RL379 - Garbage Island

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John feels like the world is changing, referring to how society changes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The show title refers to Merlin putting all the trash in the middle of the garage with a square of duct tape around it to indicate to he junk pickup that they should take all this away.

This episode for the first time had chapter markers before and after the ad and was divided into Act I and Act II.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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.

Changed animal behavior during the coronavirus pandemic, Garbage island (RL379)

It is pretty darn chill. It keeps going and going. Does John notice any animal differences? There are 1000 hundred million rabbits everywhere. Merlin is noticing a lot more and louder birds, and much more aggressive raccoons and he had two raccoon encounters in the last two days.

Merlin’s family is much into projects right now, improving their space, cleaning things, tidying, improvements, order. There is a lot of space controlling going on. They have an area out back called The Yarden where John has been and has been videotaped. Every few years they go through and are doing a project and now Merlin and his kid are making a white trash heaven in their back yard. They have a fire pit, solar-powered fairy lights, Boomer lights that make a path out of solar lights, and on the fire pit they made some S’mores and because of the pandemic they could only get hold of mini marshmallows which are hard to do for a S’more and forced them to use technology.

After that Merlin heard the dogs next door barking wild and there was this undeterred raccoon going ham on some fucking marshmallows in the back yard. You don’t see that every day!

They had a junk pickup today and Merlin was down in the garage and made a garbage island, meaning he puts all the trash in the middle of the garage and uses duct tape to make a big square around it and an arrow for the touchless pickup to indicate that this is garbage island. As a middle aged man he is often not appreciated for the elegance with which he disambiguates in life. John can think of two instances in recent memories where someone was meant to take some things to the dump or he Goodwill and they took more or different things than they were intended to and that can be a real tragedy.

Last night Merlin had some drinks, finishing things up for the pickup this morning between 9am and 11am and he wanted garbage island to be perfect. As he turned around with the garage door open there was a big fucking raccoon eyeballing him from about 3 feet away, undeterred, at about 8:30pm, which is prime raccoon hour. There is food garbage in garbage island. It is constituted of many elements and is like Walt Whitman: It contains multitudes. Three giant contractor bags with trash from his office because he doesn’t have trash pickup there and has to deal with that, many boxes, most of which Merlin has broken down which they appreciate and compliment him for. This is the first time they had a raccoon quite this close and quite this undeterred.

It might be a mama, there are families with babies in the park across the street where the confederate soldiers are (see RL2), and seeing them going across the street together is really cute. It is high baby season, which is why John sees that many rabbits, too! It is cool that they have less pollution in Los Angeles and that oil is $3 a barrel. But there might also be a cognitive bias that Merlin didn’t notice birds before. Notice Birds is Merlin’s favorite Bright Eyes album.

John notices and interacts with animals, his relationship with animals has caused him unease at the time, like the opossum that had been in his den and the one time he didn’t rouse out of bed from his disgusting purple mattress to see if it was an animal or a ghost, they took his iPad (see The Burglary). John thinks that if the raccoon had mounted the stairs he would have a different feeling about it than it standing in the driveway. Merlin tried to get a photo, but he or she was a little camera shy.

John recommends Merlin to lay down in his back yard today in his hammock, quiet his mind, which already is an uphill battle, not listen to podcasts or anything, let his ears take it all in, like looking out at a beautiful vista, which Merlin can stand to do for between 3-30 seconds, he will listen to the first 5 seconds, and he is going to start to hear animals all around in the near and in the far. The fact that San Francisco is a lot quieter right now just gives him access to a deeper layer of aminals [sic], and he will hear insects and birds over the background hum of the city living and breathing. There is a cacophony of sound happening from all of our little friends that are making so much noise that it is insane when you finally hear it.

Some of their listeners who are out in the prairies know about this because they can’t help it and can’t hear themselves think for all the little things chattering at them. John lives close to the airport, but there are no planes right now and he is hearing all kinds of stuff, like far away crows talking to other far away crows and even near crows can hear them. When a crow finds a Cheeto coming through the rye it makes no attempt to alert other crows to a single Cheeto, but if a crow finds a field of Cheetos, how fast does it take for there to be 400 crows there? Just laying in your hammock and listening to the insects, you will be astonished! As you listen more you hear the layers of sophistication.

It is good that the animals are out there and they seem to be doing fine. You do see more and more coyotes in weird places and there are way fewer automobiles and people going around, but it is still too short-term for animals to truly be venturing back into Chernobyl. They are just exploring their normal amount more confidently because there are no people trying to run them down all the time. To suage (?) friend of the show John Siracusa, Merlin not calling his evolution.

Merlin always gets the ants when it rains because the rain comes down and makes water and all the slugs and ants are pulling up stakes and move to higher ground. The snails and slogs often don’t fare very well and come out when it is raining and those tiny San Francisco sugar ants come up all the way to 3rd floor when it is raining and within a day or two or torrential rain the ants are checking stuff out. That is not evolution, but adaptation. Evolution is going to happen within the next year or so because it takes a year or two for raccoons to evolve to be able to live in a marshmallow economy, to learn how to use toll booths. It passes from mother to baby.

The Coronavirus pandemic should cause an introvert revolution (RL379)

John feels like the world is changing big and small. On a few layers this is really a tragedy for a lot of people, not only those who get the sickness and die. Stuart Wellington from The Flop House and his wife owns two bars in Brooklyn. As Merlin’s friend John Lannowitz (?) used to say: There are still a lot of grenades rolling around. We are still in a state of shock that we are not going to get how sad this all is for a few months or years.

There is so much opportunity here. There is a lot of tragedy here and we need to adjust our response and our expectations to be aware of it and accommodate it, but we really need to take this incredibly opportunity. This is all Merlin is talking about on all his podcasts. Use this opportunity and start a site with Squarespace (this week’s sponsor) You can get a new mattress, for crying out loud! When is a better time for this?

At the societal level we have wanted five things for the last half a decade since the real left became energized, the left that isn’t Democrats, partly credit to Bernie Sanders. Merlin hates that left so much right now and can’t even watch Parks and Rec anymore because there is too much Joe Biden love and it makes him crazy. There is so much awareness right now of universal income, universal health care, and a general social awareness that the inequality is to a point where it has become a caustic drag to progress. There is lots of shit happening now that is affecting white people of means because our society does not have the infrastructure to even do the basic shit anymore. It is all held together with a little bit of gorilla tape and spit.

Sometimes John goes on a long walk and is thinking in terms of an essay he is writing, without actually writing an essay, and having written a pretty good essay in his mind he then doesn’t need to write it on the page, which is the ultimate form of self-publishing, total vanity press, published on sub-medium.

The essay John is working on right now is this: The people that are agitating to open the country, whatever their political stripe or motivation is, none of them are introverts. There are tons of redneck introverts, but there is something about introversion and being a redneck that those two Venn-diagrams don’t overlap a lot. Introverts are across a spectrum of all humanity, but if you got a lot of introversion you maybe tend to drift away from a whole lot of demonstrative redneckism.

In the white-collar middle-class world that John inhabits, the extroverts want to get back and want the world to start up again. They no longer have the thing that drives them, the exposure to other people in one way or another. When Merlin goes to his late-lamented comics meetups at the comic store that is gone now, for three hours you could tear him apart like a dog and hang out and get into it and do finger-stuff and take a photo or sign your kid, but at a certain point Merlin is going to bounce and John knows how fucking hard Merlin can bounce. You don’t even see him leave! There wasn’t even a door in that part of the room.

Extroverts are not the problem and the problem with introverts is that they think that extroverts are the problem. The problem with extroverts is that they don’t think about introverts at all. In this situation the smart extroverts realize we have to sequester and still be in quarantine, they know that this is true and they are prepared to go the distance and do what it takes, put the masks on, all the things, those people are wonderful! But they want to resume normal life. What the introverts are saying pretty universally is: ”Wow, this is great! i want this all the time now!” These things that have happened in the last month and a half that have transformed our culture, they would like to keep a lot of them if that is possible.

The extroverts are going to go back and start the world again, they have to, it is who they are, and the world runs by them and always did, they get out there, do their thing, shucking and jiving, selling things, hop on a call, doing stuff, they bringing in bouquets with Mylar Balloons in them that say ”Happy Anniversary!”, they are on their way to work right now with the backseat of their car filled with Mylar Balloons that say ”Welcome back!” and a cake for the conference room. They are just so excited about it!

The difference is that extroverts can have the world. There just needs to be an introverts liberation movement now because the white collar tech introverts who are working from home right now and are doing fine don’t have to go back. When their boss sends that email saying that the office is opening back up and we are going back to work, they don’t have to. This would be on the level of a national rent strike and introverts need to say: ”I am not going back to work! We are all staying home and those of us who want to stay home can do that because it has been proved that we can continue to do our white collar jobs and not go into the office or go in one day a week”

If the introverts stage this protest, and it isn’t a protest that is trying to shut down the world, but a protest trying to say that the 30% of us who don’t want to go to work and are more productive at home and have a better mental health at home don’t need to go to the office anymore. If that 30% of white collar introverts does not go back to Earth, we just took 30% of the pollution and 30% of the traffic out of the equation. Merlin doesn’t miss it a bit saving $120 in Lyft a week getting his kids back and forth to school.

Ultimately that means that offices in cities can downsize to little hubs of extroverts and the downtown real estate can be converted into housing or into Taekwondo gyms, you could repurpose so much space! Nobody likes the open office! This is the opportunity to fully transition to electric vehicles because who loves electric vehicles more than extroverts, and if we are taking this many cars off the road, let’s just keep taking them off the road.

We will recognize that the economy really is a fantasy and an awful lot of the economy is just frantic and hyperventilating busy work that doesn’t matter and is there to keep people busy and let them earn money. Because of momentum it must continue to feel necessary. It is the same thing as when a city has a population of chronic alcoholics they can just build a building and house them there and give them 20oz (0,6l) of beer an hour because it ends up being cheaper by a factor of four instead of running them in and out of emergency rooms and jails.

A lot of the work that is getting done doesn’t need to get done and it would be cheaper to give people a universal basic income than it is to have them drive to town every day to do this work to survive. When John wanted to take his dad’s car away his dad argued he needed the car because he had to go to the car mechanic. At least 30% of our economy are just that! There is an awful lot of wealth in this country and this disease is a proxy that makes the scales fall from our eyes.

As John woke up this morning there was no-one in the house. Then mother and daughter both came in, her mom took her earbud out and said she had realized she didn’t have to sit at her little desk to be on a conference call and she had just walked 4 miles while Marlo rode her bike alongside while she was on a conference call the whole time. They had just levelled up! Opportunity! Game changed! A week ago we were working from home, and now we are working from a walk! How long before we are working from a ski lift or from an off-world?

The problem is that this falls to the introverts and the extroverts are not even going to think of this. It is not even on their radar because they don’t even think about introverts, they don’t even believe introverts exist. It is the same when some dumbasses think about chronic pain and say you are just malingerer. Everything an introvert says, like: ”I don’t want to go!”, the extrovert says: ”What is your problem? It is going to be fun!” Introverts cannot ever expect extroverts to truly understand them. Now we just need to seize the moment!

An additional problem is that introverts aren’t very good at organizing and are not marching on Washington because it is antithetical to what they want to be doing. If the introverts do not unite and realize their power and insist that we are not go back, they will be ones that are criminal because they will slunk back to work, bitter. We think of the people on the roads that suck as those aggro screamers but a lot of the people that suck on the roads are introverts that don’t want to be there and they are passive-aggressively just doing everything 10% shittier.

Let the extroverts open their Irish bars again and let them have their work parties! We can posit this 1000 different ways, for example we can say that extroverts are immuno-compromised, and we don’t want to do that, but we want to talk about this in terms of efficiencies without making it a passive thing, but saying that a certain percentage working from home will be more productive and cut costs from the bottom line.

What makes this period so great for introverts is that extroverts are being punished. What makes life so great for extroverts is that every time they have one of those all-hands meetings and they look around the room and all the people in the T-shirts with a wolf howling at the moon look miserable and don’t want to be there, they are like: ”Hahaha! All these tech-dudes have to be there because it is a meeting and I am in charge!” There is an introvert/extrovert war happening in life all the time where the greatest thing is that the other side be punished!

If the extroverts just have their world and they can punish the slightly less extroverted people who are there with them, and the introverts are having their little world and there is 30% less traffic, we can start addressing the fact that with the 30% of the introverts out of the equation a lot of the jobs that used to seem necessary aren’t now. The economy is going to change and there is not going to be as much opportunity to just skimp.

There are a lot of defaults that we have been living with for a pretty long time that are no longer sustainable. Some of it really super-sucks. For the first time in years Merlin wishes he could just go and get sushi for lunch and he absolutely misses that! There are so many defaults where the maximalist extrovert default just trounces everything. The default is extroverted in every case. Any minority-population is hyper-conscious of the majority-population and every majority-population is almost completely unconscious of the minority populations unless it is bought right to their attention.

The reason being an introvert was such a revolution for John in his mind was that he spent decades feeling like he sucked or that he just couldn’t get with the program. Realizing that the majority population can become aware of the minority population only if he minority population puts themselves in front of the majority population and says: ”We are here!”, but introverts don’t want to do that, it is the opposite of what they want, they don’t want to stand athwart anybody, but they just want to be acknowledge that they exist and be left alone.

Extroverts are never going to do that on their own and introverts are not going to make them, but this is their moment! The difference we can make in terms of redrawing he social order! There has never been a time in all of human history where the introverts were a) self-aware as a class of people, b) had the resources of communication to establish a common cause, even if you were in New York City in 1950, and c) we are living in a time where the introverts to some degree are driving the white collar economy: The designers, programmers, making techs and teching makes (reference to RL25), but also podcasters, there are so many jobs now!

Merlin thinks that sometimes you get the Alpha-extroverts, like in a team or a band, and it is important that they find the right platform for their performance because there is not enough oxygen in the world to feed all their need for performance. What if people are adopting new platforms and opportunities for performance that don’t require in-person or even one-on-one type stuff. Whenever Merlin would evaluate if he wanted to do a talk or a call or a whatever, he would always try to evaluate what he could do in his job, somewhere between a performer, an educator and a clown, but he does need a platform where he can perform these things.

If your performance is to get your drink on every night and do a karaoke ”Islands in the stream” type thing, if you are denied that platform for performance, that is when you become the sort of person who puts on their MAGA hat (Make America Great Again) and protests, which is a meta-performance because now you are not only performing your need to be seen, but you are performing as this extroverted character that Mr. Trump would really enjoy seeing on TV. Their platform is their protest.

The problem for a lot of extroverts and performance people is that the Internet, although it is not a meritocracy, one of the reasons it is so toxic is that the Internet itself does not actually reward the loudest person and you get a lot of people on Twitter who are super-mad that they don’t have more followers and they are saying shitty things to people every day, they are trying to get attention, they are he people that if we were in a bar, they would be dominating the conversation, but we are not in a bar!

If there were 5 people from work and the smartest one was an introvert and the dumbest one was an alpha-extrovert, all 5 people from work would sit there listening to the dumbest one the whole time and they would go home from the bar and think that it sucked. But on Twitter the smartest one from the office has 15.000 followers and the dumbest and loudest one has 22 followers. Twitter sucks because a lot of those loud people who are used to going around in the world thinking they are hilarious because everybody loves them. They are fucking funny and they are smart and know all about shit!

Twitter and social media for them seems like a place that is an inside club where people only follow each other and they don’t recognize that you are smart. Those people are just extroverts who are used to bullying everybody into listening to them, but they think it is because they are funny. The hilarious gal who works in tech support who has 20.000 people following her on Twitter, but at the office she is not head of sales. That dynamic, those performance bros and ultra-extroverts need attention, that is just who they are, and they are hurt and betrayed and ultimately angry when they don’t get attention.

If the introverts leave and the extroverts are left to themselves… if you put 5 introverts in a room, the most introverted one will gradually convert the least introverted person in the room into a proxy extrovert because the most introverted person in the room will be so intractable that an otherwise introverted person will start to say: ”Well, come on, can we at least…” Like a Los Angeles 5 becomes like a Tulson 9. The same is true of extroverts, too: If you have 5 extroverts, the least extroverted person will start to seem like an introvert. It is a sliding index!

This means that if the introverts self-select out of this, the extroverts will have no shortage of introverts. They will just be what we would have thought of as extroverts. If you don’t know who the extrovert in the room is, it might be you. That is people like Merlin and John who can do 5 hours of social stuff. That doesn’t mean John is a polyvert, because he always wants to go back to the hotel alone. Merlin can perform extrovert and just because he talks a lot doesn’t make him an extrovert, and he has that moment when he is like Ultraman and his little light starts blinking and he has to start getting ready for the time when he just looks at his phone and doesn’t talk to anybody.

In any situation where Merlin is out, doing a thing, he would always rather not be there, but you have to do it! John misses travel, he misses going to MaxFunCon, he would be in Alaska on an all-expenses paid trip right now at this thing, he didn’t go to Japan or to the War College which he had been looking forward to for 4 years, Merlin didn’t go to Disneyland and has all kinds of sunk money in a program where they had planned out a trip and trips cause him anxiety. He was pumping himself up and has never been so excited for a planned vacation and now he would just love to go anywhere. But he also loves not going places. Still, when John searches his feelings…

Somebody DMed John on Instagram, saying: ”We should hang out!” - ”It is really weird that you as a total stranger think that you get anything out of me from that!”, but let’s entertain this moment and so John followed along and didn’t block the person instantly and it followed the inevitable course where they say: ”How come you don’t ask me a question?” - ”I have no question for you!” and he got a string of 4 super-angry DMs from this person ”Fine then, I guess it is your loss!” - ”Wow!” Things like that have happened 15 times over the course of the last years. They think they are the normal one and that this is normal to do with a stranger! They listen to you on the show and think they are best friends!

This is a perfect moment for a rent strike, but there is no unifying voice nationally or even in our cities that can really get it going. There are attempts, like people say: ”If everybody who can’t pay rent doesn’t pay rent for 2-3 months, there is no way they can come after you!”, but the problem is that there is no unity on the left and nobody can call for a rent strike because nobody has that many followers. Everybody is just mad at each other. There is no (Jimmy) Hoffa, there is not a central figure by definition. If you were the central figure of introverts you would want to leave the meeting.

When the CEOs, who are largely alpha-extroverts, send out that email saying: ”We are opening back up! Everybody be at work on Monday!”, if the 15 introverts at that company who have been loving working at home and cranking out stuff, doing the real work, if they say: ”Nah, we are not coming back!” There just needs to be enough unity that it all happens at once so that the extroverts can’t just say: ”We are turning the lights back on” and can’t write it off as the two guys in IT who just don’t want to come the work.

John’s baby momma is a vice president at her company, she is socially adapted, so it is not just the tech bros, that is where the 30% comes in, because she doesn’t have to go to work anymore if she doesn’t want to.

Merlin’s friend Don Schaffner told him about this very important concept and Merlin has been thinking about it a lot: the numerator is only useful in so far as we know what the denominator is. If the denominator is that we don’t know how many people have been tested for COVID, then the numerator is not incredibly useful.

In the past introverts would have thought themselves ”I don’t want to go to work!”, but now there is a righteous path and we can stand up proud and say: ”I am not coming back to work! It is polluting, inefficient and dangerous to our collective health and I refuse! I will not return! We will not return!” The only people who say: ”I need to come back! I will wear a mask! There probably isn’t a disease at all!” Let them go back! John has no problem social distancing from people who are at work. Let them be there! He is already socially distanced from them, he just wants also the people close to him to socially distance from them, and that is easier than it looks.

John homeschooling his daughter (RL379)

Today as John woke up in the middle of the morning there was nobody in the house. He was stirring his coffee, writing up some long division problems for his daughter, doing some research on Common Core, and he realized that they are doing math a completely different way. He doesn’t understand it and is not qualified to teach it, but learning math this way or the old way aren’t incompatible because it is the same math. Merlin’s kid's estimation skills, like when it comes to calculating a tip, are nuts and she is wired for a world of Algebra in a way that Merlin never was. He didn’t learn calculating tips until college.

John is not fighting it anymore, but he also can’t teach it and this morning he asked her to write ten 3-digit numbers and ten 1- or 2-digit numbers and divide the 3-digit numbers by the 1-2 digit numbers while John was downstairs doing his podcast. ”Naawwww!” - ”We are homeschooling now! We are on a space station and Daddy is going to do what he can do and we are memorizing our times tables!” Although Common Core might say to not memorize times tables, John doesn’t see how it hurts and they can go back to Common Core in the fall.

Quick facts, junk yards (RL379)

1. Today is Hitler’s birthday
2. Oil is now form to -$37 a barrel, so if you have oil you are losing money. Maybe if you don’t buy oil they owe you $37, but it sounds like an MLM: The only way to make money is to make money.
3. Merlin has run through many viewings of Tiger King, it has become their default program.

The secret of Making a Murderer is t he completely bananas first episode sets you up for how much crazier it gets and you need to know how it got to where it was. It is about the Avery family who got a junk yard outside of town. It didn’t land on Merlin 4 years ago when they first watched this. They do drone shots from Manitowoc Wisconsin and it is endless views of old automobiles, like the graves in Arlington. The idea of having that much land just to store old and inefficient car part that somebody would use to keep their old and inefficient car running.

It landed so heavy on Merlin last night. What in the fuck? You can’t just go and start a junk yard today. How did we do this for so long? How did we have so much land taken up with junked cars in rows. That is the kind of thing that is going to keep landing on Merlin for weeks and months: How was it always this normal to do this kind of insane thing?

John looks back and thinks: It has been busted like this for so long, but that really doesn’t matter. What matters is: We are here now and conditions are as they are now for the first time ever. It has never been like this before. There has never been less of a need for junkyards than there has been now, but rather than worry why we had them for the last 20 years, and there are fewer junkyards now than ever before because modern cars don’t get junked and go right into the shredder. Nobody is wrenching on their cars anymore unless they are building an old car.

When John was a teenager junkyards used to be so exciting, they were full of people picking out little bits for their car that they were trying to fix up. You could keep your Dodge Swinger running for years. This is true of graveyards, too! If you think about the amount of land just in Brooklyn that is taken up with graveyards. We only do them one person deep because we are servicing Big Headstone. We should feed all these bodies to the fish and take all these headstones and build one big building out of them, a zigarotte.

We should climb to the top of it through stations of the cross, excepts they are not about the cross, but they are the stations of the flat circle, and then there is a big slide all the way to the bottom. As you climb the building you increasingly feel the weight of the world, you do all the penance, all he sorrow as you walk across the gravestones of all of our forefathers and foremothers, you take upon yourself all of their struggles, and as you slide down he slide you leave it all behind and by the time you get to the bottom all the weight of the world has been lifted.

At the bottom there is an aperture and you slide through it and you are reborn. You slide out the birth canal of the zigarotte and you are reborn and you can do it as many times as you want, even 50 times a day. All that cemetery space you turn into a big park. Mylar balloon people are not climbing any zigarottes, that is not their trip. They are surely still buying Mylar balloons and just keep them at home. John should put money into the Mylar balloon industry because when the quarantines are finally lifted for the first time, before the second wave of mass death, there will be a big penned up demand for Mylar balloons and every other desk is going to have a Mylar balloon bouquet that says: ”Welcome back!” and you have to bat them to the side just to walk through any of these open-plan offices.

Happy anniversary!

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