RW24 - Science Kids

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John trying to guess the name of the movie Real Genius and guessing Science Kids.

Alternative title: THX DAD, referring to the license plate of somebody in John’s High School on a 1955 Chevy that clearly the dude’s dad had procured.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

John having caught yet another cold, first time podcasting from the bathtub (RW24)

John thinks his weakened condition allowed another bug to sneak in and now he is sick again with a different kind of sick. There are a lot of concerned listeners that seem to think that he has some weak constitution or he is not living right, but: ”Mind your own beeswax!” John cannot think of another time when after two weeks of being plagued, as he was just on the upswing, even though he was better he had this racking cough, and then somebody else's dumb cold snuck in and lodged itself and now he doesn’t know which end is up.

Yesterday John started to feel like: ”Wait a minute, this cough is taking on a new character!” He was so close to banishing it, but what fresh hell is this? Suffice to say: Not thrilled! John got shit to do, he is not just sitting around all day just eating toast and stuff. He is a busy guy!

Dan made a Web site for John, which he just showed him before the show began, little did he know that it was probably an accurate picture of what was going on. It is the best picture ever! Dan is obsessed with it and John admits it is pretty good.

John took this episode to a higher level. They had achieved a new standard of podcasting, the podcasting from bed and John took it as a challenge what a couple of listeners suggested and this episode he is actually podcasting from the bath tub. He set up his whole thing here and needs a little bit of warm water. This is where John spends the majority of his time, why not share that with everybody? John likes to put a lot of hot water in and then let it cool down.

John has his computer right here on the toilet seat and he got a little table that has the microphone on it. Why the hell not? That is the new podcasting reality. Get with the times, everybody! If you haven't podcasted from your bathtub, then you haven't lived! This might be the first time this has ever been done. Tell John who has done it before and he will give them the credit as a founder, but he doesn’t think it has happened. It is groundbreaking, or in this case there is no real ground involved, it is water. John is a real trooper to do the show when he is sick again, but John has to get on with life.

John building a princess castle out of wooden blocks for his daughter (RW24)

A long time ago John bought a big bag of wood blocks for his kid because when he was a kid his favorite toy was this big crate of wood blocks that were basically just 2x4s that a friend of their family who was a carpenter sawed up into different shapes and sanded so they had a slightly rounded edges. John loved nothing more than building stuff with this and he found a similar set of wood blocks and brought them home for his darling daughter who couldn't have been less interested.

The other John trotted them out and showed her they they could even build a Princess Castle, if that is what she wanted. That is what that photo was. She was like: ”Yawn!” John wasn't even building something, but he was just stacking them up to organize them so he could see what parts they had, and she delighted in coming by, knocking down all his piles, which of course is what he also would have done.

John waited until she went to bed and then he built a princess castle. In the morning she had to go to school right away and didn't get a chance to really engage with the Princess Castle and she will surely engage with it by putting her foot through it. John quite enjoyed staying up all night, building a castle out of blocks. The weather is nice in Seattle now, the sun is out, and John should be mowing the lawn and standing out, leaning on his fence, talking to his neighbors, but instead he is trapped inside.

John living vegan for a week (RW24)

Last week John lived the entire week vegan. Yeah. Dan wonders if that was on purpose or just by coincidence because that is all John had in the house and he was sick. John doesn’t believe that you can accidentally be vegan, not unless you are in Nepal and there is literally no other thing to eat but Dal Bhat. John has access to all the foods of the world. It is not that all he has in the cupboards is some dried seaweed. John was intentionally trying to be vegan and that evolved pretty quickly into pescatarian. He was eating fish, but no milk, no meat other than fish, and it is okay to eat fish because they don’t have any feelings. Yeah. That was spectacular, even though he only mocked veganism his entire life. John felt incredibly different.

He still found all the vegans he encountered in the world insufferable, even maybe more so. But there was no denying that within even a couple of days he felt remarkably different. One of the profound differences was that he just wasn't hungry. He would eat some vegan birdseed in the morning. He discovered this yogurt that is made out of almonds and in researching veganism at his local hippy grocery store he realized that almonds are the all-purpose fruit of veganism. You can make yogurt out of them, you can make milk out of them, you can make pancakes out of them, you can make steak out of them. Almonds are everywhere because there is this strain of thinking that doesn't even like legumes, you are not even going to get a peanut.

John was using almond milk and almond yogurt to make a morning parfait and all day long he wouldn't be hungry and at some point in the night or in the evening he would have a salad or some fish soup and he just didn't think about food all day and it was destabilizing because he realized that thinking about food is the number one thing he does all day. He doesn't drink and when he wants to socialize with somebody it becomes a lunch or a snack and then you have your little constellation of restaurants that you and your friends usually go to, none of which are vegan. John was at a loss because he wasn't hungry and didn't know how else to fill all that interstitial time between events. That was shocking because he wanted to be more interesting than that.

John always meant to go to the Frye Museum during lunch hour, but he couldn't do it because he had to go get some food, but now, realizing that he didn't have to get any food and still didn't go to the Fry Museum, he just spent all that food time sitting in his car and watching airplanes land. There are a lot of guys out there by the airport, watching airplanes land and they are all on the up and up. They are a little fraternity. Don't talk to one another, just park your trucks at a respectful distance.

When the veganism week experiment concluded, he really did want to adopt elements of it into his normal life and he was so surprised by it. Maybe he could do this five days a week and two days a week he would cheat a little bit or something. But then the first day that he was no longer vegan he went to dim sum with his friends and when he got home he had four meatballs, the next day he had some Pho, and by the end of that day he might as well have been eating raw hamburger for all still a vegan he was right. And when he says vegan, this is grating on someone's ears because he wasn't vegan. More a vegetarian who is not eating milk or wheat, a nameless path.

Like when you open the door of your house and there is nothing out there but sand worms. Why could Beetlejuice get away with having sand worms in their movie with no Dune credit? Technically they were on Saturn and the sand worms were on Saturn, but there was no credit whatsoever given to the Dune story. Of course, that is how most vegetarians and vegans spend that interstitial time when they are not going to restaurants and eating with their friends: They are standing on street corners outside of restaurants, explaining the permutations of their diet to people. That takes at least an hour and a half every day, to say: ”Well, I am an ovo-lacto…”

John went to one of those vegan restaurants at one point in his week. Instead of just saying: ”Here are the ingredients that we have to work with and these are the meals that we came up with!”, it is one of these ones that make Eggs Benedict and chicken fried steak and all these diner foods that are all made out of Seitan or Tabbouleh or something, just walking in the door John thought that everyone in there was awful. All of the people working there were awful and all of the customers were awful. He wasn’t sure he could endure this. They all looked up at him because he looked like a middle aged man who lights his cigars with $100-bills because that is the way he walks around and he pulled up out front in his 1979 Suburban, clubbing baby seals with his every move.

John sat down and ordered some Huevos Rancheros and it came exactly as he expected: It was a pile of inexplicably curry-flavored crumbled tofu. This resembled Huevos Rancheros in no way because Curry isn't a part of them. Then he realized everything in this restaurant is curry-flavored: Curry flavored biscuits and gravy, because curry is the international signal for a vegan restaurant and also this food is inedible without powerful seasoning. There were a lot of people with earplugs in there, judging him for his shoes and he can't join this subculture.

John went to some vegan restaurants where they were not trying to make chicken fried steak, but they just had vegetables and: ”Here they are!” John could hang with these people. Dan has a restaurant here called Casa de Luz Village, an all-vegan place, and they are not saying it is Eggs Benedict and then they bring you out something that John is describing, but it is what it is and they prepare it and make it taste good and there you go! You are going to eat like a sheep, so here is some sheep food, but we made it for humans. Enjoy! The little bit of blanching and olive oil that you have done here makes John feel less like a sheep, but more like someone lost on a foreign planet.

John did this because he is always experimenting. You can't go through life and not try things, particularly the things that you mock. John has been mocking vegans his whole adult life and what does he know about them? Nothing! Why not give it a try, see what it is like! John found it to be pretty great. He was coughing, but didn’t want to touch the cough button because he was afraid he will complete the circuit and then everyone will hear him bzzzzt. The secret to vegetarianism and whatever sort of modified diet, John is waving his finger in the air like Bernie Sanders right now. is to just quietly, secretly, eat that way in the company of your friends.

There is always something on almost every menu that you can order, some salad or some little bit of something, and for the most part your friends and other people aren't paying attention really to what you eat unless you call attention to it. Just eat that way most of the time and once in a while when somebody invites you to their birthday party and you get there and they are like: ”Oh, the cake is made of meat!”, rather than make a big stink and fall on the floor or raise up some flag about it, stand there saluting the flag and everybody else is wondering what is happening, just have a little piece of meat cake and just let it be, unless you have some seriously ethical issue with eating meat, in which case it is a different story.

If you are somebody like John who just thinks: ”Maybe this is better…”, don’t make a big deal about it, don't announce it to everybody, just make it your practice. John could see himself doing it, but as soon as his allotted time was over he just threw himself back into this garbage pile. All of the food, with the exception of the Pho which is one of God's great foods, everything else he ate was garbage, a pure bucket of waste. It was an expression of self-hate. Admittedly it was gluten free, but John made Macaroni and Cheese, put probably a half pound of hamburger in it, and then ate it out of the pot.

John was also being gluten free while he was experimenting with Veganism. He didn’t have any Seitan, he didn't have any of the… a lot of vegans just eat wheat constantly. John even got vegan mayonnaise, which is great. He did get some gluten-free toast and was spreading it on toast and eating gluten-free toast with vegan mayonnaise on it with no other accoutrements and no other adornments. He did ask himself how far he had fallen, but it was enjoyable, and not just because by that point he was so deprived. It genuinely tickled his senses, it had umami.

John doesn’t eat olives or potatoes (RW24)

John wonders how many of their listeners follow some sort of modified restrictive dietary plan? For most of his life John was a pure omnivore. If you put a meat cake down in front of him, he would just see it as a birthday cake made of meat. Why would he not relish this? The only things he didn't eat were olives or potatoes. He doesn’t like potatoes and he never liked olives. It is not just the Fluffernutter. Dan is going to get John to eat a Fluffernutter sooner or later. John can deduce what a Fluffernutter would do to him, he can envision a Fluffernutter hovering over his bathtub in its little gold halo, and it is just repulsive. He does not want it, Sam-I-am.

John eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the reg, he probably had a peanut butter and butter sandwich, one of Dan’s father's favorite sandwiches. John’s dad would have liked that, bet probably made peanut butter and butter sandwiches all the time and just never copped to it because that sounds exactly like something he would eat. Every one of John’s peanut butter sandwiches has raspberry jam on it, that is his iconic peanut butter sandwich and he can't imagine anyone making a peanut butter sandwich with anything other than raspberry jam. A stock would be grape jelly, not even grape jam, and it had to be the Smucker’s Grape Jam when Dan grew up, which is the cheapest spread.

John living on his brother’s orchard (RW24)

The first time John lived on his own he was still 17 and went to his brother's orchard in Yakima. He didn’t have any money, he was traveling across America and needed to make some money, so he asked if he can work on his orchard picking fruit. His brother laughed and said: ”Picking fruit is its own skill!” and there were a lot of guys here, itinerant fruit pickers who all arrive on the back of a flatbed truck and pick these trees clean, and John was a dummy and was going to get schooled by these guys. You make money by how much fruit you picked, not by the hour. You are paid by the bushel. Every day John was out there picking fruit and he would stake out a tree and spend all afternoon in this one tree while very cordially and very hilariously two of these other guys would go up a tree and strip it in five minutes and move on to the next, while John was up there carefully picking each apple.

In order to help John in his quest to earn what ultimately was probably $300 over the course of a month and a half of picking apples, pears, cherries, peaches, John’s brother let him live in a what he called an apartment, which was one of those… There was a barn and the front of the barn was a one bedroom apartment that was built in 1910 that no one had lived in for 30 years. It had a little kitchen and a bedroom and John had to go in and sweep it out and get all the scorpions out and it was his first apartment. He had his own place, his own door, his own bathroom full of scorpions, and he went to the grocery store, maybe for the first time in his life as an independent person. He had been to the grocery store many times to buy beer and to do whippets out of the creamer case, but he had never gone to the grocery store to buy food for himself.

John bought some peanut butter and went down the aisle to get raspberry jam, just to discover it was $2.75, which was insane! Grape jelly was $0.40 or $0.60 or something and seem essentially equivalent. John bought the grape jelly and let me tell you: You are thinking that John is going to tell a story where that sandwich was Ambrosia because it was the first sandwich he ever bought and he was eating it in his first apartment, but: ”No!”, that sandwich was gross. Grape jelly on some cheap bread with the cheapest peanut butter. Is this what adulthood is? You buy gross food because you are poor?

John’s mom always snug the fact that they were poor passed them by making peanut butter and honey sandwiches. John is open to all these variations, he is totally cool with these things, why not try putting a little bit of fluff on there? Fluff is good for one thing only, the one thing that God made marshmallow fluff for is Rice Krispies Treats. There is no other use for it unless it is to spackle some leak you have in a levy.

Not wanting to try Fluffernutters (RW24)

John is very much an omnivore, someone who enjoys eating all kinds of food, especially meat, lets call it an epicurean, he is talking now about making this drastic dietary change that he did for at least a week, he weakens himself and his immune system, he gets a cold from it, or maybe he got a cold from going off of it, his suspicion is that he ate that macaroni and cheese with hamburger in it and his body was like: ”You know what? You hate yourself! I am going to get as sick as I can right now to punish you!” John will try something as extreme as veganism, but he won't take a bite of a Fluffernutter!

If you are in Bilbao and some Basque separatists who are living in an old youth center up in the mountains sit you down at a table and bring you cookie tray after cookie tray covered with flash-baked sardines and you don't eat those sardines with relish, then you are a crazy person, but if somebody motors up to you on a rascal scooter in Birmingham, Alabama and hands you a Fluffernutter, in those circumstances John would eat the Fluffernutter because it would be like: ”Here I am in a Wal-Mart parking lot, a guy in a cowboy hat and a rascal scooter is handing me his regional delicacy. I'll do it!”, but to sit here in his own home and consider a Fluffernutter?

Last year Dan sent his minions to surround John at the XOXO festival. Yes and they had Fluffernutter there, hidden all over the campus, trying to get him to just try it. It was like in that scene from Dog Day Afternoon: Somebody would pound the side of their armrest, a door would pop open, but instead of a pistol it would be a Fluffernutter. John evaded them because of Flippernutter in Portland? Maybe if some kids in Portland with handlebar mustaches would open an artisanal Fluffernutter store, or it would be a food truck of all the Midwestern mobile home park food, and you catch John at a weak moment, it is still possible. But John is not going to pursue it!

Veganism (cont)

John can't stick with the vegan lifestyle because Monday morning was his last vegan breakfast and that afternoon he went to dim sum and didn't get any pork, he only ate the shrimp dim sum. But let's be honest, dim sum is really just a salt delivery vehicle, and in John’s week-long experiment he also was not eating a ton of salt. He would start gorging on these old dumplings and then all of a sudden he felt the salt just leeching the vitamins out of his body and then he just basically tumbled down the staircase and is here at the bottom and doesn’t know what to eat. He can't really say: ”I am going to stick to it!”

When John went gluten free a couple of years ago he never felt better and he maintained it for half a year. He even went on the Jesse Thorn Sound of Young America Cruise where they are just shooting garbage food at you through some kind of HVAC back pipe and John maintained his dignity through the whole cruise: No desserts, no gluten, he was in the light, he was in a beam of a light and made it all the way to January and then he started with that insanity, that Saturday was a cheat day, then pretty soon Saturday began Friday night, Friday night to Saturday night, maybe 30 hours, and then it was Friday night to Sunday night, let’s just call it a cheat weekend. Then the wheels came off of his El Camino and he was just on the side of the road, just back to eating garbage.

John was doing it even knowing how good it had felt. Now has had his eyes opened by this vegan diet. Not only did he feel good, but he didn't even crave food. It was some transformative thing, he could be over here and just eat Soylent and spend every lunch hour at a museum, but he fell off it so fast and feels so terrible now and doesn’t know how to master his little angel on the left shoulder and the little devil on the right shoulder. He is right handed and he is at a crossroads. How is he going to live? What is he going to choose? What kind of person is he going to be? John hasn’t thought this far in advance.

John loves food, he likes to eat good food, he just wants all food to be good and healthy for you and not have to make these awful choices where this is delicious and wonderful, and this is less delicious. He doesn’t like the idea that some things are more virtuous. Why does food have to come laden with virtue or vice?

Dan has recently been trying to reduce how much salt he eats on a daily basis. If you actually sit down and think about it, as Americans and the modern human in general is consuming a heck of a lot of salt. You can't eat out at a restaurant without consuming a crazy amount of sodium or salt and fat. Now this is turning into some weird health program and they should get sponsored by Goop, the lifestyle website that is promoted by the Gwyneth Paltrow. John doesn’t want this to be a Goop-branded podcasting, but Dan could reach out to them and see if they will sponsor them. High-performance skincare made with organic ingredients.

One of the additional problems is that John doesn't have a regular schedule. If he was on a regular schedule where he did the same things more or less every day it would be much easier to be to follow a diet plan because he would be able to look into the future a little bit and say: ”Lunch is coming today and I need to be prepared for lunch!”, but instead he lives this scattershot existence where he is not thinking about lunch until: ”Boom! I need to get some food!” and that kind of decision making, where you are just like: ”Oh no, I am already hungry and ready and must find food!”, in a scrambling mode. John is not thinking about getting the vegan option, because when the idea of food pops into his head it is like in the cartoon where it is a giant turkey leg, like Wimpy in the Popeye cartoons. Everything looks like a hamburger now!

Coffee addiction (RW24)

John’s one saving grace is that every month a new study comes out that says coffee is good for you and every single one of those he wants to celebrate all science, he wants to take scientists and put them up on his shoulders, walk through town with confetti like a ticker tape parade because they keep saying that coffee is good for you. All those studies that say a little bit of red wine every day is good for you, John got no beef with that. Let the red wine drinkers, let the French live to be 100. The latest one said we have not been able to find a limit to the amount of coffee that you can drink in a day that continues to be good. God bless you, science!

Dan is looking at this article

If John had to think of coffee as a vice and choose something virtuous, like Mate or Yerba Buena or Kombucha or something, he would fall on his sword. At least he has that one… Coffee is clearly a vice. John pursues it and imbibes it with the same enthusiasm and alacrity that he takes any drug. He goes after that coffee like any addict, so let’s not kid around that it isn’t a vice by any other name, but they keep saying that it is good and God bless you! It kills John’s pain.

Dan is in the same exact situation when it comes to the coffee stuff. Back in like college was when he flipped the bit on coffee and went from: ”I might have some!” to: ”I now need this just to feel like me. I need it to function!” Over the years he would try cut back or reduce it or take a break from it and he would always come back to it. It got real bad when his son was born eight years ago and they got a Keurig, which is almost like a crack pipe for coffee. You want coffee right now? You hit a button and it is right there!”

It is not as good as it is going to be at the local coffee shop who was roasting their own beans. Dan absolutely appreciates all of that. There were many years where Dan would turn his nose up at coffee that came from a can. It had to be fresh roasted and it had to be ordered from somewhere in Seattle. The idea of the creature that he had become, just slurping down Keurig cups, he was horrified, but he didn't care, he kept doing it, and it got to the point where: Don't even talk to me, don't speak to me, don't let me hear the sound of a voice until I have had two cups of coffee. The first cup of coffee was the medicine that he needed to enjoy the second cup of coffee, which was the stabilizer that he still needed to just be functional. After the two cups of coffee he was good, he might have a third one later and he would try to cut himself off before it got to be mid-afternoon so he would be able to sleep at night. If he had coffee after 2:00 or 3:00pm it would stay with him and he wouldn't fall asleep.

Dan has always been like that, that is the crazy thing! He has always been caffeine sensitive. One time he had gotten sick and during the sickness he wound up not really drinking coffee and when he came out of the sickness he was drinking tea and said: ”I am just going to keep drinking tea.” Dan drinks Earl Grey tea now in the morning, he lets it steep for 10 minutes to make it strong enough, but the way that Dan gets the caffeine from it is different. Nothing about it is satisfying, it tastes fine, but it doesn’t feel like ”me”. ”Me” is at least one or two cups of coffee, that is he Dan Benjamin that people tune in to hear.

Dan doesn’t really have that much of an addictive personality per-se, but when it comes to coffee and anything with nicotine in it, if he starts down that path, then forget it! Now he is there!

Dan having a blog about cigars (RW24)

When cigars became really popular Dan got into cigars, he learned everything he could learn about them, he would meet the representatives of the brands, he would talk to people who ran the factories, he got really into it, he had a blog about it, he was hard core into it, he wouldn't have one a week, he would have two a day, and that is not even that many compared to the people who really enjoyed it. But that wasn't long live because this was getting out of hand and he had to completely stop. He never did chew tobacco, that is horrible. John would never advocate it. John loved the cigars, this one has a Dominican wrapper and the binder is from Honduras and the filler is from here or this is a puro. All of that! Box-pressed. Nothing as good as a Pedro 1964 Anniversary box pressed.

But Dan didn’t have a limit and that is how it is with the coffee. Dan hates that feeling of waking up in the morning and knowing you are going to destroy anyone or anything that is between me and the Keurig. You don't want to see that! But Dan misses the truly caffeinated Dan, because now by the time he gets into to do some work in the morning he will just make another cup of tea. The spice of life is not there without caffeine. But he is worried if he starts back on it tomorrow morning, then Forget it! Now he will be back on it. Where's the coffee? Bring it on!

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (RW24)

Dan is on the coffee train like Harrison Ford and his little friend going down into the Mines of Moria in that terrible Indiana Jones movie that is just the worst, Temple of Doom. They gave Indiana Jones a Scrappy Doo character. Dan says Kate Capshaw is a knockout in that film, but that is the James Bond theory: Put an attractive former model in the movie and we are all supposed to ignore the fact that the plot is garbage. Dan challenges John to find a better movie opening than Kate Capshaw singing ”Anything goes!” in Mandarin. What about the first Star Wars where the big ship comes over? That is a great movie opening!

For the about to be prepubescent child of Dan in the theater in 1984… The difference between John and Dan is that in 1984 he was fully pubescent and all he could see was that this was a dumb movie. He didn't even see it because he was so convinced that it was a dumb movie because of his experience of Scrappy-Doo.

Scrappy Doo (RW24)

John was a big Scooby-Doo fan, it is one of the great cartoons, and every week Daphnee solved some mystery while the rest of them bumbled around, Scooby and Shaggy were like ”Xoings!” and it was great. You didn't have to mess with the formula! Then somebody during that era wondered: ”Why don't we get a cute kid in here?” like on Happy Days when they brought the little blond kid with the big glasses that looks like John Denver into the show.

The ratings were declining, so let’s get some dingeling little baby because people love smart talking babies. All of a sudden, Scrappy Doo appears on the scene, which is solving a problem that nobody noticed, this little annoying adenoidal little thing that doesn't even look like it is drawn by the same anime as the rest of the show. John had to stop watching this now, he couldn’t watch Happy Days any more, he didn’t want to watch Joanie Loves Chachi, and then that was a trope and you could even argue that Wil Wheaton's character on Next Generation was like a little bit of Doogie Howser.

Star Wars has the perhaps best and most iconic opening of a movie that Dan has seen in his life. You could put 2001 up there. That is not what they are talking about, but they are talking about going down in the tunnels with the little urchin, a little smart child running around with his baseball hat on sideways, who is a racist character, totally the worst! That movie should be put in some pantheon of bad racist movies that nobody realized was racist at the time, which just makes it ten times worse.

John would have walked out of the theater, except at that point in his life he couldn't spare the $2.75 or whatever it was that you paid. He might have even got out and played Space Invaders in the lobby rather than sit through that abortion. Dan only walked out of two movies in my whole life: Willow and Teen Wolf 2. Willow is not the one with David Bowie, that is Labyrinth, which was a strange movie. Willow is a 1988 film directed by Ron Howard, story by George Lucas with Val Kilmer. So far it sounds pretty good! Val Kilmer was in Short Circuit (no, he was not) and that was hilarious, the no-disassemble Stephanie with the robot with the tank treads that got zapped by electricity.

John’s memory is that Val Kilmer was the smart-talking hero of Short Circuit. Dan thought it was the guy from the Police Academy movies. Short Circuit stars Ally Sheedy, Steve Guttenberg, Fisher Stevens, Austin Pendleton, G.W Bailey, and Tim Blaney as the voice of the robot Johnny 5. Wasn't Val Kilmer in one of those ”Here is a bunch of genius kids that are inventing some kind of robot”, maybe Science Kids? No, it is called Real Genius. They don't really make as many of those movies anymore, but in the 1980s they made a lot of Science Kids movies, like Weird Science, which was a great movie.

John cannot imagine it holds up. Half the time he did not understand the appeal of Kelly LeBrock because she just wasn't his type. John didn't like these big Amazonian women, at least the camera angles in that film she seemed pretty Amazonian. John was a Winona Ryder person in Heather's. She never stood in a smoke-clad thing in a bathing suit with her hair being blown by a fan. She was schlurping (?) around in a coat that looked like a sleeping bag with armholes cut in it, looking depressed and sardonic, and that was much more John’s trigger. Now that he is full grown he looks at Kelly LeBrock and finds her a very handsome woman. He came full circle.

John resembling James Spader and Kiefer Sutherland (RW24)

John cannot think that many of those movies hold up, although he still will go to bat for Breakfast Club every day of the week. Pretty in Pink is full of racist caricatures, the whole movie is built around a date rape. None of it is good, except for John Cusack's debut which is Sixteen Candles. Pretty in Pink represent the debut of the guy with the long blond hair and who was so smug, James Spader. He came on the scene, this was pre Kiefer Sutherland. All of a sudden there was an Hollywood actor that people said John resembled. When he was in High School people told him he really look like James Spader, or they would say: ”You remind me of James Spader!” and John couldn't tell whether it was an insult because he was fairly smug, or whether it was a compliment because he looked like a Hollywood actor. John wore big round tortoiseshell glasses. That was his signature look even before they became really popular glasses and everybody had them.

John was the first kid in his high that had big round tortoiseshell glasses that he thought that was his look and then everybody started getting those calls and: ”Why is everybody wearing tortoiseshell glasses now?” John was just a year ahead of it and most people don't respect when someone carves out some turf for themselves and then that turf becomes popular and they don't respect the pioneer. They don't say: ”Oh, these fur trappers went out to Oregon territory, that should be theirs!”, but: ”I am headed out to Oregon territory, too!” As far as big round tortoiseshell glasses go, John was the Hudson Bay company of them. Now there are monorails out here and everybody came. James Spader was John’s reluctant touchstone in the movie land until Kiefer Sutherland came along and people said John looked like him although he didn't, but he was pleased and accepted it because he was an attractive movie star and that was pleasing. Young Guns Kiefer Sutherland! Talk about a horrible movie!

Ally Sheedy in Breakfast Club and War Games (RW24)

John walked out of two movies, too: The first one was Dick Tracy starring Madonna. John was smoking a lot of pot then and he smoked some pot and went to see this movie and a lot of the time you smoke pot and you can go watch some garbage and you are just like: ”This is amazing!”, but sometimes you smoke pot and you can see through walls a little bit. John sat down in this movie and they came on screen in their dumb costumes and was: ”This is garbage man!” John spent 10-15 minutes in there and he realized that going out and playing elevator action in the lobby was going to be a better use of his time than sitting through this movie and he probably went into the next theater and saw some other thing. That was a fun thing to do back in the day. You go into the movie, you pay for one, and you watch four movies, stay there all afternoon, or stay and watch the movie again.

Ally Sheedy in Breakfast Club was really the hot one. It was before her makeover. Think about Ally Sheedy in War Games! Even all the other stuff in war games, Matthew Broderick, the great hero of our time, Dabney Coleman, the ultimate Dabney Coleman, the idea that you could hack into the mainframe, the idea that you would be in the Strategic Air Command underground bunker, all these wonderful things, all John wanted was to be that guy, but the number one reason he wanted to be Matthew Broderick was because Ally Sheedy. He couldn't even believe that you could… The most implausible thing is that she liked him. He was: ”I am doing my computer, don't bother me!” Dan would so quickly have flipped the computer off the desk.

John wouldn't have even gotten to the point of saying: ”Come back and look at my computer!” He operated under the delusion all the way through High School that Ally Sheedy at one point was going to come along and express an interest in him. As far as he can tell it never happened, but it may have happened and he was just blind to it because he was such a dip. Her in her little workout clothes, her little leotard. The problem with Ally Sheedy in Breakfast Club was not that she was unattractive, but that she was clearly too much of a handful. The dandruff snow was pretty great, but all the weird nail biting, eating straight sugar, all that stuff… John knew some people like that and that is not his thing.

The Soshes and the Conserves at John’s High School (RW24)

see also RW165, the story about the Going Places Gang

They set it up like she and that jock are going to… because they give her a makeover and now she is pretty and the jock is like: ”What?” and all of a sudden they are in a romance? That is going to last exactly until the end of that day. They got nothing in common and she being pretty isn't going to solve that problem. That movie is still in the time capsule, even though John increasingly knows that it is not going to work. He has this little box set of things to show his kid to say this: ”These were the movies of my era. Whether it is true or not, this is what it felt like to be in High School at the time.” When Breakfast Club came out John was a Junior in High School, maybe even it came out during his senior year, and they so identified with that movie, it just felt like: ”This is us now!”

Dan was two years younger and ”Don't forget about me!”, the music… every seen senior class had its song and that was a junior when that movie came out. Somehow that was the class song for the year before Dan. It was so influential so that even after it wasn't on the charts anymore it is reasonable to think that a class would have picked it as their emblem. Normally in High School all that stuff, year book and cheer squad and deka (?) and the senior ball and the class song, all of that falls to the Soshes. That was just the Sosh landscape. The Sosh girls are going to pick the class song, the Soshes are going to be the royalty for junior prom, they are the sport-oes plus the cheerleaders plus the people with their collars popped. That is normally their purview.

But in John’s class there was an insurrection because his group of friends who were derisively called the Conserves by the Soshes, who self-identified as Soshes, John’s friends never would have thought to call them Soshes, but they self-identified as Soshes and described John’s group as the Conserves, meaning that they were taking college prep classes, they were not necessarily having sex with one another, they were straight laced button down nerds, but somehow in John’s year in particular, and it reflected to the class below them and maybe even a little bit to the class below that, they took over a lot of the functions, they intentionally moved out of student congress and the tennis and cross-country running spheres, which is normally where the Conserves spend their time, the Math Club and the Honors society. They decided they were going to take over senior ball, but never yearbook. It was always the distinction that Yearbook was for Soshes as a newspaper was for Conservers.

John’s group never bothered with the yearbook and the problem with that is when you look at the yearbook it is clearly made by the Soshes. It celebrates Soshes at the expense of Conserves. They got into this parliamentary battle because the Conserves put forth the proposal that their senior ball theme be Love Me Do by The Beatles and the Soshes were appalled because they wanted it to be Luther Vandross or some some kind of song that no one even remembers anymore. The Conserves weren't even normally in the meetings where they were planning on how they were going to put the bunting up and what color the balloons were going to be for senior ball.

All of a sudden this meeting was full of all these nerds in crewneck sweaters, saying they wanted it to be Love Me Do. They obviously knew Robert's rules of order better than they did and they pushed this through where they achieved their goal. Maybe they put up a vote of the whole senior class and they gerrymandered it in such a way that Love Me Do was going to be their senior ball theme. And then, on the night of Senior Ball, when it came time for the big showcase spotlight dance, Luther Vandross comes on because the conserves had won the vote and followed all of the parliamentary procedure, but they let their guard down, they thought they had won.

It was clear the Conserves had won the vote, but it was the Soshes that hired the DJ and had explained what was going to happen, they were running the show. They played this Luther Vandross song and the Conserves were aghast, standing there on the dance floor, raising their fingers in protest, ”I object!” and so forth, and then they played Love Me Do right after to mollify them, bu the Soshes had won the victory. That was the intrigue. Dan wonders how you spell Sohes, but this was a matter of some contention at the time. Within the Soshes, the main seven guys who comprise the core group of Sosh dudes, who typically had severe mullets, wore gray cowboy boots under their heavily bleached Levi's., and drove Chevy Step-side pick-ups, they were just appalling, that core group of about seven dudes called themselves the Brat Pack.

The number one guy in that group, whose driver's license John still has because he stole it at a party, drove a 1955 Chevy, totally restored, with the license plate that was THX DAD: ”Thanks, Dad!” John is absolutely sure that that license plate was procured for him by his father, a total shame mobile, but he had no shame because in addition to the 1955 Chevy he also had a brand new Chevy step side with glass packs and two exhausts. John was riding to school on a Vesper, wearing a trench coat with a skull and crossbones on the back that was painted on with white out. They couldn't have been from two more different planets.

They call themselves the Brat Pack to such an extent that when they went skiing, one time John was on the lift and they come underneath and they were shouting: ”Brat Pack!” as they scanned down the hill. John’s entire High School was literally a John Hughes movie that never got made because no-one ever thought to write the story of the Conserves versus the Soshes. The Conserves, in addition to being square, were also quirky, they were like Judd Nelson plus Anthony Michael Hall. The Conserves were some combination of the two, smart talking… John was more on the Judd Nelson side and most of them were Anthony Michael Hall, let's be honest.

The Sosh dudes were all exactly like the wrestler Emilio Estevez, like your dad is out there, he gave you a 1955 Chevy, but wants that hockey team to score a hattrick. There was a lot of intrigue in John’s High School, it was very crazy. The Shoshes were all of course having sex with each other, that was the primary difference. They were unabashedly sexual and the Conserves were all very, very reticent. They were dating one another and giving one another weird pawing kisses, but they were very, very late to even getting to third base and when they did it was very important that you kept that a secret on the down-low, partly because the girls in their clique did not want to have their reputations compromised.

It was the girls that ran the show, whereas on the Sosh side, promiscuity was a badge of honor. Boy, there is a lot of that stuff John still hasn't lived down. Periodically John daydreams about going back to first day of freshman year with what he knows now and how he would stealth… He probably should go back to freshman year and just do his homework and get good grades, go to the college of his choice. Instead he wants to go back and be Machiavellian and put all these different student groups against one another and come out at the end standing atop the smoking ruin of his High School, which seems a little bit weird actually.

John’s dad used to drive John around his old neighborhood when he was in his late 70s and point out all the houses where his friends lived and where the girls that he liked lived. You could tell that it was still as real to him as it had been in 1935. John wondered if that was what it was going to be like: drive around, still wondering how you could have done that differently with your 16 year old girlfriend, But that is how it is.

Being late to coffee (RW24)

John was late to coffee. He didn’t have his first ever cup of coffee until he was 22, partly because he was a late bloomer and up until the time he was 22 there was no problem so big that a Mountain Dew couldn't fix it. Dan never really drank any of that stuff. John says to smoke a bowl and drink a Mountain Dew was the thing!

Dan smoking pot, pot and Mountain Dew (RW24)

There were a few joints in Dan’s life which were not great, but the bowl he always saw usually had the little round end on the bottom of the tube. The one time that one of Dan’s friends had one of those that he actually tried, the tube was open on both ends and had the little bird nest up on top and you would put your hand over the other end of the tube, fill it with smoke, and then whip your hand away and inhale through it. Dan tried that, but that was the closest he got to a bowl. But there was a bowl. You ignited the pot which was in a bird's nest on the top and the idea was to get the smoke in the tube and then let go of the hole and breathe through it. Dan was successful with that and got stoned. This was maybe the third he tried it. The first two times were when his girlfriend's cousin had a joint. Nothing really good came out of that, except just vaguely uneasy feeling and his head hurt.

The first time you smoke pot it is very rare that you get stoned. You just get this feeling of ”Blah!” and the second time you smoke pot it is similar, but the third time you smoke pot it hits you like a train. That is what happened when Dan inhaled the tube and he looked in the mirror and laughed. It was great fun! They did it in Dan’s really terrible college apartment, ate food, watched TV, and it was fun. He vaguely remembers looking at his hands and going: ”Oh, my God! Look at my hands!” After that one experience, which John would describe as pretty tubular, Dan only tried it one more time when Chuck came back with the thing, the tube.

Dan never bought pot. You would think that if he had really liked it he would have done at that 5th time or 10th time or whatever. It didn't have the tremendous appeal… It is not legal here in Texas, but if it were legal here in Texas, and it probably should be legal, he would as an adult now in the safety of his own home try it again recreationally. John says that if Dan were to smoke pot and drink a 32 ounce Mountain Dew he would understand 30% of all Americans so much better, like a lightning bolt: ”Holy cow! I have driven through Tennessee a dozen times, I never understood anything about it, but now I get it! Murphysboro! Holy cannoli!”

You arrive at a place where as you are driving down the road, stoned and full of Mountain Dew, you will have some supplies, one of which supply will be an orange, but rather than eat the orange, you will throw the orange out of the window and you will watch the orange roll along next to the car at 60 miles an hour for a little while until the orange self-peels. When that happens, you will laugh and talk about nothing else for four hours. Now you understand basically all of television, you understand all of Midwestern politics, it is all right there in watching that orange peel itself. It is not just the pot, it is the Mountain Dew.

Being stoned makes you laugh at your own hand, and the Mountain Dew sends it into orbit and you go: "I can't laugh at my own hand because there is too much else in the world that is amazing, funny and great!” That doesn't explain the Grateful Dead, but it does explain Phish and the Dave Matthews Band. There are a lot of things that can only be explained by the conjunction of marijuana and Mountain Dew. Dan went to a Dave Matthews concert, he was not high, and he didn't see what the big deal was. He wasn't high of Mountain Dew or pot. It was all right, but Dan didn't come away with the same reverence that 98% of the rest of the audience seemed to be feeling.

Dave Matthews fans typically are not drinking Mountain Dew any more, but they had to have drunk Mountain Dew in order to get on that path. This is the connection between the Dave Matthews Band and Kid Rock: People at a Kid Rock concert are stoned and still drinking Mountain Dew or maybe have moved even over to Rockstar Energy Drink and Mountain Dew is the gateway drug to that, Obviously, Dave Matthews fans have had Mountain Dew and now they have moved on to Kombucha or whatever. But Mountain Dew is the path, the freeway, and all the roads branch off. If you never had it, if you were sitting in your college dorm with your little one-pot French press drinking coffee, you are not ever going to get either of those things. You are just sitting there, listening to Kind of Blue, looking up at your wall poster of John Paul Satre‚ and saying: ”Je suis Dan Benjamin!”, adjusting his beret. He is going to have no point of entry to the majority of American culture.

Being late to coffee (cont)

John’s dad was a religious coffee drinker, so was his mom, but it just seemed like this witch's brew. Dan’s mom would be there in the morning and be all shake-ish because he hasn’t have enough coffee, and then the next morning she would be shaking because she had too much. It looked the same to Dan, and she was probably drinking Sanka.

John’s dad roasting his own coffee (RW24)

In the 1970s John’s dad would go downtown and buy special coffee beans in a bag from a coffee roastery that was on 5th Avenue in Anchorage in the back of a store that sold Eskimo-made Tchotchkes for the tourists. You could go in there and buy a little Eskimo doll that had a little fur parka on that was maybe made out of sealskin, swizzle sticks made of shellacked moose pellets. There were a lot of Eskimo handicrafts, which at the time were seen as flotsam, but now it is all very collectible because all that stuff was handmade and actually beautiful stuff. John has a little collection of it.

His dad would go to this place that was called the Kobuk Coffee Company. The front of the store was called the Kobuk Trading Post. You would wind your way back through all these little racks of dolls and dogsleds and gold pans painted with the northern lights and a little cash on a snowy landscape, and in the back counter there was a place where you could get coffee beans. This was right in the middle of the era of canned Sanka, which was the worst. He had a little hand-grinder where you would put the beans in the top of this grinder and spin the grinder like it was 1910 or 1860, and then there was a little drawer at the bottom and you would open the drawer and there would be the ground coffee.

He would go through this whole ritual to make his coffee. When he dad passed away, one of the things that John said at the time was: ”There were no secrets between my dad and me. When he died there was nothing left unsaid, there was no thing that we hadn't covered. There was no distance between us that later on John would say: God, I wish I had talked to him about that!” because they had talked about it all. But in fact, a couple of years ago, John was sitting around and was like: ”Wait a minute. What was that all about? What the hell was he doing? Where did he discover hand-roasted coffee? What was that even doing in Alaska at the time?” It was not like his dad sat around building his own ham radio sets.

He wasn't this kind of guy, but he just had this one peculiarity, which was that he went through this whole rigmarole. He was the only person John knew who did, and he was the very first adopter of an electric coffee grinder. Suddenly 1981 he was waking them up every morning like, ”Bsssssssss!” No-one had ever heard such an awful sound, speaking of which, there were some F-18s flying over. Now he is gone and John can't ask him, but this is a genuine mystery, how he got into this and why he stuck with it. People were still drinking Sanka until 1995, but John’s dad in 1978 was hand-grinding his coffee beans.

Being late to coffee (cont)

John was always against pretension. He is very smug, but pretension was a thing he could not abide. If you were in college and you had a poster of Satre or Hemingway on your wall instead of a poster of Aerosmith, which you should have, if you were at all pretentious, John just couldn't bear it. He had a lot of friends who were pretentious because that is who you end up being friends with, but he would encourage them to stop being pretentious. One of the things that felt very pretentious to John in college was drinking coffee in your dorm.

It just seemed like an expression of: ”I am an adult now!” and college did not at all feel like a transition to adulthood for John. It felt like you finally were released from supervision in order to be as big a child as you could possibly be, not that you had scrimped and saved to pay your tuition and this really mattered and you were hoping to to learn and translate that into a career. No! It seemed like a time when you should burn brightly against the waning of the light. It was very confusing to John when a kid had a very austere dorm room where they spent most of their time at their computer doing college work, but if you had a coffee maker in there, John just said: ”Humpf!”

Then he got to Seattle right at the dawn of the mainstreaming of it and he got hooked because he was chasing some girl who worked as a barista and he couldn't go in there and order a Mountain Dew. They didn't serve it, first of all, and second of all the needle would have scratched across the record. John had to start drinking coffee and here he is today. What if he had kept drinking Mountain Dew? Would he be at a Kid Rock concert right now? Dan can't imagine John drinking Mountain Dew, there is nothing about John that comes across as manufactured or liking things that are manufactured.

John having a history with fast food (RW24)

John grew up in Anchorage, Alaska in the 1970s and they ate fast food because that was still restaurant food. Going to a restaurant was still a big deal and if they would go to a Taco Bell, it was like: ”We are going to a restaurant! Put your hat and gloves on!” For many years John ate Stouffer’s and Banquet boil in a bag Salisbury steaks were his go-to. TV dinners were like… Listeners in there mid-30s or older probably had that experience where a TV dinner was a special meal. You get the trays out, sit in front of the TV and watch Magnum P.I. This was a special time‚you had a little dessert in there. Dan loved a Salisbury steak, you get the one with the little apple, and if you were lucky that little treat thing would stay in its compartment.

In the movie Say Anything, John Cusack's character: ”I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed.” That is how Dan imagined John being at that time period, just rejecting everything. One after another John rejected things, but food took a long time and in all honesty, when he walks through the grocery store, he avoids the frozen food aisle because he fears its hold on him. He will be lured by the Boston Market Turkey Dinner. When Boston Market had storefronts and were actual places where you would get food in person, they went away a long time ago and focused on their frozen food aisle. They were pretty high quality fast food!

You could go in there and get a nice slice of of turkey with some sides that looked like real vegetables and a gravy. It was a legitimate turkey dinner with real slices of turkey. Even now when John goes to the grocery store and walks down the aisle, all of a sudden all these little voices call to him: ”Boston Market Turkey Dinner! DiGiorno Pizza! Stouffer's Swedish Meatballs!” and if he is looking at Stouffer's Swedish meatballs, they are just right next to Banquet boil in a bag Salisbury steaks, which he can not even fathom what that stuff is made of. It is still wonderful and you can get them for $0.99. What is going into it to a Salisbury steak that is $0.99 with gravy and sometimes macaroni and cheese?

But suffice to say, John cannot let himself go down the aisle because all these voices: ”John, it is so simple! It only takes a few minutes and it is so delicious, full of salt and fat!” He stays away, but that is his legacy, his history. USA. America. Back when they put real sugar in Coke and everybody ate trashy food. Fluffernutter, for the love of God!

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