RL290 - Gasthaus

This week, Merlin and John talk about

  • Sleep quality (Personality)
  • John combining business travel with pleasure (Attitude and Opinion)
  • John in a Gasthaus in Germany (The Big Walk)
  • Subtitles (Movies)
  • The Story of John Roderick (This website)
  • John’s mom and subtitles, types of learning and personality types (Parents)
  • How John met Millennium girlfriend (Family)
  • Star Wars day at the Giants game (Sports)
  • Musicals (Music)

The problem: Dick was in on it, referring to a show between John, John Hodgman and Dick Cavett where Dick was in on one of the jokes involving boxer shorts.

The show title refers to a hotel in Germany where the bed was so small that John had to use both beds and was surcharged for the room after a lengthly discussion with the owner.

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

Sleep quality (RL290)

Merlin had a complicated dream last night around 3am or 4am which produced some anxiety. It was about renovating a hotel room together with his friend Michael. They were working with a Vietnamese man in bare feed who had no toes, somebody peed in the bath tub, and Merlin had to drain it. Merlin needs to get this sleep thing figured out and he wants to come to a point where taking a nap is either not necessary or doesn’t make any difference, which it currently does. He shouldn’t wake up and go ”Wow, I needed that”, which is how he feels every day after taking a nap. John has been back and forth on this a lot because he does like a nap, but during some parts of his life not needing a nap felt very liberating. He doesn't want to come home in the afternoon and be dragging ass so hard that he falls asleep in a chair. John has a super-hard time sleeping in most places, especially if anything is touching his feet and he cannot get his feet some liberation.

Merlin has 5 canonical sleep positions: One is on his stomach, turning his pillow 1/8 turn, pulling his face back with his hand, smashing down into the pillow and his left lower leg outside the covers. John has to be free to ride his machine. If he is sharing a bed with someone else, it has to be a certain set of conditions or John won’t sleep at all. There are lots of situations where he is not at liberty to say ”You are not spending the night here!” John wants to go on trips with people and have adventures, but when he comes to the hotel he remembers that he is super-fuzzy about sleep. If the other person is a morning person who goes up early, goes to work or tours a bunch of museums, John is really happy to stretch out in a newly empty bed. It is a nice feeling and it is good sleep for however long it lasts. One component of Merlin waking up and being very anxious about his life is feeling what might wake him up, which might very well be the cat which chooses to meow up to 13 times during one night. Merlin sleeps with earplugs, but he still sometimes hears it. The consensus from cat experts is that she is either bored or frightened, because she is a very traumatized cat.

Merlin also thinks about CO (Carbon Monoxide) and although John has a detector for that, he doesn’t know if it works. Your warning sign would be constant headaches if you had a little bit of carbon monoxide. Merlin also thinks about ghosts, because if your house has been around for 80 years, there is a pretty good chance that there is some bad spectral energy and a lot of those folks are up at night. Until now, Merlin very rarely encountered any spectral energy that wasn’t just the cat being somewhere he didn’t expect. Sometimes he might feel that there is something over there, maybe behind the door, but the feeling is not strong enough to have him go and look. He sleeps better in a hotel or a cabin in Yosemite. When John is working on something at night, he doesn’t wear headphones because of spectral energies that sometimes tip-toe up on him when he has headphones on. In a couple of instances he has been hearing voices from directly behind him in his right ear over his shoulder when he was wearing headphones at 3am and he had to throw them off. He knows that this is his mind, but such things always happen in old houses.

John combining business travel with pleasure (RL290)

John stays in a lot of hotels. During the last couple of years he changed his whole lifestyle, and your lifestyle becomes your death style, by realizing that it is a two birds with one stone situation: As part of his job, he is always getting flown places and puts up in hotels, but he is at the same time trying to go on vacations with people, see people he hasn’t seen in a long time, or have a fun adventure. John started to combine these things and ask the other person to see him at the place where he already has a hotel where he can stay a couple of extra days. Traveling with the family is a small percentage of his overall traveling, but John has worked that one out. He understood after the first few years that he can not have a room with the three of them, because they will have normal family things for him while he is there for something else.

Earlier this year, John's family visited his 93-year old uncle in Hawaii and it ended up that John, his daughter and her mother were all in one room together for 8 days. It was not a big room, but there was a closet and a living room. It was an old-folks home and everything was made to repel urine and to be wiped clean with a damp cloth. You are not going to lay on that couch because you stick to it. John did a thing that he had never done before: He drove to Target to get new sheets for this hotel-room, because he was not going to sleep on these sheets or let his family sleep on these sheets. John ended up putting the baby in the closet which he highly recommends to anyone with a baby. She was 6 at the time and she could have the whole closet as her bedroom. As he walked into the door, the situation looked like he would be spending 8 days without sleep and so he modified the room with the hope that he would pull off some sleep and he got enough. Back in the old days, he would go to a hotel all by himself, pull the blinds and sleep all afternoon. He would event sleep through the event that he was supposed to participate in!

John in a Gasthaus in Germany (RL290)

In 1999, John stayed at a Gasthaus in Germany that had 5.5 feet long (170 cm) twin beds with head boards and foot boards. John had to move some furniture and put the twin beds together, which is the worst, but not as bad as laying on a 5-foot twin bed. The secret of sleeping on two beds put together is that you have to decide which bed your butt is on. If you think you butt is going to be in the middle somewhere, you are wrong! Either you are 3/4 of the way on one bed and your feet are over on the other, or your butt is over on the other and your top half is sprawled out on the second bed. Isn’t that a Abraham Lincoln death bed angle? You have to be caddywhompus, you have to be sideways. As John walked downstairs in the morning, there were boiled eggs, dark bread, pretty good coffee, marmalade, cold cuts with little bits in them, 7 or 8 kinds of jam, none of which John liked, and 25 mustards.

He went to the front desk to check out and the woman behind the counter told him that he had slept on both beds and she had to charge him for 2 people. In her internal logic a person equals a bed and to clean two beds is essentially the same as if there had been two people. He was getting charged for a spectral presence, which was his lower half. It is called the Bettgeist! They argued about this for a long time and John was arguing on behalf of every other guest who followed and who ever sat on the other bed. He was personally offended, but if that is the kind of operation she is running, what keeps him from taking a poop on the other bed and then very carefully tucking the sheets back in so it doesn’t seem like anyone was there? In the end she gave him a 10 Euro surcharge and John went back up to the room and stole all the lightbulbs.

There are different parts of Germany where they have different rules. There are different rules in America from place to place as well, but if you go to California and stay at a Best Western hotel, they are not going to have different cultural moires from the Best Western hotel in Bismarck, North Dakota. What made John ugly was that he didn’t passively accept her dictum and he was standing at the reception desk with a rye smile, like ”No way!”

Subtitles (RL290)

Merlin showed his daughter the first two episodes of the British Office. John still remembers when Merlin showed it to him. They had to fast-forward over a lot of parts, because that show gets a little randy and it is technically a TV-MA in the States. They blip out the word ”cock” each time, but they still show it in the subtitles. Merlin usually has subtitles on if there is any chance that he won’t understand what they are saying. In that show it really pays, especially for a 10-year old hearing some very English accents. It is a little bit of a spoiler because you see the joke before they say the joke and stuff like that, but your milage may vary.

John had a friend with a learning disability and as part of his learning he had a whole series of government tapes and an apparatus that was part of the library of congress. The apparatus seemed to have proprietary tapes, they weren’t just cassette tapes, but more like those kind of carts that they used in radio stations. They weren’t 8-tracks either, but some kind of special system. John could never figure out what the learning disability was exactly and why he needed this machine and those tapes. The thing had the qualities of a thing from the government. It was heavy and made out of that beige plastic, like something you would use in a court room in the 1970s with orange or mustard-yellow buttons and some proprietary headphones with a big jack that wouldn’t work anywhere else. John always thinks of people who are subtitling TV-shows as having that apparatus with those special headphones and they have 70% of their attention on their work.

John loves transcripts, but he can not watch a thing with subtitles on. For Friendly Fire he was watching a foreign language film in Italian and because he didn’t understand how to turn the subtitles on he watched the whole film with no subtitles. John doesn’t speak Italian, but he has an amount of passing relationship with Roman languages that enabled him to follow along. He has spent a lot of time in Italy not speaking Italian, so he has had this experiences of going like ”Huh? Ah, si, si! Ciao!” He got a lot out of the film. You spend some amount of time at the beginning of a vignette wondering who she is and why she is yelling at him, but by the end you get it.

John’s opposition to subtitles is based on the fact that reading subtitles does take him out of the movie. When they put subtitles on (Francis ”Franco”) Begbie in the original toilet movie (Trainspotting), the guy from Full Montie, with Sick Boy played by Jonny Lee Miller who was married to Angelina Jolie and who was in Hackers, John liked it because it was part of the joke and part of the knowingness of the movie. They were very aware that they were making a film and the audience was laughing along with them, but otherwise John would prefer to sit and go ”Huh?” In the movie Hot Fuzz, which is one of Merlin’s favorite movies, there is one guy on the local police force who has an unintelligible accent and they put up subtitles for him. They talk about disaster movies from the 1970s and continue to talk about various actors.

This website (33:10)

Early on in their show, John had a friend who sent him several transcripts of their show which inspired him at the time to believe that eventually, their fans would transcribe all of their shows. John has never listened to the show, but he was flabbergasted reading it, which he did once or twice. Following them talking, being along for the thought-journey and hearing himself thinking aloud, at a certain point he can’t continue! Merlin has the same reaction to reading a transcript to a podcast. When she sent John those transcripts, he would only do minor corrections where she had the comma in the wrong place or she heard a different word. She had a totally different job and had just learned to do this because she was transcribing doctors for a long time. Some other people transcribed the shows and their different styles were very interesting to John, but he has some micromanaging tendencies. When he would do an interview for The Long Winters and he was reading articles where they were quoting he, it was just OMG, could you send me your notes and let me take another pass at those and let me just write this for you?

John and Merlin have a fan of the show who lives in Germany who is not transcribing the shows, but paraphrasing them. Merlin doesn’t know how he feels about that. John thinks it would be interesting for Merlin to check out, but Merlin couldn’t do it. It is the person doing the wiki, which Merlin has seen and he found it very interesting what this person decided what to leave in and what to leave out. He is retelling the stories but combing out what he thinks is superfluous. Merlin thinks this Supertrain page could have used a little more Supertrain. He is building it up and he will maybe eventually allow other people to help him, but right now it is very personal to him.

John’s mom and subtitles, types of learning and personality types (RL290)

John’s mom likes to have subtitles on everything she watches because she doesn’t understand the spoken word. She is a proponent of that whole learning by hearing or learning by seeing and she was a very early adopter of this whole world where somebody comes out with a book that explains how everybody is. Oh, you are just an INFT or your are an orange, not the loosey-goosey stuff, but she likes it when somebody has a science theory. Some of the ideas about herself and some of the ways she sees the world are still located in some theory of the mind that she adopted in the late 1960s from reading some pioneering book. One of these is that she is a visual learner, which means she needs the subtitles on. John wonders how much of this was caused by rewiring her brain for saying that to herself for 50 years, but even when she was in elementary school she wanted to read it and didn’t want to hear it.

John's mom continues to read those books even in her mid-80s and she will come over to John’s house and wave a book under his nose that explains everything. The experience of understanding that he was an introvert had that effect on John. When he read the description of what an introvert is, he realized that this explains him, it really does! Finally he has a way of explaining who he is and how he interacts with people, but nobody accepts that John is an introvert because he doesn’t seem like one. John found that liberating, but increasingly it is also insufficient to describe him, because he can’t just say that he is an introvert, drop his highball glass on the floor and the party comes to a screeching hold. Leaving a party without saying good-bye to everybody is called an Irish Goodbye. Merlin is good at that and did it to John a couple of years ago. Typically he keeps a eye on Merlin because generally he tries to get his little bag of gold, but they were at that party where John met Millennium girlfriend.

How John met Millennium girlfriend (RL290)

John and Merlin were at that party, the expensive regional (?) party. That night Merlin accidentally got really really drunk, which John didn’t notice. They were serving top-shelf booze for free. Elon Musk was there, there were a lot of famous people there if you are a San Francisco Bay Area rich person follower. This was the party where John met Millennium girlfriend.

Star Wars day at the Giants game (RL290)

This morning there was a report on the radio on KQED that more and more companies like Facebook, Salesforce, are pulling up stakes from Silicon Valley and are building their stuff right in San Francisco because people from San Francisco don’t want to travel to Silicon Valley, which is not making San Francisco better or help with the debilitating housing crunch.

The other night it was Star Wars night at the Giants Game at the AT&T Park and Merlin visited the game. This year was very lame, while last year they got a Chewbacca bobble-head. John doesn’t understand what the Giants and Star Wars have to do with one another, but it is a co-brand collaboration. Occasionally a little animated Millennium Falcon flies around on the board and Lucile, the mascot is dressed as Darth Vader. It is in an area called Mission Bay that people previously didn’t give much thought to at all and where people lived in shipping containers. Merlin’s wife works in a different part of the University at Mission Bay now, a mile or so from the ballpark, and it is unrecognizable.

If they had a give-away this year, they didn’t get it. They had good seats away from people right near the beer and brats, and his daughter got a foam finger. John has a foam finger they got at a Mariners game 4 years ago his daughter still puts it on and waves. A foam finger should last you 15 years! Merlin sent John a picture of his daughter who is almost as big as his wife, but she has the finger on wrong and she has her hand on backwards. She has Merlin's Hufflepuff scarf on, he inspires to be in that house and he dresses for the job he wants.

John read all the Harry Potter books when he was living in a closet as they were still coming out. He was like Merlin’s cat and at 4am in the morning, rather than walking around this apartment where he was staying in a closet, he would sit and read these books with a flashlight. The thing about sleeping on the floor is that it is ultimately the biggest bed, because the floor just keeps going, except you can’t hang your feet off the edge of the floor.

Musicals (RL290)

If John listens to something and realizes that it is a musical, he gets the same feeling than when he listens to his own podcast: He starts to wince, curls up and he turns his body away from the musical. He went to see All That Jazz when he was too young, which has a very complicated story and is not for kids. Neither one of John’s parents were very great at deciding what movies he could see. His mom was very careful to not let him see Jaws in the theaters, and she would not allow him to see Animal House in the theaters because of the racy humor, but she took him to see Auntie Mame, which was crazy!

Sponsor: Mack Weldon (RL290)

John wants enough underpants that he never has to worry again. His first order of Mack Weldon underpants got stolen and is being employed as we speak somewhere in Southern California (by his Millennium girlfriend). They are being employed in a very different manner under her little flowered dress at her little law-firm and she is thinking ”Screw you!” John pulled out all of the Champion and the Hanes sub-par underwear and he realized that he is such an underwear hoarder. He had underwear that should have gone away a long time ago and should have been turned into asphalt or children’s park equipment. Now John bought all these spanking-new Mack Weldon underpants in fun colors.

Some of his old underwear John was very attached to, for example when John Hodgman, Dick Cavett and John himself were making that aborted television show at the Chateau Marmont, somebody had a funny idea and asked a PA to get them seven packs of boxer shorts. Dick was in on it! Hodgman and Dick Cavett are both smaller people than John. They are mediums and John is an Extra Large in the underwear department, if you know what he is saying. They bought a whole broad selection of boxer shorts and it was supposed to be a gag as part of the show where the three of them were going to be in boxer shorts for 2 seconds. They had other things under them, but John has never worn a jockstrap in his entire life, he just refused to. The terms ”cup” and ”jockstrap” were so unpleasant to him as a 10-year old that he refused to go anywhere near them. His dad used them, but he did not push this angle on John.

John has all the boxer shorts from that occasion and and he discovered that he can wear a pair of medium boxer shorts. They are really tight and turn from baggy boxer shorts into boxer briefs, like coach shorts. They get on and they are exactly the right dimension. Sometimes John goes to meetings in city hall wearing Dick Cavett’s underpants, which is a little bit of a power move, like ”These underpants? They were purchased for Dick Cavett and worn on screen! Go back to telling me what the budget says about rock education for children!” It is very hard for John to have those turned into playground equipment and high-speed rail, because John has a purpose for them. He doesn’t put them on unless he is really in attack mode.

When the Mack Weldon underpants made out of silver started arriving, they became John’s new attack underwear because you are sitting in city hall and ”My underwear is made of silver! What do you got?” If John was really going in, he would put them both on! Put the silver underwear on and then the Dick Cavett underwear. Some of his snug silver mediums, slip on some Dicks over that, put in a cup! Can’t get arrested! You want to hit me in the balls? Joke’s on you, asshole!

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