RW95 - Bat Ichthyologist Pt. 1

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John calling bat scientists for bat ichthyologists (which is a fish scientist) instead of chiropterologist as they are actually called.

Dan came in strong with some heavy proximity effect. when Merlin sends him the double-ender, he could listen to how it sounds, but he doesn’t know what to do about it. Skype is a bad program for what they use it for, but they all use it all the time. Everything is in Beta all the time, testing for this big day when everything is going to go live.

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

John has bats in his house (RW95)

There is this strange leak in the roof of John's house that only happens when it rains really hard for a long time. He thought he had fixed it when he had Sahm here to do work around the house that summer, but Sahm only did other work on the roof, like various flashings. John did not follow him around and did not make him show what he had done. It was the middle of the summer, but now it is winter and there is this drip coming in through the attic and into John’s room. It was one of those classic cartoon drips that makes a person insane. He knew where the leak was coming from and put a little plastic pail under it which of course makes a very pleasing sound. John is sad that Sahm had not actually done the work he said he was going to do. Through that same hole, John now has bats living in the attic. He has been trying to varmint-proof his house for 10 years and he got it varmint-proofed in so many different ways. There are no more possums, no more rats, and no cats living under the house. He got it all sealed up except he now has bats in the attic.

John thinks the bats probably come through the same hole as the rain, because when they are done with their shift in the morning, he hears them come in via the chimney area, but they are not in the chimney. They walk across the roof on their little bat feet, which is hilarious, and they go over to where they sleep. They do a little chitter-chatter with each other and John is like ”Are you kidding me? Bats? Now? After everything?” It is illegal to kill a bat and for a civilian it is even illegal to trap a bat. You have to hire special bat-whisperers to install little one-way doors and entice the bats. There are things on Amazon like a hypersonic beeper box that will make them disoriented and they won’t come around, but under each of them are 5 reviews saying that it is baloney and it doesn’t work. When John is lying in his bed he has to think about two things: The rainy season has started and it is going to rain for a couple of months, and he is thinking about these bats and this drip-drip. Home ownership!

When John told his mom about the bats, she said that having bats in the attic is great, because they will eat insects that you want them to eat. On the other hand, having bats depositing guano in the ceiling is not great. They are like big flying mice or rats. John doesn’t want mice and rats and he especially doesn’t want them to fly inside the house. When he sees them out on the hoof or in the air, he is psyched about them. The Bat Bridge, by the way, is one of Austin’s great natural resources. Then his mom started to tell him stories about a house where the chimney was shingled with bats.

Sex therapists are one of the curiosities of the mental health field. In John’s experience, his friends who went to go to college and studied psychology in order to work as a sex therapist were the ones who were the most perverted. One of them was sleeping with one of their teachers in high school. John tied that together pretty early and when anybody would tell him in college that they were going to be a sex therapist, John would go ”Right, you are also the one who troubles me”. As time went on in the mental health fields, people who became psychiatrists were also the ones who had really bad relationships with their parents, who had a lot of anger issues and who had dealt with them by becoming very formal. As time went on, John extended his sex therapist notion to almost all jobs where people find an affinity not for the thing that they are the best at, but for the thing that scratches the thing about them that is the most torqued. That is why he has such a high opinion of computer scientists, or computer-maths, as he calls it.

John has met a few bat ichthyologists, or chiropterologist as they are called. One of them who said he was one of the preeminent bat scientists in the Southern United States, came up to John after a show in Georgia and said that he really loves The Long Winters and he plays the music for his students while they dissect bats. For whatever reason, The Long Winters attracted weird scientists across all disciplines. Fans were also University librarians or up some tributary of the river of Biology that was so far up in the mountains that John didn’t even understand what they were doing. John always loved that and he doesn’t know why it is true because he can’t make out any scientist-attractant when he listens to his music. Dan says that John has a lot of scientist listeners as well, more than any other podcast host. It is illusive to scientists that John is driven by emotion to create art. They don’t listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson because his whole thing is old hat to them! Bat people are nuts! To experience bats and to decide that this is what they want to do and that they want to understand more about those bats doesn’t need any further explication, because it is batty!

Every bat person John has ever met was totally fascinating! If you are a bat person, but you don't become someone at the university who pokes bats with chopsticks, but instead someone who climbs on a ladder and goes into attics to get right in there with the bats, not as a spelunker either who is in some moldy cave, but in someones hot attic, you are a cook! John read the bio on about 14 websites of people who say ”Let me get the bats out of your house!” because he wanted to know more about their story and how they became bat rangers. They all have very strong opinions of how you should do things, and they only work at night because the bat works at night.

That is in John’s future! He does not want to have to call 3 of these cooks and get them out here with their flash lights, telling him that it will cost him a bunch of money, but he does want to get them out here and let them experience their wild world for a little bit. These bat people are not going to live in the city either. When you hire handy people in Seattle, they live on the outskirts of town. This is not only because it is expensive to live in Seattle - that whole thing about Seattle being prohibitively expensive to normal people is a fairly recent phenomenon - but wildlife management people, critter getters and the like, all live out in the outskirts because most of them have like 15 raccoons in dog cages. Like so many things, John both looks forward to it and dreads it.

Like pet owners who are looking like their pets, there is a kind of reflective affinity and you start to see that a bat chaser looks like a bat and thinks like a bat. Likewise, a sex therapist is generally someone who really needs to go see a sex therapist. In John’s case, maybe he needs to listen to podcasts to look like a podcaster, but it is the last thing he ever wanted to do.

Dan’s talk in San Francisco (RW95)

Dan went to San Francisco on the 23rd of January 2018 to give a talk at a place called Doximity about bootstrapping a business. A couple of his friends work there and they wanted to bring him out.

John at the SF Sketchfest 2018 (RW95)

John was about to fly down to the SF Sketchfest a few days later on Saturday. It is a month-long program down in San Francisco that started as the name suggests as a sketch and comedy festival, but it has expanded to include all types of media. The cast of a long-defunct TV-show will come together and do a Q&A or people will read the script to an old ”All in the Family” episode in British accents. The idea is typically to put a bunch of people together in San Francisco at the same time and throw them together in a mad cab fashion to do different shows. John has never been at the Sketch Fest without having done 7 shows, because it is in the nature of the thing. ”Well, you are standing around, why don’t you go do this?” John is still waiting for another last-minute text from them, like ”would you go on Steve Agee’s show and pretend to be a professional wrestler?”

Right now John is scheduled to do Omnibus on Saturday night, Roderick on the Line on Tuesday night, Jonathan Coulton’s show with Paul & Storm, and a double-header of Greatest Generation, the Star Trek podcast and his brand new podcast Friendly Fire where he watches war movies with the guys from Greatest Gen and talks about them. This podcast debuts the day after the recording with Saving Private Ryan. It is a great movie to start with and they were working hard to make sure that the audience of that show will not entirely be dudes. It is an uphill battle, because war movies are number two after Western in the spot of movies that the female people Dan knows don’t ever want to watch.

Women in Western and War movies (RW95)

There are usually women in Western movies, but they are female archetypes like the noble prostitute, the wise bar matron, or the plucky farm wife who’s husband had been killed and she is maintaining the homestead having a double-barrel shotgun. During the progressive Western era of the 1990s, starting with Unforgiven, that story has been modernized. A Western is still going to be a hard sell if you are talking about super-strong female protagonists, but there are a lot of social stories played out in a Western context. In a lot of war movies you will not see a single woman from start to finish, not even a nurse, which is troubling from the standpoint of the idea of representation, not just your classic war movie, but war movies of all stripes. War movies are not broadly representative, because for a very long time, armies and wars were not broadly representative. Instead, they were a particular violent expression of a pretty narrow version of male identity.

John’s podcast talks about war movies in a contemporary context, but they will also accept the movies in their own language and their own time. Turns out that there are quite a few war movies that break with the model. They have been building up a little bit of a back catalog and they have for example watched Africa Queen with Humfrey Bogart and Catherine Hepburn, which is only nominally a war movie. It is set in WWI and it is essentially a 1950-style romantic comedy. In the movie From Here to Eternity, the fighting only happens in the last 3 minutes of the film and it is about the relationships of two couples.

Suffice to say, it is an interesting history program, but it has a little bit of work to do to attract a broad audience. The initial audience is going to be a bunch of people who want to argue with John on his take on the Battle of the Bulge, which is great. A lot of women who love war movies, but the genre does stand out as we talk about representation in our culture. You can’t just reboot a WWII film and make all the protagonists female, like you can with Ghostbusters. You can find ways of telling women's stories in a war movie context, but that will become a very different story, not those kind of mastubatory violence fantasies that war movies so often project.

John’s female followership on social media (RW95)

There are a lot of women listening to the Roadwork podcast, but John does not hear from women that much. When he looks at the demographics of his Twitter followers, it is 65:35 or 68:32 men:women and he wonders whether that reflects his content or interest in his content or whether it is just something native to the platform. There are going to be a lot more 29-year old guys who are interested in the way John sees the world than 29-year old women, is this how the cookie crumbles? John tries really hard to be more even. On Facebook he hit the 5000 friend limit several years ago. He feels like he knows most of his Facebook friends and it is not far fetched to say that he can recognize 5000 people. John didn’t realize that people managed their Facebook accounts so diligently, but every day or two, one of them will go away and John will have a slot! During the last 2 years, he has in those situations only added women and in particular women of color, because why not?

There are plenty of random dudes in his friend list, but if there is a woman who is interested enough to friend him on Facebook, then let’s see what that’s like! If he does this long enough, he will start seeing different stuff on his feed or a different timber to the comments on his posts. Maybe his own Facebook page will culturally change in a noticeable way. Facebook is running their own algorithms and whenever John logs on he sees some fucking dingeling with some bullshit and he logs off immediately. His Facebook environment has not become measurably different yet. John would love to hear from the women who listen to the show and understand whether they feel like a secret minority or a silent majority, a sisterhood that is operating at a higher wavelength, or if they only listen to this show in order to get insight into one more example of how navel-gazing a certain kind of over-sensitive middle-aged man can be. Dan jokes that this podcast is the best insight into the male psyche that you can get anywhere.

Having girls as best friends (RW95)

The male psyche is such a weird animal. John encounters men quite a bit in his life, but John has always felt somewhat estranged from the male psyche and he has always felt more affinity for the way women think. It is not that this hasn’t caused a lot of problems for John in life. He doesn’t entirely understand what is going on in the male psyche a lot of the time, it is not a self-reflective environment and most of the time it doesn’t interest him very much what men think about stuff. John's closest friends have always been girls and from the age of 2 his best friend always was a girl. There are lots of women who just kind of get along with guys better.

You don’t hear a lot of guys say the same thing, although John thinks it is true that there are a lot of guys who get along with women much better. Most of those guys have an easier time just pairing off with anybody and their girlfriend or wife becomes their best friend and the person in the world they are closest to. It is a lot harder to be a single fellow who just prefers female company without necessarily pursuing them sexually. John is not out on the prowl, but he just sits around. Throughout his whole life he has always had at least one close female friend who was just his pal and not his girlfriend. Until he was fully grown, those girls didn’t want John to be their boyfriend either. They sometimes ended up feeling that they were boyfriend and girlfriend, but there wasn’t that charge to it. It was more like "Let’s go build a tree house!"

In a way, that is how civilizations get built. They definitely just don’t get built by guys who are putting sticks together. Likewise, civilizations are not built by 6 women sitting around a fire going ”See that 7th woman, let’s keep her out!” When likeminded men and women come together and their powers combine, that is how you start to build anything. John wishes there was something in our society to delineate that space more. It wasn’t just ”The girls are over here at the dance and the boys are over here at the dance and you can walk across the empty dance floor with everyone watching you and ask Maize Glotz if she wants to dance. If you are bold, go for it, but I am going to keep my back to the wall down here and just hope I don’t get murdered” Maybe a lot of the changes that happened since John was in school let people move more freely across the barriers, but John is not 100% sure. There is so much energy in sexual politics right now, so much anger being expressed and so much frustration being vented. Everything is changing so quickly and it is hard to know what the state of the ground is and what the future holds.

John being a stereotypical male in the Fur Trapper sense (RW95)

There are obviously a lot of things about John's psychology that are very male. For example, John spends a lot of time collecting pocket knives. Dan thinks John is a stereotypical male from several generations back. He doesn’t fit into the stereotypical male on a lot of fronts, but going back to the 1800s, John would fit in better with what that perspective or definition of a typical man would be. John fits in more with the Fur Trappers from back then than with the guys who never miss an NFL game. John is glad that Fur Trappers exist in our imagination to give us something to romantically aspire to.

Contemporary smugness over our elders (RW95)

Dan has been watching a lot of Western with his 10-year old son. They are working their way through old classics like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, or A Few Dollars More and Dan got all of them! His son is mature enough to handle those movies so far and he enjoys and appreciates them more than Dan did when he was 10. Maybe Dan should throw a couple of war movies in there? He loves the old ones much more because they are not trying to make you feel that you are actually under enemy fire like modern ones do.

What is really curious about War Movies, Western and all the classic movies, is that thing about male identity and female identity. In our contemporary world we flatter ourselves how far we have progressed from the stone age of the 1950s when women were chattel slaves and men were macho animals. We have this very cartoony idea of the world of our parents and grandparents, our recent past. We feel very smug and superior to our elders in terms of how vogue we are and how un-vogue they were. That is not true! People in the 1950s were very smart and sensitive! They understood the world around them and were able to see through societal architectures. They were conscious of equality and inequality and they were working hard on those ideas. The work that has been done by people before us is the only reason that enables somebody in 2017 to be smug about those things. Nobody in our modern world invented a fucking thing, but it is all built on a foundation that was built by sensitive, smart, active, engaged people in our recent past!

The thing that sticks out to John in a modern Western or a modern war film is not just that the realism of the battles is so amped up, but what makes them unrealistic is the overlay of modern self-consciousness. All the protagonists in Saving Private Ryan are introspective and are having inner battles with themselves, but this was not how that generation was at all! Every single one of those guys would have come out of an awful bloody battle and would have been like ”Hey, here’s your uncle! Hand me that ace! Kilroy was here!” That was how they coped back then and not just at war! Life was a lot harder for a lot of people. John’s whole interaction with his dad after he got to be a teenager was like ”Stop using that mid-Atlantic accent, let’s get real!”, which means "We are not sitting here sucking on a wet rag!" John was very modern and in his dad's face about it, asking him why he didn't dig deep to find out what was motivating those feelings, but it was a cultural war between him and his dad his whole life.

John’s dad died with grace (RW95)

One of the things that was so profound for John about watching his dad die was his two last years when he gradually went into the mist. John was perched next to him asking ”Here we are, this is the reckoning! How are you going to fall on these life-long projects of figuring out how your resentment with your father colored your decision-making process as you were trying to take over the Washington State Democratic party in the 1960s?” and his dad would say ”What? Shut up!”, and John would say ”No, there was a moment there, let’s reconcile your feelings about your mother’s abandonment while she still was a smothering presence” It is not that his dad didn’t want to go there, but that was not the language of his time and it was not the language in which his brain had built itself. John showed what he now recognizes as smugness, because that is the way that his brain assumed to be superior to his dad's. John saw things more deeply and he understood the unconscious mind and its effect on our decision-making in ways that his dad could only dream.

As his dad died, John realized that these were just systems that we are trying to employ in order to make sense out of the incomprehensible plurality of inputs. The world is not as we see it! Everything is happening in 7 dimensions at all times and none of what you are taking in with your eyes from the small group of people that you have around you, none of the tiny slivers of information that you get from whatever source like the TV, the Internet, your church or whatever, is comprehensive! It isn’t the world and the more you think it is the world, the more it is just your ego playing out. The more you think it is the world, the less you know!

It is wrong to think that John's late 20th-century idea of how important the unconscious was is more correct than his dad’s mid 20th-century idea that in order to move the ball forward we all had to pull together, or his dad’s older kids, the Baby Boomers, who’s governing principle was to smash conformity because that was the thing that kept them from being free. All these little thumbnail frameworks are just tiny little prisms and they don’t reflect anything that is actually true outside of the truth of the idea’s own self. The language today is that without true pure equality we are all living in a prison. Whether you are aware of the prison or not doesn’t change the fact that you are in a prison of injustice. That is no more or less true than John’s dad’s ”Let’s all pull together!”-version of what we needed and who we are. It is not necessarily an evolution of it, but an iteration of it. It is just another take and there were a lot of people with that take in 1940. It might not have been the main take, but it was still happening. John’s dad had that take! He was a social justice warrior in the language of the 1930s.

John’s dad was walking his talk right to the end. There was no death bed conversion, there was no ”Jesus! I forgive you, dad!” or whatever it was that John was hoping for. It wasn’t because his dad wasn’t capable of it, but it was not his truth! He was living his truth consistently all the way to the end where the last thing he said to John was ”God damn you, get out of my room!”, with humor and with panache. From within his mind, whatever his consciousness or his soul was, it still believed it was going to live forever and it still was undaunted. Whatever fear he had about going through the curtain was nothing compared to the confidence he had that on the other side he was going to waltz in and ”Where the hell is the maître d'?” John doesn’t mean to make his dad sound like Rodney Dangerfield, but it was impressive and it humbled John, because he now asks himself the question if he is going to do better. Are John’s thought technologies and his brain science going to take him there and take him through that with more grace? Will he have left a better imprint or a more lasting legacy? Are John’s peers doing a better job than his dad's generation or are we dismantling some of the things that they built?

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