RW115 - Lipstick Brown

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to the color of the slacks that the undercover agent of the governor was wearing that John happened to meet while talking to friends on the street.

John brought his A-game today!

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

2018-June: John meeting governor Inslee (RW115)

John recently met governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Yakima and a very good politician and who had some corny jokes to tell because telling corny jokes is what professional politicians do. Sean Nelson noticed that when Inslee was talking to John he leaned way in and talked really soft. Running into a friend on the street is one of the most delightful things and you stop and you talk and then someone else comes along and then they stop and talk. John has spent some of the finest hours of his life that way.

Yesterday John went up to Capitol Hill to have lunch with Sean Nelson who works at The Stranger right there in the center of Capitol Hill across the street from John's old apartment. Sean was the singer of Harvey Danger and is maybe still a current member of The Long Winters for all anybody knows. As John was driving there, he had a lot of thoughts about Capitol Hill and Downtown Seattle, his old neighborhood, and the contemporary scene in Seattle. He was feeling like it might be time for him to gracefully move on, because it has been a long time since he has been in the center of Capitol Hill swinging a flag and yelling, and he should maybe stop thinking to himself that this is his turf. John always thought that he would move out of the heart of the city into the heart of an even gnarlier city and triple down on the idea of living in a loft apartment with no heat and and spending his day wheat-pasting up posters that say something radical.

As John got there, Sean met him on the street and immediately a mutual friend of theirs from times gone by was coming down the street as well. They started to chat and then another person came along and they sat and chatted, four guys playing the dozens and making the jokes. They had a powerful lunch and on their way out, just walking down two blocks they ran into another guy, the publisher of The Stranger coming out of work. They sat and talked and then the guy who owns Rancho Bravo Tacos came by and told them the recipe for his new breakfast burrito.

The entire time there was an SUV parked in a three minute load/unload zone until a door opened and a woman got out in business attire wearing mirrored sunglasses. She had her hair pulled back severely in a very Washington State Troopers undercover look. She had the vibe of a state cop and she was standing there with her ponytail flapping in the wind and her mirrored sunglasses revealing nothing, wearing medium-colored lipstick-brown slacks. She had a fashion-style leather bomber jacket and you couldn't really see if she had a belt under it, but John guessed that she had a Glock as her service revolver under there. They all had jackets on and it was appropriate to be wearing a jacket that day. Finally the door of the SUV opened but nobody got out.

John previously being mistaken as a cop (RW115)

When John was in his 20s and 30s he was always mistaken as a cop and had to spend a lot of time and energy convincing people, primarily those in drug houses, that he was not actually a cop. He actually wanted drugs and was not there to steal their drugs or to arrest them for drugs, but he wanted to get drugs like a normal customer. Nowadays he is no longer a young beat cop, but more like one of those guys on Law & Order. John has the vibe of a senior detective who somehow never got promoted to lieutenant and who is in that part of his career where he probably drinks too much, he got divorced, he lost the faith of his captain at some point, and it is really hard to tell looking at him on the streets if he is a corrupt cop or if he is the one cop that isn't corrupt in the whole department. Either thing could be possible if you look at a 50 year old guy in a Hawaiian shirt standing next to his SUV. That is the ultimate Serpico question: If you find a bunch of money in the trunk of a car, whom does it hurt?

Wearing a suit and the new style of politicians (RW115)

When John was in politics he noticed that the powerful politicians in Washington state all have pretty darn young 25-year old people in super-skinny tailored slicks suits and very short hair. During John's dad's time in politics, the politician himself may have had an expensive suit on, but all the people around them were in frumpy or comfortable suits. They looked good, but they were in suits that made them look like reporters, the kind of hard bitten political machine people. John spent a lot of time with politicians in positions of power, like the mayor, the county executive, the governor etc, and they all have really exceptional, aggressive, aspirational young political operatives doing the advance work. They show up before the candidate, they stand there whispering in their ear whom they are meeting next, and they have meetings on behalf of the candidate.

Those people are wearing tiny little suits that you would think that you can't sit down, stand up or turn around. You look amazing and it is the new look of a politician. John doesn't think of it is an improvement, but he is also of the opinion that a lot of the suits that people in our contemporary society wear are cosplay suits. Wearing a suit is not native to them, but it communicates all these things that they want to communicate to people and they are wearing it as a form of work play. They are comfortable in them because they have been wearing them ever since they graduated from college and wearing a suit is what they think of when they think of their professional life. It is not like they put on a suit once a year, but they wear one every day, but John thinks it is more that they didn't grow up in a world where people wore suits. Their parents probably didn't wear a suit at work, because their parents were part of the casual Friday revolution. Just the act of wearing a suit feels retro, cool and Mad Men to those people.

Looking at them top to bottom they look amazing, but there is a vibe that comes off as a little disingenuous. The governor himself is wearing and a very nice tailored suit, but he is a man in his 60s who has been in a suit for 45 years and therefore it just feels natural. It is may not be the suit that John would choose, but it is the rare politician who actually has an expensive suit. Instead they have a suit from the Nordstrom rack and they figured out how to wear them. Having a really expensive suit as a politician is a bad look on you, at least a certain kinds of politicians.

As a regular Seattle city council person working on behalf of the poor, you don't want to look too slick like a Hollywood guy, but you want to seem like a person that can relate to the people you represent. You wear a suit because it's your job to wear a suit but you don't want to walk around in Armani or something. Wearing a suit is a tricky thing because you are trying to communicate a lot of things to a lot of different people and the last thing you want somebody to do is to look too carefully at how much money the city council is making which in Seattle is about $130.000 dollars a year. If you are down on the street waving waving a sign and chanting into a megaphone you don't want people to go like: "Wait a minute! You are one of the 5 %"

The suits of George W. Bush never really looked very good. They might have been expensive, but they weren't particularly tailored to him and his ties were unimaginative. There was a phase when everybody was wearing shirts with the necks too big so the tie didn't fit closely to the neck and hung there like a blouse. Those guys never looked good! George HW. Bush looked like a guy in a suit, but nothing special. Bill Clinton wore a slightly slicker suit and tried to be a little hipper, but his suits weren't meticulously tailored. Donald Trump looks like a pile of dirty clothes, but everybody knows his suits are very expensive.

John F Kennedy looked great He was impeccably dressed on every photo of him with the family on a boat on the weekend and he is still a fashion icon, but back then, tailoring was much more common. Kennedy looked amazing, FDR looked amazing, all those guys looked amazing, even Truman probably wandered down the street to some local guy to tailor his clothes. Everybody looked better then because you took your clothes to have them tailored or you had your clothes made. What you were pulling off the rack was intended to be then tailored to you, even for people who didn't have a lot of money.

Historically, raw materials were expensive, like the wool to make a suit, the wood to make a house, while labor was cheap. There were a lot of people milling around and they all needed work. You had tailors who had spent their whole life learning to sew and getting to be experts at it, carpenters who were experts, and masons who were experts. Those people could work on a suit for a month, or they could fill a Victorian house full of decorative woodwork, because their labour didn't add a tremendous burden to the cost to things.

Jack Tanner (RW115)

John's dad's best friend Jack Tanner was a federal judge in Tacoma and he had been appointed to the bench by Carter. He was an important character in John's family and he was an important figure in the Northwest. He had made some landmark decisions and he was the first judge to rule on equal pay for equal work. People threw parties for him because he was a politically connected and powerful trailblazer. A lot of people came to his retirement party and his 80th birthday party. John was at one of these events as a guy swept into the room and caught everybody's eyes because he looked amazing.

The room was full of politicians, judges and other public figures. The guy walked through the room, shaking hands and slapping people on the back, all this stuff that John's dad and all these guys that John grew up around were good at: Handshakes and jokes and finger guns. Everybody was watching him and although John had seen this act a billion times at this point, this guy was really good at it. The guy was Willie Brown, the mayor of San Francisco and he had come to pay his homage to Tanner. Tanner was sitting with John and his dad, but this guy was not looking at Tanner, but he was absolutely working the room and it was a big room. John's dad said: "Wow! He looks amazing!" and Tanner said: "Well, he should look amazing, David! That is an $8000 suit" It was an unfathomable amount of money to imagine paying for a suit because you could get a suit at the Nordstrom rack for $400.

As soon as Tanner had pointed it out, Willie Brown's suit was just electric and it really looked amazing on him. Everything about him looked amazing! Obviously he was exfoliated three times a day by special caterpillars or whatever and he knew how to live. He could do it because he was a larger than life politician, everybody knew that he was on the take or at least he was one of the old style Democratic politicians who was working on behalf of the poor, but you have to walk a pretty narrow line to be in public service and to look that good.

John's mom's job in 1976 (RW115)

When John's mom worked at Safeco in 1976, she made $14.000 a year until she moved to King County where she programmed their computers and got a raise to $17.000 a year, a bump that mattered a lot! She bought a three bedroom house for $24.000 and you could get your clothes made all day and night, because how much does a full custom set of clothes cost in an economy like that? John can't even fathom what it is like to be owning a home and raising two kids on $14.000 a year. In colonial times people said they have a yearly allowance of £15 and everyone was like: "Well, aren't you a man of means!"

Now we live in a world where raw materials are not expensive at all. Really nice wool still is, but you throw up a house with cheap wood from Lowe's. Materials are generally cheap compared to the cost of labour, which adds almost all the cost to everything that's made by hand, because we have decided that human work is a commodity. With industrialization it costs nothing to clear cut a forest in an afternoon and get all those trees down here. Back when it was two guys and a saw, every big tree was worth a lot. Now you can't get your clothes tailored unless you are a rich person.

Dan visiting the Kennedy Space Center (RW115)

In June of 2018, Dan visited Kennedy Space Center. He had been there before once in the 1990s and once when he was a little kid in the early 1980s. He took both kids and his whole family and they had a blast. There was a new Atlantis attraction where they exhibited the space shuttle with tons of stuff around it. It was a striking and beautiful exhibit like none he has ever seen before. Of course they have also have a full size Saturn 5 rocket displayed horizontally. Dan loves the shuttle, but he really liked that Saturn 5. John walked around the Saturn 5 so many times in Huston and admired all the tiny little pipes. Dan's son wants to go to Houston and it is not a far drive, so they will go there as well some time.

Dan's early history with computers (RW115)

Dan got his first computer with his Bar Mitzvah money when he was 13, but he had already been using computers before that when he lived in Philadelphia. They took him to Temple University where they had big old computers that filled the whole room. They handed him a stack of punch cards, he fed them into the computer, and after about 20 of these cards it printed a Snoopy made of ASCII characters on a daisy wheel printer. That was Dan's entrance into the world of computing.

When Dan was about 10 or 11, the age that his son is now, his mom taught at a community college down in South Florida and because teachers made no money, she had to teach during the summer as well. The thing she figured out to do with him during the day was to send him to the camp at the community college which was free because she worked there. It created the path that Dan would stay on during his whole life because in addition to playing three stooges, watching movies during lunchtime, and running around kicking a ball on the field, they would teach them about computers for about an hour or two per day.

The choice was to either learn to program or to play video games. The main computer was the TRS-80, but they did have a couple of these brand new ones from a company called Apple. Still, the video games were very rudimentary. Luckily he opted to learn how to write some programs in BASIC and that put him on the trajectory that he is on now. As soon as summer camp was done, Dan had to have one of these computers at home. He grew up in an area in South Florida where there was a lot of wealth but they could only afford the mortgage with his grandparents help. He knew kids that were getting thousands and thousands of dollars for their Bar Mitzvah while Dan was able to get just about enough to buy his first computer at home and of course that changed everything. It was a VIC-20 and later he eventually got a Commodore 64 and he even had Tandy Color Computer.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License