RW134 - Learn to Touch the Plane

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The Patreon Bonus Content for this episode has been released as Episode 135.

The show title refers to touching the outside of the plane when you board, but Dan’s son doesn’t like it. John said Dan has to help his son learn to touch the plane.

Skype decided that it didn't work, but then it decided it works. High fives all around! Rainy Days and Mondays always get John down, but it is good!

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

Honorary doctorates, Kentucky Colonels (RW134)

There might be a future for John in hosting symposia, but he is not quite at that level of recognition yet and no-one has conferred upon him whatever laurel wreath he needs in order to be unimpeachably thought of as someone who can do that kind of work. John gets some gigs now and again, usually from people who are already knowledgeable about what he does, but he is not in the circuit like Dan and Merlin who have done things in the technological world that transcend their own personal selves.

The other day John was talking to Matt Haughey and he referred to Dan’s platform and heaped praise upon it although they were talking about something else. He was making a professional assessment and it is a great platform that is bulletproof, dynamite, fairly prized and all this stuff, but he didn’t need to see John on it because he doesn’t know what it is and he wouldn't know how to use it if you gave him the manual.

John is going to have some accomplishment, like he is going to write a book or something is going to happen, where all of a sudden he will have the ability to go do things and give speeches. Maybe it requires an act of heroism and he is going to have to save a falling baby or rescue a cat from a tree. Dan feels like they need to get John an honorary degree. Dan sure wants one and he is surprised John hasn’t already made this happen. Pitbull has one and John thinks he is ridiculous, but he has sold millions of records and the United States of America does not care and does not make a distinction. You could sell one million great records or 10 million terrible records and the terrible records would be the winner.

Ben Affleck, Oprah, Bill Gates, and Mike Tyson all have honorary degrees. Does it mean that if you get an honorary doctorate like Pitbull you can call yourself Dr. Pitbull? Dan looked it up and it is sometimes recommended that such degrees be listed on one's resume as an award and not in the education section. With regard to the use of this honorific, the policies of institutions of higher education generally ask that recipients ”refrain from adopting the misleading title” and that the recipient of an honorary doctorate should restrict the use of the title Doctor before their name to any engagement with the institution of higher education in question and not with the broader community.

The other day John was reading somebody’s bio where they were referred to as Doctor. They were a famous drummer who had played on a lot of famous tracks and in their media stuff they referred to themselves as Doctor Dave Drum or whatever his name was, which John thought was impressive, but as he looked it up, it was something where the Berkeley School of Music gave him an honorary doctorate for his contributions to music over the years.

It seemed like everybody was honoring his doctor and people were saying Dr. Dave. He was a Rock drummer and a Jazz drummer who maybe never went to college, but he played on Simon and Garfunkel records, with Frank Sinatra and all this stuff, and he got a doctorate from Berkeley School of Music. In a case like that John will call him Doctor. What is a doctorate from Berkeley in the first place? When you go there and play jazz, you hope to learn 1/10th of what this guy knows already.

Ben Affleck got a doctor of Fine Arts from Brown University for his work as a director, actor, writer, and producer. His film Argo had won an Oscar for best picture that same year. The Berkeley title for Dr. Dave, whoever he is, feels confined to the smaller world of musicians and is a doctor in music from a music college to a famous musician, but Brown is just trying to get a little bit of Ben Affleck's Oscar rubbed off on them somehow.

What benefit to them could giving Ben Affleck a doctorate possible have? How does that help them at all? Does it make people think about Brown for a day? Maybe what it means is that Ben Affleck gives them a million dollars for their endowment, but that definitely goes in the ”award” category. They could also have given him a white ribbon or an attaboy. John is not opposed to attaboys, but he doesn’t want one of those.

If you are not a British citizen you can't become a knight, but they can give you an honorary knighthood. A knight is loyal to the Queen and an American citizen can't be loyal to a foreign monarch. Bill Gates was knighted, for example, and he can describe himself as Bill Gates KBE (Knight of the British Empire), but not as Sir Bill. It is the same thing with an honorary degree: you can't use it. The thing about getting an honorary degree is that you have already established your merit.

You wouldn't just hang out your shingle somewhere like Dr. Dan on Main Street USA, but that is exactly what Dan wants to do, although he would be very unlikely to be given an honorary doctorate in that case. Dan would be fine with getting an honorary doctorate from ITT Technical School and he would accept it. Right now John qualifies for an honorary degree from nowhere. Some Australian podcasting Academy gave him a Phony Award, but that is in an award he made up.

John was talking about the Kentucky Colonels on the Omnibus (see OM103) and a woman from Kentucky reached out and told him that she was going to submit John’s name to the Kentucky Colonels because he has done a great service to the world, more than enough to warrant a Kentucky Colonelhood. John was pretty thrilled about that and said that he would absolutely accept this honor because it feels like exactly the kind of non-honor he deserves. The governor of Kentucky probably gives away 1000 Kentucky Colonel appointments every year to used car dealers and to people who attended somebody's wedding.

The only Colonelhood that Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken ever held was Kentucky colonel, also Colonel Parker of Elvis management fame was just a Kentucky Colonel, nothing more, nothing less. If John were a Kentucky colonel, would he allow people to call him Colonel? John would allow them to, but he would not introduce himself as Colonel Roderick and a salute would even be inappropriate. It would be a wonderful opportunity for people who currently come up to John in public places and go ”Mister Roderick”, or they say ”I've got a small bag packed” or they say ”All the Great Shows” or whatever they say, which John loves because it is fun.

If people then come up and say ”Colonel”, they would all be better off and that is exactly why John wanted to be a Kentucky Colonel. It is the type of thing that would confuse everyone else. If he was standing in a group of people in a public space and someone else came up and said ”Colonel! Nice to see you!” and then wandered off, all the other people in the group would say ”What was that about?” and that would be awesome, because John would say ”Oh nothing, never mind, it has nothing to do with you. Don't worry about it!”, which is John’s second favorite thing to do.

John has too many ways of communication (RW134)

John is trying to find the e-mail conversation he had about being a Kentucky Colonel, but because people can message him in 14 different ways it is impossible for him to find anything at any point. Did this young woman email him on the Gmail account he has for Omnibus or on his personal Gmail account? Did she Facebook-message him? Did she DM him on Instagram or on Twitter? John has to go back and look at every single one of these platforms and he doesn’t want to be doing that. He wants to lay his hands on this, but he cannot read her letter, write her back and ask what is going on with that Kentucky Colonel application, but he just has to let go and let God give it on to the wind. She said it usually takes a couple of weeks, but it has been more than a couple of weeks and John hasn’t heard anything.

They should reach out to ITT to get Dan a degree, but Dan doesn’t think they give out doctorates from a technical school. Dan has a Bachelor's degree, he doesn’t need another one of those, and he thinks a technical school is just an AS degree (Associate of Science) anyway. Only schools who can issue a regular doctor degree could issue an honorary doctorate degree. It stands to reason that they couldn't give you a fake doctorate if they can't give you a real one.

Part of the reason that John does not have this emeritus status that he so desperately craves is that he is still a young person and he should take it as a compliment that nobody has awarded him anything honorary. He is presumed to still be in the prime of his creative years and he is still accruing actual accolades to himself instead of being in need of these gentle head pats in the form of fake degrees. It is back to square one and he still needs to go out, work, come up with things, make good things and try to accomplish things in his own life instead of being awarded fake things. Dan is also still making things and according to Matt Haughey he is making something pretty good. Their legacy is still to be determined. Some of their listeners say that if they had the ability to confer an honorary degree on John right now they would, but they don't.

Australians and Alaskans (RW134)

John gets many e-mails from Australia. People in Australia like to listen to podcasts because Australians are used to listening to long form conversation media. Also, they don't have TV over there. A big part of what's fun in Australia is just watching the waves come in and crash on the beach and listening to a podcast while doing that: How fun! What a great way to relax! Although he hears from Australians all the time, not a single one of them has ever managed to get them invited to Australia. They have podcast festivals there, American podcasters go to Australia all the time, they go on tours through Australia doing their podcast live, but despite all this love that pours onto them from Australia, not a single person has made even an attempt to get them to Australia.

Their honorary doctorate or their Phony Award would be worth a lot more if they had talked to the people at podcast festival X and if an offer was forthcoming, like ”Can't wait to see you when you get here! Your Phony Award is currently being cast at the foundry!" John would take that stuff seriously, but ”Oh hey! Love your show! I'm going to go put another shrimp on the barbie!” - ”Sure, man!” John gets e-mails like that also from Ames Iowa and they don't have a podcast festival.

John likes to give Australians a hard time, partly because there is a real simpatico between them and Alaskans. There is something very similar about Alaskans and Australians that none of them can really define very clearly, but there is this kind of ”ready steady go”, ”Bob's your uncle”, ”Maybe burn it all down”, not because you are bummed, but ”why not burn it down?” It is not that people there are exasperated, desperate, angry or frustrated, but they do want to watch the world burn just for the sport of it.

In those places there is a fun-ness even to depression and desperation, a result of a very different feeling about what your capabilities are, partly because both populations feel that they are far away from the majority of the world that they identify with. Australia and New Zealand are consuming Anglo American culture, they are watching Bruce Willis movies, they are often contributing even greater than their numbers, they are giving us Russell Crowe and AC/DC, they are very involved, but they are on the far opposite side of the world and the countries that are nearest to them are not majority Anglo-Saxon and not English-speaking.

In America they have Canada who think of themselves as the center of the English speaking world and they have their excellent friends in France right there, but Australians sits down there 15-18 hours from Los Angeles, the nearest place that even comes close to sharing their culture. Although it is not that far, Alaskans have the same feeling. They are all the way up there, America is what they relate to, but people tend to forget about them.

They are on their own when the wind comes up and down the plane. When an Alaskan meets an Australian coming through the rye, there is a high five there. There are a lot fewer Alaskans than there are Australians, so maybe Alaskans feel this way and Australians don't quite notice Alaskans at the same degree that Alaskan see Australians as fellow travelers. John is not making this up, but this is something that any Alaskan who has traveled widely would confirm.

Homesteaders and Gold mines in Alaska (RW134)

Most of what Dan knows about Alaska comes from listening to John and from watching Northern Exposure, which is filmed in Seattle. When Dan thinks of Alaska, he thinks of Joel Fleischman, Cicely, Hollis and all those folks out there, and about moose walking around. There was another show called Life Below Zero on National Geographic about people out in Alaska surviving in the middle of the wilderness. John probably wouldn't like watching it because it is about outdoor survival stuff and those people are all a little bit crazy because they live out in the absolute nowhere, surviving off the land at all times. John has seen shows like it and he knows people up there, but he doesn’t personally know anyone who is actually living a subsistence existence.

Some kid who lives in a religious community up in the Arctic emailed John and told him that they went back to the landers and they live in a township that they built to the north of the Yukon River. For part of the year it is not accessible and you just cannot come and go in a car. They reached out to John like ”Hello, I'm a fairly young person, I am listening to podcasts, I am a member of this separatist community, but I am not sure where I stand” They were trying to achieve escape velocity from this community, but they were also young and susceptible to ”Well, I don't really have enough money to move to Dawson City, so I'm kind of living at my mom's house for now, trying to figure it out, and my girlfriend and so forth.” John wondered how everyone in his separatist community felt about him having decided to not be a member of the religion anymore, but still living there hanging out. He said it was a little awkward, but everybody was cool with it. It seemed like a separatist community that was not out there picketing anybody, they weren't drowning people in wells, but they just had a different take to be out here and live.

It is very hard to eke a living out of the Arctic. The growing season is very fecund because the sun is up all day, but it is short. You can grow tons and tons of stuff in a very short amount of time. Animal husbandry works there pretty well if you have a breed of cows that doesn't freeze on the hoof.

The people Dan was describing in those TV shows are homesteaders who get their 40 acres (160.000 sqkm) somewhere and try to build a cabin and make a life for themselves largely as trappers. Trappers are not living off of the land in the sense that they are not growing any food. They spend all winter trapping animals, they skin and tan them, bring the skins in and sell them to furriers. Then they take that money to buy foodstuffs. They are eating the meat that they catch, although John doesn’t think you'd want to eat Wolverine or even beaver, but who knows, they could make a beaver stew. A lot of the minks and stuff are not what you would consider the hardiest meat. Raccoon or fox is pretty gamey stuff.

As a trapper you are certainly comfortable killing things all day and it is not that big of a deal to go out somewhere with a rifle and wait for a deer or a moose to come along. John guesses that their meat comes from nature. It is an incredible and crazy life! You set your traps out on trails at various locations and you go out and check them and when you find a critter you pull it out of a trap, it is probably already frozen and John is not sure what their process is, whether they thaw the critter out and clean it and tan it in the moment, or whether they hang a bunch of frozen critters somewhere and wait for them to thaw in the spring. The Fur Rendezvous is in February when the trappers are coming to town with all their skins and February is the coldest month of the year. They are not going to wait all year to bring their skins to town in February. John doesn’t understand the trapper life.

The Back to the Land thing is not just hard, but all-consuming. Survival is all you think about from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. You are not watching episodic television. When the sun goes down you either go to sleep because you need to get up when the sun comes up and in the winter in Alaska the sun is always down. You are always working, you are repairing things, you got pots going on the stove, you are strategizing, and you are building things that help your little compound

All that has to come from a desire for a single minded focus. John doesn’t think most Back to the Landers are doing it 100% reactionary, leaving the world in a huff, saying ”The world sucks! I'm going to go make it!” Those people probably fail. The people that succeed at it are like ”This is what I want! This is the thing that pulls me! I'm not running from modernity, I'm going toward this purity of essence (POE).

Alaska is full of people like that and John admires them. All those popular Gold Miner shows on TV are a different version of the same thing. The amount of work that those guys put into mining gold measured against the amount of money that that gold ends up being worth, they might as well just be working at a gas station or drive in that same bulldozer doing something else. They are earning the wage of a bulldozer driver, but they are bulldozing their own gold mine and at the end of the year they collect some pile of gold. It appeals to them because that gold is just lying there and you can just go get it, it is free if you put the work in! They don't want to work a job, but they want to do this crazy job that they would hate if they weren't doing it for themselves.

When John was hiking up some ravine in the mountains between Los Angeles and Joshua Tree he passed a couple of young dudes in the stream with their gold pans. They were far up the valley and they didn't just have gold pans, but they had a mini sluice box and shovels and they humped all this gear up there, panning gold in this little stream. John has done that and you work all day and get $100 worth of gold flakes, maybe, but if you worked at a job all day that was paying $6 an hour, would you make $100? Maybe! It is a different relationship.

John being flirtatious with everybody (RW134)

About a year ago John met a guy at a gas station in the middle of the night. John was pumping gas and there was a guy pumping gas on the other side of the island. Dan growing up in Philadelphia was taught that ideally you don't make eye contact with other people on the street or in public places unless you already know them and even then maybe don't make eye contact with other people, let alone strike up a conversation with a stranger. In Austin it is a bit different and people are more friendly. It seems like John does that under any circumstance, no matter where he goes. He is approachable and ready to talk to anybody at 2am at a gas station or at 1pm walking down the street. Of course he has also had bad encounters from that, but that didn't lead him to not still try it.

John is described by people for lack of a better word as flirty (see RW68). Every woman he has ever dated has said at some point early on in the relationship ”Why were you flirting with that waitress?” - ”What do you mean?” - ”She came over to take our order and you got into a four minute super-flirtatious conversation with her about Tears for Fears or something. What's that about?” - ”It is not about anything! I was just just making conversation” and because it is early in the relationship John’s new girlfriend will say: ”No, it wasn't just making conversation. You were flirting!” This has happened to John throughout his life for 30 years. ”I don't know what flirting means to you or what that means even, but I was just doing what comes naturally”

Someone the waitress comes over and says ”Have you guys decided?” - ”Tell me about the three bean soup!” and if a waitress says ”It got three beans in it” John knows he got a live one. ”Three beans you say?” - ”Yes, it says right there: three beans.” - ”Interesting! Have you ever heard the song Three Bean Soup by Tears for Fears?” and then they are off to the races having fun because they are people and people have fun if they can. Later on in his relationships with these young women who initially wondered why John was flirting with that waitress, they will come with a different tact and say ”You know, I've noticed that you flirt with everybody!” It stood out to them that John was flirting with young women, but they realized John flirts with everybody: Old men, panhandlers, and conductors on trains.

Then they will have a curiosity like: ”What is going on with that?” - ”I don't know why flirting is this word that has weird connotations!” John was raised by his father in this way and his mom is not flirtatious at all, but his dad was this way and it is John’s nature. When he is getting on an airplane he has the habit of patting the outside of the airplane, giving it a little pat as they get on, like a good luck thing. John has been doing it for decades and he taught it to his daughter. His sister does it, too! Dan’s son gets very nervous when Dan does it. It makes the plane feel good, it makes you feel good. Later halfway through the flight Dan’s son will say ”I didn't like when you touched the plane, dad!” Dan has to help him learn to touch the plane!

When John is saying hello to the flight attendants he will poke his head into the pilots if there is an opportunity and say ”Are you over Macho Grande?” (quote from Airplane II) or whatever, ”Hey, have a great flight! Good to see you!” When he sits down in his chair he will say to the person next to him ”Hi! How are you?” and if they say ”Fine” and go back to reading, he will leave them alone. But if they are like ”Great” - ”Great! So where are you going? What's going on?”, John doesn’t want them talking to him through the whole flight and every once in a while he makes the mistake of engaging someone who is a chatterbox or who doesn't respond to social cues, and he ends up in a bad situation where there is somebody who is just chattering at him for four hours, but that is what he gets for being flirty, but in most cases the person is sitting next to him and they have a pleasant conversation and once the plane reaches its cruising altitude they go about their business and John goes about his.

Every once in a while you meet someone and have a fascinating conversation the entire flight, you don't even notice what's happened and it was great talking to them. John has never exchanged phone numbers with anybody at the end of a flight, not a single time, but he has flown to Europe and talked to somebody for eight straight hours and loved them! What are you going to do? They were sitting next to each other on a plane, this isn't how their relationship begins.

Whatever that flirtatiousness is, it is one of the things that enriches John’s life almost more than anything. In most cases if John says something to someone at a gas pump at 1am in an industrial strip of South Seattle and that person grunts at him or doesn't reply or whatever, then ”No blood, no foul”, but in most cases that person is a normal person and they go ”Ha? Yeah, totally!” or whatever and they reply and say something human back, they had a little human exchange and they both go their separate way, but they both exchanged a little particle of goodwill with one another. Every once in a while you get a live one.

Meeting a gold miner at a gas station (RW134)

About a year ago John was pumping gas in the middle of the night and a guy with a small Winnebago was pumping gas across the island from him. John noticed that there was a big-screen TV on the dashboard that filled the whole windshield. It was windshield-sized, but over to the side enough that you can drive. John said ”Nice TV!” - ”Huh, yeah, thanks!” - ”I'm guessing that you are living in there, given the size of the TV?” - ”Yeah, I'm living in here in the winter, but in the summer I go up and work my claim” Oh boy, it was 1am and John had just hooked a big one. ”Work your claim? Where's your claim?” - ”I'm not going to tell you where my claim is!” - ”On what river?” - ”The Nisqually” - ”Really, there is gold in the Nisqually?” - ”Well, I'm not going to tell you where, but people have been mining the Nisqually for 100 years” and he meant placer mining.

They were both done putting gas in their trucks, but they were in the middle of a good conversation. In the winter he lives in his Winnebago parked over there across 4th Avenue South in a side-street between a recycling plant and a tile warehouse where little single-occupancy RVs are parked up into the shadows on both sides of the street. They got a little community across the street from this gas station and although John goes to this gas station all the time he never noticed because your eye doesn't pick up on little communities like that, or if it does it's just like ”Oh, a bunch of weird broken down RVs. Let's get out of here, honey!” It is a little universe, they all know each other, and if somebody gets a half rack of beer they share it around.

If you are living in an RV on a street that is full of little RVs and you are an asshole, they are probably going to kick you out after a couple of weeks. John talked to this guy for 20 minutes and after he got to know John a little bit he realized that John is not some claim jumper and he could tell him a little bit more about where on the Nisqually his thing is. John asked what it is like up there, and said he lives in his RV during the winter, but in the summer he goes up and lives in the RV up there working his claim. He is living the life, he works for no man, and he makes enough gold in the summer that he can live in his truck year round.

You don't need a lot of money for that. You have to put gas in it, but if your trucks is not moving you are not using as much gas, but presumably he is running the motor in order to power his TV and his little heater or whatever keeps him warm, so he is using gas and food. He was around 60 years old, who knows whether he has medication or not, and he is probably getting a cheque, either from the government or his retirement from something, but he is free in the world. Even when he stays on the side street next to the recycling plant every night he could pick up and go in a second. Everything he owns is on his back, he is a turtle, but a fast moving turtle, and that has tremendous appeal for people! Even if he never leaves, the idea that he can is very strong.

John admired him and liked him personally although he was a crusty gold panning Midnight Rambler. At the time John was doing his Rendezvous show and he really debated whether or not he should go down there and knock on his truck-door and ask him to be on the show. It was during a time when the show got going and they had no shortage of guests that were all easy to get without requiring to go down during the day and knock on this guy's door and say ”Remember me from the gas station? How would you like to come up to the Rendezvous on 1st Avenue for money and let me talk to you about your gold mine in front of an audience?” John never did, but he kind of regretted it even then. If he had a little team of people helping him make the show he could meet people like that and say ”Give me your number, I am going to have somebody call you to get you on the show!” John meets kooks like that all the time. The world is full of kooks and all you need to do is talk to them.

Meeting a lonely person at a thrift store (RW134)

Recently John was at a thrift store looking at some records when a guy sidled up next to him and said ”I played on that record!” John turned and it was a guy about 65 years old, disheveled, but attempting to be groomed and with a certain class and a certain mane. John said ”Tell me more!” It was a symphonic record and John’s spidey sense was going off, like: "What are the chances that this symphonic record is sitting here in the front of this record display and this guy who played on it just coincidentally collided on me here?" There is a chance, but there is also something suspect about the setup, but let's go with it. The guy started to tell John about how he used to play for the Seattle Symphony, toured the world and life was grand and then this, that and the other happened and now he is hanging out at a value village in Burien.

He was not looking for anything, he was not asking John for anything, he was not claiming to have fallen on hard times, but he was just telling the story of his life. John talked to him about his life for a while, but when John is in a thrift store he is moving: look at this, move, look at that, move, look at that. He is not standing, waiting for his gas tank to fill, but he likes to keep going. After a while he started to extricate himself because he heard the guy's story and liked it, he had gathered it now, but the guy did not take the cues that John was ready to go. John has learned in the last 20 years of music that when someone isn't taking social cues and it is time to go, most of the time you just go ”Well, great talking to you, Goodbye!” because if they are not taking social cues, they are not going to suddenly start taking them five minutes from now if you just let them talk. John said goodbye to him and went on with his day.

When you are thrifting you have to let some time go by before you go back to the same thrift store. New stuff comes in every day, but if you go to the same store every day it will drive you crazy because you recognize the inventory after a while and you are just starting to obsess over the one or two things that are going to arrive new every day and that is a crazy thing. John has a circuit he does and every 10 days or two weeks he revisits the places he has been to before. He went back to the Value Village in Burien, wandered around, and saw the symphonic record at the front of the record display again, he looked around and sure enough, there he was, moving in although John hadn’t even stopped at the records.

It was a plant. He has found this record and whether the story is true or not, John kind of suspects it is, he takes this record which no one is ever going to buy and he puts it in the front and if somebody stops to look at the records he will have someone to talk to and he can tell his story again. It is depressing because he has a desperation to communicate with people and it might be that he is not interested in what John or others have to say, but he just wants to rattle off his moment of glory. He is missing human contact or accolade or something in hie life, he has laid this little hermit crab trap and every day he sits in this Value Village and snares a half a dozen people. John doesn’t know when he feels like he is done enough and can go home, when he has told his story enough times.

John meets every kind of people and when he meets somebody like that he is very sympathetic, but in this instance he made sure to accelerate past the records, because the guy wouldn't recognize John, it had been ten days, he probably wouldn't recognize John if he had come back the next day, because he's not interested in John, he is just a warm body, but John doesn’t need to hear that story two times.

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