RL19 - Finger Camping Trip

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: Addressing John’s Vitamin D Deficiency, referring to John going to a doctor, taking a bunch of tests, and being recommended to take Vitamin D.

The show title refers to something the owner of an inscrutable Korean barbecue said to Merlin once and Merlin still doesn’t know 20 years later what that means.

Reggae Music (RL19)

They start the episode singing each other’s names, but John is going to rewrite the Janet Jackson song (Nasty Boys) to reflect his actual feelings for Merlin because her lyrics are fairly antagonistic. She is asserting herself, she is breaking free! Jimmy Jam is her songwriter. John has not worked with him, but if John was raised by an oppressive Jehovah’s Witness family he would turn himself over to Jimmy Jam, who would be the Pied Piper who gets the rats out of John’s emotional life.

What about Jellybean Benitez? He probably practices a Creole chicken religion, but don’t call it Rastafarianism, people would be mad! John doesn’t think they have a lot of Reggae listeners. Setting aside strictly spiritual music, is there any other kind of truly execrable music that has such a close following by a religion people don’t understand? There is Christian Soldiers (?), but are there other faiths? A lot of people claim that Indie Rock right now is being colonized by Christianity.

John correcting the Internet (RL19)

John has decided he is going to read the Internet page by page and mark all the places where people are wrong. He started at www.aaaaaaaaa.com and is doing it manually. It is called a dictionary attack, which is not a bad way to go.

John taking Vitamin D (RL19)

John has been traveling and he started taking Vitamin D. He had been to the doctor who ran a full battery of tests. John said: ”Doctor, give me the news!” and the doctor stubbed his cigarette out in the little specimen tray and took 17 vials of John’s blood with a rusty needle and said that John had everything he needs including a little bit of high cholesterol, which is because of John’s insistence of deep-frying his pancakes, like a Monte Cristo Sandwich for breakfast with the bacon inside.

At one point Merlin took Vitamin E and his hair fell out. He thought it would give you boners! Vitamin D is what they put in milk and for a long time they said you can’t take too much Vitamin D, but then it turned out that this is not actually true and now John is taking Vitamin D and what is it doing for him? John's doctor told him he had all his vitamins and he was fine, except for one thing: He didn't have any Vitamin D in his body and he needed all this Vitamin D. John said: ”Is there no Vitamin D in Häagen Dazs? Because I eat a gallon of Häagen Dazs every six hours!” It was not enough for John and the doctor said John needed to go into the sun because it is a thing that happens when you go in the sun.

John didn’t want to go into the sun and asked if there was another way and the doctor said: ”Yes, you can take it from a pharmacy and take one with every meal!” and John got some of it. It is too early to say that he is feeling better, but it is nice to think that there is something chemically wrong with him rather than there is something spiritually wrong with him.

You can spend a lot of time running down the path of spirituality, but they got solutions for the chemicals. John has been walking around with a figurative cloud over him in addition to a literal cloud. Both of them lifted and he now can see the sun. He is taking Vitamin D and he doesn’t feel like he is looking at the world through pantyhose anymore. Also, he stopped robbing banks.

Eggo with Parkay (RL19)

When Merlin was a kid he would stay over at his friend John’s house and in the morning before they went to church they would make Eggos. The Cincinnati style would be to put spaghetti and chili on them. They would squeeze Parkay all over the Eggos because as protestants in Ohio they didn't have butter, but they would squeeze an entire layer of Parkay on it. You had two Eggos with Parkay in between and Parkay on top. Then you do the squeeze syrup on top and cover the entire thing with approximately a 3/4 of a cup of confection or sugar. Then you try to sit still in church and think about redemption, it is fucking hard!

Cincinnati (RL19)

Merlin says that if Kentucky and Indiana got really fucked up and had sex one night, a few months later Cincinnati would come out, like the klan meets the creak. John loves Cincinnati! It was a nice place to grow up for Merlin and he liked it. Of all the towns in America, a few towns adopted The Long Winters right away and Cincinnati was one. They would be treated like kings and their shows were great, all thanks to the radio station WOXY. Merlin used to donate money to them, his friend Chris Class (?) did their beautiful website, and they were the best, but they went away.

Merlin’s reggae story (RL19)

Merlin has a Reggae story that he has never told. At the time when his lady still had the bun in the oven they went up to the Russian River and got a little boat. John has river-rafted the Russian River as well. It is not super-complicated and because Merlin normally doesn’t even go outside, he is like a Japanese lady who needs a parasol and doesn't like being in the sun, it was a big deal for him to go on the Russian River.

His wife was super-pregnant and they were in this boat with all their stuff. They missed their exit where you get off and take your boat back because they didn’t know about it and they kept going. As great as Merlin’s wife’s sense of direction is, he was probably whining, she was distracted, and he did not have the innate sense of direction that John does.

Suddenly there was not a rapid exactly, but just enough of a shoot that a crazy pregnant lady and an idiot realized that they couldn't control their boat and, despite Merlin’s best effort, the boat flipped over very violently and sent all of their stuff into the water. They had already wanted to stop doing this an hour ago and it was a situation when you really want to stop doing something, but just need one more thing at this point.

Now they were in the water and their stuff was floating away and Merlin’s lady took a little bit of a hit in the gut going over. They were freaking out a little because they were probably not going to have a sixpack of these and they really wanted this one to work out. Now she was worried, Merlin was worried and he was running around gathering their consumer goods to get them back in the boat and it was still another hour.

They were walking around, carrying a boat, they went to the wrong place, they went to the beach and now they had to go this way and follow up the river. It was one of these days that you want to never have happened and the closest Merlin was going to get to this never having happened was to having it end. The place where you drop in with your boat and the place where they pick you up with your boat are two different places and they finally got back to the boat place.

It was all fucking mooks and hippies sitting around with fucking Macrame bush lights and Merlin was just: ”Fucking kill me!” He really hates Reggae and he just wanted to go somewhere that is not in the sun and make sure his lady was comfortable, but they had to go on an old busted-ass bus with a jokey driver. Never go with a hippie to a second location (from 30 Rock), John has made that his mantra!

Everybody in this big hippie bus was drunk and a little sunburned and happy and Merlin and his wife were sitting there as the grouchy urbanites, looking like the guy looks when Sam-I-Am won’t go away, that expression: ”Can I just be left alone?” The driver put on fucking Legend! If you have been through college you never have to hear Legend again, and it was fucking desperately loud and now the mooks had to yell louder.

Everybody on there was super date-rapy with their glasses on the back of their T-shirt collar and real rapy Adidas shower sandals. That is Reggae for Merlin and his wife now: Any time they hear one note of Bob Gnarly (Bob Marley), they just look at each other knowingly. Why has John not heard Bob Gnarly before? He hereby claims it as his DJ name!

Every time Merlin hears a Reggae song it is like calling the trigger word. He hates Reggae, he hates it everywhere, and every time he hears Jimmie Buffett it sounds like something the guys who are thinking about date rape would listen to. It is awful! You are not going to sit around and listen to the Wrens and think about this kind of stuff, but this is for bad people!

If you get two or more mooks in a room there is going to be some fucking Reggae because they don’t know what else to do. You will not even find two Wrens fans in a room together, but one is in an elevator somewhere, weeping softly, and one is in his closet, trying to pick which one of his two pairs of pants to wear today. Merlin doesn’t need Reggae and it is just something he never wants to hear again.

John’s Reggae stories are Legion because he grew up with an open mind to Reggae. Merlin used to have an open mind to Reggae when he was young, and he thought Hippies might be cool, too, but that didn’t turn out great. John hasn’t listened to Reggae in a very long time, but as a musician he has to admire Reggae music. It is like the CNN of music, it is just what people put on, but musicians cannot pick their fans!

A band cannot pick their fans (RL19)

When Built to Spill first started playing in Seattle, all their initial fans in the very small clubs were other musicians and cool kids, it felt like a real thing, a real family. Then there was a day when Built to Spill were still playing at The Crocodile, a 300 capacity venue, and the place was a) packed and b) everyone in the place had a white baseball cap on backwards. ”What the fuck?” You could see that the body language of the band had changed and they were not facing the crowd.

Doug Martsch didn't like that at all, they looked like they were nervous and uncomfortable, and at the end of every song there were people cheering all around which had never happened before either. This was the first time John was introduced to the concept that a band cannot pick their fans. Built to Spill would never have chosen these people and if they could they would have electrocuted them, but frat boys were their fans now, they became a frat boy band, and there was nothing they could do about it.

John was in Harvey Danger, the ultimate band that wanted their fans to be Pavement fans, but their actual fans were hot topic teenagers and people who felt Green Day was great, but not quite sophisticated enough. Harvey Danger was in a constant change of misery as a band, not because their music had changed or they had done anything wrong, but because people chose to like them who the band didn’t admire. John learned through that that if you have any emotional hold on who you want your fans to be you are going to be in misery. You have to walk out on stage and do your thing!

Bob Marley did not chose to be the music of date rape or whatever Merlin is claiming, but there it is! Merlin felt that way when he saw Nirvana in 1994 in the Civic Center in Tallahassee. The Breeders were opening and did a pretty good job of filling the room and then Nirvana came out to one of the defining moments of Merlin’s music and Indie Rock arc. He really liked this band, but they seemed so little on stage. They had bombastic set stuff going on and when they did the whole: ”He’s the one who likes all our pretty songs!” (lyrics of In Bloom) everybody was singing along, but you don’t have to be a huge ironist to sit there and go: ”This is awkward!” There was a big spinning mirror ball and people were singing along.

But if you read he Liner Notes on Incesticide (album by Nirvana, actually it was In Utero: image), he writes this whole essay where he addresses rapers directly: ”If you don’t like gays or if you are a raper, then fuck off and stop listening to Nirvana because we don’t want you!” Rapers are big Liner Note readers! The first thing they do is to go through and check if there is anything they should know about, who the second engineer on this project was, and if there is an article about rapers: "Oh, that is me! I guess I should stop listening, but I don’t want to! What are my other options? Oh, I could stop raping!” Even at the time John thought: ”Come on!”

Nirvana (RL19)

Merlin finds Kurt Cobain to be a serious cautionary tale to the whole: ”Be careful what you ask for or didn’t realize you were asking for!” genre, but he knew what he was in for! There was a big interview with him in the local Rock magazine, the weekly (actually: biweekly) paper The Rocket right before Nevermind came out and John read it at the time and because he has a memory like a steel trap he remembers the gist of it.

John was an aspiring musician and here was somebody who was where John wanted to be and John was trying to glean whatever wisdom he could get. Maybe he was having a manic day that day, but Kurt Cobain was really unabashed about that this record was going to be the biggest record in the world and they are going to be the biggest band in the world and they were on their way to achieving all their dreams.

At the time it was so implausible because their first record had sold 50.000 copies and they didn’t dare to dream, but in this article he was crowing! Another reason this stuck in John’s head was that six months later John was reading things from him like: ”We are just a Hardcore Punk band and we just want to tour in our van and I don’t know why everybody is looking at me all the time and I want this to go away!” John was able to contrast the two attitudes in his head and thought: ”I don’t know about that!”

Around the same time Eddie Vedder, who had been wearing Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax T-Shirts and high-top tennis shoes six months before, he was a high-five-and-white guy, all of a sudden started carrying around a bottle of red wine and went: ”Oh fuck! I am so hurt inside!” Either that meant that every high-five-and-white guy is really hurt inside and all he needed was several million dollars and adulation of millions to get in touch with his feelings, or this was a little bit of a put-on.

People in Seattle call him Ed Ved, but John will call him Mr. Vedder. Seattle continues to feel proprietary about people who have become international superstars and they do it by using inappropriate nicknames. It is a little bit like San Francisco having the reputation of supposedly being notorious or famous for not making a big deal out of things.

Cover albums (RL19)

Duran Duran did a weird cover record and Seal just did a cover record of incredibly obvious covers. John credits the Johnny Cash cover record with reintroducing him to Solitary Man by Neil Diamond, which is a great song and Johnny Cash’s cover is great, but don’t do a cover record! It always seems like a good idea going in. Playing a cover at a show is a great idea, but you should not do a record of your 10 favorite covers.

There is a video for Sugarcube by Yo La Tengo where they go to Rock school and David Cross is says your third record should be the live album. It is weird how there is still this cycle where at a certain point you put out the Best Of, the Greatest Hits, and Ela has 170 of those. Then you really start to dry things up.

It is not so different from Paul (McCartney) and Get Back or what would become Let It Be. Paul said: ”Hey guys! We have to keep this together and get back to our roots!” and a lot of that was going back to covering. A lot of the stuff that didn’t make it on the album was covers of old Rock’n’Roll songs that they loved. He also managed to write Let It Be. It is maybe not desperate, but would you do that if you were still full of ideas?

Van Halen (RL19)

Van Halen had two albums in the can after a few weeks. They recorded them at the same time and they still had tracks left over. The first album was great and Merlin thinks the second album is really good, too, but John thinks it is not in the Top 5 Van Halen records. Fair Warning and Women and Children First are John’s two favorite Van Halen records because they are so dark and so smart.

John had a cassette tape with those on the A/B side. Merlin thinks that Van Halen I and side 1 of Master of Puppets (by Metallica) are almost perfect. John would never say a bad word about Van Halen I, it is one of the great albums and it is bulletproof and it is up above a level where he could even make a critical appraisal of it. That was like saying Magical Mystery Tour isn’t as good as Revolver (both by The Beatles), but it is still a pretty good record, although it is not a great record.

Merlin was able to peg both Van Halen’s apotheosis, their zenith, as well as the beginning of the end in four words: ”One Break Coming Up”! (from the lyrics of Unchained by Van Halen) That was it! The rollercoaster had tipped over! This is the most David Lee Roth thing from back when he was still awesome and a couple of years later you get Just A Giggolo and you can almost hear Eddie Van Halen’s eyeballs rolling in his head. It was probably Ted Templeman who said that it felt like a manicured outtake moment.

The Beatles, first chord of Hard Days Night (RL19)

With The Beach Boys or The Beatles you can hear things like the count-in on a song or the studio noise. There was a lot of crazy stuff going on in the studio that was really funny and silly. John (Lennon) actually counted into all the songs! The Beatles did 40 takes of a song. There is an alternate take of And Your Bird Can Sing. John likes a Rickenbacker 12-string!

Last night John was talking to Ira from Nada Surf. He is the tall nice one, although they are all nice, and he told John to google: ”Randy Bachman Opening Chord to A Hard Day’s Night” (video here) It is actually three chords! He explains that he went to Abbey Road and they had all the masters by The Beatles and he wanted to hear the first chord of Hard Day’s Night.

It is George on the 12-string playing an F with the top G the bottom G added, John is playing a Dsus4 and Paul is playing D on the bass. As he hit the chord tears come to your eyes because it is exactly the chord! Merlin loves the beginning of Taxman (by The Beatles) and they should do a podcast just about Taxman! In the remastered things you can hear the mosquitos in the room, so tight is that recording.

Any Your Bird Can Sing might be the only Beatles song according to Paul that he never played on because George plays bass on that. No: Paul plays second guitar on that, but he did not play on She Said She Said. According to Paul he was on all the John songs later, but he is an unreliable narrator and they are going to get letters. He ended up playing drums on some of the White Album stuff and he plays many of the most interesting guitar parts on some of their best Beatles songs.

Less than a week ago John sat in a dressing room in Philadelphia and a lot of people there are listening to Roderick on the Line! Merlin heard that somebody had said something nice about them and John was on the YouTube talking about it while tuning his guitars. This is why banter works! John was doing an Open D and had to tune all 6 strings of the guitar.

John was sitting in the dressing room and a local Philadelphia musician was back there to talk to the headliner of the tour, and he started talking about Paul McCartney and said: There are three things he won’t take in this world: 1) People talking shit about Philadelphia because I am from Philadelphia, 2) some other thing, 3) Anybody talking shit about Paul McCartney. John thought the guy was in the wrong dressing room!

John loves Paul, but he is not somebody who is not going to talk shit about Paul because if you love something you must talk shit about it and shit it free! Merlin used to say in college that you won’t really finish your thesis until you hate the topic. Paul McCartney is absolutely unimpeachable as a musician and as a composer, but my God what a penis-head! Has John watched Let It Be and seen how hard he tries?

He is amazing, but he still seems like the guy who is walking around their shared apartment, picking up cigarette butts and going: ”Guys, guys!” This is about Merlin who is the Paul McCartney of Roderick on the Line. ”I play whatever you want me to play. If you don’t want me to play, I won’t play at all!” is not what Paul would say. Then fucking Yoko (Ono) walks in and sits in George’s empty seat. John is not the first to say that there were a lot of problems with The Beatles.

Merlin didn’t realize how relatively early on John Lennon was already like: ”I hate this!” Even before Yoko he was sitting around being depressed in the suburbs, smoking weed. Paul might have been was an asshole, but Lennon was a total prick who said awful things. When someone asked him if Ringo was the best drummer in Rock’n’Roll he said that Ringo was not even the best drummer in The Beatles. What an asshole! It makes Merlin mad! But there is always a greater Beatles fan and you have to just stay out of the way because those guys get serious. Most of them are in Japan and Merlin doesn't understand what they are saying.

Susanna Hoffs (RL19)

John would not make fun of Matthew Sweet because he is working with Susanna Hoffs (from The Bangles) and John is not. You can't say a bad thing about somebody who is standing within 25 feet (7.5 m) of Susanna Hoffs. She has a pretty voice, but John was not a Susanna Hoffs fan back in the Walk Like An Egyptian era. Manic Monday is just a cover from Prince. John thought she was too small and she was too cloying.

Then John saw a YouTube clip from the early 1990s where Susanna Hoffs was playing an outdoor Rock festival. Her band was doing a cover of When The Levee Breaks (by Led Zeppelin) or something like that, some classic Rock tune, and she was wearing little black stretch pants. They were not The Bangles or The Bananaramas or whatever hell band she was in, but this was a band full of guitar-face making Strat-with-the-strap-too-high LA dudes. Everything about it was wrong, but they launched into this tune and she just killed it!

It was not even night, she was probably 5th on a bill of 15, but she just killed it and John walked away thinking: ”Susanna Hoffs! No matter what else I used to think, she can really bring it!” Merlin said that she has some fucking Dorian Grey going on and she is a handsome woman today who has to be 50 years old. That is why Merlin is glad he didn’t peak in High School! Peek or peak? In High School Merlin peeked sometimes 3 or 4 times a day, it was the only way he could concentrate on anything!

Caustic Resin was the guy from the Ultimate Alternative Wavers called Brett (Netson), Merlin buttonholed him at a Caustic Resin show one time just so he could be all spoogy about Ultimate Alternative Wavers, the first Built to Spill album. He wasn’t even in the band anymore because he had challenges, like a lot of Seattle people. Merlin doesn’t want to see Built to Spill because they always play at the Slim’s (Live Music Venue). Sloan is the only band he will see at the Slim’s, but he has seen also seen The Ex there. No matter where you stand there is no sight line anywhere in there!

Merlin wasn’t a giant Caustic Resin fan because they did a flip 12” with Built to Spill and Merlin wasn’t super into it. Caustic Resin is much more caustic and somewhat more resinous.

Parallel universe of clubs (RL19)

John has played in cities on the East Coast many times, but recently he was opening for Aimee Mann and was playing in clubs that he not only had never been to, but had never even heard of. They are big clubs in each one of these cities. In Philadelphia obviously he played the World Café and in New York and the big cities he played the big clubs, but out in Alexandria Virginia or Annapolis Maryland they had 1000 people sit down at tables to watch a show and people said this was a legendary club that had been around forever, but John had never heard of it.

On the wall there were pictures of all the people who have played in this club and it was a whole separate music scene: Lucinda Williams, Peter, Paul and Mary, Shawn Colvin… There was a whole network of clubs and there could be a whole music scene of people who go to clubs every night all around the world and they have never crossed paths with John except at a truck stop somewhere when they were headed to Alexandria Virginia and John was as well. It is a parallel universe of clubs and Rock fans, doing this other thing. Susanna Hoffs is surely playing with Matthew Sweet at these places right now.

Merlin can’t even stand to go to Slim’s because no matter where you stand you are in somebody’s way. Bottom of the Hill is like that as well, but you can go into a corner and camp out and still hear what is going on. The Warfield is big and annoying, too.

In San Francisco there is a rule of two: You start out at Café du Nord and two Café du Nords is a Bottom of the Hill and two Bottom of the Hill is a Great American Music Hall and two of those is a Fillmore. John feels that is true. Production costs go up exponentially and it is more expensive to put on a show at the Fillmore than three shows at The Bottom of the Hill.

Seattle has a similar situation except it is a rule of three: Three Crocodiles used to be a Showbox, three Showboxes are a Paramount, but there are a lot of bands like Death Cab, Built to Spill and Modest Mouse who could have played a Paramount, but they would rather play three Showboxes because in the end you walk with more money from three Showboxes.

One time John and Sean (Nelson) was opening for They Might Be Giants in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall. It was a weird sit-down show because they want to make a little extra dough on chicken fingers and shit. If you want a seat up in the mezzanine or on the floor where you can see, you have to order fucking food, which is really stupid!

People in the music business are trying to make money and they will sell you chicken fingers if that is what it takes. John would sell Merlin chicken fingers if he could get them to him hot and fresh. That is what separates him: He is a pro and this makes him and their show artisanal. Sometimes Merlin bemoans the fact that they are not a ridiculously popular program, but he doesn’t want to have the Doug Martsch problem (you can’t choose your audience) and he doesn’t want to be entertaining dumbasses. He likes the fact that they are getting people who can tolerate a huge amount of Ping Pong and bit of vagina talk to get to some place important.

John reading Merlin’s at-replies (RL19)

A couple of weeks ago John went to Merlin’s Twitter account and read Merlin’s at-replies. He has never gone on a friend’s Twitter account before and read what people are saying to them and he was appalled at the way people talk to Merlin. All these ding dongs out there are correcting him on stuff where he is not wrong! Merlin also gets tons of people congratulating him and telling him that he is their hero, but there are also all these people who presume that it is their place to correct him on some this-or-that.

Merlin is not criticizing them because that is what it is for! He has been corrected for spelling Wookiee incorrectly and he has been criticized for spelling it correctly. He had arguments with people whether he spelled it incorrectly or correctly, although it is not super-hard to find out what the correct spelling of something is.

John is always arguing with people on Twitter because he says provocative things and then he responds, but Merlin’s at-replies are more caustic. People respond to John’s Twitter account with only the most fearful deference, like ”Mr. Roderick, I’m sorry to interrupt you, sir, but I just wanted to say: Thank you for everything you do for us! Signed: Loyal Fan” A lot of people probably put on some better clothes before they reply to John on Twitter. Not Sunday best, but they dress to impress. Not clean, but less dirty, maybe they put on a hat.

Sometimes John replies and sometimes he doesn’t. Afterwards they probably sit in a chair and stare at the floor and think about the wording of the Tweet they sent to John, wondering if they maybe could have done it better and then they get paranoid because John could totally misinterpret what they said and they want to send him a second clarifying tweet, but most of them don’t.

This is what makes the end of the evening dangerous, especially anywhere there are drinks, whether it is the end MacWorld in Merlin’s case or the end of the evening for John, although John hides in his dressing room behind his Phalanx of guards. People who would have milled around and just come up and said ”Hi!” earlier get 11-16 drinks and then there is a lot of candor.

John selling hugs because he forgot his merchandize (RL19)

On his recent tour John started selling hugs because he forgot to bring merchandize and Aimee Mann told him he needed to have merchandize. How else would people be able to show him that they love him? He should have ordered Chicken Fingers on his backstage writer and sold them from the stage. John sold hugs for $5 and high-fives for $2, fist-bumps for $1. John is very moist after a show, but he is a great hugger, dry or wet, and when people hug you after a show they are really going to tell you a story. John loves people’s stories!

Merlin is not as extroverted as he thought (RL19)

Merlin is not as extroverted as he thought. He is definitely a loud-mouth, but at a certain point he feels a cold coming on and he is going to need to not be ”on” soon. It is important to recharge your battery.

Merlin is pretty sure he heard a song by Aimee Mann in the Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. She is friends with Tim and they even co-wrote a song together. It is a small world! Merlin needs to get mobbed up with these famous people or maybe he doesn’t, because he likes his modest and manageable life. He doesn’t need a lot of celebrities in his life and he thinks that must be hard for John!

John doesn’t think it is hard to manage because he has cultivated an air of impenetrability. He even had that in the early 1990s, but that was more an air of intoxicatedability and in between there was an era where John was penetrable. John is not actually impenetrable and in a room of famous people where people go nuts all around him he lets it bounce off of him.

John finding himself on a Social Media panel in Seattle (RL19)

The mayor’s office called John and said they want him to be on a panel. They were really trying to promote Seattle as a music town, after years of trying to squash every music or culturally related activity, but now there was a new mayor who likes music and asked John to be on a panel with Sir Mixalot. It is not even a panel, but just the two of them and they are talking about Social Networking.

John doesn’t want to be on this, but Paste Magazine says that John is the number one musician to follow and John lives in Seattle and therefore he can be on their panel and talk about Social Networking to a room full of ding dongs! How tedious! Mix is going to go: ”I don’t know! I don’t do that! I just Whoo!” He doesn’t tweet, at least John doesn’t know about it, and they are going to look at John who is going to say: ”Here is the secret: Be funny, I guess! And be nice and Keep moving and get out of the way! Thank you, good night!” Somebody is going to give him their half-sized Moo-card that says: ”Follow me!” He is going to get 700 business cards.

Every time somebody gives Merlin a business card he says the same thing: ”I am really not taking any paper tonight!” and they laugh and hand it to him anyway, but: ”Can I be super-honest with you? What should I do with this?” Are they supposed to set an appointment for something? Is Merlin supposed to write their name down in a book? What do you do with all of these cards? And then they look hurt because Merlin is being honest and honesty harms people.

People want to have a zippo-zappo meeting, but Merlin has barely enough time to love his daughter! How do they accept all these things? Is it paying out a lot of benefits? Some people follow up and send you a thing, saying: ”Hey, following up on that handshake we had at that meeting, just wanting to say I really enjoyed your show!”

The problem with the Social Media people is that this panel exists because it is now a racket. They used to talk about things like SEO and that is still a thing, but people don’t even have fucking websites anymore. They turn you to their Facebook, but Merlin can’t even get on Facebook because he turned his account off!

John got in a huge argument with Hodgman when he told him to stop tweeting about his Tumblr. Tumble about your Tumblr, tweet about your tweet! Don’t tweet about your Tumblr! Hodgman said: ”First thing: Don’t tell me I’m doing it wrong. Second thing: I want people to go over to my Tumblr because I like that better!” He has 7000 Tumblr followers and 700.000 Twitter followers and he likes doing his Tumblr better but he is afraid to leave his 700.000 followers behind. John was bitching about this on Twitter, as you do and someone on John’s Facebook page said: ”Why am I reading about this on Facebook?” John’s Twitter was ported over to Facebook and John got called. He is going to get a Tumblr and he is going to fucking tweet about it on his Facebook!

John carries a fire extinguisher with him everywhere he goes because every time somebody calls themselves a social media expert or a social media consultant he hits them right in the face with the fire extinguisher, but not with the stream, but the literal fire extinguisher. It is an empty fire extinguisher that he filled with sand and if there is an electrical fire he has sand to throw on it, nothing wrong with that!

Merlin will ask them to show him the second or third most successful site they have ever done besides their own: "Show me one thing that you have ever done that is not about social media or SEO, one thing that is more famous than your own site about SEO, and one thing that is more famous than your own Twitter account about social media marketing!" They are really good at marketing themselves, they have somebody else paying the freight and they are never going to turn Bob Wienerbarn into a Facebook sensation, they are never going to be as popular as you because all you do all day is fucking social media bullshit about social media bullshit. This is what is wrong with Seattle and why no musician will move to Seattle!

John says the same thing anytime anybody offers him relationship advice: ”Have you been married for 40 years and raised 5 kids to adulthood? Then shut up! Go back to minding your own business because you don’t know anything!” What if John is really good at breaking up with people? He could write a book about it, called ”Selling short!” He will break-up with somebody and they don’t even realize it until he is 1000 miles away.

Comedians on Twitter (RL19)

When it comes to the fucking comics, the funny people on the Twitter, it is ironic and paradoxical that some of the most joyless people in the universe make a living by making people laugh, but on Twitter and they are not even funny! ”Catch me at the Laugh Shack in Pasadena!” That is not funny! That is Tim & Eric meta-anti-funny, and frankly: John likes Tim & Eric, and Tim Heidecker is a great guy, but John has not met him and likes to meet him.

When is John going to introduce Merlin to that Lee Unkrich guy? He is a busy guy making famous movies. Merlin at-responded to Brad Bird today which he very rarely does with famous people, but because Merlin is very popular on Twitter he doesn’t need people to respond. Adam Savage covered The Commander Thinks Aloud on Piano. One of the times Merlin was in his man-cave he was playing the Ultimatum record. He covered it on stage and now it is on YouTube.

Too many ukulele covers on YouTube (RL19)

When did ukulele covers become a thing? Every time Merlin looks for a song there will be a bunch of people with a computer taking a picture of themselves while playing the ukulele. The ukulele is actually pretty easy to play, compared to a French Horn or a Bassoon. You can pick it up and you can be playing music very quickly, which you can’t say about the bassoon or the guitar and certainly not the piano.

You cannot play good music on an oboe, full stop, it has never been done! The ukulele is the gateway drug to making twee Pop music and there is really nothing that doesn’t sound good on the ukulele. Even if you are a great ukuleleist it still sounds like you are playing a child’s toy. Merlin is not going to go anti-ukulele because it sounds really cool and he loves that it is so democratic and easy enough to pick up.

Merlin had a friend who played French Horn and she had to practice a lot to not suck at French Horn. You have to have amazing lips! Merlin once did make out with a French Horn player and she could twist the top off of a mason jar. She had probably a 4-octave range with her mouth, she had an extraordinary amount of control with her lips and Merlin thought he was making out with four people. She bought him breakfast as well, but he let her go, he let them all go, that is part of his relationship advice!

Six years ago there were no ukuleles, but now there are all ukuleles and John predicts that two years from now it is going to be the zither because everybody has a zither now. What about that screamy lady with the harp? Harps are a) expensive b) huge and c) really hard to play. People prefer to look at Joanna Newsom from a respectful distance. One year John judged a local teen music competition put on by EMP called ”Sound Off!”, not the School of Rock thing. There was a girl playing the solo harp and yodeling. John didn’t know this was a thing, but now it was going to be a thing.

Marx Brothers (RL19)

Merlin recommends to watch anything with the Marx Brothers (comedians) because it is delightful. Those guys are massively talented! Just watching Chico (Marx) play the piano with the little gun thing. Harpo (Marx) knew what he was doing on that harp! Duck Soup is the one where everyone says ”I love you!” John maybe the John (Lennon) and Merlin may be the Paul (McCartney) of Roderick on the Line, but Merlin is definitely going to be the Marx Brothers authority. Merlin is deeply respected out there in the world and John sees is everywhere he goes.

John working at the Off Ramp with Phil Ek (RL19)

Phil Ek, who did the Hurricanes demo cassette, is the same producer who did There’s Nothing Wrong With Love (album by Built to Spill). When John first moved to Seattle when he was 21 years old he worked at a club called The Off Ramp, the Grunge museum. They had two sound guys and Phil Ek was the younger apprentice who shouldn’t even have even been in the bar because he was only 19 years old. They worked together every day at this bar, but John never knew his last name and only ever knew him as Phil.

He produced the second Built to Spill record and his name started ringing out, everybody was talking about him and John felt like he had to find out who this guy is. He did the jokey outro where he announces the next Built to Spill record that goes: ”Kick you in the head and then I’ll kick you in the head” (called Hidden Track by Built to Spill)

During the whole 1990s John was bumping into Phil whom he knew from the Rock club and he would be: ”Hey Phil, how is it going!” and they would talk for 5 minutes and: ”See you later!” Simultaneously John was thinking that Phil Ek was making these amazing records. How do you even get to know a guy like that? He got to be living in a castle and driving everywhere in a white stretch limo, making these incredible Built to Spill records.

It wasn’t until the very late 1990s when John and the Western State Hurricanes were talking about making a record and one of the people in the band said they knew Phil Ek. John was like: ”Really? That is amazing! Do you think he would work on this with us?” He thought he could get Phil to do a demo for them while John was still running into Phil on the street on a semi-weekly basis and for whatever reason he just assumed he was working sound in a club somewhere and who knows! He wasn’t paying attention and wasn’t putting it together.

Phil Ek agreed to do their demo, they showed up for a meeting where he was going to listen to their practice tape, John walked into the studio and was like: ”What? You are Phil Ek?” - ”Yeah, you didn’t know that?” - ”No! I thought you were Phil from the Off Ramp!” - ”Great! Good work!” John was astonished! Phil was not thinking: ”I can’t wait to work with John Roderick!”, certainly not at the time, he was just thinking: ”Oh, that guy!” If you look at all the records he has made by the Band of Horses, the Fleet Foxes, The Shins, he is basically one quarter of what is good about Indie Rock in the world and he has been behind a lot of the classic records.

John living the traveling Rock musician life (RL19)

Merlin doesn’t understand how John manages the Rock musician lifestyle. Doesn’t he need a break sometimes, have a by-year and try another place for a while or are his roots so deep in there? John travels for a living, he has a foot in the lattice, he has at least two feet in Seattle, but when you get along long enough, you come back and it feels fresh again. John is in New York 5 times a year for a week, he is in LA a few times a year for a week, he gets a week here and there, and when he is on tour he is gone for three months a year, but he hasn’t been doing that for the last few years.

John thinks about living in other places, but when he gets back from a tour and he has been to places all over, like cities in Europe where he thinks he should move there, like San Francisco, all the great cities, he gets back to Seattle and the air smells really nice there and the living is easy. John could be huffing rad entrails in New York City or he could be down in Los Angeles, living in a place where he never sees anybody, or he could be in San Francisco, having hobos vomit on him, or living in Berlin with all the other 20-year-olds, but Seattle is a pretty nice place!

Merlin is hard on San Francisco because somebody needs to be and it is a really stupid town. When he goes somewhere he will miss his family, which is why he has a thing on his phone that will help him find a steak. It is very hard to find normal food in places because everywhere you go it is just 2-6 lane highways and Applebee’s, maybe an Outback if you are lucky. The Jack Daniel’s Bourbon Rib Plate at Chili’s is good, it is like a trough of food! The greatest creativity in America today is the shit they come up with in places like Chili’s where they have 25 ingredients and make 7000 meals.

Eating at a Chili’s in Mississippi (RL19)

One time John was driving around Mississippi on a Sunday night and they had turned off the stop lights because you weren’t supposed to be out. Nothing was on and everything was closed. They were starving to death and John didn’t know that would they still rolled-up the sidewalks at 7pm on Sunday night. The grocery stores were not even open! Like a beacon in the distance there was a throbbing red glow from a Chili’s. John had never been to a Chili’s because he thought it was mass-market Mexican food. He likes Mexican food and doesn’t want to have the experience destroyed.

John was the guy who was starving to death but didn’t want to be there, while the rest of the guys thought it was fine and John was too hungry to argue. They sat down in the Chili’s and the cute little waitress came over and gave John 7000 kinds of Mexi-fries, ribs, corn, garlic shrimp, chicken fingers, a little side-ramekin of Vitamin D and a drink in a pineapple with carrot sticking out. They put little pointy shoes on his feet that curl over and have little bells on the end. Somebody gave him a hand-job! This was the greatest restaurant in the world! The whole meal was $20 for 4 people and they were grateful they were there. ”Thank you so much for coming to Chili’s! Come on back!” - ”I will come back! Can I keep these shoes?”

Every Chili’s is identical and the pattern through all of them is that they raise whatever has been there before. Sometimes you go to your dentist and it used to be a Shakey’s and there are a lot of urology clinics that used to be a Pizza Hut. All of the Thai restaurants in Seattle are International Houses of Pancakes. They take the sign down, but it is a blue-roofed A-frame like in traditional Thai communities. There was a terrible chain in Florida called The Clock Restaurant and of course there was a big clock on the sign. When some carpetbaggers came in after that place closed they just spent an hour changing the sign to say ”The O’look Restaurant”

The inscrutable Korean buffet in Tallahassee (RL19)

When Merlin lived in Tallahassee all the restaurants were buffets and one of them was a really inscrutable super-bizarre Korean Buffet. That was so ping pong! The buffet was just penurious and they didn’t fill the tray with ribs, but they put six ribs on an iceberg lettuce and they only put on more when people eat that, it was a really weird place! The bar for Korean barbecue in Tallahassee was relatively low and you are not going to have a lot of internationals going in there, wondering: ”What the fuck is this? You call this Kimchi?”, but people decided between the buffet barbecue, buffet sushi, buffet Chinese or this creepy little Korean place in an old Pizza Hut.

The owner was really outgoing and was constantly asking you about things and saying things you couldn't understand. He was talking the whole time! At one point he said: ”Bring your wife here, you can’t get fat on our food!” - ”What the fuck does that even mean?” and once he came up ”Everything is good?” - ”Yes, it is delicious!” - ”Haha, Finger Camping Trip!” Every one of the six people at the table heard him say that and to this day, probably almost 20 years later, Merlin still has no fucking idea what that means.

John is still emotionally reeling from Merlin’s incredibly insensitive portrayal of Asian Americans, but how many Korean barbecue buffets in an old Pizza Hut has John been to that were scrutable? John went to one in New York and on the menu were both ostrich and kangaroo, which is like getting lobster in a Mississippi steak house. It was New York and it was entirely plausible that they recommissioned an SST (Supersonic Transport, Tupolev Tu-144) and flew a live ostrich and a live kangaroo from Australia. They are very industrious people who are not afraid to put a little bit of money on bringing a bird to the country. John had both of these things and Merlin is correct: It was inscrutable. Ping Pong! Typical!

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