RL1 - Keep Moving and Get out of the Way

This week, Merlin and John talk about

The problems:

  • Punctuality,
  • Freud,
  • reasons,
  • John’s brutal introversion,
  • R.E.M.’s sense of humours,
  • listening with toolboxes,
  • the explicit honesty of volcano science,
  • and ultimately rethinking humanity’s Latifahesque,
  • fleece-and-beards struggle with the two a priori laws.

The show title refers to the two rules of the grocery store.

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

Punctuality (RL1)

Merlin was late, but since John usually is late to everything, this is just his desert. Maybe John is not really late, but he just doesn’t get to his destinations on time because he doesn’t leave the house with enough time to get where he is going. John doesn’t think this is the same as being late, but instead the question is more about how you perceive space and time. It is more of a science problem. In order for John to be late, he would need to have some interest in other people, but how would that be like? If you were late, you would be conscious of the fact that there were other people with things they needed to do and Merlin doesn’t think that they suffer from that. Constantly thinking how their actions affects other people is something that holds a lot of people back. Who cares?

Other people are the problem! Life would be a breeze if it weren’t for all these other people. If John has somewhere to go, he leaves the house in plenty of time to get there if there weren’t other people clogging the roads and necessitating stop lights. John has a sense for how long it takes from his house to the University of Washington which is 9 minutes, but if there are other people on the roads, it takes between 15-20 minutes, which is infuriating! John usually leaves with 9 minutes to spare, sometimes 10, but it is never enough time. Merlin did always have this problem. Nowadays he is very sensitive about it, but he is not great about it yet.

Merlin mentions that relationships go weird if two people do the same things badly. It resonated with John, because up until this moment it didn’t occur to him that he did anything bad in any of his relationships, which is a core competency for him. He always thought that she did everything bad, but now he is starting to consider the possibility. Coke is not making sailboats, but they let other people make the sailboats. Being terrible at different things would be a good idea, but Merlin always believed that it is helpful if you are both able to put up with mostly the same stuff. But if you are both messy, there is never any counteracting force preventing the house from getting messy. It becomes synergistically messy! If one person is messy and one person is clean, then you are at war in a different way. On a molecular level you would expect that there would be some cancelling-out going on and if you would pair a messy person with a clean person, you would have an average clean house on the face of it. But relationships and human beings consistently fail being scientific!

Psychology (RL1)

Psychology has presented itself as a science for 50 years and there is really no demonstrable proof that any of it is working. It is just a lot of jabber jaws. Where is the line between a psychologist and a minister? The psychologist is using the same techniques of talking and listening, but rather than listening with compassion, they are undergirding it with some sense of scientific toolbox. For many years, the hole premise of the mental health industry was based on reading Freud and people spent decades saying that women's insecurity originated from penis envy until one day they decided that that was not true, but it was silly. Still, we didn’t throw the Freud out with the bath water, and now there are shelves of books talking about your insecurity and the root causes of it.

Being an introvert (RL1)


Science (RL1)

Everybody wants to explain everything, but the thing Merlin is troubled about is the certainty. A good scientist should always say that they could be wrong! John is guilty of using psychology to explain himself and other people with a fair degree of certainty. In the back of his mind he knows that he is just guessing, but he doesn’t always lets the other person know that what he is saying is just a theory. Instead he says it as if he really believes that it is true! When John is sitting across from somebody telling them ”You know what your fucking problem is?”, it is always hard for them to see that John is just playing a character who claims to know what their fucking problem is. The problem with the rest of the world is that the rest of the world is not carefully listening to John! There are a lot of people who put their dumb theories down and advance them in their dumb books, but in order to sell a book, you won’t say on the last page that everything you just wrote was maybe just a dumb theory you made up. There is not that much money in saying that you could be wrong.

Gullible people read those books and they think ”Oh, now I know”, but they don’t know anything! It is a toolbox, but a toolbox is only as good as the carpenter. More people should be like John Roderick and just say that a thing is a thing. What troubles Merlin with science is that a lot of scientists are working on boner drugs. God bless them, but if you are doing straight science, you are doing some kind of existential improv where you are trying stuff and see what happens. Part of being a good scientist is being able to say that although you said all those things, it doesn’t mean all those other things. Often the context gets left out. So much of the research is goofy a lot of the time. It has been strained and drained through all those different sources and a lot of the times the people who conducted the primary research are like ”How in the hell did this ever become: Don’t use aluminum pans anymore!” Real scientists are people who are make volcanos combining baking powder and vinegar. As you stray from that core science, it just gets into fruity pebbles in every direction. Adulthood is a process of becoming comfortable with ambiguity, which John aspires to, because he knows that the life he perceives is really a television show that he has been living in since he was a little kid and he doesn’t want to get caught masturbating.

Merlin and John are both scientists of a kind, not in the sense of science, but in the sense of social intercourse. They are skyentists! They understand how things should be and how people should behave and they understand the Leibnitzian best possible world that should exist. Sometimes they are the people who put things most strongly! John got his copy of The Contrarian’s Creed, a book that doesn’t mind if you agree with it or not, but you just got to go explore the holes you find in it. Merlin or John might say the most ridiculous, most bombastic thing in the world just to say that thing, but they are okay arguing about it and in the end admit that it might be this other thing. It bugs Merlin when you are supposed to be on-brand because you wrote that useless book or that useless study and you are going to be harmed if anything of it is showing to be incomplete or inconsistent. Now you are that guy who has to defend it until he is dead.

Liberalism (RL1)

Liberalism and the whole liberal half of this country are very on-brand. The brand has changed over the years because liberals feel that they have to embrace and canonicalize every new addition to it. After a while, the brand became so ungainly and so rife with internal contradictions that liberalism has become, if not meaningless, but a multi-headed hydra that can’t possibly subsist. You contrast it against conservatism which is just as balkanized. John cares about liberalism and is trying to find some kind of liberalism that is livable.

(Merlin): So many tenants of liberalism are off the table for talking about anymore, because they have become part of the brand. It has gotten religious where all that holds the family together is their common belief in the wizard. If we take out all the inessential parts of it and figure out what is debatable, we will discover that everything that is left of liberalism today is a reaction to conservatives. Liberals are basically slightly advanced children or proto-teenagers: They know everything they don’t like, they don’t know that much about what they like and they know mostly about when they don’t want to sit at the lunch table with somebody who doesn’t know what the cool liberal thing to do is, which makes liberals more conservative than conservatives. You don't need to look any further than San Francisco to know that conservative can mean a lot more than your feelings of the gold standard. What it can really mean is how canonical and reactionary you can become. It becomes more about defending your house of hay from the big bad wolf. It is less about building the thing you want to make and more about reacting to what the rest of the world does.

As John listens to Merlin say that, he starts to agree with him that they shouldn’t talk about politics. Merlin is glad he doesn’t have to do the books for John on this. He guesses that most people have not consulted him on whether they are even qualified to discuss many issues: For example John feels very strongly about driving and Merlin got the feeling from John that this has to do with his Alaskan background. At one time he offered to put a broomstick up Merlin’s ass because Merlin wanted to drive. Merlin grew up in Florida where the highest elevation is 3 phone books stacked on top of one another. He doesn’t know how to drive, but he just points the car in the right direction, gives himself a manicure and they have arrived.

There are some terrible drivers in Alaska, too. It is very easy to be a driver, but it is very hard to be a good driver. You have to understand a lot of things and bring a lot of things to bear, you need to have peripheral vision, you have to look 20 seconds ahead and there are all the things that get in the way of people, like jamming out to Bananarama or whatever it is that people do in their cars. Merlin teases out the implication that almost nobody but John is able to do it well, but John counters that he sees good drivers sometimes! They will look at each other and acknowledge each other. In Merlin’s neighborhood it is very clear who is not a good driver. You just have to go to the grocery store. If you can’t navigate your way through a grocery store without inconveniencing other people and without making yourself an obstacle, then you are a bad person.

Keep moving and Get out of the way! (RL1)

Merlin taught his daughter the two rules of the grocery store: 1) Keep moving and 2) Get out of the way! If you can’t do one, do the other! There should be a T-shirt with that. Even as a fairly alpha-person, John is always thinking to himself ”Do I need to go out of somebody’s way?” He is always looking into the rear-view mirror and even if the question is not always Yes on a variety of levels, the question is always there! He doesn’t get out of the way of some people, because they need to feel him in their way. They don’t always understand it, but it is ultimately good for them that John is in their way.

For instance, the other night John went to a movie at an art house theater called ”The Seven Gables” where the average age of the people is 55 years old and everybody is wearing some kind of Patagonia garment or some kind of thing from REI. It is a very university audience of people and they are there to watch a smaller film. There was more audience noise during this film about the holocaust than what is typical at a Queen Latifah film. Every person in the audience felt like they needed to make some kind of audible response to every plot twist and to every shocking moment. John felt like standing up in front of the screen and saying ”You people shut the fuck up!” This is not an audience participation film and the fact that you are grocking the plot twist doesn’t need to be punctuated with a grown from you! It was a movie about the Israeli, like ”Munich”, but not as good. It was about the Mossad agents who kidnaps the Mengele type doctor.

The thing about Stephen Hawking or whoever will come up with this grand unification theory that will unite macro physics with micro biology: It can not be exclusive of Keep moving! and Get out of the way!, because those are core truths that should be present in orbiting bodies large and small as well. It is one of these Descardes arguments like "God must exist because he is cool" Originally it came from St. Thomas Aquinus and Descardes improved upon it. This is what the liberals need: They lack our cock-sure sense of certainty, they are sure sometimes, but they rarely put the cock in it. If you are going to have a supernal approach to things where you do hope that things turn out okay and you don’t question anything, you could do a lot worse than to make your BS political Weltanschauung about Keep moving! and Get out of the way!

In fact this is the message that most of those people in fleece need to hear. The problem with the fleece people is that they have taken it as their responsibility to speak on behalf of all the people who they believe cannot either Keep moving or Get out of the way because of some disadvantage or because they simply need an advocate. The fleece people are the self-appointed advocates of all the great many people who either cannot Keep moving or Get out of the way. The problem is that there is no one who cannot either Keep moving or Get out of the way. It is not hurting anybody except you! The thing is that if you get out of the way of someone superior, it instantly becomes a Marxist problem. There is nothing to overthink here!

Egoism and rules (RL1)

Nobody knows how to act around people anymore and nobody knows anymore how to stand in line. The movie theater is the worst of humanity jammed into a room with sticky floors, but the grocery store might be worse. If there was a grocery store that had a movie theater, that would be the absolute worst of humanity, because you wouldn’t be able to get to your seat and people would be yelling at you. That might be a hell of a business model: A beer pub pizza parlor movie theater except you are getting shopping done, too! Merlin took his daughter to one movie, and it was excruciating! It is unbearable to go to the movie, setting aside the $80 that it cost for the two of them to see Winnie the Pooh. Everything about it was awful: The commercials before, the trailers! Everybody is yelling stuff and talking and playing with their phones.

When John was a kid, the school curriculum was still based on the premise that they were trying to beat the Russians to the moon, even though they had already beaten the Russians to the moon. Then somewhere in the 1970s the Allen-Alda-ification of America happened and suddenly everybody was an artist. Nobody had a slide rule anymore, nobody was trying to get them to the moon, but everybody was free to be, their little hearts needed to be set free, they needed to talk about their feelings and everybody needed to share. Now they live in a nation of 350 million of the most important people who have ever lived. Nobody can wait in line, nobody can admit for a second that maybe in the grand scene of things they are a peon and they need to shut the fuck up and get in line and do their jobs and get out of the way of better drivers who are on their way to some place and only have 9 minutes to get there.

It is a problem on at least two levels: On the second level, people are in John’s way, making him take way more than 9 minutes, he is not having the chance to take a walk or a nap, but the first, much more broad problem is that people are literally not being forced to literally listen to him. People are getting a mixed message: There are other people besides John who are giving them advice, and what John has to share with them is getting lost and missed in all the voices talking about feelings! The caveat is that John doesn’t really care if they are listening, but he just wants them to be quiet while he is talking. If they can’t understand what he is saying, they should just watch a dust mite floating through the air or something. We need to return to a 1915 model of rulers on the knuckles! We got a whole room full of kids who need a lot of learning and please don’t distract from that! If you can’t sit in your seat and listen what John has to share with you, then maybe you should be moving down to the room with the helmet kids, because this is for people who are serious about life! There is a phrase for this: Good Citizenship.

There is a misconception about Good Etiquette or Good Manners: You pick up any book about those things and it will tell you this: It is not about where the fork is, but good manners and etiquette are about making other people feel at ease. The whole reason that we have those things is that you don’t have to feel uncomfortable about not knowing which fork is for the shrimp. It is not about brow-beating people about which fork they have used incorrectly, but we still get hung up about the rules part without understanding why the rule exists. What is nice about the rules is: Everybody agrees on what they are and everybody gets on with their lives. Unfortunately now we got so fixated about the fact that the rules were based on a bad system and were imposed by European colonialists or by rich people, which in principle was bad.

The rules favored those people, but the fact that even the rules that were good and neutral came from these oppressive people was enough to not only question them, but to assume that rules all-together are a bad idea because it is a phallocentric conceit about the colonialist government, except that everybody has got rules (except for anarchists and people on 4-Chan) and nobody thinks that rules are bad. People just want to make their own set of rules and they want to cobble together some rules from the things their parents told them that they didn’t resent, some of the crackpot ideas they read in some magazines, some things that came to them in a dream and one or two arbitrary things just to keep people jumping. Then people walk out the door yelling ”These are my rules and everybody get out of the way!” It might sound like that is what John is doing, but he is not doing this at all! John’s rules are ancient and can’t compete with somebody who read ”The Secret” because Oprah told them to and now they have got a bunch of rules based on ”The Secret”. It starts to really degrade the idea of what a rule is!

All this is in Mark Twain or Hemingway. It is threaded through all cultures! It is difficult to not be able to get erections! You should flush! That is the old man in the sea! Have sympathy for men, because it is sometimes hard to get an erection, that is one of the Top 10 rules. Men get a bad reputation, but it is hard to be a man. It is an Allen Alda thing. Fleece came directly from Allen Alda, there was no fleece before Allen Alda! John doesn’t want to use a rhetorical fallacy, but Merlin tells him to not use the word fallacy, because it has a dick right in the middle of it. Is that one of John Worster's word hates? If you follow the tweets John exchanges with him, It sounds that they were pals.

Being pal with John Worster is more difficult than it looks! He is an extremely funny and extremely intelligent person who has carved out a life for himself in Rock ’n’ Roll, which is a world of morons and so he has done what a large number of smart people in Rock ’n’ Roll have done: He is careful not to put streamers and balloons up just because you say something funny to him sometimes. John went on tour with him once (playing drums in the Jay Farrar, Ben Gibbard, Jack Kerouac based side project band) and they like each other and have known each other for a couple of years, but they are still in the friendly circling stage. John does not approach someone like John Worster with the expectation that he is going to appreciate that John is one of the greatest living men, but he doesn’t consider it a problem, because when John Worster is laying in bed at night, he also suspects that he may be one of the greatest living men and there is not too much room in town for the greatest living men. If you have too many of them, there will be a gunfight!

Benefits not paying the band but everyone else (RL1)

John wrote an article for the Weekly making the point that at a benefit, everybody should work for free, not just the band. The production people and the promoters get paid and only the band should give their money away? John ran this article multiple times before in Merlin’s kitchen when it still had a lot more F-words in it, but he had to water it down before publishing it in the Weekly.

Everybody is having a difficult day (RL1)

In the movie ”Rules of the Game”, there is a great quote: ”The awful thing about life is this: Everybody has their reasons!” Everybody is having a difficult day. If you are having a difficult day, you can pretty much rest assured that everyone else is also struggling to get through today and get home and do whatever they do. This is a short-hand that keeps John in an empathetic posture, even as surrounded by morons and tools that he is. To know that the others are also struggling and to know that the fact of being morons only makes it harder for them increases John’s sympathetic feeling and he doesn’t resort to murder or even just steaming! John spends so much time in life steaming! Right now he is feuding with half a dozen people and at least 4 of those 6 people don’t know that they are in a feud. John is just sitting here steaming and they blithely go about their lives. He is pissed at them generally because they owe him a phone call and now it is too late. That steaming is no good. He should go to an AA meeting and talk about this.

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