RW92 - The problem with Docents

This week, Dan and John talked about:

  • Follow-up to visiting a submarine base (Submarine)
  • German-style villages in the US (Geography)
  • Bands breaking up (Music)
  • The ocean cruise where she talked the entire time (Stories)
  • Forest fires and firefighters in Alaska (Geography)
  • America's sweetheart (Factoids)
  • Generations
  • The fear of failure
  • Missed opportunities
  • Money imbalance between friends

The show title refers to John’s trip on a boat where there was a docent talking the whole time.

John has updated to the new Skype, albeit not by choice, and the new, very different calling sound makes him upset! Microsoft obviously decided to brand Skype as a Microsoft product, because all that was missing is Clippy showing up saying ”Looks like you want to make a phone call!” He was looking for his settings yesterday and couldn’t find them. Then he accidentally went into full screen mode and couldn’t get out of it.

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

Follow-up to visiting a submarine base (RW92)

In response to the previous episode, many people encouraged John to do more tours of all the ships out there. Someone suggested that both John and Dan must visit Trinity and one guy even posted the pictures he took on Trinity. They only do tours twice a year and currently they are taking registrations for the April 7th, 2018 tour. You have to register and pay $90 to get on the list which fills up very quickly. John has gotten in contact with another sub-captain unrelated to the visit John talked about in the previous episode. One of their listeners has a cousin who is the captain of one of the other Ohio-class ships that does not have ballistic missiles, but Tomahawk intermediate range cruise missiles. Maybe John will go out to lunch with him in Poulsbo.

German-style villages in the US (RW92)

Washington has several little towns that are constructed around the theme of either being a Bavarian village or a Norwegian village. It is pretty common to have a little Potemkin village that is not a stage, but a choice the settlers from Germany or Norway made a long time ago when they decided how to make their village stand out from all the other villages. Architecturally they made it very Jodulehihu, which is the scientific term for it. It is very cute, although they are still normal towns. For example in Leavenworth they have enforced their Bavariana on McDonalds, so it looks like a little Swiss chalet. Poulsbo, an actual little fishing village near the submarine base has a cutesy-pie Norwegian main street. It is very adorable. Ballard, Washington had traditionally been very Scandinavian, but that is less true now after the port has been converted into a restaurant row for people in skinny jeans. There is a little Bavarian village called Fredericksburg 50 miles to the west outside of Austin in LBJ-country in the rolling hills. This is also an area of Texas that is full of tiny deer, like a horror movie plot where you first think they are very cute, but then you find another one and another one, all these little-dead-eyed tiny deers starting to creep out of the forest at you and you realize that there are a million carnivorous deer that are about to rip you to shreds.

Fredericksburg has a Nimitz-museum because Nimitz, the last 5-star admiral, had been born there. 5-star admirals and generals only exist in war time and currently, none of them has more than 4 stars. Although we are currently in war and have been for a long time, the war has to be big enough to require a commander of a whole theater of the war. Nimitz was naval commander of the Navy in the Pacific and although there is a commander of the Pacific fleet now, he doesn’t have 5 stars. They probably had to dream up a 5-star rank during WWII just because they needed someone in that position. MacArthur and Eisenhower had 5 stars. Nimitz is a German name because he is a German-Texan and it turns out there is a whole group of Texans from Germany, enough of them that they have created an entire ethnic category. There are descendants of them today in Texas.

Bands breaking up (RW92)

There is no reason for a band to break up unless one of the members wants to be dramatic about it. There is nothing keeping a band from saying that they are not going to tour for a while and they are not going to make any records for a little bit. That can extend forever! If you are a little cynical, then breaking up allows you to go out on a farewell tour. Some bands break up because they are mad at each other. They throw their guitars down, stomp off the stage and announce the next day that they are broken up, but John finds that ridiculous! A lot of times that band will get back together, which John also finds ridiculous. There is probably nothing broken up about the Presidents or the United States of America and there is certainly nothing broken up about The Long Winters. They are still an active and viable musical operation although they haven’t released an album in 10 years.

Jason Finn just sent John a picture of his watches that John is supposed to forward to Dan. Dan knows this person’s name and he is obviously a musician of some kind, but then it clicked and of course he knows Jason as the former drummer of the Presidents of the United States of America. John is not sure what the current public-facing story about the band is. They don’t currently book any shows, but they didn’t break up which means that Jason is still their drummer. Dan noticed that Jason Finn is born on the same day, although not in the same year. They share some ethnic background and Jason also loves watches, which means they have a lot in common.

Jason makes very good BBQ ribs in his big Green Egg BBQ egg and John is already super-bored from the conversation that is happening between John and Jason about watches and BBQ, so he will just put those guys together and they can chit-chit-chat whatever they want while John is going to do a moon walk out of the room. Jason loves it down in Texas and gets down to the dessert all the time. John has a history of putting friends together. He did it with Ben and Adam in the same way and now they are super-tight bros and got a podcast about Star Trek. John is a real coupler when it comes to nerdy dudes, more than Dan’s grandmother even. Why aren’t you married yet? Ah, you are!

The ocean cruise where she talked the entire time (RW92)

John was up in Maine on a 3-masted Whaler, taking a tour of the region. They had someone from the Nation Park Service on the boat describing the wildlife you could see, but this young ranger thought that she needed to speak without interruption from the time the boat left the dock to the time it returned to the dock. A big part of a boat trip like that is spending time just staring at the water, imagining yourself being on a whaler in 1840 and just take it in. You couldn’t just tune her out because she had a microphone and you could hear her over the wind everywhere on the boat. By the time they returned to shore, John was quite upset. All she was talking about were some birds and critters, but she could just have told them that on the left they see the Northeastern Tern and then she could have been silent or maybe go 5 sentences deep.

When John gets intruded upon like that, it is hard for him to control his emotions. This is the way they are running this boat trip but it isn’t the way John would run it. He actually asked her or someone on the boat if they could have a moment of quiet reflection but he was just greeted with incomprehension and he did not get what he was looking for. He even wished that it was explicitly mentioned in the description of the program at the shore that there was going to be a lengthly presentation on the part of a speaker. John was saying this with his jaw clenched, because at that point he was bummed and he is not very good when he gets bummed. While he is not outbursty, it is very hard for him to get back up into smile town. For the first third of the trip he was still convinced that she will get done with her thing and stop talking, but when he realized that she will be talking the entire time, he flipped over to ”this is ruined!” and he just wanted to be back on shore and wanted to write a strongly worded letter to the park service. The problem is: If they greet you with ”We never get any complaints”, then there is nowhere to go with it because you are criticising a thing that they feel they have worked really hard on.

John’s argument is that you don't want someone on a loud microphone just talking the entire time on a thing they call "Ocean Cruise". There is a disconnect between the show they are trying to put on and imagining themselves as a member of the audience. The person in charge is not a show person, but they are a park ranger and they don’t have a developed sense of what a good show is and that a show needs pauses. A show is trying to fulfill a need in the audience and isn’t just there for its own sake. John gets asked to do events all the time where people who are not in show business are trying to put on a show and they make the mistake of thinking that the audience wants an exhaustive amount of information. The problem with this cruise was not even that she was talking all the time, but it was not exhaustive. She was not imparting deep knowledge on them, but she just couldn’t bear the silence.

Forest fires and firefighters in Alaska (RW92)

John hopes to God that she or her boss isn’t just randomly a listener of this program, because he doesn’t want to get her in trouble. This was years ago and she has probably moved on and is now in a fire-watch tower in Wyoming with no-one around, because her superiors or her co-workers found that it would be great if they won’t have to listen to her anymore. John isn’t even sure if they still use fire-watch towers. Can you imagine a time when it was a job all summer long to just to sit in a tower with binoculars and look for smoke? Those were the good old days! You would live there, because the fire-watch towers John is aware of are very remote and you couldn't just come and go. John has never done it, but it is kind of a regret, because he has a lot of friends who are wild-land firefighters.

Coming from Alaska, you would either go fishing, firefighting, white water river raft guiding or work for the oil companies, those were the jobs you would get when you were young. John did not get a single one of those jobs, but his friend Jennifer decided that she was a wild-land firefighter and she became kind of a big deal among firefighters, like a widely regarded jump master in the firefighting community. As she came back she smelled like forest fire, which is a pretty cool smell. In Alaska you can have millions of acres of land on fire and no one in the lower 48 would even be aware of it, because it is not threatening any towns. Nowadays the Western United States are on fire during the season which used to be in Montana, Eastern Washington and Wyoming.

When John was growing up, Alaska and Montana were the places where fire fighters were. Although there were California fires, they just seemed not that big of a deal because those fires would only sometimes creep down and burn a little neighborhood or something. It wasn’t like nowadays where the whole state of California is engulfed during fire season and you don’t even hear about fires in the North. This year British Columbia had enormous fires, so bad that Seattle was choked in smoke. Alaska has always had tremendous fires engulfing huge regions, but it wouldn’t even make the newspapers. Those Alaska firefighters would fly all around wherever they were needed and they were busy all year.

America's sweetheart (RW92)

There is a movie called "Always" with Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter being firefighter pilots in Montana. It is from a time where Romantic Comedies were actually good and had full grown people in their late 30s in them instead of 18 years old who make a lot of fart jokes. You Got Mail was a big one. They all had Meg Ryan in them, America’s sweetheart. Who is America’s sweetheart now? Dan is certainly America’s podcasting sweetheart! Sandra Bullock was America’s sweetheart for a while, but now? Emma Stone? Dan would vote for her because she is a great actress, but she was in a couple of awful Spiderman movies. Dan puts the name Jennifer Lawrence forward! They continue for a while to try to find the current America’s sweetheart. They question if the candidates have to be American or if they can be from Australia or Israel or China. They conclude that America's sweetheart doesn’t need to be from Iowa and raised on corn like a milk cow.

Emma Watson as Hermione did it for a whole generation! John likes that name very much and they talk a while about the correct pronunciation of it. Natalie Portman was America’s sweetheart for a long time. What about Zendaya (playingMJ in the new Spiderman), who Dan is told is the millennial’s sweetheart? She is 21 and comes from the Disney Channel, so her fans are probably 15 and are not millennials anymore. Millennials now have drivers licenses! We never know what to call the next generation until they start asserting themselves enough to need a name. A bunch of 15 year olds? You just call them kids until they start clamouring at the gates. At first you come up with a derisive name for them, then they protest it and they will come up with a name for themselves.

Generations (RW92)

Dan and John's generation had a different name before it was called generation X, something like the Slacker generation. When they were kids, they were called the latchkey kid generation and there had been a few names after that until they came up with the name generation X. It might have been their last throw attempt to not go down in history as The Losers. Breaking people up into generations is very handy, but it can consume our idea of time. For example, where do the 53 year olds come from? They are right in the middle between the Baby Boomers and Generation X and they have no foothold! Generations are a fascinating and very seductive way to look at time and John falls into it all the time, like this is the WWII generation and this is how they were. Then attitudes changed and the next generation had the next attitudes. Like with all generalizations there is some truth to it, but it is also not very useful. The Baby Boomers include everyone born from 1940 to 1960 but there is just no similarity and this is not a very useful span.

When John first heard generation explained, generation X was being everyone born between 1960 and 1975 and John was right smack dab in the middle. He always thought of himself as the tentpole of that demographic, but as time went on, more and more people born in 1979 felt more kinship with generation X people than with generation Y and there was this self-assignment of people from 1978/79/80 saying that they were really more gen-X and you have this 20-year problem again. Barak Obama was born in 1960. Is Barak Obama in the same generation as someone born in 1980 who was 11 years old when Nirvana was big? That seems a little weird. In 1991, John was a full grown person living on his own in the big city making Rock music. To think that someone who was 11 at the time would share a generation with him doesn’t make that much sense although as part of being an older grown-up he now thinks that people born in 1980 are absolutely his peers. Is John in the same generation as Barack Obama?

John used to answers a question like that by using the John Flansburgh principle: John is definitely in the same generation as John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants. They had already been a band during New York City Punk Rock times while John was a teenager in High School in Alaska. He was aware of the amazing alternative culture in New York in the late 1970s including Debbie Harry and The Talking Heads. John is clearly not a member of the same generation as David Byrne, but while John Flansburgh and They Might Be Giants were older than John and they had a hit on the radio in 1987, they are cultural peers. Splitting things up into generations is super-fun and is usually used by one generation to try and put the previous generations down. For John, Baby Boomer is right after Fucker if he is going to call somebody a dirty word. There is dingeling, ding dong, fucker and baby boomer. Then there are other ones he says periodically, like shitbird. But don’t get on John’s bad side enough so he calls you a Baby Boomer.

The millennials feel very defensive about their generation and it is a big part of their identity that everyone is always dumping on them. They don’t know how to read a book and no-one has ever told them "No!" Baby Boomers gave that kind of business to generation X times 1000 and said that they were literally never going to amount to anything. They don’t say the same about the millennials, but they are pointing out how rich millennials are while generation X was just a bunch of lost losers who don’t know how to work because they don’t have any work ethic and the economy has gone to shit, so there is no money for them. AIDS has made it so that they can’t have sex with each other in a fun way anymore. Everybody is terrified and is just going to sit around smoking pot in their moms basement until they get to be old and look like a newer member of Dinosaur Junior. There is no future for them! Well, look how they turned out! They are the podcasters! John has to constantly remind himself to not think generationally. It is useful when you are looking for things you might have in common with somebody and their age gives you a starting point besides the fact that we are all using Twitter and Instagram.

When Dan first entered into the workforce, he was the youngest person everywhere. In San Francisco there were tons of people in the computer and web field at 22, 23 years old with their first or second job out of school, but where Dan lived, he was the only person that age. Dan couldn't make the distinction between somebody who is 35 and somebody his parents’ age. It seemed all the same to him and everybody who was not in a few years of his age was old. He had friends of his age from college, but they were not in his field. Everybody at work was 10 years older and it was very hard for him to get any kind of respect because he didn’t have any experience. It took until he was in his 30s before he got any kind of acknowledgement or respect at all in those kinds of situations.

Using the generation they are in gives them a starting point, like ”Did you see the Snoopy Snow Cone Machine commercial?” Everybody in Dan's and John's generation grew up watching that! Watching the ”Care Bears” cartoons on the other hand was for babies when it was on TV and it wasn’t for them anymore. Did they watch Transformers? Did they watch GI Joe? They might be thinking they were a little too old for them, but they are still in the same generation, certainly in the periphery. Then there are people asking ”Transformers? You mean the movie?” - ”No! Totally different!”

People in their mid-20s are now probably really enjoying Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, while Dan and John are kind of on the edge of that and are wondering if we really need that in our lives. John doesn’t agree that people in their 20s are enjoying Facebook or Twitter, but they are somewhere else, like on Kick or on Bumble. They were on SnapChat and might already be jumping ship now. 21-year olds are probably on Craigslist looking at hook-up ads from ”Male looking for threesome, 54 years old” with a picture where you can’t quite see his face, but his big belly.

In terms of his own life, John thinks of the year 1980 as an enormous right-angle turn from the 1970s to the 1980s. There isn’t a similar turn anywhere else in his life! Moving from the 1960s to the 1970s was just like walking through the threshold of a barn. There are a couple of steps down around 1986, 1987 and there is a jump off of a loading dock into 1990. There is a long walk on a cobblestone path until you get to 2007 and then you make your way down on the side of a waterfall on a trail that curves to the right again. All of John's time geography is clockwise! From 2007 to the present his life has been kind of a walk through a grassy field. If you don’t have memories from before 1980 or if you don't have a clear sense of yourself as a child participating in pre-1980 adult culture, then John will never not think of you as young.

There are foundational parts of John's life like Evel Knievel: everybody in John's generation was following him as he jumped the snake river. Some of John’s peers watched Miami Vice or Dukes of Hazard which he considered to be beneath his dignity at the time, but that was because he was a little brat. Dan was too young for the snake river jump, but John was 6 and he was really the target audience for a guy dressed as a superhero jumping a motorcycle over a Northwest canyon. His mom was not very supportive of Evel Knievel because she spent her whole life distancing herself from white trash culture as much as she could. It was not a thing she wanted any part of. Evel Knievel was part of that Chicken Pickin’ Nascar America that she who came from Northern Ohio identified as Southern Ohio culture that she was pretty contemptuous of. When John was a little kid, you couldn’t keep him away from Evel Knievel, it was all they were talking about and they were all jumping their motorcycles over little canyons. He can’t imagine how many skinned knees he is responsible for in the history of the world!

John was looking for a reason why he felt so much personal camaraderie with these admirals at Seafair. Had he met a bunch of admirals when he was 35, he would have been in too much awe to interact with them effectively. He would have made some jokes, would have stood there and would have tried, like ”Hahahaaaa”. He did feel that immediate comfort with them and he noticed that this was thanks to being the same age. That group of admirals is pretty diverse, there were female admirals, there were African American admirals, it wasn’t just that they were a bunch of white college bros, but they are all between the ages of 48 and 58. They didn’t stand around talking about Scooby Doo either, but they just recognized one another as age peers and there wasn’t any hurdle to overcome. It is one of the nice things of being roughly 50: You are established and nobody can take anything away from you. John still feels very vulnerable in the world and there are still people he wants to be friends with and who don’t want to be friends with him. This feeling may never leave and when he will be 85 years old, he will be sitting at the dining room table in an assisted living facility and there will be a table across the room where the fashionable 85 year olds are sitting. John sat at his dad’s table in the dining room of the assisted living facility and the people at his table were making caddy remarks about the people at a different table. That will probably never go away completely.

The fear of failure (RW92)

John hates to reference the fact that he lurks on 4chan, but it is a very interesting tableau and one of the major features is that there are a lot of young people on it who haven’t found their place in the world, the average being maybe around 24. Because they are young, they are very dramatic and they are all threatening suicide all the time. If every person on Reddit or 4chan who threatened suicide actually killed themselves, it would be 10% of the population of America, but they threaten it because they want people to come in and say "No! You have so much to live for!" Half the responses on those boards are ”Do it!”, a thing that is very hard to sympathize with now, but he remembers it being a dominant feature of his young life: ”I don’t belong anywhere! I don’t belong in the world and I don’t belong to my own peers, my generation, my friends. I'm not good at the things I’m supposed to know about and be good at”. It is a profound sense of failure to carry around with you all the time, not because you did something wrong, but existential failure because you are failing to thrive.

John does believe that this is a condition of youth and in particular of young adults. In John's case, the feeling of failure predated High School and had haunted him from the time he was 8 years old. His High School girlfriend didn’t have that problem because she was the Valedictorian of their class and didn’t have any sense of failure. Unless you stay in college and continue to succeed in college, you go out into the world and need to get an apartment and a job. That feeling of alienation and failure can come on you pretty quickly and if you are not ready for it, it is super-hard to contextualize. People are comparing themselves against their peers on the Internet, some of them being multi-millionaires from playing video games.

John was not comparing himself against peers he didn’t know who were multi-millionaires, except maybe Kurt Cobain, but he was comparing himself to peers who managed to get laid or managed to have a relationship with somebody or have an apartment that had 600 sqft (56 sqm) instead of 300 (28 sqm) sqft. Just when comparing himself to that tiny, marginally better ability to thrive in the world made him look like a hopeless loser. He can’t imagine what it would be like to be 24 now and comparing himself to a bunch of people on Instagram who are airbrushing the wrinkles out of their faces. It just seems so hard to not feel like you are a flop.

Buddhists say that any kind of comparison is meaningless, but we still exist in a world where we see and hear about other people. In the olden times it came down to the people you interacted with on a regular basis. Most of them were your friends, your colleagues or your family. If your next door neighbors each get a new car, you might find that you are driving a piece of crap and you might consider getting a new car as well, but the inundation people have on social networks these days is overwhelming. It must make you feel like no accomplishment is good enough. You lost 5 pounds and you are working out in the gym? This guy lost 25 pounds in 6 weeks and got a Sixpack and look at this beautiful woman on his arm. No accomplishment you can have will ever be able to match with what Instagram tells you that you could have. That must be so hard and so frustrating!

Part of capitalism is to create a false sense of need which is best done by comparison. Making people feel like their car is not good enough and they don’t have enough abs will get them out and sell them stuff. The whole idea of Facebook is to sell you stuff! All these things are very addictive and they are not inventing a world of feelings, but they are just exploiting it. That world of feelings is hard-wired in us because we are hierarchical pack-animals who were living in a small tribe with wolf-pack dynamics. It was pretty clear who the leader was and what your role was in your pack. Small packs turn into large packs and large packs turn into towns and towns turn into cities, all of that has happened pretty quickly in an evolutionary sense.

When John was born, there were 200 million Americans and just in his own lifetime the population has grown to 325 million, an increase by 50%. In 1900 it was only 76 million, think about that! 1900 is not that long ago, but there were one quarter of the people on the continent. In 1780, around the time of the revolution, there were fewer than 4 million people in the United States, which is like half the population of New York City. Just 200 years ago we were organized socially in a completely different way than what we are now. You want to think that we change a lot faster than we do, but human beings have never in history lived like we do. We have never had as much information about one another and have never been as proximate to one another as we are now.

Every day John feels more and more crowded-in upon, and that is not just in his imagination! There are more people in Seattle than ever and John grew up in a place where you just didn’t have as many people. It is not like populations ebb and flow, but the population is always growing. Sometimes Seattle is busy, sometimes it is less busy, but it has never gone down. The population plateaued during a period in the early 1970s when Boeing suffered a down-turn after the SST-program collapsed, but there has not been a decline since. We are not mentally and emotionally built to live under these conditions and while we are extremely adaptable there are these fundamental principles in us to look to the leader and spend a lot of time and energy figuring out where we fit it, not in the sense of conformity, which was the big issue when John was a kid. Dividing society into conformists and non-conformists was a Baby Boomer construct. You didn’t want to be a conformist! Later people realized that they were more comfortable being a conformist and non-conformists were this tiny little 2% of the population that wore their hair funny. We don’t live in that world anymore and you don’t ever hear about conformists and non-conformists, because non-conformity became the standard and in big parts of mainstream culture it is expected that you practice a certain kind of visible non-conformity.

All this is part of a tribal signaling that makes you one of the gang. How do we collect that information and feed it into a mechanism that is much older than just 200 years? If you are the leader, people are constantly coming at you trying to attack you. Being the leader is never a comfortable position because there is always someone who thinks they want your job. If you are in the middle of the tribe somehow, you are buffeted on all sides and there is hardly anywhere you can live without feeling social pressure. But if your tribe is 350 million people? If you are judging yourself in the context that you are not as successful as Seth Meyers? There aren’t that many people with nightly talk shows and you can’t be the best at everything. You are looking for your tribe on social media, but who is your tribe? The people who live around you? John’s little gang of dudes here in Seattle? Some of them have platinum records! Or is his tribe the people he is friends with online, some of whom have Oscars?

Missed opportunities (RW92)

Last night John spent probably an hour with a calculator multiplying the number 14.000 against some other numbers. Times 150, 220, 15, he just kept doing that. The reason behind it was that one bitcoin is now worth $14.000 and John was asking himself multiple times during the history of bitcoin if he wanted to put money into this. It felt like if he wouldn’t buy some bitcoin, he would feel like a dummy later, but these bitcoins weren’t free, they were like $30 a piece. If he had spent $300, he would now have 10 bitcoins and that felt kind of dumb. It is like throwing $300 in the sewer, but then again: Maybe he should? If he had 10 shares of Apple for $400 a piece, they would be worth $4000 and the risk of spending $400 to make $4000 always felt a bit meh, whatever, not quite worth now. But no! Who ever would have thought that a single bitcoin would be worth $14.000? There were times in John’s life when he was aware of bitcoin enough that he thought he should probably get some and he could have acquired some without being completely irresponsible with his money. He could have acquired 50 or 100 bitcoin by hook or by crook. 100 bitcoin is now worth $1.4 million.

John has a mental shoebox where he has all of those missed opportunities stored and for him. His missed opportunity was not that he didn’t move to San Francisco to be one of the first 100 employees of Facebook, because that was never in the cards for him, but he certainly could have owned 100 bitcoin and you can’t carry around that shoebox! He has other regrets in there, too: all the relationships he has screwed up! He wished he hadn’t jumped off that outfield wall at RFK Stadium in 1989, because he would still be able to ski now! There are a lot of regrets in that shoebox, but you can't put in a thing like that where you just lay in bed at night with a calculator calculating all the money you don’t have.

When Dan graduated from college in 1994, Apple’s stock price was like $1.10. If he had spent $1000 in 1994, he would have had 900 shares. In June of 2014 that would have been 25200 shares after all the splits and they would have a value today of $4.258.800 for the $1000 investment that Dad would have made. Dan knew in 1994 that Apple was good. He didn’t know they were going to make an iPod and iPhone, of course not, but he loved Apple and had been using their products since 1982. He knew Apple was cool and he had $1000! He knew he blew $1000 in tires for his car and in dinner. You can’t put yourself through what you could have done and should have done! The same thing for Netscape! When Netscape went public, he knew they were going to do something amazing. Dan had an Apple computer in front of him at work, it was a thing he knew and could touch and use and was familiar with and he had used them for 10+ years at that time, whereas Bitcoin still seems very mysterious to people, even those who know what blockchain is.

Money imbalance between friends (RW92)

A lot of the good relationships with his friends are predicated by John ignoring the money that they have and them ignoring the money John doesn’t have. It goes both ways! He recently had a conversation with a friend who said very indirectly that he likes hanging out with John because there is no weirdness. The implication of that was that there is a weirdness coming from other people, even their friends, about the gulf of money that existed between them. None of the people that they like have as much money as they do and that causes problems for them, because they want to believe that they are one of the gang.

They fear acutely that when the restaurant bill comes there is all of a sudden going to be this weirdness, even though everybody around the table could buy dinner. They didn't just all eat gold bars, but it is a $300 meal and none of them is incapable of spending $300 for their friends, but because one of them is significantly wealthier, it is a weird moment and that person feels it too. They feel so much more comfortable in an environment where their friends are either unconscious of it or make a point of being unconscious of it. You can’t go into every situation feeling that imbalance, because it is just money and money is fake as we have established.

An awful lot of John's life is based on a shared understanding that people in his world have different resources and the generous ones are the ones that make it not a big deal. There is the rich friend who says that they are just a regular person and so they are going to split this meal, or they bought you tickets to the baseball game for $22 each and you pull your $22 out and hand it over to them, because that is their version of being just a normal guy. The Nordström family here in Seattle are active members of LeTown and you run into them all the time, which is their version of being normal people. That is very different from the other version of it and before the bill even hits the table they have talked to somebody at the restaurant to get it covered, so don’t worry about it. That is not weird either, but it is just a reflection of the fact that it is the case, so why pretend? Then there is the third version of the absent minded professor, like ”oops, I don’t even know what money is, are we supposed to pay?” That works for a lot of people especially in the creative world.

There is that other currency in the world of famous people who can get things done. It is the pressure they feel even more than the money pressure. Their friends are standing around and are kind of leaning into the spotlight a little bit trying to get a little bit of that reflected spotlight. Could you help me put my show on the air? Could we put your name on my dust jacket? That is a pressure that makes it hard for people of different statuses to be friends in show business. For instance, today is the debut of John’s new podcast with Ken Jennings, The Omnibus. The video preview was fantastic, it is very exciting, and they did an very fun interview with Newsweek. The Newsweek headline was ”You are going to love this new Ken Jennings podcast”.

John cannot be upset or sad or briefly twinged by that headline and the fact that Seth Meyer said that he loves to have Ken on the show to talk about his new podcast, because the fame imbalance between the two of them is real. The fact that they are doing the show together as friends and as peers doesn’t change the fact that from a publicist’s perspective, one of the names is what they are going to zero in on, because that is the one that is going to get the eyeballs. The same is present in his relationships with half a dozen of his friends. When they walk in on a place, in the style of a 1930s musical, the spotlight suddenly swings around, but it is a narrow light and if John spends any time to edge his shoulder into that light, it is just weird and awful for both of them. With most of his good friends, John is not the lead wolf, but in his own imagination and his own emotional life, he is definitely the leader of any pack he is a member of. This creates all of the emotional tension that informs almost everything he does.

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