RL37 - The CEO of Magic

This week, John and Merlin talk about:

The Problems:

  • Judgy tureens of Snapple®; °
  • John touches every LARP-er; °
  • bell tones snap to grid; °
  • O. Henry’s recursive taxi talk; °
  • Merlin’s awkward dental bragging; °
  • Grant makes his initial bones with a pig; °
  • thanks for the add; °
  • scaling the Cynicism Fence; °
  • Såra deliberately provokes The Colonel; °
  • stressful tooth fats; °
  • Bentham’s box; °
  • grooming a Brony; °
  • Idaho’s beard crackdown; °
  • it’s still Donnas all the way down; °
  • landing face-first in a scrum of leaves; °
  • using a word that don’t mean nothin’, like “looptid”;
  • John settles on his new Comic-Con persona. °

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

Merlin’s new comfort snack (RL37)

Merlin sounded a bit tense, as if there was something in the way he was pursing his lips. He was just eating his new convenience food called Dry Coppa (Capocollo), a plastic dingus full of sliced meats that you can get at the Lucky, formerly Albertson’s. Merlin was just sucking a long white piece of fat out of his teeth that was frustrating him. He hadn’t thought to do that before calling John on the Internet and it imitates the sound of a person who is a little tense.

The food is called Antipasto and it is $7-8, which is not cheap. It is by a company called Busseto Foods and you can tell it is fancy because it says ”Gourmet” (link to product) on it. When you shop at the Lucky you cannot miss it. John doesn’t have any Lucky Stores in his neighborhood. Later in the episode Merlin randomly starts to read the ingredients list of his snack.

The company is from San Dimas California, where Bill & Ted are from. ”San Dimas High School football rules!” Merlin always likes to think that John exists outside of time, but then he realizes that John has seen movies and quotes lines from movies, which is not normally his style, but he does know them. John often claims not knowing anything about music, which is smart, the same way Merlin doesn’t know anything about computers. John cannot fix your problem of not knowing what music to listen to.

Dough Martsch is not from Portland, but he is from Boise Idaho. People think Built to Spill is a Seattle band, but they are an Idaho band. You are not only allowed to have a beard in Idaho, but in some parts of the state it is required! There is a checkpoint on the highway and there are whole sections you can’t get into without a beard.

Being a judge on a talent show (RL37)

Would John want to be a judge on one of these shows where you tell people how badly they sing? No! He has done that for the EMP a couple of years in a row where he sat on a panel and listened to demo tapes of two dozen bands. They narrowed them down and gave one a prize and then all the bands played at a big festival. John loves that work, because what is happening in somebody else’s song is very easy to see when you are sitting outside of it.

They were in the room and John was looking them right in the eyes and said ”You know what happened when you went to the second chorus? You overthought it and got a little too smart for your own good and screwed it up!” and they nod and come up afterwards and say ”Thank you! You have changed my life! Thank you for helping me! Can I do anything for you?”

”Had you considered that the diminished chord might have diminished your song?” Merlin only ever sees it with the mute on when he is picking up his Thai food and he saw Howard Stern on one of these. Merlin watches a lot of TV, but he doesn’t watch regular TV. He doesn’t have cable, but he has different means and he doesn’t have to see those things unless he is in a hotel room or a Thai restaurant. Merlin always turns on the TV when he is in a hotel room, it is really weird. John does not do that!

What to talk about with your taxi driver (RL37)

One time John had a taxi driver from Eritrea. They guy talks to 50 people a day and if he would tell all of them about Eritrea he would say the same thing about his home country 50 times in a day, which is not interesting to him. He wanted John telling him his story about what he was doing, Mr Person who is riding in his taxi.

John always tries to find out from the guy where he is from and what his story is, but everyone who ever shows an interest in them asks the same thing: ”Where are you from? How long have you been in America? Do you like it here? Do you ever go back?” and he has told that story a billion times. Instead he wants to know why John is landing at Washington Dulles Airport and how long John is going to be in Washington DC. They should have a conversation where they each exchange information with each other. Merlin calls this an O’Henry story inside of an O’Henry story with a double twist, which is perfect!

Merlin has never broken a bone and never had a cavity (RL37)

Merlin has never had a pepperoni-sized birthmark on his face, he has never broken any bone and he has never had a cavity. He had three wisdom teeth pulled, but apart from that he is flawless. He has one double-crown because he had a tooth growing behind another tooth. It might be fluoride or precious bodily fluids in the water in Cincinnati.

Merlin had an uncle who worked at P&G and they got a lot of Crest (Whitestrips). Hearing about that really frustrates people and he doesn’t talk about it often. John had a lot of dental problems. Merlin has had things on his face like cold sores or stress bumps (see RL36), but with a broken arm you have to talk so much about your broken arm.

Snap-to-grid names (RL37)

Merlin has a funny first name and he has to live with ”You mean like the magician?” - ”Yes, like the magician!” John wonders what person under 80 years old says that, but happens a lot. It only sucks a little bit to have Merlin’s name because Merlin Dean Mann III is a pretty awesome name.

Merlin used to have different kennings to know who people were, like there was Lesbian Amy and Snake Amy and Other Lesbian Amy. At Merlin’s daughter’s school there is Old Bella and New Bella and Other Bella. It must suck to be Other Bella, like Third Bella Down, or Bella Sub-Three.

Merlin’s friend Marco (Arment) from New York calls it the snap-to-grid problem (see RL125 and RL240). John doesn’t suffer from this because he is the problem in the snap-to-grid problem, he is the Monad. Snap-to-grid means that your icons on your computer snap to a certain pleasing grid. If the icons on John’s computer are not snapped to grid he cannot sleep, but he will have to come in and do it all over again. He sorts his icons alphabetically because sorting by Date Modified makes them bounce all over the place and John wants them in the same place every time.

Merlin knows somebody named Jono, which is a silly name because you always have to spell it, even though it could hardly be any easier without having implied letters. You would think it might be John-O or Jahno. Merlin knew a girl in college named Jonna, he went to a place with lots of fruity names, and it sounds like a name you would grunt a little bit. It might get mistaken for Donna or Janna. Marco says that people will remember his name as Marcus or some other name that snaps easier to the grid.

Imagine being a Kirsten! It seems to be Northwest thing. John does know a Kirsten, a Kersten, and a Kristen, but he has never met any of those in New York. He hasn’t even met a Crystal back East, but in his Elementary school they had every single vowel combination you could have with a K an a "-risten". When you are in a room with 4 of them, you can easily get them confused and jumbled up. Naming is destiny and Merlin has never met a Kirsten who wasn’t a little pissed.

John has never met a Kirsten who’s father wasn’t a dentist! Merlin calls that Roderick’s heuristic. It also works backwards and when you meet a dentist who has a daughter, there is a pretty good chance her name i Kirsten! Merlin is not even going to test that, but a-priori it fucking makes sense to him. It might be regional though, because on the East Coast the dentist’s daughter is called Sarah.

Sara without an H might require a diacritical (Såra?). John knows a girl from the Indian Subcontinent who spells her name like that. To Merlin a Sara sounds like she would have a military dad and she was Sarah but to fucking piss off the Colonel they changed it to Sara. John thinks the Sara he just mentioned might be from the pantheon of 400 Gods in Cashmere. Merlin hated the belltones in the late 1980s / early 1990s: Jaden, Kaden, Kayla and Dayla because they all sound like Jerry Lewis names. Mayden would be a pretty name for a girl, but a little Jewy, like Mad'n. It would be pretty, but you would have to cross out the two middle letters, like M’’’n because otherwise it would be blasphemous.

Merlin's teller at his bank has a Greek name that is continued on a next name plate. Not Abraxas, which is a Santana record, but like Papadapalapalapalapalus. It sounds like somebody from Creed or maybe a Lewis Carroll character with a Romanian name. Merlin has always been a fan of (Mihaly) Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced "Chick sent me high"). John starts singing Sara by Jefferson Starship, not by Fleetwood Mac.

There is also Sara Smile by Hall & Oates. Merlin thought is was sung by that ”Went down on you”-guy, Marty Balin (who was in Jefferson Starship). It is his epitaph in Merlin’s world and Merlin can’t believe this song ever fucking made it on the radio: ”I had a taste of the real world (Just a drop of it) When I went down on you, girl, oh” (Miracles by Jefferson Starship) John finds it a great tune and a wonderful song!

Paul Kantner (from Jefferson Airplane) and Ray Manzarek (from The Doors) could go somewhere and never stop talking. For a long time when John saw a picture of Paul Kantner, he thought it was Ray Manzarek and vice versa. It might be a Clark Kent type situation. John has a very hard time grasping the whole Jefferson Airplane arc from beginning to end.

Philosophers in the 18th and 19th century (RL37)

Merlin needs another stack of index cards after Hitler & Stuff and whatever the follow-up is, maybe Hitler and (Michel) Foucault and stuff, which is the one John wants to do. Foucault was not the Panopticon guy, that was Jeremy Bentham, the guy who was in the booth (cabinet, called the Bentham Project). John should have named his daughter for Jeremy Bentham’s Body. Merlin learned about this from The Book of Lists. Merlin asks John to google ”Jeremy Bentham Box” and look at the picture of him in a box with a hat. They even used to bring this box to sit at the head of the table at meetings. John reads from some website about it.

Merlin wonders if Bentham was one of those guys like (John) Locke and (George) Berkeley. It started with Descartes with the vision and the lenses and how you see and it got real medieval. Isn’t Berkeley the Monard guy? Is Merlin having a stroke? John laughs really hard and needs a cough button! Merlin is not talking about the Panopticon, that is Foucault: On Discipline and Punish, and John feels like the wheels are starting to come off this talk. Merlin thinks that every Nickel of his liberal arts education was well-spent. Is this Crime and Crunchiness (probably Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostroevsky)?

Merlin read from the Wikipedia-page on Bentham. John finds him to be a handsome guy because he has a protruding lower jar that John finds distinguished. John likes an underbite in a philosopher because he himself has a little bit of an underbite. Merlin’s lady had an underbite and she got operated, they shouldn’t talk about that. John had talked with her about it.

People in the 19th century didn’t know as much as people in the 18th century, not that some knowledge was lost, but the library in Virginia burned down. People in the 18th century made considerable progress in terms of idealized knowledge and they put their theories into practice for the first time. In the 19th century they had to deal with the fallout and the consequences of building a government around their philosophy. Then it got commercialized with the ads.

Merlin continues to talk about 18th century philosophy, but John accidentally interrupts him with a snot. He always keeps a little snot in the back of his throat for those occasions. It is clear to Merlin that John never read The Wealth of Nations! You got this one reference! The one lugi you have been holding in your throat, the one in the chamber, you got it written on your Big Chief tablet. That is one of Merlin’s favorite novels (reference to Ignatius J. Reilly)!

Altruism is different from utilitarianism. Utilitarianism does the thing that is going to be the most good for most people.

John's first name in the phone book (RL37)

When John first moved to Seattle his name in the phone book was John Ignatius Roderick and he was so proud whenever he looked himself up in the phonebook. He was the only one who ever looked him up in the phonebook at that time. Merlin likes John’s middle name (Morgan), but Ignatius is good and John should have named his daughter that!

Having arguments on Twitter (RL37)

see Twitter thread

John spent a very frustrating day arguing with everybody on the Internet. It was not the fake quotes day, which was a fun day, and John wasn’t even really mad yesterday, but he was fielding replies from 50 people and everybody had a bee in their bonnet. Some kid told him ”You obviously never read Foucault!” and John should just block such a person instantly, but he always makes the mistake of telling them that it is rude to assume about other people what they have read and it is rude to assume about grown people what their education is. Check yourself before you say things like that to people you don’t know!

John wasted a whole day and 10mg of his brain sauce trying to push back against this kid. They were no longer discussing Foucault, but they were discussing that you need to go back and sit in your chair and think about what you have done. It is hard for John that he can not actually physically grab the person, sit them down and say ”We are not talking about Asian vs Oriental! We are talking about you and the things you have done wrong in life” He continued to blather on like every other undergraduate in the world and it takes John a day or two to recover from those encounters.

John feeling winded (RL37)

The other day John was walking along and was genuinely winded, but he had never been winded before! What happened to him? He used to be able to run up 80 flights of stairs, carrying a person who has asphyxiated, which is the opposite of rescuing somebody: Take them up! There is fresh air up high! Before 9/11 this was the logic! John was just walking down the street, carrying a bag of groceries, and he was out of oxygen.

Hairstyles in the 18th century (RL37)

With a little less hair in the back Bentham would have looked a lot like Alfred Hitchcock. People in the late 18th century probably just kept their hair growing! The beard question keeps coming and going and in 2012 we were obviously entering a bearded phase, which was the first proper bearded phase since the late 19th century when there were 40 years of big beards from 1860 to 1900. Merlin wishes John had some regular show on PBS, no matter what it is, but John should do something where he sits in a chair and explains things. Merlin could be off-stage, reading off a Wikipedia, asking things like ”What is altruism?” and John would explain it. Obviously you have never read Cyrano de Bergerac!

Howard Stern (RL37)

When Merlin picked up his Thai food, not to be ping pong, there was one of these talent shows on the TV. It used to be American Idol and you could always tell because that cocksucker was always on it. These shows are sponsored and they always had a Diet Coke on the desk with the logo out, but then it became larger until they had a Big Gulp style terrine. The one Merlin saw last time was probably with Howard Stern who was older and had shorter hair and these creepy Joey Ramone glasses. He is hard to mistake for anybody other than Joey Ramone.

Merlin has a relative who has that Joey Ramone thing, the Rondo Hatton thing where parts of your body keep growing, it is not the elephantiasis, but the Abe Lincoln disease (called Marfan syndrome): You are gay and you save the country, which is Ping Pong and totally different from what André the Giant had, which was giantism. It is also very different from what André Previn had, the guy with the lady who had the problem with the husband and the kids and who looked like fat Joey Ramone.

Everybody on the Howard Stern show had a giant terrine with Snapple written on the front of it. There are commercials where you see somebody who is drinking a drink, or somebody eating a Hamburger with two fingers to display the burger, but nobody fucking eats like that and nobody has a giant terrine of Snapple with the logo out! There was an ad for the hot-tub place in Seattle that was called Tubs where you can rent a hot tub for an hour with your friends. In their advertisement there was a girl in a two-piece bikini. standing waist-deep in a hot tub. In one hand she was holding a Martini-glass style cocktail while at the same time using the other hand to sensuously brush back her hair. You couldn’t possibly do both things at the same time in a bubbling hot tub that 25 other people used that day.

They have talked about that before and that might be the first instance of them repeating themselves.

John not being in the pantheon (RL37)

Merlin said ”God!” when he was just talking and John assumed Merlin had called him God, but John was not even in the Pantheon! He was standing outside, yelling naked, throwing a chair through the window, and setting the place on fire. Merlin’s daughter says that now: Sometimes you just got to burn the building down. Some men just want to watch the world burn (quote by Christopher Nolan from The Dark Knight). Merlin doesn’t want to overextend this! Hitler & Stuff has got to happen. There are a lot of brand-extensions they could do! They should quit their jobs, or get jobs and then quit them.

John repeating himself (RL37)

John repeats himself a lot and he can’t know because he doesn’t listen to their show, but Merlin does. John is embarrassed and worried because his dad told the same story every day for 40 years. Merlin learned the cues that indicate that John is about to tell one of his great stories and he tries to get out of the way. Today they are doing a lot of philosophical clean-up, sweeping words around a big auditorium.

Live music at a sports bar (RL37)

The other day John was in a sports bar in an airport somewhere. The background music wasn’t just a guy playing his mixtape, but it was themed somehow with live recordings of Blues classics. It wasn't the original Blues artists, but Eric Clapton live in the 1980s followed by BB King live in the 1980s followed by George Thorogood live in the 1980s and so on. It was all live takes and it was so awful that it was actually curdling milk. John asked for cream and it curdled, he asked for another one and it curdled. He had to get out of there because he was not going to ruin three cups of coffee.

Background music, talk radio, keeping TVs on everywhere (RL37)

John was over at some friend’s house, sitting in the living room together, talking for several hours and having a delightful conversation. The TV was on in the bedroom with the volume pretty loud and it sounded like there were people arguing in the bedroom. Nobody was interested in going in and watching what was on the TV, but it was just in there almost fulfilling the role of background music.

John does not begrudge people’s background music in their houses, but he never has music on in the house because it really distracts him and he really cannot do anything else. He will just end up wandering over, sitting down in a chair in front of the speaker, and staring at it. He cannot wash the dishes or fold laundry with music on because his brain can’t take that kind of distraction.

For the same reason he is never listening to talk radio and he has never listened to NPR in his life unless he was trapped somewhere where it was playing, but in those situations he wants everyone to stop talking please so he can hear what people on the radio are saying. Some people have NPR going all the time while conducting their daily business or while they are on the phone with people, but what are they doing? Are they listening to this thing or are they doing this other thing? You can’t do both! Merlin says it is an aural fleece and keeps you cozy when you have it on all the time, he used to do it, but can’t do it now. It does not keep John cozy, but puts him absolutely on edge.

When John gets into a taxi and the guy is listening to talk radio, the first John says is ”Would you turn the radio off, please?” The next thing will be ”Would you stop looking at your phone, please!” Merlin suspects that a lot of these guys are running eBay businesses, especially the ones who have a bluetooth and speak in a language so that Merlin won’t understand them. He is pretty sure they are running some kind of off-shore thing and/or a sex slave thing, they are talking the whole time in this hum.

John suggests that they might be tech support, answering people’s questions about their Macintosh computers. They are taking calls from people in India or Pakistan, fixing their computers, but they are in America, which is like an O’Henry story. John will ask them to stop all that because he wants to talk to them about Pakistan.

Merlin doesn’t travel as much as he used to. Having the television going in the background used to be a problem almost exclusively to traveling and to sports bars, but it extended out from there. Men in particular feel very lonely and sometimes when you go to somebody’s house and have a nice conversation nobody thinks to turn off the fucking television, it is because people are lonely and they like to have a little voice near them.

It drives Merlin crazy especially in an airport situation, because no matter where you sit in an airport, there are many voices around you apart from the ones in your head. There are pointless TSA warnings, but you wouldn’t know if there was a bomb in the fucking place because of all this chatter. There is CNN everywhere and on Sunday nights they have all the dead lady stories, probably because it is a slow news day.

Merlin will drop $50 to get away from the den and go to the lounge to find some solace. Sometimes he got the miles, but these days not as much. Whenever he has a 2 hour wait then he wants to go somewhere, have a beverage, sit down and be left alone. In the lounge there is a banana in a bowl and 6 people sitting with laptops in their laps, didn’t it used to be nicer in those? Even in the quiet room there are a lot of screens and people screaming into their phone. There is no quiet in public anymore!

Merlin does talk a lot, but in public he is very quiet. It is maddening to him that it is extending to everywhere people are lonely and they need a bit of noise. It is the whole business of sports TV or sports radio: You can sit alone in your bachelor apartment and listen to people yelling and yell at them yourself. It feels like you are in a big boisterous room full of people.

Merlin fucking hates sports culture. He doesn’t hate sports, his daughter plays soccer and he likes soccer, but he is angry about sports culture. It is the rare person who hates actual sport, but it is sports culture that people hate. Merlin is the weirdo and he doesn’t think he should have to be the weirdo! Even the lobbies of hotels and the lobbies of office buildings have big TVs where they are yelling at you about the new dead girl they found on the Pacific Island or about the car chase that is happening. It is really minority report like (which is John’s third movie reference)! The TV is yelling at him everywhere he goes!

The other one that really gets under Merlin’s skin is CNBC where they are screaming about a story from the finance industry that is still emerging. Nobody ever did any actual research, but they are standing somewhere where a bell goes ding ding ding and people who invest are running around and acting like that is some kind of reporting. If you go to a place with people smoking in a room, there will always be something on about the sports or about the finance.

Nothing is worse than hearing people talk about finance. They are talking about shorting and commodities, but they don’t know what the fuck they are talking about! They are deciding how to spend their money after a TV show? How is that better than an infomercial? Merlin would absolutely listen to John talk about finance for an hour.

Technical experts who don’t know what they are talking about (RL37)

When John was thinking about getting his house remortgaged he was talking to a broker, a really personable guy his age, and he felt instinctively that it finally was a guy in the financial sector who just wanted to talk like a guy and who wanted to break it down real simple. They started talking and had a very good rapport and John was thinking to refinance his house with this guy. At one point John asked a question about some arcana of how mortgage is being calculated and the guy who was being this normal guy that John was enjoying very much and that he would get a beer with if he was getting beers with guys, just turned on a dime and became a robot talk monster talking in a financial TV reporter voice.

He was no longer trying to explain in human language what he was doing with John’s mortgage, but he was trying to bully John into saying ”Never mind!” or ”Thank you very much, I got it now!”, masking the fact that he didn’t understand it himself. He just spewed this verbiage at John! John asked him the same question a couple of days later and got the same response. He did not get the impression that it was a smoke screen because he was trying to conceal something unethical or that he was trying to pull a fast one, as much as he didn’t understand how it worked either and he had reached the threshold of his own ignorance and he was just going to spew at John was he was taught in business school or at the mortgage seminar where he learned his trade.

He was hoping that it would fool John as it had fooled him and as it had probably fooled his boss. He was hoping it would sound reasonable, but he did not see the logical inconsistencies in what he was saying and he was not aware that John was noticing them. John has that experience many times when he is dealing with functionaries or people at the mid-level of any kind of technical discipline: They reach the point where they can no longer answer question from a layman who is paying attention.

As a layman, the technical jargon or the technical explosion of language is not interesting. You are following the big picture and you want to know the answer to the next big picture question and you reach the point where the person you are talking to just doesn’t have a conception of how what they are doing fits into the larger structure and they just start blathering. It is one of the main problems of dealing with staffers for John. You go all the way up the chain to the executive vice president, but he doesn’t know either, something John is starting to see even in the corporate world. The vice president actually doesn’t know either and just backs up into the mission statement and starts repeating it.

”So” and ”Turns Out”, verbal ticks, not answering the question (RL37)

There are two phrases that Merlin jokes about a lot: "Turns out" and ”So”. "Turns out" is a journalist smoke screen that you say when you introduce something that you didn’t actually discover but you think sounds contrary to conventional wisdom and makes you sound smart. ”Merlin, how do you feel the (New York) Jets are going to do this season?” - ”So: Sports can be complicated to analyze and to understand. At any given Sunday…” It is a PR move that people have absorbed from hearing other people use it and it becomes a way of not answering a question. You are either trying to stall for time and by using ”So” you can answer the question you want to answer instead of plainly answering the very simple fucking question that someone just asked you. It is a consulty-kind-of thing to do.

Merlin doesn’t like bromides. Kurt Vonnegot said: ”Anybody who can’t explain what they do for a living to a 10-year old is a Charlatan”, which is true for 80% of our economy. People go ”Well… I’m in communications”, but ultimately they do not know what they do. They are not necessarily a Charlatan, but they are a cog in a Charlatanic system where nobody knows what is happening. If your company performs some service for other companies and you can’t tell me what it is, if you are a service provider or a solution provider and there are 300 people working at that company and you can’t tell what exactly it does, then get out!

Merlin really loves Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. John is actually a fan of Bob Dylan. One thing Merlin likes about John is John’s resistance to define himself. Merlin does not like being defined and he completely understands the desire to say ”Well, no, I’m not that thing!” You ask somebody ”Oh, so you are a PR person? You work for businesses and do public messaging through press releases that tries to make them look good, mostly for free?” - ”Well no, actually I am a communications professional!” Merlin is speaking in the voice of Tim Gun from Project Runway ”I have concerns!” Could be Humpty Hump also.

They continue talking back and forth like that for a bit. John has watched that show and Merlin can’t believe John knows so many things. John knows stuff from Dusty Books (?) that no-one cares about, but he ain’t no fucking Humpty Hump (Shock G). John knows every track on that record (?) backwards and forwards. Merlin loves that record! They should talk about music on their other show Hitler & Music.

One of John's verbal ticks is ”In any case”, which means ”Merlin finally stopped talking and I would like to continue with my point!” John has caught himself saying ”No kidding!” when somebody was talking about trivialities like ”Then I went to the store!” 45 times in the course of a 20 minute conversation. You can say that in a couple of different ways.

Merlin’s worst verbal tick right now is one he got from John who uses it sparingly, but Merlin uses it super-often: prepending an adjective with ”super”. They did an interview (see MSHOW) where John was talking about people not wanting to pay him for shows and he used the phrase ”I’m super-grateful that you…” Merlin is a liberal artist: He absorbs! He is also good at pulling the fruit off of things, not just the low-hanging fruit, but the delicious berry embedded in the scrum of leaves. Not only is he fingering the scrum of leaves, but he is face-first in the scrum of leaves.

The core of ComicCon (RL37)

John was on his way to Comic-Con 2012. He also went last year, meaning the bloom is off the rose in the sense that he already had the pleasant surprise of walking around a giant convention center full of Slave Leias and thinking like this was dumb. He was walking into a room with 100 million comic books, all presided over by 55 year old guys with George Lucas beards, and he was suddenly in heaven.

John was walking around, asking these guys if they had National Lampoon Number 2 and they would go ”Well, I have a repressing” John was very excited in this room and he realized that at the core of ComicCon, all the way at the center of the Death Star, there was actually a room full of comic books at a festival full of people who were lined up to Twilight or walking around dressed like a Video Game character. Solid Sevens in Metal Bikinis is one of Merlin’s favorite Pavement songs.

This year John will be going back with the knowledge that in the center of this rat king of nerds is a room full of comic books. He wants to get there and he is worried that it is going to change his experience because last year he spent 3 hours wandering around this massive conventions center the size of three aircraft carriers end-to-end. He was walking from room to room, wondering ”What room is this?”

At the core of SxSW is Rock’n’Roll, some bands of 24 year olds that are dressed like The Romantics and are trying to sound like The Strokes. At the heart of ComicCon there is that same group of 24 year olds who also look like they are in The Romantics, but they are trying to look like a comic book about a Rock’n’Roll band that lives on a surf board in outer space.

Whatever that leap is, from people playing guitars to people pretending to play space guitars, John doesn’t know where the heart of ComicCon is other than this room full of comic books. There must be a room where people are actually drawing things and making things. Maybe when he sees a room full of people looking at their computers he doesn’t perceive that as a room full of people making things, but in fact it probably is and they are probably making web comics.

John has recently become friends with some cosplayers. When you ask them what they do, they will say Cosplay, that is what they do. Cosplay is like a Japanese girl version of LARP:ing. They so overlap, but there is probably a 60 pound (27 kg) difference. You can be a girl and LARP at the same time. The idea of making a costume, going out in public in the costume, being a part in these gatherings, and showing off your creations is a form of creativity and a kind of being a Rock star.

It isn’t just performance, you are not dressed up like Pokemon, but you have taken elements from Pokemon and elements from Speed Racer and you have made a new thing. You are inhabiting a costume and you are the costume. It is a brave new world for John and he is still trying to learn what it all means, but after last year he has first-hand experience of it rather than just not understanding it from the distance and dismissing it.

Stand-up comedy is not funny, they have determined that.

Most of the comic books John likes are alternative comics all the way back to R. Crumb and Raw Magazine. Chris Ware would be a more modern one, a classic of the third generation. John has a very soft spot for Richie Rich, not so much that he would buy vintage Richie Rich comics, but if he went to ComicCon and found an underground Richie Rich comic book collector market where people were talking about them as serious collector’s items and it was worth $15, he might be susceptible to getting sucked into that.

It would not be that hard for John to dress up like a big Richie Rich. John would look great in shorts with suspenders, he already has blond peroxide hair and he is rich with a whole extra house just for his money. He has a butler named Bascomb (see RL36), he can build robots whenever the fuck it suits him, and his dad is hardly ever around, except when he is there to throw money at John.

Merlin’s concern with civil war re-enactment and buffness is that it has been overdone for a generation. It tipped with that PBS program.

Merlin asked a good friend who went to ComicCon to snap some pictures if they see any good Batgirl or Dark Phoenix. There are probably not many Richie Riches there. John was thinking about going as Dennis Eichhorn and he is sure there won’t be any other Dennis P. Eichhorn cosplayers. John wouldn’t need to work very hard because Dennis P. Eichhorn basically looks like him and he could just be wearing his own clothes. He is from Montana, but he made his bones in Idaho. These cosplay people are bringing together different things and maybe John could do a cultural mashup, like for example Richie Rich with a boner. Suddenly, for reason he can’t explain, Merlin can’t imagine him not having a boner.

Having to accept the Internet and other modern developments (RL37)

John realized he cannot dismiss anything, because that is how you get old. We are still in the early days of the Internet and we are the unlucky ones who where there for the 20 years of developing computers that now has become irrelevant. All those years we they spent sitting in front of Apple IIe’s, writing BASIC programs onto floppy discs, unless you are working at a vintage computer museum all that information is useless now and it has all become a different thing. John doesn’t know where the Internet is going to go in 20 years and he can’t afford to just ignore it.

Recently John had an experience with a company that he works closely with (Merlin starts laughing and says ”You sure did!”, John is talking about his record label Barsuk) where the CTO of this company told him that he thought that Twitter was for douchebags and that the company had made a decision a long time ago that they didn’t want to send out too many newsletters on Twitter.

This was a reply to an email that John had sent him and that he claimed had gotten lost in his Spam folder for a week. John asked him ”First of all, you are the CTO of this company that I work with and my emails are going into your spam folder? Maybe you need to revisit how tightly your spam folder is configured! But second of all: You decided a long time ago what your social media policy was? That doesn’t make any sense because a long time ago there was no social media, but now there is!”

John doesn’t know what the future will hold, but he can’t afford to sit in his lighthouse windmill that he has built on a promontory at the edge of the Earth and cast aspersions. He would be surprised if any Bronies were listening to this podcast and most of their listeners are probably on the other side of the cynicism fence from being able to watch Bronie TV.

John sees this Google chat more and more where 15 people meet online, talk to each other and see their little faces in the corner (John probably means Google Hangout). He himself does not have the impulse to get into a computer room with 20 people and talk for 5 hours, but people are doing it. Still, he cannot cast aspersions, but at some point he has to tip his toe in and join someone’s chat.

Scott Simpson invited John to Glassboard, John clicked on the thing and of course they wanted all his information but he is not going to give it to them and he got out of there. What is on the other side of this wall? Scott Simpson and a bunch of people talking about stuff? Merlin explains that it was going to be John, Merlin and Scott making fun of people at ComicCon, but John blew it because he was afraid to put his fucking hoof into the trough and he holds his personal information so dear to his promontory. John was afraid that Glassboard was going to link to his Facebook page and he was going to have to click away 1000 Farmville invitations. He goes to Facebook once a week because all his Highschool friends are there.

Back in the days Merlin was helping John to automatically accept people’s friend requests on MySpace. He had a Firefox script for that because every morning John had to click on all those requests and then all those people would write on John’s wall ”Thanks for the add!” That was so long ago!

When radio came out John Philip Sousa, who wrote good marches, was in a huff because he was afraid that recorded music was going to kill live music. Those marches are good for cleaning the house and John argues they are even good for invading Poland. Merlin wonders if John was thinking of Wagner, but Wagner did not write marches and his stuff is a little majestic for a march. He is good for strafing, though! They call it a strafe-track, but march music is a different thing.

Things like that happen all the time! There was a famous lawsuit where Walt Disney sued Sony over the Betamax because your children would be deprived of Winnie the Pooh because they were never going to go to a movie theater again. It is easy to look at something new and say that it is unfamiliar or silly or dangerous in the same way that John Philip Sousa might have thought that radios or recorded music were a terrible thing. A long time ago they told women not to ride on trains. John suggests that the first time Merlin saw a guy dressed as Bob’s Big Boy, except with an erection, he said ”I don’t want this! This is wrong!”, but later on it filled an empty hole in his life.

Bronies (RL37)

John is 43 years old and he can’t afford to maintain the attitude that anything new he sees in the world is fucking stupid when it is just a case of not understanding what it is. Instead he has to go out there, touch every LARP:er and say ”Excuse me, would you goth-explain your LARP:ing to me?” Who knows how the Internet manifests itself in real life! Maybe Bronies are the future! A Bronie is a grown male who unironically watches the My Little Pony television show and who then dresses themselves in My Little Pony type costumes and meets up with other grown adult men and the women who love them to celebrate the positivity of the message at the core of My Little Pony, as far as John can tell also unironically.

There is a little bit of a furry element, some sex-with-cartoon-horse thing, but it is not all about sex with cartoon horses, but there is a philosophical element and the message from that show is very positive. Being a pink stuffed pony with the gift of life that can fly and has magic powers in the form of sending gold stars into the sky is better than living in the world as a human. They would rather be there than here. John cannot afford to look down his nose at that, because you never know! Most Bronies look like Robert Smith ca 1985, eyeliner is a big component, and Clove cigarettes are making a comeback.

LARP:ing (RL37)

Merlin doesn't even know if Civil War re-enacting is a subset of LARP:ing or if it has to be D&D. John always associates the term LARP:ing with swords and sorcery. John Hodgman does not larp! Civil War re-enactors are absolutely LARP:ers, it is a little bit like D&D meets Lord of the Rings: Everybody is drinking Flagons of Mead and they are having sword-fights with each other in a public park. Merlin wonders how you can be a cleric, illusionist or magic user in that context, but a group of people wearing chain mail on a soccer field is not going to laugh at you if you cast the spell of unhappiness.

Speaking as a wizard like Merlin’s namesake generally involves standing at one remove from the action and looking at everyone with a quizzical and knowing look. You are not actually in there casting spells, but you are standing there in a longer cloak as the wise one. You are like the CEO of Magic: You don’t have to be involved in every implementation decision, but you are hanging back and making sure the boats are moving in the right direction and you assume that at one point a combatant will come over and consult with you. People who are illusionists are probably jugglers, which is absolutely not the same thing as juggalos.

John is very interested in Civil War re-enactments as a component of LARP:ing. Those people are really serious, but John lives in the West and there they cannot re-enact actual Civil War battles because none occurred out there. John is already hardcore and what could be more hardcore than somebody being honest about whether it was honest for them to re-enact something? John really is the CEO of Magic! As a Civil War re-enactor in Washington state you need to check yourself and if you really want to do this, you should go to Tennessee. John is more like a Grunge re-enactor or a Boeing re-enactor.

The Pig War (RL37)

The Pig War (see OM4) was an incident between the United States and the English which later became the Canadians, right before the Civil War. They had a battle on Vancouver Island because they hadn’t decided where Oregon territory left off and where British Columbia started. This is where the slogan 54-40 or Fight comes from. Nobody really cared what was going on in Oregon territory because they were about to have a Civil War back East, but the British were encroaching and they wanted the border of Canada to be the Columbia river which would have encompassed all of Washington state, but a few brave Americans kept them back.

It started with an American farmer who killed a pig that was in his yard, but that was owned by a British person and it started a fight that became their Maine, their Franz Ferdinand. ”Remember the pig?” The commander of the American forces was Ulysses S. Grant and this is where he made his bones before he went back and became the president of the United States. There are still a lot of hard feelings up in that area of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Orcas Island, up there by Bellingham. The Americans own some of the islands and the British own some other islands. The border is not a straight line and you just don’t bring up the pig. In the same way you never mention Haiti to somebody from the Dominican Republic, but to somebody from Haiti you can talk about the Dominican Republic all day.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License