RW130 - The Dark Side

This week, Dan and John talk about:

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The show title refers to John having a very destructive humor at the end of High School that could take anybody down and him calling it for being on the dark side.

It is just some just good on times! Fuck yeah! Great, bro!

Dan’s theory about the moon landing (RW130)

Dan recommends the movie First Man about the first man on the moon and what led up to that. He shortly talks about the plot of the movie and how it leads up to him eventually landing on the moon, if that is what you believe happened. One of the things Dan wanted most as a kid growing up was being an astronaut, probably like most kids of their generation. He was obsessed by space travel and his favorite toys were his one or two LEGO kits that had a space theme.

Dan grew up believing that the moon landing was 100% real. As he got older and got into conspiracy theory type things, the theory about the moon landing being fake is the one he struggled with the most because he really didn’t want to think that we didn’t go to the moon. If you told him that every footprint of Bigfoot was 100% a hoax, he would think it was kind of unlikely anyway and it wouldn’t bother him, but the idea that we didn’t go to the moon would be heartbreaking to him and he was even more skeptical of the conspiracy theory than he usually is.

Dan does think we went to the moon in the way that they tell us, but there is footage and photos from the moon that when scrutinized would be questionable. Would there be these oddities, the shadows, the light sources, the lack of light sources, all of those different things that could potentially call it into question? Dan's theory is that when they were in the process of planning to go to the moon, the space race was going on and they wanted to go first to the moon because they had wanted to be first in orbit, but Russia beat them to that.

It was critical for two reason that they would make it to the moon first: They weren’t really at war with Russia, but they kind of wanted to be and they wanted to beat them, if not on the battle field, then in other ways, you could call it Cold War, and if they would go up there first, 1) it would boost national morale and 2) it would make the Russians feel horrible. Dan believes that they had lots of contingency plans in place in case some aspect of the mission would fail and they wouldn’t be able to actually land. Under no circumstance could the mission be a failure and the filmed these people on a Soundstage somewhere to show to the public if something did actually go wrong. If they had lost the astronauts in space, Dan is not sure what they would have done, if they had Doppelgängers ready to go and act like they had just gotten back. Meanwhile they developed all of this extra footage while they were still sending people to the moon.

Dan’s theory is that some of the footage, photographs, and video from the moon landing is real and some of it is sprinkled in that might have been from the sound stage with Stanley Kubrick. What if the stuff we got back was kind of crap? It wouldn’t be as good as form a professional photographer! If John goes on Auto Trader selling his RV or if Dan puts a computer on eBay, he will not only take his own pictures, but he will find some stock photos and throw them in, that is why they call Dan the eBay King. When Stanley Kubrick destroyed all the 2001 props it wasn’t just the 2001 props in there, but it was all the moon stuff and then he just said he just didn’t want anybody else using it.

Dan thinks there are a lot of conspiracy theorists, but he is doubtful that they are a major factor in history or in decision making. Is he worried that there is a big block who vote the wrong way and drive up the price of milk and pose a thread to us? Maybe! Dan just wants everybody on the same page titled ”Truth” When Dan was a kid growing up, Bigfoot was a big thing, second only to the moon landing. There was even a TV show called Bigfoot and Wildboy.

Saturday Morning Cartoons (RW130)

In the 1970s every kid in America was watching cartoons on Saturday mornings. It was the whole reason you existed and why you bothered to go to school all week. You got up early on Saturday morning, plopped down in front of the TV, and watched cartoons until they stopped and normal television rejoined. No adult ever protested because they were all grateful for it. Like during Superbowl when all toilets flush at once, every kid in America went outside the moment the cartoons were over. There were three television stations: NBC, CBS and ABC and you had to choose what you were going to watch. Sid and Marty Krofft, and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters were on a channel opposite Looney Tunes and the choice was obvious and Looney Tunes won out for John.

John never watched Bigfoot and Wildboy because there was a superior program on one of the two other channels like the Pink Panther or Yogi Bear. John also watched Wacky Races, Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby Doo, Land of the Lost, which was more of an after-school thing. Dan watched Speed Racer in the morning and Ultraman in the afternoon five days a week. John has no experience of Ultraman, but he remembers Jonny Quest, which was a little too advanced for Dan.

There was Dastardly and Muttley, there was Wonderdog and Superfriends. If John stayed at somebody else’s house on Friday night he would watch the cartoons that they watched on Saturday morning, and he would get exposure to those other things. John was culturally aware and knew what was going on, but it was just not where his heart was. He was very into Bigfoot as a thing to be worried about, because he lived in Bigfoot central.

When Dan lived in Pennsylvania, he had a pair of boots during wintertime in the snow that were normal boots in every way except that the tread on the bottom looked like a Bigfoot footprint. As you were walking in the snow, your tracks would look like Bigfoot tracks. Unfortunately it said the word ”Bigfoot” across the bottom which would give away any chance that people could think that it was really Bigfoot. Dan was very much obsessed with Bigfoot but nowadays he agrees to the fact that Bigfoot probably isn’t real. John remembers those Bigfoot shoes.

Big Wheel bicycles and swing bikes (RW130)

John knew a kid with a bicycle called the Green Machine, but he lived far away. The big wheels were entirely plastic, had the worst traction in the world, and if the surface was not just right they would just spin and skid. John’s neighborhood had two really big hills, one of them was short and steep while the other one was very long, very curvy and very steep. The short hill ended right in front of John’s house and was the perfect-sized kid hill. They didn’t really have skateboards yet, but you could grab your big wheel or your bike and run up to the top of this hill.

It was exactly the steepness for you to do a super-good big wheel ride and skid out at the bottom. It was a wide enough street with ditches on either side because it was before they had enclosed all the ditches in Seattle. If it had been raining at all, those ditches were little rivers. As you got older, the hill was also just the right steepness to stand up on your big wheel. When you put one foot on the seat and one foot on the handle bars you could totally do the Hang Ten on a Big Wheel. They pioneered a lot of good spin-outs and there was a strong Big Wheel culture. They rode it until the plastic wheels had flat spots on them. Unfortunately there are no big wheels in grown-up size.

There was also the Swing Bike with a cotter pin right in front of the seat that moved up on two plains if you pulled up that pin. You could be going straight down the road while your handlebars were all the way over to the right and your seat was all the way to the left. John found it completely impossible to ride because he did not have the spacial understanding to ever pull it off. He didn’t have time to practice either because it wasn’t his and he didn’t have the desire to go over to that kid’s house all the time. John crashed every time and it was the worst type of crash because you felt that you were going off but you couldn’t recover because every move created an opposite reaction that was worse than the original problem. Dan read some facts about it from the Wikipedia page.

There were so many fun evolutions of toys at the time. The Swing Bike came out right at that perfect moment before people got worried about kids’ safety. None of them had ever imagined wearing a helmet or a seat belt. The Swing Bike looked like a Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat and big chopper handle bars, but the front tire was smaller than the back tire. It had a crazy spring on it and the place where your seat stem went in was exactly like the head set of the handle bar. You could pull that cotter pin and you would be in crazy town. Some kids got good at it, but they surely also wore their baseball hats on backwards and were way cooler than John. There was a Schwinn Stingray with a smaller front tire that was specifically made to ride wheelies.

John’s bicycle history (RW130)

see also John's bicycle history in RW66

Dan was really into BMX, but he sucked at it and the most advanced trick he was able to do was probably a Bunny Hop. They didn’t have any money to get pegs or anything cool for the bike. Dan found out later that the bikes the other kids were using to do tricks were very lightweight bikes while his was a really heavy one that his parents bought at a big box store. Dan also never had one of those stupid remote-controlled cars like the Mongoose with an actual little gas-powered motor.

John has never been able to Bunny Hop, Wheelie, Ollie or any of the things that would have marked him as somebody who knew what was going on. He has never done a cart wheel on his hands or any of the cool tricks that kids could do. He was pretty good at summersaults while his daughter doesn’t want to summersault at all because it would hurt her neck. The thing about it is that you have to figure out how to not hurt your neck.

John's mom was a good mom and his first bike in the 1970s was a blue Stingray with a white banana seat and white handgrips. It was a very cool bike and he outfitted it with a battery-powered siren with a little cop megaphone, he put cards in the spokes, he had plastic fringes on the handgrips, he had a light and the best part was a giant fiberglass flag pole that was meant to be a thing like ”Look out for kids!” John had this bike all tricked out and it was a fully great bike all the way to about 1980 at which point everybody went to BMX. During a brief period John still had the Stingray while everybody else already had a BMX, but he never abandoned the Stingray, he just got a little big for it.

In 6th grade John needed to make the move to a big bike and transitioned to a 10-speed when all the other kids were learning tricks with their BMX. He felt a little bit like he often felt as as kid that he was both younger than everybody and also more grown-up than everybody at the same time. He was a Poindexter! John wanted to do those tricks as well, but he was afraid and he intentionally went the other direction and read the Wall Street Journal because he thought that he needed to be ready for something else, not all this kids’ stuff. He was secretly playing with GI Joes as well.

The other kids could do tricks and John couldn’t. He didn’t want to learn in front of everybody and he didn’t have the physicality because he was big. The littler kids just got on a skateboard and by the end of that afternoon they were ollieing over curbs. Because they were light-weight they didn’t get hurt when they crashed. Every time John got on a skateboard he felt like he was going to be the Kool Aid man who was going through the wall of whatever building was at the bottom of the hill, but when he fell down it was in a crash.

Some time in High School John’s group of friends were bicycle kids with BMX bikes and in 10th grade John finally said that he needed one as well, at which point the whole Redline bike thing was going crazy. Those were aluminum bikes with foot pegs and kids were starting to go on skate ramps with their bicycles and John wasn’t ready for all that, so he bought a Schwinn BMX bike at a garage sale that was exactly like the one Dan was describing. It weight probably 400 pounds (180 kg) and everything was steel. John had this bike for one summer and he always felt like he was pedaling super-hard to catch up with everybody. Then everybody bought a light racing bike and got into the Tour de France. John remembers one fateful trip across town where he was on his slow BMX bike and they were all on 10-speeds. He was never on the right side of history.

John bought a Centurion 10-speed when he had a job during summer after 11th grade and he rode his bike to his job. On the way home he had to crank up a hill like he had seen in the Tour de France. The Centurion was a nice racing bike, but John bent the aluminum rims just with the side force of standing up on the pedals while cranking up the hill. His 200+ pounds (90 kg) warped the wheels and he was embarrassed because he couldn’t even ride a bike up a hill without breaking it.

There was one further humiliation when mountain bikes arrived and no-one had ever heard of it before. Dan’s parents both got a mountain bike which was clearly a way of saying that this was not for him.

Getting the right ski gear (RW130)

John’s friend Karen's parents were pretty well off and would buy new ski equipment every year, top to bottom, the best new skis and boots. It was during the years when the cool look for adult people was uni-suits. Karen was a ski racer like John was. Ski racing is a rich kids sport, and the kids were super-judgmental about their gear in addition to everything else they were judgmental about. They showed up with new gear at the beginning of the year and they were all very brand-conscious. John also had very strong feelings about that stuff. He was absolutely a Salomon bindings guy and there were people who had Marker bindings which were cool, but John was very against Tyrolia bindings because those people were neo-freedogers. John explains the different parts of ski gear to Dan.

John’s equipment was Rosignol skis, Salomon bindings, Nordica boots, Spider ski wear, and a Head racing sweater. Your hat would advertise if you were on the ski team or not because they would give you a ski team hat. Before that John had a Mighty Mite hat and if you didn’t have one of those, you were just some dumb kid. All of this was stuff that they were watching about each other and it was a very tough and competitive environment.

John often had last year’s skis. He transitioned from Rosignols to Elans, which were cool, then from Elans to Atomic Arcs, which were cool and then to Völkls, which were cool, but he was always a little bit behind the curve and didn’t have the newest shit on October 1st. He was inheriting stuff from his dad who bought cool stuff for himself that would percolate down to John. Once he got to be a better racer John's parents would buy him equipment for himself.

Karen’s parents were rich and everybody in town knew them. They would buy new gear for themselves every year while Karen had to make do with her old stuff. Their sense at the time was that her parents were going to swinger parties and living their best life, but their daughter was a little bit of a drag on them. You felt bad for her because she was a pretty good skier and the other girls were merciless. It is like in Southern California if you don’t have the right purse, but it was full-on Heather’s universe, the dawn of brand-consciousness for kids. Related to this sport you also had to be good at the sport and you had to be good at the après-ski-world where you were doing drugs, getting drunk, making out with each other and having sex in people’s ski chalets. It was rich kid advanced.

They were all neglected by their rich parents, they were having sex with each other and getting high at a much younger age. They were at a ski resort and their parents were going out and would leave it to the kids to figure out what they were going to do with themselves in this enclosed environment in a small town way up in the mountains where they couldn’t really escape. You couldn’t get in any trouble either, because everybody knew each other. Kids were just having sex and doing drugs and John was super-out of all of that at that age, he was terrified of sex, girls and drugs.

John, Karen and Cory were such nerds and would play spy at 14 years old, running around town playing KGB vs CIA stuff. They had girls who were their friends, but it never occurred to them to get to first base with each other. Such nerds! Maybe John got so much into drugs later because he really felt he needed to catch up from all the time he was such a weeb. John was a good skier, but he wasn’t really a super-good athlete at anything else.

John has never done a cart wheel, but the other day he was at an event where some little boy, probably 9 years old, was cartwheeling so freely, he could just effortlessly cartwheel all the way across a football field. John is jealous of him, but thinks he is awesome. When John was 9 and there were other 9-year olds who could do that, he definitely felt he had a physical handicap of some sort that didn’t allow him to do all the cool things. That was the age where John figured out that if you don’t have cool clothes and you are not making out with people and you are not doing drugs and you are not rich and you are not such a good skier that everybody had to shut up when you showed up, John wasn’t that good.

John turning from funny into cruel (RW130)

At that time John figured out that he was fucking funny and when he got attacked he could just turn the knob from being funny into being cruel. Somewhere in 10th or 11th grade he realized that he could destroy people. He used that power unchecked because he had been at a disadvantage with other kids for so long because he didn’t want to fight, he couldn’t throw a football, he was not good with girls and he was not cool. John very quickly became the kind of funny that you better not mess with because the worst thing a cool kid can possibly imagine is some other kid on the sidelines watching them be cool and saying something devastating that makes everyone laugh at them. If you said the right devastating thing, even the total acolytes of the cool kids would laugh right in the face of the kid that they were totally sucking up to a minute ago.

John was bullied, pushed down, pushed out of the way, and the pretty girls would point and laugh. He was smart but the other kids knew him as a pudgy nooge. At a certain point in his Junior year he transitioned to being one of the lords because he could ruin anybody and he always had a quip. It was the kind of power that would make people fear him. He could sit at a table and be funny about things, there would be six or seven people just laughing, and everybody was having a good time.

It was a Stockholm Syndrome effect where everybody at the table was laughing while hoping desperately that they didn’t do something that would make John turn his machine guns on them. He became very popular during his last couple of years at school, but that popularity was because he became untouchable and because he had the ability to take down the top kids in that Doggy Dog world of kids. He wasn’t going to replace them as the most beautiful or the most cool, but he could take them down.

John used that power unchecked until one day when he saw himself reflected in the looks on the faces of the other kids. He realized that they all hated him and they were all terrified. Nobody liked him! There was a girl named Ronda who was a friend and who was nice to him. She was a nice and popular girl and she was friends with everybody, but she wasn’t cruel and she wasn’t a lame kid who would make fun of your clothes or make fun of you at all. She was a member of John’s friend group and at the time he was just a weeb she was always nice to him and has never been mean.

In Anchorage, the popular kids who in other schools were the football players and the cheerleaders were the hockey players. They wore grey cowboy boots and had mullets, their dads bought them Chevy Stepside pickups with Glasspack mufflers, and their girlfriends were cheerleaders with super-big hair. They didn’t run yearbook, because that was for nerds, but those girls knew that they definitely were going to rule the yearbook. They were super-conscious of that stuff, they ran the school dances and the proms and stuff. Their boys were fighters, too. They would rule the school by putting their fist under your nose. Other younger kids were either scared of them or avoided them because they were in a different class, but John could lean against the lockers when they would walk by and ”Oh, here he is, …”, that kind of Kapow, and they couldn’t do anything.

Every once in a while they would come over and shake their fist under John’s nose and John would be like ”Oh, are you going to hit me? Are you some kind of… What’s up, Batman?” or whatever. John would just cover them with shame. One day Ronda was walking along with some group of friends and John was there leaning against a set of lockers, shooting everybody down, sitting there unchecked, because he was untouchable at that point. He said something about Ronda, he looked at her and he could see that it had devastated her.

John always had the ability to see what was going on in somebody else, see what their fear is, see what makes them happy, just by looking at them and knowing them a little, like ”she is really insecure about her ears” or whatever, that was a superpower John had and has. He used that power injudiciously and in this case he said something about Ronda that got a laugh, but it humiliated her and she actually ran off. He said something that he couldn’t really take back because it was true. What makes a kid like that funny and dangerous is not that he was just shooting blanks, but that he could see. The reason he could do that was because he spent a lot of years getting pushed down, learning about people.

John couldn’t take it back, and he couldn’t apologize to her because he didn’t know how to apologize. What he said was something he already knew she was worried about. All of a sudden he saw himself in this spotlight, like ”How could I do that to this girl who was so good to me?” Ronda never stood between John and a bullet, but she was not one of his enemies. He looked around and realized that he had been treating everybody as his enemies including his friends and it was terrible.

Something in him changed, he really pulled back, and his sense of humor changed. If somebody tried to take him on, he could still laser them, but he stopped looking for that opportunity in everything. He was voted ”Most humorous” in his Senior Year and his picture is in the yearbook as most humorous, but you can see on his face in the picture that he is a little uncomfortable, because somewhere in the weeks prior to that he had this idea when he was asking himself if he was funny or just wicked.

During the summer after his Senior Year John was driving around with Ronda’s friend who said ”You know, you used to be so funny, you were the funniest person anybody knew and you are just not that funny anymore!” and John was hurt by it because he thought he had made a transition and was still funny, not just mean. From his standpoint as a 17-year old, having tried to abandon the meanness, John had lost a big component of his humor and his power. He admired Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and the comedians who had a sense that they always had the power of zingers. David Letterman could always zing you, but over time he didn’t zing people quite as hard anymore. He was on television and couldn’t just tear people apart, but you knew he could.

Belushi never zinged anybody, but he did it in a different way, like ”Food fight!” He would zing you by raising an eyebrow, communicating that the person he was raising the eyebrow at was a square, but think about the way that Bill Murray zinged people! He just cut them into sausage. Those guys were John’s heroes, but he got out of High School and went into college very much tempered and he never really went back to that cruelty.

It is still in him and in social situations he thinks of 100 zingers an hour. He could lean against the back wall of a party and cut everybody down because he still has that power to see what people’s weaknesses are and to know what they are most afraid of, but he doesn’t do it anymore. It would be an extremely unpleasant personality in a grown-up, but he watches stand-up comics do it. Sometimes you can see that it is based around a sneer rather than around a lighter face, and John gets very uncomfortable around any comedy that is based around sneering because he once wielded it. The dark side is really what it is!


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