RL124 - The legend of Skeeter

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • Merlin’s new microphone (Podcasting)
  • Telecaster guitar (Music)
  • Dodge Dart, Slant-Six engine, Pontiac Catalina (Cars)
  • John’s across the street neighbor and her boyfriend Skeeter (Neighborhood)
  • John’s car didn’t start (Cars)
  • Getting older and not being as funny anymore (Personal Development)
  • John got into a fist fight at Bumbershoot 2014 (Stories)

The Problem: John is a 40-year-old bitch in a suit, referring to John getting into a fist fight at Bumbershoot while being in a suit and the guy he was fighting was very contemptuous that John was already 40 years old.

The show title refers to the boyfriend of John’s across-the-street neighbor who has a giant mosquito tattooed on his neck and the things happening over there are like a really immersive video game like The legend of Skeeter.

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

Merlin’s new microphone (RL124)

Merlin got a different microphone and it is making him self-conscious. John finds it to sound clearer, but Merlin thinks it makes him sound old, but not by adding a few years to his voice, but he is worried that it is accurate and this is actually how he sounds like. He hasn’t smoked in a really long time, but he sounds a little bit like he got some filterless Camels in his throat, he has a little John Rivers going. The mic Merlin had before is a workhorse, the Rode Podcaster, the SM57 of podcast mics, but with the new one he needs to be careful about the plosives.

John learned to use a mic the hard way. You can tell a singer who doesn’t know how to use a microphone, and you can really tell a singer who does know how to use a microphone. Someone can be a singer for years and never really figure out their mic technique. John was a guitar player and didn’t have the option of a lot of mic shenanigans. If you are a singer at the same time you also have to inhabit the emotion of the song and present it to the audience in a compelling way. It is a real juggling act to think of everything you have to do on your guitar and with all the pedals or even which chord you are supposed to play.

Merlin’s new mic is the Sampson C01U Pro and has been recommended by someone on the Internet. They could have gotten a better name for it, but for the tech nerd engineer types who buy microphones that is just like calling it the rose pedal. It could also be the name of an Android phone, though. John doesn’t use a podcasting mic, but he uses an SM7, the greatest of all microphones! He has been to a lot of studios and has done a lot of tracking and every time the producer or the engineer brings out all the microphones and lies them all out on a table, like this is a $25.000 Sony tube mic and this is our U47 that we got from the original Pink Floyd, everybody is so proud of their really beautiful high definition microphones.

John tries not to be the singer who says ”None of these are going to work!”, but he submits to a few hours of testing these microphones. They set it up, put it through their best compressor, John sings, they track it, they compare all the tracks and there will be a mic that sounds great on everybody, but for whatever reason it doesn’t sound very great here and they eliminate all the microphones until John is back at the Sure SM7. It has surely happened 15 times that way!

John will go into the studio and say that he normally uses an SM7 into an 1176 with all the buttons pushed in and the engineer says ”Sure, but you haven’t tried my amazing $80.000 microphone that I got from the East German government!” They plug it in, they test it and they end up back at the SM7, a microphone that seems to be made for John and that he comes to think of it as the only good microphone. When recording other singers, the SM7 into an 1176 doesn’t necessarily work, but they sound amazing on these other beautiful microphones.

Telecaster guitar (RL124)

When Merlin used to play a Telecaster he was aware of the limitations and the very specific sound of a Telecaster. He is amazed how people with fairly stock Telecasters get so many different sounds out of it. They don’t just sound like Don Rich or Alex Chilton, but they can make it sound very different while Merlin never found easy to do.

The Telecaster is one of those rare events in human history where the guy who invented the thing got it perfectly right the first try. It is essentially the first solid body electric guitar, it is just a slab of wood, it was made to be portable and you could unscrew and take off the neck, and yet it is still as valid a guitar as any other and in a lot of ways better, more indestructible and more versatile. Is there any other technology where the first iteration of the thing continues to be the industry standard throughout the whole life of the thing?

According to the conventional wisdom of computer-maths it takes 2-3 tries to get something to be the version that we will remember. We loved the first iPhone because it is amazing, but in comparison the iPhone 4 is such an evolution forward. It is pretty crazy that after so many evolutions and knowing now what made that guitar sound good we still can’t make it sound that much better.

A bunch of nerds are surely wondering about the Rickenbacher frying pan guitar, but those were hollow body electrics with microphones glued to the outside of them. How many things made 60 years ago can you plug into a standard interface for its market today and have it still sound better than a lot of the stuff that is made today?

They didn’t make it to be premium, but they took a band saw to a piece of wood. Not only the usefulness, but also the shape of the Telecaster is still a beautiful thing. Leo Fender just drew a shape! To reach up high on the neck he cut it out on one side and he put a pickup here and a pickup there. Merlin thinks it has gotten pretty over time because he has seen lots of his favorite guitar players using it, but it is not like looking at a Gretsch that is a work of art. The Telecaster is the first guitar John coveted because of Chrissie Hynde. He saw those original music videos for the first Pretenders record, he wondered about this incredibly cool guitar she played and he immediately wanted one, but it was $900! You could buy a Dodge Dart for that and John didn’t even know what a Dodge Dart was.

Dodge Dart, Slant-Six engine, Pontiac Catalina (RL124)

Merlin says that the Dodge Dart Swinger was the lady version and had a little Daisy for an eye, but John disagrees. The Swinger was not a lady car!
Merlin probably saw one where they had put one of those bathtub Daisies, because it is the inner sound, y’all, the sticker, but they did not necessarily all come with it. Merlin’s friend Sam got one when they were in High School and at that point it was 20 years old. It was like Merlin’s VW Bus: You could definitely kill it, but you could also resuscitate it with almost alarming ease. The Slant-Six was the greatest motor ever made. If they still made the Slant-Six, we wouldn’t have all these problems with the Youth of America today.

Merlin’s mom had a Pontiac Catalina for a long time and there was so much space under the hood, it looked like many of the parts had been removed. Merlin's current VW is a new car, and it is like he imagines an iPhone looks like: There are no tolerances for anything anywhere. It is just covered with a giant plastic Carapus, like a robot cockroach had made its home inside of a match book, which is terrible, and that is what those cars sound like, too. In the past there was room to spread out a picnic blanket inside the engine compartment and you could work on it with a standard set of tools. There were no star bolts (see RL120)! Star Bolt is a killer band name for a shoe gaze band.

John’s across the street neighbor and her boyfriend Skeeter (RL124)

see Neighborhood

John’s car didn't start (RL124)

John had some car trouble today and couldn’t get it to start because the battery was dead. He wondered if somebody was sleeping in his car and left the door cracked open so they could read the in-flight magazine. How did his battery get run down? He checked if the trunk was ajar because sometimes that will run his car battery down, and he realized that his guitar had been in the trunk for 10 days.

John doesn’t lock his car because if you do that they will just break the window. Any numb-nut in town could have come by and popped the trunk and there was his guitar and John wouldn’t have noticed it was missing until later this week when he needed it. Because John has 3 houses, there is always the possibility that it is somewhere else.

John doesn’t know what ultimately was the reason for his dead battery, but he is scared to think about it and it causes him great concern. If he were 10 years younger, he would not hesitate for a minute and would either deal with the situation himself or call the police.

Getting older and not being as funny anymore (RL124)

The major problem with getting older is that John feels like he is the same person, but he is not responding to things the same way and he wonders if he really is the same person! A guy who knew John from High School once came through town when he was 24 and stayed with John for a week and told him ”You know, you are a funny guy, but you are not nearly as funny as you were in High School!” which was a shitty thing to say.

In High School John was hilarious, but he was also cruel and he is a lot better now. John was funny, but also terrible, and now he is not so terrible anymore. He could kind of understand what he was saying because there was actually a moment where John made somebody cry and felt bad about it (see story in RW130 about being cruel to Ronda).

In college John was running for Freshman Class President. They were all in the lunch room when the dean announced the results and John’s opponent had won the election. John saw a guy he knew from Anchorage make the pumped fist hand motion of ”Yes!” and knew that it was not that he was so excited for the other person to win, but he was just excited that John lost. John was a little devastated by that because although they were not friends, they had gone to High School together and there would have been at least enough loyalty to carry it through that he wouldn’t wish ill on John.

That moment was one of a series of moments where John realized that there could be people who genuinely don’t like him because he was mean and bad. Now that he is in his 40s he still feels like the same person in his mind and can’t trust anything he thinks. He trusts Merlin to tell him. John feels like they are not representing megalomaniacs very well right now, but they used to be better at it.

John got into a fist fight at Bumbershoot 2014 (RL124)

John has somewhat concealing the fact that he got into a fist fight the other day, the first in a long time. He was at Bumbershoot, waiting in line at the drinking fountain and there were a couple of drunk 25-year olds. A drunk kid with shark eyes who was leaning next to the drinking fountain was eyeballing everybody, weaving, staring and making everybody uncomfortable. John was talking to a friend and somebody asked him if he was going over to the short drinking fountain that was available, but he was waiting for the tall one, and the guy said ”Did you just say something sexist to my girlfriend?”, which was a hilarious provocation.

He was not asking ”Did you look at my girlfriend?” but ”Did you say something sexist to my girlfriend?”, which is a total Millennial thought process. He was a millennial bully asshole who has figured it out and was raised in a culture where you have to couch your bullying in a thought process of ”I was just defending her because you said something sexist” At any other time in history his righteous reason would have been that he was defending her because you were coming onto her, disrespecting his property, but now he is a social justice warrior, defending her because you said something sexist to her. John said he didn’t say anything to her or him and he repeated himself, got off the wall and squared his shoulders up.

John was standing there in a suit and had 25 different strategies at his disposal to diffuse the situation, but he chose to use none of them. Instead he said ”You know what, kid? You are too drunk to be in public, you are hostile, you are gross, and you need to get out of here. This is a music festival, people are having a good time, and you are a piece of shit!” He was like ”Wow… you go home” and he stepped to John who replied ”Seriously, you are too drunk to be out and you need to go sit on a bench until you sober up or need to go home, because you are a pain in the ass!” - ”Are you some kind of fucking… Fuck you, man! Fucking 40-year old!”

John said ”I am 40 years old and I’m telling you to go home!” His friend jumped in ”He is just drunk, man!” - ”Yeah, he is just drunk, you are too drunk, go home!” and the girlfriend is ”Stop it Steve, don’t!” - ”All of you, you need to get out of here” and his friend is like ”Who the fuck are you, why don’t you get out of here?” so now there were two of them, the drunk guy and his drunk friend who was trying to be the peace keeper. At one point he said ”You know what, fuck it, man! Just shake my hand!” - ”I’m not going to shake your hand, dude, I have nothing to shake hand about, you just need to go home, that is all I’m telling you!” and then it was all about that, like ”You are a fucking bitch, man! You won’t shake my hand!” - ”I’m a 40-year old bitch who is telling you to go home. Go sit on the grass, but don’t stand here by the freaking drinking fountain picking fights”

Then he pushed John while he called him a bitch and spittled and John fucking punched him twice right in the face and put him down to the floor. His friend punched John back and then John doesn’t remember, but in the end he was embarrassed because he is a 40-year old home-owning bitch in a suit who is standing there while this kid is a mess and his friend is running. He alos popped a button off of his suit. How did this happen? How is he standing here in a huge crowd of people? He turned around to go, but he needed to splash some water on his face, he went into the bathroom and noticed that his finger was all fucked up. Not only did he get into a fist fight, but he also fucked up his finger! He doesn’t even have the Karate skills anymore to not hurt himself on this guy’s head.

As John was in the bathroom he thought that this was embarrassing. He is a full-grown man and there were a lot of ways he could have dealt with that. He sat in the bathroom for a while and didn’t even want to come out anymore. His friend was waiting there when he came out and said ”We should leave by the back stairs” because there were a bunch of cops and paramedics around the corner and there was blood all over. 99% of people would have said that the actual thing to do in our contemporary society would have been to say ”Hey, guy, I didn’t say anything to your girlfriend! It’s cool!” or ”You are right to defend her of people saying sexist things to her!” or just avert your eyes and not say anything and wait for him to take on the next person he encounters or let him sit by the drinking fountain for 45 minutes and scare everybody in the building or whatever his plan was.

They went out via the back stairs and John’s friend said that he didn't want to glorify it, but the best moment was when two guys walked through, skirting the devastation and saying ”What the hell happened to those two guys?” - ”I heard they got their asses kicked by a 40-year old”, which is terrible! John has lost weight, he cut his hair in a sensible way, his beard is trimmed, he looks kind of like Tom Wolf (which one?) and he is a fucking 40-year old bitch in a suit. John lost a button of his suit and they were mopping his blood off the floor. John should be grateful! They watched as they put him on a gurney and carried him to an ambulance.

John was embarrassed and felt bad. He now has a reminder of it every minute of the day because his first finger, his pointer finger of his right hand, is in a fucking splint. Luckily he can still play guitar with his second finger because he has a gig this weekend. He got home and thought that he had broken his hands before and when you go to the doctor they will charge you $700 to tell you what you already know, so he made a splint out of a couple of chop sticks and some band aids.

John wore that around for a while, but maybe chop sticks are too straight and you don’t want to make your finger too straight? He took the chop stick splint off for a couple of days and was just going to use his finger until it gets better, but he re-injured it in a way that made him think that maybe it was broken. He went to the drug store and bought a proper splint and put some proper tape on it (This is a reference to the story when John met Dan Benjamin for the first time and had his finger in a splint).

The finger hurts and it feels like John did break it. It has been a week and during that time it hurt an awful lot and it was pretty swollen, but John felt like the best thing to do was to ice it and use it. Ultimately he was most embarrassed at the fact that he didn’t even know how to beat up a drunk without breaking his own hand. It was one of those situation where he thought he was such a paternalist whenever he replayed it.

This kid obviously didn’t have a good dad and John was going to be his bad dad for 30 minutes and who knows! John got beat up a couple of times when he was that age, but he was never sitting by a drinking fountain picking fights of people. The kid got beat up for a legitimate reason because he was an asshole who needed to be taken to the contract (?) John could have gotten a security guard and then what? Come on! Nothing would have happened. He would have been a 40-year old bitch in a suit who went and got his mom.

The kid pushing John was not benign, but it was the provocation of a fight. He made the transition from ”Did you say something sexist to my girlfriend?” to ”Just shake my hand!” but in the interim he was missing any kind of apology. He should have said ”Hey, I’m sorry, I got that wrong, I apologize, let’s just shake hands and be done”, but he made the classic bully move and tried to get out of it because he was out of his depth. All John had to do was to admit that he was right all along and shake his hand like a gentlemen and the fact that John didn’t do it became the issue because John was not even a normal gentleman anymore, which is the classic bullying redirect.

There was another sign at Merlin’s daughter’s school that was pretty good (see also Bullying-topic in RL123), describing the three steps to an apology: 1) I’m sorry for what I did 2) It was my fault 3) What can I do to make this better? Merlin finds it a pretty good sign because nothing sucks like a bad apology, like the ”I’m sorry you are offended” apology, the Big City apology (see RL14). Merlin really doubts that this is the first time this has ever happened to that guy, but he has probably pulling shit like that for years and people usually back down. His girlfriend and his friend were ineffective in controlling him and his buddy decided to get onboard the bully train.

John hopes the lesson they take away is that 40 year old guys have 20+ more years of experience kicking people’s ass than they do and there are a lot more people to watch out for than they previously thought. They will never go back and reevaluate their own behavior, though, they probably can’t remember it, but maybe they think to themselves that there are more people watching who are prepared to intervene and capable of stopping them than they previously thought, because they were so contemptuous that John was older than they were. The looks on their face was like ”You are fucking 40, dude! What are you going to fucking do about it?”

John got a Tweet from somebody ”Hi, big fan, excited to meet you and was about to say hi at the Center House when you got into a strange altercation with a drunk and I decided to split” John said he was very sorry that she had to witness that debacle, but she was a teacher and realized that this situation wasn’t going to get any better if there was a crowd of people, so she just got out of there. She hopefully split while it was just an ugly back-and-forth before it turned into a one-way back-and-forth. John’s friend asked if it concerned John that 25 people could have videotaped that and put it on the Internet, but it would be embarrassing in the same way it was already embarrassing, like ”What am I doing?”, but it was not unrighteous.

From a legal standpoint, and this is the problem of a videotape, if someone had turned on their phone just in the last 5 seconds, they would still see him push John and then John respond. John doesn’t know the total break-down of the rules, but if somebody pushes you hard and spits in your face you are entitled to punch them in the nose, but the problem of any kind of video is that you wouldn’t have the whole spectrum of this guy’s provocation. There wasn’t a film crew already watching him be a shitty thug. John thinks about this stuff all the time. He has a whole shelf of books that he is just saving for prison, he is always waiting for the phone to ring and it being somebody with a subpoena.

John has considered himself in an interview room with two cops across the table from him and they think he committed a crime that he didn’t. You hear about this all the time: You are interviewed by good cop / bad cop and somehow after 24 hours they convince you to confess. They only really need you to say it differently one time. John has played that scenario in his head all the time. There are people on death row who just made the wrong move in a room and John has watched a lot of Law & Order back in the day when that was socially acceptable.

There wouldn’t be any legal consequences, because the guy would also be culpable for starting a fight. John should just investigate if he also has a podcast where he talks about it. A lot of people have podcasts! That is one of the advantages of not being that famous: If John were Eddie Vedder, his body guards would have just beat the guy up, but being someone in between there, like Jack White?

Jack White actually did get into a famous fist fight with another musician. He was producing the guy’s record and afterwards that guy posted a picture of himself, beaten all black and blue, everywhere for 6 months. He used it to promote his record, The Von Bondies. If Jack White beat John up at a party, he sure as shit wouldn’t put a picture of himself all over the place, but if that is what you need to promote your band? Jack White or Jimmy Corrigan from the Smashing Pumpkins, the world’s smartest boy, John can see either one of those guys get into a bar fight or into a fight at a festival with a couple of drunks and he imagines that there would be a lot more video tape of it if Jack White was boxing some kid.

Merlin doesn’t want to give John medical advice, but John should probably get his finger looked at because he needs that for work, for writing or playing the guitar. He should go to a professional licensed American doctor who is going to say ”Let’s get that X-rayed” and he will have to fill out those forms with his broken finger and he is going to say that it has been a week already and it has already flanged and he is going to give John a prescription for some unnecessary pain medicine that John won’t take and that is going to sit and be an attractive nuisance to house burglars. It might attract Skeeter. The doctor will recommend John to wear those $700 chop sticks and go to physical therapy, someplace with old people and large rubber bands. John can do that himself! His mom broke her foot one time and she walked 8 miles to the doctor who told her that there is no way she could have walked here 8 miles if she had a broken foot, so she punched him.

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