RL286 - Ginger Dagwood

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: We’re not gluing pears, referring to the Ceaușescu regime where they found pears in Barren trees.

The show title refers to Archie from the comic book who’s head looks like a ginger Dagwood.

They start the show laughing because they apparently had some technical difficulties. John mentions his back problem, but nobody wants to hear about it! John used to get on this show killing spies, down in helicopters.

John is still missing a tooth.

Merlin read yesterday that there are more people employed by museums than by coal mining.

In the late 1980s, there was this hullabaloo about the spotted owl.

John tried to coin a phrase yesterday, instead of casus belli (the thing that started the war) he tried to call it nostalgius belli (the reason we are shouting), like remember we were mad about X?

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

Trail cutting plan (RL286)

Merlin was excited to hear that John’s trail cutting plan made it into The Omnibus (was it in the Hypercolor-episode?), but Ken seemed a little bit skeptical. He kept trying to tease out the ugly side of it as being some kind of incarceration, but that is true for a lot of plans. The bigger the plan, the harder the pushback! Everything works perfectly as long as everybody shares 100% of the same views. There is going to be a blue school bus parked Downtown San Francisco right by Union Square at 11:30am, not some 7am thing, and you show up with your kid and a small bag packed and we will take if from there. You will see them in a year! They will be allowed to write you unless they are in the hull. Merlin imagines it like the Flash Dance rehearsal where a board of Smokey Bishops decides if it is time for little Johnny to go home. Ultimately, John will decide! He is the voice behind the smokey bishop. John will come through with a tennis racket that has two 5-pound weights strapped to it, practicing his swing. ”Shower down to get an A!” (see story in RL48)

John was talking to somebody in Seattle about his plan about housing, which is a broad sketch, because first you have to procure the land before you can employ the architects. This is obviously a very ambitious plan, even just the part we know about. The entire plan is going to have depth and breadth and it is going to involve a lot of eminent domain. The problem is that there are many bad precedents, like with socialism. All your opponent has to do is to point at one of the dozens of times when some socialistic plan has failed. John is not going to be gluing pears to a tree! When John is talking about how he is going to solve the housing problem in Seattle, people always love to say Cabrini-Green, an example of public housing that became terrible for everybody involved. Just because Chicago, New York, Saint Louis and San Francisco failed doesn’t mean John’s plan is going to fail, because he has taken all that into consideration.

There are lots of examples how an autocratic government took a bunch of young people away to a camp, but it is the rule that proves the exception. In John's case they will take the kids to a natural environment and everybody recognizes that 7th and 8th graders are not human beings and that they need strenuous exercise. You are more a human being at 6 or 7 than you are at 12 or 13!

Let kids be kids, John’s daughter reading Archie (RL286)

John’s daughter found some of his classic Archie comics and it became a thing that she liked. They went to a big comic book store at Pike Place market that sells life-sized Batman, and she found an enormous classic Archie pocket book digest with 50 comics in it. John bought it for her, but then his mom was asking him why his daughter was reading Archie. John read Archie throughout his childhood and he turned out great! She said that Archie is about teenagers, which is true, but they don’t have very sophisticated concerns and it is all about being boy-crazy and girl-crazy. It is about hamburgers, too! What about Veronica’s dad, Mr Lodge? He is a rich guy! There are also the teacher and the crazy lunch-lady Ms Grundy, the big principal Fellow Weatherby, who looks like the owner of WKRP in Cincinnati, Gordon Jump.

All John’s mom sees is a bunch of shucking and jiving about dating-stuff from the 1960s and 1970s. Moose is jealous of Midge, but that is the template for all of John’s relationships! He is Moose and he is always looking for his Midge. The great thing about Archie is that it communicates to the child immediately that they are a teen. When John came in while his daughter was reading it curled up on the couch, he said ”Let me talk to you about that Archie!” but she didn’t reply. ”Hey, teenager, I want to ask you about your comic book!” - ”Ahhh. What?” John told her that Nanna was concerned that Archie was too grown up for her and she said ”It’s not!”, because it is teenagers and a bunch of boy-girl-stuff and you shouldn’t be exposed to that too young, but she was just ”Ahh. I’m flying. Bye!”, so they are in an agreement now that she is fine.

John’s mom is conscious about intrusions into childhood and kids who don’t get to be kids, for example little girls getting their ears pierced or wearing make-up. Somebody in the family bought John's daughter a little packet of training tops that are a little bit like bras, but his mother said ”Absolutely not!”, because the day a young woman gets her first bra is a day where the women in the tribe go out to the yard and burn squirrels alive. 6-year olds don’t just get running around with bras! John cannot even comments on that because he doesn’t even know the language, but it is something his mom feels strongly about and something that his daughter's mother also has feelings about.

In a general idea, John does believe in ritual, like on this day you will become a person who gets to use the computer by yourself. He will put on his bishop robe and his smokey bear hat and he will hold his scepter and say that from this day forward you can do this on your own. John did things when he was at 7 like reading MAD magazine which is way more sophisticated, but nobody was supervising him reading it and nobody asked any questions about it. John was reading MAD’s parody of Cramer vs Cramer, a movie he would not have been allowed to see, but those were things people were talking about and it was in Time Magazine, so you could read about it if you were interested.

What are the main concerns in Archie? Betty and Veronica both want Archie for reasons unclear to everyone. Archie is neither handsome nor rich nor competent, his head looks like a ginger Dagwood and his car isn’t cool. He is not great at sports and he never says anything interesting, unlike Jughead who is fascinating and got layers. Reggie is fascinating, although he is a shitty dude, but he is rich, suave and up to no good. He is an audience proxy because like the audience, he cannot see what those girls see in Archie. John was absolutely a Jughead, primarily because he is the anti-hero, he is a character out of a Western.

At the end of a Western when they have run the bad guys out of town and the credits are rolling, the hero, the white hat, the sheriff, goes back and marries the madam, the hotel lady or the farm wife, while the Jughead character pops onto his horse with his dirty hat, he says something quippy and then he rides off alone. That is John! He is not the sheriff! He is not the towny! Jughead has everybody’s confidence, and the girls are as close to him as to anybody, but he is always a man apart, his eyes are always at the horizon and he is immune to the problems. Everybody else has got problems, but his only problem is hamburgers and hamburgers are so easy to get. He is also a crowned Buddha (his paper hat is called a whoopee cap). Betty and Veronica hold no attraction to him, but he is also never going to be in trouble with Midge.

Merlin was such a weird kid because he liked Luke in Star Wars while all the cool kids liked Han Solo. Merlin liked Archie, because anybody not getting killed doing something kind of normal was kind of impressive. His aspirations were very quotidian and he basically wanted to live in the Brady Bunch house. Merlin’s daughter reads the current Archie comics, which are definitely more in the teen arena. They are having fun and they have updated it. There is one where Archie died a few years ago, which was a big deal.

The Rapture (RL286)

In the 1970s, somebody took over Archie and the artwork changed to almost psychedelic. There would be trippy laughing and characters would have epiphany bubbles around their heads while they were tripping balls, but they were tripping balls on Jesus. There is an image (google ”Archie rapture”, also the show art for this week) from that time that John wanted framed on his wall. It shows all these really groovy beautiful Brady Bunch kids in mini-skirts that are just being fucking raptured. There are epiphany bubbles and stars around their heads because they are tripping! There is a lot of foreshadowing and this is not actually happening, but you want to be on the right side of things when it eventually is going to happen.

Eschatology loomed large in Merlin’s family during his late childhood. His grandmother read all the books by Hal Lindsey. There was a series Merlin read, like the time 666 after the millennium (Does he mean the 1970 book 666 by Salem Kirban?) There is the rapture and it is all super-interesting. It was both comforting and scary. 666 was a backdoor-pilot about what was wrong with the 1970s. Merlin mentions that the book of Revelation from the Bible is crazy, it is a shit-show and a mess, but people love to quote it out of context. In Protestant Christianity, people who get left behind by the Rapture go through the Tribulation. After that there is something called the Millennium, something like the Pax Romana before the final settling of accounts.

Sociology and psychology using science terms (RW286)

Merlin and John talk about Mr. Snuffleupagus, who can only be seen by kids and by Big Bird, which some people found problematic. There was a lot of talk in the 1980s about daycares being child molesting factories and a lot of times we don’t bother to trace back our craziness to its origin.

The vaccine hysteria goes back to one paper from a guy who is not allowed to practice medicine anymore. The big problem is that you are feeling like you are doing something substantial about something that everybody can agree as being a problem. You are doing something a little bit dramatic that in the end doesn’t really help that problem.

Merlin listened to a podcast the other day about shutting down Backpage, a place that was heavily used by sex workers. There were all kinds of layers of turns-out that were fascinating and by shutting this site down, people made life a lot less healthy and safe for sex workers. Once you start scratching the surface and go beyond your 1972 idea of what somebody is supposed to do, you realize that it is really fucking complicated and you just caused a lot of people’s lives to be a lot less safe. It is the single highest mortality occupation for a female in America by an order of 50. The second highest was a firefighter or something.

John got in trouble talking about computer maths because he said it is a vocation and not a thing for college. We agree that Sociology and Psychology are sciences and we lump them with Biology and Chemistry, but they aren’t. Chemistry and Physics are very different from Sociology and Psychology. When a Physicists talks about his theory about how particles work, we all go ”Hmmm, wow!” When the Physicist says that this implies this whole other universe, and it is really difficult to get our heads around, we go ”Okay, scientists are doing some science over here, it is not our job to question them, and we don’t know how to question them”, but on the other side we got the Sociologists and Psychologists who say they have a theory about what makes kids feel secure with their youth pastors, and we say ”Hmm, it is a weird theory, but sure, we will go with it” and all we need to do is absolutely change the way daycares are run or the way children’s television works or how public housing works, and we sit back and say that this sounds good. We can lower the crime rate if we just change the telephone number of the police station. Or we take all the kids in this neighborhood and bus them all across town to those schools and that will cure racism. It is hard to question those things, because they cloak themselves in science language.

These are things that are impossible to test, but people claim that if we change this little thing, it will solve giant problems. If people just can’t use those 5 words, then bullying will be over. If we just say that Snuffleupagus can see adults, then it will change that complicated dynamic that is rooted in 1000 things. We do it across great waves of what we think is going to help society now. If you challenge it, you immediately get on the wrong side, which is very frustrating. John received a mail from somebody accusing him of empowering anti-vaccers, because he was questioning science, which was a very clear delineation to them. They were on the side of science, as opposed to people who are against science, but then you should be on the side of all science. If something calls itself a science, or if something is called a science at university, then it is a science and if you question it, it will empower all the different branches of anti-science people, including people who work at creation-museums, who are surely part of this number that outnumber coal miners, or people who work at the coal museum that recently switched to solar.

Sociology and Psychology are very new disciplines. Cultural anthropology was all the rage in 1950 and it was the coolest of all sciences. Everybody wanted to practice it, but today nobody studies it anymore because we realized that we were a little off our heads here. There is a lot of colonialism in what we are doing and how we are thinking and we have unintentionally been doing bad things with very good intentions. Sociology and psychology are trying to untangle and tease out human society, individual human minds, love and sex and they have prescriptions and proscriptions to create an ideal world rather than look at the world as it is. We have to be much more cautious adopting and implementing theories that come out of that world. Because the intentions are so good, if you say ”slow your roll”, it sounds like you are against fixing the problem.

Merlin found that we are more likely to accept a hot take or nutty theory and share it on social media if it meats one of these criteria:
1. It is a turns-out, it is clever and surprising,
2. It is somewhat immediately understandable,
3. Adoption does not disrupt your own life or re-pot your own thinking,
4. It helps if it more or less proves that you were right all along.

These things are emotionally resonant. It feels right! It gets in by way of intelligent facts opening the door, and emotions welcoming it in.

For instance, the idea that video games cause violence feels emotionally very true. Seemingly random violent things happen because of teens. What do teens love? They love video games! What do we know about video games? They are violent! There is a syllogism in there somewhere, like these first-person shooters take these tender children and turn them into monsters. We can prove that by looking at how violent the video game is. Right now our culture is very focused on little boys. There is some thing between a little boy being born and that little boy becoming a full-grown human that turns that little boy into a monster. There are a billion theories! Somehow he didn’t read the right Archie comic or he did read the wrong Archie comic or he got on the wrong school bus or he watched the wrong television show or something! We are jumping into this with both feet from every directions and what do we do about little boys? We have been doing that for 50 years, it happened to John!

We act as though the world is a conspiracy and we are living in a satanic daycare center of a culture that is doing something to little boys that keeps them from being their natural selves. Those little boys would be gentle and kind, but our culture is doing something. Little girls would be empowered and ferocious and little boys and girls would be equal, except we are doing something. All these muddled ideas are kind of contradictory. We are trying to create a future world that is closer to what it would have been if we hadn’t fucked them up before, by jumping in on them somehow that we are not 100% sure of. In elementary schools you will find signs at the wall about what we do and what we don’t do, a very well-intentioned desire to turn children into better adults, but it is like a Canary in a coal-mine, or a butterfly in China.

Prince’s version of Nothing compares to you (RL286)

Merlin starts to sing ”I know, I know, it is serious”, but you can’t make a Morrissey comments anymore because it is problematic now. Kanye and Morrissey have become problematic, but they have always been for John and he feels very validated by that.

If a smokey bishop appears at your door, please welcome him in. It is like a Dracula and you have to invite him in! If Prince shows up at your house in Beverly Hills turning 7th-day Adventist papers, what are you going to do? Say "No, thanks!"? Maybe he was a Jehowa’s Witness? If he shows up with anything, especially right now, definitely invite him in, because he would be a Dracula now. Merlin asks if John did hear the Nothing Compares to You, but John doesn’t find it as good as the Shinned O’Connor version. Merlin says it is better than the family version. There is a video about it. They talk for a time about this song. As a person with mental health issues, John can hear that Shinned is bonkers in that track. It is what makes this song good. John definitely would like to be in a relationship with this girl.

In this video, Prince and the Revolution are rehearsing in their cement-floored, fluorescent-lighted studio all their freaking dance moves from Purple Rain and all the 1980s dance moves. They are doing all the dance moves that John is embarrassed to say he didn’t actually ever consider that they had rehearsed. To him it had always seemed like Prince was fucking dancing improvisationally. Watching this video is making him and that band so much more impressive. Prince’s estate was really greedy about letting stuff out on the Internet. He liked controlling his IP, he did and he does even now from his Dracula lair behind Big Rock. All the cosmologies confused!

Merlin sent John a comic book (RL286)

Merlin ordered a trade paperback comic for John from Amazon that he and his daughter started reading at exactly John’s daughter’s age. It is tremendous and Merlin likes John to read it and decide when it is right for his daughter to read. It is called Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevensen et al, and it is about 5 girls at a scout camp where supernatural things happen. It is really good, positive, fun, and contains lots of cool girl’s stuff. Merlin thinks that neither his wife nor John read that Watchman he sent them. Hodgeman sent John a big thing from DC comics and John doesn’t know what to do with it because everything that has the Silver Surfer and the Fantastic Four in it really confuses him. Merlin is excited that the Fantastic Four are finally coming back and he really likes the artist drawing of it. John never understood it, but it is the Incredibles before the Incredibles. John does understand the Incredibles, probably because he is friends with Sarah Vowell.

John had known Sarah Vowell for a long time, they go to dinners and do American things. Recently he was walking along in an airport and heard his name. It was Sarah with her twin and her teenage nephew going on a big adventure to far-off land where they were all a little big anxious going into the unknown. They all had some time to kill, so they stood there, chatted and had a nice moment. Bumping into somebody that you have known for years in a weird place and spending 40 minutes together just clarifies your relationship in a huge way. John and Sarah Vowell are now closer than they would be, just by virtue of those 40 minutes in an airport.

There was a native-American guy in Spokane, a Yakima elder, who would come to Gonzaga as a teacher, and who was active in the Spokane community. He had two long braids coming down the small of his back and he was an incredible-looking, intense, tall, native-American guy who was probably 40. He and John saw each other all the time and they were maybe at the level of a head-nod, but one day they bumped into each other on the street in Amsterdam. This was the lady-in-the-window era. They stood there, talked, and had a lovely moment with each other. Unfortunately John never saw him after that, because he never went back to Spokane, but they had this meet-cute and from then on, they would have been friends.

Jury duty (RL286)

John never successfully completed a jury duty and he doesn’t understand why he doesn’t get picked, while Merlin has done it multiple times. John really wants to do it, at least one time! When he was 23 he got called, went down, sat in the box, but they never even called him up. They had already paneled a jury before they even talked to him and he would have had all his answers ready. Merlin could see John being tossed out just because of his dad. John imagines being an attorney looking at a bunch of jurors and they see him, especially now that he is missing a front tooth: A 50 year old guy with a white beard, dressed like a 1930s Hollywood director. They are going to be able to tell because John is going to wear jodhpurs. They will just see it in his eyes, because he will be the only one in the jury box bouncing up and down with big eyes, like ”Ask me, ask me, ask me! I can answer that question!” and they are going to say ”No thanks!”

It works the opposite of what you would think. Merlin does anything to make himself as unappealing as possible as a juror. John would be so glad to do a 6-month long crazy murder trial. You get like $14 a day plus milage, it is a pretty good gig! They continue laughing very lively about how John would potentially be as a juror. When John was running for city council he was very exhausted for the last half of that, mostly from the heat because during that whole summer it was 104 degrees (40°C) in every room he went into. It was the time of his life when he went to several places a day, listening to people complain, when he was expected to talk for 1 minute about his entire world view and then have 20 minutes of people yelling at him. Somebody in a dark suit surely came up behind him and shot some tag into his ass that can be seen from outer space. He would not even have noticed, because you could have hit him with a boat paddle.

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