RW211 - Sotto Voce

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • John waking up an hour too early to record the show (Sleep)
  • John’s daughter’s mother’s company being acquired (Currents)
  • 1970s style porn (Factoids)
  • Bob Crane, Scotty Crane’s studio in Seattle (Music)
  • BDSM sex tech culture in San Francisco, Partner Magazine (Sexuality)
  • Sex work culture being adjacent to Rock culture (Sexuality)
  • Dan omitting a lot of his private life from the public conversation (Dan Benjamin)
  • John being off social media (Internet and Social Media)
  • John launching his own Patreon (Patreon feed)
  • Losing Friendly Fire (Podcasting)
  • Focusing on the 1000 true fans (Patreon feed)

The show title refers to people talking about Dan in sotto voce with each other because Dan doesn’t share much private information, so people are speculating about him all the time.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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.

John waking up an hour too early to record the show (RW211)

John had set an alarm to wake him up in the morning and it went off at the regular time 10:30am because they do this show at 11am and he doesn’t want too much time to wake up. John got up, got some coffee, looked at the clock that hangs on the wall, nothing was amiss, he came downstairs, read a couple of emails and right at the top of the hour he said: ”All right, what is up, Dan? Ready to go?” - ”It is an hour before we normally record!” John can't account for it at all, he looked at the alarm, it was set for 10:30am, but what happened at 9:30am?

It is the opposite of missing time when you get abducted by the aliens where you were standing in you living room and now you are in your neighbor's backyard and you are wearing different clothes and you don't know what happened. For John is was the opposite, he gained an hour and he has no idea. He wondered if it was Daylight Savings Time because it was the only thing that could explain it. John doesn’t even have an alarm on his phone that goes up at 9:30am Why would he do that?

Did John dream his alarm? Was he so excited to do the show? They haven't done Road Work on a regular schedule in a long time and John has been very excited to do the show, so maybe that was it. There is a lot going on and it has been an active month.

John’s daughter’s mother’s company being acquired (RW211)

John’s daughter’s mother absolutely wants him to stipulate to people that she does not like being described as ”my daughter’s mother” and she feels like John should describe her as his partner, but partner is a very hard word for him to say in any context. Even describing Dan as his partner in Road Work rubs him the wrong way.

John’s daughter's mother's company has been acquired by a British venture capital group and a lot of upheaval, board meetings, downsizings and stress are associated with that. Today is a big watershed moment in the transition and because she is an executive she is responsible for a lot of the good and the bad. She just learned yesterday that her boss is going away.

What is amazing about the corporate world is that this company and most companies are very top heavy! In a company of 100 people there should be no-one at the C-level. There should be a president and two vice presidents and then managers. That is how it used to be! John’s mom worked at a company that had 7000 employees and there was a president and two vice presidents and then maybe six high level managers. These 100 people companies have a CFO, a CMO, and a CTO, but if you are a C-level executive and you have two or three vice presidents, these terms become meaningless!

It has been a weird couple of weeks and today especially around here at the house John’s daughter's mother is having a tough day. It is not bad, but part and parcel of being a middle-aged professional is that different kinds of stress arrive that are not panic stress or not stress that you don't feel like you can deal with, but it is just actual stress.

Because the C-level person above her is now gone and she is reporting directly to the CEO and that is wonderful because that means she is in the room and she is there at the strategy level where she wants to be. She doesn’t want to hear about strategy from third hand, she wants to be sitting there, but it also means that she inherited four new jobs with a lot of uncertainty surrounding them. Two days ago there was perceived to be a need for a C-level person here and that person is now gone, but the nature of the business did not change.

1970s style porn (RW211)

In the 1970s most of the porn that they saw was in the form of some 1960s Playboys that they found in a cardboard box in the woods and that is not even porn, but the first naked people John ever saw were girls with beehive hairdos who only showed their boobs and they usually were next to a swimming pool or playing ping pong or something.

The first 1970s style porn that John saw was the type of magazine that Hawkeye Pierce would get (character from M*A*S*H) and it was mere nudism. It wasn't so much to titillate, it was almost a documentary. There are nudist magazines where people are playing volleyball, but the magazine John is talking about was set in San Francisco of 1979 when they had fully embraced an original sex-positive but very seedy culture There was a sex worker culture, there was a queer culture, there was a latex culture, and all that stuff was in its infancy.

Bob Crane, Scotty Crane’s studio in Seattle (RW211)

Many years later in the 1990s John got to know the son of Bob Crane, the star of Hogan's Heroes. He was a Seattle guy who was active in the music business and actually bought a studio here. John partly recorded at least half of the second Long Winters record at Scotty Crane's studio in Seattle. Scotty is a clever interesting guy who was part of the Bob Crane documentary (Murder in Scottsdale), the revisiting of Bob Crane's life, who died in a violent way and he had been this lovable character in the culture and then all of a sudden he was murdered and it came out that he made homemade sex movies and was part of a whole underground sex culture.

In the studio that Scotty Crane owned here in Seattle there were wonderful old black & white photos of gatherings of people for spanking parties, guys with curly mustaches wearing ascots and velvet suits who were taking turns, and in between guitar takes you would go over and study one of these photographs taken in the 1950s of women dressed as Hausfraus being paddled by men in velvet suits and everyone seems to be just having the time of their lives. It was clearly a cocktail party.

BDSM sex tech culture in San Francisco, Partner Magazine (RW211)

John’s friend Greg Burns’ older brother had collected some magazines that Greg got them to John and those were not titillating, but: ”Hey, this is what is going on in the scene right now!”, except instead of being about model trains they were about people getting together to have public sex with one another in bars and how difficult it is because the San Francisco cops keep shutting them down. ”When are the cops going to get off our backs so that we can do what we want to do, which is have public sex in bars?”

Then the next article is about ”How to give your partner a tattoo”, which was really eye-opening to meJohn as a 10 year old because no-one had a beehive hairdo and this was very much more a denim thing and a lot of the people were missing one of their eye teeth, it was rough! This magazine was called Partner Magazine, and it didn't think of itself as tough, it wasn't a biker culture thing, but it really was: ”Hey, do you and your partner like to have sex with each other? Have you ever tried having sex while other people were there? Have you ever tried having sex with your neighbor while your neighbor is having sex with your partner? Here is an article about it!”

As a kid who was scandalized by even seeing soft-focus college coeds in tight fuzzy sweaters, this was like: ”Oh, wow! Okay!” The O’Farrell Theatre in San Francisco down in the Tenderloin has always been a strip club that is an icon of both San Francisco and the larger world of aboveground sex work. O'Farrell is still there and Partner magazine had a big spread on O’Farrell and what a cool place it was and ”You should come to San Francisco and hang out at O’Ferrell because you can be whoever you want to be!”

In the last few years when John started first dating Millennium Girlfriend and she lived in San Francisco John was reintroduced to San Francisco sex culture that is all still happening, except now it is a tech culture thing and the tech people who are rich and who don't know how to feel things have reinvigorated this culture. It is definitely tied to BDSM, but there are big public sex events in San Francisco that feel like an Eyes Wide Shut thing. There was a place called The Dungeon or The Castle or something, some big place like an event space, but also events in bars where you had a ticket.

It was was a room full of people fully clothed in nice clothes, watching not just a sex scene, but a humiliation scene. There is an aspect of a public sex in that world that is about: ”This isn't just about sex, but we are going to shame this person in front of everyone in the room!” John is not quite sure if it is about getting off on it, it is a different kind of getting off, like getting off on some psychological head trip shit around sex.

John’s experience of it is that at one level the people at that event are telling themselves that they are really open-minded about stuff and that they are part of a subculture of smart, talented, and rich people that are into some connoisseurship of alt-sex, but at another level John’s experience of it was like: ”Everybody here is really super fucked up!” - ”This is connoisseurship, we are basically wearing velvet suits and are at a spanking party, except the hardcoreness of it is what is supposed to make it Cyberpunk!”, almost. John felt a couple of times like saying: ”Hey everybody, it is a lot simpler than this! It is not this hard! You don't have to go through all this!”

John came up in in the early 1990s in a circus sideshow where he wasn't in that culture exactly, but he went to a lot of events where people were being suspended on hooks by their nipples, the original body manipulation culture that was shocking to us then and would be shocking now because it is startling.

John doesn’t like to use the word ”partner” because at 10 years old it weirdly got connected to O’Ferrell Theatre and every time he is in the Tenderloin and walks past it he is like. ”Oh yeah, Partner!”

There is a picture of Led Zeppelin, clearly at a record-label sponsored event because they are being presented with 4 gold albums for the sale of what John is assuming is Led Zeppelin II and the 4 gold records are lined up in front of the stage and there are two people having sex on the floor one foot behind them where her feet are fully in the air and he is really going for it. Standing right there, one foot behind them, are the members of Led Zeppelin who are there and their Rock clothes, standing in a line, laughing and talking to each other, like: ”Get a load of this!” and a couple of them are talking about Aleister Crowley or something, like tis is just another day in the life of Led Zeppelin.

John saw that picture and was thinking: ”Right, Partner Magazine!” - ”How do we make a gold record ceremony fun for Led Zeppelin?” - ”I know. Let's get a couple of people have sex there on the stage! That is Rock’n’Roll, right?” You don't see that as much anymore, although John is no longer even adjacent to San Francisco BDSM tech culture and it is surely just chortling right along.

Sex work culture being adjacent to Rock culture (RW211)

The party where John met Millennium Girlfriend was put on by guys like Ev Williams and Elon Musk and there were naked Cirque de Soleil acrobats hanging from the ceiling throughout the whole party. You would walk around from room to room and there were three naked people doing a trapeze act. It feels like conspicuous consumption almost. Naked people having sex is a decorative element if you are rich enough. If it was John he would buy the SS United States and rehabilitate it and park it out in the middle of New York Harbor and have every night a huge fireworks display, he wouldn't have a bunch of naked people spanking each other, or maybe he would?

Dan doesn’t think it starts out that way, but you wind up there eventually if you stick with it long enough. It is like making your first plastic model kit as a kid. You make Knight Rider, or airplanes or those Mecha that transform, and three years later you are painting a battleship. You would never start out planning for that. It just happens.

As a Rock musician you are always not far from the culture of sex work because it is your community, the people that are in bars in the middle of the night, the people that are making Rock music, the people that are doing sex work, and very akin to one another in a lot of ways and they end up together a lot of times, not just like Los Angeles in the 1980s where the connection between strippers and Rock musicians was strong, but as sex work in Seattle evolved to be much more feminist and the preference became more and more for real people not teased hair, but cool girls, and Rock’n’Roll was evolving too the relationship is ever thus. There is more in common than some would think, if you think about it for one second or if you are part of the culture.

John was introduced to sex work from that perspective: Those were his friends, those were the girls that he dated, those were the people at the shows, and those were who he was with. He got schooled a lot a long time before sex positivism became part of the above ground sense of what they were trying to achieve and within alternative culture it was above-grounded a lot earlier because it was just who they were.

John was naturally a prudish kid and had to go step by step, which happens to us all when we come to the big city from small town mentalities. Every day there is a new thing where you are like: ”Huh! I never thought I would be here, but: Yes, I am and I feel safe and fun and I like these people, so whatever my problem was it had more to do with me than it did with what I thought it had to do with!” Without realizing it he might even have naturally evolved through the Partner Magazine universe because that image of the O’Farrell Theatre in 1979 was baked into a little capsule in his head and even being part of what it had evolved into in the 1990s he didn't make the association.

Seattle does not have a nudist volleyball community, nor do they have a Led Zeppelin record ceremony style blasé mentality about public sex, but in the gay culture here in Seattle and everywhere public sex is much more a component of the bathhouse culture.

Dan omitting a lot of his private life from the public conversation (RW211)

Dan is focusing in on things that need to get done and there are a lot of those things. He knows a lot of people that like to talk about the things that are happening while they are happening, and then there is another kind of person who likes to reflect back on it later, and Dan is more in the second camp of accomplishing the stuff he needs to get done and later on is when he can go back and reflect on everything. They have a lot to get done. At this point they cut out a part of the recording where they went on a sidebar for a while, talking about their thoughts and feelings and Dan had to edit it out because it is private.

John thinks it is important that people realize that although they spend a lot of time on this show talking about what is going on in John’s life, Dan is also a fully-fledged human being who has many things going on in his life that he doesn’t tell stories about on the show, but off the air. The general assumption is probably that they are like The Odd Couple where Dan lives a mechanical life where everything is the same every day and he eats the same bowl of corn flakes every morning and the same peanut butter and jelly sandwich at lunch. It is the most interesting thing because it couldn't possibly be farther from the truth. John knows about everything, but Dan doesn’t talk about it and by simply not saying that it is wrong the myth perpetuates itself.

It is like when people found out that Dan had a tattoo or more, people's minds exploded because they couldn't merge that concept with the concept of seeing him as a button-down, strait-laced, borderline 1950s dad or something. That is so fundamentally wrong and so not Dan at all, and yet it continues, probably because he has no reason to change it and it is fine. Dan doesn't mind that people think that, it is perfectly fine, but it couldn't possibly be further than the truth. There is something cool about that! It is weird because John has hung out with Dan a number of times in person, and this is the way that he is when they are together, it is not some persona that he puts on, he is just omitting a lot of stuff and doesn’t talk about it.

There are reasons why Dan doesn’t talk about it, part is that he tends to be private in a lot of ways, and when he share something he does so because it could help people, like generalized anxiety disorder or OCD or whatever. His hope is that that somebody is going to hear it and benefit from it or have something that they can take away from it. As much as he loves talking to other people and doing interviews and listening and telling stories and stuff himself, when it comes to his personal stuff he has never really shared that publicly too much. He has a lot of stories, maybe one day he will, maybe after he has passed away and everybody mentioned in it has passed away to protect the innocent, so it will be a little while.

A lot of the people that listened to Road Work from the early days were coming from a Dan universe or following John from a Merlin universe and a lot of the Merlin universe people are also Merlin and Dan universe people from Back To Work, so there are a lot of people here that probably have a better sense of what Dan’s public reputation is than John does, but he has never worked with anyone in media that has as much speculation about who they are and what motivates them than Dan.

When Dan’s name comes up it almost immediately sparks some sotto voce, like: ”What is the deal with Dan? I heard that Dan sleeps in a Batman costume upside down in his attic and he lives on the blood of human babies!” - ”No, no, no, no, no, no, I was talking to somebody that knows all about Dan…” These are all people that know Dan or know him by one kiss away, people that have worked with him, the degree to which Dan is a cipher makes him a topic of conversation and the problem is that no-one has any real information.

This is making Dan so happy right now! It totally made his week and he didn’t know any of this!

”Dan killed a man in Mexico!” - ”No, no, no!” and because nobody has any information those sidebar conversations always peter out and if Merlin is anywhere around, then everybody turns and looks at Merlin and Merlin of course gives nothing away because he knows nothing, he knows less than anyone. One of the things that characterizes Merlin as a public person or as a friend is that he does not talk out of school, he does not like to gossip or betray confidence. A lot of the time his defense against that is: ”Don't even tell me about it!” He is very smart to do that!

It is curious because on this show Dan gives very little away and there is a tendency for people to think that Dan lives on Soylent and when he is not podcasting he goes into his life-support cocoon and waits to be reanimated. People are curious and they do want to hear about it, although Dan is reticent, but John thinks that he should step into storytelling a little bit more just because he has a lot of stories to tell, although he also understands that all of his stories would burn down the world if he told them unvarnished and he does have to show a little discretion.

Two hours ago someone named Joacim Melin says on Twitter: ”Since @danbenjamin seems to have ditched John for good, the best way to support John is here:” Someone replied: ”He hasn't ditched John. They just released an episode for Road Work Patreon supporters last week” and Dan said: ”I wonder what we’re recording right this second.” People don't understand anything and they read everything into it and it is not accurate, it is so silly. Anything you say, you are almost better off saying nothing because if you say something it comes across the wrong way.

John knows pretty much everything, he is the one person, and if anyone really wants to know they got to go to you him and he is locked up like a vault.

John tells stories all the time, like he would be driving along with his daughter and she will say: ”Oh, look at that telephone pole!” - ”I actually climbed that telephone pole once back in the 1990s! There was a guy…” - ”Dad! You are doing it! You have a story about everything!” - ”Well, yeah!” ”No, no, no, no, I mean everything! I can't even point out a phone pole where you are not like: Oh, yeah, one time…” - ”Well?” - ”I just don't know! Have some things that you don't have a story about!” - ”I can't help it! I do have a story about everything!”

But John doesn’t tell secrets. There are some of Dan’s stories that John would tell in a second if Dan released him from confidentiality, and he would probably tell them much better than Dan would anyway, but as long as John is held by that confidentiality agreement he would never violate it, not even by implication. Dan would never share anything John had told him in confidence with anyone, he wouldn't even repeat a story that John shared on the air, he would just direct people to the episode and then they could hear it from him because he is going to tell it better than Dan.

That was originally a defense mechanism on John’s part. Everyone is so afraid of being gossiped about, people are so motivated by the fear of being gossiped about, they fear that their secret is getting out, that the only way to be free of that fear is to just tell everything all the time to everybody. Dan is not even that afraid of things getting out, but he is private. Some people are super-private!

There is one story Dan really wants to tell, something that completely changed his life and that John knows about, and it would have a very dramatic on other people and it would really help people and he has heard other people tell stories that approach, but don't get anywhere near this story, he has seen incredible outpouring of support and people who are supportive of them and it changes their opinion of the person and they are like embraced by the Internet community. Dan would like to do all of that, but he can't tell the story because it would affect the other people involved and it is personal to them, too.

John being off social media (RW211)

Everything is political now as a product of the way that social media has gone and all the voids that it has filled in what used to be the larger world of media and culture and the world of what used to be personal friendships and community. A lot of that has gone specifically into the social media ecosystems that have their own personalities.

John realized in the last month and especially during the the last 72 hours since he launched his Patreon, that we have all been joking for 5-7 years that social media is toxic and for the last 4 years we have known for sure that it is a terrible place, but we don't fully understand how much it presents itself as the actual world and how little it is the actual world.

Comparing it to quitting drugs

John compared this the other day to quitting drugs: When John was on drugs he believed that everyone that mattered in the world was also on drugs and the people that weren't on drugs didn't matter because the people that weren't on drugs were blind to the truth and didn't have access to what was real and cool and necessary and meaningful. They were just living in their dull gray lives and the only people that mattered to John or to anyone were the creative, influential, powerful force that was the culture of people that were on drugs, the makers of things, the the tortured artists, the people who were really sucking the marrow from life and were living closest to the edge as they could.

When John quit doing drugs there was still the feeling of: ”Well, now I am outside of the world that matters, the creative class, the people that are living close to the bone! So what am I now? Just some housewife?” and it took him a long time. Even after he was really engaged with people who were more creative and more fully living and making incredible things he was still thinking: ”Well, yeah, this is all incredible and I never was part of a community like this before, but I am not like a comet arcing across the sky!” and it took him a long time to realize: ”Oh, wait a minute, I was just a loser and all of the drugs that I did was all just bullshit!” That was not healthy or good. John wasn't strong, and now he was living way further out on the wing than he ever was before.

Dave Hill having a similar experience two years earlier

John was texting with the comedian Dave Hill earlier today. He got booted off of Twitter two years ago for making a joke about Donald Trump and Twitter tried to make a show of having any control or any standards and they permanently banned him for what was clearly a joke. Twitter is just so good and permanently bans Donald Trump the last week of his presidency. Good job, heroes! Well done, you guys! Nicely played! In one of those purges when they were getting rid of a bunch of alt-right people they also got rid of Dave Hill just because they are fucking idiots.

Dave is occupying a lot of space that overlaps with John, although Dave is actually a hilarious comedian who stands on stage and does comedy that he has written and he is a much better guitar player than John. They met coming through the rye many years ago, they see each other every year a few times, and John feels a closeness with him that belies the fact that they haven't spent that much time together, really, just showbiz time.

They both, like most people in the arts, thought that without Twitter, how could you promote a thing? How could you make a thing in the world? How are you going to find an audience? How are you going to know what is going on? How are you going to be part of the conversation? Dave has been off it for a while, John now has been off of it for a month, and all it has done is taking the the toxicity and the stress that goes along with waking up every morning, logging on to Twitter and being in that cesspool and frantically craving attention and struggling for likes and throwing all your wit into a void and then trying to consume the wit of other people that you really like who are also throwing their wit into a void. You know them personally and you like them and you are watching them also struggle to keep their heads above water in this ecosystem that naturally rewards controversy and negativity.

John launching his own Patreon (RW211)

John launched a Patreon on Monday, three days ago, because the loss of the Friendly Fire podcast made him realize that he is insecure and he needs something that is just his, something that is a revenue generator that he can rely on in case one of these other shows goes away. Dan is very intimately familiar with that because he used to do a lot of shows with other people and he would interview them on his interview show and if it went really well and there was chemistry he would propose to the person doing a regular show. They might have been podcasting already or they might not have been, in which case they became podcasters and continued on with Dan and then did their own shows and went on to do other things. It would affect Dan significantly financially if he had a show that was successful and people were paying to sponsor the show and then the show ends for whatever reason.

They had shows on 5by5 that ended because somebody got a new job at a company like Apple where they couldn't talk anymore or they became a mom and they don't want to podcast because they are raising a child now or whatever. There are a lot of reasons why shows can end. You can't rely on something being an income stream for you if it is actually in reality reliant on someone else showing up. If one of these shows that John was doing came to an end, it is not just like: ”Oh, bummer, your podcast is over. I guess I will go to my regular job!” because this is his regular job and not having something else cooking that you can rely on like your Patreon means that you could potentially become cut off from your own income based on somebody else's feelings about whether they want to record a show or not.

Losing Friendly Fire (RW211)

The income was part of it, but John loved doing Friendly Fire creatively. He loved the space, he loved the concept of the thing, he loved what it had become and the community that had built up around it, the contrast between doing a show with millennials that had a very different take on the world. Friendly Fire going away was a financial hit, but the biggest hurt was that this was a thing that John thought was his art and he can't do it without those guys. Cancelling that show wasn't just those two dudes, but it was the world they live in, the Twitter ecosystem, but also the MaximumFun culture and the perception that culture has about itself and how it services its fan community and what the values are.

Being canceled was 95% irrelevant to John. 3 days later it was gone and nobody's life was changed and nobody was better or worse. Cancel cultures is not anything, really, and John won't rail about it. It is not a lesson, it is just a storm that comes and goes, like the eye of Jupiter, and yet what got taken from him was this child that he had raised from birth and he realized that this show that he does with Dan, the show that he does with Merlin‚ and the show that he does with Ken are children that are just like his record albums, things that he pours himself into and then he expects them to grow and live. He thinks of the back catalog as things that he wants to survive, and when Friendly Fire went away there was this whole sidebar conversation of: ”Are we going to keep the old episodes up?”

”What are you fucking talking about? The old episodes? Yes, they should be up! I want them to be up! What are you talking about? Available forever! These are things that we made! They are like my albums! I never want them to go out of print! You would take them down for what?” John doesn’t even understand why the show got canceled, but take the old episodes down? John realized that his creative life was something that could be taken from him and his voice can get cancelled.

In that whole process John was getting hundreds of messages from people: ”We are with you, I am with you!”, and it wasn't about cancel culture, very few of those messages were angry at anybody, but most of them were just like: ”Hi! I know you are going through something right now, I just want you to know that I am with you!” over and over until it finally got through to him and he was like: ”Oh, shit! There are people to whom I am responsible!” This isn't just about: ”I lost this thing!”, but other people feel that loss, too. They are his people, the people that listen to Road Work. There is no-one that listens to Road Work that John wouldn’t consider ”my people”. How could you listen to this show? How could you even tolerate this show if you weren't ”my people” and if John didn't owe you something for that?

That has nothing to do with Twitter, it is not the larger world, it is not John trying to communicate with the big world, but it is an actual world that is small and real and John can trust them with his stories, he can trust them with these children that he has made because they want also to care for them. In that moment he realized: ”Oh, fuck, I had a very large audience on Friendly Fire!” Some of the people that listen to Friendly Fire just hated him, they were there for the hot take that was coming from a different angle, and there were people that were just like: ”OK, Boomer!” and there were people that felt like John was a fascist because he both-sidesed the Battle of Okinawa, but for tens of thousands of people that show went away and now what? Is the connection between us severed? Is it one of those things where John is on a boat or they are on a boat and he is waving goodbye and they just sail off?

Focusing on the 1000 true fans (RW211)

Putting that Patreon up was the only thing he could think of to say: ”I need to make it a place where there is a community that I can communicate with directly where I don't have a co-host, where the thing can't get canceled!”, all based on the assumption that Patreon doesn't go out of business or that there is not some catastrophe where the platform disappears, but it is the first thing John has done since the last time he made a Long Winters record where he said: ”This is a place that is mine. It is not in conjunction with anyone and no-one can take it away. As long as the Internet is up, here we can gather!”

In the last 72 hours, just the comments on the little message place! John had never been on Patreon although he has one with Dan and they have contributed a lot of content to their Patriot supporters in the form of their after show which is a completely second podcast that is right up there with the number of hours of their main show. john has never been on the app, he never really looked at it, but it is like an old school message board and there is this community that has always been there! It just materialized out of nowhere!

The comments are not just supportive, but they are personal, people are writing long paragraphs, and they are all smart. They have a lot in common. They are people from around the world, and they all know the language because they listen to the show. It is not just people throwing references at each other because they don't have to. If they say something about Dan Benjamin, everybody already knows that Dan sleeps in a Batman costume and is super weird and lives on Soylent.

This Patreon experience and the experience of the last month has gotten inside of John’s head in the most positive way. He has struggled his whole life to find his place and he has always imagined that his place was a big deal somewhere, that he would get into the big time. He had no plan once he got there, he wasn't trying to pitch a show. He has been watching a lot of episodic television because we all are, and he watches shows like Counterpart or Giri/Haji before that and when he got to the end of the show he really needed to know about the creators.

That never happens, John never cared about who made The Sopranos, but he needed to know who these writers were and who the show creators were and he researched them and they were just people. They weren't rich, they hadn't worked on any Batman movies, they were basically people John’s age and he has no idea how you would go about putting the resources together to put a show out and to make these shows. Counterpart really affected him, he really liked it. One of the writers was somebody that John knew from his nerd infrastructure.

There are people who make such an incredible piece of television as this, spending a lot of money and involving a lot of people and a lot of brainpower, and they are not big shots, the show only did two seasons, they didn't get rich, nobody knows their name, they are just show creators and they are going to go on and make another show, it is their job. They surely live in Los Angeles in a bungalow somewhere, hopefully they can afford to live there even after having made this show that should have rewarded them with millions, maybe it did, maybe it didn't.

There was a quote: "All you need is 1000 fans!” and John has 1000 true fans who have been there for him over and over and he has never fully appreciated it because he always thought: ”Well, I got 1000 true fans and that means that I have 50.000 fans that are in varying stages of totally there, some of them half there, and that leverages me into a situation where I can stand on the stage with Dave Hill and feel like I belong here with him because even though he got 70.000 fans and the two of us are both trying to get on the first slot of a show that is being put on by somebody that got 100.000 fans!”

What John didn't ever realize was: ”No, the 1000 true fans are not the gateway to something else, but they are the thing, they are the audience!”, and he doesn’t feel beholden to them in the sense of: ”Oh shit, I have to cater to the people here!”, like he did about the MaxFun audience or the JoCo Cruise audience, the broader audience of people that were fans of the thing and fans of him by association. These are the fans of him that are like: ”Hey, don't cater to us, bro! Just keep doing what you are doing! We are here!” The number of messages he gotten that were: ”Hey, sorry to bug you, I don't need anything, you don't have to reply, but I just need to tell you I am here for you!” and that characterizes the tone of every one of those 1000 fans of his. They are all: ”Please don't make any special effort, just keep keep on keeping on and I will be here!”

John realized that he can turn his back on that struggle of trying to appeal to a million people and just quiet down and do what he does, confident in the knowledge that there are 1000-2000 people that are just like: ”Yep, we want that from you, so we are here and we we are not going to leave because you mis-chose some words, we are not going to leave because somebody else is mad at you and we are afraid of them!” Podcasting is all happening for most people in headphones and they never have to admit it. They can sit in the room with someone that hates John and be just listening.

John has been so stressed in the last month, the most stressed he has ever been. It constricted all his organs, he was sleeping 4 hours a night, waking up in the middle of the night, like: ”What the fuck? What the fuck?” He didn't know what to do. This is a storm that has been in him since he was six years old, the storm of feeling like he needed to be bigger than he was. It is very windy right now in on whatever exoplanet he lives on and the skies are different shades of black and gray, but the weather is changing and it is like the weather changed when he quit doing drugs: ”Whoa, there is the sky? I thought the sky looked like this because I was never out during the day and now I am out in the day and there is the sky and that is what it looks like?”

John never felt more hopeful and the fact that the Patreon has money attached to it in some ways feels like it adds a symbolism to it, but he is struggling to communicate his feelings because this Patreon doesn't send a message to anyone, it is not about the outside world, it is not about going back to Twitter and saying: ”See!”, it is not about Twitter at all, John has not mentioned it on Twitter, he hasn’t been on Twitter in a month, this site that supposedly he couldn't have a career without. ”How would I get more fans if I am not on Twitter?”

John hasn’t mentioned it at all on Twitter, but 1000 people showed up in basically 48 hours. Wow! It is all wheat, no chaff! There is no one there that is like: ”Just happened along! Herp-a-derp, let's see what this is!”, but it is all people that are like: ”Here for it!” What a validation, but not a validation of any thing or any mentality, but a validation that the world is not social media and the world is a good place still. You can be a good person in a good place making good things, and the social media world is the toxicity. We are all still struggling. There is probably not a single person who joined that Patreon who isn’t struggling in some way. How are you going to listen to this show if you are not struggling? It doesn't have to be catastrophic.

It is not like John is on the verge of crying. He does cry at Latter Day Saints commercials because he is sentimental and one of the things he is worried about most is that when he posts on this Patreon he is now making things for these people and as a sentimental person bordering on mawkish about certain things he doesn’t want to have his reaction on this Patreon to just be like: ”Oh my God, you guys!” He is not like that! There is a certain amount of worry that: ”Okay, well now I actually am communicating directly with my audience. I hope that I am not dumb and when everybody sees me not talking to Dan Benjamin I hope the things I talk about aren't just dumb and lazy!”

What a crazy month it has been! The idea that it would be life-affirming is the furthest thing from his mind three weeks ago. He never for a moment wondered how he was going to survive this, but it just hurt in a new way and why did he start 2021 finding a new way to hurt? He thought he already had all the ways you can hurt, every kind of way you can hurt he already had a whole file cabinet for it. ”Fuck, a new way? A super bad way to hurt?”

During the period where he just needed something to distract him he found this game, the weirdest game called block puzzle, and it uses the shapes of Tetris, but it is not Tetris, there is no movement, it is not timed, it is slow. John tries out games all the time, and he plays them for 3 minutes and they are garbage. He loves Tetris and he decided to try this out and it wasn't Tetris and it became within two days a game that he would happily play for five hours a day and he has been playing it for a week and a half whenever he was walking around the house and had 20 minutes and didn’t know what to do. John needs to not let the phone do its thing, which is: ”Oh, not on social media anymore. I still want you to look at me for five hours a day, so what if I found a little shape game for you?”

There is a weight that has been lifted from John and he is going to survive now with a full time job doing this stuff that he said he was going to do on the Patreon and he has an income now from the people who love him and want to support him and want to see that he is okay. No-one can steal it, no-one can cancel it away from him by not wanting to do a show. Most people can't do that. Most people can't say: ”Hey, 1000 fans, all of you give me $10 a month!” and all of a sudden you are making a six figure salary. Very few people can do that. If DanI could do that he would be doing it. His patron has $500-600 a month and that is something he is still grateful for, but there is no way that he could say: ”Hey, I need your help!” and do that. That is incredible! John needs to understand how much people care about him and love him. That is amazing.

Acknowledging to himself that it is something that he built, that didn't come about through Twitter, he doesn’t owe Twitter this, but who he owes it to is Merlin and Dan and Ken and Ben and Adam because all these guys poured into him their time and effort, they all helped midwife it, and in Merlin’s case introduced him to first of all what a website is and then to what a podcast is and he will always have people that are in all the way with him and he shared those people with John and with Dan.

Then there is a portion of the people that are just drawn to Merlin’s energy, and this is the wonderful thing, also drawn to John’s energy, energies which are on completely different spectra, but there are a lot of those people. Some people came from his music, some people have come through the years, and to be able to say this is a thing that happened absolutely organically and all it needed to do was to be given a vessel that could take shape. They do it with their after show here; Gary’s Van on on Facebook is a place like that, there are 1000 people there, the Omnibus site, the Friendly Fire site, all those on Facebook and on Discord and on Reddit, there are places where that group of fans tries to congregate and say: ”Well, we are here on Facebook and none of us like it on Facebook. Why are we on Facebook?” - ”Well, it is the only place!”

Not everybody is going to go to this Patreon and not everybody wants to be on an old fashioned message board and not everybody wants to read John’s blog posts because it is not 2003, but it kind of is. John just wanted to read blog posts, it turns out. He didn't want to read them on Facebook, he didn't want to read them linked to on Twitter, he didn't want to read them on Medium, but he just wanted to read somebody’s blog. Dan just thinks this is amazing! He hadn't looked at the Patreon until before the show and he thought: ”Wow. That is amazing! John is going to be all right!” Yeah, it is going to be all right!

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