RW3 - I Now Declare This Mall Open

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John being hired to play a show at the opening of a mall.

John starts the show singing.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

John playing an exceptional show with Fiona Apple (RW3)

Dan saw a picture of John with Fiona Apple and asks him to tell that story. John had met Fiona Apple several years ago at a dinner party in New York City while she was dating the novelist and television impresario Jonathan Ames. John hit it off with her famously at the time! Fiona Apple is obviously a famous person, but she is also somebody who absolutely gives you her full attention when she is speaking to you. She is not a Hollywood person who looks over your shoulder when she is talking to you. She is an exceptional person, not somebody that you would describe as being a normal person. When she is talking to you, she looks at you, she is listening to you and she is communicating directly with you. That is the benchmark or the standard for John. He doesn't care how famous they are or how un-famous they are, but the question is if they look at you and listen to you when they are talking to you. This is the great thing about Adam Savage, another television impresario who is very popular and very busy and has a lot of demands on him. When he is talking to you, he speaks directly to you and he is thinking about you and what you are saying. John meets people all the time who are in bands and who are not the least bit famous, but in their minds they are very important and they are only half listening to you when they are talking to you. It is a thing that John finds intolerable!

John was very impressed with Fiona Apple at that dinner party because everyone wanted her attention and she was really engaged in what she was doing. Suffice to say, John had a very good personal impression of her. After that he bumped into her once or twice, but always just in passing. John was invited to a showed by the Watkins family, two thirds of the band Nickel Creek, a brother and sister duo of spectacular musicians from rural San Diego. They were doing a family kind of show that felt like the Ryman Auditorium in 1962. Some fiddle playing, some storytelling, some country music, some Rock music. Their lead vocalist Fiona Apple was not even billed because if you promote her the crowd gets crazy. Instead, Fiona was on tour with her friends and she was singing probably 70% of the lead vocals during the show. They also asked John to come and sing 3 songs, which he did.

In some ways, Fiona was the most powerful person in the room by far, but she is also very delicate, like she is startled by loud noises and she gets overwhelmed very easily by crowds. Part of that is that she is giving her full attention to things and that gets overwhelming, it does for John as well. She sounds like a kindred spirit to John in a lot of ways, but she is operating on a plane far beyond him. She is feeling things at a heightened level that John can't quite meet and she would be a handful to be close friends with. John is certainly an admirer of her performance style. He was on stage with her and they were covering a Grateful Dead song from American Beauty that John didn't know that intimately. He knows some Grateful Dead songs pretty well, but this one is one of the melodically meandering ones. American Beauty had a lot of their hits, but it is from pretty early on in the Grateful Dead canon. It was their early peak and they were arguably part of the movement that was inventing country rock at that moment. They were harmonizing in ways that Crosby Stills and Nash were going to take from and they were inventing sounds that the Eagles were going to exploit. It was part of a moment in time.

John finds country music to be very simple and it is all about the instrumental adornment and the message of the lyrics. It doesn't have a lot of surprises. Every great country song has one or two surprises in it, but for the most part it sticks to the form. Some of the stuff on American Beauty is amazing, but some of it is good clean-your-bong-music. This particular song was one of those and John didn't have it memorized exactly. They were are sharing a mic and at a certain point she could tell that John sometimes didn't know the end of the line and was faking his way through it. He of course knew in advance which song they were going to do, but John is a busy guy and Grateful Dead songs are all seven minutes long! John has shared the stage with a handful of musicians, but no one has ever done what Fiona did. She realized that John didn't know the song intimately and some musicians would be like "Okay, I get it! My friend here doesn't know the song very well!" and they would cheat the mic over to themselves and give you a quarter of the edge of the mic and let you just sing the high points. As the person who didn't know the song very well John would have been absolutely fine with that.

Instead she turned towards John on the stage, already a very unusual move, put the mike directly between them, made laser beam eye contact and proceeded to sing the song to John. On stage you do have the ability to be within a couple of milliseconds behind and still be singing in tune, and so she was singing to John, not exaggeratedly, but using the power of energy. With a big smile on her face she communicated the song to John in real time and suddenly he was singing the lyrics, because the lyrics were being channeled through to him by her intensity. John was so grateful! It was amazing and an unprecedented amount of sharing. She was under no expectation and no obligation to do this, but she walked John through it, totally mind-melted him and carried him through to the end of the tune. It was a song he kind of knew, but he was singing it pretty well, because Fiona Apple was sharing 0.1% of the energy of the white hot sun burning inside of her. It was going through him and coming back out.

The picture John posted was at a point when they both turned to face the audience. In order to share the microphone and because she is smaller than John, rather than stand to the side and let him sing into one quarter of it, she leaned back into him and he was singing into the microphone over her shoulder. All of it was very intense for John as a performer who normally isn't sharing a mic with somebody. There is not a word to use other than generosity. John was already a fan of her personally and musically, but now he just thinks that she is otherworldly. Of course Sarah and Shawn Watkins are also not just extraordinary musicians, but extraordinary people. Nights like this are a real reminder for John of how lucky he is to a live in that world, to be able to move in and out of it, and to have nights like that. They all went out afterwards, had some bar food and some laughs and then they all went their separate ways. That is the musician as the itinerant salesperson: They will see each other months from now, but there is a closeness that these kind of experiences give you that is not comparable to other things.

They were sharing a mic because there were nine other people on stage, great musicians who are not only confident on one instrument, but John is pretty sure that everyone on the stage could have played every instrument on the stage. It is a very different scene than the one John came up in and it is very gratifying even to get a glimpse of it. At one level, everybody knew that John is a boat anchor. Suddenly the double bass player was like "Hey, somebody cover the bass!" and there were six people that could do a better job than John before it would have gotten to him. It is like the presidential line of succession: Six different people would have to be felled by an assassin's bullet before before they would have gotten Rodrick on the bass. John has been a professional bass player and it is not that he can't do it, but there was a level of skill and accomplishment in that crowd. In the indie rock crowd they measure accomplishment on a very different scale.

It was a great night and it goes into the file of All the great shows. Ultimately, the encounters and the shows that John remembers the best are the ones that have this quality where the other person is really tuned in. John has many times been on stage in enviable situations, like with David Byrne, which was exciting, because he never would have dreamt of sharing the stage with David Byrne, but David Byrne didn't really give him any energy one way or the other. He was focused on a point on the horizon and John only mentions it because it is an example of a thing that he should probably have on his Pinterest somewhere. Has been on stage with a lot of people and most of it was fun, but if a completely unknown singer had given him the attention and intensity that Fiona Apple did the other night, he would have been just as stunned. It was stunning because it was like a very unusual human experience, having nothing at all to do with the fact that she was famous 15 years ago.

John wasn't really conscious of her career at the time. Somebody sent him a text that the video for one of her songs had been very important to them and John had to go Google the video, but he didn't recall it. It was from 1998 when John didn't have a TV and wasn't watching MTV. He was not 20 years old anymore when she was coming up and he saw her picture in magazines. The experience was much more like "Wow, if I could be 1/100th that generous on stage with other people" Maybe John is, he honestly can't say. It was very unusual, in particular because in Northwest Indie Rock, you will sometimes call your friend up to play the tambourine on a track at a big show, but there's not a sense of just piling on stage, grabbing instrument and "Let's jam!", because their style of music making is much less structured around a basic form. If you know the basic form of traditional music, then you have room to improvise and play around within the form, because everybody knows more or less where it's going to go next. In Indie Rock that isn't the case. Every song is a completely different hodgepodge and the whole point of songwriting is to have as many tricks as you can fit into one song. There is no way you could just jump up, grab a bass and figure it out in the same way that you can with country music.

Dan's son liking John's music (RW3)

Dan's son is very interested in music and Dan is trying to expose him to as many different kinds of music as he possibly can. He got this uncanny ability to hear a little bit of music and and forever recognize the artist and the song. He can also draw similarities between genres of music. For example Dan played Nirvana for him quite a bit and the first time he played Foo Fighters for him, he said that it sounded a lot like Nirvana. Dan tries to bring something new to his son every week. He played a couple of John's songs a while ago and now that they have started their podcast together, he feels like part of his preparation for the show is to listen to as much of John's music as possible as often as possible. Dan's son is now John's new fan. He didn't pick up on the Fiona Apple influences, but he knew it was Independent Rock and he drew some connections to They Might Be Giants. He mentioned the Pixies at one point and he was insistent that Blue Diamonds is on the radio all the time.

Dan said that is because he plays it a lot, but his son said he also hears it when mom is driving. If that is true, John is being paid in Austin, which is possible. John's record company also thought that Blue Diamonds belonged on the radio, but the rest of America sort of took a pass. It was definitely on the radio for a while, but it is not something that you hear in a Baseball stadium. Dan's son really likes it, which is gratifying for John to know. It is part of John's slow plan to infiltrate Dan's family and slowly turn their brains into host organisms. Maybe he is himself a host organism for someone else and now he is just performing his link in the chain, like a toxoplasmosis thing. Whatever bit of cat dander it was that infected him is invisible to him. It is like the cover of Number of the Beast that shows some sort of nuclear Skeletor controlling all the radiated zombies with puppet strings. Dan remembers that people took Megadeath and Iron Maiden very seriously as a way of life back in early High School. They are still very serious, but maybe there are not as many mosh pits going on anymore. It doesn't have to happen in a mosh pit, but it can happen behind the counter at a pawnshop, it can happen underneath the hood of your Z28, and it can happen a lot of places!

John doing research on Dan's podcast network (RW3)

John did a little research and read the Wikipedias for all of the 5by5s. He happened to notice that this show was not listed as one of the current shows on the 5by5 network, but he understands that the page has to be updated independently. John learned about John Siracusa and Marco Arment. Dan has had a lot of shows, amongst others with Mike Hurley or Brett Terpstra which John has talked to before. All of these shows were 5by5 programs and basically every podcast started on 5by5 at one point. John now has a much broader knowledge of Dan's network, which is important to him. He likes to know who is friends with whom, who is sleeping with whom, and who was mad at whom. It is still not all 100% clear, but he has a much better picture of the scene. A lot of shows are not currently being produced and have ran their course for one reason or another. You want to stay out of that boneyard and John wonders what a podcaster needs to do to make sure he doesn't wander over into the death zone. It felt like that scene in Terminator with the first glimpse of the apocalyptic future where robots are crushing people's bones. You don't want to be one of those dead podcasts on a bleak war scape, like the Megadeath cover. John wants to stay alive! It might be one of these things where Dan Benjamin says "Come with me if you want to live!"?

Dan wishes he had a single explanation that made sense, but the story of every one of these podcasts is a little bit different. For some of them the other hosts took a full time job and couldn't do it anymore. They stopped a show recently where one got a new job and the other one had his fourth kid and they just couldn't find the time to do it. They've had shows where people just felt like the show had run its course and they were done with it. Other people left with great drama. It really depends on a show by show basis. Dan never really wanted to start a network where he would have all of these shows and be doing all of this stuff. When he first started doing it, shows had a download ceiling. You could only really get a certain number of listeners, at least in the in the realm that his shows were in. A lot fewer people had computers. Back then they were selling the shows based on the number of listeners, measured in the number of unique downloads for each episode. Dan was able to start a show and maybe got it to 10.000 downloads or 5000 downloads or 50.000 which would then be the ceiling for the audience. He paid his bills with it and wanted to make enough to pay the mortgage on the house, his automobiles, and everything.

Dan is doing podcasting full time since 2009. Before that, he had a real job on the side. As he couldn't get more listeners to show A or show B because they capped out or because they were adding listeners 100 a week, which was not enough to make a real dent in the mortgage payment, he could start a new show and then the new show would get another 5000-10.000 listeners he could go and sell. That is the reason why he spawned so many shows. He is always sort of envious of people who have one show that is a huge success and they only have to do the one thing. His whole life would be so much easier if he had one thing that he loved. Letterman had his show and he wasn't doing the weather on a local channel on the side, but he had this one thing that he did well.

Dan didn't get a degree in broadcasting, but he has an English degree. Was he conscious at any one point that every time he started a new podcast and got 5000 new listeners, those were just the same 5000 people that were listening to the last podcast and now he was taxing their available time and energy. Those 5000 core people now have to listen to eleventeen podcasts and they were like "Stop, Dan Benjamin! No more podcasts!" and Dan was like "I have another podcast!" and they were "No! I'm not going to see my kid!" It definitely was that way for a while in 2009-2012.

One of the things Dan loves about the shows he is doing now is that they are so different. The people he gets to do shows with like John and some of their other mutual friends are so much fun because they are so different from one another, whereas there was a long time where it seemed like every show that he did, although he was doing it with a different cohost, talked about the same things, which was basically Apple and how to get your printer to work. "What drop down menu is it where I can change the font?" A lot of that has changed because Apple has made it impossible to make any modifications anymore. It just comes out of the box, has one big button, you push it and then that button splits off into two buttons. It is all up in the cloud and you don't have any choices anymore, because Apple and Google are fighting over the bones of every single thing you put out on the Internet. What is there left to podcast about stuff like this?

On Roadwork they talk about real life! John likes the name Roadwork, because it suggests all this possibility. It could mean a lot of things, like Dan Benjamin and John Roderick go on tour! They take the show on the road, show up at malls, do 20 minutes of straight up no holds barred bare knuckle podcasting by the fountain in the center of the mall while all the kids are breakdancing and freaking out with excitement. Then they will pack it up, drive out into the smoke-colored sunset and leave those people in town wanting more. There is going to be some preacher in every town who is like "No podcasting! Podcasting just leads to sex and violence!" and they are just going to be "Fuck you, man! Podcasting is where it is at!" They will have their hair all fucked up. This is the future! It is not about Macintoshes and wondering about the latest apps. Instead it is about real life, breakdancing and real things! Malls!

John opening a mall (RW3)

John has performed at the grand opening of the Westfield mall on July 25th, 2008. It wasn't a brand new mall, but an old mall that had been rehabilitated by the Westfield Mall corporation. The Westfield Mall Super Company is an Australian company that owns and brands malls everywhere. In Seattle they had North Gate and South Center. Westfield bought South Center, rebuilt it completely and turned it into a shiny, brassy upscale mall. It has got a Duke's Chowder House. It's got a JOEY and this is the thing John doesn't understand: people will pull up, valet park and stand behind a velvet rope to get into JOEY's, which is a restaurant in a mall. Duke's Chowder House has $24 entrees, it is not a Chipotle, but it is a place where you go on prom night or take your uncle who is in from out of town. John would not personally take an out of town guests to a restaurant in a mall even if it had a separate outside entrance. "It offers a casual laidback atmosphere where comfort, great drinks and scrumptious food all come together!" It is absolutely true and because it is a Chowder House, you can get halibut tacos, it is not limited to pork tacos, but you can get fish in anything!

They asked John if he would play the opening of their mall and he said "No!" and they said "What if we paid you this at the time pretty astronomical sum?" and he said "Yes!" They promised they would send a car for him and John liked it more and more. The car would arrive at 7:00am or maybe 6:00am, which changed everything, but he had already said "Yes!" The car arrived and drove John down to the mall. It was the crack of dawn and there was a stage set up in front of the main entrance outside. Two hours before the mall was scheduled to open there were already 8000 people. John couldn't get 250 people to buy a $20 ticket to see a fantastic night of entertainment, but 8000 people are up at 6:00am to see the opening of a mall? What does he not understand about human beings? His handler guy explained that a lot of the stores were giving free samples and stuff. John had been to enough malls to know that if 99% of the stores gave him everything in the store for free he wouldn't accept it. What is a free sample from Juicy Couture look like? A swag bag full of garbage that he is going to throw throw away before he even leaves the mall. By showtime there were 10.000 people. Along the rope line at the front of the stage there was somebody from the Food Network who apparently was very famous, there was a juggler on stilts, and there was somebody from America's Next Top Model. They were all down there working the rope line. The governor of the State of Washington was there!

There was no sound check and no preparation of any kind until they told him "Okay, you are on!" and John walked up on stage with his guitar, looked out at this sea of people and realized there were no monitors on the stage. He turned to the guy who helped him to plug his cable in and he told John that there weren't any. In a situation like this where you are being amplified through a giant speaker column that is pointed away from you across a huge parking lot, it is fairly important that you have some way of monitoring what you are doing. The sound from the speaker column went across the parking lot, which was probably 100 acres (400.000 sqm), it went across the street, hit the wall of the Target and the JoS. A. Bank Men's store in the neighboring mall and was reflected back to him at about a 2.1 second delay. He couldn't even banter into this microphone because future John was yelling at him from across the parking lot.

John started to play his songs which none of the 10.000 people had ever heard. They had no context for why John was there. Jonathan Coulton tells a story about him playing his IKEA song at the opening of an IKEA. Nobody there knew him, but at least they understood he had a song about IKEA. John did not have a song about a mall and none of his songs can be repurposed to be about a mall. He played five songs which he thought was what the deal was and looked over at the sound man who gave him the international sign for "Stretch it out!", which is taking your two hands in front of your body and pulling apart as though you are pulling a piece of salt water taffy, but the taffy in this illustration was actually time. They were waiting for the governor to arrive or for the big moment, so John played a sixth song, which was excruciating. At the same time, the guy from the Food Network, the person from America's Next Top Model and the mime juggler on stilts had not stopped working the rope line right at the foot of the stage. The only people John could possibly have a personal connection with are the people in the first four rows of the crowd, but they were all focused on Gordon Ramsay or whoever was handing out pigs in a blanket off of a tray.

John was not able to connect with them and he was certainly not connecting with the other 9000 people who were just there to get a gift bag from a place that sells glitter. John doesn't even know what kind of stores go in a mall, maybe scented candles? After the sixth song, he looked over at the guy again, like "Come on! Can we be done here?", but he wanted John to stretch it out further and John ended up playing what felt like an eternity, eight or ten songs. It felt like he was roasting on a spit! During his last song, the Cirque du Soleil aerial acrobatic squad in conjunction with a team from China who had never performed in America before were doing an aerialist ribbon dance behind him on the giant wall in front of the mall. They all rappelled down the front of the mall and hung upside down spinning around like some sort of insect spinning their cocoons.

The entire time John was up there asking himself what he was doing there. No amount of money can ever repay him for this bad decision! He finished his last song, bumped into the governor on his way off the stage and she came up and said "I now declare this mall open" 9000 people rushed into the mall and the mall was alive! It had been inhabited by the core puzzles that make up its limbic system and they were all moving around, getting Teriyaki, buying sweat pants, eating at the Rain Forest Café, getting bedazzled and buying iPhone 4 covers. John went down to the Duke's Chowder House, because no one was getting chowder at 8am, he found a booth, sat in the booth, put his head down on the table in another international symbol which is: "Do not talk to me right now!", covered in flop sweat for a while before he got up and took a look at this mall. "What have you got in here? Do you guys have place that sells remote controlled cars?" Yes, they did.

"9:00 a.m. July 25, 2008, acoustic performance by Seattle-based musician John Roderick of The Long Winters will kick off the event MC:d by TV and radio personality Pat Cashman. Shoppers who were in line before 9:30am will receive a scratch off ticket revealing a prize valued at $25 or more from various retailers." — Kent Reporter

It was at 9am? It seemed a lot earlier, but at that point in John's life 9am might have seemed like 6am, it definitely was early, but John is embarrassed to learn that it was actually 9am because that seemed like a reasonable time. He was not there at 6am for a 9am show, because there wasn't any soundcheck. Pat Cashman is one of those legendary local broadcasters who had been doing Drive Time Radio since the 1950s, somebody whom all the people waiting in line at the mall knew. Maybe even their grandparents knew who Pat Cashman was! Looking at them, every single one of those 8000 to 10.000 people had some kind of lower back tattoo. Some of them were Celtic knots, some of them said "No entry!" or whatever, but John is pretty sure every single person had one. After John on the schedule, there were speeches, there was a celebrity stylist called Robert Verdi, there was children's entertainment and events at the new kids' play space, and there was a wine tasting from 3-7pm. At 10:30am a Nordstrom stylists offered fall fashion tips at Jovi's Grill & Lounge. Tapas will be served and John is kind of sorry he missed that.

Exposure does not matter for record sales (RW3)

Dan suggested that John was covered in the paper when he opened the mall and just the exposure alone must have been worth the experience, but the idea of exposure is demonstrably false. All record labels track their sales relative to events in the world because record labels want to know which events affect sales. John's own record label Barzuk records had a handful of bands that at one time or another played the David Letterman show or The Tonight Show, even. John remains close to the founder Josh Rosenfeld and, although he would never share proprietary information with John, John was still able to ask some questions about what worked for other bands and get fairly candid answers. It is astonishing that when a band plays the David Letterman show, there is almost no change in sales the following week and the week after. It is maybe a statistically negligible bump in sales. If you don't get a measurable bump in sales from playing the David Letterman Show or Saturday Night Live, you are definitely not going to get a noticeable one from playing the opening of the Westfields South Center Mall, but more importantly there is no such thing as exposure with a one to one correlation.

No single incident of exposure matters. What matters is the collected number of appearances, the number of impressions you make during a given record cycle. You are on Saturday Night Live and you are also on the cover of the magazine in the dentist's office and you are also on the radio and you also have your record as an end cap as soon as you walk into the Best Buy. It takes five, six or seven of those all working in concert to cause the average consumer to say "Huh? I've heard of those guys!" You see that kind of orchestrated mega-push happen all the time! John had heard of Taylor Swift's Shake It Off for weeks and weeks and weeks and there was a part of him that actively resisted ever hearing Taylor Swift Shake It Off. He did not want to hear it and he did not want to know about it, but it was everywhere! There was controversy, there was critical disagreements and John was finally "All right, I'll listen to Taylor Swift Shake It Off" He finally succumbed and it was a pretty good jam! He was on board and was a part of the Taylor Swift Shake It Off movement. If the song had petered out before John had arrived, he never would have heard it or he would have formed an opinion like "Well that's kind of over, isn't it?"

That is what is astonishing about show business: For your record to be a hit, you need to connect with the average schmo. To connect with that schmo, you need to speak schmo, first of all, and you need to pummel them from all sides. To Dan it seems like those things happen organically in a way, but John laughs out loud when he hears that. It costs millions of dollars! The PR people are important, but they need to have money budgeted to run a really good campaign and the music has to be good enough that it doesn't appall you on first listen. It can appall you somewhat as long as it has the second characteristic which is memorability. If it is totally appalling but really memorable, it works too. If it is kind of memorable but totally not appalling, it might also work. The two have to interact with each other: appalling and memorable. The music doesn't have to be great, but it just has to fall somewhere on that spectrum and then you have to pour money into it. Every once in a while there is something that is so good that it surprises you, but a long time before it ever got to surprise you, it surprised some publicist somewhere, who was like "You know what? I'm going to work this extra hard because I believe in it".

The first time John heard Eminem, he was parked in a rural area listening to the radio. Slim Shady came on and John had that bizarre experience where he pulled over to the side of the road and wondered "What the fuck is this?", but in a good way. John had no idea of the ethnicity of the performer and listening to Slim Shady the first time, he was picturing him as a black performer. John had not seen this next development in rap music coming and it was electrifying. It is an example of a thing where he is sure that when that reached the desk of some publicists, they said "Oh, I can work this record!", but a long time before it reached the desk of that publicist, it had already reached the ears of a little guy called Dr. Dre, who was already pulling all the strings. It is not like any of those megastars come out of nowhere, selling their record out of the trunk of their car and all of a sudden they are a monster. It is a massive system and if there was an easy way to do it, people would do it all the time. There is no easy way! Shake it off needs to be a great song to be that ubiquitous. No Long Winters song ever passed that test. Long Winters songs are not appalling, but they are also just not that instantly memorable. You don't walk away from your first listen of the song already singing it.

Dan's first time music experience (RW3)

Dan remembers back when he started to get into music. It happened all at once: Being able to drive or getting your restricted license meant you could listen to music not on headphones and not just in your room but you could be listening to music somewhere with other people. Dan remembers he got this horrible little equalizer amplifier thing that he figured out how to hook up into his Honda Civic. He screwed it onto the bottom of the dashboard and he blew out all the speakers in the car twice. Dan was mainly listening to Led Zeppelin and he blames them. It was was the turning point when he really got into music. Although he doesn't have any Eminem memories from the first time he heard it, he definitely remembers a lot of the artists from John's hometown Seattle, whether it was the first time he heard a Pearl Jam song or the first time he heard a Nirvana song. This kind of music spoke to him for sure, especially in this wasteland of Orlando Florida. Dan felt like he was part of the intended audience for that music at that specific time and place. The angst was there and they wore flannel even though it was really hot in Orlando.

As much as he felt he could have connected with the music scene at that time, there was that first moment when you hear something and you are inspired to the point that you say that this thing you just heard was really cool and you really want to know who that was, or you really want to go and get that album. Dan remembers doing that with They Might Be Giants the first time he heard Ana Ng. He saw part of the video on MTV, he got in the car and drove to The Peaches, hummed it to the guy at The Peaches who then walked him over and handed it to him. Now Dan's kids are growing up listening to their kids' songs. It is just weird. Music is a turning point for people. You hear something and something changes inside of you after you hear a band or a song or something you connect with.

The confusing times of 1980s music (RW3)

Most of the people John's age had a turning-point experience in 1977 when they heard Kiss Alive or Kiss Alive II specifically, but Dan is a little bit younger. The first music that connected to Dan when he was a child was absolutely without a doubt Devo's Freedom of Choice in 1980. For him it was like: "Oh my God They are singing to me specifically! This is my music! It sounds like music should sound!" He can't tell how many times he played that album and he wore out the grooves playing it over and over and over again. Whip It wasn't even his favorite song on there. When he thinks of Devo, he is thinking of Girl You Want a Ton of Love, Snowball and Gates of Steel. All these songs were spot on for him. It was the first album that Dan bought with his money and he just loved it! Dan saw Mark Mothersbaugh in the airport at LAX once, but at first he wasn't sure if it was him. The fluorescent orange T-shirt that said Devo on it kind of gave it away, though. It was one of those moments where he really wanted to go up and talk to him and tell him that his music had completely changed his life and had made a little kid not feel so alone. But then he didn't want to be the guy who goes up to people and says something like that, so he did not go over and say "Hi!" to him. Looking back, he wishes he had. It is one of Dan's few deep regrets in life. He was even on Dan's flight because he was in the same waiting area. The rest of the guys came, too. All of Devo was on his flight!

In 1980, John was 11 or 12 and Devo made a massive impact on him as well. Now that we have Devo, why is not all music conforming to the new understanding? We have been waiting for this Devo music and there needs to be no further evolution. We have arrived! John was astonished that the world could contain both Devo and Sammy Hagar simultaneously. But not only did the world contain them, but also the Heavy Metal soundtrack contained them both! They were on the same album! 1980 was this extremely confusing musical time. Stadium rockers who were supposed to have been killed off by Punk Rock were not killed off by Punk Rock. Foreigner 4 came out right around then or right after then while Punk Rock was there as well, while New Wave was happening and while Disco was still kicking around. Also the 9 to 5 Dolly Parton soundtrack and all the Country and Western Pop like Kenny Rogers was happening! What was a young person supposed to do? All you could do was listen to everything and be confused!

The music that John was listening to at the time he got his driver's license was a very small and weird subset of music. He was listening to big weird Canadian Stadium Rock, like Triumph, Rush, Zebra, and Fastway. It was a strange little moment in the mid 1980s that produced this strange sort of brief Aldo Nova driven music that was a little bit rockier than The Greg Kihn Band or Billy Squier. It is hard to know exactly what to call it. Maybe Pop Hard Rock? John was super into Triumph, but all of that got swept away by the Scorpions who were a complete game changer and revolutionized music with their German Pop Metal. If you were standing at a party, wet with beer and wanted to sing music out loud with your friends, there was nothing better than Scorpions. Of course that could not hold, because you can't be a lifelong Scorpions fan and expect to interact with other people. It was just a brief moment, but it coincided right with John getting his driver's license. Now he was in the car and could listen to whatever music he wanted and so he listened to Worldwide LIVE.

It was such an interesting feeling to drive somewhere, put the windows down and listen to music. For the first time you were free in a way that you have never been before and the car didn't really matter, just the fact that you were going somewhere. Windows down, Driving headlights on, Still loving You! John doesn't know the lyrics because they are half in German, and how is he supposed to know what the fuck they are saying? He could sing all the guitar parts and knew every note of it. So pathetic! Somewhere in the rest of America all of John's peers who were going to be his future friend were all listening to Hüsker Dü and were somehow appreciating it. John could have listened to it if he had wanted to, but he didn't because it didn't sound very good. He was listening to Still Loving You by the Scorpions, thinking: Does it get any better than this? Listen to those guitars going out into the German night through very large amplifiers, echoing across that Berlin Wall and maybe spreading freedom to those poor enslaved communists across the way.

At the same time, all the people John one day was going to be good friends with and hanging out with were all listening to the Minutemen in whatever American town they lived in, thinking "Yeah! Right! Get in the van!" and there would always be this unbridgeable gulf between him and his peer group, because he was not listening to the right music to one day become a 45 year old Post Punk cool kid. John is always going to be this suburban metal head and he wasn't even really invested in metal, it was just all he could get his hands on and it was all that conveyed his very dramatic inner life in a German accent and with a stripey guitar, singing hard to parse lyrics about wanting somebody and maybe that somebody was freedom.

But thank God for podcasting! Now these memories don't have to be like tears in rain, they can be like diamonds on the soles of your shoes. That album was early High School for Dan in 9th grade. They were allowed to bring headphones and listen to music in drafting class. That right there is the generation gap between Dan and John. There is no way John could have put headphones on, but he didn't have Drafting class either. When Dan was working on his Vellum during 8 weeks of class, they just drew different kinds of isometric projections of screws. They would tell him page 8 and he was going to draw that. The whole class was just silent and Dan could sit there, listen to music and draw his screw. There was absolutely a drafting class in John's school, but what they were listening to was the professor's transistor radio playing excerpts from the classical station. Headphones were a brand new technology. John remembers his first Walkman right around 1980. It was regarded by adults as an insidious form of a new kind of rebellion, like an insurrection. They did not want you to have headphones on because if you had headphones on you were not able to listen to them. Headphones were banned in the whole school and you couldn't even have them in your locker.

Dan's parents thought those things were the best, because they made him be quiet for a little while. He was always encouraged to wear them and to listen to his songs. Maybe some of the hysteria had passed by at that point. John was the first generation of kids who played video games and video games were on the cover of Time magazine, like "Are they going to destroy our youth? Are they turning our children into into Manchurian Candidates for Japanese companies who are mad about Pearl Harbor still?" All of that stuff was in the air and by the time Dan came along, John had paved the way for him a little bit. They had proven that video games are destroying the youth, but there is nothing you can do about it. And yes, headphones are also destroying the youth but there's nothing you can do about it. John was the test case for all that stuff and look at them now! No respect! Nobody even appreciates for a second the number of hours of playing Tempest that he gave for the service of his country. Dan loves Tempest. It's one of the best arcade games ever. There are some other ones up there, like Asteroids.

Sponsor: Wealthfront (RW3)

You really do need to figure out what your personal risk profile is, that applies to every aspect of your life! What risks are you willing to take? How risky are you willing to be in life? The history of the stock market has show that if you are young and can weather the ups and downs, you can put your money in there and just leave it, let it get managed and just don't think about it. The stock market has pretty much always gone up over the long haul, but it feels very risky and scary, because the money goes away sometimes and then comes back. It is very different when you get to be someone in the prime of life like John. Then you have to start reevaluating your risk profile! John no longer will jump out at a stoplight, run around the car and get back in, like he used to do all the time. He won't do it at all now because his risk profile has changed.

Follow-up: Scrambled eggs (RW3)

To Dan's surprise, they got a lot of feedback from their listeners. A lot of people have written in just to say that they enjoy the show they enjoy their camaraderie. One thing that generated a lot of feedback on Twitter was their discussion of making scrambled eggs. It has become a big thing! Is there a culture that does not eat the scrambled ovum of the gross yardbird that is the chicken? Is there any culture that doesn't eat cooked eggs? For the most part, scrambled eggs are something we all can have a strong feeling about. It struck a note or a chord with a lot of people and a lot of people have asked if Dan could make a website like he did with the bacon thing, but Dan is not planning to do that because he doesn't see scrambled eggs as much of a religion as he does for baking bacon in the right way. Dan didn't realize that of all the things that they had talked about, that would be the thing people were tweeting to them about.

John didn't try scrambled eggs according to Dan's method because he is going through a phase right now where every day when he comes home and opens his freezer, he realizes that he got 4 gallons (15 l) of cabbage soup that he froze six months ago because he was tired of eating it. Now it sits in there and cabbage soup isn't the type of thing that you're going to ever say "You know what? I'm going to thaw that cabbage soup and revisit it!" John overestimated how much cabbage soup he wanted to eat, which is easy to do, then he got discouraged by the cabbage soup and now everything else in his refrigerator looks wrong in the reflected light of that frozen cabbage soup. For the last couple of years, John has been really diligent about not eating gluten very much, but the last few weeks he has just thrown that completely out the window. He goes in, looks at the cabbage soup, it is wrong, he doesn't want to make anything else, and he gets in his car and gets a pizza. John is in the food doldrums right now and the prospect of making perfect scrambled eggs just seems like something he is going to do in the fall. Fall is going to be his egg time.

The closest thing to a question this week was that people wanted to know if Dan and John had seen Gordon Ramsay's technique for making eggs which they say is similar, but maybe even better.

Follow-up: Fluffernutter (RW3)

Dan still wants John to try Fluffernutter, but there is no chance. There has been a lot of cross talk about Fluffernutters and John has seen many pictures of them now. People have been pretty gleefully tweeting Fluffernutters at him and they look so repulsive! If John was stuck in snow, he might put a Fluffernutter under his rear tires to regain traction, but he would never put it in his body. John likes marshmallows, sort of, and Dan is also not a big marshmallow fan, but this is good!

Dan's desire to get John to eat a Fluffernutter is as strong as any desire he ever had! He is trying to find a way of somehow making him wind up eating one of these things without realizing it at first. He could put one inside of a taco and get John started eating the taco. If the bread were toasted and if the Fluffernutter itself was either toasted or fried like a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, absolutely you can do that, and if it were presented to him as a hot grill fried sandwich, it might overcome his revulsion. Dan is not saying John is going to love it or want it again, but he feels John should try it. Dan ate live octopus in South Korea, but he doesn't want that again. John had Rocky Mountain Oysters once and doesn't need to have those again. Unless someone hands him a hot Fluffernutter on a plate, he is not going to seek one and even if one comes to him on a plate, there is still a 50/50 proposition. Live octopus is not something that you can extrapolate. Either you eat it or you don't, like chocolate-covered grasshoppers. But a Fluffernutter, John knows what all of the components taste like and he can picture them assembled and he can picture the mouth feel and it just feels like prison food. Dan can't argue that, Philadelphia is prison-like in a way.

Follow-up: Cigarette loads (RW3)

There was a lot of feedback about cigarette loads and someone sent in a video compilation showing that John was not kidding. There are some very big explosions going on! Some of them almost seem like a dud, just a little pop, but other ones seemed like a firecracker went off in the person's face! It is making John so happy just thinking about it. Cigarette loads are very unpredictable like all fireworks. "Place on ground! Light! Get away! Do not hold him hand!" One firecracker might go "pop" and the next one might go "blam" The same is true with cigarette loads, you can never know for sure! John went through a phase where he would put two cigarette loads in a cigarette, because if you put a cigarette load in a cigarette and it blows up, the person is mad and startled, but 99% of the time they relight the cigarette. It blew the end of it off, but they were set to enjoy a delicious cigarette and they still have 4/5 of a cigarette and so they are going to relight that cigarette and smoke it again.

You push that first cigarette load in as far as you can, which requires a tool like a paper clip or something that enables you to push that first cigarette load deep deep deep into the cigarette, and then the second one you put in just at the end very shallowly, so that the cigarette explodes and they are like "Ha ha, very funny you guys!" and everybody is laughing and spilling beer and then they light the cigarette again, they smoke it for a little while longer and no one expects the Spanish Inquisition. When that second one goes off, that is when they get up and chase you out of the bar. That is when that they get mad, which is what you were going for. You want them to be mad. If you put those two cigarette loads right next to each other you can sometimes get a kind of "pow pow". John spent decades and decades monkeying with that stuff because there is something wrong with him.

People have played pranks on John, but most people are not prepared to go to great lengths. The primary trait you need to be effective at cigarette load pranking is patience. You put the cigarette back in their pack and you try to put it in there in such a way that it just blends in, so it could be two days before they get to it if they are a casual smoker. Most people don't have that kind of patience. And when you are sitting and smoking cigarettes at the bar and they are watching you a little too carefully and they are giggling, you suspect that something is going on. "What did you do to my cigarettes? Did you dip my cigarettes in PCP?" (Dan calls it a Wet Daddy). Then you figure that they probably don't have any liquid PCB, but they have a cigarette load somewhere. Even if it goes off, you are kind of ready for it.

Encouraging listener mail (RW3)

John encourages listeners to send in questions, not only about the show, but about a bigger issue. For example:

"Do you think that dark matter has a different kind of electrical system? It is not neutral essentially, but it is just neutral to our concept of positive and negative charge. What if dark matter has its own sort of positive and negative charge that we just can't even measure because we are not aware of it yet? We are only just now even conceiving it! What do you think about that?"

That would be the type of question that Dan and John could really chew on. John definitely loves unanswerable questions. They could also do trivia, but John doesn't want people to think it's just a quiz, because Dan is so good on the internet and every time John says something, he just finds it on the Internet. If people are asking questions where the answer is on the Internet, that is not going to be fun. The answer has to be debatable.

Fan Blog on Tumblr (RW3)

There is also a fan blog that somebody has made:

and there is another one for John's show with Merlin as well:

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