RW124 - Benjafet

This week, Dan and John talk about:

Bonus-content for Patreon supporters:

  • Sleep hygiene (Personality)
  • Tension between music and podcasting (Career)
  • Owning a lot of stuff and moving in together (Objects)
  • Not talking about politics on Roadwork (Podcasting)

The show title refers to a nick name John gave Dan in case he would wear a protective helmet like Boba Fett, but he would need to call himself for something else like Benjafet.

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

A guy brushing his teeth in Dan’s office complex (RW124)

Dan saw a guy in the bathroom of his office floor who was brushing his teeth very intensely, wearing a knitted hat that you would associate with Jamaican and Rastafarian cultures. John didn’t realize that Dan’s studio was in a public building, but he always imagined Dan being in one of those public radio stations in a small one-story garages out in Texas, broadcasting with a big tower and some kind of gas-powered generator.

Dan is in a very boring corporate facility. Even the FBI has an office in his building which is right next door to the corporate office building that a plane crashed into a number of years ago (called the Echelon Office Complex, 5by5 seems to be in building 2 at 9430 Research Blvd building 2, Austin, TX 78759). There was an IRS office in there and apparently a guy was angry at the IRS and he attempted to fly his Cessna (actually it was a Piper Dakota) into the building, back at a time when flying planes into buildings was the way to get your anger out. He was the only person who died, but they had to rebuild the entire building. Dan is in the most corporate office you can possibly imagine and to make it even worse, his office is one of at least a dozen offices on this floor and most of the people are accountants, pencil-pushers and real-estate people. It is the least cool structure in Austin and Dan is right square in the middle of it. He would never invite John over!

Dan and Haddie are by far the biggest hippies and the least square of everyone in this place, except for this new guy that Dan saw in the bathroom today. There is the FBI office, there is a company who is working with diabetes or some Healthcare, but they are some women who are planning marketing efforts and they don’t have any visitors. In Dan’s area there are only total squares and this guy is way too cool to be doing anything in there.

John assumes that the guy was just passing through and met someone on a meeting and he was brushing his teeth in there just this one time. He and Dan seem to have similar obsessive compulsive behavior and his involves long teeth-brushings, whereas Dan’s involves imagining that poop is floating in the air. They could start a new collaboration, called ”That’s disgusting, but I have to do it!”, some kind of Aversion Therapy, where each of them deals with the other one’s hangups. Brushing his teeth and staring at himself might be his way of dealing with an anxiety attack. An awful lot of people in the naked city are just trying to get by.

At the old public library in Seattle there was a rat’s warren of subterranean bathrooms and it was the only way-station in the city where you could get out of the rain and brush your teeth, so a lot of people were using those bathrooms for that. All old school public libraries and even the new public libraries in Downtown areas are just space ports and none of those people are from Earth. They just landed and need to go to the bathroom. But if Dan has an FBI office maybe the guy was an undercover FBI agent who was getting in character for a big drug bust and had to get his intense weirdness on. Dan will be fine! If he is worried about fecal matter in the air that gets stirred up again every time somebody opens the door, he should wear a face mask like in a SARS-epidemic or like a little Chinese lady.

Wearing your own protective augmented reality DJ helmet (RW124)

During the height of flu season last year, Dan saw somebody at the airport who seemingly had some bigger concerns than Dan did. He was wearing two pairs of bright-yellow dish gloves and instead of wearing a mask that just prevents the flu and contagions, he was wearing one that you would wear for woodworking on a construction site where you are breathing dust. This is how he travelled! Dan was kind of jealous. John wonders if Boba Fett is wearing his helmet because he is hypersensitive to allergens. It might have filters for a nice mix of oxygen and nitros oxide, and it is an integrated system with goggles to keep the poop out of his eyes and it protects his ears. It is not just a war helmet, because he wears it all the time. Maybe he just doesn’t like airborne fart-smells and stuff?

Dan’s kids would think it was amazing if Dan would start wearing a helmet all the time. It shouldn’t be a Boba Fett helmet because people would recognize it as Boba Fett, but he could come up with his own version. He also needed a cool war name like Benjafet or Bobadan. Those are very popular with DJs, like Deadmau5 or Daft Punk. Who knows what is going on in their helmets? Daft Punk's helmets are probably completely integrated environments. They are not just breathing their own exhaust and those screens can’t be fogging up, but they also have respirators. Dan should budget $50.000 to design and build his own DJ helmet. Then he needs somebody to do a whole branding for him. He will no longer be Dan Benjamin, but Dab-Edge. Such a thing would not necessarily work for John and he would be a late adopter of urban helmets. There have to be a lot of other people wearing them and singing their praises first.

The big challenge of avataring Dan in an augmented reality situation would be to install on a pair of glasses or some other kind of apparatus that actually films him from a distance enough that people could see his facial expressions. This is the Avatar problem: You can wear SnapChat goggles and see what you are seeing with your eyes, but people interacting with you in a virtual scenario are going to want to see what you are doing.

John does not want every single person in the world have their own micro-drone programmed to just stay 5 feet (1.5m) in front of them and film their face. That would really suck! But if we were all wearing fully-facing closed DJ helmets where the helmet had dozens of sensors inside that recorded what your face was doing, it is no longer going to matter what our actual faces in the real world are doing, because we are just going to be broadcasting to our Avatar sensors.

When John is going to meet Dan coming down the hall at the FBI building, he is going to see him as a completely realized blue leopard or however Dan wants to be perceived by John. John will have the benefit to see all the nuances that Dan’s face is expressing, but in form of a blue leopard as John sees him in the heads-up-display in his DJ helmet. That is probably where we are going, but John will be one of the last people who will still walk around with his tweet jacket and a tie, thinking that it symbolizes anything to anybody, while all the cool kids are wearing DJ Helmets.

John is not going to be able to see others as they want to be seen until he eventually puts on some goggles at least and they are going to see him as just a basic Avatar of himself, some emoji, because he won’t be all the way up into the new technology. At that point we will have personalized emoji that look like us. It won’t be fully integrated with John’s facial expressions and there will be an Uncanny Valley where he will look robotic to other people while Dan in his DJ helmet will actually show his real face with all of its little quirks. There will be boutique ones from Hermes and the early ones will all be handcrafted, like a cottage industry. There will also be Cons, like the Dragon-Con.

John's place in nerd culture (RW124)

John has never been to Dragon-Con because it has always been a con too far and Atlanta seems like a long way to go. John has never been more than nerd-adjacent. The nerds accept him and he is welcome at the show, but it is not a deal-breaker and nothing is ruined if he doesn’t come to the show either. Dan disagrees and says that John is a full-on member, even if he doesn’t know it or doesn't want to be. John has the right mindset, list of credentials and enough experiences. He can step out of it easily, but he is squarely in there.

John was a nerd in High School, but other people who went to High School with him will say that he was not a nerd at all, but a popular person who didn’t have any trouble integrating into different groups. John perceived himself primarily as a nerd, which is a self-perception issue, and he has always been a nerd until nerd-culture became its own universe. People from the nerd universe like Star Trek people who made their own swords or people who read lots of books about elves were certainly part of John’s larger orbit in High School.

John will sit and talk to you about the fact that you are trying to forge your own broadsword and that you feel this is going to be a useful tool and you are not only doing it as an academic exercise. You want to have this broadsword for some eventually! John will sit and talk to you about it not only all day, but multiple days in a row, because you sit next to John in Biology. Despite that, John is not going to follow you down this rabbit hole and be over at your house or in your garage with your home-made forge, trying to build his own broadsword.

John doesn’t like Dune. In 1980 you had to be either Lord of the Rings or Dune. Dan has never heard that before, but it sounds very interesting. There were people who were both, but even then you had to pick one that became your primary fantasy aperture. Dan was probably a Dune person. John read The Lord of the Rings all the way through and enjoyed it and thanks to the clear schism between the two worlds he didn’t need to read Dune because he had already chosen a side. John also said that the Pink Floyd vs Led Zeppelin thing was a myth, but Dan disagrees with him. The more people Dan asks about it, the more it proves true and the more Dan maintains that you can’t truly like both. John says that if you think you like both, then you don’t like either very much.

According to John there is more of a Pink Floyd vs Rush schism. Dan says that if you are really into Rush, then you don’t like anybody else! Having picked Led Zeppelin is having picked Lord of the Rings, and having picked Rush is having picked Dune. Pink Floyd is not trading in a certain limited cosmology and there are neither real elves in Pink Floyd nor are there killer robots that are sucking our life-force. Dan interjects that Dune doesn’t have robots because any kind of artificial intelligence is outlawed. They had an AI rebellion at some point in their history and now there are no robots in Dune, not even computers.

Instead of computers they have Mentats, humans who have since birth trained themselves to be like human computers. There were computers in the Dune universe before, while in The Lord of the Rings universe there were no computers, because they didn’t know how to make them. There are definitely computers in Rush, but there are also outlawed computers in Rush and nothing sounds more Rush than ”We had to outlaw computers after the AI rebellion”. They talked about Rush to great length on this program before (it was in RW48).

John was more Led Zeppelin than Rush, but he has to think hard if he was more Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. Dan can totally see John covering Led Zeppelin and doing it better than Robert Plant, but he cannot imagine him covering a Pink Floyd song. Where is that Zeppelin cover? It is out there somewhere! Apparently John’s mother and sister didn’t even know he had covered Led Zeppelin. His mom is an enormous Led Zeppelin fan and Susan found it one day and sent it to his mom and there was an angry pounding on John’s front door how dare he could not have told her that he had covered In The Light. Somebody had asked him to make it for a Led Zeppelin tribute and he had worked on it with Eric Corsan. She was furious and now she listens to it.

The best guitar players, Pink Floyd (RW124)

Chuck Bryant asked John a couple of days ago about his top 5 guitar players. His number 1 position was held by David Gilmour, because he is the greatest guitar player. He just knew what to do in a song, he knew what it took to make the song great, he never overplayed and he was a sound-craftsman. He has also never shown any human emotion in public, but the entire world of emotion is in his guitar playing, which is not true of Jimmy Page’s guitar playing. Roger Waters is more interesting and versatile than Robert Plant. However, the darkness in Pink Floyd always feels like complaining. Roger Waters is complaining and sneering at the things that are going wrong. He is espousing an almost Punk Rock distain for modernity in the way things are going. He is not offering a world, but he is critiquing our world. Robert Plant is not complaining at all, but he is observing through some stoner goggles a world he would like to see, which is a world full of dark evil fairies who like to fuck!

Pink Floyd’s music is more interesting because their sounds are more interesting. They are running an electric toothbrush over an organ to get the right sound or feeling like the British Empire was collapsing, while over in Led Zeppelin town they are just turning their guitars up. John Paul Jones wondered what instrument he could play and his band mates were like ”Fine! Whatever you want to do, smarty! Theremin? whatever!" He wasn’t even one of the gang because his hair was weird and John just wished John Paul Jones had better hair instead of having John’s hair.

This is what was scary about Rock ’n’ Roll: The guys who had hair like John were not the center. Jim Morrison, Robert Plant, and Jimmy Page had amazing hair, but then you got the helmet hair of John Paul Jones, Ray Manzarek or Lovin’ Spoonful. Of all the guys with that hair, John Paul Jones probably pulled it off the best because he had sideburns. John was super-dismayed to find that he also had this hair and he was never going to be Jimmy Page. The other guys in Pink Floyd, at least Roger Waters and David Gilmour, both have closer to John’s hair than Jimmy Page’s hair, but they went the Geddy Lee route with long greasy hair parted in the middle, which is a look that John could do.

John could never have talked about the decline and fall of Britain in his music with any kind of seriousness, nor could he have talked about sexy elves at all and he was very much limited by the things he was capable of talking about in his music. Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne’s universe is really scattershot. Just as David Gilmour, he has never expressed a human emotion. Ozzy sings about sexy elves, killer robots and the decline of the UK and the nuclear family, but doesn’t really seem to be that worried about those things. Maybe Geezer Butler is worried about them and has written them down in an notebook and the Ozzy is like ”Yeah, right!”

The creative force behind Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi is communicating true darkness and, for the lack of his fingertips, there is a tremendous amount of human experience in his guitar. He is a man who has never expressed an emotion other than consternation, but he is making very serious sounds that have a lot of meaning.

John is not denigrating Jimmy Page, but his sounds are all about a black snake that lives in Mississippi without having any first-hand knowledge of a black snake that lives in Mississippi. The story he is telling with his guitar is his interpretation of a thing that isn’t really his, but in some ways he does a better interpretation of it. John will however not say that Jimmy Page stole the Blues from Mississippi, because Jimmy Page did understand Blues, his guitar is just not communicating it. He wanted it to be the sound of Aleister Crowley and all of his mandolin stuff is very much from Middle-England from whence he derives, but as soon as he is playing heavy riffs, it is not really him.

Cooptation, White Blues and Linoleum floors (RW124)

John is not somebody who advances a theory of cooptation, neither good nor bad. There are cooptations visibly happening in real time when you are seeing somebody taking something that you feel belongs to you, like ”I wear a red hat and now suddenly that guy is wearing a red hat!” In our contemporary culture those things get people up in arms: ”How dare white people serve tacos!” (maybe this one) Cooptation is the way human culture is disseminated, it is the way human culture was designed and built. There is no thing that any of us is doing, saying or thinking that isn’t coopted from somebody before us.

If you are going to put a Linoleum floor in your house, have it look like Linoleum and not like wood or stone. Of all the linoleum, or any kind of manufactured flooring, at a floor dealer, 95% is meant to look like wood or stone and if John walks into a house that has wood-linoleum or stone-linoleum he is not convinced and he doesn’t like it. It is false! When Linoleum was first invented, it looked like green or orange speckle. It wasn’t meant to be anything else than a new kind of floor that had speckles, that seemed durable, and that looked great!

Linoleum floors should take advantage of their opportunity. If you can make it look like wood, then you can make it look like a starry night or like the floor was covered with roses or cockroaches or whatever you wanted. Why would you want it to look like wood? Dan interjects that there is good stuff now that really looks like wood! What you are advancing is the theory of the White Blues! The White Blues is the Wood Linoleum of music. It looks like wood, it is easier to clean, it doesn’t require that you go into a road house anywhere, it doesn’t require that you interact with a terrifying material like actual wood or black culture, and you can get the look and feel of wood, but it is really easy to keep clean.

No matter what thing you want, be it wood floors, life experience, the ability to juggle, or a past history of sexual prowess, all of those things come with massive disadvantages. You have to take the good with the bad and you cannot learn to juggle without also having spent many years at Ren Faires. You cannot have sexual prowess without a lot of sadness and destruction in your wake. You cannot have wood floors without all the disadvantages and expense of wood floors.

People think they can reach a higher level of consciousness through drug use or some other Western cooptation of Pseudo-Buddhism. People are saying ”I’m at that level”, then they are not! You can be super-stoned on LSD and get a glimpse of a higher plain, but you cannot stay there or get a toehold there, it will not last! It is the same with the White Blues and man-made flooring. John is contradicting himself somewhat because he is not against White Blues, but if he is going to put a manufactured floor in his house, he wants it to look like speckles, criss-crosses or bubbles, but not like wood. Maybe he is missing out, but he is missing out on a lot of things.

Good wood panelling is wood. John is also opposed to veneer, but veneer has a long history in woodworking and furniture making and to be against veneer is to be against history and you could only have furniture that was made of solid wood. Wanting a dining room table made out of 9 foot (275 cm) long pieces of solid wood that are joined together really limits your dining room table options. John came to grips with veneer a long time ago, even though it irks him. Wood panelling is actual wood, but sliced thin. When manufacturing takes things that are either particulate or things that do not have grain and they add grain to them through some manufacturing process, that is when they try to fool you.

Veneer is trying to fool you into thinking that your table top is a 9x6 (275x182cm) piece of Mahogany, which we know is a lie, but if it is trying to be a 9x6 piece of Mahogany and instead it is merely a photograph of a veneer of Mahogany, that is where it goes too far. John heartedly approves of wood panelling that is made of wood and he hopes to have that in his life. John grew up in a house where all of the walls were wood panels and it was beautiful. Unfortunately whoever built the house did not install any insulation and wood panelling does a worse job even than dry wall of not transmitting sound from room to room. Wood panelling is very handsome, John just doesn’t want wood panelling made out of photographs of wood superimposed over MDF.

Dan totally gets what John is saying, but he is wondering why John doesn't like that. John asks if Dan thinks that Arby’s roast beef is roast beef, but Dan has never chosen to eat at Arby’s voluntarily, but he only tried one of their sandwiches once when somebody else was getting Arby’s for everybody and Dan didn’t know what they had and the person just got him just something. The thing about Arby’s and manufactured wood is that at some point in its life it went through a hose. It was once a thing, then it became a slurry of a thing, it went through a hose on its path, it dried and it became a new thing. That is how paper is made! Paper is a slurry that becomes a thing we use all the time, but that is not how John wants his roast beef while he is fine with it in paper or in park benches. If you make a park bench out of old truck tires, that is high fives all around!

Those manufactured products are a little bit of a Blade Runner problem: We associate wood and stone with luxury because people with money are still using those actual things. In Blade Runner you cannot find a living owl in all of Earth, but you can have a robot owl. The problem is that once you can build a robot owl, you can just as easily build a robot dragon or a robot mini-Cthulhu. A robot owl feels like a limitation of the imagination! If John had the choice between a robot owl that sat on his shoulder or an orange robot dragon the size of an owl, he would take the dragon every time! Why wouldn’t you? You are trying to fool people into thinking that you have a real owl. Of course you can’t afford a real owl, but owning a real owl would be a sign of great affluence and that is what you are trying to project.

If you could get the magician from the cover of the Blue Öyster Cult album Agents of Fortune who has all the balls and cards in his fingers, but make him 3 feet (1m) tall and have him sit on your shoulder, nobody would ask if that was the real magician from the Blue Öyster Cult album, but they would all be going ”Cool idea, bro!” Somebody else will have a 6 foot tall praying mantis as his robot friend, which would be awesome! John feels the same way about manufactured floor: We can do way cooler things. Make it look like $100 bills! Go for it! But make it look like oak? All you are saying is that you couldn’t afford real oak, but you would like people to think you can! Just break your mind open!

If you are one of those guys with frosted tips and flame shorts, why not make your floor look like flames? We have the capacity, but nobody does it because we are still in this weird interregnum between a time where there were real materials available and a future time where nobody gives a shit anymore. Nobody is taking advantage of it!

If you want to buy an avocado colored refrigerator like the one in the house where John grew up, or one colored like tangerines like at John’s friend’s house, the people at the refrigerator store will tell you that refrigerators come in the following colors: Stainless steel, slightly darker stainless steel, and black. There is no avocado colored fridge! One guy who will tell you that there is a company that makes avocado-colored fridges by buying a GE refrigerator for $900, taking it to their factory in California, taking the skin off of it and putting another skin on it that makes it look like a 1950s refrigerator and they color it avocado and sell it to you for $2500. If you say that this sounds like a rip-off and you just want a normal cheap-ish refrigerator in one of the billion possible colors including Technicolor Dreamcoat or covered in $100 bills, they will say ”Nope!" (In RL189 John talks about his Technicolor Irony Coat)

There is inherent dishonesty in the concept that no-one wants another option. We already lived in a world where the floors were speckled and the refrigerators were tangerine. It was a beautiful time and a beautiful place, but then we started to associate those things with cheapness because they were old and in a place like that your first thought would probably be ”There is probably asbestos in those floors!” and your second thought would be that these floors are old and haven’t been updated. First of all you were wrong! Most of them worked fine. Your refrigerator from 1962 would still be running, maybe the refrigerant was bad for the environment, but Jesus Christ! The coal plants in China are what’s bad for the environment, not your Freon! Well no, your Freon is bad!

Elimination of CFCs and climate change (RW124)

Ever since we eliminated CFCs, the ozone layer has built itself back, which is a success we don’t talk enough about (they talked about it in RW120 very recently). At the time it seemed like a Sisyphean attempt to right a wrong and we thought that we blew it and that we had burned a hole in the ozone layer and are all going to be sunburned all the time. Some scientists said that we could ban all the aerosol cans, but Big Aerosol was like ”No! It will cost too much!" or "Hairspray won’t work!" or "Spray cheese is very important to our culture!” They fought it and people didn’t understand it but rallied behind it, like ”Acid rain seems like a bad problem, we should put filters on smoke stacks and we should eliminate CFCs and DDT while we are at it!” But we did it and it worked! All three of these things worked, but somewhere along the line religion took over politics and all of a sudden we are not allowed to say that these proposed changes would work.

John’s mom said this morning that summer in Seattle didn’t used to start until July 15th. It was warm, but it was raining until July 15th and then summer started and lasted until the end of September. Now summer starts at the beginning of May and it doesn’t rain anymore. All that has just shifted during the last decade. It is an advantage from a real estate standpoint because we can sell our houses for a lot more because people equate lack of rain with luxury. Climate Change is the veneer of climate in Seattle, because they don’t have big disasters otherwise except that the forests are catching on fire, which is bad.

John has a friend who moved back to Seattle after a decade in Los Angeles and the reason was ”Climate Change Refugee” People who moved from Seattle to other places return because they feel like they have some right to. They didn’t like Seattle when it was dark and depressing, but it was sure better than having their house burned down every year. Then all their friends from Los Angeles who have never lived in Seattle will also move because all their friends from Seattle move back there. John will have to move back to Alaska, but he doesn’t want to live in Alaska.


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