OM137 - Jeanne Calment

During the Squarespace ad John referenced the pie on the windowsill from RW4.

John mentions having been to Avignon (see RL133) and Arles, which is a swampy place.

John’s mom finding ways to occupy herself (OM137)

John’s mom is in her mid-80s and she is very healthy or robust, which is not a particular feminine adjective. She is hearty, she is farm-stock, she does eat well, she exercises well, and she has a positive mental attitude. She was painting John’s front porch right outside the room where they were recording. Like a postal person, when she is on her appointed rounds neither rain nor sleep nor dead of night can stop her (actually: ”Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”, see here)

When it snowed this winter neither John nor Ken got mail for several days. Even a light dusting of snow immediately stopped them, but it will not stop John’s mother. She is indomitable, she is like a Terminator, but she is also a lady. She is not going through the phone book looking for people named Jennings, killing them one at a time. She grew up in a time when resources were scarce and she thinks of work as virtuous. She continues to find interesting ways to occupy herself and does not just sit doing crossword puzzles, but she is out in the world and right now she is painting John’s porch and cleaning his oven, so the house smells like it is on fire.

One time she ripped the page out of the phone book that had all the churches in Seattle and she decided she was going to make a project out of going to one service in every house of worship in town. Over the course of a year she went to every church, synagogue, mosque, and temple and she attended services at every single places as a personal survey of the lay of the land (see RW135). Ken really identifies with somebody who thinks that everything is more fun when turned into a project. His wife gets fed up with his ideas like ”Let’s watch all the Coen Brothers movies in chronological order!”, but he just made it fun by making it a project they could work on, which is the last thing most people want.

John walking his daughter to school (OM137)

This morning John was walking his daughter to school. She objects to walking to school because her mother drives her the 3.5 blocks and because she complained about it he made her walk the long way. Instead of turning right they turned left, just typical dad behavior, to make it into an adventure and to show her that there is more than one way to school. She was nervous about the time, but they had 30 minutes to get to school, so let’s turn it into an half-hour walk! They talked about mental illness the entire way, which was really a learning experience for them both, but John is the same as Ken: He turns everything into an adventure if he can.

Our culture having turned against work (OM137)

When looking at John’s mom as a product of the end-of-depression World War II generation and how that affected her, it does make you weep when you think about what our current generation might look like as elderly people. They will have more tattoos, their septum piercings are going to look weird, their sagging necks will be completely blue and tribal, but we don’t know if they have an idea of ”You got to keep going and that is the way to be!" We definitely have turned against work in our culture and we think that if you work hard you are some kind of a dupe, while John’s mom absolutely does not feel that way at all.

On Christmas John's whole family was gathered, opening presents, sitting around, and his sister pointed out that their mom was bustling, over here picking up the wrapping paper, over there making things, not in a mother hen way, but she just sees things that need to get done. Little piles of garbage will pile up and need to go into the can and she sees tasks. John and his sister were both full of muffins, laying back on the couch, not wanting to move while their mom was moving like in these films where one character is moving on a different time scale than the other characters. Susan said: ”This is why she is so strong and healthy and she will presumably be so long lived!” They were both just so tired because they had been awake for two hours.

Ken’s mom also chugs like a locomotive and it almost seems like she is creating tasks. John’s porch does not need painted. The last time Ken saw his mom she had been dog-sitting their dogs and she was going to come dropping them off, but Ken said she didn’t need to come all the way over to Seattle, that would be 2 hours for her, and they could meet her at the ferry terminal or come to her to pick up the dogs. She had a whole set of things invented to help this make sense. She had this thing to return at IKEA for $23. It totally made sense!

John’s doesn’t understand that and it is also true of his mom: She will go to the hardware store four different times in a day. First she forgot the wing nut, then she go the wrong size wing nut and then she forgot the wing nut glaze. For John, the second time he got the wrong thing he would say ”Ah, I’ll do it tomorrow!”, but she never tires. Maybe after the fifth trip to the hardware store in one day she will express a little bit of frustration, but it absolutely keeps her going.

Ken’s mom will absolutely express frustration about the very things that she is setting up for herself in her life to keep her busy and chugging like the locomotive she is. She was an elementary school librarian for many years and she was constantly: ”Do you believe what I had to do at the library! All the bulletin boards needed to be redone!”, but by the way she is talking about it you can tell that she would have happily spent months putting up the Spring Into Reading bulletin board.

It is some generational thing. John’s dad loved to martyr himself, but John's mom does not martyr, she never points out the work she has done in any form where she is asking for any acknowledgement or recognition and she doesn’t seed the conversation with it. She does not constantly talk about her own suffering and sacrifice, and Ken wants to know how that is like. It is really amazing!

John’s dad wouldn’t have batted an eye to ask John to drive 500 miles to get the lid off of his ketchup bottle and John was his servant and Help Meet. Why else would you have kids, if not to have a lackey? There is no jar in the world that John’s mom wouldn’t find a way to get the lid off of using some machine of her own design, and that would be the best thing for her, like giving a dog a kong full of peanut butter.

Ken’s mom is not theatrical in a funny way and he does not wish for some kind of Neil Simon Jewish mother, but his mom is great! Ken does identify with the idea that you need to have something to keep you going. There is a thing called the Birthday effect and Ken’s friend’s sister died today of cancer, one day after her birthday. You are statistically incredibly likely to die on your birthday or shortly after. You got to have a milestone, that is what keeps people alive, and Ken is very much a ”the next thing” kind of guy and he is guaranteed to die on or the day after his birthday.

Life expectancy (OM137)

The current life expectancy in the US is 76.1 years for men and 81.1 years for women. They say that unmarried men have much shorter lives than married men. John’s uncle never learned where the silverware drawer was in his house because he was a member of that hapless generation. When their wives die or divorce them they just wander off into the desert.

The statistics might be slightly opposite for women because single women might live slightly longer. One of the things that is least addressed in our culture is the incredible suicide rate of middle-aged men who have arrived at a point in their life where their kids no longer need them and their wives maybe never needed them and their job no longer really needs them and they suddenly realize that they have no purpose.

There used to be an apparatus for that called Fraternal Organizations. Also your church would put all these middle-aged men to work at the exact time they were no longer being a father and they started to not even being an office guy anymore. Suddenly you had a pancake breakfast to plan or you would become a scout leader, but those things have all been killed by self-absorption and culturally we don’t do as many group things anymore.

Not just self-absorption, but introversion: Ken would rather do nothing today! There are no 4th of July parades anymore that they need to make floats on the back of their snow mobile trailers. John still dresses up as Uncle Sam, puts on a pair of stilts and walks through his neighborhood once a year, the one time a year his beard doesn’t drag in the mud.

For the first time since the 1960s life expectancy numbers in 2018 have gone down two years in a row, which might be a pretty good symbol for the end of America as empire. Most of the increase is coming from the category of ”unintentional injury”, not suicides. Until recently the declines in heart disease and cancer would offset those losses, but now, possibly for lifestyle reason or just by hitting some medical walls, heart disease and cancer numbers are not dropping anymore, but unintentional injury is still going up. Those are not just guys falling off of the roof of their barn, but it also includes drug overdose.

Some countries like the Netherlands are longer-lived. The numbers going down creates a lot of discussion about what the maximum is. The gap between men and women is taken into account by the general population. For every 100 women born there are 105 male babies born, which appears to be natures way of saying that it knows the guys are dying 5 years earlier. John always assumed that those numbers were built around male violence which takes a whole 20% of young men out of the game at a pretty early age: Violence, stupid stunts, and war, which is one of the stupider stunts like playing on a railroad track, but for a whole country.

You are going to loose a bit slot of boys between the age of 15 and 35 to car accidents, drug overdoses, gun fights and ax throwing bars. The gap varies substantially from culture to culture, which proves that it is a lot of social stuff. In Russia there is a 10 or 14 year difference whereas in India or Bangladesh where the things that kill you like Cobras and Dysentery are more equally distributed there is only a 0.1 year difference, but it is still always women longer. There is also a lot of infanticide of female babies in certain parts of the world where male babies are prized. The birth rates are measurably different in certain cultures where lady babies are being put into bastics [sic] and sent down rivers because people want a son to continue the lineage.

We don’t currently know why we die! Very few country have these awful 40- or 50-year life expectancies anymore, but that was not true in the 20th century. In 1950 the world average was 48 years, which means for every Western country there were countries with a lot of infant mortality to average it out. The big bump was infant mortality and once you survived infancy back then in Elizabethan England you could still expect a modern life span of 60 or 70 years, you just had to make it past the age of 4. In 1900 world life expectancy was 30! Currently there is a 1.4% chance of living 100 years, but not for John because he has been awful to his body. He is hoping technology will fix some of the things that are wrong with him before he dies. He would have thought it was much rarer to be 100 years.

Some of these people will be a healthy elderly person for 50 or 60 years and they will be an old person longer than they were a young person. John points out to be careful at cocktail parties about the Salmon Mousse, which is a Monty Python reference when death comes to the cocktail party (see this clip). John is not a nerd, but he is a cool dude who just happens to know that one Monty Python sketch. He was at a Rock party where everybody was drugged and having sex and it happened to be on the TV and John happened to watch that little bit of it.

Prince once wanted Questlove to DJ a party after a Roots show, but then he kept telling him to keep it down so he can watch Finding Nemo (see this story).

Millennial Girlfriend, Elysium (OM137)

When John was dating his software lawyer a couple of years ago, she and her software lawyer friends were all taking the special Elysium pill (see RW48). It sure felt like John was in a Science Fiction movie the whole time he was dating her. It neutralizes free radicals and only costs $99 a day. Oxidative stress is the new theory! The oxygen in your molecules is bonding to the wrong stuff and oxidants are building up.

This pill has been endorsed by 40 Nobel laureates, 38 of whom were just approached by somebody saying ”We will give you $100.000 to endorse our product!” They have Nobel prizes in Economics, the least of the Nobel prizes. John walks around the house cursing the Nobel prize in Economics all the time and he brings it up in every episode (see also OM136).

John got indoctrinated into their cult and he went so far as to find out what the active ingredient in the Elysium pill was. Then he sourced it independently of this company that packaged it in a fancy white jar, got the bargain basement brand, and takes it every day: NAD+ is surely good for your nads (a man’s testicles) as well!

Peter Thiel is a ding dong who gets transfusions of virgin blood. Because he is a libertarian he probably just murders the virgins himself or he goes into some place and says ”The offer now, the daily rate for your blood, is $4 a pint! Line up, free-willers!” He is trying to avoid aging by giving himself a version of this placental blood. Wouldn’t it be great for society if certain people can afford to live forever and certain ones can’t? It would be all the right people!

John continues to explain how NAD+ supposedly works. The results whether or not it is doing anything are very inconclusive, but that is true of so much! Many people want John to meditate, but he keeps feeling it is just the same as taking NAD+. It turns out meditating really works and you can save a lot of money because it is free unless you do TM and have to pay some guy $15.000 for your mantra. John sees the cost of meditating as an opportunity cost. He could be watching TV or whatever instead!

John missing all the awful news while on the JoCo Cruise (OM137)

John just spent a week on a cruise and he didn’t look at the Internet the entire time. When he came back it was awful to turn on his phone and see the world again, not because the world was awful and John was in some blissful bubble where he was ignoring the world, but it was all garbage news. New research links the rise of personal devices and social media almost exactly to the increase in teen depression and anxiety. It was one of these weird experiences where John arrived at the port, turned on his phone and got an entire week’s worth of texts from Ken, news and people trying to reach him. None of it made him feel better and all of it just eroded what had been a state of Porto Rican bliss.

Outro (OM137)

Both Ken and John will die at the ripe old age of 126, Ken will die the day after his birthday, John will have been dead a few years because he is older than Ken. He was taken by a Giant to his halls. A Caucasian Giant walked out of the Caucasus Mountains and ticked John up and he rode a tame condor to his door step.

They shortly talk about the Gaia bomb and the Genesis project from Star Trek. John actually references Romulans in a song (Medicine Cabinet Pirate), although he is not a nerd, he is a cool drug-out Rock dude, and he just mentioned them because he read a book about it or something.

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