RL134 - A Minimum of Eels

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: The Emperor went to Pepperdine, referring to free apps that have ads to other free apps being a Emeperor’s New Clothes situation, except that the Emperor does have clothes and they are from Abercrombie and Fitch and American Eagle and the Emperor has gel in his hair and he is 26 years old and he went to Pepperdine.

The show title refers to John trying to get through life with a minimum of eels sucking on him. He is calling subscriptions for eels, see Subscriptions are eels.

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

Skype (RL134)

John didn’t answer Merlin's call as he normally does because he knew it was Merlin this time. He is never sure, but it always says Merlin. Some people use Skype as a social network and it drives Merlin bananas. Every time John opens Skype, it has a status report on there from Brett Terpstra. John and Merlin both don’t want to have another social network, John doesn’t even want the ones he has.

For years, well over 95% of Merlin's Skype usage has been for recording podcasts with other people. Very occasionally, like when somebody in Australia wants to have a phone call it is easier and cheaper over Skype. Merlin would never think of Skype as a phone. Sometimes they get invitations from random people, like somebody coming up to your door at dinner time, knocking at the screen door and making a gesture like they are holding a key. ”Will you give me a dup (duplicate key)? You don’t know me, but don’t be a dick!” If John was living in a post-apocalyptic landscape and came over a rise in a meadow and saw Merlin across on an opposite hill waving at him, he would turn and walk down the other side of the hill and pretend he had not seen him.

John not upgrading his computer (RL134)

John's computer is running on version 10.6.8 and Merlin immediately tells him there are many reasons not to say that. This is a very old operating system that is probably not getting security updates. John basically made some dups of his keys and threw them into the audience. Maybe he is going to get a lot of angry hate-mail from John Siracusa because he is not running his apps correctly? They should never talk about computers on this show anyways! Merlin will have to cut all of that out!

10.6.8 has been a very stable operating system for John because every single time in the last 8 years when he has taken Apple’s advice and downloaded a new operating system it has bricked whatever device he was trying to improve. It always turned it into a flying piece of shit, just a fucking ass-potatoe, and he doesn’t download new operating systems anymore because they seem like jokes, like elaborate tricks that Apple is pulling to make John buy a new product.

Upgrading the operating system is going to completely fry the thing you bought, even the thing you bough three months ago. ”Fuck you, people! Fool me twice! Shame on you! A mind is a wasted thing!” Merlin wishes he could disagree with John, but it is getting more and more true. Who cares? Why do they talk about computers? Maybe they should get Dan Harmon on the phone, or whoever Merlin does that other podcast with (Dan Harmon is the guy from All The Great Shows, Merlin is doing his other podcast Back To Work with Dan Benjamin)?

John has a 2.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 GB of 667 Mhz DDR2 RAM.
Merlin looses it because that this is not enough RAM and he wonders if John’s computer is a little bit slow sometimes. John remembers a time when 2 GB would have filled up an Airplane hangar. They put a man on the moon with slide-rules! Every time John turns on any electronic device he is seething with rage and waiting for it to fail.

To replace this computer John would have to spend $2500, or he could go on Craigslist. Merlin wonders if John knows how powerful those new iMacs for $2500 are. They don’t have disc drives and all you need is a subscription to the cloud. It comes with a power-cord, an Ethernet cable and 5 eels. John is amazed that so many people are eating eel-shit, they are just sucking eel-bottoms! They are not getting John’s blood! He is so mad! It is fucking Skynet! The eels are the ones that are getting the blood off of John and one of these days the eels will start to wonder why they are pooping in the mouths of these guys in Cupertino, they can keep this poop to themselves, like a self-reflective eel. All the eels have is institutional memory and loyalty to one another.

There are alternatives, John could get a Chrome Book or a Dell PC. Some person from Dell tried to send John one of their hot new laptops because he seemed to be a thought leader. John replied that he didn’t want the one they were sending to everybody else, but he wanted the real hot one. She had to check with the muckamucks to got John approved for the hot one, but John never replied to her email after that. It would just have been another thing he doesn’t know how to plug in.

Sometimes John goes into iTunes to manage his phone and it got the little bar down below for how much of your phone is used for certain things, like Photos, and Music. There is this Other that is 40% of the phone and you cannot access what it is or differentiate what it is. It is like the diagnostic tool that is telling you that the diagnostic is not working! It is another joke app! It is like with the Mercury astronauts where they gave them a lever that wasn’t connected to anything and they said ”Now you are steering the space ship! We are going to put a window in the side of the can and give you a lever that makes a dinging sound.” That is what Apple is doing with all of this garbage. It is the A&R rep button on the mixing console, it is the suck-button, like turn the suck-button down! (see RL249)

John's toaster is from the thrift store, it cost $0.25, it is from 1950 and it makes perfect toast every day. They had just beat the Nazis and were feeling proud of themselves and they made some fucking toasters for a while that worked pretty well. The ones that didn’t get put into a landfill are still working fine. John is going to go back and get those soon, like those ET-games. The first thing that is going to power Supertrain is vintage toasters.

Remember the girl in Her? She stopped being interested in her boyfriend because she was online talking at 1000 mega-parsecs / second and doing teraflop conversations with people. She was enjoying relationships with other computers much more, like every woman Merlin has ever been with.

Joel McHale, Greg Kinnear, Rob Corddry, Nick Thune on TV (RL134)

John’s friend Joel McHale on TV is on television a lot now. Merlin was in a hotel room, which is the only time he watches regular TV, and Joel was on Talk Soup. Merlin watched that back when Greg Kinnear was on the show, which was probably when John’s operating system came out (it came out 2009-06-08, Greg Kinnear was on the show 1991-1995). Merlin has seen Joel McHale in another movie or TV show, but he can’t remember what. He had a bit-part as a balding man. Merlin also saw Rob Corddry doing ads for Pizza Hut. The comedian Nick Thune is a good guy that John knows a little bit and he is now doing these Honda commercials. John sees him on TV all the time, like ”Here is a guy making money!”

Todd Barry, podcast sound quality (RL134)

Todd Barry is bald as a baby. John has been on his podcast (2013-10-23, see TB27 in Guest Appearances) sitting across the kitchen table from him with one plug-and-play microphone and it sounds like he was recorded on an easy-bake oven. Merlin doesn’t really care about podcast quality, but there are some that really do sound like they are recording them on a phone. John and Merlin are sitting athwart the country right now and do both have really nice microphones, they have made investments in the quality of the sound of their podcast. Todd Barry’s microphone is basically just searching the air waves for the sound of fire engines. It does pick up human voices, but if there is a siren or a garbage truck, that is what it really wants to hear. It is what they call a condenser mic, says the guy who has a train going by his house every eight minutes.

Windows phone having icons that move (RL134)

The other day John had dinner with a friend who had a Microsoft Bing phone. It looks like a Microsoft store: Empty, and it has little tiles and it is very shiny. Microsoft was the one who invented the Window and the File! Maybe Windows were invented by some guy in a Hewlett Packard lab, but that guy is dead now, buried in a field. This phone was very light, much lighter than an iPhone, because there is nothing on it. It works great as long as you don’t use it.

The little icons were slightly animated and were flipping as you are looking at the phone, slideshowing pictures of people you know on LinkedIn. Stuff is fucking moving around on your phone when you are not doing anything and John hated this thing already! Some people think this Metro-interface is kind of cool because it is a new take. Merlin has never seen one and he doesn’t know. John doesn’t want shit dancing around on his equipment. In iOS 7 they added a parallax view that makes the stars have depth to them, but both Merlin and John turned that off immediately. Like: ”Hey phone! Quit having such a good time! Devote your energy to doing the three things I ask you to do well!”

John needs his phone to continue to run after the plane lands while he is trying to arrange a ride. He wants to use it throughout a flight, but he doesn’t want it to die the second he tries to contact the person who is going to pick him up. Every time John's phone is having a better time than he is having, it makes him want to seriously go down to Cupertino and find whatever person in a lumbersexual beard-contest is sitting behind their fucking supercomputer and goes tappety-tap-tap-tap ”I have a great idea! Why don’t we make everybody have to swipe the opposite direction that we always trained them to swipe?” It is expensive to stay caught up and it is very time-consuming to do everything right. Did they just become a 5by5 podcast?

John trying to avoid subscriptions (RL134)

see Subscriptions are eels

AT&T sent John a thing in the mail and offered him a home-alarm system for a nominal fee. ”Tell me more AT&T, you have been so reliable and so dependable for me the last 10 years that I have been using your service, tell me more about your home-alarm system!” It was one of these Matt Haughey programs where you sit out in your driveway because you can’t get your front door to unlock, your fucking phone died and you are sitting with the engine running, trying to charge it up. Meanwhile your thermostat is going to 124 degrees (50 °C). You can have cameras around your house, it feeds into your paranoia, and you can look at it from your phone.

John read the fine print and there was a $140 setup charge and $10 a month. When all is set and done, you pay $500 to get in, it is another one of these credit card charges, and you are going to pay $190 a month for this service. All of these are parts that John could get at CostCo and Radio Shack and he wouldn’t have to use their busted-ass apps to do it.

Merlin continues to talk about stuff you get from these companies and he has to admit that the Comcast DVR has gotten a little better. Every company out there wants to find a way to charge you something every month for something that costs them almost nothing to do. It is special offers all the way down and you are pretty much always ending up getting charged $19.99 a month in perpetuity until you realize it and cancel it.

They are like Remora who attach themselves to sharks and the shark is swimming around with 40 fucking eels sucking on him. John is trying to get through life with a minimum amount of eels because they are a lot of drag, your blood is cycling through them and they are basically a catalytic converter. The eel is taking your blood and your vitamins and replaces it with saliva that is like a mild narcotic. John does not want any eels and as he looks at other people in the world he thinks how many fucking eels they have on them. They have 40 eels on them and are not even thinking about it, but they think it is just normal life or cost of doing business. Every one of them is sucking their vitamins and they are paying for it. Ones and twos, and every dollar is made of dimes!

You are increasingly no longer allowed to participate without agreeing to people just sticking a hose into your side. If you are not wearing a coat of eels, you are not going to be recognized in our culture. You are going to walk into a restaurant, calling for the waiter, but the waiter is looking at his eel-monitor, trying to figure out where to go next, and everybody else is interacting with him through some kind of app. Nobody is going to hear you! It is like ”How to get ahead in advertising”, they are all going to be talking to somebody else with half their brain. If you don’t want to upgrade your operating system or attach any eels to yourself, you are going to increasingly become invisible in the service economy, which is terrifying!

It is not a libertarian question, but John does not want to be that attached. For a while it seemed like they would just stick an eel to you without charging anything for it, like a convenience eel, and that eel is going to occasionally take half of its teeth out of your side and talk to you about Fanta and then it is going to grab onto you again. For your convenience!

Now those eels cost $10.99 a month and they are periodically going to talk about Peanut Button Num Nums, like a two-headed eel: One of them is sucking on you and the other one is talking to you about your fucking Honda Fit. John doesn’t want it and no reasonable person would want it, but we are accepting it as though it is a fait accompli or as though we have to endure this to get to the other side, this perfect world where you are thinking about a chili dog and a chili dog arrives. This thing we all dream of, Boy vs Girl in the World Series of Love (lyrics U Got the Look by Prince).

Merlin talks about apps that have ads in them for other free apps. It is like an Emperor’s New Clothes situation: At what point is anybody going to make any money on that except by accident? John says that the Emperor does have clothes and they are from Abercrombie and Fitch and American Eagle and the Emperor has gel in his hair, is 26 years old and went to Pepperdine.

Macklemore haircuts and lumbersexual dress-code (RL134)

Everybody now has a checkered shirt, arm-tattoos, a beard and their hair like a Hog Butcher. It is the lumber-sexual style, but what is that hair? It is not as tall as a Pompadour and John calls it a modified Macklemore. The Macklemore haircut is shaved on the sides and like a fat mohawk: long, but not sticking up, just kind of Pompadoured up. It ends up being a hair hat like Mark Ronson had.

John is watching the Netflix show Peaky Blinders because he has a friend who is an Anglophile and she can't get enough of people talking in bad fake British accents. They are all supposed to be from Birmingham, but everybody in the series has a completely different accent and only some of them are legitimately from Central North England. Sam Neill and some Irish people are doing some British accents. Two people who are supposed to be brothers are speaking in completely different dialects.

The show purports to be right after World War I and every single male character is wearing a full Macklemore. John doesn’t have enough historical haircut context, but it seems a bit on the nose. Merlin says that the two things that always give it away are the makeup on the women and the haircuts. When Macklemore was rocking that haircut for the first time, John was like ”Huh, that seems bold!” He had not seen shaved sides with a big Pompadour and it seemed especially bold because he is very blond.

Now this haircut is everywhere. Every airline steward under 35 years old has that haircut and all the butchers, too. It has all happened so fast that it feels like a pregnancy that was waiting in our culture. 25 years from now when they re-enact movies from the 2014s there will be a convenient way to delineate to people that they are watching a scene from the past. People who are 25 now and watch a show when they are 60 will say ”This is supposed to be playing in 2010? Nobody wore their hair like that in 2010! That didn’t start until 2014!” It is a delineator or demarcator.

The conformity in male fashion right now is very profound. Everybody is basically dressing like John, except for the tiny shoes, but John is not going to change the way he dresses. He is now looking like every single fucking Hipster dad in America and he has never before felt like he looks like everybody else. Merlin felt like that in the early 1990s right when Grunge was starting to tip a little bit.

John was always a little bit too preppy through the Grunge era and there is a little element of prep involved in this lumbersexual bullshit. There is also a lot of tailoring and everything fits tightly. John does not want to walk into a café and have every guy in the room look up at him and he having to look at every guy and ”Here we all are!” You shouldn’t be able to grock John Roderick in 3 seconds. He does not want to start to wear a purple Fedora, he resists joining the Red Hat club already.

TV-shows having unrelated title songs (RL134)

Peaky Blinders is set in 1919, they all have Macklemore haircuts, which is fine, they are driving period-appropriate cars, which John enjoys, but at the key moment of every episode, when they decide that they are going to get into a gang-fight with the gipsies or take on the cops, all of a sudden White Stripes comes on. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is the theme song, which he got used to in the same way he got used to the theme song of The Wire: "Okay, fine! Like: Fuck You, but okay!" The theme song to The Wire got chosen because the guy who makes this TV show like the artist and every season it is a different one, but the theme song has absolutely nothing to do with the world of the show.

John was furious at the show Deadwood for the music because it was like the Demo mode on a Bluegrass keyboard. They got some temporary folky sound-designers to make some shit and you are supposed to feel that it is representative just because it has a banjo in it? It has so many instruments for just a couple of bars, but eat shit, Deadwood! You are in the mind, I’m in 1919, living in Birmingham, we are going on an adventure and it turns into a music video. Fuck off! There are 25 people working on this TV show and in the big moment a guy in a Macklemore haircut and a J-Crew suit comes swooping in in and ”Step aside boys, I’ve got this!” and he puts on some hip Rock ’n’ Roll band and you are watching somebody’s demo reel.

TV shows and subscription services (RL134)

Merlin watches Walking Dead because his wife wants to watch it. Although it is about Zombies the really interesting part is how everybody is dealing with it. It is a good show, but it is super-gruesome. John’s Netflix and Hulu are all subscribed to by another person and John doesn’t hold the keys to the kingdom. He watches those channels mostly when he is with someone else, but occasionally he will turn on Netflix to watch a Hitler documentary. Merlin hates everything about Hulu+ pretty much except for how perfectly it encapsulates the complexity of the media landscape right now. It is the only place where you can legally get recent stuff as a cord cutter without having to buy a onesie-twosie on iTunes. It kills Merlin to spend $2.99 on an episode of Project Runway that they are going to watch once.

It drives Merlin bananas is that Hulu+ costs $6-7 a month but still got fucking commercials. There is your value-added eel! It is the kind of advertising that Merlin finds particularly annoying, because you know it might be making some money at scale, but it is mostly there because they hate you. They want you to pay a little bit of money for something that is extremely easy. In an ideal world, you would buy cable like a gentleman and you could skip the commercials with your Tivo, but they are going ”Fuck you!” You think you can get by without watching commercials? Forget about it! You are going to pay for this and you are going to pay for this! The commercials are all for Geico, which are run-of-network (RON) commercials, cheap fill-ads. There are stations that show old TV shows filled with PSAs just to slow you down and remind you that you are a cheapskate. It is punishment advertising! There is not even a version that costs more and has no ads!

Netflix often have things only for a week or two and you can watch Two and a Half Men only during a certain window. John thinks that the number one thing about Netflix is that everything on there sucks. If you look for ”The Longest Day”, it will ask you ”Do you mean: The Longest Dong?” They don’t have one of the all-time greatest World War II films?

Merlin pays for Netflix and Amazon Prime and they really wants you to feel that it is more than free shipping. Merlin is happy with just the free shipping, but they also get music and TV shows from there. You can watch all those great HBO shows for free there now. Every time you use Amazon Prime, a baby dies. What kind of baby? There are a lot of different kinds of babies and in America now and it matters what kind of baby.

John thinks he is allergic to Christmas trees (RL134)

John might be allergic to Christmas trees, which Merlin says is very common. He had a friend who loved Christmas so much, but he could not have a live tree in the house. When the tree starts to degrade, there is something produced by the sap that gets into the air and some people are extremely allergic to pine needs dander. John went on WebMD and it said that it was the mold on the tree that was causing allergies.

There is a place in John’s house where the previous owners did not properly caulk around a door and he got a little bit of mold in the wall. He caulked it and it is sealed now, but he thinks there are some little creeping fellas in there. He doesn’t feel like he is allergic to his house in general, but there is a Christmas tree in it right now. When Merlin discovers anything in his house, like a leak or a draft, he becomes like Gene Hackman, an eavesdropping expert who is tearing his whole house apart trying to find a mic, realizing how rickety the whole place is. John goes years without noticing things and then he notices them and gets obsessed by them.

Getting help with cleaning up the project room (RL134)

see also RL168 where John talks about the room of stories

John got help from a friend to clean his project room. He needed a little moral support because this room had gotten a little crazy. She found it hilarious and offered to help him straighten it up because she has a system. John didn’t want her to apply her system, he just needed some moral support. She came in, looked around in boxes and asked questions about what she found. John was full on anxiety! That box looks like it has paper in it, but you can’t put any other paper in that box because all of that paper is a kind of paper. Another box has assorted wall warts and it is like having to explain his collection of backstage passes: There are 75 levels of order in a system which appears to have no order. If John died tomorrow there would be no way anybody could make sense of this because they would have to share too many other suppositions.

She asked things like ”Why are you saving this!” - ”Well it doesn’t seem to have any value in itself, not even on a secondary level, but it relates at a tertiary level to some other thing and because of that reflected value it actually has a lot of value!” Even if somebody were a lifetime scholar of John Roderick there would still be so many intellectual doors that are never unlocked. After you get the basic system and the basic connections there might be tertiary systems in place that are beyond reckoning, like an Enigma machine. There will be something tucked in a book over on this shelf and that thing has an electrical connection to something that is in a box that is otherwise full of guitar picks. There is no connective tissue between the two things, but they are vibrating at a higher frequency between one another.

John knows that the 1924 silver certificate is tucked in a copy of The Red and The Black over in the book shelf, which somehow relates to the SANE / FREEZE sticker that he pulled off a phone pole in 1989 from the giant puppeteers that were against nuclear war. ”Sane Freeze Stand Tall Red Black Stendahl” That is the kind of false hope that makes a John Roderick scholar go down the wrong path. The archivist thinks they finally made the connection, but no! ”Sam, why don’t you take a couple of weeks off?” - ”No, I can’t leave now!” - ”I think you had enough, Sam!” - ”I finally start to see the gold wires!”

Collecting as a burden

John's friend was sitting on the couch and at a certain point she got a new look on her face, a look of sympathy, and she said she always thought it was funny that John had all these systems, but now she was seeing what a terrible burden it is on him. ”What? Stop talking!” John's organizational sense has a place for everything and everything has its place, but every other person in the world who is like that finds freedom in throwing things away that don’t fit in the little apportioned holes.

The other half of John is stacking used soup cans in the hall and the two halves are opposed to one another. John cannot throw away a single ticket stub or cigar foil because they all have meaning, but they also need to be in a special place and there aren’t that many special places in the world. ”Stop talking!” This thing that John plays for comedy and that everybody thinks of as a funny quirky thing, for the first time this one person had the insight of ”Oh dear!” and she recognized that this was a constant cycle of worms burrowing in his mind.

Merlin’s family calls those people string savers, because they have been through the depression and they know that at a certain point they are going to need some extra string, so why would they throw that away? If you have ever been to an old person’s home, you know that this is a thing. Merlin thinks that the ticket stubs are not the real problem, but the real problem is the stuff you save without really knowing why but you think it might be important some day. If you have a lot of this future provenance, you don’t even know how to classify it.

Safes that look like Coke cans

For instance there were Coke cans that were actually little safes, a type of thing you would find in a Skymall catalog from 1985. It looked like a can of Dr. Pepper, but you can take the top off and it is a secret place where you can put your jewels. It comports with John’s thinking almost exactly. He would like to open his refrigerator and every single item in there is actually a disguised safe. But you can’t have a can of 1985 Coke in the refrigerator because people would think you are a nut, but people already think John is a nut and it might not be unreasonable for him to have a can of 1985 Coke in his refrigerator that was legitimate Coke and another one that is a safe. They also made a thing that looked like an electrical outlet, but instead of being an actual electrical outlet it was a safe.

John started to collect those things, not only because it was a humorous moment in American psychological territory. There was a time where people were worried, but the only value that a safe like that would have is if your daughter were a junkie. If what you are trying to protect from burglars would fit into an electrical outlet, you don’t have that much to lose, unless you have a can of uncut diamonds and some German bearer-bonds. You could put an engagement ring, $500 in $100 bills and a Krugerrand in there, maybe? These things would actually be perfect for hiding USB drives that are full of all of government secrets, but they were made in an earlier time.

John started to collect these cheapo-security things when he found them, but they would only be useful if he had a teenager who was scavenging around, looking for something to steal out of his room. A burglar would take the TV. John has a collection of these things, but he hasn’t installed them because part of their appeal is that they are in their packaging and you can read about the Amazing Security Outlet box, but it is not quite beautiful or weird enough to build a display case, because it would look like John was curating garbage. It looks like a can of Right Guard, but it is not. Looks like an outlet, doesn’t it? John would also have a neck pillow in there and a bent fork. It is not beautiful, it is not something to display, it doesn’t even belong in a spy museum, but it is where you keep the spare key to your vacation home. John also has a collection of fake rocks where you can hide a key in that don’t look like rocks at all.

Those items live in a world where half of the time John classifies them as practical items that he has yet to install, they are still in a ToDo-list area, but he still is not sure if those things are particles or waves and depending on how he looks at them, some times they are particles and some times they are waves. Sometimes John moves them out of the queue and puts them back into the collectible area.

Enjoyment vs suffering

After John is going to die, somebody is going to try to make sense of his estate and they will wonder what was wrong with this guy. He has nothing of value and hundreds of ways to hide it that he never used. Every once in a while he puts little things in a mental placeholder, like he is putting a tie-tack in this thing as a stick-it note to remind himself that this is not crazy, but it is actually a practical thing. He could put $100 in there, but it is not how we do things now. We are not trying to protect this $100, but we have this for a different reason.

Many things in John’s world fit into this category: Depending on how he measures it, the fundamental nature of the thing is different and it never settles into one category or another. It goes into a box in the project room and it is floating around. There is also a collection of wallets in that same box, none of which he is ever going to use again, but he cannot empty them because the old expired credit cards, YMCA membership cards and Blockbuster Video cards in those wallets are of a time and it would be like breaking up a collection! The problem is that no archeologist is ever going to find this wallet-collection and be amazed by the 1997 Blockbuster Video cards in it, but the only archeologist who cares about it is John.

John is in this constant dance of thrust-to-weight ratio of enjoyment vs anxiety. He looks at something, he goes ”Haha! Look at that! Blockbuster Video card from 1997!” and then he goes: ”What is wrong with you?” and wonders whatever gauge in his mind can calibrate the entertainment he is getting vs the suffering. Fingering this 1997 Blockbuster Video card is causing more suffering than pleasure, thinking that this is a thing from the past vs surveying the entire room, feeling like a crazy person surrounded by things that are emblematic of craziness. If they were all gone, would he ever lay awake in bed at night and think ”How would I ever finger a Blockbuster Video card again?” He would never think about it again!

John’s friend asked him why he had all these old copies of Vice Magazine. In the really early days of Vice it was pretty interesting, transgressive, and pretty funny. Seriously? It is just like a stack of Time Magazines. Really? John is not even keeping them to sell them in the future or because they had recipes in them or a guide on how to build a book shelf that you might want to use one day, but the only reason you would keep old Vice magazines is because you thought that the hyper-snarky pop-culture of 2004 was something to cling to.

John does not believe that, but he does have a stack of Vice magazines. As she started to move toward the garbage can he was like ”Wow, wow, wow!” What if John wanted to take some of those pictures out and put them in picture frames? She didn’t even know the words John was using. There are some good pictures in there and putting them in frames would impart value in them. John hasn’t done that yet, so they have potential energy and potential value, he just hasn’t converted it to kinetic value.

From funny to sympathetic

What separates John from being a garden-variety hoarder is that he has put things in groups. If it is not in a group, it is not a collection. John has the presence of mind to put these certain kind of backstage passes into a cigar box and he is much further along than somebody who has piles that they are moving into bigger and bigger boxes. Merlin is looking at a page about the five levels of hoarding (this one, see also document here) Level One already allows for 2-3 pet accidents visible to someone visiting and there are 4 more levels. John is laughing out loud! Merlin doesn’t think John qualifies on any of those levels, he doesn’t even have any odors except for the odors of freshly made chili.

John does not collect anything perishable, he does clean out the kitchen, and he is not someone who cannot throw away an avocado. Merlin’s understanding of hoarding is that you can’t function normally, you can’t close and open doors, and you can’t walk through rooms. It starts with a path and pretty soon there is not a path and that is when it starts being more than just cluttered.

There is a psychological hallways in John’s mental house that he cannot walk down because there are newspapers stacked in there, there are visible hoarding problems with rodents, and there is wall-board damage. You can have that in your mind-house as well. John doesn’t think he has rodents in his mind-house, but there are definitely newspapers tied with twine and when you tell John to get rid of some of them because they are a fire hazard, he goes ”Wow, wow, wow!” Those newspapers are going to be important!

Part of what feels like it is a mind problem is that John knows exactly where everything is. Somebody told him the other day that they needed some key card or some little piece of paper. It had been 9 months since that paper arrived, but he could mentally track it like a UPS tracking number. It was originally on the piano, it went to the kitchen table, got put into a box and taken upstairs into the project room, but at a certain point that box got consolidated into another box. It is surely in the pre-Cambrian layer between the series of menus from restaurants that used French inappropriately, but is definitely going to be below all of the half-charged AAA batteries that he decided still had enough charge that he would keep them together, in case a technology was developed allowing you to collect energy from half-charged batteries.

John went upstairs, reached into the middle of a stack in a box and pulled out the thing. He could be splitting the fucking atom, but we only use 2% of our brain, the other 98% is just cycling on a dry-cycle. John does not want to have that amount of organization in his head because he does feel like he is one of these tinkerers who used to go from village to village and sharpened your cooking pots. He got a donkey with a straw hat with his ears sticking out of it, and he has a cart covered with pots. In the world of Dickens he would be called a pan-sharp.

Maybe John should quit having people over to help him? That would be one of the steps. For a middle-aged man it is a bad sign when people are going from thinking you are funny to thinking you are sympathetic. He is starting to look like Wilford Brimley anyway. "Diabetes!” Merlin thinks John doesn’t give himself enough credit and he should get somebody in there from the University of Washington, maybe an anthropologist may be interested in helping him out? They are not going to ask why John keeps Vice Magazine, but they are going to ask him how he is going to curate this and what the story was. If John got 5% of his collection curated! The problem is that every time he sees an ad from the UW in the newspaper, looking for study participants, it is always VD (Venereal Disease). Do you suffer from Herpes and want to make $10 a month? John doesn’t want to be part of these studies even though he does want to be helpful.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License