RL118 - The articulated Hose King

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: John rejects the Vindication Lottery, referring to his theory that there are two kinds of motivation for success: Wanting to be loved and wanting to be proved right or be vindicated.

The show title refers to a restaurant John went to one time where everybody was the biggest frog in their pond, like the largest seller of unpainted furniture or the Articulated Hose King of Tahoma County.

It is going pretty good.

Recently someone tweeted them to de-ess their show and Merlin just gave them a lifetime of PTSD.

John has been reading the Watchmen to his daughter and he feels like Rorschach is her spirit animal.

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

John’s cross-country travel (RL118)

Merlin missed John, but now John is almost back! John is leaving again in a couple of days to do some more cross-country airplane flights, which is his number one job. Although he is here, he feels a little bit like a dead man walking who has to get on an airplane and do some more dumb shit. If he didn’t have a child he would have just stayed at the East Coast for the last week, gone to cafés and eaten a lot of roast beef sandwiches. He would have had the time to do all those things that he doesn’t have time for now, like start and maintain some social media accounts, reading and/or writing a book. He could go to Rockefeller Center and spin around and throw his hat in the air. Wherever you go, when you throw your hat in the air, you are in Minneapolis.

John dating his guidance counselor (RL118)

Many years ago John dated a gal who had a picture of herself skating with one leg lifted in the air and her hands up in the air in front of Rockefeller Center on her desk facing out. It was not one she was looking at, but one she wanted you to see. Her Dorothy Hamill haircut helped the presentation of the whole photograph. She happened to be John's guidance counselor when he was in college and she was 39 years old. She was a diminutive woman, but she did not have a chromosomal smallness. She was probably 4’11” (150cm), which is about half of John’s height because at the time he was teasing his hair up pretty big and Logger Boots were all the rage.

People who want you to ask them about their thing (RL118)

In San Francisco, people are going through all the expense and trouble of caring for, feeding and cleaning up the poop of two giant dogs for the express purpose of inspiring people to ask them a question about their dogs. It is like having a Unix joke on your T-shirt with the hope that another Unix person will give you a little head nod. Merlin and his kid like dogs and when they walk around together she knows how to approach a dog if the owner says it is okay. Merlin will sometimes remark that they have a Great Dane and a Shih Tzu and they will roll their eyes which is hilarious, but they shouldn’t be surprised.

Sometimes John worries that his entire house and really his entire existence is just trolling for that kind of question. Why would you put framed Romanian train tickets on your mantel piece unless you want somebody to ask ”What are these?” The problem is that John doesn’t rolls his eyes, but he leaps up from the couch, vaults across the room and pulls out the telescoping pointer he always has in his waist coat.

John has given Merlin very enthusiastic tours of Seattle and he is really good at explaining what this body of water means. If John had a small and a giant dog, he would be aware that he was doing that to attract attention. It is not like he has a horrible facial disfiguration from a train accident that he had to explain. Every person Merlin has ever met who wears a Utilikilt is also super-into talking about his Utilikilt.

The day before yesterday John went down to the Nisqually River delta at sundown and as he was walking along the trail he noticed some actual real-life beavers off in the water next to the trail. He stopped to look at them and he got a tail slap for the privilege of watching them. Then a guy in an Utilikilt came along the trail with a large camera bag and a fairly flourishing mustache. He stopped and they chatted and he said that they close this park and lock the gate at sundown and lock you in. You would have to call them and maybe they will come or maybe they won’t.

They had to get out of here because the gate was closing, they looked at the beavers and the guy was emanating a vibe that was the equivalent of having a foam trucker hat on that said ”Ask me about my Utilikilt” John was communicating that he was a sophisticated guy from Seattle, Washington and he already knew everything that is to know about an Utilikilt. John was accepting of it in the same was as if the guy had a facial disfiguration from a train accident. John is trying to imagine what train accident would produce just a facial injury.

John’s dream about crashing a plane into a lake (RL118)

John had a dream last night that he and some friends were on a small 2-propeller Beechcraft Bonanza-style airplane. Right on final approach it suddenly spun into a dive an crashed in a lake. John was suddenly alone on the plane and he was struggling to get out of the plane under water. He has been flying a lot and he didn’t even make that connection. Eventually he did make it out and is here to podcast with Merlin. ”It’s you, but it is not you and it’s a podcast, but not a podcast” (Paul Is Dead, 28 F) Merlin was reading the Playboy-interview with John Lennon and his wife from 1980 around the time Double Fantasy came out. He does not want to talk about his dogs, his kilt or The Beatles.

Jason Schwartzman (RL118)

John finds Jason Schwartzman to be a really nice and really swell guy. His lady is also swell and they are very sweet people. The same is true for Paul Rudd. John gets a soft voice when he talks about them and he just wants to marry him! Jason Schwartzman is generous with insider-funny banter and back-and-forth in the same way that Paul Rudd is generous with the sweet appreciative smile, which takes a lot of character. He is the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola. John doesn’t want to overstate how well he knows those people, but he and Jason have met a couple of times.

Meeting famous people in restaurants (RL118)

Merlin met Pete Rose twice and both times he made an extremely strong impression. He is the one with the daughter who ain’t got no arm, was the remark. When Merlin was a kid, their upstairs neighbors were some of their best friends. They had a kid exactly Merlin’s age but his younger daughter might have been a Thalidomide situation and was a perfectly adorable kid with a really problematic arm.

At one point when he was 9 years old Merlin was at Pete Rose’s restaurant in Cincinnati and Mr Rose was dining there. He is famously, but not a super-intellectual. Merlin’s mom warned him to wait until Mr Rose was done eating, but after that Merlin ran over and asked him to sign something which he did with his awesome autograph. Merlin asked "By the way, do you know Didelididelidi? He is a Scout for the Reds", and he said ”Oh yeah, he is the one with the daughter that ain't got no arm.” Even as a kid Merlin turned slowly and walk away with giant saucer eyes.

One time John was in a steakhouse and Michael Jordan was there. You could feel the energy in the room, even the steaks were excited, but it was a place where everybody else was used to being in the big cheese. These were barrel-chested guys with jewelry, they were all the biggest frog in their pond, they were the Nathan Arizona, the largest seller of unpainted furniture. It was a little bit like Sean Ono Lennon on the Lower Eastside: Michael Jordan was there, everybody was excited, but it is okay to be excited about Michael Jordan, no matter who you are.

Still, if you are the Articulated Hose King on Tahoma County, you are not going to run over and put your napkin down. Jordan was wearing a suit with one of those Nehru Collar Jackets with 14 buttons, he is a beautiful man and he is poetry in motion. John was just in there to have a steak. Sure, he is a fan of Michael Jordan in the general sense, but he doesn’t want anything from him.

John happened to leave the steak restaurant at the same time as Michael Jordan, they were in the elevator together for a minute and they didn't have any kind of exchange, but they walked out the door together. It was 11:30pm and there is an 8 year old unchaperoned kid standing there holding a basketball. John stopped and watched him graciously, although what are you going to do in that situation? Sign this kid’s basketball!

John couldn't stop looking around for where this kid came from. They were in the middle of the city, it was 11:30pm, where did you get a basketball and knew that Michael Jordan was in this place? Who was waiting around the corner? Michael Jordan and his entourage walked off down the street and John was standing there looking at this kid who was trailing along behind them, trying to be in Jordan’s orbit. John had places to be, he went the other direction and he never determined how this kid fell from the sky holding a basketball in Downtown Seattle in the middle of the night.

Merlin thinks that maybe somebody who works in the kitchen called their sister and said to haul butt over here and bring a basketball until 11:30pm because John Roderick was there, ready to sign stuff. His sister or sister in law was probably waiting in the car because she didn’t care.

John's theory of fame and performance (RL118)

The other day John was having a conversation with a good friend where he reduced his theory of fame and performance to a binary code, as he likes to do. There are two kinds of people in this world: Winners and losers. There are two kinds of trouble in this world: Living and Dying. For most of the performers John knows, their motivation can be described primarily to have people love them. To be loved is a pure experience in and of itself that doesn’t have a further motivation beyond just the feeling of that wall of adoration. People like you, they are projecting Like on you and you are experiencing that Like which is such a positive feeling that it becomes an addiction. You don’t want to get off the stage and you will go up on any stage because it gives you the opportunity to have exposure to that Like. Paul McCartney is in that category. He has an uncomplicated relationship with stardom, he likes it, he wants to be liked and he knows he is likable.

The other motivation is to be proved right or to be validated. John is absolutely someone who wants to be vindicated and John Lennon was also somebody who wanted to be vindicated and proved right. All the adulation was a secondary goal. Sure he liked feeling the love, but more importantly he wanted to be proved right and sadly that was also Hitler’s motivation. He wanted to be proved right more than he wanted to be loved. Difficult childhood, no strong father figure, loves to paint, it is all lining up.

Ringo probably just wanted to be loved and George Harrison wanted to be vindicated. If you look at every famous person and the way they carry themselves and the way they handle their fame, you can see pretty clearly that people shade one way or the other. Do they want to be loved first? Do they have something to prove? or do they want to be proved right? The sad thing is that both things seem bottomless: You can always be loved more and you can never be actually proved right.

To somebody who wanted vindication and who wanted to be proved right, it must have been the hardest thing for Lennon to watch that Dylan won the vindication lottery, but what did it do to that man? It turned him into a troll living under a bridge. John wishes there was a third way because he is tired of wanting to be vindicated.

The other day somebody asked John whom he wants to be proved right to, and John thought about what the genesis of it was, and it goes all back to school: The teachers, the guidance counselors, nobody got him and they punished him. A lot of these people are dead now and John is trying to be proved right to some proxy of them, some big picture The Teachers, The Schools, The Government and The People, The Conventional Wisdom.

It is an unreachable goal and if that is his standard of achievement he can not rest or have done a good job in life unless he has rewritten history and they model the schools on him. If that happens, John will be like ”No, I suppose, but there is so much more I could have done” It is not a winning strategy for short-term or long-term happiness to want to show them.

To Merlin a certain measure of success has to involve two things: Your life becomes less rather than more complex and you like the way you spend your day. This doesn’t mean you don’t do things you don’t like. If you like spending your day making music and performing it, then doing that is a certain kind of success that is much more inward-turning than how other people reacted to it. A lot of people out there get constantly hugely re-vindicated all the time, but they hate the way they spend their day.

The Beatles (RL118)

Sean Lennon

John watched an interview of Sean Lennon that was done by a Serbian television show. After the 20th question about his dad he kind of had a fit and had to walk around the block to collect himself. He was on tour with his band playing a show somewhere on the Balkans and this TV personality really wanted to interview him and really wanted to know about his dad. On one hand John had a ton of sympathy for him, but on the other hand Sean Lennon was born with a Great Dane in one hand and a Shih Tzu in the other (which is a little big Ping Pong if you are talking about Yoko).

He got a facial deformity which is that one of his arms is John Lennon and the other one is Yoko Ono. How do you handle a facial deformity that is on your arms? Geoff Emerick can at least go into a bar and just be a bloke, but Sean has spent his whole life insulating himself on the lower Eastside, surrounded by uber-hipster musicians who play toy instruments and do graffiti or whatever it is that young people do. This reporter guy did not come out and interview John when he was on tour on the Balkans.

John knows people who have played with Sean Lennon and they say it is like going to a nude beach. After the first 15 minutes you are no longer scandalized and after 30 minutes you are wondering why you are wearing clothes and why you came to the nude beach. Now you feel like an idiot and after 45 minutes you wonder why we even wear clothes ever. Hanging out with somebody like Sean Lennon, after 15 minutes you are wondering why you are wearing clothes. He has to hold up the mantel of talking about his father that everybody loves and misses and that would suck!

When Sean Lennon plays a show at Pianos on the Lower Eastside, there will be a certain number of people in the audience who are just there for Sean Lennon, but there are also going to be people who want to hear his particular brand of quirky weird Indie Pop. There will be legitimate fans of his band because New York has enough of a fanbase for almost anything.

If John was playing a show in Croatia and a guy would want to talk to him about Chris Walla, a part of him would say ”Oh, God! You are just here because this is the closest that Death Cab has come to Croatia recently?”, but he would also be grateful to be there. There are some Croatian fans of Sean Lennon's music, but probably about the same as there are Croatian fans of The Long Winters and everybody else there is part of a weird Eastern European John Lennon cult.

Unless Sean Lennon sets a hooker on fire, he is going to be famous for one thing for the rest of his life by an order of magnitude and the solution for him is to not leave the Lower Eastside. Millions of people never go 4 miles from where they were born. Just stay in a place where no-one ever asks you about your dad if it bothers you so much. Even if he pulls a Clapton and does a Delaney & Bonnie and friends type thing, it is still going to be remembered as the one with John Lennon’s son in it, like people know Phantom Planet because of the guy from Rushmore.

Merlin introducing The Beatles to his daughter

Merlin has been playing The Beatles for his daughter forever, hoping it would catch on. There are certain records that go into rotation for certain events. They graduated from Toy Story to always listening to that Best of Queen album when he picks her up from school to where she would sing Somebody to Love, which practically made Merlin cry. Then they got into Side 1 of the White Album and now she knows The Beatles a little bit. Her favorite movie at the time was Duck Soup and she thought it was hilarious.
One time Merlin was watching A Hard Day’s Night after bath time and he shouldn’t have had the TV on, but it was an attractive nuisance and his daughter came out and started watching it and thought it was a riot.

You could tell that she really loved it because whenever there was a line, whether she understood the line or not, she would turn to him with a giant grin and repeat it to him. Merlin also went back and rewatched the 1990s Anthology videos together with his daughter and he showed her their arrival in America at Shea Station in February 1964. She thought it was crazy that they had to put up a fence and everybody was running around. That kind of thing would be really fun to Merlin for about an hour and that would be all he needed of it. It made him re-appreciate a smart-ass and slightly depressed person like John.

A Hard Day's Night

The first time Merlin saw Hard Day’s Night might have been in college in his 20s where they had a bunch of laser discs at their media center. John saw it early on in the go-rent-a-VHS-tape-at-a-rental-place-era, which would have been in High School. Video rental stores didn’t blow up until much later, but there was one in Anchorage early on that had one copy of Eating Raw Wool, My Dinner with André and A Hard Day’s Night. One time John’s friend asked him to get a movie and everybody was excited to curl up on the couch together, drink a couple of Straws and watch some boobs and pillow fights, but John brought back Harold and Maude and half the people fell asleep and the other half stayed awake out of pure fury at John, but he thought this movie was amazing.

At one of these little parties, probably in 9th or 10th grade, they watched A Hard Day’s Night. John was already a Beatles fan, but he was fascinated by the excitement captured in this movie, the charm of those guys, and their experience that was completely unprecedented in human history except maybe by Napoleon or Hitler. People like Rudy Vallée and Frank Sinatra had it, but not on such an international level. Those guys would walk out the stage door of the Paramount theater on Broadway and 42nd and there would be a mob of 1000 girls.

A reason why Merlin and John talk so much about The Beatles and Hitler on this program might be that during John and Merlin’s affirmative years the two phenomena that have generated that amount of mass adulation, crowd scenes and people freaking out were The Beatles, and the Nürnberg torch light rallies. They are of a family and there is no third equivalent. Stalin and Mao had cults of personality, but they didn’t have rapturous followers. Seeing these women in dirndls leaning out with flowers looking like they were losing their mind, Hitler was a Rock star.

What is so amazing about A Hard Day’s Night is that every subsequent Rock band or concert movie about a young musician getting famous is taking place in a post-Hard Day’s Night World. Everybody who is getting massively famous knows that The Beatles have done this already and everywhere they are going, people tell them that they are as big as The Beatles, but everybody knows that is a lie.

To be compared to The Beatles is the highest compliment you can pay somebody and there is no equivalent. John wonders how long in human history it will take before that will reset and there will be no institutional memory and there will be a new person who becomes the person who is bigger than Jesus. What’s incredible about A Hard Day’s night is that all that was going on while they had a kind of smug confidence, but they were still charming, self-effacing and small. They were still teasing Ringo and Ringo could still honestly be the lonely one.

In about every Rock documentary John has seen since then everybody is always so knowing and self-aware now and the smugness overshadows the charm that got them there. A Hard Day's Night shouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful as a piece of art as it is, because it is a really bold movie to this day and it is so fresh and the grandfather is so perfect. Just his expressions in this movie are so god-damn funny. John hates the ending, though. It ends with the helicopter flying off and Aspinall is throwing out the fake signed photographs.

Two kinds of fame

Whom could The Beatles possibly envy? They envied Dylan because Dylan was vindicated more than loved. There are two kinds of fame and Dylan had vindication fame which was the better kind of fame. All the critics loved him, he set a new bar, he was the voice of a generation, and he was meaningful. At a certain point nobody can really dispute what you have managed to accomplish. Lennon perceived himself in second place to Dylan as the hard-edged voice of the truth.

Within The Beatles Lennon was resentful of Paul’s effortless songwriting and that resentment took shape by way of thinking of Paul as intellectually lightweight. He compared Paul not to himself, but to Dylan. When they saw Dylan at Royal Albert Hall you could hear a pin drop. They were thinking of their own careers where they couldn’t even hear themselves play and the idea that an audience would sit reverently like that was such a contrast.

M&M eating tube (RL118)

John would like there to be a tube inserted into his stomach that allowed him to sit and eat a continuous stream of single peanut M&Ms and yet they would then just go out. He could eat them and crunch them and taste them and feel them go down, but then they would just keep going out the tube, like a selective ostomy bag.

In a Supertrain context, if John was producing a very small stream of masticated nut-chocolate candy paste, pre-digested, but post-salivated, post-chewed, what would that paste be worth? You could give it to kids who don’t know where it has been. Children are pretty cool about a lot of different foods as long as they don’t know much about it. What if it almost became a sort of peanut butter like Nutella? Is that what Nutella is?

Has anybody ever seen Nutella being made? A smashed hazelnut does not look like Nutella! If you ate peanut M&Ms and hazelnuts, chewed them and swallowed them, and them sucked them out through a tube, how different from Nutella would that be? John would be a bespoke confectionary treat extruding unit! You just chop them into little bits like Tootsie Rolls. What is in a fucking Tootsie Roll? It is not chocolate or caramel, what the fuck is it?

At the beginning of the food chain there is John who likes to eat peanut M&Ms, but somewhere down the food chain there is someone who likes to eat a spreadable soft M&M-flavored material. They could have a similar tube and somewhere down the line from them there could be somebody who wants a real smooth creamy condensed thing. Nutella is an Italian food, but Merlin is not interested in Nutella at all. It has the qualities of peanut butter, but it is made out of something that is not chocolate.

Nutella debuted in April 1964, it is a modern abomination, it is a Beals’ Age (referring to Jennifer Beals) spreadable treat. Two or three months earlier, The Beatles came to the US. Also Hitler worked with the Italians in the axis. Post-war Italy has had like 750 governments. Merlin had a college girlfriend back in the 1980s when you couldn’t get Nutella as easily and she would squee when her parents would send her a care package with Nutella in it. John got a care package today from his Polish Doctor friend who is living in Berlin. It has 14 different kinds of Lindt chocolate balls and there was a tin lunch-box full of cookies that commemorates D-Day.

John’s goals in life (RL118)

John wished he utilized the mails more to send beautiful things to people. He has things lying around that he could send to people who would appreciate them, but he doesn’t want to use the mails, partly because for instance he still has not solved his tooth problem which is now 7 years in the offing, he still has a temporary tooth that is just glued in there with safety pins and it could break any day if a pigeon flies in the window and hits him in the face.

There are all these things John wants to do in life:

  • He wants to change the schools,
  • he wants to ride on a tank into Paris,
  • he wants to have his tooth fixed and
  • he wants to use the mails to send nice things to people.

Merlin hopes John has a white board he is reading that off of.

John's third assistant (RL118)

John had an assistant who passed the baton to a second assistant, who is now very clearly needing to pass the baton to a third assistant. It has only been 6 months since he even began this assistant business and he has already had three of them and he doesn’t think it is his fault. He has a pretty good sense when it is his fault, but everybody has their own narrative. It seems like a cherry job! John has been watching very closely, checking his privilege on an hourly basis, and he is pretty confident that he has not been the reason, but then again: Who knows?

The reason John now needs a third assistant is that he made a nice recommendation to someone who gave his second assistant a proper job that is now occupying 80 hours a week of her time. You have to go through three or four people who say ”I want to be your assistant” before you find the person who says ”I am your assistant” Merlin knew somebody who hired a bunch of them and winnowed them down Baton-style over the course of a month until there were two left who were supposed to fight with a pool cue. John could just break a pool cue, throw it on the floor and say ”I can only hire one of you!” Why so serious?

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