RD2016 - Reconcilable Differences, Special Members Episode ”Jack of all Trades”

In this special episode, Merlin, Siracusa and John talk about:

The show title refers to John claiming that he is a jack of all trades, but he wants to be really good at something instead, while Siracusa disagrees vigorously.

In this episode, we refer to John Siracusa as Siracusa and to John Roderick to John as usual.

Opening Statement

John has made himself a cup of coffee because he doesn’t want to get left behind in the rapture and him drinking coffee during the recording sounds like he is peeing. Siracusa makes an Incredible Hulk reference from The Avengers saying ”The secret is that I’m always peeing”. Harry Deen Stanton died shortly after the movie or at least he looked like he was about to die. He always looked old!

John’s Skype told him that he was on an unsupported device, but Merlin and Siracusa saw that message, too. The only way to set up the call was to call John first and then call Siracusa, which is how every conference call should be.

John’s daughter lately started to make noises like she was throwing up which is hilarious, but drives her mother crazy. Merlin recommends John to record those on video, save it for later and play it to her when she is a teenager about to go out to Junior prom.

John is talking about the premise of Merlin’s and Siracusa’s podcast Reconcilable Differences. They invited John on the show and he assumes that they presume he has some differences with them that can be reconciled. All people John interacts with in the world in non-podcast form completely agree with him. The original conceit of the show was that Merlin and Siracusa were interested in how they became what they are, which is not so different from Roderick on the Line. John shouldn’t feel too constrained by the format of the show. The topics are there to fall back on, but normally the podcast is just a mess. Merlin needs to organize because he feels nervous. What Merlin realized after he had been around Siracusa for about a day is that he has a special gift: Before you realize that he knows it, he has figured out what you are most vulnerable about and he will make you feel bad about it in a way that make it seem that it wasn’t his fault. It seems like Merlin thinks everybody is doing that, or maybe he is just a giant throbbing open sore, waiting for the world to poke him?

Merlin has an opening statement: He thinks that John and Siracusa are very different, but they actually have a lot in common:

  • they have both an interest in cars, automobiles and automotive things,
  • they both have been into skiing at some point in their lives,
  • they both have read and enjoyed fantasy novels,
  • they are both fascinated by science, history and culture,
  • they both have young daughters and
  • they are both huge horn dogs

For his whole life, John wanted to be good at something. We are all kind of jacks of all trades and there are a lot of polymaths listening, but John would like to be the master of something! Siracusa disagrees and argues that John is a professional musician and is in a very small group of people who are paid to play music for people, write articles for magazines, or speak on stage extemporaneously. Maybe John wants to be good at magic?

During recording, Merlin obsessively fidgets with the Google Doc containing the show notes. There is a PDF somewhere with note cards that Merlin had done for the early episodes of Roderick on the Line. Now he just has a text file for each episode where he writes down titles as they come up and sponsors and stuff.

Titles Merlin had written down until 3/4 of the way in:

  • He has a pizza named after him
  • Yard Sale
  • 50 ways I could die
  • get out of my oxygen area
  • I like her style
  • Kan Foo
  • Jack of all Trades

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

John Siracusa (RD2016)

Siracusa is barely into his 40s and he is the youngster in the bunch. It is that horn dog voice that makes him seem old. Merlin is constantly calling Siracusa a horn dog and making references to his libido as if it was outside the norm. It is mysterious to him why this is one of Merlin’s hangups, as he is not doing it with John. John’s only exposure to Siracusa is his avatar. He has a look about him like Bowzer (Jon Bauman) from Sha Na Na with some steamy mediterranean quality, a guy who might be out tipping over Vespas and chasing Sophia Loren. When Siracusa thinks ”Ladies Man”, he does not think Bowzer from Sha Na Na, who was the only one who didn’t shave his chest while their look was to be completely hairless. Bowzer were at Woodstock and had a TV-show in the mid 1970:s.

Merlin throws the horn dog thing at Siracusa all the time although it doesn’t make any sense, because he doesn’t say what he compares Siracusa to: The average male, American male, male Siracusa’s age? This is probably a Merlin issue because he assumes that every male he meets is hornier than he is. Merlin just makes an observation that Siracusa has this vibe like he is a gentle lover, but firm and insistent. Both John and Siracusa are going to leave that room really thinking! People get around Siracusa and can’t take it because there is such an energy in the room. Siracusa doesn’t even talk about women on the show, while John and Merlin frequently discuss how horny the artists make them before they talk about them. The latest episode they talk about Bananarama (must be somewhere from RL210 to latest RL214) and there are a bunch of moans afterwards, which John rejects, because he never moans, he groans!

There is some confusion out there on how to pronounce Siracusa’s last name and he is always brow-beating everybody about it, but then he won’t say it himself. He didn’t change his last name to Corleone like everybody else, but his grandfather had changed their name from Gionsiracusa when they came over to the states, a story that is told in Siracusa's grandfather’s autobiography. He wrote it on his computer in the days before the internet where you couldn’t get a printed book, but you could get a spiral-bound thing at the copy shop which he gave to all his family. It is nice to read and he was in the navy in WWII which makes for great stories.

Autobiographies (RD2016)

John’s grandmother wrote an autobiography, but long-hand, probably with a quill. It was published pre Kinko’s or Vanity Press where they actually did print hard-bound books. It was called A Nightingale in the Trenches and she talks about her experience singing the operatic tunes of the day to the troops in WWI at the front line in French and Belgium. Of course she didn’t spend the night in the trench afterwards, but somebody drove her to Paris where she had dinner with a General. The book is unreadably bad. John tried multiple times to even get 15 pages in, but it is an impossible slog. He wasn't even able to make out if the book is about her whole life or just that part. She was a young woman at the time and she kept a diary, but it was just full of gossip about all the Colonels and Generals.

Writing any book is difficult and writing an autobiography is even harder. Siracusa had talked before about the LBJ book ”The Power Broker” by Robert Caro and why it is such a great book. Writing a biography about yourself as your first book is a tall order! Siracusa has not tried to write a biography yet because he is not yet at that age. His grandfather’s book is about his whole life and it is only about 1cm thick when printed from the computer. Siracusa says that you have to wait until you are old before you write something like that in order to get some perspective. Only then are going to realize what was really important. Maybe you are never going to have perspective and you will be writing a crap autobiography. You need to have a plain old life instead of thinking about yourself as having some kind of legacy and having to make yourself look good.

John has a lot of his dad’s receipts and he knows where his dad would take his plane. Merlin can tell from the feedback they get that their listeners love when John tells stories about his dad, but the details that would make it worth writing down are lost. If only he could sit down a couple of days with him now and interview him about the details! He did that multiple times over the course of his life and the downside of it is that as he got older, the minor details started to change and memory started to collapse on itself. John interviewed his uncle Jack all the time and he defaulted to ”I don’t remember!”, even when they talked about pivotal moments in his life. He had reached the age where he realized ”Who cares?”, which shocked John. There is a certain age when you still believe that what you did was important and that you mattered, but when you get to be 90, you are just ”Nah, just bring me a bowl of porridge and get out of my hair!”, because nobody matters. Then John sits there with a notepad and asks ”So then what happened?”, but they don’t remember. You have to talk to your relatives in due time and take notes and amass the material. Then you can just assemble it all into the book in the end.

Listening to your own podcasts and transforming them into a play (RD2016)

It boggles Siracusa’s mind that John doesn’t listen to his own podcasts. He does not listen to his albums in his house either, but he only listens to his own songs while he is playing them, because he is required to. Siracusa thinks that podcasts are just another thing he produces with his voice, but John says he listens to it while it goes down. If somebody gave John a script of one of his podcasts and would ask him to perform it as a piece of alternative theater of Broadway, that actually sounds like a wonderful idea! He wants some listeners to sit down and transform one of those podcasts as a play. Someone plays Merlin, someone plays John. The cast for John could be the guy who was in Zero Dark Thirty and who was also in the science fiction movie with the raccoon, the guy from Guardians of the Galaxy, he is handsome. No! This is not a fantasy casting! Maybe Brunce Vilanch? He is a little husky! No! He does not have a beard-shaped face and does not have the required gravitas. Tommy Lee Jones? No! He looks like a piece a beef jerky or like a really old Woody Harrelson. Mathew McConaughey? No! These guys are older than John!

Listening to music/podcasts in the background (RD2016)

Merlin and Siracusa wonder if John would even know how to listen to a podcast if he had to. John says that podcasts are in iTunes where you can click on a link and you can read the reviews. He would probably need to get an hour long commute or he would have to get on a stationary bicycle. He could also have a job where he would self-lobotomize and do his job with one side of his mind and listen to a podcast with the other. One of their listeners is able to win Nobel prizes by making real sciences, play D&D, carve shrunken apple sculptures and little teeny pencil leads into busts of Abraham Lincoln all at the same time, so it must have to do with the math.

Siracusa cannot listen to other people talking when he does pretty much anything involving his job. He can listen to music if he is not writing words or working on really hard problems, but because he is an active listener even to music, he cannot have music on in the background. John is the same, he has to sit and essentially stare at the speaker, he cannot even do the dishes. It drives both of them crazy when people start talking to them while they are listening to a song, or when people turn the radio down on a road-trip to be able to talk and then turn it back up again. "If you do that again I’m going to jump out of this moving car!"

Children (RD2016)

Merlin’s daughter is an interrupter big time. He talks to his wife for 3 minutes a day and whenever he is sharing a funny story or an anecdote, his daughter is uncanny in stepping on his punch lines. She is the worst, it is just screens and food every day all day long. Her mother is a snacker and that made her a snacker, too! Merlin’s wife is a very lean person and she does not give any indication of being a compulsive or habitual snacker. Her regular meal is at work where she can be a grown woman and has a lunch like a person, while at home it is just a bunch of open bags and jars around. Like monkeys in a lab, she is just opening stuff and seeing what is in there.

Siracusa a 9 year old daughter and a 12 year old son, which is right at the age when the air-conditioner needs to be recharged and when the alternator first goes out. They start smelling like people at that age and sniffing the top of their heads becomes really weird because they are no longer those magical beings who smell good all the time. Merlin and Siracusa agree that they smelled worse when they were teens than what their children do now. John remembers absolutely destroying a pair of shoes. You couldn’t even have them in the house! When he was 30, John bought the same shoes again that he had in High School and he can still wear them now 15 years later, but as he bought those shoes when he was 15, by the time he was 17, they were a Hazmat site. With age you are drying up and desiccate like husk of a fruit. When you are a teenager, shoes just go over like bad food and there is nothing you can do about it. Siracusa’s daughter is in the sensitive phase where all her clothes feel weird and they have to cut the tags out of everything. When John was 13, his nipples were really sensitive for several months, although he was never lactating, but every shirt be put on hurt him. He thought it was puberty-related, but Siracusa says it comes from running cross-country when your sweaty shirt is rubbing on you over and over. He had the same problem and solved it with bandaids or vaseline and so on.

Cross Country Running (RD2016)

John was on the cross country team in High School, but they decided that he was much better as a manager than a member of the team. All cross-country runners at his school ran the same race. Everybody went to meet, there was the race where the entire team ran against the opposing school’s team and that was the end of the meet. They ran 3 miles or 5K and at John’s school even a 7K at the end of the season, but John had no business being in a 7K race. By the end of the season John could do a 5K in one sitting. The measurement was how many times you had to take a smoke break.

John’s dad was very athletic and he had encouraged John of participating in cross country running. He wanted John to be what he was, the Big Man on Campus. During John's dad’s entire childhood he was someone sitting at the piano, tinkling away unhappily, staring out the window while other boys threw a football. The second he was allowed to get up from the piano, he ran outside and felt utterly free and completely himself and without trouble. Throwing a football or a baseball or a basketball, all the balls! When his dad saw John as a young person, he realized that John was like a dog who would get the ball maybe two times and would sit and just lick himself the rest of the time. His dad threw all the sports at him, but for John that was the equivalent to sitting at the piano staring out the metaphorical window, imagining to sit at a piano. John was a constant source of frustration to his dad and the other way around. John's physic was maybe not the best for a cross country runner, but his dad wanted him to be lean and mean, while he was just mean.

Playing a show with Moon Unit Zappa (RD2016)

John just recently played a show with Moon Unit Zappa. He didn’t meet Soleil Moon Frye, though, and not Sun Myung Moon either. Soleil probably went to the same school as Siracusa. Didn’t she become Marilyn Manson at some point? A girl at Merlin's school knew Marilyn Manson in Palm Beach. Marilyn used to work at Like a Peach’s. John never met Marilyn Manson although he stood very close to him one time. He always admired his performance. He threw a microphone at a roadie, though, which was kind of mean.

Skiing (RD2016)

John learning how to ski

Everybody agreed that John was a good downhill skier. It was a sport where his bulk could affect the outcome and didn’t stand in his way. His dad didn’t really properly begin skiing until after his folks divorced. John's normal life was in Seattle and he would go up to Alaska to visit his dad for Christmas. There he would have a pair of rickety skis that were 15 years old. They actually put hot pitch on the bottom of John’s first cross-country skis in order to get some traction. His first pair of ski boots were leather, but his bindings, although from the 1960s, were proper metal bindings. It was old equipment, but they talk about 1974 when John was 6 years old. It wasn’t state of the art, but his dad wouldn’t buy him state of the art equipment for a week. All of a sudden John would find himself on those skis at the top of a hill and wouldn’t know how he got there, but there would be somebody at the bottom calling for him.

The first time he ever rode a ski lift was at Arctic Valley, which was a ski resort on the military base that was open to civilians. He had skied a little bit on a bunny slopes, but looking down on Arctic Valley, there are no trees there and it is just a giant 45° angle ice slap that is two miles long. John stood at the top and wondered what suicide mission this was. His dad, coach of the year, was like ”Do it!” and somehow he horror-clung to the mountain all the way down. After that it was assumed that he was a skier. It was the style at the time. He did have coaches later because he was on the racing team. It was the old days where coaches were pretty gruff, they would show you how to do it and they would tell you that you were doing it wrong, but there wasn’t a lot of personal attention or love and care paid.

Tommy Moe

There was always one kid on the team that was really good and in John’s case it was Tommy Moe, the olympic gold medallist in the Downhill. He was a couple of years younger than John, but he was one of those skiers who were enormously gifted at 10 years old. Even long before he was a mighty-might champion you would watch this kid because he had such grace. The coach would just shout at John ”Do it like that!”, but that kid was walking on air and John couldn’t do it like that! Tommy was a super-nice guy! You couldn’t hate him and John went to a Metallica concert with him before he won several gold medals. Now he has a pizza named after him or whatever.

Kids having to use complicated lift systems

Siracusa doesn’t even remember a time in his life when he didn’t know how to ski, but he remembers how kids were supposed to learn how to ski on the East Coast: The problem was that they had a lift with a T-bar, a J-bar or a rope toe to get to the top of the bunny slope. When you are still unsure how to ski, it is very intimidating to learn how to use those lifts at the same time. The system assumed you already knew how to stand on your skis and not fall down, which those kids didn’t. Now they don’t have rope toes anymore, but they have the magic carpet where you just step on like a movable sidewalk.

When John was young in Alaska, the rope toes were tied around a steel rim of an old Ford truck and it was powered by an old Buick 6-cylinder motor that someone had put a dog house over and the guy that was running the lift had this little pedal accelerator from a sewing machine and a flask. The exhaust of the motor was routed out to a non-muffled pipe that went about 6 feet in the air. There was no transmission, but the motor was straight up connected to the rope. The first time John tried to get on that rope, it burned through his gloves and he had second degree burns on his palms just trying to get ahold of this thing. The guy who was running the motor with the sewing machine had been fallen asleep drinking peach snaps and didn’t slow that shit down for the little kid.

Then there were those little mighty mights who were going all over the hill with skis that were so impossibly short that it was literally impossible to cross them. It was like they had big ice skates on their feet and they were whizzing down the hill doing incredibly dangerous things, jumping off of moguls, skimming by trees, following those little trails that would go off the edge of the trails through the trees. John decided to take one of those trails when he was a grown up because he had spent so much time as a young person hauling ass through these terrible toboggan runs and ”Here I go into the trees!”, but it was basically like he climbed into a washing machine and somebody threw a bag of ice in there.

Skiing on the East Coast

Siracusa grew up on Long Island. Because all the people from the New York metro area wanted to ski, it means the farther you get from New York City, the better the ski places. The worst place to ski near Siracusa's house was Hunter Mountain, because it is a reasonably sized mountain that was close to New York City. If you imagine the worst skiers you have ever seen in terms of manners, not following the rules of the mountain, just being a bunch of yahoos, being way too fast for their skills, being on slopes they had no business being on and the slopes being incredibly crowded, that is Hunter Mountain. Siracusa's family therefore went farther and farther north, like for example to Windham Mountain. They also went into Massachusetts, like Butternut and a couple of other places in the Catskills. There is Jiminy Peak and when you get up to Vermont and New Hampshire, you get into the real mountains where you go up to Mount Snow or Stratton.

They even have olympic snowboarding in Stratton, but it is some preppy-ass shit up there. The place is even called ”Stratton”, because that is the surname of every preppy kid in every college movie of the 1980s. As Siracusa and his siblings got older, his family went further and further north. Close by the mountains were so dinky and they were not even real mountains. There is too much ocean and everything is wet. There is ice, but there is not enough snow and sometimes you get dirt. As you get up into Vermont or New Hampshire, you get colder snow and more ice. The whole East Coast is just a giant sheet of ice! Siracusa had never skied on powder snow until he skied in Colorado for the first time. He basically learned to ski on ice skating rinks that were either slush, incredibly heavy wet snow or just solid blocks of blue ice. His favorite mountain to this day is the north face of Mount Snow because that is his kind of mountain. Cold, boggy, icy, really steep and far enough north that there aren’t dirt patches. Stratton, being the fancy place, eventually got a gondola.

Growing up in the far north in the 1970s and early 1980s, they all understood that people who learned to ski on the East Coast and who were good skiers were universally great skiers. You can ski anywhere because you learned skiing in an absolutely intolerable environment and you have all this ability to deal with the worst possible conditions. You thought that all this was normal before you came out West and the snow there was like ambrosia. Then there was a generation of skiers who grew up in Park City and weren’t punished by God every time they went skiing. They grew up thinking this game was fun without ever losing any teeth doing it and they became universally the best skiers.

Skiing on the West Coast

John used to ski at Mount Alyeska, a resort at sea level. The fact that it was at a high latitude meant that the top of the mountain was already above the tree line. It was very cold in the winter and they had all manner of snow, which included quite a bit of wet snow. The base of the mountain is at sea level and you can look out and see the ocean right there, 5 miles from the inlet. Because it is so far north in Alaska, there are copious amounts of powder. The East Coast, Central Mountain and West Coast skiing cultures were very different from one another and John didn’t have a lot of first hand experience of it. He knew people from those other cultures who came to Alaska, but he never went to those places.

They definitely spoke about skiing with the same kind of surfer inflection in the dialect. Things were ”bogus”, ”copious”, ”righteous”, or ”bodacious”. They did not speak like that on the East Coast. John always associated the bodacious inflection with preppies. When the snowboarders and the dread locks and the baggy pants came in, that was like the apocalypse, like if the cast of Waterworld was suddenly sitting down with their butts on the snow like animals! What the fuck are you doing? In Florida, Merlin got that from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, almost contemporaneous with the Valley Girl stuff which was very heavily adopted.

Skiing is not a social sport

The wonderful thing about skiing is that you don’t have to do it as a social thing, but it can be completely solitary. Even if you are with a group of friends, as soon as you start moving downhill, you are entirely in your own bubble, particularly if you are a speed daemon of the Siracusa-type! You are just unleashing your skis onto the world and you stop only when you must. At a certain point, your eyes are watering, your ears hear nothing but howling wind and chattering skis, you are holding on to the surface of the world with your bleeding finger nails and there is nothing social about it. Maybe your friends are sitting on a ridge somewhere watching you.

Siracusa's family ski vacations

Siracusa did all his skiing on family vacations during Christmas break and winter break in December and February. When they were younger they could all ski on the blue slopes together. They would go down the hill, stop as a family and wait until all 5 of them were ready and go to the next thing. Once John wanted to go faster, he could let them go ahead for a long time so that he could get to go the speed that he wanted to go, but eventually he went off on his own. When Siracusa was in High School, he realized that his legs were tired after doing the North Face of Mount Snow in one go without stopping as fast as he could. That was the first time he felt old!

John racing Downhill

John raced Downhill for two seasons. This is the discipline where you wear a helmet and spend the whole race in a tuck. You go 40-50 mph and the olympic record is almost 100 mph. John’s skis were Elan 227s, about 4-5 inches wide and super-duper long. Because he wore glasses, John couldn’t use the normal Downhill goggles as they would not fit inside the helmet and over his glasses. He had to put on the helmet, put on his glasses and used ducked tape to fix his glasses to his face so that the wind couldn’t get in. At that speed you can’t stop, really.

One time he was making a turn to get set up for the big Downhill turn and as he was carving across the mountain, he lifted up his inside ski because the least amount of ski produces the least amount of drag, which you don’t do anymore today, but his inside ski pre-released and just came off and was gone. John didn’t notice it because he was looking downhill to get set up for his big turn. As he went to shift his weight to make this big turn, he basically just put his foot into the snow at 35 mph at the top of this giant hill. They call it a yard sale when you crash so hard that your gloves come off and everything you own is true and behind you in a long trail. John was spread across this mountain like butter across a waffle and came to rest at the bottom of the thing. He was wrapped around a small tree but he didn’t hit it at velocity. Even when you hit a tree at that tumbling speed it does not move. That happened to Siracusa so often, he became proficient in stopping with one foot. John even learned how to ski on one ski, just to figure out how your skis worked. He can also ski backwards pretty well.

Having fun as a family

On key difference between John and Siracusa is the phrase ”A fun thing to do as a family” It was never used by anyone in John’s family for anything. Looking back at it, Siracusa thinks those were fun things, but it is different as a kid being forced to go skiing on your winter and Christmas holidays. Skiing with kids is miserable, which is parts of the reason why Siracusa doesn’t do it. The kids had to carry their own equipment and he and his brother wined about it mercilessly. The turtleneck was always itching his brother and he was always complaining. He dropped his boot, he can’t carry his stuff, they are cold, they don’t want to go up on the hill, they just want to go back and lodge and burn their mouth on chili. Everyone had complaints and was just miserable, the weather was awful, it was cold and foggy and it would rain combined with snow. The lift would break in the middle and you would have the snow maker blowing snow on you while the lift was broken and you would be snow-coated when you got to the top. There was lots of misery in there!

Siracusa is like the ghost of Christmas past, having so many emotions in his soliloquy. He just described John’s entire childhood! Looking back at it, it was kind of fun and they were all there as a family. Siracusa’s parents just wanted to do this fun thing they enjoyed, because they had gotten into skiing as adults and they wouldn’t want to let their kids stop them. John’s dad had the same feeling like someone who discovered Jesus at the age of 45 and wants to get his kids into it. John's dad characterized everything he did around skiing as a favor he was doing them, like: Look at all the sacrifices he makes for them! He was just a pig in shit, being up at dawn, up on the ski mountain, racing all those other grey beards, he was having some great experience! Maybe there was no snow when they were kids?

John’s sister was a champion skier and she was like ”OMG, do I really have to do this? Do I have to do this ski race and beat everybody to get another trophy?” She was effortless like Tommy Moe. If you put John at the top of the hill, he would think of 50 ways he could die, like he could be struck by a lightning up there because he is the tallest thing on this slope, but you put his sister on the top of the hill and tell her to get to the bottom and she will be like ”Fuck you!” and she would be at the bottom while everybody else is trying to catch up with her. Then she is like ”Next!” Pretty soon she was number 1. She was very gifted the whole time, but John doesn’t know what is motivating her. John’s dad thought he was doing them a favor by getting them into skiing as children so they would already be inculcated in this culture of snobs and super-judgemental social weirdos. It was the ugliest side of jock-money, only sailboat racing or Polo would be uglier.

There are many things that Merlin just now starts to appreciate when he gets older, like fishing. The idea to sit in a boat in silence all day? Older people wanted to be warm all the time and they wanted to go to the beach. Siracusa’s grandfather took his mother fishing and she hated it while he wanted to offer her this raw oyster that he just dug out from the bottom of the bay. Maybe you hate what your parents force you to do? As you get 40, if you get to somewhere where you can be warm in silence, that’s a good day! Hence John takes baths.

Getting your children develop interest and creativity (RD2016)

John getting a child-sized drum kit for his daughter

Recently, John and Jason Finn visited the amazing Michael Musburger, famed Seattle drummer who was the drummer of The Posies, the Fastbacks and pretty much every Seattle band there was. Jason and Musburger have a very fraught relationship because they are the same age and they had played side-by-side throughout the Seattle music scene. Musburger would fill in for Jason sometimes and he ended up playing in Jason's band Love Battery.

They were two drummers who occupied a very similar space and Jason was the drummer of the Presidents of the United States of America, which was the most successful band of all of the bands. Jason would probably agree that Musburger is just a more versatile drummer because he can play Reggae or multiple Paradiddles cascading on top of one another. He has roto toms, he has Vistalite kit, and he is a serious drummer! Jason is a great Rock’n’Roll drummer, but that was part of their competition. During Jason’s career in the Presidents he hired Musburger as his drum-tech to tour with them, to tune Jason’s drums and to set them up and tear them down. That was a very powerful move! You could write a screenplay about the friendship, the competition and the frenemy status of those two characters.

When John arrived at Musburger’s house, Jason was 45 minutes late and they had a little time to just sit with each other. Musburger has a complete drumkit (Instagram-foto!) set up only with roto drums. They are all tuned as though they were drums and not just digidigidigidigi, but this is some Terry Bozzio (he mistakenly says Dale Bazzio (sic), his wife) bullshit. Sitting down at this kit that is just roto toms may not mean anything to Merlin and Siracusa, but it was very cool to see.

John went there because Jason was cooperating with Musberger to put together a tiny, child-sized drumkit for John's 5-year old daughter. Musburger was setting it up, chopping all the hardware down with his chop saw out to make the little snare stand just be 2,5 feet off the ground. If John would make his daughter to play this kit, she was going to hate the drums and hate him. Instead he is just going to set this drum kit up somewhere that she has access to, but he is never going to refer to it. He might even put a sign on it that says ”Keep off!” and he will just let it sit there and let her find it and decide what to do with it. He will put a Sonos system in that room and play music in there, like Sloan, and she will wonder about this wonderful Canadian pod-rock sound.

If John would tell his daughter that he had built a little drum kit for her, he might as well put her in front of a shit sandwich.He wants her to play the drums, not because he wants her to be a drummer, but he wants her to become a musician and the way to become a musician is to play the drums. You play the drums, then you realize that you never get paid if you play the drums, you move over to the piano, then you learn the piano when you already have rhythm, because you learned the drums first. After that you can play the bass, but you don’t stop there. That’s the plan!

The story of the Jackson Five and other great bands

The Jackson Five started playing music because their dad, Joe Jackson had a really nice guitar that he left at home and he told them every morning not to touch his guitar. Then Jackie started to play the guitar and the other Jacksons were singing and writing songs. In the end they would put the guitar back and wipe it off and not let their dad know. One day they broke a string and he got them all to confess that they had been playing his guitar all this time. He asked them to play something, he bought them all instruments and the rest is all history. Step Zero is: Be the Jackson Five. Step 1: Be Michael Jackson.

All these people that John really wants to know about, like the Jacksons, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles are prime examples of this: You assume that there is more to the story than there is and we have examined the Beatles so closely that there is literally nothing else to know about them. Almost every single conversation that they ever had has been prognosticated by others to within a few words of what they actually said to each other. Yet people still think that there is some un-turned stone and they would love to hear the real story. John is always pissed at Paul McCartney because he is such a revisionist.

You want to really know what was going on between Keith and Rick of The Rolling Stones, but the truth is that you already know. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes of interview with one of those folks to know how their relationship works, which is hardly at all. Charly and Bill got along okay, they were just suburban guys, but it was very cool and acrimonious most of the time. Mick was a business man and had been in Economics school or maybe Computer-maths. He was the one who had all the business acumen. If you saw Keith at a party, did you really want to go over and catch up?

John thinks about how might have been in the Jackson’s house in 1969. He has been in houses where all the couches were covered in plastic, he has been in Jehovah’s witnesses houses, in houses where the father was an overbearing, dominating monster and in houses where there were a lot of kids. You put all that together and you can get the gist of it, the only difference being that they were the Jacksons. Rather than getting crushed by life, they rose above it. It didn’t hurt that they had Motown on their side. It didn’t hurt that they were all siblings. This was the era of all 6 of these kids playing guitar and the cutest and youngest one is an incredible world-historic-level good dancer and one of the great vocalists of all time. That is pretty unusual! John can say that from having one child who is still coming into her own as a dancer. He actively encourages her to dance because she likes to dance, but her dances are very modern and very hard for John to fully understand, although he has seen a lot of modern dancing. As a young person, he would go to all the experimental alternative dance recitals where the girls were 19 because those shows were very rewarding.

Encouraging kids to be creative

John can see the movement his daughter is creating with emotion and physicality behind it, but he is not sure what she is saying. Maybe he could utilize his great relationship with Barzuk records? She could start with some Rock covers of some Long Winters songs! Instead she still sings ”Can’t hold it back anymore!”, the Frozen theme song incorrectly. She has never seen the movie and even though she probably has heard the song at some other kid’s house, she still wants to sing her original version. Kids can’t hear themselves when they are singing. John doesn’t want to out her any further because when he is 80 years old and wants to know more about her father, she will listen to these podcasts. Instead of having all his receipts, his legacy will be 8000 hours of audio.

She is still developing pitch, but most of the other girls also don’t have good pitch. One of the songs she wants him to sing all the time is McNamara’s Band, which his dad used to sing to him on road trips. She listens with fascination and when he points at her at the ”boom boom”, she still hasn’t gotten it. She doesn’t know where the booms go. Merlin’s daughter doesn’t really want to sing those classic campfire songs. Kids these days have Hamilton and they have the industrial strength of manufactured and genetically modified things, so there is no contest against Mrs Mary Mack. They are instead going to sing ”Let it go!” and the entire Hamilton. Kids don’t own media, like records, anymore, but recently Merlin's daughter asked him if she could have one of those things that play music and some of those music things to play on it. She wants a turntable! Maybe she wants two and a microphone? No! Even worse than a bass player would be if she would become a DJ. There is a great version of Blue Monday recorded with all 1930s instruments (by Orkestra Obsolete)!

Merlin never wanted to be that guy who would be forcing his child to draw or to build furniture, but he just wants her to find something to get uncommonly excited about! He used to think he would do it by showing his enthusiasm about something, but he is learning that she just needs to pick it up. His enthusiasm will become less and less cool as she ages. Siracusa’s daughter writes songs and does all kinds of different things and he is trying to be hands off about it. Right now she is taking every book about Greek Mythology out of the library.

John was at the Hogdman’s summer home a few years ago and their daughter at the time was right at the age where she was transitioning into pre-teen. She could not have been less interested in what adults were doing or talking about. People were trying to interact with her, but she was very condescending about adults. At some point she was coming through the room with a book under her arm. She asked a question that had to do with Roman numerals and John explained to her what Roman numerals were. It was like he had cast a spell of mesmerization on her. As her mom came in and told her to get cleaned up for dinner, her reply was that this was important. They sat and talked about Roman numerals for 30 minutes and that was nothing you could have predicted. She was at that stage in her life when she had been seeing those things for years and no-one had ever thought to explain them because they are not in any curricula anymore. She goes to elite schools, but it just didn't come up.

Merlin doesn’t agree that we should teach it. We stopped using it because it doesn’t work for doing math. There are probably a million of those things out there where the kids are just walking along and never notice them. Her brother wasn’t interested and 6 months before she wasn’t interested either. It helped a lot that John was not one of the parents. Merlin’s daughter can be fascinated by anything as long as literally anyone else in the world is showing it to her. She went bungee jumping at the mall? Normally she doesn’t even want to go to the mall! Especially her aunt and uncle show here R-rated movies. John’s daughter has probably not turned on him yet, but she might be at the cusp.

The directions your kids will take

Merlin just hopes his daughter becomes an interesting person in a socially acceptable way and that she finds something to be really excited about. John doesn’t know what kind of adult person his daughter is going to be. There are so many different kinds of adults and any attempt to try to guide her in the direction of a certain kind of adult will create the opposite effect, so he will not think about what kind of adult she is going to be, but he will just watch her be. She is fascinated by tattoos, obviously. She would say that this girl has good style and John will agree with her and say that he really likes her fashion, but his daughter is talking about her sleeves. John doesn’t want her to meet bass players, skaters or bikers! She loves to sit and watch skateboarders, too! She is at the stage where she is talking about people just loud enough for them to overhear her and just because she will start to whisper after he tells her, it doesn’t mean that the other person doesn’t know she is talking about them, which is still rude.

Merlin wishes there would be some existential DMV and you could choose how your kids get screwed up. You should get three options that you could weight. For example, if she would be an unsuccessful theater nerd, he would take it. Quiet goth for a few year would be fine. That is why John thought about putting her in Aikido-classes, but it is never going to happen, because she will just be ”Nope!” When she will be in elementary school, Aikido will be very cool, but as soon as she reaches High School it will all of a sudden be pretty uncool, because everybody else will start to have sex and smoke cigarettes, but she can’t because she has to go to Aikido classes. Kids these days have so many activities that Aikido will just blend in. She might be into Kung Fu, though, like Cato from the Pink Panther movies, because sometimes she wants John to take a Kung Fu position and they will play for a while.

Whenever John was interested in a pretty girl in High School and it turned out that she was a brown belt in Kung Fu, he would be a little intimidated and a little put off, because in 1984 that was a little bit outside the norm. If she had said that she is a cross country skier, it would have been something different. John dated a girl in college who at the time held the world record for solo balloon ascent. He still has the photograph or her being launched and a photocopy of the award! They basically tied a lawn chair to a weather balloon and let her go and she went up to maybe 40.000 feet or something. Can’t hold it back anymore! She was a very attractive lady and she was in control of the craft! As they started dating and exchanged personal information, it came out that she had the world record in high altitude balloon ascent, and it was a little bit like having a brown belt in Kung Fu. They continue to banter a bit about children doing martial arts.

Children eating (RD2016)

If John’s daughter has one natural talent, it is voraciousness, the super-power to eat everything and to still be hungry all the time. The first thing she says in the morning is that she is hungry and the last thing he says in the evening is that she is hungry. John puts her into bed, reads her a story, turns out the light, pulls the covers up, goes to sit in the living room and 5 minutes later she will come out and say that they didn’t have dinner. Remember that food they had at 5:30pm? That qualifies as dinner. Then she will tell her mother that daddy didn’t feed her anything! Merlin’s daughter had dinner and three deserts and she looks like a Dickens character asking ”What else can I eat?” She can have practically anything, but no more chocolate, because she is not allowed to get diabetes while lives here.

Marlo often wants a bowl of whole cream and she just wants to sit and lap it. Go to bed, child! Siracusa’s daughter doesn’t even ask for food anymore, but she just takes it and she doesn’t clean up after herself, so they will find empty yoghurt containers, wrappers from Granola bars, crumbs from pretzels and cookies, or concoctions she has made and left the residues on the counter. She is constantly eating and all they do is monitoring the waste to make sure it is not 17 chocolate bars. John caught his daughter in her mother’s kitchen the other day on her tip toes licking the top of the salt shaker, like a deer! Merlin is fortunate that he doesn't have one of those truly horrible children who will only eat one obscure thing. She will eat different things and currently she is into pesto sauce. It is green, it is salty, and it has nuts.

Cars (RD2016)

When it comes to cars, there is probably not a lot of common ground between John and Siracusa, because there is a little bit of an age gap and Siracusa likes high-technology supercars while John likes chunky old cars with carburetors that need to be adjusted. John had a giant poster of all of the Porsches from the very first to the 1983 911 Turbo, the at the time most recent model. Every single iteration of the 256 into the 911s was a big grid. He also had a poster of a Mercedes Gullwing. Siracusa had a poster of a red Porsche 944, which is not a good Porsche, but he had it on the wall because he got it in the mail for free as some kind of direct marketing thing. It had his last name printed on the license plate in a photorealistic manner.

They both agree on those kind of cars, but when it comes to GMC RVs and things with big carburetors, John starts to lose Siracusa. The thing about a Rodchester carburetor is that it goes ”Waaaaaaah” in a way very few other things do. Siracusa asks if John likes the sound of a flat-plane crank V8 in a Ferrari? How do you maintain it? You need a guy named Guido? Just to change the oil will cost you $11.000, which is part of the experience. John had airplanes! His dad’s 182 was a 1956, but it still cost more than a Ferrari to maintain. His dad knew a guy in El Toro, California who could fix it and put it all together. There was zero technology in this plane until he bought some navigational bleep and bloop. 98% of the navigating was dead reckoning, where John would hold his thumb out over some mountain or radio tower and guess for 42 degrees.

John was looking at a picture of a 1973 Camaro Z28, the model before the bumps went all the way across the front grill. It was utterly impractical, but it is one of the most beautiful cars ever made, although he is typically a 1966/67 guy, the pinnacle of American car style. For Siracusa, this is a matchbox car that his older siblings would have. The 6-7 year age gap plays an important role here and Siracusa’s car taste follows him along in time. His car is whatever the V8 mid-engine Ferrari is. There is a Ferrari dealership just down the street from John's mom’s house and he walks by there all the time and wonders what the fuck is that? The brand new Ferrari is basically the Pitbull (rapper) of cars, it is the Drake of automobiles. John stays current with his musical taste, but he doesn’t do that with his car taste. Some of it has to do with the age you first saw the Terminator. Siracusa was 10 and still a kid, but John was 14 and owning a car was right on his horizon. At that point they had transitioned to the BMWs or Peugeots, but it was a mistake in time that anybody thought that a Peugeot 604 was a hot car. They were instead looking for the German cars, the big Mercedes and stuff.

The cold grip on all of their souls that was The Day After and the idea that the electromagnetic pulse would destroy all electronic ignitions. Whatever vehicle John was going to have had to survive an apocalypse! They had a very piecemeal understanding of how an EMP would work, but that was the era of the first chipped cars and when computers were going into cars. John thought than when the big one goes off, you do not want some fancy-pancy car! Then Corvette came out with a digital speedometer. John had a digital watch, the fucking sun touched it for two minutes and it was burned out forever. What happens if you roll down your window and the sun touches your digital speedometer? Your car becomes worthless! Merlin really wants to be there when John talks to the salesman about this. John’s friend’s dad had a Buick with a CRT touch screen in the dashboard even before the Corvette digital speedometer bar chart thing. It was part of the infotainment system and it had monochrome green buttons on it. It was a ridiculous frill and it was years and years before John saw another screen in a car again. That sort of thing cauterized him.

Playing racing games with the controls of your car (RD2016)

In 1991, John lived across the hall from a kid who worked at one of those car stereo installation places. He had an first generation RX7 and he had put a television, capacitors and other tators into all of the analog controls of the car, like the steering wheel, the clutch pedal and the gas pedal. He could play Grand Prix racing games using the controls of his actual car, not while he was driving, but he would park the car, turn of the video game system and he would play driving games using the controls of his car.

Video games (RD2016)

Siracusa and John have this big gap when it comes to video games. At first, video games cost a entire quarter and Siracusa would go there with $5 and get 20 quarters. Then there was Afterburner, the first game that cost 50 cents! There was a game called Dragon’s Lair that was like watching a cartoon. There was also Space Ace, a series of games by Don Bluth that played off a Laser Disc and you had to hit the light at exactly the right point to skip to another part of the disc. This game was $1 at Siracusa’s arcade and he felt like that was it.

When it comes to home consoles, John had an IntelliVision and he felt somewhat burned by that. The problem with it was that John was already not very socially adept in the video game world. He was pretty good with other kids if by good you mean that he was attractive to kids who found another kid carrying a copy of the Wall Street Journal under his arm attractive. He had a honey pot, but it was full of Salsa, and so he carried it around, like ”Hello, other kids!” and it was special salsa. None of the few other kids that he ever did get to come over to his house to play his video game, had ever seen an IntelliVision or the little disc and the typey keyboard before. It was the video game for a kid who carries the Wall Street Journal under his arm and other kids didn’t want to play it with him. They wanted to play Atari, because every kid knew Atari.

John desperately wanted an Atari 2600, but his dad had read an article about this brand new IntelliVision that would revolutionize gaming. He also got them a Beta Max. If John got really got at a game and would invite the other kids over, they would lose and they would quit. His sister didn’t want to play it with him, so John sat there on his own playing against the computer. His dad also bought him a short wave radio, but no microphone, so he could only sit in his room listening to people talk over the poles, listening to Russians, listening to number stations, but he had no way to communicate back! This should be a concept album and the cover should be him with a short wave radio with a clearly marked microphone jack, but no microphone. In the same neighborhood, there were 6 kids sitting around playing Tank Battle on the Atari 2600, loving each other and making out. They were doing sports and all that.

Sex education (RD2016)

Merlin recommends John to try out My Little Pony. They got some good pop songs and the program is about friendship that is essentially magic. John has deep expertise in Bronies, so he would be all good to go. John's daughter has several of her little ponies and she knows their names, like Sparkle Puss and Banana Pants. She plays with them, but John doesn’t think she has ever seen an animated pony show. She has never been to Tijuana. Siracusa’s wife has saved her vintage My Little Ponies and those fat lumping things look morbidly obese. If Siracusa could have saved his Kenner Star Wars toys, he would have, but although his mother didn’t dance on them in his closet, she might as well have.

John would go stay with his dad in the summers in the mid-1970s and one summer there were those bare-ass naked troll dolls. He was just at the age where he was conscious of sexuality, but he wasn’t sure it they were meant to be sexy. He didn’t know what they were about. You could put them on the end of a pencil and spin them and the hair would get crazy. John would hide them, because they seemed a little bit obscene.

Siracusa’s mother was a little bit of a hippie, she even made her own yoghurt and she would give her daughter a truck and her son a doll in order not to do the gender role thing. The doll Siracusa got was anatomically correct. They also had a black doll. These things were pretty terrifying. Siracusa was not interested in dolls so he didn’t play with it, but he still remembers this plastic appendix. The thing you did was to not give kids dolls that weren’t like actual humans. John cannot abide that. His parents weren’t hippies, but there was a little bit of sex-positivism or a growing awareness in them that unlike their own childhoods and adult lives, there needed to be some mention of sex, some birds and bees talk and it was always a disaster. Merlin always dreaded it. Once he found a book with a naked boy figure and girl figure on the front, like ”Your changing world” and he knew the talk was coming.

Siracusa had the opposite experience, because his parents were hippies and they were rare and ready to give the talk. That is the whole thing: Anatomically correct dolls, we are all going to be honest, the whole nine yards! John got the talk way before he should have gotten the talk. His mother asked him where the babies came from and his honest answer was that it starts to grow inside a woman until she has a baby. There was no cause, but you just got to a certain age. Siracusa had been given the talk at a time when he had never given this a second thought. He had never heard of anything at the school yard and he didn’t have any ideas, so he came out of the room with his eyes wide and ”What the hell was that?” He was too young and not ready for it and it was the only talk he every had and the only talk he ever needed. He is glad he didn’t have the Merlin-experience where you kind of already know and then you find the book.

There are still things Merlin doesn’t fully understand and so he feels extremely unsuited to give the talk to his daughter. He doesn’t want to explain how to wipe and how to buy a pad, he knows it is going to be complicated. It is bad enough when they watch a sitcom that is mostly fine, like Parks & Rec, but there will be the ones where Chris has to get Anne pregnant and Tom has condoms for everybody. His daughter has been very gentle on them, she is not copping to what she already knows. John spent his whole childhood doing that, like ”Gee, mom & dad, I don’t know anything. Oh, boobies, oh oh”, like Jesus Christ, do I have to play this fucking game?

Like so many things, this topic has been explained to Siracusa’s children multiple times to their general disinterest. Siracusa is a non-Santa person and when his kids asked him about Santa, he always told them the truth, but they never believed him. They would come back 6 months later and he would tell them the truth again. The same was true for sex education: They would tell them the truth, they would go away not noting anything or not retaining anything and then they would ask again and they would have to explain it to them again. Now Siracusa's son is in middle school and has health class, so maybe he will listen to somebody else explaining it to him, because he sure as hell won’t listen to his dad. It took him very long to explain to his kids that the Tooth Fairy and Santa are not real, but they just kept asking. He also uses real words for bodily functions and no toy words!

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