RL301 - Non-Eucledian Space Library

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • Merlin growing a mustache (Merlin Mann)
  • Different musicians called Kevin (Music)
  • John meeting a Vietnam Navy Seal at an open house (Mid-century modern)
  • Wolfman Jack and Dave Navarro, painting your beard black (Music)
  • Merlin never knowing what is going to happen on the show (Podcasting)
  • School supplies (Objects)
  • John’s process (Process)
  • Do your friends have to agree with you on everything? (Philosophy)
  • Is everything a story? (Philosophy)

The problem: John is not going to become the King of Thailand, referring to the fact that John has set up his life in a way that he could move to Thailand and become the King of Thailand, and that amounts to too many possibilities to take into consideration, because you need some lines in the sand somewhere.

The show title refers to the library in the movie Interstellar that seems to have more dimensions than the usual 3 dimensions of the world around us.

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

Merlin growing a mustache (RL301)

Merlin is growing a mustache, not as part of ”Do By Friday”, but just on his personal recognizance. He hadn’t shaved for a while and as he eventually did shave, he found that there was more hair than usual out there and he should just let it rip! It is really appalling and he looks like a cross between Rob Delaney and Commissioner Gordon with a little bit of a Gary Oldman thing and a little bit of LCD Soundsystem hair on top of it.

Different musicians called Kevin (RL301)

Happy Monday kicked off an era of bands where both Merlin and John didn’t know why they were popular. John was in Ibiza in 1989 when it all happened and he still didn’t understand it. Maybe you had to be in Madchester, but we probably wouldn’t have overrated bands like Oasis without overrated bands like Happy Mondays. The thing about Shoegaze is that John doesn’t know what to count as a Shoegaze-band, although he understands the word and the feeling and he partly lives it himself. There are some iconic images of British pop stars in track suits with the zipper zipped all the way up, staring at their shoes, playing a guitar and you can’t see their face because they have shaggy hair. Those are some of the great images of Rock ’n’ Roll, but the music just doesn’t line up and it doesn’t make John want to gaze at his shoes.

Merlin says that John likes My Bloody Valentine and that their frontman Kevin Shields looks older lately. He is playing a Fender Jazzmaster and Merlin watched a video of him talking about his guitars that was probably sponsored (maybe this one). Merlin first said Kevin Murphy, but that is the LCD Soundsystem guy (his name is James Murphy). The guy from The Fall is Mark E Smith, which John confuses with Marky Mark (real name Mark Wahlberg), the underwear model from Boston. The guy from the Sixth Sense is Haley Joel Osment, who is making the rounds now that he has got that good haircut and a beard.

There is a Kevin Murphy in Mystery Science Theater, but they call him Murph. There is a Rob Delaney and there is the voice actor Kevin Delaney. John’s best friend in High School was named Kevin (Kevin Horning). Kevin Delaney, Kevin Barnes, Kevin Shields. There is Kevin Costner who is peeing on that boat (in Waterworld), but John was told by the critics to never see that movie. It was after Dances with Wolfes and it was in his Jubilee Years, he could have done whatever he wanted, but he did the peepee-boat. Jeanne Tripplehorn was in it as well.

The one from MTV is Kevin Seal, a very unlikely name. Kiss from a Rose! Merlin saw Kevin Seal in a movie theater in Manhattan in 1988 because he was in Torch Song Trilogy (was he really?) Merlin was there with his girlfriend to see museums and there is a picture of him wearing his green jacket in the subway, the jacket that said Henderson. John always wondered about that picture, because there is no subway in Florida, because it would be all under water. Merlin had a mustach then, bringing it back around.

John meeting a Vietnam Navy Seal at an open house (RL301)

John was at an open house in the neighborhood that he is trying to move to. Well, he is not really trying and it is more an aspirational neighborhood. Merlin’s wife went to many open houses in the past just for lols, but Merlin finds it very uncomfortable to be in anybody else’s house. John is also uncomfortable doing it and he especially doesn’t like doing it with his whole family, because there is too much explaining to do, but if it is just John walking into a place, he can stay agile and talk to a real estate agent.

The owners were there, which is not supposed to happen, but as soon as John walked up he could immediately tell they were the owners. In the driveway there was a totally cherried-out 1957 Chevvy that had been customized and was not a stock 1957 Chevvy, but a hot rod 1957 Chevvy. There was a bearded guy standing next to the car, talking to somebody while having his hand on the car, so it must have been the owner.

John loves it when the owners are lurking around their own open house, because then John is in it to win it. He has a fantasy that he is going to be able to charm the owners into saying ”You know what? Just take the house!”, because they are rich and don’t even care and they are just doing this as a formality. Their kids suck, they are not going to give them the house, and they were just waiting for John. The real estate agent came bee-lining for John, an older lady who had been doing real estate for a long time and John could tell that she was mega-stressed-out that the owners were there, because they kept interrupting her.

This house was one of those instances where the people are still living there and they are not selling the house because they bought a better place, but they are selling the house to see how much they can get for it and they don’t even know where they are going to go. Now John had the complication of both really wanting to talk to the owners, but also not wanting the real estate agent to feel bad, because she had a job to do and John let her show him around and she gave him the spiel.

The bearded guy was lurking around behind them and kept trying to interject. John was asking about these light fixtures and she was telling John they were all to code and the guy leaned in and said that he had put them in himself. John was icing him out, because although both of them wanted to talk to each other, John was pretending to care what the real estate agent said.

She walked John through the whole house, turned all the lights on, talked about the local HOA dues and all this crap and the owner just couldn't bear it. He was lurking and straightening books on the book shelf, he was up to 70 years old, as big as John, and with a grey beard, grey hair and a polo shirt with a little logo on it. John could tell he was pretty strong and fit and his hair was a litle long-ish. If a child was trapped under his 1957 Chevvy, he could probably lift up one corner to free up the child.

Eventually John pulled himself away from the real estate agent and this guy was on him like tar paper. The emblem on his polo shirt said US Navy Seals, but John was not going to mention it. The house was a beautiful, architecturally really interesting mid-century house, but the owner and his wife clearly had decorated it in a hodgepodge that they think is beautiful but which was pretty wrong. It was probably a 5-bedroom house, but they turned one of the bedrooms into a master bath with a bathtub, a shower and a toilet. They took all the windows out from another bedroom so they could put up racks of CDs. It screamed ”No kids!”

They didn’t need all these rooms and so they turned them all into specialty rooms. There were ouroboroses on the kitchen wall. In one of the rooms there were a bunch of photographs of the owner doing Navy Seal shit in Vietnam, jumping out of helicopters. As soon he had emotionally and energetically bullied the real estate agent out of his own house, he asked John for his story, who told him that he was looking for a house. John was asking about the windowless room and he replied that he had concreted all the windows in to make it soundproof. He had been special forces and had made 3 tours. John was intrigued to light this candle and he was there for 4,5 hours.

His wife came out of the back room and by the way she looked John wouldn’t have been surprised if she had been his age and the owner had taken a much younger bride. They started talking and they mentioned that they got married in 1970, so they must both have been around 70 years old. He didn't want to talk about politics, but said that you never go to the government for a permit in this neighborhood, because they can’t see up the driveways, which is one of the great things about living out there. Where John lives, the inspectors are climbing the trees.

They are both photographers and writers and they do travel coffee table books for a living. John perused a couple of them and it looks like they do them for hire, like Horizon Air decided they wanted a coffee table book about the history of Horizon Air and they have probably made this pitch to the company. There are endless possibilities! You could go to the Ski-Doo snow mobile company and tell them that they need a coffee table book about their company history and they would believe it. She told John that she had briefly been an airline hostess in 1970 and her first ever flight got hijacked. John was looking to get his spiral-bound notebook out and he wanted to be with those guys all afternoon. One should make a coffee table book about those two!

The house next door used to belong to their in-laws, but now a new family has moved in. When he said that their neighbor is in his 30s and not their age, he gestured between him and John, not to imply that he and John were the same age, but to say that the neighbor was not one of us, but one of those. John has to acknowledge that he is a little bit on the heavy side and his beard was almost completely gone grey. In John’s case the weight all goes to his neck and it grows from a size 18 to a size 30. With the grey hair John starts to look like George Lucas, not that he is getting a doolap, but if he catches a glimpse of himself in a photograph, he wonders what the hell is going on! He looks like he also could have been a Navy Seal in Vietnam. John thought the she was 45, so if they think that John was 69, they were in a vortex!

She started talking about the house as though John already lived there, because John had been sitting in the living room for 4 hours. Maybe they wanted John to have it and retire on their big coffee table book money? They were thinking about moving to Tennessee and for $350.000 you can be the governor of Tennessee, but they were not rich enough to just give John their house. John kept his cards pretty close. She also said that John probably doesn’t want to introduce himself next door, because the woman next door is an Alaska Airlines stewardess and she would glom onto John very hard and be over here every day, which didn’t sound too bad, because it is one of John’s number one criteria in looking for a house that it is next door to a house full of stewardesses, but she said ”Not this one”, speaking as a stewardess who has been hijacked. She was born in Alaska, they met and married in Alaska. They had so much to talk about, they had drinks, and they were sitting in the living room with ice clinking in their glasses talking about all their experiences.

The real estate agent had left long ago. All three of them couldn’t wait for her to go because the nature of this event had changed. John was no longer interested where the hot water heater was, but this was now a Navy Seal conversation that morphed into the story of these two people’s lives that John desperately wanted to hear. There were a lot of things they failed to ask about John and John walked away with a lot more information about them than they did about him. If people are interesting, John doesn’t care that they know anything about him, but he just wanted to know about them.

John always felt tremendous contempt for the Baby Boomer generation, but there is also that feeling that his dad’s generation was dying by the thousands every day and if we didn’t do something, like record them somehow and get them into the borg, we would lose them forever. How much did a coke cost back then? How long did it take for the radio to warm up? Now John is realizing that this is going to happen to the Boomers, too, and we are going to be losing their collective knowledge, and 70% of their stories are lies!

Wolfman Jack and Dave Navarro, painting your beard black (RL301)

The owners of the house John was visiting went to great lengths to explain to John that they never did drugs. During the 1970s after they got married and after he had matriculated out of the special forces, they became Rock photographers. One time they were sitting in a restaurant with Wolfman Jack and he asked them if they wanted some beers or some coke, and they said ”Do you have any diet coke?” and he replied ”It all is diet coke!” Wolfman Jack had been doing cocaine even before it was fashionable. He seems like such a 1970s character, but he is really a 1950s character. He was in American Graffiti and in the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with the Bee Gees and Andy Gibb.

The Navy Seal and his wife also had an Andy Gibb story: She once wrote a letter to the Gibb brothers saying that Andy looked bad and they needed to come rescue him because those snakes in Hollywood were filling him full of drugs, but they never replied and then it was too late. Merlin has seen a good documentary about the Bee Gees.

Wolfman Jack was the first guy who had a kind of a shoe polish beard, like a Michael McDonald beard, but clearly colored with shoe polish. A lot of people In Rock ’n’ Roll are worried about getting old, even more worried than John. John knows a very handsome guy who is very Dark Rock and who definitely draws his beard black. At a certain point you start to look like Anton LaVey, no matter what you do. Merlin kept looking at pictures of Wolfman Jack and found a very old picture of him with Don Imus, Howard Stern and Soupy Sales.

In the very earliest days of Jane’s Addiction, Dave Navarro was very young and John always thought he was surprisingly very pretty, although he had kind of an androgynous slimy Goth thing going on. Perry Farrell was 10 years older than Merlin and John and they perceived him as old back when that seemed to make a real difference, but Dave Navarro was the same age and he was in this big band while John was still living with his mom. Now Dave Navarro takes his eyeliner pencil and draws his eyes and the rest of himself on. He also wears a lot of rings.

Merlin never knowing what is going to happen on the show (RL301)

Merlin got a lot of positive feedback about last week’s episode. He never knows what is going to happen and what John is going to say. What is in the show is in the show! It took until this very episode for Merlin to realize that oftentimes he doesn’t know why John is telling him a certain story or if John has told him the important part yet and Merlin has come to treasure that. Merlin doesn’t know what the important part of the open house story was, but he really enjoyed it, and it got him thinking of Wolfman Jack. It started out looking at an open house and it ended up 4,5 hours later with that John got a new friend. The important part of the story was still unfolding as Merlin said that.

A lot of the time Merlin and John are trying to figure out what the important part of any story is. Maybe John will come back to the open house story later on and realize that there were people buried under the floor of the music studio in the back, but John doesn’t think there were. In regards to the room being soundproof, the guy started to talk about his music and at that point John did a strong redirect because there was a very good chance it was Heavy Rock Blues. He absolutely started talking about his Stratocaster, but what John really wanted to see was the water cooler or the water heater or whatever. John did not want him to talk about his Strat and he does not typically want anyone to talk about their Strat!

School supplies (RL301)

Today is the first day of Merlin’s daughter in 5th grade. They start really early in the middle of August which is probably a VC thing. John was wondering at that point if VC meant ”Vietcong” and Merlin didn't know what to respond to that. Merlin’s favorite part of new school years was always the school supplies, like the folders, the pens, the holder for the pens, the Trapper Keeper, the Mead Data Center, or the metric converter 90-60-90. When Merlin was a kid, the Data Center was the baller.

Neither Merlin nor John had slide rules, the thing that calculators had eliminated forever, but John learned the slide rule as a 9 year old when he was in the gifted program. It was the time when they were trying to figure out what exactly the gifted program was. What if they had to send a man to the moon? There already is a man on the moon, they have done this already and they have computers now.

John had the ability to put a man on the moon with his little Data Center. He could measure anything that needed to be measured, he could draw a circle with any kind of radius, he could do curly cues and he had every kind of analog tool. Merlin enumerates all the different features of the Data Center after having looked it up online. John still has a Mead Data Center upstairs! You don’t go to war with the Data Center you want, but with the one you had for a while.

John had someone in his class who had taken the stock graphic out of the outside of their Data Center and had slipped in another image. That person was seriously cranking and making it their own world, he was the person John wanted to be, the person who changes the images on their Data Center. The Data Center was not cheap, it was an investment.

John’s process (RL301)

(most of this section is narrated by Merlin and it seems that most of the references about the bookcase and the banana dessert are to the movie Interstellar)

As part of his process, John is trying to decide what color he is going to paint his beard. It looks like he is just gathering string, but it is part of a larger process that you have to trust. John is going to figure out what his process is when he is good and ready. All he knows is that there might be process, and part of the process is figuring out if there is a process and what the process is. Merlin is super into that! John might need a framework, a guide, a paradigm, a mental model, and sometimes you need to do research in order to find out what kind of research to do. John does not typically like to apply a mental model, but he wants the mental model to come from the experience. The wand choses the wizard!

John is building new matrices every day, which is why if you look behind him in time in his Interstellar /((John said Inception, but it soon became clear he meant Interstellar)//, his book cases are not all parallel. It is a non-euclidian-space library. In his design of the film in his mind, the library would be very much more fractal and less library of congress. They might have been trying to show 5-dimensional something to a creature that can only nominally understand 3 dimensions, but there is a dream logic to it where you don’t know if it exists or if it has been discovered. You are not building it, but it is being built. You are involved and eventually you may or may not discover this as part of your process that may or may not exist. That is the process!

The process is that we don’t know if there is a process and if the bookshelf is curved. In Russia, process builds you! You get the desert that you discover and you don’t get to design a bunch of bananas. Sometimes you just have to say that you are aware of the presence of a desert in this dream and you are going to discover it and you have to walk backwards at half speed to find the thing. You discover the matrix or the process model even if it is expressed as a bookcase, curved or otherwise. You may or may not find it and it may not be you who is going to discover it. It is being discovered and you are there for it. The process is the process.

In this particular moment in John's life, he is definitely trying to figure out where things belong. Every time he gets a thing, he is trying to figure out where it belongs. Sometimes it strikes him when something is not where it belongs, but a lot of the time things are just about or right around where they belong. Sometimes you pick up a thing and you are wondering if this is an unprecedented thing. We do have to invent bananas.

It is the same situation when you want to get a PO-box and they ask you what size before you even got any mail. Why would you need a smaller or a larger PO-box? Somebody asking that question is in on the process in the bookshelf and there is some kind of hidden secret banana dessert in that. If the PO-box fills up, they will hold the mail for you and you will pick it up. Is there any downside and are you missing out on treats if you don’t get the very large box? If it is free refills, why would you get a large? You just get the smallest, cheapest one and have free refills. John is not going to get a large coffee if there are free refills!

John and Merlin have, probably ill-advisedly, set themselves up to be largely self-managing. John has done everything he could to make sure that he didn’t have a boss, but that was maybe not the smartest move, because John wants to be managed a little bit. He is not the best self-starter or long-term-planner. He likes to have an assistant who has a little authority over him, but not too much. Merlin says that there are a lot of things going on in life where you would need some guard rails, which doesn’t mean you can’t chose to go around them if you want to, but in order for life to make sense there has to be some kind of reasonable expectation about how this is all going to work together. An awful lot of people are governed by a lot of structures that they don’t question. They don’t think they need to invent a banana, but there is a banana and they accept this that is what bananas are. If you put yourself in a posture in life where everyday you could never have another banana again because you are working on you alt-banana, there would be too much possibility!

John’s tesseract right now (referencing the library in Interstellar mentioned earlier) is not only ”Where do things belong?” John could sell his house and move to Thailand, it would be even cheaper than Tennessee. He could become the governor of Thailand! There is a king in Thailand and you have to be very respectful of the king and you can’t make a joke about the portrait in the Thai restaurant. John is not going to move to Thailand and he is not going to become the king of Thailand, but he could do pretty much anything and continue to do Roderick on the Line every Monday morning. John could be in Thailand right now for all anybody knows. That is too much possibility!

It feels a little bit like an Oliver Sacks problem, a mental illness where you think that your wife is a hat. You know you can’t do everything, but you don’t know where the reasonable lines are drawn, because you blew out all lines. John knows he can’t walk to the moon, but what are the good lines and does he actually have the power to draw them for himself? You can’t pick the size of your PO box until you start getting mail! Why would you get the large size if there are free refills? Some of the lines John had drawn around himself was that he bought a house and plopped himself down in the middle of it. There are literal lines called walls! He also has bills and habits, but habits are not the same as laws and rules. John is not a person who is invested in his habits to the point that he doesn’t every once in a while shake them all off, like from now on he is not going to drink coffee or eat Macaroni and Cheese.

John was walking into this Navy Seal house, looked around and thought about what color he would paint these walls. He imagined himself situated there. There is not that much to John’s life that is constant and if he would be in this new house he would be kind of ”New Me” entirely. He would bring his microphone over there and he would do Roderick on the Line every Monday at 10am, but everything else would be up for grabs.

John could be down at the City Hall, lean on the counter and talk to the comptroller saying ”I don’t even get permits for this woodwork I do on my place!” and they would say ”Why are you here again? You are here every day!” and John would reply that he will be mayor of this town eventually and he just wanted to see where all the light switches are. Every day is ”anything can happen day” and John doesn’t know what to do about it.

John is open to an idea that there are some lines and he is wondering what they are and if he would put them into an U-haul box and bring them over to the Navy Seal house if he moved in there. Would there be pre-existing lines that he can’t see right now? Maybe that is why the Navy Seal is moving: He doesn’t like the lines!

There are a lot of psychological lines all around us all the time, but which ones belong to you? Which ones are you just trying to stay away from because you feel they are electrified? Which ones are really important? You are not encouraged to test them either, not at least because you don’t want to drive off the side of a cliff or screw with the public easement. You are better off just being conservative in assuming that there is a line and it is for you.

Do your friends have to agree with you on everything? (RL301)

In the long-ago times, the before-times, the idea of having friends who disagreed with you and who had very different lines from yours was an idea that was maybe not 100% commonplace, but it was certainly how John modeled his passage through life. John did not want friends who necessarily agreed with him, but he was friends with people who disagreed with him just as often as with people who agreed with him. He didn’t choose friends based on common media preferences or common politics or common experience, but quite the opposite!

John made friends who had experiences different from his own and different viewpoints, not because he wanted to argue, but he didn’t need his media preferences reinforced and he didn’t want to sit and watch movies with his friends, but he wanted to explore the world! Meeting somebody he liked and found interesting was often challenging and when he didn’t like any of the movies they liked, they would ask ”Why are we friends, then?” John would always be shocked by this question.

Sean Nelson once said that John didn't like anything he liked, which John found great, but "Why are we friends then? Friends like the same stuff!” - "Friends don’t like the same stuff, what a crazy thing is that to say?" Sean claimed that the very definition of being friends was that you like the same stuff, but John likes a lot of people who like The Smiths and The Smiths are garbage! You like the person, not the preferences and a lot of people don’t agree and think that the preferences are the person. Nowadays, especially as we silo against one another, the preferences often are the person. People are making choices based on their preferences and John is zero that. Not having any preferences is part of the thing. He doesn’t care!

If you ask him to listen to The Smiths or The Decemberists doing their version of The Smiths, he would prefer The Decemberists. If you ask him if he would like to have potatoes, he would prefer not to have potatoes, but if it has gravy, he will eat anything! He might take a few bites of a potato and he will eat a whole plate of potatoes if it is covered with gravy. You can push the olives to the side of the salad. He might have some preferences, but he is not super-invested in them. If all John could listen to for the rest of his life is Jazz, it would be fine. He could get into Jazz. It is not the number one thing he would have chosen, but if it were chosen for him?

If you could only eat one kind of food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Merlin says ”steak”, but when they lived with his horrible step father who owned a steak house, after about a month of it he was good and sick of eating a fucking rib-eye every night. There are a lot of different kind of steaks, however. Do baby back ribs count as steak? What else are they if they are not steak? What even is a steak? You could have a lamb steak, a ham steak, a ram steak, or a jam steak!

John feels like he is at a turning point where all bets are off again and he doesn’t want to do it wrong. That is part of the fear! John’s sister is always ”be here now”-ing him, but what if the moment sucks? If you only turn to these kinds of thought technologies at times when you are stressed out, the idea of deep breathing makes you anxious because you associate it with being anxious.

Is everything a story? (RL301)

John won't allow it, but his sister is telling him that he needs to stop seeing everything as a story. But everything is a story! The thing that makes him need to breathe into a paper bag is the idea that somebody would say that not everything is a story. She says that not everything is a story and the story is the problem because John is taking things that aren’t a story and is turning them into a story. Now John has turned that piece of advice into a story. If you turn everything into a story, now all you have to do is recognize you are doing it and in the moment be like ”I’m storifying it!” and that is the first step! But the first step to what?

John is not sure what to do with that. The idea of living in the moment is very stressful. The other day his sister said that to be happy is not to be happy. You are not walking around full of joy all the time, but to be happy is to feel your feelings and if you are upset, you feel upset. She rage-quit on John all the time and she had just so much anger that defined her life and all of her relationships. In the last 5 years she metamorphasized. She is still herself and you can still feel that energy in her somewhere, but it just doesn’t overcome her anymore. In the past her eyes would roll back in her head and all of a sudden all you could do was take cover, but that is gone. It isn’t just gone in the sense that when she gets mad she turns around and walks out of the room, but she is managing it somehow and she is not terrifying in the way she used to be where pretty much any encounter with her could go completely sideways and then the day was ruined and the whole month was ruined.

This development is entirely a product of her self-managing. She always had a tendency to give moral lectures and John always rolled his eyes a little bit, but now he is inclined to pay attention because he has seen real results. She has actually changed and it has improved all of their lives. Maybe there is a possibility for John to change and improve all of their lives, too? He doesn’t know how he would do that, but what a great story!

Merlin has realized that he is the sky, not the weather and he is not defined by whether it is raining or not. It is corny, but it is pretty good! In 10 years, Merlin’s daughter will be gone, and 10 years ago was just a blink of an eye away. The question is: What are you going to do? Merlin has no fucking idea. But isn’t that a little destabilizing?

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