RL327 - Old Sunshine and the Bear

This week Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: Who wants to have money?, referring to a YouTube video of Ken with the guy from Brooklyn Nine-Nine who is called Money or no Money or Who Wants to Have Money.

The show title refers to Merlin saying that he and John, the two dudes on the podcast, are Sunshine and the Bear.

This episode was recorded live at SF Sketchfest on January 18th 2019.

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

Getting a certificate of Attaboy (RL327)

Merlin and John got certificates of Attaboy from their audience. Merlin may not display them prominently in his home, but John will. They have the Headphoney and a 20-sided die on them. Sometimes you need an Attaboy and John doesn’t get enough Attaboys. Maybe they should have an Attaboy boy? He could be any size, he could even be from Nebraska and be 29 years old, if only he speaks clearly!

The Millennials bought all the avocados and now they need employment and John could hire an attaboy / attagirl, whatever would accommodate his needs. It would be like Liberace’s chauffeur and he would have them dressed beautifully in fur and they would just stand in attention and when John would come through in his robe they would hand John his sword and say ”Attaboy! Go get them! Go get that neighborhood dog!"

Doing a live show at SketchFest (RL327)

Merlin and John have been doing this live show at Sketchfest for two decades. Merlin has never seen anything look so much like a thing for trapping human beings than the cheese platter back there. There are mouse traps with a plastic thing that looks like cheese and you wonder how that is going to fool a mouse unless they are from Switzerland, but a not very bright person might grab that cheese, it is the world’s most dangerous charcuterie! John thinks that the cheese on the mouse trap is meant to help people know where to put the cheese. Merlin puts peanut butter on mouse traps, but you could not make a convincing fake peanut butter because it would look like someone made a dookie on there. You can use the cheese as an indicator as to where to put the peanut butter.

Backstage there is a bowl of Chex Mix, a kidney-damaging amount of water, and a thing that is not quite a cutting board or a coke mirror, but it has 8 slices of cheese arranged in two rows and nothing else. If Merlin was into Q-Anon he would think that it was something very meaningful. He stared at it for a while, trying to figure out what the sub-message was, and he decided not to touch it because other people have already touched it.

Last year at this show John was sick and his child had barfed on him, but now it has been a year and he is feeling better. It feels good to do Roderick on the Line because John and Merlin don’t see each other in person very much anymore unless John makes Merlin come to things like this. Merlin has to go on MUNI for 1.5 hours to find his way there.

Somewhere along the line Merlin has morphed into John Fogerty from 1987 //(John is alluding to Merlin’s hairstyle, see pictures here and here) and John is super into it. ”Santa Field! Come in, coach!” Merlin doesn’t do things or go places. When he learned that House of Prime Rib would deliver to his house it was the final straw. He just duct-taped all the doors and windows and lets them put it through the slot one slice at a time!

Using the Apple Watch instead of the phone (RL327)

Merlin tries to set up a reminder on his Apple Watch to stop doing the show in 70 minutes, but it doesn’t seem Siri wants to cooperate. John tells his watch to call Merlin Mann and it does. They continue playing with their watches for a while, involving John Siracusa, Matt Haughey and Max Tempkin. In the end Merlin asks Siri to open Matt Haughey’s garage door.

John has been trying to use his watch instead of his phone, but if you are trying to use your watch instead of your phone you shouldn't bring your phone and 10-29% of the time your watch will not be equal to the task. If you bring your phone you are not going to ever really commit to learning how to use your watch and now John is constantly in a situation where it is like ”I am going to force myself to use this watch even when it doesn’t work. Otherwise the watch will just be a gizmo that I don’t need!” He spent the money on it and he doesn’t just want to leave it in a drawer, he is on the horn of a dilemma.

The video card on John’s laptop burned out and his iMac bricked. John told John Siracusa about it who asked if it won’t boot up, but it does boot up, it just sucks, and that is not what bricked means. Everything went to shit all at once and the only thing that really still works is this watch that only works 71% of the time. John and Merlin continue to play with their watches. Merlin’s Siri is British and because John didn’t know you could make it British he is not living his best life.

Merlin only wearing podcast garments (RL327)

Merlin started shining his shoes, which is antithetical to the whole world they grew up in where you were just dirty. Like a paint job you would get as a member of the low rider culture, the guy put more than one layer of shoe shine on there. These shoes are the only thing Merlin is wearing that is not related to podcasting. They let the audience guess the different parts of Merlin’s wardrobe: His underpants are Mack Weldon, his shirt was chosen by Bombfell, his socks are from the company that makes socks in your size (KANE 11) and he bought the jeans for Do By Friday as a challenge to buy pants (Episode 104 from 2018-11-08).

Apparently they are commuter jeans and they are reflective. John called Max Tempkin on his Apple Watch and asked if it was true that he had made Merlin buy those jeans. Merlin called Alex Cox simultaneously and asked her to say ”Hi!” to everybody in the audience. John wondered if Alex and Max were in the same room, but Merlin really doubts it.

Living together with other podcasters, going to Mars (RL327)

John always thinks that podcasters are all living together, like in a tree house from the movies, but that would be really gross because there is nobody Merlin would want to live with, especially a podcaster. How big would the house have to be for John and Merlin to be able to live together? For Merlin it depends on how much of John’s stuff was going to be there. John could commit to reducing his stuff by 60%. It could be a tree house with zip-lines between the different rooms. There is a logarithmic scale of the amount of time they could spend in a small space. The longer the time, the more they couldn’t be in the same space. They could do a hotel room for an afternoon with pants on. They share a backstage pretty healthily.

If NASA asked them to go to Mars because nobody else could quite communicate the experience to people the same way John and Merlin would, they would need to have a big ship with the comforts of home and some privacy because Merlin would get tired of hearing some of John’s theories. He wonders if they would become lovers, not in a bad way, but John thinks Merlin would be scratchy to kiss. John is soft, like caressing a scallop, and maybe that would be Merlin’s pet name for John: Little Scallop Boy, lying on a bed of de-shelled scallops, which would be very soft and so moist. If it were in the sun it would be like humping in a hot house. Merlin is not that bristly because he shaved today with a Harry’s razor!

John started to get very panicky about the prospect of being in confined spaces. The idea of being put in a space ship, even without Merlin there, causes him to get a little bit anxious if he thinks about it for too long. It is related to the fear of being put in the back of a cop car (see RL309). If NASA wanted him to go to Mars, he would assume that the first thing they were going to do was to put a hood over him and throw him in the back of a cop car that would take him to the space ship and he would be put on the space ship still with the hood over his head. It would suck!

They would not have asked Merlin and John to go to Mars unless they really needed them, because they probably have more qualified people who could handle it. Maybe there is some kind of a plague type situation, like that drug called Krokodil that makes your arms rot off, you don’t want to google this! Merlin would go to Mars if he had to, or maybe he doesn’t, because he doesn’t like getting on MUNI. He just doesn’t have that much ambition and he really wouldn’t want to be that famous.

A lot of people would talk about you and ask questions what was going on in space. They would absolutely play a lot of board games, they would even leave food behind to be able to bring Settlers of Catan along. Merlin bought that game, but they never opened it. One day he decided he was a board game person and he bought the Settlers of Catan, the one where you make the choo choo go around, and Lords of Waterdeep, which is apparently a board game of D&D. It took him and his daughter 3 hours to take all of the pieces out of the game!

Jigsaw puzzles bringing the family together (RL327)

John’s family does jigsaw puzzles at his house because they live in an illustration from the Saturday Evening Post. John tries to get the ones with a lot of pieces, like 1500 pieces, and he will take up the whole dining room table. Nobody can do anything for a week and a half and they have to eat sitting on the floor. Everybody in the family has a different methodology: The person who likes to do the outside, the person who starts with major themes, and somebody who really want to focus on the areas that no-one else wants to play with. John doesn’t want the pieces from the one red balloon in the painting, but he wants the pieces where the ocean meets the sky in the back of the painting and it all is indistinguishable.

Merlin never got into those. His mom had a very memorable many-hundred piece large round puzzle of a liberty head nickel with very little contrast on the pieces, they were all just silver. Everybody in John’s family loves a puzzle, including his mom. One time he got a 1500 piece puzzle of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, which is an impossible puzzle to do because every brush stroke is the same and it is just blue and yellow parts. It is not that you can look at a sworg and compare it to any other sworg or connect it to any sworgs, and this thing was on the dining room table for a month and a half before they had to surrender as a collective unit. They put it all back in the box and got it out of the house.

Some puzzle stores or stores for advanced children have toys that suck and that no kid would want to play with, but people who don’t have kids go there when they need an $80 toy as a gift, ”Do you have anything wooden that is the shape of food?” - ”Yes, we do! Let me introduce you to the world of Melissa and Dough! Here is a car that no child would ever enjoy playing with. This tomato is velcroed together and comes with a false knife that is not sharp." - "How much is it? $80? Yes, please!" There are few that John finds to be puzzles meant to make even the smartest child develop some humility. There are also intentionally unsolvable things.

Books, A Tale of Two Cities (RL327)

John’s teacher in 6th grade got tired of him interrupting and she told him to sit in the corner and read ”A Tale of Two Cities” (see RW109, RL186 in Books) At first it felt like he was given a gift, but then he started to read it and realized that it was a giant teacher hammer. He was not going to surrender, but he was going to fucking tough it out! It was not a recognition that John had special needs, but an acknowledgement that she could no longer handle him. She knew he would be fooled by her putting a soft chair over there. John had never even heard of the French Revolution, but he would not stop and read this book. It traumatized him!

Merlin doesn’t think most people read books, especially the famous books. At least he doesn’t. They ask the audience to applaud if they read Moby Dick, and the very thin applause they got felt about right. Merlin read it for a class, but he skipped some of the extensive chapters about the whaling industry. We all know the story of the book! They ask the audience to applaud if they have read Billy Budd and there was a much smaller smattering. Very few people read Tristram Shandy. One audience member even brought a book by John Scalzi whom Merlin knows from the cruise and John knows him from all around. Merlin read Night Shift by Steven King. John saw Night Shift starring Henry Winkler, which is a great movie.

John had a friend who worked at one of the Seattle Internet Book Retailer Companies where you order books online and they are sent to you. It is not Powell’s, because that is in Portland (John refers to Amazon). You can order books online using a computer, phone or watch and they will send it to wherever you live, but they do not follow up to make sure you read it.

John’s friend had access to all the galleys and he put the ones about history, old biographies and books about Hitler and The Beatles in a box over to the side. Periodically he would bring John a box full of books (see RW2) and John got in the habit of reading the first quarter of 80 books. He knows the first quarter of John Adams’ life and he is pretty familiar with a lot of people up to their 20s, but he could not get the intestinal fortitude or attention span to power through and get to the end of a single one of these grown-up adult books.

Merlin thinks that a lot of people are scared to say that they buy a bunch of books because it is cool to have books, but they don’t read books. Sometimes you start reading an article in Wired, the third one of your five articles a month. You have already clicked through and have already burned the read and you can’t go back and say that you didn’t want to read that one. It is a feature article about something you didn’t know about the Internet, a turns-out article, it is a long one. How often do you read all the way to the end of five pages of somebody writing about a thing in Wired, all the way to the last sentence? Merlin would for sure add it to Instapaper, which was designed by their mutual friend (Marco Arment).

John’s daughter’s friend Graham (RL327)

John asks Siri to call Marco Arment, but she asked if he meant Marco Collins, the famous Rock ’n’ Roll DJ from 107.7 The End. Yes! Merlin asks Siri about the band Silkworm, but she offers to search for the band Still Graham on his iPhone. Graham is one of John’s daughter’s friends and they just had a playdate with him. John’s little girl is struggling this year because 2nd grade is hard. She has encountered some mean girls at her new school who are trying to exclude her from play, they were having a tough time right around Christmas, and when John asked her what he could do to make this any better she asked for a playdate with Graham.

They hadn’t seen him in several months and John called his mom who said that they had been wanting a playdate with Marlo for so long. They went right back at it and they were super-tight super-friends. It reminded her that she was not just living in a new world where everybody shuts her out. The mean girls are like ”Come play with us, you are our new best friend! No, you can’t play with us, we never want you to play with us!” Learning how to be mistreated by others and be able to weaponize it against other people is a very important laboratory of crashing children. Graham still had a lot of love for Marlo and it made a big difference.

John’s daughter at a theater audition (RL327)

John's daughter decided she wanted to audition for the local community theater production of Jack and Annie because she had trouble at school and the way to deal with social awkwardness is to become a theater person. The number one thing on John's list of things he doesn’t want her to do is ”Don’t marry a skater!”, but the next thing is ”Be very careful about entering the theater in any capacity!” Her mom was in theater behind the curtain with black jeans and a Mag Light, telling people when they are on, which Merlin finds to be a sexy fucking role. John never played that role, but he was always standing there in a news boy cap, breathing heavily, telling himself that he was going to remember his line.

There were 80 little girls at the audition between the age between 7 and 14. They had to learn a whole routine with a song and a long dance that John couldn’t have remembered. Some of the 14 year olds had all the jazz hands and they already had a handkerchief in their hair. They went through a multiple hour audition process where John was sitting up there in the stands. The director had told the little girls that they were going to watch them the whole time, not just when they were auditioning. If they were sitting there waiting and they look at their parents in the audience and communicate with them, they are not independent. John was like ”Fuck!”

For 2.5 hours she sat at the side of the stage and did not look at John the entire time. She learned the whole thing, she did the dance, she sang the song, and as they were in the car driving home she told John that she was pretty sure she was going to get the role of Annie because she looks like her, she is pretty perfect as her, and she couldn’t imagine they would cast anyone else. John suggested that the director might cast a boy as Annie and might want to do a lot of different things, but she thought about that and said that if she would get any one of the top four speaking roles she won’t be too disappointed. John told her that theater is there to crush your soul and this was a good learning experience.

She needs to learn that when she tries something life will slap her down. First it will make her weird and then if she is lucky it will make her feel good about being weird. John reached into his pocket and said ”This is a Clove cigarette, just smell it, hold it in your hand, and get familiar with it, because it may reappear in your life at a later date!” They got a letter from the theater people saying that she did not get cast in the play and if she wanted to audition for a future play, she might want to take some classes. People who direct community theater plays are pretty serious about the whole theater thing and they don’t want 7-year olds just auditioning over and over before they had some classes. It is part of the process.

Merlin had to learn a lot of instruments in school (RL327)

Merlin did some plays. No! Yes! Well, no, he wasn’t musical! He was musical, but not musical! Bacon Ray (Merlin's band) was great, though. In 12th grade Merlin was in drama club but he did not like being yelled at. He was instructed to be in many things because his mom wanted him to be decent and well-rounded. He had to take accordion lessons when he was 10 because she could see that The Decemberists were not on the horizon.

If Merlin was ever going to play at the Ukrainian Worker’s Hall he was going to know a few things. It was a trail of terrible music. Another one fell into the ages of ”It would be good for you to have some order!” and she put him into a drum and bugle corps run by a psychotic who made the whiplash guy look like the Michelin man. That teacher was rough and mean and didn’t teach him anything, they just yelled. John wonders where a group like that would play? At firemen’s funerals? Who is hiring? Who would like some very sad 5th-grade children with hats? They didn’t mention the flags and should have called it drum, bugle and flag corps. This man was very angry! Music teachers get very angry! Merlin also played trombone for a while.

John finds the bugle to be the angriest instrument, like a little pipsqueak, the Bonaparte of instruments. It is small and it ends up taking over all of you. Merlin had a borrowed bugle and a used mouth piece. They didn’t teach anything, but they just came in assuming that you knew how to play the trumpet. It was a trumpet because in Ohio they had different names for things. It was very unpleasant. Almost all of Merlin’s experiences with a formal go-be-entertaining atmosphere have been abysmal. Only church choir was nice. He doesn’t want to say anything unkind of hurt anybody’s feelings, but a lot of the people who get into the arts are unhappy!

Intermission (RL327)

John was in a band, he travelled, he has done comedy, he knows comedians, he got several podcasts, he knows a lot of people, he met Reggie Watts.

John asks the audience how many are going to see multiple shows at Sketchfest and it turns out that most of the audience was only there for Roderick on the Line.

Merlin went away and came back in the jersey of Kevin Durant, the guy who throws the basketball really well.

Comedians (RL327)

John has been at Sketchfest for the whole weekend and he met a lot of comedians. One of the things that powers comedy is inner suffering and self-loathing. A lot of people enjoy comedy because it presents itself as fun and you don’t have to go into it hating yourself, but you can watch another person who hates themselves pretend. People who like comedy are pretty well adjusted, but people who make comedy are terrible people. Merlin wonders why that is. Comedy is anthropological, it is philosophical, comedians are looking at everybody, they are having a take, and anybody can have a take now, but to have a good take you have to be coming at it from a place and to be coming at it from a place you have to have been places and have seen some things to be in a place to speak from a place.

In order to do that you have to not want to be in the place you were before and it goes all the way down from there. You have to go out in front of a bunch of strangers and fundamentally change the way they feel. You need some kind of insight into the human psyche in order to go out there, filled with a lot of personal pain and turmoil, and to entertain these people with some japes. You have to reach down and pick the crowd up. (lyrics of Reach Down by Temple of the Dog).

This is the record that Chris Cornell wrote about Andrew Wood, who died of heroin, before Eddie Vedder was famous. Eddie was new to town and Chris Cornell generously asked him to sing on the record called Temple of the Dog that he was making for his best friend and former room-mate. The big hit from it is Hunger Strike, but that is not the good one. The good one is Reach Down, the one John was just singing. None of them were happy, backed by the fact that almost none of them survived. Only Eddie Vedder lives on. He is nice and he seems happier than most comedians. Why are they all so sad?

Merlin wants to change the topic because their audience came to the show to laugh and not to hear about society and culture. They picked the right two guys to make them laugh: Old Sunshine and the Bear. Merlin makes a Bill Cosby impression which was the most go-to impression he had for 25 years, but now it is gone and he can’t use it anymore. It was so good! All that is left is a Christopher Walken impression, it is the only one you can still do, but Merlin does not have one that he would do.

Introverts / Extroverts (RL327)

John appreciates that people who come to their shows tend to be shy. They ask the audience to applaud if they were shy and they got a sotto voce applause. Then they asked them to applaud if they were extrovert. The extrovert people were all sitting in the front because they must have been holding that seat for them, while the introverts are standing in the back thinking that maybe those seats are for someone else.

People mistake John for an extrovert because he loves people, he loves getting out there, he loves the culture, he loves music, he loves sex, he loves food, he loves to cover himself with margarine, he loves to fuck on a pile of trash, but when he is done with that he needs to go home and recharge, he picks himself up off the men’s room floor, he squeegees all the margarine off, and he goes to sit in a quiet room to recover.

Their mutual friend Ken Stringfellow of The Posies is responsible for them being here together today. Merlin liked The Posies and had never heard of The Long Winters, although John's band was talked about on Life Journal. Ken Stringfellow never ever wanted to go back to the hotel room. If you tell him that you were leaving tonight for Azerbaijan, he is already at the ticket counter buying a ticket. He is just on, while Merlin and John also need to turn off.

Merlin getting spatchcock chicken after the show (RL327)

After doing a show Merlin needs to stare at his phone for 2 hours with no-one talking to him and 6-9 weeks later he can go out again. He can be in a room with you in his Kevin Durant jersey and his fancy dance, but after he leaves he is going to home and have spatchcock chicken (see RL316) and lay on the bed very quietly, which is his hard pivot. Doing a show is fun for a while, but then he has to go back to his house and look at his fucking phone! John has noticed about Merlin in the last several years that when he enters a situation like tonight, the first thing he started talking about when he arrived at the venue was the spatchcock chicken he has coming up tonight. He told every subsequent person who came in about it.

He has laid the groundwork for later. When someone will suggest to go to a second location afterwards he will be able to refer to the aforementioned spatchcock chicken that takes 40 minutes to cook and that he mentioned when he first walked in. It will not be an excuse because he pre-mentioned it. Merlin will shake the shit out of your hands and overwhelm you with his enthusiasm for a few minutes, but then he has to go for the spatchcock chicken waiting for him. He paid $7 for that chicken and it is not going to waste! A spatchcock chicken is a butterflied chicken that got eviscerated with all due respect to chickens. It is really great if you like chicken.

Wanting to have more Twitter followers than Colin Meloy (RL327)

In the early middle-period of Twitter they were having fun and they had a good time on there. John had a friend who worked at Twitter whom Merlin knows as well and who later sent them some Sonos equipment. He was the first one who asked John if he would like a blue checkmark and John didn’t know what that was, but if it was some form of Attaboy, please give it to him! He also sent John three peacock feathers.

When Colin Meloy joined Twitter, he got put on the ”whom to follow if you are new to Twitter” list. Merlin was on there for a while as well. It meant that every person who joined Twitter auto-followed Colin Meloy. Merlin never asked for being on that list because people just get mad, it is like having a party with people who are guaranteed to dislike you. Colin Meloy tweeted one time and it was something like ”Meat is murder!”, while John was working hard on doing his 140-character tweets, sitting in the bathtub and coming up with words, but then he had to put a comma in because it had to be grammatically correct and he had to start over. Every day John would log on and Colin Meloy would have 20.000 more followers.

Even today John would trade all the people screaming at him to delete his account for just the satisfaction of having one more follower than Colin, so Colin would have to wake up in the morning and realize he was chasing John. It sounds needy, but John is fucking needy as shit! Imagine if John had 1 million followers! The good he could bring to the world! If everybody in this room just faved and retweeted everything John said he would be a much bigger star. The audience is leaving a lot of faves and retweets on the table! Colin Meloy of The Decemberists once called John gosh and John got back at him by continuing to be gosh for decades after. Merlin thought it was that John toilet-papered his house with his own toilet paper, but that was much later and for a different reason.

People who got forced to the show by their significant other (RL327)

Merlin says that John did the song for MBMBaM.

John asks if anybody was in the audience who has never once listened to Roderick on the Line. Those people were all there because their significant other made them come. One person said that they have been trying to get their partner to listen for 3 years, but they never succumbed. It is wonderful that people would come to the show, but they wouldn’t ever listen to the podcast once to make their significant other happy. Merlin says it would be like if somebody says that their friend was in a movie and when you go watch it, then it turned out to be a really hardcore porn movie. It would be so weird to ask them how they know this person.

Nobody was there accidentally, but everybody had at least a modicum of intention. Early on on the podcast John would sometimes address the audience directly and he would get mail from people asking them to not talk to the audience, because they were listening to John and John was not supposed to be aware of the audience. John took that to heart as he understood better what they were doing. Part of the fun of being a voyeur is watching without being seen and you don’t want the people to point out that you have cute shoes. You don’t want to be noticed, that is why you are going into the background and that is why you are the voyeur.

John getting older and not disappearing from the public (RL327)

As time has gone on John tried to make himself more and more present and ubiquitous. He always wanted to have his picture in the newspaper, he is doing public things all the time, trying to be out there, he is accepting invitations, and he is recognizing that he is at a crossroads at 50 years old where you can become an old person really fast if you stop skateboarding or stop trying to learn things or if you put your hat on the sideway and say ”Hello fellow students!” You can retire from the armed forces at 50 years old, Merlin’s High School girlfriend did that 12 years ago, but as an AARP member you have to be 50 and older and they keep sending Merlin stuff.

On the other side of the coin there are all the people on European beaches wearing banana hammock swimsuits, thinking they will never die. They are the skateboarders who are still trying to live and to eat it up. They are still sucking the marrow out of the bones while John is trying to rock some ”Fold your cuffs up on your suit jacket” thing which he feels it is going to catch on and will be traced back to him.

Merlin has a basketball T-shirt over a free shirt. Seeing him in person is becoming more and more like catching a magic Pokemon. They can never take this away from the audience: They saw Merlin! This could be it! They might touch him tonight! He has a spatchcocked chicken to get to! This is his Sound of Music moment before Max has to shuttle him off the stage. As John gets older he becomes more and more touchable and he is trying to get out there more. The audience agrees.

John recording a podcast with his sister (RL327)

In 2019 John is going to be a blanket of fresh snow in a state that doesn’t often get snow. He is going to be snow in Decatur, Georgia! What is he going to do? Is he going to have another podcast? In fact, John has got a podcast coming out with his sister! For a long time Susan has been saying that she wants to do a podcast, but she has a lot of balls in the air and is leading a bunch of meditation retreats, she just put one on sale where you can go with her to Nepal to meditate. She has already taken one to Cuba, one to Costa Rica and you can’t go with her to Nepal because it sold out in one day, but she wanted to have a podcast.

John helped her get all set up and gave her all the equipment, he teched it out for her, he hooked up all the cables, he plugged in the wall warts, he powered it up, he taught her how to record it right into Garage Band, but it was hard to get started because she didn’t have a partner and she was just recording things like ”You need to recognize that you are a good person, you are a strong person, you are worth it”, this type of thing. It is hard to just say that into a microphone because it doesn’t reverberate the same way, and so they were talking about it. Another thing they talked about all the time is how fucking terrible everybody is on the Highway.

It was an early thing Merlin and John used to yell about: Keep moving and get out of the way, except she confided in John: She spent all her time trying to be Buddhist and she worked so hard to not be angry, to not be frustrated, to have acceptance, to keep the eggs in her hard nest safe, but when she gets in her car, she is like ”Fucking move, idiot!” Unlike John she rolls her window down all the time and goes Is this your first day? She spent so much work on her inner life, but inside the car something happens and this anger, this frustration all comes out. John was like ”Hold that thought!” and he pushed Record and they went over it again.

They started doing a podcast and every week she talks about the most recent incident where she rolled down the window and said ”Get the fuck moving, you fucking idiot!” and then John says ”So how does that work with the rest of your…” and then she works on her universe. It is perfect! Then John says ”Well, I was behind a guy the other day and guess what he did!” and she gets mad on John’s behalf. This is John’s sister that has appeared previously on the program and John gets into problems with the cable company just so he can have his sister call them and he can sit and listen to her take them apart.

They have never released an episode, but they have been doing this for about six months and it has brought them much closer together because they talk about their parents, about John’s dad and mom, and about their lives and their friends. They often refer to their friends by name who are bad drivers, who are part of the problem, they talk about their parents who are also part of the problem, but who taught them how to recognize the problem. They talk about their anger and about trying to be better people. John doesn’t know where this podcast will land and what home it will find, but it is really great!

The problem is that John has fucking too many podcasts! He never wanted to be that guy, he doesn’t even like podcasts. Merlin likes podcasts and he has 4 podcasts, while John doesn’t like podcasts and has also 4 podcasts. John likes making podcasts, but he can’t imagine listening to one. Merlin recommends podcasts all the time and gives John ideas for podcasts, like Korean Fan Death that needs to be on The Omnibus. Ken Jennings lived in Korea and knows about Korean Fan Death. The other night Merlin watched a YouTube video of Ken where he was winning a game show with the guy from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, called Money or no Money or Who Wants to Have Money?

The Roderick family (RL327)

Merlin has also been working on a 5th podcast with John’s mom which is called Roderick on the Line. How great would it be if they would keep calling it Roderick on the Line and Merlin would interview John’s mom and sister and his cousin Libby Roderick who teaches intersectionality at the University of Alaska. Merlin could use some of it, he is rubbing sticks together and no fire is happening, which feels like the world’s tiniest violin.

Merlin is playing with his watch again, calling John.

John promises to make a list of all the Rodericks who are still extant because all the Rodericks of John’s line had daughters and there was a while where it seemed like if they used the normal method of patrilineal name-droppage that there would be no Rodericks in society after a point, but then it turned out that none of the daughters took anyone else’s name and they continued to be Rodericks into the middle distance. Maybe it will be the daughters who will continue the Rodericks? For a while John felt a responsibility to repopulate the Earth and put as many Rodericks into the space as he could.

Begin gaslit by intelligence tests (RL327)

During the early days of the Internet there were intelligence tests where you would answer a multiple choice question and it would give you another one. They were not going to tell you that until you would just stop doing the test for some reason. You could literally do it forever and you would keep taking the test for 11 years until your computer died. There was no end to the Internet intelligence test, because the point of the test was to see how long you would take the test. That had an impact on Merlin! He took the test too long the first time, but the second time he did better.

John and Merlin are always conscious of being gaslit! Merlin hates being gaslit! Unfortunately they are friends and John is a gaslighter. In the Middle East you are supposed to say something three times before anybody will accept a gift, which is the same idea. There are various kinds of rituals and moires that evolved with this kinds of repetition. Are you sure you want ice tea? You have to keep asking.

Audience questions (RL327)

Did reading A Tale of Two Cities change John in any way?

John did a report on the book and then his teacher assigned him Moby Dick. She was not going to give him a single Attaboy, but the book had kept him quiet for 4 weeks and now another book was going to keep him quiet for another 4 weeks. The risk was that John would not like books and it would turn him into whatever the alternative was, but it didn’t keep him off books. Frankly, he still rather read the book than participate in class.

Merlin wonders if it could have been a Mr. Miyagi type situation where John had to say ”I reject this book!” Was the education ever the point? What if John had just kept reading the books? He did keep reading the books, but he stopped doing the book-reports. He cut half of the baby in half. How would they know if he read the book or not? There was nothing to give him an F for because there was no line for that in the spreadsheet! What were they going to do? In turned out that they could give John an F.

James Harden over/under point per game?

Merlin knows that James Harden plays basticball [sic] and he is very good, but he doesn’t know what those words mean.

John said he was going away, where is he going?

One of John's friends in Anchorage got into some questionable banking at a young age, not the crab guy, but a different guy, and he owns a house in Aruba. He was John’s friend, but he reached out to John’s sister, asking if she would make a video of his house in Aruba because he wants to put it on Aruba BnB. Susan said that she would come and make a video if her brother could come, he asked ”Why would I bring your brother?” but she insisted she wouldn't do it without John and he agreed.

John was going to be in Whistler and he realized that he could go from The Couve, which is what they call Vancouver, to the Arubs. "From the Couve to the Arubs" (see RL322) sounded really appealing until he realized that the end of the Aruba trip was the first day of the Jonathan Coulton cruise (JoCo Cruise). John wasn’t going to go on the cruise this year, but when he saw that he was going from the Couve to the Arubs, he could just go from the Couve to the Arubs to the Cruise. He asked Jonathan Coulton for a place on the cruise, but he wouldn’t do anything.

Then John realized that from Whistler to the Couve to the Arubs to the Cruise was going to be a problem for doing his 5 podcasts a week and he sent an email to all of his co-hosts, saying that he was not going to be around for a few weeks, "You guys work it out!" Like in the great Japanese film Battle Royale: Merlin, Dan Benjamin and Ken Jennings could fight over time and John was like Mitch McConnell: ”Come back when you guys figured it out!” What John hadn’t quite figured out was how he was going to apportion up who was going to pay for his plane tickets. It was not actually 100% booked, but it was booked in John’s head.

Update of the diploma

John already told this story on RW113.

John got a diploma-shaped envelope, but he didn’t open it for a year. People were suggesting to put the envelope in the frame, but he wasn’t going to do that. First it was on the table next to the kitchen, then it was on the bar in the kitchen, it moved around, and a lot of people told him to burn it, but those people did not know him at all. Years before he had already purchased a diploma-shaped frame for the event that he would ever get a diploma. One night John got really frustrated with himself, he was both characters in Gift to the Magi, he got his frame and brought it down next to the envelope. Both those things had been waiting to meet for many years, but John had kept them apart.

John was all by himself. He did not have people over and there was no ceremony or any of the things he had been planning on doing like have a barbecue on graduation day. It was just John at 4am and either he was going to cut his hair or open this envelope. He opened the envelope and pulled the piece of paper out that was faced down. He put it on the bar and walked away. For about a month and a half the paper sat on the bar face down. Anybody could have put their coffee down on it and it would have been ruined! It just sat there until again in the middle of the night John was so frustrated that he opened up the frame, put the diploma in the frame face down, sealed it up and put the framed piece of paper on the dining room table face down where it sat for a long time.

One day he was talking to his mom about Ohio in the 1950s and she said ”What’s this?” She picked up the frame, looked at it, and John said ”You tell me!” - ”It looks like you graduated from college!” - ”Can you be certain?” and he asked her some questions about it. She offered to turn it around so he could see it, but John said ”Not yet!” He asked her some further questions, she described it very accurately and at a certain point John realized that it was a college diploma.

John had graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in the Comparative History of Ideas field. They call it CHID, but it should be CHOI. John could have studied a lot of things, like Sociology or Communications or whatever. In CHID you don’t just compare the ideas, but you compare the history of ideas. It is like this show: What is in the history of ideas is in the history of ideas.

John finally looked at it, it was beautiful, and he asked his mom ”What do I do with this now? Do I hang this up?” and she said ”No, you don’t hang it up anywhere!” Her diploma is in a drawer somewhere, it was what John had feared all these years: It wasn’t anything! The certificate of Attaboy that they got at the beginning of the show might be more meaningful. The kerning is probably better, too! The diploma went in its frame back on the dining room table where it remains today. Now you can even put your coffee down on it because it is protected under glass.

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