RW251 - Dingbats

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John assuming that the British call their erection for Dingbat.

Things are not going that good right now. John woke up this morning with a pit in his stomach, and there is a feeling in your stomach where: ”Oh, I have to do something really major today!” and there is a very similar version of it where you just wake up and you are like: ”Oh, no, there are so many things I don't want to have be true!”

John doesn’t take the world personally, that is how you survive, but he wonders if there are people who take the news of the day, things that are happening far away, and internalize them, or they wake up and read a headline about a disaster and they actually feel pain inside, like you would waking up in the morning and your stomach is in a knot. In John’s case it is always some little piddly ass stuff, nothing bad has ever really happened to him, his house has never burned down, he never lost a family member to a disaster. Knock on wood!

The British say ”Touch wood!”, but for Dan that is purely sexual, but they don’t call their erection ”wood”, they must call them dongles or Dingbats or something!

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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 measuring his sufferings with a Sopranos metric (RW251)

John has been using a Sopranos metric recently in trying to judge his own suffering, the things he is anxious about, and then he thinks about bit characters in The Sopranos that come up against the Soprano family. They are just doing their thing, they are running a landscaping company or they have a little deli somewhere or somebody just honked their horn because Christopher Moltisanti wouldn't go when the light turned green, and then they get either brutally attacked by The Sopranos or something terrible happens where all of a sudden now they got to pay protection money to them. The Sopranos is all built on the premise that all these normal people in New Jersey are just getting chewed up and spit out by these people.

John looks at his own problems and thinks: Is the worst thing that is happening to him right now that he is anxious about as bad as a chance encounter with Paulie Gualtieri where he pissed him off about something, and generally the answer is: ”No!”and no insane random violence just delivers itself upon him. It is somewhere between a Sopranos metric and a Curb Your Enthusiasm metric, because terrible things happen to Larry David every day, he never gets a good night's sleep, and yet he bounces off of all of it! People are suing him, he can't go into his favorite place anymore because somebody gave him a look.

John’s problems are closer and more akin to Larry David's, but he bounces so gently from place to place, from thing to thing, in a weird way. He has these confrontations, and John is not even talking about him as a television star, but he probably has these in his daily life, and John would be miserable in these confrontations, while Larry David has them, but then he is on to the next thing. He seems miserable, but it is also funny!

John watched a Seinfeld last night, and Elaine, in the course of 15 hijinks in this particular episode, offhandedly says: ”I got served papers today because I caused a Chinese food delivery boy to run his bike into a car!” She is being sued for assault, but it is just a toss-off line. In John’s situation, sitting around waiting for the knock on the door, somebody serve you papers, he feels like throwing up! He really was doing pretty good for a few weeks, and now he got all these little petty catastrophes.

Dan going through hardships, but not benefitting from telling other people about it (RW251)

Dan weathered some major obstacles, some stuff that would really tie a guy up in knots. The last couple of years have been hard. Is he out of it? Is he smooth sailing now? There are still some details, but on a personal level he is doing fantastic and his heart is light most of the time. He doesn’t talk about a lot of this stuff because there are other people involved and he respects privacy and things like that, and then there is his own stuff that he does talk about.

A podcaster that we all know was talking about very publicly about this thing that happened to him and he got all of this public support and people coming out: ”Oh, it is so amazing, this happened to us!” and sharing and Kumbaya Happening and he got tons of props for talking about it, but you can’t compare tragedies: ”The way that this happened to us was worse than what happened to you!”, which is never true, it is all relative.

Depending on who you are and where you grew up and what your experience is, getting made fun of in the lunchroom might have had the same effect on you as a child as this other kid in another country who had to live in a box. Living in a box seems worse than getting made fun of in the lunchroom, but for the wrong person who got made fun of in the lunchroom, they are going to have PTSD from that for the rest of their life. It is all relative. You can't say that one person's suffering is less than another person's suffering, even though you feel like you can. It is impossible to put yourself in that other person's mind!

What happened to Dan was really a more extreme version of what happened to that person, and Dan doesn’t say anything about it. Sometimes sharing personal things, personal traumas, can help other people hear about them. The emails that they get to the show, primarily because of the stuff that they share and mostly because of the stuff that John has shared in the past about mental health and other things like that, people really appreciate it and they thank so much for sharing and for being so willing to be open about it.

But for Dan it doesn't help him to talk about it, and doesn't make him feel better because of a strange dynamic he has noticed that many people don’t understand. He doesn’t really care what other people are thinking about or knowing or doing. You go to look at something on Amazon, you wonder if this set of steak knives is great, and you read 100 reviews and half of them are: ”It is the best set of steak knives ever!” and then the other half are mixed, some people hate it, some people are giving it one star because Amazon delivered it a day late. You can't really trust other people's opinions because their experience in the world is usually so different from Dan’s. He knows very, very, very few people who have the same kind of experience or perspective on the world or address the world in the same way that he does.

Over the years Dan has adjusted to that by saying: ”Your experience is going to be so different from mine that I almost can't listen to what you have to say about it!”, so much so that he has put himself in a mindset where he doesn't really get anything out of that. There was a thing that happened once, and then they had to go to a group of other people to talk about it and hear their stories about it and listen to it, and all of these people in the room, a dozen other people, were having this cathartic experience of sharing and hearing what other people had to say and it was helping them and you could see them evolving as people and sharing and connecting, and Dan was just a passenger on that bus. He was just along for the ride. He felt nothing.

Hearing their stories did not affect me other than to say: ”Wow, I feel horrible that that happened to you!”, but it didn't help him. Them telling Dan helped them and he was glad to do it, them talking about it and Dan being an audience to that was incredibly beneficial to them and it made him happy in that way to be helping them, but he didn't get anything out of it. When it was his turn to share stuff, he shared it, and he could witness people experiencing intense emotions hearing it, but Dan did not feel anything in doing it. He had processed it all internally. This was back when he had a strong meditation practice going, minimum an hour a day, every day for years.

Dan doesn’t have this ability quite anymore, but he was really in this great mental state of practicing mindfulness almost as long as he was awake and being very mindful and very centered. He was able to really connect with and address his feelings, he wasn't internalizing them, he was really processing them, he had a therapist he was talking to about it, which didn't really help, but the way that he was able to process that kind of stuff, at the same time he felt like he was missing out on this great experience that everybody else was having. When he talks to somebody about something he is doing it for their benefit more than for his own. A lot of people get a lot out of talking about something, and Dan wants to talk out a decision with people or make plans with people or have fun and talk, he does that all the time, he talks for a living.

But being in that room or in that setting, and this carries out to whether it is Amazon reviews or something else, he doesn't really care what other people think, he doesn’t need to check in on his decision with someone else and say: ”Do you think that is a good move?” unless it is something he is completely out of his depth, like if he is trying to assemble a nuclear warhead or something, he is going to seek out advice on that, make sure he doesn’t cut the wrong wire or whatever. But when it comes to a personal decision he doesn’t get a lot by talking it out, whether it is to a therapist or to a friend or anything.

He trusts his own instincts and his own gut feeling, and it has been wrong plenty of times, but trusting that has worked more times than it has failed, although it definitely failed big for him. Looking back on it Dan doesn’t even know who he would have talked to to have gotten better advice about that. When he started 5by5 he had no idea how any of this worked because nobody was doing it. The only place that he had to compare it to was Leo Laporte was doing on TWiT and he modeled the 5by5 set up after that because that was the only thing that he had to follow. Leo modeled it after whatever old school TV was doing, which wasn't the best thing to model it after in Dan’s experience, that was a huge mistake setting it up that way, and he had to evolve and adapt and come up with a different way to run that business.

Dan was never very good at any of that stuff. He was good on the mic and he is good at software stuff, but he has and had a lot to learn about all the other aspects of that and he sucks at it, and he didn't need someone else to tell him that he sucked at it. When his kid will come and tell him about some video game he doesn’t even have a frame of reference to understand what he is talking about, but it makes him feel really good to tell his dad about whatever this glitch he is trying to do in his game or perfect health that he earned in Red Dead Redemption or whatever: ”That is awesome, dude!” and he is excited to tell Dan about it, but Dan doesn’t know what he is even talking about, but it is fine, it is being present for the other person.

Dan just doesn't get a lot out of sharing this stuff. It doesn't do anything for him, although it might help other people, but he has to just roll with it.

Does Dan feel like he has intense emotions internally? Yes, very intense, and it has taken him 45 years to figure out how to manage that, and he is still learning. No never gets strong emotions about things he reads in the newspaper. He does get strong emotions about things that happen to people that he knows but don't affect him, if something really good or really bad has happened to them, even if they are just a friend. Dan thinks about how John didn't get that cat that he wanted because he was too mean (see RW89), and that is a minor little thing, but Dan thinks about that a lot. But he does not reads a news story and gets upset about it and feels like he has to go and protest. He just doesn't connect in that way.

But if it is something personal: He was recently in New York and he met with a friend there, and he is Russian, and he was talking how he is very concerned about his parents who are still in Russia, and he has been desperately trying to send them money before everything was cut off and he was talking about that, and Dan really felt for him in that whole situation. This was more a business lunch thing, but they wound up getting in this conversation all about it, and he was on his way to the UN to go protest after they were done eating. Hearing this story from him, Dan definitely connected with that and definitely felt strongly about that and felt for him and the situation.

But that is very different from reading in the newspaper that X-many people were displaced. You can't connect with it the same way as hearing a friend tell you about his parents. It is a very different thing! Maybe other people have an easier way to put themselves in the situation when they read something in a newspaper about it, but for Dan it is more about that personal connection, and trying to personalize something that you read when you are reading about some number. It is very different when you hear: ”A tornado hit this thing and destroyed this many homes!” - ”Oh, that sucks! Glad I wasn't in that tornado!”, but then you hear the interview with the person and their house…

Dan watched a video the other day about a woman who found her cat that had survived three weeks on its own. A tornado had destroyed the area, but this woman kept coming back every day to look for her cat and she finally found the cat that came out of this giant pile of wreckage, and it just happened to be while the news crew was there. She had been going there for three weeks and hadn't seen it. She picks up the cat and it is purring, and she is having this emotional reunion with the cat, sitting there holding the cat, and that makes it personal. That is very different from hearing that 35 homes were destroyed.

Dan can appreciate that sharing a story helps people and all of that, but he also doesn't feel any obligation to share anything personal with anyone ever, regardless of the circumstance or who they are. He doesn't know what it is that makes him not do that, but it is okay for him to be the co-host that has that slight… It works for this show and for most of the shows that he does for him to be the voice of the listener and to take the interviewer role, and in order to do that effectively you have to maintain some distance in a way while still allowing the audience to connect through you. He always gets emails after these shows: ”What is going on with you? What happened?” - ”If I didn't tell John on the show, I am probably not going to tell the complete stranger that is DMing me on Twitter to find out what it was!” People are legit worried and that is so sweet, but Dan is fine. There is nothing to worry about! It is great! He is better now than he has been in the entire time that he has been podcasting.

Do certain things have to be on the public record? (RW251)

John is not trying to out Dan, but there is a weird line between public and private for John where some stuff feels like it needs to be in the public record, not for him, but for humankind. He is not sure exactly what his foundation in that is, but every time he reads some story where some historical personage had a long correspondence with someone and on their death the person burned all the letters. Now you are also dead, and everyone that knew you both is dead, and those letters are more important to have preserved than whatever your short life added up to. Your privacy or that person's privacy, we look back now at that writer or that politician, and we don't know the whole picture.

If we had letters to Julius Caesar from his lover that were embarrassing, that made Julius Caesar look like a weirdo, are the letters more important than their privacy, or is their 2000 year old privacy even a thing? Does privacy expire like a trademark on a song? We can sing Happy Birthday in a movie now, we couldn't do that for a while, and The Great Gatsby is a public thing now. John is going to start making songs with Gatsby lyrics. A Robert Frost poem just went public domain.

John does think privacy expires. You see it a lot where people donate their papers or their mother's papers to a library and they say: ”We want these sealed for a certain amount of time!” The court will seal records, and then it becomes a matter of public record after that. Dan feels like once everybody involved is dead is fine. Whatever was on that tape that they erased in the White House we will never know. It might have just been Nixon saying a bunch of swears or just some weird racist stuff. Or he might have said: ”I personally was behind the controls of a B-52 and bombed Cambodia 16 times just because it was fun, because I was the President!” That is a stupid example.

When John thinks about his life and the control he has over what is out there, he always trends toward: ”Don't redact! Put as much into the record as you can!” It is getting him in trouble lately because there have been a couple of shows that he has done and he used people's real names and it got him in really hot water with some old friends because he was talking about their dad using his real name and John’s friends heard it because apparently people listen to these podcasts, and so they are listening to a podcast of their childhood friend, and all of a sudden he is talking about their dad and their dad's foibles and missteps in his life. John is talking about the man because he is a historical figure, somebody that belongs in the record. He is in the public record! John didn't say anything really that wasn't already in the newspapers, but the personal aspect, that John knew him closely and that he was friends with his kids and that they all were part of a small community, it hurt them, and that was never John’s intention.

John thinks this way about his father and his uncle and all of his family, his mom, imagine what their childhoods were like back in ancient Greece! And John’s mom is like: ”I am still alive!” - ”Yeah, I know, but it is important that people know what it was like!” It is why John never redacted his tweets, and a lot of them olds thought of Twitter in the same way that they think of all media growing up, which was: ”No, you preserve it! Don't lose the tape!”

John thinks of Dan as a public figure and as a person in history and his story interestingly contextualizes his whole thing, and it is just fascinating how people think they know a person.

Merlin finding out that Dan has tattoos (RW251)

When Merlin learned somehow that Dan had tattoos, or when Dan started doing a video over the first summer of COVID, when everyone was super isolated and alone, one of Dan’s responses to that was that he always wanted to have fun and do a morning news show, so he did a YouTube show every morning for half an hour to an hour every day and he didn't promote it, he didn't really try to get people to it, he just started doing it, mostly for himself, but then people found it and started tuning in, and it was really fun. It was a really fun way to help break that disconnected feeling that all of us had. A lot of the time he would wear a short sleeve shirt and every single time he would do it, people would be like: ”You have tattoos?” They imagined him as being some super strait-laced guy and that was part of the persona that comes across.

They joked about the odd couple thing, but people have really no idea what Dan’s life is like or what he is interested in or what he does, partly because he is often playing the straight man on the show, that is the role that he falls into, and he doesn't mind that, but people have a very different image of him than is the real one, not because he portrays himself in a way that is not authentic, but he only shares 30-40% of what is going on and most people probably know him from this show and from Back to Work, and maybe longtime listeners know the interview shows that or maybe they know Quit, and on that show he revealed a lot more and got much closer to sharing his thoughts and opinions about things.

He does have tattoo sleeves and people are like: ”What?” They don't connect that: ”Why would Dan have that?” They imagine him sitting there in a collar shirt with a tie, and sometimes he does dress like that, and it is fine, but for the people that are his friends in the real world, not listeners, they know of a very different side of him. Everyone wants to put everybody else into a box for another person, and when you find out that that person isn't like that or doesn't fit into the box, it is hard for you to mitigate: ”Oh, I thought this person was this way, but they are really like this. And they have been all along?” Tattoos is just one silly example. It is hard to get to know someone when you see them everyday at work, even, let alone hear them for an hour on a podcast.

Building a tower of civilization and adding your bricks by telling your story (RW251)

John thinks the whole idea of it ultimately is some impulse to build civilization. John wants to make life easier for people and he tries to do that by sharing things that might help to hear, but it is not coming from a ”rescuing kittens” emotional life, but if we pull together we can incrementally make things better, that doesn’t mean free of pain, but John still has the space race era idea or enlightenment idea that we are building a tower. We have always been building a tower, and every brick you can add builds this tower. What is the point of the tower? To get up higher into the sky! The Ant doesn't wonder what the point of the tower is. Why are we trying to explore other planets? It is just the tower we are building.

John is trying to add bricks to it, and he is not really super worried about people's feelings because it affects him emotionally to see people sad, or he is not trying to heal people's wounds for their own sake because he wants them to be able to watch TV without crying, it is all about trying to heal people's wounds so that then they go out and are able to do their work without suffering, and their work adds bricks to the tower, and he hopes he is successful at that, but it is based on this public private partnership where you show your work.

John is always trying to show my work and the risks he is taking are pretty low. Some friends from childhood are mad at him that he talked about their dad (see RW244), and honestly he doesn’t know what the risks are. He almost said he didn't see the social media risks he was taking, but he did and he knew all along that was a tightrope walk, and this is, too! All along he has known that this project of podcasting about ourselves is a risk.

He cannot know what the risk is, which is true, it is not a risk right now, nothing he is saying right now is going to cause the police to come to the door, but 10-20 years from now, public opinion being what it is, this material, these bricks that we are laying down, will exists long past his life and what seems like pretty easy, care free stuff to say and talk about may not be 20 years from now and there will be a similar inability of people 20 years from now to take things in the past in their context.

Maybe not, but John was reading about Robert Frost yesterday, a simple a character as Robert Frost! We all have a picture of Robert Frost as America's comfortable New England poet, America's poet laureate, but his reputation went through phases and there was a point in the middle period between then and now where the Modernists were like: ”Robert Frost? What a corn ball!” and it was only a couple of scholarly articles or one interesting person that pointed out that he was a protomodernist or whatever and then Robert Frost is back.

Remember when Norman Rockwell went through a little period where people were saying: ”Wait a minute! Maybe he is the most Avantgarde?” after decades of fine art people just sneering at him. Then there was a period where: ”No, no, maybe he is a fine artist!” and that didn't make it all the way to: ”Norman Rockwell retrospective at MoMA!”, but his reputation is assured. Think about Mr. Rogers: There is not a person alive right now that would dare say a bad thing about Mr. Rogers, but 30 years from now? Times change! Even five years from now there might be some hot take on BuzzFeed where it is like: ”Actually, Mr. Rogers made it easier for Pedophiles!”

All you have to do is say it and then there is a subsequent article and then there are a bunch of people that only read the headlines and pretty soon there are 20 years where Mr. Rogers is in the darkness until somebody writes a think piece: ”Actually, Mr. Rogers was a proto futureling!” It is not confined to our modern character. This is something in human life: Nobody read Moby Dick when it came out, it only became the great American novel decades after Melville died. Same with Gatsby. What we are doing, laying this all down, who knows?

It is the joke that Ken and John say at the beginning of every Omnibus. They are trying to convince people that this is really important what they are doing, don't think that they are not aware that their real listeners are 500 years in the future, but that might be true! This recording somewhere will survive them and the intimacy of the conversation, you will be able to listen to this conversation after Dan and John are both dead and yet it will still have a personal intimacy. We are alive with you! But are their kids going to want that?

Dan has done a much better job of protecting his kids from someone coming up to them at a college mixer and saying: ”I have listened to every word your dad said as part of a graduate thesis where I am going to take him out at the knees!” John’s daughter has already come home and said: ”Kids have looked you up on the internet and they have this that and the other to say!”, but these are 5th graders! When she is 14, maybe the Internet won't exist, or maybe the subsequent generation to generation Z, which is being called generation Alpha, which their daughters are members of while Dan’s son is a young Z.

It is entirely possible that generation Alpha will have so much backlog of data that they just won't care. There is so much other stuff to think about than Googling your friend's parents. But maybe not, and it may be a thing that causes John’s daughter social problems because she is just walking down the hall, carrying her books, and some bully is like: ”Hey, bean daughter (reference to BeanDad) and she got nothing. What can she say? Her dad has made a public record of himself for good and ill. John hopes that TikTok wipes the world away, that the slate is cleaned, but of course it never will be.

John is not even worrying about her at 15 years old, but at 75 years old, will she look back at her life and go: ”God, I wish that ten year period where my dad talked about all his shit online, I wish that didn't exist, because it changed the whole course of my life and I would have been a different person!” They see each other today and it is not an issue, aside from the child protective services visit, which she enjoyed. John doesn’t know whether his great great grandkids will be like: ”Yeah, our ancestor is this infamous person, not infamous for any evil deed, but infamous for sharing too much!”


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