RW207 - It's a Deep Lake

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • Dan recording from his backyard on Thanksgiving (Dan Benjamin)
  • John’s Amazon Echo being called Computer (Technology)
  • John not having been to Austin for 10 years because he stopped touring (Geography)
  • Having friends you know only through the Internet (Internet and Social Media)
  • Thanksgiving traditions (Currents)
  • Explaining acupuncture to his daughter (Currents)
  • John’s practice space next to Cal Anderson Park behind New City Theater, acupuncture (Stories)
  • Dan’s experience with acupuncture (Dan Benjamin)
  • QAnon and conspiracy theories (Conspiracy)

The show title refers to Loch Ness and the fact that there might be a sea animal in there because the lake is very deep and murky.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Dan recording from his backyard on Thanksgiving (RW207)

Happy Thanksgiving! They decided they were going to record on the holiday. John got up early, there were pies being made, John was going over all his nondisclosure agreements and then he realized it is not just a holiday, but he had some work to do. Dan is sitting on his back patio in his backyard and you may hear birds or dogs or lawn equipment. He did his morning live stream from here and it worked well, so instead of sitting in his garage he is sitting out back. The danger of podcasting from the backyard is that maybe at some point you realize you could just do this every day and then pretty soon you got a little headset microphone and walk around podcasting while you do your chores.

Dan is usually in his little studio and today being a holiday he is home, so he brought a nice DR Pro mic stand and the Sure SM7B and his little Scarlett 2i2 and just plugged it into the Mac, which feels very John Roderick of him to do, but if John can record from the bathtub then Dan can record from his backyard. When John records from Maui there are always turkeys in the background and there is a lot going on.

There are two schools in podcasting and a lot of people are about pristine audio and they want to sound like their disembodied voice just lives in Valhalla, but in the background of John’s recordings there is always noise and static and squeaky chairs. He gets away with that because he is John and because Dan is always in a studio it feels like he needs to explain it. Dan sounds great and John is glad to be on the phone with him in his backyard in beautiful Austin, Texas.

John’s Amazon Echo being called Computer (RW207)

For some reason Alexa feels like she needed to chime in. His trigger word is ”computer” because one of the neighbor kids used to come in and talk to her and and get her to play Old Town Road really fast and eventually they had to change the name to stop him because he was someone else's child and so couldn't be properly disciplined. Unfortunately Amazon does not allow you to change the name to whatever you want and there are only four choices and they cycled through and settled on ”computer”. As soon as John said it she lit up over there, waiting to say ”As Soon As I Said It is the name of the title track from Taylor Swift's…”

John would like to call her Jehosephat or Biezzel Bob or something that didn't come up in conversation that often, but Amazon is a Nanny State and doesn't like you do that because they are afraid that you are going to call it fuckface. At some point they did let you make changes and you could call it anything, but they took it away.

John not having been to Austin for 10 years because he stopped touring (RW207)

Dan apparently turned the camera on and John marvels at his big backyard, a nice Texas style compound. John forgets that Dan is in Austin, he know that he is in general Austin, which is a place on a map and John has spent a lot of time in Austin, Texas, and he knows the vibe of the one story ranch house with gnarled trees and the very temperate Indoor/outdoor-ness of Central Texas. Dan wishes he was in a one story, but he got a two story house.

The Austin style is that your doors are open all the time and you got kids and dogs and llamas just running in and out of the house, it is such a different environment than in Seattle. John knows people that live in Austin that he just adores. For John there is the theoretical Austin, the place on the map, the place that has the LBJ Museum, and then there is his personal Austin and he hasn’t been to his personal Austin in years. Maybe it doesn't exist anymore!

John knew a bunch of people who worked at Dell, he would go down there and stay for weeks at a time, and he hasn’t been in 10 years. All those people are presumably still there, but now they are all grown up and their kids are grown up. It is not that he ever stopped liking them or had a falling out with them, he just stopped touring. When he toured he was in Austin six times a year and now he is in Austin zero times a year.

John has all these friends in Europe, and it is the same. He used to see them all the time, twice a year! He had a job where he traveled in a certain kind of way. He still travels, but now he goes to locations, big cities primarily, he flies to New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, but he doesn’t go to Austin. He used to go to Austin because he was on a national tour three times a year and you always went through Austin and then went to SxSW and went down to Austin for that. His booking agent was in Belgium, so every European tour started and ended in Belgium, and that was a central location.

John had friends and in every one of those countries, a lot of them were people that came to every Long Winters show in their region and John would see them at every show in the UK or every show in Germany. A lot of times when you have friends from the old days and then you don't see them anymore, it is because you grew apart or they got married or you changed jobs and usually you drift apart from people, but in the case of the friends and the universe John lived in when he was a touring musician for 10 years of his life, he really settled into the groove! He would leave St. Louis or Atlanta and say to his friends: ”See you soon! See you next time!” because that had been a reliable truth for a decade, and he would see them as often as he saw his friends in Seattle, pretty much.

This all happened before John and Dan knew one another. It was true of Merlin and John saw Merlin multiple times a year because he was in San Francisco all the time and that was where he stayed. What is crazy about touring is that especially in America, and even more in Europe, it is very album dependent. If you show up in Germany and say: ”We don't have a new album, we are just doing a tour!”, then people won't come. They will just ask: ”When is the new record?” and that is true here, too. No booking agent wants to send a band like The Long Winters out where there is nothing to promote and no reason to get the band's name in the newspaper because they presume no one will come.

Their last big national tour was over 10 years ago and John stopped going to SxSW and all of a sudden the whole worlds of his life and friendship and his personal geography all stopped abruptly, and yet he had not grown apart from all those people, he had not had a falling out with it, but the last time he was in Austin he thought he would be there five months later and then he never went back.

John has a phantom limb syndrome a little bit because in Europe he had gotten to the point that when they flew over there he really looked forward to every night of the tour, partly because he was going to see people I considered good friends and they were going to have some laughs and catch up. Email was never a part of those relationships because a lot of John’s Rock culture and relationships and friends wasn't about the Internet. Those relationships didn't have an Internet component.

John's friend Baz in Amsterdam had a collection of 4000 different kinds of salt from around the world and he used to make his own glasses, he is a nut! Seeing him every handful of months was always a highlight, they would always wander off and have some sidebar adventure, but John hasn’t seen Baz in a decade and hasn’t talked to him, never emailed him. The way that his mind works and the kind of person he is, he could be a piano repairman, he could have gone to sea and John wouldn't even know how to get in touch with him, but John has bunch of pictures together with him and he lived in Amsterdam, but he would come to things they did in Belgium, he was part of John’s social circle there.

John forgets it sometimes because he is so immersed now in the Internet and in podcasting and in his current life that he forgets Liesbeth, who was a devoted Long Winters fan and ended up creating The Long Winters Archive and Library, which she still maintains. She got all of their shows archived, a tremendous amount of detail, like Jochen does now for the podcasting world, Liesbeth used to do for John’s Rock universe and he used to see Liesbeth all the time but hasn’t seen her in a decade.

It is Thanksgiving and John is feeling a little bit Thanksgiving-y. Dan sent John a picture of himself sitting in his backyard with his microphone and his exciting new hairline and it made John feel all sentimental about the fact that he never sat in Dan’s backyard in Austin with some Al Pastor and some barbecue, Listening to the insects buzz around. John’s booking agent Matt Hickey who booked The Long Winters since 2001 lives in Austin. He got a little girl that is the same age as John’s and Dan’s daughters and the three of them could have a little playdate!

Dan wonders if John would even recognize Austin. Just in the almost 10 years that he has been there it seems different, and he has been watching it. When you watch something happen you don't notice the changes as much as if you don't see those little tiny changes every day. The first time John went to Austin as a Rock musician was 1998/99, and by 2008 this city had completely transformed like he has never seen a city transform so dramatically in such a short amount of time. It felt like such different places! Austin in 1998, most of downtown still felt like it was one story tall. There just weren't that many tall buildings downtown, it was a little herp-a-derp town, it was sprawly and bad traffic, but now it is a metropolis, or at least trying hard to get there.

Having friends you know only through the Internet (RW207)

Dan would never think of emailing John. Either they see each other in person or they talk on the phone, but emailing John wouldn't feel natural, the way that some of his other friends a phone call might seem weird. Their younger fans congregated on Live Journal and on The Long Winters website message board. John would talk to people after a show and they would say: ”Oh, we are friends from Live Journal and this is the first time we ever met!” - ”Wow, how cool! The Internet is so cool!” They lived in Chicago and their friend in Milwaukee and they both came to the Minneapolis show: ”Wow, the Internet is bringing people together! How awesome!”

And now primarily John interact with people that he knows from the Internet and that a lot of them he has never met and in some ways maybe never will, or it is unimportant to their relationship whether or not they ever meet. A lot of people John has met once or twice. John says he has met Dan once, but Dan said they met a second time when he and Haddie were in San Francisco and they met up with Merlin and ate Ramen. Dan and Haddie couldn't eat anything because neither of them eat gluten.

A lot of John’s Internet friends have been with him through several permutations. When he started Roderick on the Line with Merlin, or when he got onto Twitter, he didn't have much of a presence on the Internet. He remembers signing into Twitter and feeling: ”Okay then! I guess I am entering the Internet!” because he had never been on Live Journal and he went to the Long Winters message board, but it felt like peering out the window of his house a little bit. Now he has had friends on the Internet who have followed him from thing to thing, he recognizes them as faithful friend, but a lot of his Rock people who were very close and who were with him for many years, they either didn't become Internet people or when they got on the Internet it wasn't linked to the Internet John was living in.

A lot of it is that people John’s age that were into Rock’n’Roll weren't natural Internet people, they didn't make the transition to online and they might be completely unaware that John even podcasts. Because they are Rock’n’Roll people they are very unlikely to embrace things like Facebook just because they were very unlikely to embrace New Wave, let alone Facebook.

Thanksgiving traditions (RW207)

On Thanksgiving Dan would either have his mom or the grandparents on his wife’s side, usually one set of those, rarely if ever both, and then his brother in law and Dan’s family at his house. Usually it is a minimum five, sometimes six or seven people, but that is the most. They never had 20 people and a big thing, he doesn’t even have that many relatives in total. This year is not a big difference, just minus one or two people.

The style of Thanksgiving dinner you see at the end of Raising Arizona was never John’s family. Partly because his dad had a first family and John’s oldest brother was 18 years older than John. His dad’s first family would have been the age relative to all their uncles, aunts and cousins, where it would have been a Raising Arizona family because all of their first cousins were all within 10 years in age and all their uncles and aunts and their grandparents. Whether or not they actually ever sat down to a Thanksgiving dinner like that? John thinks they did!

The reports were that one uncle got drunk and started talking about the Hun and somebody else told him to sit down and then somebody threw the creamed onions and it turned into a riot. That happened a lot, and it would have been the experience of John’s family in the early 1960s when John’s dad would have been in his 40s, his kids were all in Junior High, their cousins were ranged between 15 and 5, everybody was still alive, and people wore suits to dinner and white gloves on airplane.

When John was born his dad was 48 and when he was growing up his siblings were all grown, his cousins were all grown, his grandparents were dead, and his uncles and aunts were in late middle age, and none of those people had any desire to gather with one another, really. They had some big family events where they would all get together to commemorate something and stand around the piano and everybody would sing.

In the 1960s and 1950s everybody in the family had their own song and they would stand around the piano and each person would get their moment where they would sing their song and the family would smoke their pipes or whatever. Music always played a role, John’s grandmother would sit at the piano and then later his brother sat at the piano and they were both the kind of musicians that you could just call out a song and they would play it. If you just said Rhapsody in Blue or whatever, then off they would go!

John has a racial memory of that sort of Thanksgiving because he has pictures of all of his family members at those events including his mom when she was young and was his dad's new wife and was standing in the background in her late 20s at these events where everybody else was in politics or something, and John has heard her stories and her assessment of every smug asshole that was at that event.

But it wasn't true for John’s family, they were much more a nuclear family. There were some Thanksgivings spent with the larger family. When John first moved to Seattle and was homeless and rootless his Uncle Junius started inviting him to his Thanksgiving and John went for many years, partly out of a feeling of family obligation, partly out of a feeling that Junius was being generous and John was grateful to have a place to go.

Those Thanksgivings are the type where Uncle Junius stands up at the head of the table and gives a not brief speech on the meaning of Thanksgiving that incorporates historical sources and ultimately has a larger theme, and then each guest at his table goes around and it comes to them to to give a speech of gratitude or in reference to Junius’ speech. He invites a lot of raconteurs, but also his relatives and step-kids and stuff, people that don't want to give a speech and would sit and squirm, so he liked John there because of course he would get up and give a five minute speech about Thanksgiving, he could do it right now!

John never had the traditional family thing and he didn't miss it, except that he is a sentimental. His sister actually missed it, she has phantom limb syndrome, which is the second time John said it in today's show. There is actual phantom limb syndrome, but the power of it as a metaphor is so strong. The treatments for phantom limb syndrome is to have someone sit in front of a mirror so that it flips the image in such a way that it makes it seem like the limb that is missing is in its proper place. If the person has lost their left arm, for example, it would show in the reflection that the left arm is back and apparently just spending time looking at that mirror reflection in the right way, the right kind of mirror, gives your mind essentially the feeling of it being there and it can help with the problems of phantom limb syndrome, which there can be pain and other things like that.

Explaining acupuncture to his daughter (RW207)

Last night John was trying to explain acupuncture to his daughter and he was trying to demonstrate acupressure. He grabbed her hand and was seeking out little acupressure points and she got this amazing look and she said: ”I feel that in my lower back!” - ”I have no idea what I am doing, but there are people that practice those things!”, trying to explain to her even just the first inkling of the idea that there are whole schools of thought that you could poke a needle into this place between your fingers and it would help your kidney function. John had acupuncture one time, he had an incredible experience with it, and then like so many things in life, he never once went back or even really got close to having it again.

John’s practice space next to Cal Anderson Park behind New City Theater, acupuncture (RW207)

When John was in his 20s his band had built a practice space in an old garage right across from Cal Anderson Park in Seattle. None of this would have been possible today, but this was the 1990s. There was an abandoned garage behind the New City Theater, which became the Richard Hugo house, but when it was still the New City Theater John knew the director of the theater John Kazanjian. At New City a lot of John’s friends put on their plays and they would go there to see alternative theater, it was part of their community. Kazanjian was and is a theatre maker. It was the era where people were putting on one person shows or were writing and producing full-fledged plays in a very box setting. It was just the style of theater at the time, and it was a big part of John’s life as a young person.

They went to Kazanjian and asked if they could use the garage that was in the back of the property, which just had a garage door and a wet floor, and they could do so for $100 a month. They completely transformed it into a studio, built an internal wall, took the garage door out and built a cinder block wall to the outside, soundproofed it as best they could, electrified it, and it became a band practice space that a whole generation of bands ended up going through like Voyager One and Kinski and others who took over after John left. John’s bands The Bun Family players practice there and the Western State Hurricanes. John only lived a block away, they could come and go at all hours of the day and night and play music there and it was like a clubhouse.

Across the street there was an old apartment building that really just had four apartments in it. It looked like a house, but it was built as an apartment. In the top floor corner facing the building was a young woman who was going to Bastyr College, studying acupuncture and alternative medicine. In the mid 1990s Bastyr had already established itself as a preeminent American alternative medicine college and she was studying proper Chinese acupuncture there, but they had a lot of conflict with her.

She would come over and say that the bass waves were interfering with her chakras, that the sound they were making was a bummer. There was a there was a period where their relationship was like: ”Argh, that girl across the street! She is always coming over and yelling about the music!”, but then some conversion happened where they got to know each other and they involved her in their culture a little bit and she became a fan and a friend and she started coming to their shows and then was coming to all of their shows and became a member of their community and they of hers.

At one point she said that although she was still an acupuncturist in training in her third year, they should come over and she will give them acupuncture. John used to have shoulder problems and neck problems and he went in and laid down and she acupuncture him and John had a really profound experience. As in all things he had been very dubious.

They came to an agreement that they would only play full bass during certain hours, they made an arrangement with her that they wouldn't do the things that were incredibly disruptive to her because they all understood how bass is. If there is enough power behind a bass wave, it can screw you up from a mile away, you cannot stop the sound of bass traveling. You can do things to mitigate or attenuate a higher pitched sound, but base no amount of sound dampening can really fight that.

They were Rockers, so they wanted loud bass, they were going for that, and they were in a neighborhood, she wasn't wrong, they were right across the street from where she lived, and she was just sitting there trying to do her homework and all she hears is woop, woop, woop, woop, woop. They were sympathetic to her, but when you are playing Rock’n’Roll, you are like: ”Well, I get it, but we also have to play Rock’n’Roll, man!” and that is when you figure out whether or not you are a dick.

When the thing that you are doing that is the most important thing in your world comes up against someone else just trying to live their life, the question is whether or not you are sympathetic to them and if you ultimately are willing to change your process to accommodate the fact that not everybody in the world thinks that your bass-line right now is the best thing that ever happened. It is a learning process for a lot of musicians and artists because you struggled so hard to find a practice space and it feels like such a victory when you finally get a place that is yours that you can turn up and play.

To have gone to all that trouble, to have built a whole building for this express purpose, and then one neighbor has a problem, it is really tempting to say: ”You know: I can deal with your pain! I can handle your hurting! This has been a trial for me and it is a revelation what we have accomplished!”, but to figure out: ”No, in fact you should really try not to be the bummer in anyone else's life!” This comes up all the time with people who have a dog that is barking in the backyard and they find a way to justify it to themselves, like: ”That is just what dogs do!” that allows them to hurt other people and justify it as convenient for themselves or necessary or natural or something.

They tried all that in their own minds, like: ”It is just Rock music, like a car driving by on the street!”, all that stuff, but then you just finally realize you are hurting this person and they are innocent. The thing they can never know is if there was a neighbor that was bothered by the bass who never said anything. Maybe when they changed and accommodated the other neighbor, they may have perfectly overlapped the sleep schedule of some person they never talked to who now couldn't sleep and then caused an industrial accident that killed a dozen people.

Dan’s experience with acupuncture (RW207)

Dan went to an acupuncturist who he saw for a long time for a number of years, weekly or biweekly, for a variety of different things, and had remarkable improvements with different things from her. She was like legit, she was an MD from China. Here we think of acupuncture as fringe medicine in a way, and if you couldn't find answers in traditional medicine, you go to an acupuncturist and: ”I guess it works for you!”, but over there it is not thought of that way. It is thought of as a perfectly legitimate normal kind of medicine. She was saying that in hospitals, and she spent many years working in a Chinese hospital, acupuncture along with Western medicine are both fully integrated there and depending on what your problem is, you will receive treatment from both, depending on what it is.

She had worked really hard when Dan first went to her, she was in her first location, and it was like the scene in Gremlins when the dad wants to buy the Mogwai: There were incense burning and all kinds of bizarre smells and strange things on the shelves. She said that this turns Americans off, it doesn't feel legit to them. it feels like voodoo or witch doctor-y or something, and she got a new office and she set it up to look just like any doctor's office, with white walls, regular boring chairs, a boring waiting room with a TV in it, like all the stuff you would expect to find in a dentist’s office or doctor's office, and her business really improved because people would come in and felt like they understood it.

The only difference was that instead of walking out with a prescription you would walk out with having had needles poked into you and a bag of herbs to make tea out of, but there are some really legit results that Dan has seen and that friends and family of his have seen from acupuncture, and it is weird that we in the West are so quick to dismiss it as something that is not real or something that couldn't possibly help you, just because we don't understand it as laypeople, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't work.

Your diagnosis may be: ”Oh, you have too much liver chi!”, which doesn't sound like a diagnosis. They look at your tongue and they evaluate you based on your tongue and your pulse. If your pulse is too slippery, they are going to do something and you feel better. There were things that you could argue were psychosomatic or something, but Dan was very skeptical of it, he didn't think it would work, he went in saying: ”I am about to go waste $50”, planning on wasting it, doing it to say: ”Well, I guess I will do this anyway!”, to see it actually work and he was very surprised. Dan is not going to say that he understands how Prilosec works, he doesn’t really know what it is really doing inside of you, so why is this that different?

QAnon and conspiracy theories (RW207)

They last talked about this range of topics in RW184

What is different about the QAnon conspiracy?

Right now there is a huge overlap happening between the New Age community and QAnon. The New Age community. alternative medicine people, wellness people, and alternative spirituality people are flocking in droves and some of the big names in those communities are suddenly revealing themselves to be fully into the whole QAnon thing. QAnon is obviously a catchall for every kind of conspiracy and the wellness community had set itself up over the years according to the totems of belief that just because there is no evidence for it doesn't mean it is not real, these are ancient things that you can't understand, the scientific method cannot demonstrate it, but once you have had it done, you know. It is anecdotal, experiential evidence rather than demonstrable or repeatable.

John doesn’t mean to take a side when it comes to for instance acupuncture because acupuncture is 5000 years old and is used in China as a component of regular medicine, but burning witches is 5000 years old, too, so the fact that it is 5000 years old doesn't matter. John is very open to the idea that there are things about the world we don't understand, there are levels of energy we don't know about. Another metaphor that he uses all the time is Spooky action at a distance. There is no accounting for things even in physics, like the Baader Meinhof phenomenon (see OM311), there are just so many so many things that aren't explainable, but are exciting. The fact that she put these needles into John’s hands… his back pain didn’t go away, but he definitely went on an astral trip for an hour.

Dan is a conspiracist to the degree that he has started a podcast about conspiracy and he is always entertaining, examining, and exploring different conspiracies and he is very open to them and enjoys that universe, but QAnon is an example of an umbrella conspiracy. There is no conspiracy that QAnon won't find a way to integrate into it self. It is the Borg of conspiracies, but it is also not only pure bananas without a scintilla of grounding in the world.

It is a dangerous political movement, a dangerous quasi religion, and it is an example of like: ”Oh well, I suppose you could believe in the Kennedy assassination being a vast conspiracy. Definitely in the 1950s and 1960s the CIA did stage some coups and overthrew some lawful governments and replaced them with autocrats by ginning up fake protests that started riots, that is not unheard of, and the Jews do control the media, so maybe Tom Hanks is snorting Adrenochrome right now and and Donald Trump is here to save us all!”

John doesn’t know where that slippery slope begins, and he does not thinks that it begins all the way up with an acceptance of acupuncture, but he doesn’t know where it tips over. Is it the Kennedy assassination? What is the tipping point between… With every single conspiracy you have to evaluate the relative truth and then the craziness that gets around that truth, which is a lot of work for people!

QAnon vs Bigfoot

Dan confirms that it is too much for regular people. His approach is to try to see how things fit together and how things are interconnected, but there is a big difference between: ”Does Bigfoot exist?” and ”Is there a cabal of Satan worshipping pedophiles that secretly run a global sex trafficking ring that only Donald Trump can stop?” Those are very different things and Dan doesn’t see them as related, but for people who do not normally think about things like paranormal, UFO, cryptozoology, conspiracy theories, for people who are out of that sphere completely, there is no indication that those things are not related, that they are not connected, that there is a dividing line between those things. They blur together, they become blended together.

Dan has always been interested in this. There is a huge difference between alien abductions, which are purportedly conducted by the grey aliens, and the reptilian shapeshifting aliens that are supposedly connected to the Illuminati, to the point where there are many people who would say: ”The shapeshifting reptilians, that is complete crap, that is completely a lie, but the grey aliens, the abduction, that is real!”, whereas from the outside someone would say: ”You either believe in aliens or you don't! What is the difference there?” The closer to the metal you get on this, the more differences you see.

QAnon is completely not interesting to Dan. He has looked into it so that I know what it is, he had conversations with people about it, but he could not be less interested in that. It is not that it is not fantastical enough, he is not out there looking for the weirdest possible thing, all of these things are intriguing to him, but what is interesting to him about the QAnon phenomenon is how many people are interested in it and do care about it and do believe it and think that it is real, and how widespread it is. If you were to count the number of people who believe in QAnon, if that is the right way to describe that: ”believe in it”, compared to the number of people who believe that Bigfoot exists, there are very few people who think Bigfoot really is real, who would really say: ”Yes, I really think there is a Bigfoot!”, but there are a lot of people who believe in QAnon.

As far as existence of alien intelligence, it is a foregone conclusion that there is alien intelligence in the universe. That is not the discussion or the debate, but the debate is: ”Are they here? What are they doing if they are here?”, that is where you lose a lot of people. Except people who are fairly religious and believe in an earth centric, human centric view of the universe, most people would say: ”I am sure there is other intelligent life in the universe!” because we have already found life, bacterial and that kind of life, elsewhere already in our own stupid solar system. If the universe is limitless, of course there is other life out there. That is not the question anymore, but the question is: ”Is it here and what is it doing?” and that is where you lose a lot of people.

With the QAnon thing there is a lot that you have to believe that seems to go against what you can actually observe, which is also what makes QAnon different and for Dan takes it out of what people think of as conspiracy theory type things, because you can observe most of it, you can't observe what George Soros does in the privacy of his own home, but you can observe a lot of the other things that are going on and it all comes down to proof.

Why is there no proof for alien abductions, no alien paperclip?

”Do I believe that aliens are here and are abducting people?” Why don't we have any proof of that? We don't have the equivalent of an alien paperclip. Of all the abductions that supposedly have happened and all of the people who have been abducted over decades, because technically the alien abduction phenomenon that we think of when we think of alien abductions really started in the 1940s. There is no real proof of it, there is no good footage, there is no paper clip, there is no artifact that we can look at, that we can say: ”This is clearly a manufactured thing and the technology used to manufacture it doesn't exist on Earth and the resulting thing that was manufactured isn't something we could make!” We don't have a single thing like that!

You think about that scene in Silence of the Lambs where Hannibal got a pen that allowed him to do what he did in the last part of the movie, where he got just a little paper clip or a little pen or something and was able to slide it off the table and get it. No one has been able to do that, is that because their mind control is so absolute when we are on their ship that that no one can do that? There are lots of reports of people who say that they are acting more or less independently, even though they are in the confines of the ship, but nothing ever gets brought back.

That makes Dan skeptical of it. If you get abducted, just grab one paperclip, one whatever the equivalent of that is, one device, one thing and come back with it. You are going to say: ”Well, the aliens have protocols that prevent that.” - ”Okay, I believe that!”, but not one single piece of physical proof that can be looked at in a lab by serious scientists? That does casts some doubt and Dan wants to know more about it, but it doesn't make him disbelieve it. It makes him say: ”I want proof so that I can believe it. I want proof so that I can go along with it!”

It is the same things with ghosts: Of all of these supernatural, paranormal, unexplained phenomena Dan has a really hard time believing in ghosts. Of all the things that he believes in, he almost could go along with believing in QAnon theories before ghosts. The QAnon thing is weird because so many people believe it and they believe it very publicly. We have seen in our lifetime people who believe in aliens and who would publicly say: ”Yes, I believe there are aliens, I believe they might be here on Earth!”

Dan believes they might be here, but very few people are going to hear Dan say that and say: "Well, I am done listening to Dan’s stuff now. I don’t want to hear from him anymore!”, but 30 years ago they would say Dan was crazy. But if Dan were to say: ”QAnon is totally legit, totally real, and you got to believe me!”, a lot of people would say: ”Oh, I can't listen the Dan anymore!”, but there are also a lot of people who would say: ”Yes, good, finally!

The plausibility of conspiracy theories

Of all of the conspiracy theories, QAnon just seems so preposterous! Let's just look at Bigfoot: Is it possible that out in your backyard somewhere in Seattle, Washington State, Pacific Northwest, that there is or was some kind of forest dwelling primate creature that somehow lived out there? Yes, that is totally reasonable to think that. There have been sightings of it, they found fur that usually turns out to be deer or bear fur, but is it possible that something like that could exist? Especially 30-50 years ago Bigfoot was the number one thing that people talked about in this space, except the Skunk Ape, Chupacabra, or the Jersey Devil.

Is it possible that something did exist or still exists that we don't know about? Yes! That is possible! Is it possible that Loch Ness was some kind of plesiosaur type dinosaur or something? Is it possible that it could have existed in that lake? Is it possible? Yes, it is possible! Is it likely? No! Is it likely that a dinosaur or enough dinosaurs adapted and lived in that lake and reproduced long enough? No, it doesn't! But is it possible? It is a big lake! It is a deep lake and it is a murky lake. Is it possible that there is a creature in there that we don't know? Of course it is possible!

Is it possible that there is a cabal of Satan worshipping pedophiles that are running a global sex trafficking ring and that Donald Trump is the only one who can stop it? Let's break that down: Is it possible that there is a cabal of Satan worshipping pedophiles? Yes, absolutely that is possible! Is there probably some kind of global child sex trafficking ring? Yes, there is, demonstrable. Are there both of those together? Maybe not? Is Donald Trump the only one who can stop it? No! When you start to get into all of the stuff where they are saying that Barack Obama is part of this and Hillary Clinton is part of it, and when you start to go into that kind of detail and you start to talk about that, then it starts to become more and more preposterous. There are too many things that you have to believe for it to be true and that is the problem.

Is the universe basically limitless and vast? Yes! Could there be another Earth-like planet somewhere that could sustain life in the vastness of the universe? Yeah! Is it possible that they got a head start on us by a few hundred thousand years? Oh, definitely! Earth and the Sun is a young star! Is it possible that they could have developed a way to travel across the universe that we haven't figured out yet? Yeah! None of this is: ”Well, I have really got to suspend my disbelief on that one!”, but all of this makes sense.

We have got microwave ovens and you can heat a baked potato in a microwave oven in 10 or 15 minutes. You don't have to wait an hour to do it anymore. You can have a baked potato on demand. If Dan told his grandparents or anyone before them when they were Dan’s age that they would have this, they would say that is magic, that is amazing. There is a box and you push a button on the box and food just pops out of it hot? No way! Who is to say that in 1000 years what technology we will have that we can't even imagine now?

We don't have any idea what is in store for us or what single breakthrough will completely change everything. For example, if we had what is called zero point energy or unlimited energy, essentially that your entire house could be powered for lifetimes by a tiny little box the size of a box of matches, wouldn't that dramatically change many things about how we as people live on this planet? Yes! We don't know what the future future technology will bring, so it is very possible that a civilization manages to not destroy itself and figure out how to travel pretty fast through the universe. Could aliens be here? Yeah! Dan doesn't have to believe a lot to believe that, he can just look at what we have done in the last 10-20 years and think: ”Who knows what the future has for us?”

But in order to believe in the QAnon thing, and this is the one thing that Dan has always had trouble believing when it comes to something like the Illuminati, is that people who are the same age, the same demographic, can't work together very well on a team. You can't take five people and think that they are going to get along, regular people who all want the same thing, who all work in the same company on the same team, there is going to be infighting with just those five people. You can't get five people to really get along on their own.

Why would a group of incredibly powerful, influential, super rich people be able to get along together to have these global initiatives and not fight each other for power and not want to rule and destroy the other people? The more powerful you become, the more you want to destroy the other people that are powerful. Dan just doesn’t think that any of that stuff makes sense. It doesn't grab him! It is not that he is disinterested in politics, he finds politics to be quite interesting, but there are so many things that he would have to believe that don't stack up correctly with each other, that he just can't get on board.

John’s methodology of taking ideas to its extreme

One of John’s methodologies is: When looking at a problem or at a question, it serves to extrapolate from that question to its most extreme example and see how the proposition holds up when pushed to its extreme right, as Dan just did, but you can apply that to almost any political argument. It is not to say that if it doesn't hold up at its extreme it automatically refutes the idea, but it is a way of finding out if there is some systemic flaw to this idea that can be revealed just by extrapolating out to a slightly more extreme condition. That right away destroys a lot of political arguments, as soon as you put pressure on it, by saying: ”Okay, would that apply in a society where this new thing was true or would that apply to a larger group than just what you are describing here?”

That stress testing of ideas is a primary way for John to interact with ideas: ”Would this be true at a personal level? Would this be true at a global level?”, just to see where the boundaries of an idea lie. That happens in physics a lot: You take a tenant and you subject it to the stress of trying to apply it across scale and if it is true at the molecular level, shouldn't it be true at the interstellar level? Depending on where you find the frisson, you either sand down your idea or you adjust it, and that adjustment has again to be subjected to question of scale or whatnot.

The argument is that there are forces at work that we cannot see. Science cannot describe or replicate acupuncture because science does not have a way of saying that your chakra is blocked and needs to have its energy released by putting a needle into the hub of your whatever, science doesn't recognize any of those terms, but John is very susceptible to someone saying that science doesn't understand everything. This is a practice that has been refined over thousands of years! All these terms like chakra were discovered by experimentation. Let’s get the association you have with that from being poorly described by an undergraduate in your freshman dorm out of your head! It is not the same as chemistry, it is a whole different vernacular!”

John is there for that, but if you stress-test that set of conditionals and adopt all that conditionality and check if that is a methodology that you can apply to other things and see if that applies across the board or if it applies to these other things, you very quickly get into as a situation where if you use that same logic then John F. Kennedy Jr. is still alive and he is living on top of the Washington Monument and he is about to reveal that he is Taylor Swift's father.

John doesn’t have the patience or the luxury to know exactly where a suspension of disbelief is useful and good and true and honest, and where it crosses so that a suspension of disbelief is culpable, naive, crackpot, and dangerous. He doesn’t have a ton of respect for people that live completely evidence-based lives. He respects them as authorities to consult, but he doesn’t like to be lectured by them because he absolutely wants to maintain his own fantasies about the natural world.

John wants his imagination to be active, he wants to think that that owl that appeared on the wire above his truck the other day while he was waiting for the engine to warm up was trying to communicate with him (see RL398). It is not that he wants to believe it, he just believes it, and somebody saying: ”That owl just came there because it saw a mouse!”, he doesn’t need them tromping around his imagination. On the other hand, his belief in that owl is not governing his policy decisions! He doesn’t go to the store and makes his grocery shopping decisions based on what he thinks that owl intended.

John doesn’t know how to govern the gray space between using a methodology to accept the veracity of something and having enough wiggle room to live in a world that still has magic, but not allowing enough wiggle room for that magic to become sorcery. John knows that Dan trades in this space as part of his own amused and investigative personality.

How QAnon is so attractive to so many people

Something like QAnon is just crazy pants and the popularity of it amongst people of all political stripes, that is what is crazy! To bring all these hippies in and to watch the hippies be like: ”Oh, this comports perfectly with my sense that I have been sleeping under a copper pyramid for two decades!” A lot of the stuff that goes on inside QAnon are things that other people believe or that resonate with them. For example one of the things that QAnon people often say is that the media is not being honest, that the big media is lying to us.

Dan does believe that, but that does not mean that all media is lying and that every network is is lying, but it means that there is often misinformation that we are told in the media that could be in the form of incomplete information, misreported information, misquotes, oversimplifying, or over-summarizing information. Is this done on purpose to mislead us? That is the question! A lot of the time: No! Any interview Dan ever had, and he hasn’t even had that many, he has always been misquoted and taken out of context every single solitary time, every time, even on stuff that could have been just quoted directly and would have sounded better than the way that they changed it.

Of course if that happens to little Dan, it is definitely happening elsewhere. He can go along with the fact that there is intentional or unintentional misinformation or disinformation in the media. If you believe that a little bit and you find a movement of people saying: ”It is even worse than you think!” you are more likely to believe it. A friend of Dan’s was a Jehovah's Witness. They worked together in a technology company. His office was a door down from Dan’s, he was similar age, and they both were the two younger guys in this floor of stuffy accounting type people.

They would talk and Dan was absolutely fascinated by his religion, Jehovah's Witness. He thought it was just really interesting and they would talk about it all the time. His friend knew that Dan was raised Jewish and Dan asked him at one point why he never tried to convert him. He said: ”It is pointless! You are Jewish and all Jehovah's Witnesses know that you can't convert Jews, you can't get them interested! You guys don't fear hell and you don't believe in Christianity and therefore you don't have the kind of fear triggers that Jehovah's Witnesses use to reach somebody. You are essentially unreachable! When we are going door to door, if there is a mezuzah on the door, we don't even bother.” Dan found that to be very interesting and it is true (see RW143)

There isn't that commonality of belief, there isn’t that common system, the infrastructure of religion, that was strong enough for him to get his hooks in, to maybe get the person interested, but there are enough things QAnon draws from enough different spaces and different places that it provides many inroads for different people to get interested in it, and once they are a little bit interested in it and part A make sense, then if part A makes sense, maybe Part B is true, and if part A and B were true, C might be true, and if A, B and C were true, then you are in for D through Z. Those dominoes fall and people wind up buying it. If you don't believe in any of those primary inroads, then you will never be able to get into it much more.

There are so many gateways to believe that the world is not what it seems. For instance: To believe that there are things inaccurately portrayed in the media is easy because there is plenty of evidence. To believe that the media lies sounds like it is just a tiny little step. We already said it: There are inaccurate things in the media, therefore the media lies, but that is actually a huge jump! As soon as you say the media lies the mind can race with that. You have a little Hot Wheels track and to say there are inaccurate things in the media, it is one of those sections of Hot Wheels track that is only basically about as long as the car, you put the car on it and the car rolls one rotation of the wheels to the other end. There are inaccuracies in the media, that is demonstrable!

But then to say the media lies is a whole section of Hot Wheels track from the starting point, which is: ”There are inaccuracies in the media!” all the way to: ”The entire news media is a giant hydra controlled from a central location, pumping out things that are lies that are meant to serve the purpose of brainwashing people and in the service of a cabal of people that are manipulating the world!” That huge Hot Wheels track is all contained in this three word sentence: ”The media lies!”, so then you put that building block in there - CLICK - and on the other side of it you can say: ”Well, if we know the media lies, then we cannot trust the media!” and - CLICK - that is a Hot Wheels track that is 50 feet long, and now all of a sudden you got people that are like: ”Well, the media said that the sky is blue or that George Washington chopped down the cherry tree or that coronavirus is a problem and it is all a lie!”

The fact that QAnon has clicked with so many people that have pre-clicked into place some of these really simple phrases that that can contain multitudes. To say: ”Is there global child sex trafficking?” - ”Yes!” You don't even have to know to know that there are people around the world who are kidnapping children and using them for ill purpose, and if there are those people, then they are trading with each other, it is an industry. There are whole industries of people that are just get together to have dogs fight each other or chicken, if you have a whole sports industry that is just devoted to tying razor blades to chickens, then anything is possible, and that is an ancient and very popular sport, and so is the abuse of children.

Where is the line between magic in the world and crazy conspiracy theories?

John talks about retaining magic in the world in RW63.

To follow the logic out, all of a sudden after decades of feeling like: ”You know what? There is so much in the world that you don't understand, there is acupuncture and fasting and hardened fecal matter and the sound of bowls that you are rubbing a wood stick on and the Kennedy assassination.” John has now contracted a willingness to say: ”Oh yeah, probably!” because all around him is a pressure of realizing that to say: ”Oh yeah, probably!” is a tacit endorsement of a way of thinking. In a lot of cases he assumed it was benign, but it can be so quickly converted and perverted in people that you would think were intelligent.

John doesn’t have a ton of respect for the universe of yoga instructors, but he at least felt like they were allies. He won’t go to yoga instructors for enlightenment, but he assumed that they were working toward enlightenment along a neighboring path, one that was not vulnerable to suddenly believing in Adrenochrome.

Last night John was talking to his daughter about acupuncture and three years ago he would have said that there are worlds of nature and experience that we don't understand and can't qualify that yet are supported by anecdotal evidence and by millennia of first hand experience, and that there are other cultures that have completely other approaches to things like health and wellness, we have a tendency to be chauvinistic about it, but it is wise to be open to these different experiences, so here is what acupuncture is and here is how I understand it and how one might integrate it into a life living in Seattle.

Last night John was a lot more circumspect in describing it. He did say all those things, but he played it much closer to the vest and prefaced it by saying that ”some believe”, which he wouldn't have said four years ago. He would have said that in general you cannot apply science as a blanket ideology because it doesn't cover everything. Now he is walking that back a little bit just because you have to draw the line somewhere and he doesn’t know where.

Acupuncture is not waiting out there for John’s endorsement, but in terms of the way he lives his life and teaches his child, if he will say that acupuncture is real it is just like saying that there are inaccuracies in the media: It is true and acupuncture is real, but it opens the door that chakras are real and then your heart chakra can be clogged by bummers, and does that exclude appendicitis from the list of reasons why you might be feeling clogged? For most people: ”No!” Even for most New Age people, a clogged heart chakra is going to manifest itself in certain ways, but by the time you fall to the ground in agony it is going to be the rare New Age practitioner that says: ”No, no, no, you don't need to go to the hospital. It is just your heart chakra!”

Although we have seen Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and all kinds of people who will sit Shiva next to their children's bed while the child dies, unwilling to seek medical attention because of a belief. That is increasingly true in New Age medicine with anti-vax being one of the primary manifestations of that recently. If you are living a life where you say heart chakras may be real and also appendicitis may be real, you have already entered into a world of false equivalency. To say appendicitis is real and the treatment for a burst appendix is appendectomy, does that coexist with acupuncture? There is a whole school of acupuncture that says that in the old days when there weren't appendectomies they treated it with acupuncture!

Western medicine is full of those, too! John is trying to pick a path that allows him to retain magic in the world, but not just live according to science, but also not tacitly endorse things that are bananas and have a tendency to say: ”Yeah, totally! I am sure that Reiki massage where you hold your hands over someone and create a ball of lightning with your energy, I bet that is totally real!”, even through a tacit endorsement of not going: ”No!” In a world that is only one kiss away from John there are people who have embraced Reiki treatment all their lives and do now also believe that by extension - because if Reiki is real - the media and medicine are not, and therefore there is a global child sex trafficking ring that only Donald Trump can stop.

John is trying to figure out that if he is going to knock a domino over in the system of belief that he is teaching his child. At what point as those dominoes go out does he start pulling dominoes from those branches where the if-then-statement is: ”Well, if you believe in chiropractic, then you have to believe in Reiki!” - ”Let me get ahead there and pull some dominoes out of so that it does not set off a chain reaction over here, let's leave these dominoes standing!” At what juncture, at what branch, does he jump in there? Some of their listeners live science based lives and wouldn't even set any dominoes going over in the ”There is magic in the world!” side, they wouldn't even start that game. Most of them aren’t poets, and as a poet John has an obligation to keep some magic alive in him!

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