RW227 - Her Massively Good Bridge

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to Aimee Mann who added a massively good bridge to the song Pure Judge that John had written originally and gave it to her.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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 having trouble with his recording software (RW227)

Dan has been using Audio Hijack to record for years and it has been wonderful but today without anything having changed nothing worked even after a reinstall and Dan is back to his old pal Logic Pro X and had to get that set up and configured and working. If that happens to John he will just punch out when the going gets tough, but the show must go on at any cost. John has a tendency to think that nothing ever happens to people like Dan who are computer savvy and that the computers are just against dummies like him and they are set up to make them buy new Apple products because they feel it is too old.

Replacing stuff for the sake of replacing, seeing your computer as a tool (RW227)

Even though Dan and John Siracusa buy a new computer every six weeks just because they got to keep up with the Joneses, and Dan actually used to do that. John’s laptop that he is using right now is a mid 2014 MacBook Pro. At one point it stopped working and he called Apple and I said it felt illegitimate that this stopped working and he didn't have AppleCare and he didn't do any of the things right and yet they were careful, but they were amenable and they replaced some major part of it and now it is still going strong.

Still, John is mad at them for making it impossible to live without these things and that is sad. John doesn’t want this to be inevitable. When the washing machine came along it became much more likely that you would have one, but it didn't… You don't have to have one of these things any more than you have to have a washing machine, but John does have a washing machine and he does have one of these. His washing machine is newer than his computer. What does that tell you?

The idea that you need to replace a washing machine, there are people who have a lot of resentment about that, because certainly their parents, but even in their generation the expectation is that the washing machine, the dryer, and the refrigerator are meant to last a decade or beyond. Dan knows Boomers who still have a washing machine or a refrigerator that is many decades old, despite the fact that it looks horrible, but it still works. Certainly we are trained by Apple and other companies to think that our phones are not permanent things, that they are disposable things. Why would you want to keep a phone for two years?

Dan used to have his grandfather's hammer until it finally broke and it was his probably when he was in his 30s and it was a hammer, it was fine. When it broke he pitched it out, right in the trash. The way that the wooden handle went into the head of the hammer was antiquated, it had lived three lifetimes, and it needed to rest.

When Dan was first starting out doing consulting work he was trying to pick up any kind of job that he could get and one guy hired him who did networking, but didn't know anything about Max and had just gotten a new customer, a print shop, and they wanted him to come in and bring the Internet to their office and they had all these Macs and he didn’t know what to do with those. Dan imagined he would find relatively modern Macs in there and they did have some modern ones, but they had a handful of really old Macs to control their large printers that would print on sheets of paper that were five feet wide. The Macs that they had connected to these special printers were very ancient, but from their standpoint they were just tools that performed a function and why would you replace that?

Even back then Dan was very much like: ”The next bigger, better, faster, newer thing is always the best!”, but sometimes it is not, but the thing that works perfectly is the best and replacing something for the sake of replacing it… There is this conspiracy theory at Apple or other companies that they make it so that after a certain amount of time your phone battery just coincidentally starts to die right around the time that the new one comes out, but Dan doesn’t buy any of those.

John looking through boxes of books (RW227)

John was going through some boxes of books yesterday. He got a lot of books. He once had a girl visit him from Spain (see RL299) and she walked around his house that was just bookshelves everywhere and she said: ”John, where are all your books?” - ”What do you mean?” - ”Your books! Where are your books?” She expected that he would have five times more books than he had. He had books everywhere, books, books, books, books, books, but he had given away a lot of books. You read it on a train, you write your name in it and the date that you left it and then you leave it on the seat in the train. You put the book on a shelf, you leave a book in a cafe when you finish a book and you are not going to pack your book around with you because you are done with it.

That doesn't account for all the missing books that this Spanish girl thought that John should have. He has been in houses of people who really have books, more than they could possibly have read, but they are symbolic and mean something. John moved into this house and put his stuff around, but in the basement there are boxes and boxes and boxes of books and he has been dreading it because some of those books he won’t know what to do with.

There were a bunch of books from the early 1990s when John was doing Native American studies as part of his colonialism project. He read two dozen books about the Pacific Northwest Native American encounter with the Europeans and now he is thinking about the house and he is thinking what exactly he should do with this box of books. Find a shelf and put them somewhere in case he ever wants to refer back to the Encounter at Nootka Sound or do put them in a box and take them to a bookstore or a thrift store.

He opened another box with another set of books and he is wondering how often he is going to refer to Civilization and its Discontents (by Sigmund Freud) now, that he would want to pick up the paperback off the shelf rather than just look at it on his phone. Then he thinks about the EMP that is coming, the electromagnetic pulse, that is going to erase all of the Freud and Kafka off of the Internet and there won't be an Internet anymore and we will all be driving around in one cylinder scooters that we are going to power with cooking oil.

At that point as we are reconstructing a civilization from the ashes most people are looking around in their little caves and hovels that they construct for themselves, and all they will find is the charred remnants of cookbooks because those are the only books left in people's houses and even those are going and they will try to reconstruct a civilization from cookbooks. That civilization is going to be even worse than the one we are living in now! Maybe better? Maybe if you built a civilization entirely on the remnants of one pot cookbooks and Rachael Ray, maybe Rachael Ray's philosophy of life is better than Thomas Jefferson's?

Does John not want to be one of those people whose mom printed out some recipes for Chili Verde and that is all that is in his drawer because he gave away all his books about colonialism. He is not sure any more! He would retain some knowledge, but it is nice to be able to refer to a book. If he is standing up in front of an unruly mob and he is making a case that he should be their leader, and they will instinctively know that he should be their leader, but he will be saying: ”Rachael Ray is not a God! She is not our guide!” ”Says who?” - ”I read some books once that I gave away a long time ago!” is not going to help his case. He is going to need to be able to present the metamorphosis and wave it in front of them and say: ”You haven't read this book and I have and your phones are all dead now!”

The boxes are necessitating shelves and there aren't enough shelves in the world. What is he trying to do? Impress this Spanish girl that hasn't been to his house in 15 years? And she can run her finger down the spine of all these books and go: ”I know, but where are your other books? Where are the real books? The books?” In Spain they do things differently, in Barcelona especially, and she might have meant the books that he inherited from his father and his mother's books that should be lining… you don't even need art or wallpaper in the apartment she is imagining. Also she lives in a six bedroom apartment in Barcelona that she inherited and of course all the walls are lined with books and there are servantes from head to toe.

John’s mom threw away everything at the day she consumed it, she is like Dan. She read a book and unless it was the French Lieutenant's Woman it went away. John’s dad had shelves and shelves and shelves of books, but they were all garbage. They weren't even books that you would use to start a fire. The best books on his dad's shelf were not Spenser for Hire (by Robert B. Parker), but books that were like ”A Nazi V-1 rocket launching plant was discovered on the coast of France and no one had known about it for 50 years, but these unreconstructed Nazis from Argentina have come back and they are going to start a new World War!”, all these things that were written in 1979 when all the World War II vets were 55.

It was a whole genre of pulp novel: ”What if the Nazis are still underground and about to start a new war?” The Missioner (by E. Phillips Oppenheimer) and (Frederick) Forsyth, those are even the novels that were good. He just read trash and he did keep his books, but it was like the middle aged man equivalent of the Twilight novels, not sexy vampires, but the heroes of those books were always middle aged guys who were a little broken down and kind of drunk who drove a beat-up car, basically The Rockford Files, but somehow with the help of their black friend who used to work for the police department they solve mysteries and they get the girl. Maybe those books still get written? John didn't keep any of his dad's books. What he has are the random books that were in his hands at a time when he had a shelf to put them on.

That amounts to books and they still have value to him, they still have some meaning, even though someone like Dan would say: ”You are never going to read these books again. You are literally never going to open these books again, and so what is their value? Their value is just to weigh down your house so it doesn't blow away in a strong wind. It keeps you tied to the earth, just the weight of your books!” John is very conflicted about it, and partly it is that he doesn’t want to go through these boxes and pull out all these books.

Every one of these books has a whole association of memory where he has to look at them and think about their time and think about his time with them and maybe that is not where he is right now in life. He suffers from morbid sentimentality sometimes, not all the time, and he doesn’t always know the antidote to morbid sentimentality and books are the opposite of the antidote.

Hearing Wrecking Ball over the radio at Fred Meyer (RW227)

Yesterday John was at a Fred Meyer, which is a regional Wal Mart, except higher quality and without all the stigma attached to Wal Mart, they call it Freddy's. They sell groceries, they sell home stuff, they sell hardware, they sell clothes, they sell everything, and they are not bad, but they are good. They have been purchased by Kroger and are just part of the global… some weird bug just flew into the tree, a very big bug… John was looking for shower curtain rings and he was wandering around the store wondering if he needed a wastebasket or a floor mat for out front.

They were playing a selection of modern Pop music over the stereo, and it was kind of cranked for a grocery store, the slick highly produced Pop music that defines our time and about halfway through John’s visit there, right after he found the shower curtain rings that he was going to buy Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus came on, not a bad song. The first time he heard it he was impressed because the chorus has a neat little turn melodically. It does a cool little thing and it gave him pause, he stopped and listened to it and as it went on he was moved by it.

John went to see Miley Cyrus several years ago (see RL98) and he was impressed by her professionalism and by her command of the room and by the elaborateness of the show. He had thought of her as a manufactured Pop star, but she was clearly very much in control of the event and she was pretty marvelous. John was moved at her show a couple of times, but moved by the psychedelic nature of it, almost moved to borderline terror. She played Wrecking Ball at the show and that was a song he had heard.

John saw Adele (see RL323) and he was moved by her music, not to say musicianship because Miley Cyrus had tremendous musicianship, but he was listening to Wrecking Ball at the Fred Meyer and she got to the end of the chorus and she says: ”All I wanted was to break your walls. All you ever did was wreck me.” and he was struck by a bolt and frozen, holding his shower curtain rings in one hand, rooted in place, and devastated. This is an example of a thing where who knows what Miley Cyrus's experiences were that led her to write Wrecking Ball.

The song was written by Mozella (Maureen Anne McDonald), Stephan Moccio, Sasha Skarbek, Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald) and Cirkut (Henry Russell Walter), it is interesting that the people with the most dorky names have these cool pen names, maybe that is how it goes. Realizing that it wasn't written by Miley gives John a different interpretation of his experience. He was responding to something in the music, definitely something in her performance and the production of the song, but something in the writing of the song. It affected him enough that he went out to the car and found the song on YouTube and listened to it again.

He made the mistake at first of thinking that he was going to watch the music video, but the music video did not improve his experience of the song because the music video is of Miley Cyrus naked swinging around on a Wrecking Ball. It is not bad, but it is very different from the emotion of the music. The last thing he expected when he left the house yesterday was that this pop song was going to appear to John at a grocery store and that it was going to change the trajectory of his day.

Songwriting, covering each other’s songs (RW227)

In John’s universe everybody writes their own songs, both as a matter of pride and also because there are very few situations where somebody would write a song that would be better than a song he could write that he could afford.

Every song has two sides: the performance side and the writing side and they are split equally and the writing side gets the writing money for the song, regardless of who performs it. Dolly Parton wrote ”I Will Always Love You” in 1973 as a farewell to Porter Wagner and people in her world cover each other's songs, back in those days somebody would come out with a song and then someone else would cover it two months later. Sometimes the cover would come out before the songwriter’s version or there would be 4 versions of it on the charts all at once. Then Whitney Houston sings it.

Sinead O'Connor’s Nothing Compares to You is written by Prince. Prince's version is pretty cool, but it doesn't sound anything like Sinead O'Connor's version of it. When Dan learned about this in High School he found it really surprising because he had no idea that that thing went on. His assumption had always been that if you are singing the song, it was your song and you wrote it. Then he learned that sometimes the singer of the band isn't even the one who writes the song. Sometimes it is the drummer. Phil Collins wrote a song?

Tom Jones did Kiss by Prince and his version of it is equally alien as Sinead O’Connor’s is to the Prince version and that opened his eyes to this whole thing that goes on that he was completely unaware of.

John covered Solitary Man by Neil Diamond for many years, but he covered it because of the version that Johnny Cash did and his cover of it moved him while Neil Diamond's version had none of the gravity that Johnny Cash's version did for obvious reasons. Johnny Cash was bringing something to his performance that Neil Diamond in 1969 had zero access to. There are some songs that no-one should ever cover because they already are definitive, like Creep by Radiohead is perfectly of its time and of its people. If Johnny Cash covered Creep it would be really lame. No-one else can say ”I'm a creep!” because just by doing it, it would be creepy.

There are other songs that are so improved by the experience that the singer brings to it. The song that John wrote with Aimee Mann is an example (Poor Judge, see RL181). You wouldn't say that she was doing a cover of it because John never recorded it, but it is a song that he could have recorded, he wrote except for her massively good bridge, and she changed the lyrics to suit her and in many instances, but if you listen to the song it sounds like a John Roderick song, except it doesn't because it is being performed by Aimee Mann and so it sounds like an Aimee Mann song and it is an Aimee Mann song. It is a co-written composition.

The Miley Cyrus song Wrecking Ball is an example of a team of songwriters who are writing tunes and pitching them to all the contemporary songwriters and the reason there are five or six people on that masthead are that somebody wrote the song, somebody else made a minor adjustment and then five other people glommed on and were like: ”Well, what if it went…” You can't have five people co-write a song, really. You can have two people write a song and then three other people come in in the production of it and make contributions or changes that are significant enough or they have enough power in the music industry that they can insert themselves as a songwriter.

They want the royalties and those rich people are rich because every time they open their mail they got 10% royalties on fifteen #1 songs and the money must just pour in, it has got to be phenomenal to be Dr. Dog or whatever, how exciting to go to the mail every Monday. All you have to do is get a fraction of a fraction, you don't have to get 10% of the song, all you have to get are 2% of the song if the song is a massive hit.

John feeling a bit more irritable after taking his new ADD medicine (RW227)

John was already in a fairly bad mood yesterday because he started taking this ADD medicine (see RW226). The Lamictal is still a miracle drug for him and he can't imagine a drug that he would be less willing to give up. It is not one of these situations where it is a speedy drug or a downer drug that he is addicted to, but it is a drug that he is now dependent upon in that he doesn’t want to test what it is like to go back and: ”Let's see if I get super depressed!” If he is going to take some cool risks and go do some rad things, that doesn't seem like the direction that he wants his cool risks to go.

He started taking this stuff and he noticed he felt irritable, and irritable is a weird word, he is always a little irritable, but he was a little bit pinched for a few days, enough that he asked the people in his life to watch him and just see if he seemed different because he felt a little different, not: ”Oh God, this stuff is bad, I don't want to take this!”, but just… He also noticed over the course of 4-5 days that there were a lot of things that normally would have been minor tasks where he encountered several obstacles and under normal circumstances he would not have followed through. The obstacles would have defeated him.

He was doing something and he had to reset his password and then he had to do two factor authentication and that meant he had to reset another password and then he had to reset this other password, but had to do two factor authentication and he forgot the first password already and pretty soon in order to accomplish what should have been a simple task he had to reset 14 different passwords because now the bank didn't recognize the original one and John didn't remember what that password was, so he had to reset the password. At any other time by the 7th password he would have thrown it all down on the floor and been like: ”I don't know, doesn't matter, won't happen, I don't care, I am done!” and he would have done something else.

In this case he wasn't a passive cow, he was frustrated, but he went back and did it and called the customer service and talked to that person and explained it again and punched his account number into their automated system, but then had to tell it to the live person that ended up answering the phone, even though he had punched it in already, what is the purpose of even doing that if the person asks you for it again, what are the last four numbers of your Social Security number, what password do you use that has a special character, a capital letter, two numbers and is 12 characters long, but not more than 12? On and on and on! John did it and he never got I never got full of rage or sadness, he just did it.

Over the course of the last two weeks of taking this stuff he has found lots of instances where he was irritable that day. He didn't feel any one particular irritation, just a: ”Meh”, he wasn't even interacting with other people, so he was just a little snippy at the plants. Then there have been also multiple instances where he would have normally been irritated to the point that he couldn't complete the task and yet he found that he just kept plugging away.

John talked to the psychiatrist and he said he didn’t understand how he is irritable, but not irritated. It feels like a change in temper, not even as far as a change in temperament, but he has a mild temper, he has a medium temper, he has a good temper. It was just a temper change and it was the first time he ever had to wrestle with this question that you get with a lot of medications where: This isn't free! With Lamictal all the benefits felt free. He didn't suffer from lack of sleep, he didn't suffer from incontinence or lack of erection, it was just all the benefits with no downer.

With this it is all very subtle. He didn't sit down to a task and say: ”I am going to complete this task and just work at it with vim and vigor until it was done!” He has continued to walk around the house and every time he sees a guitar he picks it up and plays it for three minutes, regardless of what he was on his way to go do. If there was something on the stove on fire and on his way to it there was a guitar lying on the couch he would stop and play it for 45 seconds before he made it to the stove. It hasn't taken his ADHD semi diagnosis and and flipped it on its head, but is he willing to be slightly more irritable in order to be slightly less irritated?

John doesn’t know. It hasn't been long enough, and if you keep doing it, a month from now will he even remember what it was like to not be slightly more irritated? Right now it definitely feels like a feeling, but listening to himself describe it he can't imagine that someone else would go: ”Oh right, of course!” because there is not a shadow or a film over his lenses or an identifiable paranoia. It is nothing but a slight irritation.

Crying about a Miley Cyrus song, changing the perspectives of lyrics between the lover and the loved (RW227)

Yesterday he was irritated and then Miley Cyrus got inside him with this ”All I wanted to do was break your walls and you wrecked me!” and he became morbidly sentimental, which is a thing that comes upon him often related to music. The only times he cries are related to music. He doesn’t cry over his foibles, if he saw a dog get hit by a car or if the election results didn't match his expectations, he wouldn't cry if something he loved got broken, but every once in a while a song will get past or he will actively seek out a song and it will take him to a place where all of the sentimentality connects itself to love and to lost love and to missed love that never landed.

What that is in him he spends a lot of time trying to understand. We throw the word romantic around a lot, both as a description of a person and also as a noun, but it is an adjective that we paper on to all kinds of things and if you called him a romantic he wouldn’t demur, but he is not a typical romantic or a simple romantic. Like a house full of books: What does romanticism do for him now. How does sentimentality that is rooted in lost love help him now?

When he was 25/35 those felt like knobby tires on a 4-wheel drive truck, a tool that was going to help his 4-wheel drive truck to get through the wilds of love, romance and relationships that when he was 35 were just as rugged or more rugged than the rugged paths of his early life. Romanticism was as much an armor as it was a vulnerability. It was always a threat and a risk because he could succumb to it and the part that helped was susceptible to the rust of the part that didn't. It was like carbon steel: It is a sharper blade, but the rust gets on it if you look at it sideways.

Now he was sitting in a parking lot listening to this Pop song and it has gotten past and he is sitting in his car crying. He looked at the music video for a second and got a ”Nope!” out of her naked wrecking ball video, but he was still in it with her voice. She did that song when she was a young woman and she was able to find in her own experience enough passion around those lyrics to sing it convincingly. John was not wallowing in his own despair, he was not connecting the song to some one particular relationship of his, he was not thinking back to: ”Oh, if only…”

He he heard her sing it he suspected that she was finding a way into the lyrics the same way that he often does, which is that he was singing from the perspective of the person that he had injured. If John had written Wrecking Ball he would have at some point along the way initially written the lyrics so that it said: ”All you wanted to do was break my walls and all I ever did was wreck you!” and then he would have switched it around as part of the songwriting process and said: ”All I ever wanted was to break your walls and all you ever did was wreck me!”

As he listened to her sing it he thought that it was probable that all anybody ever wanted to do was break her walls and all she ever did was wreck them. It is no less a tragedy. When John sings songs that way he is in some ways more hurt or he is singing about hurt in a different way. If the lyrics were: ”All you ever wanted to do was break my walls and all I ever did was wreck you" it sounds bad, it sounds like a braggadocio, like: ”I am a tough guy and I hurt your feelings!” because in every relationship there is the lover and there is the loved and the loved is a less sympathetic person in romance and in our hearts, the lover is the one that we that we feel sorry for because the lover has the better end of the deal, they get to feel something that the loved doesn't.

It is something fundamental to the way that we make art, the way that we talk about one another, that we have so little sympathy for the loved. Dan wonders if you can't have both people be lovers and also be loved, but can you? If you met your significant other in High School and you are the only lovers that you ever had, then maybe, but in every relationship there is an imbalance, and maybe the best relationships are the ones where either the imbalance is so small that it is imperceptible or so great that there is no pretending it is not there and all the other relationships in between the lover tries to not give away the whole story to keep a little bit of dignity and the loved pretends to some degree to be more of a lover than they really feel.

Both of those are tragedies. The lover feels more tragic to us because they want what they can't have, but the loved also somehow wants what they can't have or also wants something that they don't have. John always felt in situations where he is the lover that the pain is too great and he always dies 1000 deaths when he is the lover and so he avoids being the lover, he runs and destroys and he will burn everything down on his way out. He is much more comfortable in the tragic cowardice of being the loved, but it is no less a life of pain.

Listening to her sing: ”All I wanted was to break your walls and all you ever did was wreck me!” and not believing her, but really believing her that she had found something in it and honestly not believing the songwriters. By not believing John just means that he understands that you can't sell a song, and by sell he means perform a song and find an audience, as a cad, but he doesn’t believe that those songwriters failed to know that they had switched the pronouns. Only the loved can write the song, the lover can't.

If a lover wrote that song it would be pathetic and you would hear it in the lyrics. It would be sappy, gross, and clingy. There is a certain amount of pride and distance in the act of writing a song where you say: ”I wanted you and you didn't want me!” and you are drawing on that feeling. You can draw from either side, loved and lover, in order to convey that feeling, you just have to know where that line between pathetic and cruel is.

John sitting in that parking, he was crying about that line. It wasn't connected to any person in his life, although as he sat there he mentally reached out to several people, trying to find a way that he was having this feeling about them or about that time, but it wasn't. It was in that place that he felt Miley Cyrus was and that these songwriters were. It is one of the things about the music of Pink that resonates because you feel that Pink also was on that line or lived on either side of that line in a way that Britney Spears didn't.

There are a lot of people that find their place there and John always felt like Pink was there. The obvious ones are Johnny Cash, but Tom Petty was never… his music feels so profound, deep, and connected, but Tom Petty could never sing a song like Wrecking Ball. There is nothing in his music, really, that conveys anything other than that he is the loved and was always the loved. Tom Petty was never the lover. All of his sorrow, and a lot of the sorrow of muscular Rock’n’Roll, is a different kind of sorrow. John Cougar Mellencamp is singing about loss, but all of the loss is: ”We lost our small towns and we lost our manufacturing jobs!” It is such a different loss.

Most people who are the objects of love feel insecure about it or feel unworthy, and if they do feel worthy of it then they are not writing love songs, they are writing sex songs, but most people make the mistake of seeing in loved and lover a stereotypical gender divide, that the loved our men and the lovers are women because to be the lover is to be weaker than to be the loved. Of course that is never ever ever true and John’s response to it is that the feeling that being the lover is weaker does comport with his own first hand experience of losing control and in those moments feeling more desperate than at any other time over any other thing.

Feeling desperate is so dangerous, it is so connected to the most animal things in us, and in that way that desperation, that feeling of weakness, is the response to that that is dangerous because you feel weak and you want to prove that you are strong. You feel so weak that you are so desperate to regain control, that is where you see so much violence in the world and so much rage and so much impulsive… The most awful things come out of unrequited love or rejection. Being an aloof loved, only allowing yourself to be loved, is just a state of constant broken heartedness. It is never strong, there is no power in it, it is a passive weakness, an abdication or an absence that has no muscularity to it. It is a way of living where you are just watching a filmstrip where the the colors have faded and it is your life.


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