RL355 - The Lieutenant Colonels of Hell

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: Here come the bird people, referring to Merlin not wanting to have a pet bird, but knowing that the bird people are going to send him emails about that now.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Angels, the devil, Satan (RL355)

The show title refers to John asking if Merlin sees the devil as having wings, with Merlin doesn’t, but there are some wings at the lower level guys, the lieutenant colonels of hell.

Merlin sounds a bit ambivalent, tentative, which isn’t bad. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread! Angels should not be walking around anyway!

It is easy enough these days in this economy to overcommit to a feeling! Merlin admires commitment, he respects that in people, but he also has a lot of respect for people who are just ambivalent or of two or six minds.

Speaking of angels and walking around: Merlin does not think of the devil as having wings, but as a very dark-red being with facial hair and a pitch fork and a pointy tail, but the lover level guys, the lieutenant colonels of hell, then you are going to see some wings. John’s sense is that Satan himself had some wings, but lost them.

There is a child’s idea of a devil, maybe you got it from Caspar, the friendly ghost, or maybe you got it from another Harvey Comic or from having a character sitting on a shoulder or a little face behind, maybe you read The Book of Enoch when you were a little kid.

Even if you don’t believe in it, you still know it. Merlin doesn’t believe in snow men, but he knows what they look like. He could draw a devil on an index card, but that doesn’t make it real. John has seen snow men! Merlin wonders if he should make the distinction between an animated holiday grotesquery vs a man made of snow, a kind of Winter Golum to protect your snow village. The Jewish people don’t believe in Satan, they could probably draw him, but he is not part of their canon. They believe in Seitan, though, the meat-free protein substitute.

Merlin says that if heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie (song by Hank Williams), he doesn’t want to go. You are supposed to live every day like you are dying (song by Tim McGraw) and according to The Louvin Brothers, the wonderful bluegrass singers, Satan is real. The idea of animating a hat into a man made of snow who is entirely aware of his short life is a horrible thing to do to a snow. But then ”the devil went down to Georgia because he was in for a soul to steal” (song by Charlie Daniels). Also he plays a mean fiddle, and ”He was in a bind, ’cause he was way behind, He was willing to make a deal” (same song) Merlin knows more of that song.

You couldn’t believe how long he spent with his 45 (rpm) C.W.McCall’s Convoy, trying to get all the lyrics to that song written down. ”Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June” They both know all the lyrics to this song. Does Merlin know the lyrics to Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron (John said: The Ballad of the Red Baron). Merlin only knew ”clear blue skies over Germany” Is the red baron a devil?

Uniform colors in sports (RL355)

Merlin was reading about George Best (1946-2005) and Manchester United and he found out that in football you got your primary uniform, which is your home uniform, and your away uniform and then you got something that is called your 3rd kit. Some places get up to five. Merlin doesn’t want to get started on the athletic wear industry and the need to create throwback-jerseys. The other night in San Francisco the Warriors got their ass kicked by the Lakers (101:123), Merlin was not there, he will be going to a game later this week, but the combination of how the arena looked, coloration, the kit of the arena, and the kit of the Warriors and the Lakers was a real cock-up. The idea of the third kit is that if you are the away team and if your uniform colors are too close to the kit of the home team, you got to go to the third kit.

George Best was a Northern Irish fellow and he was widely regarded as probably the best football player of all times, but he also had an alcohol problem. He ended up playing for the strikers in the 1980s.

Get your kit off (RL355)

The term kit was introduced to John by a lady friend in the 1990s when they used to sit around in coffee shops, writing plays and thinking deep thoughts. She was a genius, she had it all, and one time she was complaining why none of you guys want to fuck her. You all got girlfriends, you all get laid all the time, John was probably dating the girl that was running the cash register in the café, and what about her? She was right in front of them! She was both looking for a fuck and she was frustrated that it hadn’t come up. In John’s case it certainly had occurred to him, but he wanted to keep it on the up-and-up. He had a band with a lady and he said they could never kiss because their band was too important. John had a lot of philosophies and theories about stuff. She was like: ”What am I? Chopped liver?” Her ex-boyfriend was a friend of theirs and they didn’t want all that drama either.

John’s friend Chris was sitting across the table, he flew at a different level, and he leaned back in his chair and went: ”I’ll fuck you!” - ”Yeah, okay, fine! Good!” - ”I’ll fuck you right now!” - ”Yeah, well, okay then! Right now!” - ”Great!” and he stood up and she said: ”Now?” - ”Yeah, let’s get out of here!” and she stood up and they were all like: ”Huh?” and Chris was ”Come on, let’s go!” and she was: ”Okay!” and she was a bit flustered now, and as they walked out the door they heard him say: ”Let’s go get your kit off!”, meaning ”Let’s just go to the nearest location and get your kit off, all your bits!” Chris is good! Think about talking one for the team in that way! Merlin couldn’t do that, he would be put off by that level of candor.

Several years later she and John finally figured out a way and they dated briefly. It was hard because John respected her so much and what was he supposed to do? The question was always: ”Are we going to have a relationship? Are we going to start a museum? At what point is this going to get in between you and me buying a battleship and converting it into a theater space?” Merlin had a lot of friendships like that where they were just looking for a project to do together, and John interjects that in some worlds that thing is fucking. John ended up using: ”Get your kit off!”

The Red Baron (RL355)

John gets into a lot of trouble when he talks about certain aspects of the German aristocratic military culture because there are a lot of people on the Internet who want to hop at an issue and it is very popular to accuse John of being a both-sides-er because he has all this extra information like the Red Baron was a very nice man and he was shot down from the ground by some Aussie with a P-shooter. He painted his plane red so that he could get seen by his team mates, just like the goalie always has a different uniform. All of his compadres had planes with lively colors before they realized that they maybe should try to hide. They had iron crosses on there to distinguish themselves from the concentric circles of the allies (called a Roundel).

Random banter (RL355)

The two remaining members of The Who have a new tune (All This Music Must Fade, from their soon-to-be-released album Who). It is a pretty typical post-1978 Who song. They had some good songs during the last 40 years, but it is no Pictures of Lilly or A Quick One, which is Merlin’s jam. He likes the live performance on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. That version not only destroyed the Rolling Stones, but it also destroyed their own recorded version of it. That live take is one of the great most masterful moments in… it is like the homeopathy of Rock’n’Roll: You need less than a drop. You can’t even take the original version and put it up on a larger pedestal than it deserves because of that cocaine-filled moment of pure brilliance.

This is why the Grammies distinguish between Song of the Year and Record of the Year, which is a good distinction, one is… they are getting into some deeply semiotic stuff, they were talking about Georgie Best and the red and black devil plane and now they are getting very deep into some Roland Barthes territory, ”What about me?”, he said. Who is the one who got hit in the intersection on their motorcycle? Bob Dylan? (Jacques) Derrida? All the French guys get killed, thank God!

Merlin is trying to get at Semiotics, and in one instance… Merlin wonders if it is hard for Georgie Best to google himself, he passed a few years ago (in 2005), his body rejected his second liver, and he had to take drugs for that, but he continued to drink, which is probably not optimal.

Roland Barthes got killed and Merlin thinks even Jacques Derrida got killed. So far, so sure… one of them is the ”Here is a tune that is really good that somebody wrote” and you are giving it to the writer (Song of the Year), and the other one is ”Here is a song that is really good!” and it goes to the artist who recorded it (Record of the Year). It is a distinction between the song that was written and the song as performed and released (see this article). The difference between those two is the whole game.

The Waterboys, Spotify recommendations (RL355)

Merlin listened probably to 11 different versions of The Whole of the Moon by The Waterboys over the weekend. John is laughing because he posted two different versions of Pretty in Pink the other day (see this tweet). John liked that band and that song (talking about The Waterboys again) and he found it interesting that Merlin found 11 different versions of it. Merlin is a fan of Spotify that has a thing called Release Radar that bubbles up recently released music it thinks you might be interested in. Then there is one called Discover Weekly, which is usually a ton of stuff Merlin already knows, but this time there was a Bad Dog song from the recently re-released Replacements Don’t Tell a Soul record.

Then there is one list with songs you listen to on repeat a lot, which is a really good indicator to Merlin, there is going to be some Everlong (by Foo Fighers) in there, some GBV (Guided by Voices). Everylong is probably Merlin’s favorite song. It is also David Letterman’s favorite song and they left their South American tour to come and play it (see this story) and then Paul (Shaffer) came with some fucking sweet filter string section in the middle. Merlin loves the man, but he has to stop playing over the songs! Mr. Bermuda, a funny funny kind of place. Nutty nutty kind of place. Bananas! (reference see this article)

Satan (cont)

Even if you are a non-religious or irreligious person, it is difficult to avoid a lot of the kit of religions. Merlin’s lady friend of 20 years is from ethens (?), she didn’t have a lick of the Lord in her life and she doesn’t get Merlin’s jokes sometimes, which is a blessing, as hey say. Merlin has so much good Leviticus material. They are so repetitive about shrimp! It is said that the reason for that is that nobody wants these shrimp in a desert, it is a bad idea. Don’t get sushi in an American state that doesn’t touch the ocean unless you are in Chicago!

You get exposed to devils and angels. There are only three named angels: Angel Moroni? No, in The Bible! Everybody knows Gabriel (the other two are Michael and Raphael). What is the difference between an angel and an archangel? Or between a Count and a Viscount? Or God and Demigod? Duke and a Hog? Merlin welcomes everybody for whom this is their first episode of Roderick on the Line: ”Thank You for visiting with us today! Nice to have you here with us!”

The Internet Science Site says that it is called Third Jersey, Alternate Jersey, Third Kit, Third Sweater or Alternate Uniform. John thought Third Jersey was the area around Trenton. Is it called The Third Way? But let’s not get into that.

The Civil War, giving gifts (RL355)

Merlin finds it interesting that you get to choose your own colors for stuff. There might be a turns-out about the color of uniforms in the war against the states (American Civil War) The South had all of the coon, but they didn’t have any of the indigo and the North had all of the indigo, but they didn’t have any cotton, it is a Reese’s Peanut Butter type situation. When the North wanted to buy the South a birthday present they sold their indigo to buy a cotton gin and the South sold their cotton to buy an indigo pump, and they were embarrassed, but it also reaffirmed their love from one another and that is what brought the union back together.

If Merlin gives a gift he will never give a gift receipt, but he will retain a gift receipt for a period of time. He doesn’t believe in returning things, which is one of the great flaws of his character. He says: Measure twice, cut once! he does the research on the front end to make sure it is what he wants and if it is fucked up and not what he ordered it will make him sad sometimes, but he is not somebody who says: ”Nah, I thought this would be more indigo!” In the modern era it hasn’t happened that Merlin received a gift, didn’t like it and took it back. Would he put it on a shelf or in a box? Or would he give it to a fox? He likes most gifts! He buys so many things for himself that he lacks very little. If someone gave Merlin a book by Tony Blair on The Third Way he would probably put it on the bookshelf.

When Merlin adopted their cat a few years ago, the cat was brought home and the cat’s items, there were a few items of the cat that they got when they took the cat off their hands, and they needed a box in which to put that, and that box was a box of Donald Trump books. Merlin has given this a little bit of thought: First he thought: ”Ha! This came from a box of Donald Trump books! These chodes are the kinds of people who buy a bunch of books to support somebody!”, but then Merlin took a moment and applied Occam’s Razor to this and he came up with CostCo. How do you get your CostCo things from the belt to your automobile? You put it in a box that is provided by CostCo and it could have been a box for lettuce.

Banana boxes is the number one way tarantulas get into the United States! Whenever CostCo puts your books into a banana box you have to check that thing for tarantulas!

Merlin’s family adopted a lizard (RL355)

Merlin’s family adopted a new animal friend late last week, again a rescue, a large male bearded dragon. (see this tweet introducing him. He has his own Twitter account) They got a lizard. Merlin is not a good negotiator, but he negotiated down from Pembroke Welsh Corgi. It is in an enclosure called a 40 gallon vivarium (150 l), which is a terrible name. Merlin is not sure if he could eat a mammal, he is still getting to know him, but he is rally big. They make him a lot of salads. He is still very new in the house and he is still getting the lay of the land a little bit.

John wonders if Merlin re-inflates that old guest bed where Eric Corson used to sleep in that turns into a taco at 2am? That is a bad bed! No, if they have guests these days they get to sleep on a Casper mattress.

He eats vegetables and meal worms. The reason Merlin told this story was that there was suddenly another weird animal in the tank and they wondered how it got there. It was a little roach and Merlin thought that the nice little pet store that put this little kit together for them, probably a roach snuck in, because they have open containers of insects that you can buy.

The lizard is doing fine, Merlin is watching him on a remote camera right now, he is really chill, sitting in a hammock, looking around. He dropped a duke twice and he has had a little bit of salad, but he is really still adjusting. He likes to be over on the cool side, hanging off the hammock at an angle. There is a hot side and a cool side, like a McDLT! They bought him a basking rock, a hot lamp, a UV lamp, a vivarium, a hammock, three different sticks, two bowls. John wonders how he gets in and out of the hammock, because he has a hard time getting in and out of a hammock (see video from 13 days of John!) Merlin avoids hammocks, but from watching many YouTube videos he knows that a beardie (nickname for lizard, bearded dragon) likes a hammock.

Merlin doesn’t like the name he come with and doesn’t want to say it on the show for opsec reasons because then people will be able to steal his lizard wizard powers. John wonders how does a normal American family is going through their day and finding their way to a place where a dragon would need to be adopted in the first place, where you meet someone coming through the rye who says: ”Boy, I need to find a home for this dragon!” - ”Huh? Let’s have a family conference!” In the great play Equus, Peter Shaffer says: ”Moments snap together like magnets and that is how you end up fucking a horse!” and that is really life in a lot of ways.

Merlin is a bad negotiator, he is so the lady horse in this story (see RL21), just saddle him up and give him a horse apron! There has been consideration of a second pet for a while and Merlin negotiated down from high impact mammal. To John the worst pet, the apex shit pet, is a cockatiel! They are such assholes! You would have to have the inner strength of a beretta just to deal with a fucking bird. There is a bird three doors down from Merlin’s house and he knows that because he hears it every day. What chain of poor decision making brought you to that?

Some of their listeners are now looking over lovingly at their cockatiel (or even cockatoo, either one) and a single tear is forming in the corner of their eye, but below that… Is Merlin saying that a mammal, for example one that might be beloved by the Queen of England, is higher up on the shit tier pet? Life is an engineering problem! Does John have any idea what Merlin spent on this god-damn cat? Every time he takes it in it has to have more teeth removed! He should never have bought a smushy-faced cat, it is the number one rule, but ask him if he wanted a cat! Merlin is like Sisyphus pushing a Cassandra up a hill.

Merlin knows what he is in for and he doesn’t prefer it, but he doesn’t get a vote so much. They almost ended up with a guinea pig and that is very near the apex shit pet. Merlin knows people who turn a room in their house into a room where the guinea pig eats and shits everywhere. John loves guinea pigs, they are great pets as long as you domesticate them from birth. You don’t want a guinea pig that has ever met another guinea pig because it needs to think that you are the big guinea pig. A guinea pig is like tofu: It will take on the flavor of whatever it is cooked with, like Satan. If you raise a guinea pig with a kitten it will think it is a kitten and the kitten will think it is a guinea pig. It is psyops! John has done this!

Merlin is just kidding, he doesn’t hate guinea pigs, but he looks at the goldfish situation… Merlin says that people must not email him about pets or he will have your IP address and make sure that you will never be able to listen to another episode of any podcast ever again, he has friends that make apps, he has power and he will yield it. The trade-off for himself of what you get out of a pet fish? Give me a fucking break! Really? They die, you get attached to them. When Merlin was a kid he had a goldfish called Goober, after George Lindsey from the Andy Griffith Show, which is funny because Merlin said to his lady friend yesterday that the dragon is a lot like Otis (Campbell) the drunk and eventually he will be able to let himself out.

Has Merlin heard from other dragon owners. A little bit on the Internet, but he hasn’t sought it greatly. He rather reads a book or watches some YouTube videos. The pet store people were great and have been nice about this. The dragon had been turned in at the pet store by a former dragon companion, which happens sometimes, then there is a quarantine for a couple / three weeks when it hangs out in the store and they got really attached to him in the store, Merlin could tell.

A dragon was all Merlin’s daughter has talked about for a long time because they are very cool! It is very complicated! Try to imagine to negotiate a meal with a child and now turn that into a two-month project about an animal. Merlin was just trying to walk away from the Corgi thing because when you get an animal like that it changes everything. John wonders if Merlin’s daughter is savvy enough to threaten a Corgi to get a dragon, but Merlin doesn’t want to get too far into this. He is the odd man out, literally, and it is not just her. He is not going to provoke the other members of his household by naming names, except to say that Merlin was the one who was reluctant to pet any further.

John knows Merlin’s lady friend pretty well and he is wondering where she got the idea of a dragon! Tuesday afternoon Merlin picked his kid up at school and she asked if they could go to this one pet store that they know about and Merlin agreed. She didn’t want to call them first to ask if they had any bearded dragons because any contact is a very fraught thing for her. They got a Lyft to go to the place and over there in this tank they had two babies that were so cute, and over here they got a speculated to be approximately 4 year old bearded dragon and he looked really cool. They took him out of the tank, she got to hold him and he started climbing up her arm and under her shoulders, looking around, and Merlin thought that this was actually an extremely cool animal.

Long story short Merlin put down a deposit. John doesn’t think those are cheap, but it was far less costly than Merlin expected. Merlin recommends to do a Google image search of Bearded Dragon Cat Friends. John recommends to search for the video of the cat that is best friends with an owl. Merlin saw a duck and a Shiba Inu (dog) yesterday where the duck put his bill into the curly tail. Also look for the video of a bearded dragon eating a blueberry. A bearded dragon weighs very very little, far less than a pound, it is like 1/6th of a cat, although it is big. John looked at the blueberry video and the dragon was hauling ass! They get up on their hind legs and run!

Merlin has only had the dragon for 3-4 days and he is not going to share all of his bearded dragon knowledge and wisdom, but there are things to know. You learn why they surf the glass, why they skitter, they don’t know it is their own reflection, but they think it is another dragon, they are not super-smart, they are literally lizards. Will they fight a mirror? Merlin’s vivarium is new and very shiny on the inside and they had to deal with that! it is called glass surfing. If anything changes in the vivarium, anything new, you can stress out a dragon just by putting a new stick in, let alone a new location. He has not met the cat yet, that is a thing Merlin has got to deal with still.

As of this morning you can tell he is doing better because of the way he is looking around. You are not supposed to handle them a lot, but just leave them alone, make sure they are not too hot or too cold. Merlin loves him, he is a really cool little dude and he has to admit he is very excited to have him in the house. Still, you need someone in the decision-making-process to be a karma-suck, you can’t have everybody enthusiastic about everything all the time or your projects will all be bad. This is Merlin’s rule in life! He is really good at saying ”No!” to things and it has served him really well.

Merlin said to his kid that there have probably not been that many bands that are extremely good and long-lived that started with somebody going ”I have a cool band name, now I just need to make a band!”, but the band-name has to find you, like John’s passport, and he also believes that a pet can and should find you and they should need you. You should find an animal friend that needs you! You are not going to understand it until it happens and when it does happen you go: ”Oh! I think this needed me! I want to give this little creature a good home and a good life!” and you don’t run into that by going: ”It is Easter Sunday, let’s buy a fucking rabbit!” That is such a four-quadrant bad idea! Don’t get a rabbit unless you are a rabbit person. It is not ethical to sell someone a rabbit in the spring!

Some of Merlin’s house policies are: ”We don’t buy food to get a toy!”, ”We don’t buy toys to get food!”, and ”We don’t buy animals as a present!” An animal is not a present, it is a project. You don’t give somebody a baby for their birthday! John finds that a very sensitive and delightful philosophy! It should be a project that should take a long time, longer than you think, because you are committing to the life of that animal. Starting out with a breed, a name, or any of that stuff, is no good! You should go out and interact with dozens of different animals and see which one needs you and you will know it when you find them.

John thinking about a Norwegian Forest Cat (RL355)

John has been toying with this Norwegian Mountain Cat for a long time, Siberian Forest Cat (actually Norwegian Forest Cat) that is about 3 feet tall, there is a video of a Norwegian Forest Cat chasing a fox, they are apparently hypoallergenic and they are very companionable and they are the size of dogs. Merlin has a Savannah Cat in their neighborhood, they are huge and have really long legs. They are killers and go happy-go-chappy on those crows! Sometimes they also get a red-tailed Hawk that makes the crows very unhappy.

John had a friend who had a Savannah Cat and he lived in John’s WSH loft briefly and the cat could leap up onto the top of the beams! It could leap 15 feet (5m) straight in the air!

You need to have a cat with a nice face, it can’t not be too small relative to its ears, but also John doesn’t want to get a cat where he is going to be sneezing and his throat is going to close up all the time (John is allergic to cats), he wants a cat that is a cuddler, but also not too cuddly. It is like having a girlfriend! You have to wait around and find a girlfriend, you can’t just pick a type of girlfriend and go find one!

Lizard (cont)

Merlin thought the timing was right because the lizard is a known quantity and quality, a super-chill adult non-likely to immediately die for no reason, lizard and they get to interact with him and hang with him and learn about what his deal is. For example, there is no way to know when you get a puppy if this dog will become a barking dog, a yuppy dog. Merlin doesn’t know enough to know if this will be a dog that barks a lot. He doesn’t want fucking 15 years with a dog that jumps on people and barks all the time. Once you have acquired the animal, you are done and that is your fucking dog now!

John is sitting in a lizard-free environment and is thinking what it would take to get him into a lizard and he is realizing that he is not as far away from owning a lizard as he might have thought, listening to Merlin.

John told Merlin about that time when they had that rooster that was snake food, but the snake wouldn’t eat it and then it got too big. There was an El Camino involved, not a pickup truck, they drove across town in the back with a rooster. John wanted to set this rooster free, but he doesn’t think good things happened to that rooster further on down the chain. It couldn’t return to the jungle wilds of South Capitol Hill. Merlin doesn’t understand having a bird. You can go lots of places if you want to go look at a bird, but he doesn’t want to have a bird in his house.

John in Merlin’s situation would start now to need some dragon-related ephemera or peripheral merch, like he would start to wear a hat with a dragon. He wants to go back into the history of importing these bearded dragons, where they are from, maybe he would sow a patch on his backpack.

The nice thing about this is that this is an entry-level lizard. There are some very advanced lizards that require more care or can be deadly. They are very chill, but they can have the personality of a puppy, they want to get out of the vivarium and hang out with you once they have gotten over their relocation anxiety. They want to be handled a little bit, like a girlfriend.

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