RW248 - The Great Voice of Satan

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • John’s computer forcing him to do an update (Technology)
  • John’s old furnace and refrigerator competing with each other for the loudest hum (New House)
  • Redneck and Hillbilly (Geography)
  • Geography, wanting to visit many interesting places in the world, attitude towards Americans has changed (Geography)
  • Cigarettes give you something to do, quitting smoking (Drugs)
  • Follow-up: Jochen writing in with last week’s assignment (Friends)
  • People who want to do their thing their own way (Relationships)
  • People who listen to the show who don’t like some or any of the hosts (Podcasting)
  • Dan not thinking of John as a divisive character (Personality)
  • Media capitalism just showing us what we like (Internet and Social Media)
  • John and Sean Nelson being friends but not liking the same stuff (Friends)
  • The culture of making references to things all the time (Internet and Social Media)

The show title refers to the temptation to just have one cigarette for a certain occasion although you don’t smoke anymore.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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’s computer forcing him to do an update (RW248)

John logged onto the computer, there was a little bit of hiss in the audio, he restarted, and instead of restarting it went to some update that he didn't ask for and didn't want, which took 20 minutes or more to do, and now there is still a little window in the corner saying that updates are available.

John’s old furnace and refrigerator competing with each other for the loudest hum (RW248)

John has a forced air heating system powered by a furnace that burns heating oil that dates to the Paleolithic era and also the refrigerator is from the 1970s in the color of a biscuit and the compressor is very loud. Anytime the refrigerator is on and the furnace is on, it is competing hums. John really thought that he would wave his hands and redo this and redo that, and he has redone a lot, but not the kitchen, it is the same jacked-up kitchen since he bought the house and he looks at it every day, listens to the refrigerator kick on, and tell himself he is going to do something.

Dan used to have a fridge in a house that he lived in in Florida, even though it was brand new, whenever it would start up, it made some fan noise that Dan tried to emulate on the mic and he called his friend DJ Giles who self-identified as a Redneck Hillbilly Hick and he embraced it! He used to have an old beat-up pick-up truck, and they used to hang out together and drive around and he would be: ”That is a carpet man over there! Look at this thing in the back of his truck. Only carpet guys have that!" He used to do all kinds of repairs and contracting, and if he wasn't high he was a little drunk. He lived a really nice life, he had a land and goats. Dan called him and asked him to look at his refrigerator and he pulled the back off and found the part that was making the sound and he started beating on it with a hammer, but it didn't do anything.

Redneck and Hillbilly (RW248)

Over the years John has used the words Redneck and Hillbilly to describe great swaths of the American landscape and the people that inhabit it. He has heard from people over the years that there is a contingent of their listeners who have Redneck pride and who would distinguish being a Redneck from being an ignorant person, being a redneck is something that they are proud of, and John came from a part of the world that had no shortage of rednecks and his mom had no shortage of feelings about them. John has Redneck friends still, but he doesn’t fully understand Redneckitude.

Dan reads from the Oxford Dictionary: Hillbilly is defined as derogatory and informal, an unsophisticated country person, associated originally with the remote regions of the Appalachians. A redneck is also derogatory and informal, a working class white person, especially a politically reactionary one from a rural area. ”Rednecks in the high cheap seats stomped their feet and hooted.” Do not confuse these terms with Bumpkin, Yokel, Hay Seed, or Hick. Hick is defined informal North American: A person who lives in the country regarded as being unintelligent or provincial.

Dan’s friend DJ was all three of these, although no ties to the Appalachians, it might be an outdated definition.

Any derogatory term can be repurposed by the group as a term of pride. There are plenty of people from the Mountain States that would call themselves Hillbillies, at least in the music business, as a badge of honor. Redneck is used to, although John finds that hard to separate from reactionary politics. Surely there are Liberal rednecks, it might be on a T-shirt: ”I am a Liberal Redneck!” Hillbilly is more of a regional thing. Hick means you are pretty dumb, but Redneck is a different thing and you can be into guns, trucks, and country music and not have a reactionary political life.

If John asked Jason Isbell if he was a Redneck he would probably say: ”No!” because has a lot of pride in his Alabama roots and he is a Southern gentleman. As the dictionary pointed out, there is a strict class distinction. There is a lot of blue collar pride in this country! One of the things that depressed John was when the chocolate of blue collar pride got mixed with the peanut butter of Redneck values. All those people in Michigan and all those people in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, why the hell are they Rednecks? They are Hicks and they have a lot of blue collar pride, but Redneck is wrong! It is based of course on their red-ass necks, they had redder necks than anybody for centuries, you make the trucks, for Christ's sake! You probably made the guns, for that matter, because that is where all the things get made up there.

John associates it so much with the Southern States, in particular where Dan is. There is no more Redneck place in the world than Fort Worth, Texas, is there? They have been talking a lot about American geography on this program lately. Dan thinks of it as a geographical-centric conversation.

Geography, wanting to visit many interesting places in the world, attitude towards Americans has changed (RW248)

There are so many places in the world that John doesn’t understand. It is funny how they know stuff about Australia, but none of them have ever been there. John knows a lot about it, although not as much as an Australian would know about America, because America makes all these movies that they ship everywhere, and they are the greatest country in the world.

John knows a lot about Australia and even about New Zealand, he knows a little bit about India, but you can not know about a place until you have really been there, and it is frustrating more and more that there are so many places in this world he doesn’t know about. He looks at maps all the time of the Caucasus or the Caspians because he curious about it, it feels like it should be the center of the world and for a lot of people it is, but John has never been there and doesn’t know the first thing about it. He looks at maps of it all the time, he would like to go through the Volga-Don Canal, you can get all the way to the Aral Sea. You got to get there first and then you figure it out. There are people every day doing it. There are people on one end of that that dream about going to the other end of it, and the other end of it is still a place that John doesn’t have the first idea how to get to or what he would do there.

The amazing thing is that there are all these roads that take people a lifetime to travel and if you told John where they started and where they ended he would go: ”Is that in Central Asia? One of those towns was on the Silk Road!” John feels he missed his chance, there was a time where that region was relatively peaceful when he was in his 20s, you could have traveled in that region and except for the Iran/Iraq War you could have made that route and you would have just had to deal with the normal culture fuck of being an American in those places, but your life would have been in danger at every moment because nobody likes Americans there.

People used to like Americans! John was on many trips where America was in good standing in the world and places that he went people welcomed him as an American. They welcomed him as a human being and as a poor person, but also as someone from America, the great country. How would it be today to be in Baku, Azerbaijan as an American? It is frustrating however long it will be before peace reigns in the world again. John thinks very highly of Earth, he can't think of anywhere he would rather be. There are Owls and there are Atolls and many things in between and John knows so little about it still, which is frustrating.

Something happened along the way where John doesn't want to go a place where he doesn't have a reason to go. He got really tired of just going from one thing to the next without any call to be there. He doesn’t want to stand around somewhere with a camera around his neck in Bermuda shorts, taking pictures of the Cathedral, and then going to the postcard rack and buying pictures of the same Cathedral that he just took pictures of. That was never what he wanted to do with his life. You are standing there, looking at the Cathedral, pretending that you had something to do.

Cigarettes give you something to do, quitting smoking (RW248)

What was great about smoking cigarettes was that wherever you were you had something to do. There was a reason for you to be there: You were having a cigarette! There was potential camaraderie with other people, it got you outside, it was an excuse to take a break, you might even encounter people who don't normally smoke and who wanted to bum one, and now you got a new best friend. Anytime somebody would ask: ”What are you doing here?” - ”I am having a cigarette!” Well, there it is! You are doing something, you are here to have a cigarette! Without a cigarette what are you doing here?

John is not going to start smoking again just to have a reason to stand outside a Cathedral in Baku and look like he belongs. Dan mentioned before that his friend Casey’s stepdad had been in every armed force that there was (see RW243). His name was John. It was the same guy who introduced him to Snap-on tools. He had said that quitting smoking was harder for him than quitting all of the other drugs that were available up to that point, including crack, probably because at least back then in the late 1980s it was socially acceptable to smoke and cigarettes were sold everywhere. There were little machines all around in bowling alleys, bars, and restaurants. There was a smoking section in a restaurant, it was encouraged in many situations, and if you wanted to quit that, everywhere you went there were people smoking.

Dan was thinking about smoking cigarettes earlier today. Sometimes you get stressed out, you are in an emergency situation, it should be nice to just have a smoke. John would have a smoke. Dan enjoyed every single cigarette he ever smoked every time. He loved it. John enjoyed every one until the very end, but the last few he did not enjoy and that is why he stopped. Now he doesn’t not want one. He quit smoking ten times, and every time he quit smoking he still wanted one and he stayed off of them for months, sometimes over a year.

But when that notion crept back in: ”It is your birthday! Come on, it is New Year's Eve!” he always wanted one, and when that idea: ”Just have one!” came in, that is the great voice of Satan. Satan doesn't have big plans, Satan doesn't ride a tank and hold a General's rank, but Satan says: ”Just have one! Just one! It is just one!” That is Satan!

Dan found an article on The BMJ about emergency studies that were done and the conclusion is: ”Smoking only about one cigarette per day carries a risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke much greater than expected, around half that for people who smoke 20 per day.” You have half the chance of developing coronary heart disease and stroke than someone who smokes a pack a day. ”No safe level of smoking exists for cardiovascular disease. Smokers should aim to quit instead of cutting down to significantly reduce their risk of these two common major disorders!” Dan is shocked to hear that one a day is half as much as 20 a day. You would think that it would be 1/20th that. There is also an article on WebMD that says: Smoke one cigarette a day? It can still kill you!

John had arrived at a day where if he didn't quit smoking on that day then bad things were going to happen, and he still thinks about that day because it has been over ten years. When he thinks about having a cigarette, just having one, put that cigarette in his mouth and light it and take that first drag, he knows he will drop dead. That is how it feels! You go to the doctor and they ask: ”Do you smoke?” - ”No!” - ”Did you ever?” - ”Yes!” - ”How long did you smoke?” - ”A long time from 1988 to 2011!” on and off because there were these couple of times that he quit for six months, for a year once, and the other times he just quit for a month. But he did the thing where you quit smoking, but your girlfriend still smokes.

When the doctors say: ”Well, did you ever smoke?” and the answer is: ”Yes!” they go: ”Well…” - ”What does that mean?” they always say the same thing: ”Well, it is better that you quit!” Great! Whatever that moment was where he was sitting there and looked at that last cigarette and went: ”Ugh!” He is grateful for that moment, but maybe that was one too many and maybe he went over the line? Buy you can't live your life like that. It is going to be fine, he is totally fine now, hasn’t had a cigarette in a long time and doesn’t even want one.

Dan heard that your body recovers really quickly, but John also heard that there is no limit to the amount of coffee you can drink in a day. You can drink as much coffee as you want! John is keeping it tight, he is not doing the old two pots of coffee a day thing anymore, he does between 3-5 cups of coffee, he is having a cup of coffee right now as a matter of fact. But if you don't drink and don't smoke, what do you do? You have coffee and chocolate!

There was that guy who used to send John the chocolate bars and he would taste them on the air (see RW32)? John would likes that to happen again, he would like anyone to send him chocolates.

Follow-up: Jochen writing in with last week’s assignment (RW248)

The thing about talking about Jochen on the air is that you conjure him. It is like saying Beetlejuice three times or rubbing a lamp and then the Genie is in the room and then you have to say: ”Well now wait a minute! Did I really want to invite the Genie into the house?” You invite the Genie because there is a ghost and you want the Genie to help and then the Genie is here and you are like: ”Oh no, now I have a Genie!” John would love if there were a Genie right now, but Jochen is the Genie and he replied and Dan wants to read it.

Jochen writes a lot of words, he is not circumspect when it comes to putting down words on paper. He doesn't write short emails, let's say that, and John wouldn't expect a Genie to! Think about the Genie in the movie Aladdin as played by Robin Williams: Can you imagine the emails that that Genie would write? They would be pretty long! Dan’s my crush on Genie, Barbara Eden, was strong, way over Elizabeth Montgomery (from Bewitched).

Here is the Jochen’s answer. He didn't say: ”Please don't share this!”, so he is assuming he knows that this is going to be read.

Here comes the answer for this week’s assignment: ”In which episode of Road Work did John talk about hiring his friend Peter as a contractor for his new house?”
Episode 191

Again, you and John were both correct: You are correct in so far that I do not mind getting asked to look up episode numbers and having my expertise recognized with a shout-out on the show, and John is correct that I embarked on this project for personal reasons. Publishing my notes on a Wiki platform is more of a side-benefit, not the primary goal. If it helps one person, if it saves one life, it was worth putting it out there!

I do not want to insert myself into John’s life and John’s work further than he might want because he never asked me to do any of this and I feel I can’t just show up, saying: ”I spent 5 years and 3000 hours doing this thing for you that you never asked for, now you have to be my friend, make me part of your podcasts, and I will comment on every post on your message board because I want to make all this about me!”

I am very happy that my effort resulted in an opportunity to meet John in person and to exchange some emails with him, but I know my place and my duty, which is working behind the scenes, making his work more accessible to new listeners who don’t get all the references and inside jokes and to allow them to reap as many benefits from the shows as I did, but I do it my way because this is not a collaboration and I don’t want anybody else to have a stake in it.

You talked about the Wiki in great detail in episode 110 and in case you want to know more about my thoughts and reasons, you find my comments here:

Have a great weekend!
//Jochen (pronounced ”Yo-Ken” in the first non-German approximation)

It is great, Dan spent a lot of time reading the website again, he had forgotten how much he liked it. It is a great site!

People who want to do their thing their own way (RW248)

John encounters people all the time who have made peace with their thing and have figured out that what they need to say to other people is: ”I am doing this and do not want anyone else's help or contribution, and if that means that I am wrong in your estimation about a thing, if I am doing it wrong, whatever comment you have where you feel like I am not doing this the way you would do it, what I need you to know is: I don't care at all, and if you want to do it differently, you go do it, but I am not doing this for anyone but myself!” and that is a hard thing for other people to accept.

JoCo Cruise

This was a thing early on with the Jonathan Colton Cruise. The JoCo Cruise started as a small part of a small cruise ship. It was a tiny little Holland America boat that only had 700 capacity and the JoCo Cruise element of it was only 300 people, so they were on a boat with a lot of snorks and there weren't really even enough people in the JoCo portion to fill the main theater. It was impossible as a performer and a friend of Jonathan’s not to have really big ideas about what he should do. Hodgman was Jonathan Colton's oldest friend and college roommate, and he is also an extremely opinionated person and Jonathan had been his understudy while Hodgman was already a famous performer and Jonathan was his friend who came and played songs. Hodgman just gave him so much unsolicited advice!

Jonathan is a very nice guy, and for a long time he was like: ”Oh thanks! Yeah, good idea!”, but it was clear he had no intention of following anybody else's advice. For a while during the second or third cruise where it was like: ”What are you doing, man? You are ruining this by not taking our great advice!” and eventually he got testy about it and was like: ”Start your own cruise! If your advice is so good, then go start your own cruise, the Hodgman-Roderick Cruise!” John is not part of the organization anymore, but even if he thinks about the cruise to this very moment, he thinks: ”Well, you could have averted some of those problems if you had made a certain different decision or two back in 2012!”, but you can't fault him because his thing has been a success for him.

John’s friend having a baby

John has a friend right now who is having a baby, and she does not want anyone's help. A big part of it is that she doesn't want anyone telling her how to raise her child. She is establishing the baseline in the early days of her pregnancy by saying: ”I don't want anyone's help, I don't want anyone's advice, and I don't want anyone ever to feel like they have authority over me raising my child the way I want! I am willing to take the hits, I am willing to suffer, in order to be free!” She has never had a kid and there is a lot about having a kid that you don't know until you have it. Everything, really, it is something that simply cannot be explained to you! It is a ton of work, a level of work above any amount of work you can conceive of.

At the same time, the father is not in the picture and she is glad about that. All the things that one might say, like: ”Well, you are going to need this, you are going to need that, it takes a village! blah, blah, blah, blah…”, unless you are helping, unless you are actually like: ”Here are some cases of formula that fell off the back of a truck!”, or: ”Here are ten onesies that say AC/DC on them!”, the rest of it is just blowing smoke. In John’s own relationship to his daughter he always measured his decision-making against the first premise, which is: ”My daughter's mother is 100% essential to her. No matter how essential I am to her, it will be less than 100%!” A dad can be 100% essential, but not until the mother has made herself unreliable and John’s daughter's mother is not. When he makes any decision, his first question is: ”Does this benefit her and her relationship with her mom? Is this in service of her or of me?”

If it is not in service of her, if it doesn't benefit her and her relationship with her mom, then John has to look at it again. He has to go: ”What am I doing here?” It got him in a lot of hot water with Millennial Girlfriend who wanted him to assert all these prerogatives, but he had got no prerogatives beyond that those two are insulated from pain, he will not bring pain in, but his job, if there is one, is to take pain away. Is there a better description of what a father is supposed to do than stand between the mother and her children and pain?

John’s friend is embarking on this life journey by having a child on her own and asking for no help from anyone. From the outside it looks intense, like a kind of independence that feels almost self destructive, but then you think about it a different way: There are over a billion mothers and they are all doing it differently, every single one. There are so many different ways to be a mother and there is no wrong way. There is no way John would look at his friend, doing something that is inconceivable to him, and think: ”Oh no, you can't do that!”, but she is surrounded by people telling her that she can't do it, it is just innate!

People who listen to the show who don’t like some or any of the hosts (RW248)

With the people that listen to this show, to Roderick on the Line ,to Back to Work and to all of the shows, John increasingly feels like every one of them has a relationship to this show that is not wrong. There are people that listen to this show that don't like either one of them and why they are listening to the show John has no idea. Given the number of people that listen to the show, there has to be more than one. Dan doesn’t agree he thinks that there are a lot of people who don’t like that John guy or definitely don’t like Dan, and there are a lot of people who don't like Merlin, but he doesn’t think there are people here who don’t like both people. Why would they listen? Just to hate?

People are here to hear this conversation, to hear especially John’s stories. Why are they here if they are not interested in that?

John doesn’t think they are not interested, but it absolutely must be that there is someone listening to the show right now who is like: ”Yeah, that is me! I don't actually like either one of you, but it is interesting!” or whatever. They get something out of it! They are not doing it wrong! They are consuming the show for their own reasons, and it is part of their media package. Dan doesn’t like the idea that there are people out there right now listening who are thinking to themselves: ”I hate these guys!” and he wants to encourage them to stop and go away, but they might not be thinking that. It is possible that it hadn't occurred to them that they don't like the hosts until John just brought it up.

John doesn’t think there is anybody listening to the show just to sneer and hate, that would be exhausting, but I do think there are people, even fans of the show, who maybe don't like the hosts as much as they like the show because the show is its own thing. Dan thinks it is the other way around and people might not like the format, but they like the guys and are going to stick around. John counters that most people like Woody Allen movies, but don't like Woody Allen!

This podcast is a program, and you can like a program and not like the people on it, even when the program is specifically of and by the people on it. It is possible to not like Larry David, but enjoy Curb Your Enthusiasm, it is even a harder leap to not like the hosts and listen to this show because it is truly them, but John does think it is not just possible, but probable, that some portion of their listeners now doesn’t like them. He is not inviting them to write, to be very clear!

Dan not thinking of John as a divisive character (RW248)

When John did Friendly Fire with those two dingalings, absolutely a portion of their listeners hated John and loved those two guys, and a portion of their listeners loved John and hated those two guys. Dan thinks that John is not divisive (John is laughing out loud when he hears this), he doesn’t think that people listen to his stuff, saying: ”What an idiot! What a jerk!”, but he hears that definitely from with other people who are more divisive. Dan doesn’t think John is at the top of the list of divisive podcast hosts, compared to some famous ones out there, like the Joe Rogan’s of the world, where people are like: ”I hate that guy!” because he is divisive, and Dan doesn’t think of John as divisive in that way.

John is not trying to provoke people. He has a lot of hot takes, he is throwing hot takes all the time, but he is not doing it just to get a rise out of people, but he is doing it because he is trying to figure it out for himself. All of their devoted listeners have figured out that you can't take one hot take, but you have to measure it against all the others and realize that it all adds up to a picture. There is no one hot take that is the definitive one and John might have the opposite thing to say about it six months later, not because he is fickle, but because there are a lot of different ways to look at stuff.

John is not doing it as a media personality, he is doing it as a somebody who sits around and is like: ”What about… that doesn't make sense!”, he is just doing it on air. There are people that don't like certain conclusions he has come to or certain inquiries he makes about things, and they go: ”Well, wait a minute!” There are people that feel like some stuff is settled law, and they don't want him to question settled law, they don't think it is necessary or they think questioning it is the same as tilting against it, and they don't want it tilted against because it is one of the four walls that holds up their house, and John tilting against it seems churlish or he is just doing it to get a rise.

Anybody that listens to the show knows that to get a rise out of people is not any part of the goal. Joe Rogan and Howard Stern are just on there to say dirty words. Who knows what Joe Rogan believes? John has never listened to his show. There are so many people talking about Joe Rogan, none of them have ever heard his show. Dan has. There are so many people in media, you can tell right away the ones that are talking in a fake voice. There are people that have a radio voice, and as soon as he hears a radio voice, that is not who they are, they are doing a voice and their mind is elsewhere, it is just a production, you are just reading Winnie the Pooh out loud and somebody has written this down for you!

Media capitalism just showing us what we like (RW248)

When John hears John Tesh talking about Jazz music on the radio, he is not thinking: ”Wow, John Tesh really knows so much about this big band music!”, but John Tesh is just here to get him to stop spinning the dial for a minute and listen to this track by The Andrew Sisters. This is maybe an obscure reference, but there it is. John used to read the columns of George Will in the newspaper, he would watch Wayne Matt Buckley (?) on television, he didn't like those guys at all, but he enjoyed their work and he didn't think for a minute that either of them believed everything they said. Buckley really thought he believed everything he said, but he was shooting at the moon half the time. George Will for sure didn't believe everything he said, and John didn't mind that at all! He would have loved to sit down to dinner with them, but if you asked him how he felt about them he would give you a lengthy, unflattering critique of both men and every word they ever said!

Something has changed in our world where the idea of what you consume… and this is brought on by media capitalism that said: ”We want to find out exactly what you like and then we will shut out all the other noise and just give you exactly what you like!”, which is what being a media consumer is: Getting exactly what you like all the time! People love that, they buy into that idea, getting exactly what they like, and then the media capitalism said: ”Your friends will only be people that like the exact same stuff that you like!” - ”Yeah, that is what friendship is! It is liking the same stuff!” People are like: ”I have a friend who doesn't like exactly the same stuff I do. Are they really my friend, Big Media?” - ”No, they are not! They should go hang out with other people that like the dumb stuff that they like!”

It has gotten into our stupid brains that this is what a tribe is, that you like the same stupid shit made by dumbasses somewhere else specifically to numb you. There is a pervasive feeling now that who you are and who your friends are and where you stand is pretty much determined by what you like. John had a big argument on the side of the road one day in the pouring rain with Sean Nelson who is seven years younger, and that is a long time in early Gen X to late Gen X, a lot happened! Ken Jennings and John are only five years apart, and there are all the time on Omnibus things where it is like: ”Oh well, you feel that way about it because you were young enough to like He-Man and I feel the opposite about it because I was not!”

Dan is just younger enough than John, and there is something very key in 1980-84 where you could be on one side of the line or the other, it was the dawn of media capitalism directed at children. Up until 1979 children's television was either supposed to be educational or was drawn entirely from the Hannah Barbera, Warner Brothers, 1950s: Bugs Bunny smokes a cigar and he is trying to kill this little bald man who is trying to kill him. That was children's media.

Somewhere in 1980-82 was a massive explosion of new cartoons, new entertainment, Gi Joe, Transformers, He-Man and all the stuff coming from Japan and all of a sudden there were cutesy characters that talked in high squeaky voices, there were cartoons where no-one was trying to kill each other, no-one was smoking cigars, there was no classical music, there were no products from Acme anymore, just squeaky and treacly and trying to sell stuff to you. It was widely written about in the time. What that produced is a sense that you either were raised there or you were raised before there.

John and Sean Nelson being friends but not liking the same stuff (RW248)

Sean and John had this screaming fight (see RL301, also RL85): ”You don't like any of the things I like!” - ”I don't! You are right!” - ”Why are we friends?” - ”That is the most irrelevant question to come to from that! I don't like any of the things you like because the things you like are dumb! Morrissey! Give me a break! I spit on the ground!” - ”Morrissey is a tent-pole artist!” - ”A tent pole full of dumb dumbs!” John was the only friend that he ever had that wasn't his friend because they shared a love of the same things.

That is how you get to be a friend! You are wearing black eyeliner in the lunchroom, you look over and there is the other kid wearing black eyeliner across the room, and your eyes meet and you are like: ”Do you like Siouxsie and the Banshees?” - ”I do. Do you?” - ”Oh, my God!” That is how you make friends, or it was probably all you needed to marry them.

John doesn’t mean to just say it is generational because John was always cut from a different stripe, but he would walk over and say: ”You have black eyeliner on, do you like Siouxsie and the Banshees?” - ”Yeah, do you?” - ”Not really! Want to hang out?” Whether or not he liked Siouxsie and the Banshees was irrelevant to whether or not he wanted to hang out with the person because he saw them do something interesting, or he thought they were cool looking or oftentimes someone liking Siouxsie and the Banshees that much made them interesting: ”Tell me more about Siouxsie and the Banshees! What were you looking for that you found when you dug deeper into the catalog of Adam & The Ants that I didn't see just watching the video for Stand and Deliver?”

The culture of making references to things all the time (RW248)

John still believes that the people that like the same stuff as you are not probably anything like you, and that liking the same stuff is an indicator of nothing, other than just some stack of things that happened in your young life where people are like: ”Do you like this or do you like that?” - ”I guess that!” - ”Okay, great! That is what you like then!” - ”I guess!”, like going to the optometrist: ”Is this clearer? Or is that clearer?” - ”Well, they are kind of both the same!” - ”Okay, well, then pick one!” - ”I guess A?” - ”Okay, A!” and that determines your prescription and how you see the world for the rest of your life.

There are so many times in the optometrist office where you are like: ”A and B are kind of the same to me, I guess I like B maybe?” and that is your prescription and the things you see the rest of the time you are wearing those glasses are like: ”Well, you chose B, my friend and that is why that light seems like a star instead of a crisp light bulb!”

That ship has sailed. That is our culture now! There is no going back to even say that liking the same things is not indicative of commonality. It is like hitting a snare drum that is covered with a pillow. Nobody is going to hear it. It is too hard! It is too easy to raise a flag that says: ”I love Mighty Morphin Power Rangers!” and then just deal with the people that show up, rather than strike out into the world in a T-shirt with nothing on it and go where the day takes you.

It has been a part of a lot of John’s friendships. Merlin is a crystal that has a million sides. Every time you think you have found a flat place on the diamond, you realize it has another cleave in it and it is actually four sides there where you thought it was one. He knows there are giant swaths of his media that John doesn’t know and he doesn't mention those to him, and just out of the stuff he mentions 60% of it John has no idea what he is talking about. It is a thing in their friendship for 20 years that they have had to navigate.

Merlin is like: ”You know, the bass tone on the third Sloan record?” - ”I don't!” - ”It is a lot like the bass tone on the third Pixies record!” - ”I don't know that either!” - ”You know the third Pixies record!” - ”If you put Pixies records on the ground, I couldn't arrange them chronologically, no, but I know them all, I have seen them all!” - ”Oh man, how do I describe what I am trying to describe if you don't know the bass sound on the third Pixies record?”, all of this is happening at the speed of light because it is Merlin, it is all oblique, and he is gone from it already and onto something else.

John has felt over the years that he misses a lot because he doesn't catalog stuff that way in his mind. Also he doesn’t share a universe, but Merlin has friends that fill different reservoirs for him. John is as close as he gets in a lot of respects, in terms of being able to get references to Uriah Heep, because if you want to make a Uriah Heep reference in the world there just aren't that many people sitting behind home plate with their catchers mitt up, going: ”Throw that Uriah Heep reference right in here!”

Reference culture was something they were all talking about all the time. Is this culture or are we just making references? Does Generation X even have a culture or is it just references that are stacked up on one another until it feels like ideas? There were a lot of dismissive think pieces about that, but when he listens to Merlin and his part in their show, when he thinks about the show with Ken, when he thinks about this show, when he thinks about the way he catalogues information now, it is because he was raised in this culture.

John stacks references that refer to culture, they are each one a tiny metaphor, each one a tiny bubble that holds a universe in each reference, and if you follow, if you climb a ladder, it is impossible to take the time to really explore each one and to say: ”Oh, you know, that Godfather reference which I have heard a million times? Each time it means something slightly different and each time I would have to go in my mind and revisit that scene and see what applies here!”

A reference to Uriah Heep is not a reference to Uriah Heep, it is a reference to the universe of Uriah Heep and how that band was ridiculous even in its time and nobody actually liked them, but they were part of the cosmology, you needed Uriah Heep to contextualize Jethro Tull or to understand fully why Genesis was good. If there wasn't a Uriah Heep, how would you be able to interpret Genesis? How would you even know what Blue Öyster Cult was? Not everybody can do all of that math all the time!

John can't listen to somebody that is that dense with references, but he wouldn't be able to look at the world or describe the world without it. It is a dumpster full of bubble wrap except every bubble is a different color and you are in the dumpster and you can't get out of the dumpster until you pop every bubble and smoke every cigarette.

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