remembers his circadian rhythm anymore. He will wake up one day and will not be on a boat anymore. Maybe he will be in a train for a while? (RL281)

This is all long-form stuff because what we want from Dick Cheney is different than what we want from a suspected Al-Qaeda hire-up. You don’t want him to reveal the next attack on the United States, but you want something subtler. The television inside the facility is mostly going to show a very tailored version of the news that will feature a lot of the man himself. He is going to watch an overview of his own career as has been told to 60 minutes, or a big documentary about Dick Cheney’s boat trip around the world that he barely remembers. Every once in a while, the TV is going to go onto a Closed Circuit (CCTV) channel where he will see Rumsfeld and Eagleburger. But John doesn’t want to give it all away! (RL281)

John driving a bus in Ireland in his dreams (RL243)

Every time John is about to go to sleep he conjures up a dream landscape full of high adventure. What drifts him off to sleep is that he is part of a secret mission, doing a HALO jump into some kind of jungle where they are about to take on some drug criminals. He puts on some adventure scenario and that is how he heads off to sleep.

As John went to bed the other night, he was flipping through his Rolodex of heist stories and halo jumps, and was spontaneously driving a municipal bus in Western Ireland, on the left side of the street, making his stops, people are going on and off, for all night. There were some curvy roads down the hill, but he maneuvered his bus quite well without any snafus. As he woke up early he had the opportunity to go back and get a little bonus sleep. He immediately started to drive his bus in Ireland again and just couldn't be happier than driving his bus. It was like you would think: A little overcast, the ocean is over there, little stone villages facing the water, you pull up to the stops, a lady with a handkerchief carrying two bags of groceries, she pays her fare, she goes back, he closes the door and went on. It was really wonderful! People recognized he was a new bus driver and it was a novelty that he was American. Some people started chatting with him, he felt he would get to know them over time. So that's his new thing, maybe the beginning of a new chapter: Dreaming about driving the bus. Driving a bus sounds like something realistic, in contrast to going on heists which he probably will never do. It is a pastoral, calm setting and it represents a job where you have to be in places at times, which sounds like the ultimate grind, but it is not, because it is some kind of comfortable regularity, not just a grind.

Harvesting energy (RL248)

Merlin and John banter for a while about how you perceive older kids when you have a young kid. Shouldn't those 10-years old being out building trails? There are parents asking their 4-year olds for decisions that they should be taking, especially taking into consideration what will happen when those kids are older and want an even bigger share of the decision making process.

Merlin and John talk about Minecraft and the huge amount of mind energy, time and creative focus it has attracted of such a large number of kids. In the past, those kids would build things with LEGO, but without coordinated efforts. There wasn't any central repository, but they were building LEGO under a bushel basket. Now we have all that collected energy but we are not making a thing of it because those Minecraft buildings are not real. We are thinking in terms of being headed into virtual reality and we are gradually transferring our energy into a space where un-physical things become real. How do you seperate generating BitCoins from running a windmill that is making bread? John doesn't know if we are all moving in there, or if this was a cul-de-sac.

The first collective thing we did was the widely distributed SETI work. All the nerds around the country combined their 128K IBM PCs to use their distributed power to do the back-breaking labor of looking through all this data. The next thing was file sharing. All the typing we do at our computers: When we push a button down, we are not only producing a letter on our magic screen, but we are also generating heat that is dissipating. We could be harnessing that tiny energy if we had little generators attached to the keys of our keyboards. We think of power generation through friction as something that we do on a large scale on a hydroelectric dam where tons of water are running through those giant generators, but if every computer in the country had tiny little generators under every key and they were all linked together in such a way that we were generating megawatts of electricity just from the action of pushing down these buttons, we would be thinking we do one kind of work which is making words, but we are also actually generating electricity as if we were running on a treadmill in a similar way to the regenerative breaking concept. If we then figure out a way to capture the mind energy of all those kids out there making Minecraft Eiffel towers, we could put it into a storage device, a kind of existential hard drive. John is playing Threes all day now, but what if moving all those numbers around would at the same time also be calculating something? There is a Philips Hue switch that is powered by the energy of pushing it while it is being used. When your computer is sitting on your lap and it makes your crotch hot, then your crotch is also making your computer hot. Why are we not wearing cameo codpieces that are collecting this heat?

John's mind was blown when Merlin sent him the Logitech K-760, a keyboard that is solar powered. At one time we will have solar-collecting all-over-body-suits that are collecting all the friction every time we hug somebody. They are also going to protect against swords and sharp objects, because we are going back to flip phones and medievel times. The suits will also be animal characters because we are going to be moving into a furry world of creative anachronism. We are moving into the animated world of Disney's Robin Hood and we will all be animals living in medievel times. (that Maid Marian was a fox - literally!) We are going to be poly and that spooky action in a distance is going to cool our codpieces.

Spooky action at a distance (RL248)

Just over the course of the 20th century we have discovered so many things that we didn't even know existed. Presuming that we are at peak understanding is not scientific, but is the hubris of the present moment. History does not stop with us! The future is unknowable and you can only see yourself in history as part of a continuum. Merlin finds himself to be scientifically woke. Still, he does a fair amount of magical thinking, he doesn't chose to believe in omens, good signs, bad signs and such, yet he does. He has lucky things, lucky signs and jinxes. "Spooky action at a distance", as Einstein called it is a thing that we might not even know how to discover, but that doesn't mean that there isn't some young genius at her garret figuring things out.

In the history of stuff, usually somebody gets a reckon on how the world might work, then you have to give it a name and it becomes an idea you can share with other people. Maybe at some point you find evidence whether it is an actual thing or not. Maybe eventually you discover why it happened. Maybe we get the ability to measure it. Merlin is not sure what stage he is at with some of his reckons about the world. They continue to banter about married electrons and all kinds of biological, chemical and physical effects. We are entrenched in gravity, but we don't know what it is yet. We understand that gravity is one of the major forces, but it is the weakest force, it acts at the greatest distance and we don't know if it is underneath everything, if it is the static, or if it is the governing hand? Maybe spooky action at a distance is just some shit that is bouncing off some layers of gravity that we can't know at this juncture and popping up somewhere else and is just a ricochet that's the simplest thing in the world, tansmitted in that gravity pipeline that is all around us all the time. Someday someone will have a better theory of gravity and we will all be "Right! It was that all along!" It is a thought technology! How would we even know if we are living i the thumbnail of a giant? What if our whole universe is an atom in the fingertip of a giant being? What if you have a whole universe living in your fingernail?

Becoming a bush pilot and having a plan to make $1 million (RL244)

When John hears stories about his friends who created the Alaskan lifestyle for themselves, a part of him feels like he has done a poor job because he is not a bush pilot while his pals are flying up there to get a burger in Talkeetna. It sounds like a very muscular lifestyle to Merlin, but it doesn't feel like that to them, because the plane is just a necessary tool, it is just like driving a car. This is utterly foreign to Merlin. So much danger! Leaving the house that often and putting in so much effort all day! John had absolutely had the possibility to become a bush pilot, if he had wanted to. He stood at the crossroads, looked at the road bending off into the woods and found it just as fair. It was either becoming a bush pilot, or he could ride freight trains, which felt more interesting, because being a bush pilot felt somewhat mundane, just as going to medical school did. Having ridden freight trains for a couple of years, he went where the day took him and ended up where he is. He never had a plan.

The "day" is a very significant unit of time for John. For example yesterday his plan for today was to do the podcast with Merlin and that was the reason to get up in the morning. After that, his notion of the rest of the day is very vague. Should he get dressed? He will figure that out when he gets there! Tomorrow he will maybe play the guitar, which sounds like a great idea. A lot of people had a lot more of a plan in life than John had and most of them are also executing the plan and not only ruminating on the plan, which is the difference between them and for example Merlin. If the plan doesn't work, they will immediately have a new plan. Woody Allen once said "If you want to make God laugh, show him your plans". John is one of the more plan-less and people often ask him questions presuming he had a plan. If John followed the day where it took him and by the end of the day something suggested him that he should move to Ankara, Turkey and if it made sense for him and had it's own logic, he would make preparations to move to Ankara. It would not conflict with a plan he had. The only reason he has not moved to Turkey yet is because at the end of every day it never made sense. If he gets asked what he wants, his answer is "The best or most sensible options of those presented". Merlin distinguishes between a plan and hope. A plan requires you to take action, while hope is more being passive.

There are companies who are about to make a product, but they realize that the thing they were making in order to make the product was their actual product and in order to be that flexible you have to have a rough plan instead of a strict plan and that flexibility would describe John's approach. The question is if you put your plan in place to dispel fear, or is your plan something you put in place to have artificial limitations and keep focused, or to limit the amount of chaos that can intrude? There is a difference: There are a lot of plans out there that exist just to shore up the number of different paralyzing anxieties. "I've got a plan and therefore I cannot know all the things that are going to happen, but I know that I'm not going to get derailed this way because I have a plan to account for." John being planless means that he is derailed by literally everything. He gets to the door of his own room, reaches for the doorknob, takes another look at the doorknob and goes like "Huh, never in all those years have I noticed that about this doorknob" and the next thought is "I should get a tool and start working on this doorknob". Eisenhower once said: "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything" What a great quote! That is what's missing for John. He does not have plans, and that makes him feel like he is at liberty. Merlin says it is more complicated, because John doesn't even know what the destination is that he should plan for.

John's mom is very plan-oriented and around 2010 she said "Here is a plan for you: Why don't you just decide to make a million dollars? You have made money in bursts before in ways that suggests that you would be able to make a million dollars if you set your mind to it, because you throw some stuff off and then some money comes and then you live on it for a while and when it runs out you think "Oh shit, I guess I should do something else and then money comes in for a while again" What if you decided that your #1 plan was just to make 1 million dollars? That's it! Then you would have 1 million dollars! Then you could do whatever the hell you wanted, but you had this million dollars." This is an example of a plan that does not restrict John very much. It is actually not a plan, but a goal. The goal would then necessitate a lot of plans. His mom tried to say that John has all those projects and the only reason he would complete any of those projects is to have the satisfaction of having completed a project, but he gets equally satisfied by staring at a doorknob all day and it doesn't seem to be more gratifying to him to complete a record album than cleaning the nozzles of his dishwasher out with two tooth picks. If completing a large scale project doesn't scratch an itch for John, then he will never get any of those larger things done. What if the overarching goal would not be to finish this project, but to see it as one step in this larger very simple sounding project "Make a million dollars"? When he was 16, his goal was "be famous". Since that time he never had another tall flag, just a forest of small flags. In his moms mind, if you had 1 million dollars and didn't tell anyone, you could live off the interest. If you get 5% a year, you would get $50.000 a year free money, albeit that came from a time when the interest rate was at 14%. A lot of people nowadays who are not even close to a million dollars don't consider a million dollars as wealthy. You can't even buy a house in Seattle for less than $600.000.

Why do billionaires not wear capes? (RW16)

Until the beginning of 2015, Paul Allen was the only billionaire that John knew personally. They have had many chats and John has been at his house multiple times. Paul introduced him to Dan Rather, whom John loved. When John thought of a billionaire, he thought of Paul Allen and about the choices he has made. If John were in his place, he wouldn't have bought the Seahawks, he wouldn't have bought the Portland Trail Blazers, and he wouldn't have developed property around Seattle the way Paul Allen has done. The city of Mercer Island denied Paul Allen's application to build a helipad at his house, so he bought a yacht, cut the top off and put a helipad on it. If he wants to land his helicopter at his house, he has someone drive the yacht into the lake and dock it at his house. You can tell which house is his, not because it is bigger than the other houses in the neighborhood, but because it has this crazy flat yacht parked out front. John knows Bill Gates' dad, Bill Gates Sr because he was a good friend to John's uncle Cal, John has met him multiple times, and meeting him was like meeting a statue of Andrew Jackson: he never replied anything to John, because he was just an old man.

At the end of 2015 John met a handful of new billionaires, when he was down in San Francisco. Those were all guys in their 40:s, running around in their J.Crew clothes and attending to their computer business. They are billionaires, but do not live on a decommissioned aircraft carrier parked at the coast of Los Angeles, and they do not fly in an airplane that is custom designed for them. Nobody is taking advantage of all those opportunities. The richer they get, the more Normcore they are. Dan can't explain it either, maybe they feel bad for the amount they have, maybe they want to hide in a way. One of Dan's friends who made a lot of money from a website said that as soon as it becomes known, a lot of people come out of the woodwork, want to pitch you things and steal your time.

Years ago, in the early days of The Long Winters, they were playing a show at New Year's Eve. The band went out and started rocking and as John came on stage with a giant velvet cape that he had purchased at Merlin's favorite Walgreens, big sunglasses and a lot of energy, it did not lift the roof off the place like it should have done. The Seattle audience was more like "What?" and John took the cape off, whipped it around and played a great rock show. At the end of the show, an established successful professional Rock'n'Roll guitar player came up to John and told him that when he came out with that cape, that was the coolest thing that has happened in Seattle for 2,5 years, but nobody knew what to do with it. John had been waiting for so long until somebody finally told him he was cool! You can't bring that level of cool to Seattle. If John had been in Berlin, the place would have gone bananas! But here, everybody looked at their shoes and didn't understand why their underwear was wet all of a sudden.

John is not normally wearing a cape or eyeliner, so this was not his scene, but it was New Year's Eve, so why are you not wearing a cape? Elon Musk, for example, is doing interesting things, but he is not wearing a cape. He should totally do that! If Dan had true wealth and financial independence where you don't ever have to work again, not even your children or maybe even your grand children, you no longer need anything from anyone. That's when you put on a cape and start wearing it around. If someone has a problem with it? They don't have to interview you! An Alex Clockwork Orange style codpiece and a cape: you could go to every party in the country, you could go to the White House! Nobody does that! Wealth and money is wasted on these people! Think what Elvis wore in his meeting with Nixon, he was stoned out of his mind on pills, wearing a rhinestone jumpsuit with a collar up around his ears and Nixon didn't even bat an eye.

Homesteading and gold mining (RW71)

Homesteading is the fantasy of the American story where there is land and you just have to run out and get it, put your stake in the ground and say "This is my land now". Somebody will come along, write it in a book and all you have to do is live there and work the land. A certain type of person responds to this idea even today. It is very hard to make a living from gold mining if you are just a single operator, out there with your gold pan working some claim in a river. When you add up the work and the pain in the neck, it pencils out to be about like what it would be when you just had a job. The apeal of going up and pulling gold money straight out of the mud is so strong that for some people, it is really a calling. Part of the excitement of course is that maybe you hit a big nugget.

The land is free! The gold is free! We just have to get it! In Alaska, at least when John was a kid, there was a lot of land that you could just stake off, but the state of Alaska had requirements: You could not just stake off a claim and go back to Anchorage and say that you own this land. You had to improve the land and live on the land. If you did that for a certain number of years, the ownership would revert to you. If you didn't do it, the land would revert back to the state.

John's desire to have things to his scale and the movie Bugsy Malone (RL252)

John always wanted things in the world to be built to his own scale. When he was in 7th grade, other kids were starting to get interested in one another sexually. His friend Kevin and his girlfriend would stuff leaves down the front of their sweater and have to help one another to get the leaves out, touching each other. John was not thinking of that, but he was asking why he can't have a 1968 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow that was scaled small to him. Not a pedal car, not some Bugsy Malone garbage. John loved every song on that record and he loved that movie. The ending with the pie fight is so weird, it broke John's heart and scard him, because it was clear that those people are dying! They are being shot by whipped cream pies! This movie deeply affected him to this day and had an impact on his Jodie Foster feelings! It was the summer of 1976 and it was the first time John saw a movie multiple times in the theater, back when you could send a kid to the movies for two bits. John would sit in the movie theater and daydream. He had an 1,5 mile walk to school, rain or shine in Anchorage, Alaska. It was colder than a witch's tit and other kids were walking home thinking of what would be their next strategy to touch a boob and John was thinking how he could get a scale battery powered Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and why does he not have one already? He would imagine arriving in school in such a vehicle and park it and be admired rather than reviled. John was already as uncool as you could be, but he would step out and put on his top hat and walk to Biology class. He wanted to be fancy! That is how slowly his brain developed! In the conventional wisdom, this was the nicest car you could get and it cost $100.000. It is the car you would get if you were John Lennon and you would paint it with a bunch of psychadelia. The only problem with Bugsy Malone was that they didn't have the time to teach the kids how to sing, so every time a kid opens his mouth to sing, it is actually Paul Williams's voice, which is the thing that makes that movie not-a-classic. Otherwise it would be in the pantheon.

Imagining his own TV show (RL153)

John has been reflecting on the most recent period of his life a lot. As you portion your life into eras, the wisdom of retrospect makes you realize that the time that seemed to go by in a blink actually consisted of two distinct periods. A lot of the projects that John has pursued over the course of his whole adult life, in particular over the last handful of years, did not come to fruition.

He was thinking about a television show where he would drive to little depressed cities across America and tried to identify their arc from the time they were founded through the time that they were prosperous, a little bit like Cosmos, but hyper-local. John was super-excited about it because this sounds like a job that he was born for! Whenever he had a few hours to kill while he was on tour with Harvey Danger, he would go and find the civil war graveyard that is in every one of these towns. That location would have been the outskirts in 1870. In a lot of cases, it is in today's decaying inner ring. You know that everything built outside of it was built after 1870. Those graveyards are different in every place: The Yankee graveyards are very different than the Southern ones. John has learned a lot by seeking this little depression in the ground and it would have been a television show that John really wanted to make and got excited about. The first thing needed would have been to buy a GMC RV in order to drive through the whole country.

When John talked to people in television about his show concept, their first question was "What is the hook?" and the hook was simply that it was a good idea. People asked why he won't write a book about "The American Town" instead, but his television show would have been that book. Then people would say "What if you were Anthony Kiedis? What if you went to that town and found that artisanal mustard factory that the moustache kids had built in the old abandoned hotel?" That sounds like a different show, and would be not quite in his wheelhouse, but it would be a fun exploratory thing. Unfortunately, a lot of these towns don't have an artisanal mustard factory, but just artisanal crank getting manufactured, as if the town hasn't found it's footing yet. The consensus was often as his good friends Christine Connor once said: "People who don't watch TV have great ideas for a television show all the time, while people who do watch TV don't want the people who don't watch TV make television for them." The program John wanted to make was exactly the thing that would get him to watch TV, but that is not the type of program that the executives approve. There was no sex tape component, no hair-pulling fight, he never added bacon-seasoned cream cheese to it, it is not celebrity based, it is not emotional based, it does not make you feel more competent, while there are many non-fiction TV-shows that make you feel like you are a chef, even if you are mostly someone who watches TV.

PBS used to fund shows like that, but doesn't do it as much anymore. All other channels that at first seemed like little PBS:es, like the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic Channel, and the Smithsonian Channel, devolved and are just about cute tiger babies now. John spent a lot of time imagining and imagineering that television show, he would think who the market was, what it would cost to produce those episodes and if he could self-fund or Internet-fund them. What if they were only 15 minutes long? What if he sold them to museums? He could make a case to the National Museums Association that he could go around the country and make all those cool videos about different places. In the end, none of those things got made. He can't think of it as a failure or lost time, because he really worked on it and it didn't come to fruition, but he thinks about the last 5 years of his life as this period where he was doing that a lot: Thinking what he was going to do?

When you make stuff as a creative person, part of your job is thinking of what you will do next, but you don't get points for that. John could have quickly written a breezy book about the life and death of the American cities, could have gotten it into the book pipeline, and could have done Fresh Air and a morning talk show circuit about it. That's what David Rees effectively did with his book about artisanal pencil sharpening. He was exploring his own personal world and converted that into a television show. He figured out a way to make it non-obvious and has a very interesting approach to thinking about life, experience and expertise that you might be taking for granted. It is not a show about sharpening pencils, but it is secretly a show about curiosity and science without being educational: It does not feel like you are taking your medicine.

There are people who make a lot of sense asking John with a knowing eye: "Who is going to watch your show?" and the answer is either "Nobody!" or "Not enough people to sell enough ads to make it profitable". John's reply to those people is "You have this special knowledge of who watches things and you say that you would love the show, but nobody else is going to watch it. If only people were not as dumb, we could make a better world, but since they are, we can only give them exactly what they want to buy. Those of us who know that things could be better are hamstrung by the fact that we can't make things better. This is the dark side of letting the market economy be the church of your thinking. We could make amazing things and we could make beautiful television, but sadly no one would buy it, so there is no point in making it. We are going to go back to Toddlers and Tiaras". You see the same thing in city government, except that people are not quite as craven. We can build affordable housing for middle-class families, but people in government go "We could and I want that too, but my job is to sit here and tell you that the realities don't allow it. Sorry that we couldn't make a better world. Ultimately that is an argument of the market."

There are examples of thing that got made despite the fact that everybody thought nobody wanted it, and all of a sudden everybody wanted it. People say that doesn't happen very often or that the guy was self-funded. Every once in a while, there is a revolution and The Strokes come along, they sound just like Iggy and the Stooges and nobody knew they wanted that right then. Nobody in the year 2000 said they wanted a young, cute, less abrasive Iggy and the Stooges that sounds like The Velvet Underground. Still, over the course of a year everybody wanted to listen to the first Strokes record. John was himself in the process of making a record during those same months, but it never occurred to him that he should make a record that sounded the same as Joy Division. You can't replicate the circumstances and the timing. It was never a sure bett that anything was ever going to happen, ever, really! If anything was inevitable, then everybody would have done it! The music business is full of people trying to put the formula to work. John won't succumb to the idea that the lay intellectual can't ever engage with the world in any other way than just writing opinion pieces for the local newspaper.

This story shows us how little we really understand about the industries that we are not in. Who is a show about the cities of America for? Who would watch that and who would advertise on that? You want young people to watch it, but you also want Ford to buy an ad on it. You start to feel like such a dumbass because you fundamentally do not understand this industry. Finally: Why do you imagine those 10:s of thousands of people working in the TV industry don't have their own TV-shows? They understand how to make TV! Do you really think you are so much better at making a movie than somebody who is like an Assistant Director?

Science Fiction healthcare and robot personality simulators (RW79)

One of the most pernicious concepts that Science Fiction (SciFi) has brought to the world is the idea that biomechanical, gene-manipulating technologies will be able cure us. They talk about sex robots, interstellar travel, living on a space station with a greenhouse that produces milkshakes and they create visions of technology about hovercrafts and segways, but what got into John's heart at some point between Steve Austin the bionic man and the scene in Return of the Jedi where Luke has lost his hand, was the fact that there are a lot of injuries that will be repairable in the future. This has been a running theme throughout SciFi ever since. Some of the X-Men have powers that are a disability at the same time, but they can either wear gloves or channel it or use a miracle wheel chair. Whatever the problem is, there is a technological solution to it.

Before Luke (Skywalker) got his special hand, he was in a suspension tank with bubbling yellow liquid. What John has been thinking of (see also Anchorman) is a MRI- or CAT-scanner that scans a person from top to bottom and puts a little check-mark next to every single bit of injury, decay, virus and tape-worm. Then it has a technology to repair those things, not just surgically, but actually ridding the body of free radicals and restore the tissues at the genetic level. John has a bad knee that has plagued him since he was 22 and he has never run for more than about 3 blocks since then. He got his teeth knocked out when he was 20. John did a lot of damage to himself in the early years when he smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 15 years. He also did a lot of drugs and alcohol. Even today he still doesn't eat well or excercise. This future scanner would be able to erase all these problems in a Star Trek kind of way. It would give you the appearance of being at least 15 years younger and you could probably extend your life considerably if you use it regularly. At some point though, you are just going to want a replacement body with your consciousness in it, but until that is ready, the scanner would be an intermediate step that John would accept without complaining. Maybe those miracle CAT-scans aren't that far away?

From its very dawn, SciFi it gave us this tantalizing look at something that won't happen in our lifetime or ever, but as soon as it is in your head you can't escape the idea of wanting to be one of the Mars colonists even though you are not going to be one. Many people lived their entire lives thinking that we will be in the future by 2020. If they have died recently, they have at least come close enough to realize that we won't be in the future by then.

In 2007 John went to an audiologist for an ear-test and while his hearing was generally pretty good, there was a big divot right where the cymbals are. John was bummed, because he was going to live forever, but now there was a notch in his hearing and he can't hear people mumbling anymore. John has friends who's hearing is really damaged by Rock 'n' Roll and who have to listen to high-pitched whistling when they lay in bed at night. John is grateful that he does not have that kind of tinitus and can lay in bed without being tortured. The audiologist said that having John’s kind of hearing damage is bad, but we are going to have the technology to re-abilitate those missing ear-hairs ”in a couple of years”. He told John not to go out and buy stock in anything, but this world of problems would be all going away pretty soon because they were doing some serious research on this. In 2017 John hadn't heard that this technology would have come around. There are however things that have found their cure and that we don't think about anymore, even as miraculous as the cocktail of drugs that keeps AIDS at bay. For 20 years AIDS seemed like it was going to wipe us all out, but now John has several friends who are living long and happy summer days managing their HIV. The happy story is that there is going to be a tub of pink goo that they will dip John in before it will be too late. We won't be the generation that dies just before it happens, because we are the generation of Elon Musk and whoever that creep is that gets blood transfusions (Peter Thiel).

Dan feels that the answer might instead be to transfer your consciousness into a robot body, or, like in this Black Mirror episode, uploaded it into a virtual world where you continue to live. To you it is 100% real, but it doesn't take place in a physical reality and you could potentially continue to live forever in a world of your own making. It is very easy for John to believe that there will come a time when his consciousness could be approximated. It could then be convinced that it is a contiguous consciousness, but it is very hard to belive that his actual consciousness can be ported into something. John absolutely believes that at some point there will be a Dan Benjamin living in a virtual state inhabiting an imaginary world that will be very real to that Dan Benjamin. That Dan Benjamin will think it is the Dan Benjamin. It remembers what the current Dan Benjamin remembers. Will the current Dan Benjamin go to sleep and wake up there or will the current Dan Benjamin die and that thing wakes up? In the latter case there would be another consciousness or an approximation of that consciousness that would then go on living and you would have no way of knowing that it wasn't exactly the same person you are talking to now. It would itself think it were Dan Benjamin, but the actual Dan Benjamin would be dead.

Every time somebody talks about uploading someone’s consciousness into a computer, it is not the actual consciousness, but a duplicate that will be uploaded. For the rest of the world, it still appears as the same person, though. A similar situation happens with a clone: The clone has all the latest thoughts and memories and will wake up and take over if something happens to the original. John, however doesn't care about a separate being that lives on after him and thinks it is John! Screw that future consciousness! Why does it got to hang around? If that is a possibility, why wasn't he himself the imaginary future consciousness? Eventually though, we will have enough technology to make it unnecessary to upload our brains into some kind of computer in order to have a John Roderick 100 years from now. All we will need is enough record of him as he lived. With all these podcasts we probably have more than enough to get close enough to an approximation. Even against John’s will, 50 or 100 years after he has passed on someone who wants to hang out with John Roderick or talk to him could just take all these podcasts he has done and all the videos and concerts, anything he has written, all the pictures of him spread across the world, compile them together and create a close enough approximation. We could have our own John Roderick, even if he himself didn't want that to happen.

We could make a personality construct of anybody who has done enough writing or left enough information on social media. It would be good enough that even those who knew the person could be fooled. There was probably a Black Mirror episode about this, too. If someone wants a John Roderick song in the year 2090, they can just boot up the John Roderick simulator and 5 new songs would come out of it. John is not sure if you want those songs, because that simulator will not be as good a songwriter. It will merely be alright.

Who are we? What is us? Nobody even really knows what time it is and nobody even cares! John can't imagine why there isn't time enough to cry! It is just unconscious knowledge. (Lyrics by Chicago: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?)

Going into a cave and turning into a superhero (RL7)

John is wondering whether he went down the wrong road in life and what he should be doing is driving across America in a Winnebago like the guy in Shazam, but instead of using the power of Isis to solve crimes he should be robbing diamond couriers, but only goyish ones, which is a niche market. You leave the Jews alone and by doing so you earn their respect. You only knock over the German diamond couriers.

If Merlin was going to be a German sex tourist (see RL7), he would want to have a Flag of Convenience, like Liberia, to not be taxed, which is not homophobic to say. He could put a red handkerchief in his back left pocket. Both South Africans and German sex tourists are walking around with diamonds. The South Africans have a shit-ton of diamonds down there.

John would be driving around in a Winnebago, super-unassuming, parking in a Walmart parking lot every night, and he would be part of the community of superheroes in Winnebagos who occasionally go into a cave to turn into a cartoon and get wisdom, and who park in a Walmart parking lot every night.

When Billy Barty (who is 3'5", 114 cm tall) goes into a cave he might turn into a cartoon and talk to Neptune, but if John would turn into a cartoon for 15 minutes every day, he would seek wisdom from Otto von Bismarck. It is a shame people don’t remember him! Wouldn’t it be great if you could turn into a cartoon and ask Otto von Bismarck anything?

There might be a cartoon version of Hunter S. Thompson in that cave, which sounds scary, but he is not going to fucking talk to you because you are a cocksucking piece of shit. While he says that, he will literally throw a piece of dynamite at you, maybe an M-80, and he will have a crossbow that shoots dynamite like in The Dukes of Hazzard (see here).

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