OM312 - Cottagecore

This week, Ken and John talk about:

Quarantine (OM312)

John and Ken are recording this episode in the depth of a Pandemic that got them all confined and quarantined to their homes. When this show aires after the election there will be a different feeling about where they are. As members of the ivory tower Liberal elite of the Northwest they think of the quarantine differently than people who are attending the Republican National Convention.

Ken has a lot of privilege in his pandemic surroundings: He is not alone, nor is he cooped up with a bunch of people he doesn’t like. He has 3 family members, all of whom he loves living with, but not in the same room. There are plenty of places for everybody to get away from each other, and they have windows. A couple of months ago Ken had his house painted and all their windows were covered for two days and Ken started to understand why people trapped in apartments were losing their mind.

Both Ken and John's families are taking the pandemic seriously and are still quarantined. They meet in this bunker to record their show and they are quarantined together.

John inviting Ken to a campfire at John’s private beach, performative restaurants (OM312)

The other day John invited Ken's family out to a campfire dinner on their little community beach where they had to show ID to get in and they had to pretend to be John’s friends. They lit a fire in a little campfire circle and they roasted Wieners. Ken’s kids were very opposed to the terminology and were unified in not wanting to attend a Weenie-roast. They don’t say Franks, they don’t say Weenies or Wieners, but they say hot dogs. The word Weenie-roast sounds very much like cup scouts in the 1950s to Ken. John’s family did use that word, but they also said hot dogs. When Ken was in elementary school Weiner almost exclusively meant penis.

They had a bunch of garbage food together around the campfire while the sun sank into the Puget Sound and it was lovely. There was a wholesomeness to it. They were not spraying each other with Mountain Dew, but they were using conventional ingredients, making S’mores out of Hershey’s Chocolate, and they had Fritos and Watermelon. It could have been almost the same menu in 1940.

Neither of them felt beholden or encumbered by whole food, natural food, or raw food movements. Back in the old days when they went to fancy restaurants they could be forgiven for checking the menu to see if it was all natural beef. As middle-class people they are indoctrinated in the culture of natural, expensive and artisanal foods, but something about being around a campfire made you just not care as much. You don't want fancy sausages that taste like Apple and Jalapeño if you are roasting them on a little sharpened stick because you are going to end up tasting and smelling like campfire anyway.

They didn’t make S’mores with salted chocolate that had 70% cacao. Imagine a time when deserts did not have salt sprinkled on them! That is so weird! John doesn’t want salt on his deserts. Ken thinks of that as restaurant culture, but it has not bled over into his daily life that much. Although: He never had fennel as a kid and now he will eat fennel in a salad at home and doesn’t think: ”Ladida, a fennel!”, meaning food culture has changed him a little bit.

The fashion and the style in restaurants in Seattle is that it is a special event. The waiter will explain your food and the explanation wasn’t just: ”This is a hen cooked in butter!”, but: "This was a hen named Elizabeth that was cooked in butter that she lived next to!"

There is one Seattle restaurant that Ken never went back to because it had nothing but a communal table and Ken doesn’t want to eat next to a stranger. They would serve the food, but if you immediately started eating you looked like a godless kid that is digging in before the nun says the prayer in the movie. You had to wait for the chef to come out and tell you all about the source for the fiddlehead ferns that you were about to eat and what farm the persimmons came from. Ken didn’t care about any of it because it was very performative!

John’s sister is pretty much vegetarian, but she will eat a chicken if she knows its name. She is a fake vegetarians who thinks that eating a chicken that was raised wearing a bow in its chicken hair and that has had dreams and stood on top of a hill and looked out over the horizon, thinking: ”One day I will set to sail!” is somehow more okay to eat. They are all conscious of the fact that industrial production of animals with all the antibiotics that go into that makes the food questionable. Many of the hormones in food actually affect the growth and development of children and are connected to accelerated puberty.

John’s daughter reading Little House on the Prairie (OM312)

John’s daughter just read Little House on the Prairie (by Laura Ingalls Wilder) and immediately took an interest in little chintz dresses. She is very into dressing like someone on the prairie and acting out wagon train scenes, all in contrast to her otherwise 100% Star Wars based play space. When Ken arrived today to record the podcast she was wearing something Gingham-y and he asked her: ”Who is this American Girl doll?” - ”I am not an American Girl doll!” and she kicked him in the chin and hit him with a light saber. She plays outside at the picknick table and every once in a while she cracks a little switch and goes: ”Hiaaaaa! Giddy upp!” and she is talking to some potted plants.

Ken is not sure why American girls of any era take so easily to pioneer fiction. Maybe because of the success of the foundational texts, the Laura Ingalls Wilder books? Or is there something inherent about the plains that speaks to them? John thinks that the appeal of pastoralism is an appeal to simplicity and authenticity. He and his daughter read Where the Red Fern Grows (by Wilson Rawls) where going to town is something where you put your little bare feet to the trail and walk all day, sleep outside, and you get to town the next day.

Drone warfare, industrialization, mechanization of labor (OM312)

John talks about the robotization of war quite a bit. It began with drones and now increasingly everything is becoming drone war. Ken was watching Failsafe, the Henry Fonda one about nuclear fears, and in that movie they are afraid that the machines are acting too fast for sensible humans to impose any kind of morality or even common sense on the decisions and the pilots are grumbling that one day there will be planes that pilots don’t even fly, which seemed crazy talk in 1964 when that movie came out and it still seemed crazy talk in 2004. Now we can kill people with impunity and the decision-making process is also starting to be automated. If you don’t have people at risk, then what keeps you from being in a state of total war all the time?

The argument in favor is undeniable that we don’t put our pilots at risk anymore and we are going to have a much higher survivability. The same is true in industrialization: In reality it is about the capitalists wanting to pad the bottom line, but the idea is that there are fewer unpleasant tasks. Their audience are people who work from dawn to dusk to scrape a living off the land and the initial appeal was that when you work in a factory they will pay you actual money. You won’t get weekends off until the labor movement, but at the end of the day you can go home and the more mechanized the job the less sweaty your labor is. You buy things with money instead of make things with your hands and you can move to the city. The advantages were apparent and only later did people feel the estrangement.

Social media as a place to be (OM312)

Zoomers have been raised entirely in a social media environment. John was shocked and offended by SnapChat because the premise was that there was no archive. The same was true in the early days of 4Chan: You would put effort into a thing, but you wouldn’t have any record of it. For those who grew up with photo albums and journals the idea that you would take pictures and have them disappear is the ultimate negation of any artisanal craftsmanship.

For John as member of Generation X it was astonishing that the point was not that you were making anything, but it was just a place to be. Zoomers don’t have a place to be otherwise and they can just be there where there is nothing to haunt them. You can’t take it and put it in their faces later.


John doesn’t want to build his own village and fill it with peasants (like Marie Antoinette did in Versailles), but he will just dress up his cats and make them act out little plays for him. Ken’s children are now too old for him to put them in a little village.

Ken read a memoir from a Canadian animation studio that was using North Korean animation labor and he hated his job because they were terrible at it and he had to reject 85% of their product, but it didn’t matter because they were getting paid less than 1/5th of what a North American animator would be paid and it ended up penciling out.

Ken’s son’s current hobbies are between 500-800 years old. He has gotten really into chess and will play online. He and his friends walk the railroad tracks, trying to find old spikes that they can then smelt into things, they are doing backyard blacksmithery, meaning that the return-to-nature movement has reached into High Schools in 2020.

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