RL460 - Rikki-Tikki-Cancelled

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • Pushing the start of their recording (Podcasting)
  • All different electronic devices from the 1990s are now on your phone (Technology)
  • Most movie plots being made irrelevant by the invention of the cell phone (Movies)
  • John’s security cameras (Technology)
  • John’s trip to Moloka‘i in Hawaii, finding a phone booth next to the grocery store (Hawaii)
  • Mad Magazine printing fake money that you could put into coin changers (Stories)
  • John discovering a 24-hour car wash and coffee kiosk (Currents)
  • John keeping digital technology away from his daughter as long as possible (Daughter)
  • Learning to let your child be independent, not always having all the information, her wanting her first phone (Children)
  • Natalie Wood, watching a movie on an airplane but missing the last 15 minutes (Movies)
  • Meeting Marc Olsen from Sage down at the beach in Normandy Park (Music)

The Problem: Here comes Baby Yoda, referring to a kid who doorbell-dashed John in a Baby Yoda hoodie.

The show title refers to imagining how he would get cancelled every week if he had an OnlyFans where he would read things like Jabberwocky.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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

Pushing the start of their recording (RL460)

Merlin likes to blame a lot of things on COVID, but he might have just forgotten how to manage his time and he asked John for a little extra time today to start their recording. Over the years there have been times when John was setting his alarm to 10:55 in advance for their 11am recording, and he would sometimes text Merlin and ask if they could push it, and for a while they were pushing it all the time. Merlin is ready on time for lots of things, but he also got ADHD and sometimes he gets on a task journey in the morning because that is when different hooks into his attention are presenting themselves.

John wonders if that is a Lemmiwinks journey for Merlin, but that is the only pop culture reference John ever made that Merlin didn’t get. It is a South Park thing. Merlin’s first CD of stolen software and serial numbers that his friend Allan gave him that helped him launch his career including the South Park video that started as a Christmas card in 1994/95.

All different electronic devices from the 1990s are now on your phone (RL460)

There were the blow-ins that came with newspapers and magazines, which Merlin’s family would call circulars, for example cards that would ask you to subscribe to the magazine, and John would know because he worked at the store with the diaper and golf magazines, but there was a Radio Shark ad from 1991/92 where every single electronic item was advertised as a Christmas gift, and every single one of those items are on your mobile phone right now.

Merlin sent John a page from a Radio Shack flyer from 1991 (see shot notes) and they talk about some of the things on there.

Merlin says that just because technology is available doesn’t mean that we need to pursue it, especially if we have not figured out how it will improve what we do. The idea of a microwave didn’t make a ton of sense until you had one and now what did we ever do without a microwave and Merlin is the master of the microwave, but then there are other products that are first sold under the ”think of the children!” umbrella, but that is the thin end of the wedge and then it gets used for everything.

Merlin started watching Slow Horses on Apple TV+ that takes place in England, and his was equally true in Skyfall: Every square centimeter in London is covered by CCTV and it is supposed to stop crime and do all those things, but once that thing is something we use to catch child predators it becomes used for whatever, and Merlin hates that.

Most movie plots being made irrelevant by the invention of the cell phone (RL460)

Watching episodic television with John's daughter’s mother / partner is one of the glues that binds them together. Recently they have been watching The Last Kingdom about the Vikings, a show where every single plot of every single episode could have been resolved if they had cellphones, which is true of 1980s teen comedies, too! The reason the world is so boring now is that there is no more plot!

John has 6-7 cameras around the house and he can lay in bed and if somebody knocks on the door he can raise his head off the pillow, look at the camera on his phone, and see who is at the door. Even in 2015, if you had told him that! And at the same time it doesn’t quite work!

Merlin calls Walgreens the store that has almost what you need. They rarely have what you need, but almost what you need, which is worse. He discussed it recently with friend of the show John Siracusa that there are product managers who think that you need to get things just to the point where they can do a demo on stage, like facial recognition that barely works, but even when it works you can’t do fuck all with it. There is no way to send you alerts if it sees a face that is NOT familiar, which is the one thing anybody would want. Merlin recently tore most of his home automation stuff apart because it was just not working.

Last night Merlin was watching one of his favorite TV series, Veep. She is running against Brad Leland (Buddy Garrity from Friday Night Lights) and she is about to concede the race to him when new information comes in, and then Mike (played by Matt Walsh from the Upright Citizens Brigade) has to run down the halls to transmit that information because she is about to walk on stage and there is no way the information would get there fast enough, which can totally work.

But look at The Matrix from 1999 and the basic concede of the movie, which is still a fucking good movie, and Merlin can’t explain to his dumb kid that when Trinity first did the bullet time thing and starts running on the walls we had never seen that before outside of Hong Kong martial art films, and they put a new spin on it. But when she got out she had to get to the payphone. The phone is such a huge part of the movie.

Merlin’s lady likes to run and when she is doing some trail running in Marin at this point now he will fret if she is not available on Find My Friends for hours because that is the kind of family they are. They have a 3-person Find My Friends network and each of them always knows where the other two family members are and they leave it always on, it is always there, and they never have to ask: ”Where are you?”

The question is if all that makes it more difficult for young people to understand old movies. Another one of Merlin’s favorite movies is Little Miss Sunshine where they accidentally leave Olive at the gas station, or think about Home Alone: People with a house that big don’t know anyone else in Chicago who can go and check on Kevin?

John’s security cameras (RL460)

John bought a bunch of security cameras to put around his house, which is how he discovered the boys that came to harass him, and he nailed them up in all the trees, and he can look at them on his phone. They were very cheap and they kind of record if somebody were to walk in front of them, and he kind of would be able to play them back and freeze on someone’s face.

That is only true with the big asterisk that everything has to work exactly properly all the time. In 1992 John would have believed in flying cars before he would have believed that he could have this. They thought more about light speed travel than about sending a message somewhere.

John wants facial recognition to work, but he doesn’t want the city to spy on him when he walks around. He wants to be able to look out and have his cameras that he bought for $20 each tell him every single person who comes up to the front door, but he doesn’t want the cops to subpoena that, he doesn’t want it to trigger every time a car goes by on the road 100 yards away, and he just wants to look at the war in Ukraine on his phone and it does a great job at that.

Being in a relationship with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder is that they make you think that if you just solve this problem that is right in front of us then everything is going to be fine, but until then everything is a disaster. That is how his relationship with technology feels: We are so close! When John first bought his house friend of the show Matt Haughey told him to put in CAT-7 line in all the walls so he can have cameras everywhere and lightning-fast computers, and when John asked his contractors about putting CAT-12 in all the walls they told him that you can’t even get CAT-12.

The other day a kid doorbell-dashed him, which they in New England call Ding Dong Ditch. He was young, he wasn’t one of those swim club kids, he was not more than 12, wearing a Baby Yoda fleece hoodie with the ears and Baby Yodas on it, like a Deputy Dawg Halloween costume from the 1970s, a cheap mask and an apron with pictures of Deputy Dawg on it. John was sitting in the bathtub in the middle of the afternoon and hears a noise outside, he picks up his phone to look at the camera and nobody was there, so he looked at the replay feature and here comes Baby Yoda up the walk, he knocks on the door really fast and then he runs, which was sweet.

The camera was pointed right at him and John could see his face, but because it is 2022 and not 2024 John couldn’t have told you… he had bleached bangs, he was a moneyed kid, and John is worried that he is the younger brother of one of the swim team dudes and all of the bad teens are around the corner, telling him to go knock on the door. John is hoping that if he has become Old Man Smithers (from Scooby-Doo) in this neighborhood, that is fine, he just doesn’t want anybody to firebomb his house. Kids don’t have boundaries!

John has this video of this kid in a Yoda shirt knocking on his door, but it is not worth anything. He is not going to put a picture of an 11-year old kid on Next Door, but because he has the security system, little things like that become emergencies in your mind in order to justify having the cameras, and John has caught a scofflaw, even though it is a non-thing. At any other time in his life if he had been in his bathtub and heard someone knocking on his door (he would have just ignored it, Merlin doesn’t let him finish his thought).

Not that this show needs a Ukraine segment every week, but there are all these fires happening and then the train goes off the rails, there are things happening in Russia and Ukraine is not claiming responsibility for any of those fires, but a cow knocked over a tar pot over somebody’s lamp, and Ukraine is not even commenting on it at all. John sat up in bed this morning, thinking that it was Stuxnet that was turning the coffee pot on in the middle of the night and then making it short out because it is one of those home network coffee pots that you can control from your phone! That is what Mr. Robot did to the thing where all the financial records were stored.

Although John knows that the PLO does not want to get into John’s phone in order to turn his cameras on so they heat up and make a black spot on a tree, it is why John doesn’t have any cameras in the house, he doesn’t want to be walking around and have the cameras uploading his underwear pictures, they should pay for that, it is an OnlyFans thing, and John thought about doing that, somebody suggested he should just go on there are read Jabberwocky (by Lewis Carroll) or (Rudyard) Kipling, imagine how cancelled he would get every week! Rikki-Tikki-Cancelled (Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is a short-story by Kipling).

John’s trip to Moloka‘i in Hawaii, finding a phone booth next to the grocery store (RL460)

When John was in Hawaii he saw a lot of Mongoose and he thought of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi every time. In front of the grocery store in Moloka‘i (see RL458) there was a phone booth that had a phone. John was looking at it for a while he was waiting for his daughter’s mother / partner to come out of the grocery store that had a sign ”One family member at a time, please!” He was talking to a woman in her 60s who had left Moloka‘i when she was a teenage in the 1970s for America, did drugs and partied, she said she was sexy and Rock’n’Roll, but now she is back on Moloka‘i because she is old.

She said John wouldn’t believe the things she has seen (reference to Blade Runner), but he would absolutely believe them. That goes almost into (Samuel Taylor) Coleridge territory and it feels a lot like The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. John should go to weddings with an albatross. Merlin is so glad he went to Liberal Arts school to come up with those references! He will put the Coleridge reference back in his pocket and next year there will be another opportunity. ”In Xanadu did Kubla Khan - A stately pleasure-dome decree” (first two lines from Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge), which is for Citizen Kane (Xanadu is the name of the estate in Citizen Kane).

John looked at this phone booth for 20 minutes and despite COVID he took it and put it to his ear, but there was no dial tone. Merlin wonders if people take phones out of phone kiosks to use them for something. If they have a Cap’n Crunch whistle they can get free long distance (reference to phreaking). Merlin can’t whistle like he used to.

Mad Magazine printing fake money that you could put into coin changers (RL460)

One time Mad Magazine printed fake money and under a period of two weeks you could put those notes into money changers and get coins back. It was the rare instance where John had the magazine, he had heard you could do this, and he went to a self car-wash place next to the laundromat and put Mad Magazine money into the coin machine before they fixed the bug.

John discovering a 24-hour car wash and coffee kiosk (RL460)

The other day John was at a freestanding coffee kiosk next to a car wash, one that looked like a Photomat, and as he was getting the coffee he asked how long this place has been there because he had never seen it before and she told him that it was there 5-6 years and they are open 24 hours. It is not on the way to anywhere or next to anything and John was expressing his incredulity about the fact that they have to sit there at 3am waiting for someone to get a coffee, but she said that the car wash place is owned by the same guy and he keeps them both open 24 hours. Merlin thinks that must be money laundering!

As they were talking somebody came out of the car wash in a zippidy-zapped-up car, doing a burnout and she rolled her eyes and said that John wouldn’t believe how many times a day this happens. It was a like a microcosm, a small universe with a television-show worth of content. ”The car wash as seen from the coffee kiosk!” John is sure that this is all owned by a very large former professional sports person.

Merlin has a photo of the first time his kid ever saw a phone booth. She was in toddler-age, they were on the way to the zoo, and the kid had no idea. It is the same when you are in a hotel room with a kid that is old enough to watch TV, but not old enough to have been in a lot of hotel rooms, and you have explain that they can’t just watch what is on the TiVo, but you have to watch whatever is on and you can’t skip the commercials. Merlin used that as a great teachable moment.

Merlin’s kid believes that almost every story Merlin shares from his childhood is sad, which is mostly true. He only has a handful of good and happy stories, but most of them are sad stories about privation and sometimes he finds a way to leverage to that, but he really tries to move out of the ”You kids have it easy!” lane.

John keeping digital technology away from his daughter as long as possible (RL460)

John’s family has tried very hard to keep digital stuff away from their kid. They are not judgmental about it, they don’t mind if anybody else thinks differently, many friends have digital relationships with their kid from young, the classic Coulton vs Hodgman dilemma, but John’s family didn’t see a reason for it, they definitely didn’t want her to have an iPad, even though you can extoll the virtues of those to the heavens, but they just didn’t want it.

Now she is 11 and she wants some measure of independents, she wants to walk to the park by herself or do other things on her own, she wants to be left alone, and they are looking into the future, and a lot of the stories John tells from his childhood that aren’t about privation but have a joyous element, nobody used to care where he was! He would walk out the door and would be gone all day and nobody even knew he was gone! It was amazing! He would start fires in abandoned houses, and his daughter rolls her eyes about that, but she is also very intrigued by a time when kids weren’t monitored.

Merlin’s wife was the youngest kid of seven and grew up on Rhode Island and not only was she asked to be home when the streetlights come on, but in the summer she was not even allowed to come home before the streetlights came on. She was not going to be in there watching TV, that was for damn sure!

Learning to let your child be independent, not always having all the information, her wanting her first phone (RL460)

John’s dilemma right now is that those times when she does get a measure of independence she says that she is going to ride her bike to point X, which feels fine, but then in between here and there they don’t have an AirTag on her and she doesn’t have a phone. This is something Merlin’s family actually practiced. The one time he lost his kid out of his eyes was for 45 seconds at a Target and he almost lost his mind because he is that kind of guy, and not only does their kid need to practice not being able to see them, but they also need to practice not being able to see the kid and tolerate a lack of information.

John and his daughter would play this game all the time when they went to a mall or an outdoor event: He would tell her to go through the Sears and out the other side all the way to the end of the mall where she could see that escalator, and then turn around and wave. As soon as she starts to move she is in a crowd and you can’t see her, and she would get all the way to the end where you could see her in the haze of distance, and they would wave at each other. It was all part of their operation.

Now they are not quite at a point where they are at the mall and meet up again an hour later and what she wants is a phone because she knows that a phone is the solution to the issue. She would absolutely sign off on letting John see all the time where she is, she would probably feel more secure with that too, but a phone is also a portal to hell. It has been for John! He could fill it with restrictions, but she might also just be up in the middle of the night texting her friends, going: ”OMG, did you see what she was wearing?” and that type of stuff that John doesn’t want to be the thing that dominates her downtime.

Merlin’s kid is on an electronic device all the time, and so are her friends! That is the world now, it is not 1991 anymore, and there are upsides and downsides to that, but Merlin has lots of Aloha for parents who don’t want their kids to become like that. It is not particularly realistic if you know what kids are like today, but Merlin totally appreciates it.

Hodgman’s oldest girl got into a prestigious New York High School that is a path to getting into Yale, which otherwise is impossible to get into from New York, but she did get into Yale. When she was in 8th grade in this feeder school it required of her that she woke up in the morning, walked to the subway, take the subway out to Coney Island or some crazy thing, and go to school and take the subway home. She was confident that she could do it, and that was the last they were going to talk about it and her parents were okay with that. Kids in New York take the subway, that is just a thing.

John’s family doesn’t live in the city, but he lives out in the country and his own forest could be full of child predators. If you listen to Congress, they are everywhere! Looking out the window right now John can see groomers everywhere he looks. All he sees is push-broom mustaches in Ghillie Suits!

John’s daughter goes to Montessori school where they do the SAT with blocks and she has yet to come and tell their parents that they are ruining her life by not letting her have a phone because all those kids have similar parents, like: ”The newspaper!”, many of them Millennials who haven’t seen a newspaper either, but they have an app on their iPad that emulates a newspaper. Try training your dog on an iPad, or when your bird dies, are you going to wrap it in an iPad?

Although every other kid in her class does have an iPad, they all have Montessori parents and they play games like Minecraft because that is supposed to be educational and because LEGO are healthy toys. She has yet to say that if she doesn’t get an Instagram account she is a Nobody or all her friends are texting each other at night and she is not included. John doesn’t know what to do, maybe he will move to Italy and maybe in Italian it will be even harder. ”Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday” - ”Apollonia, too soon!” - ”She is so pretty!” (reference to The Godfather)

John was such a late bloomer! ”White sauce? Not a problem!” Merlin says: It sucks to have a crush on a dead woman, a Pictures of Lily kind of thing. All of John’s crushes are on women 40 years older than him. Pictures of Lily really landed on Merlin not just for the implied onanism, but for the whole: ”OMG, I have a crush on someone and I didn’t realize they were either really old or totally dead!”

Natalie Wood, watching a movie on an airplane but missing the last 15 minutes (RL460)

One time John was on an airplane, watching whatever movie, and he came upon a black & white movie with Steve McQueen and Natalie Wood (Love with the Proper Stranger), a very progressive movie from the early-to-mid 1960s. She had just been in West Side Story, a crazy movie where they had a one-night-stand, she got pregnant and the whole first and second act of the movie is about her trying to get an abortion, which are illegal in New York. She is so captivating in this film! Merlin she was absolutely stunning in the problematic John Wayne movie The Searchers. In Rebel Without a Cause she was in her 20s!

But just as they were clearly were about to fall in love John’s flight reached their destination and they shut the video system off. How can they play a movie on the flight where you can’t see the end? John went on Amazon when he got home because he had to see the end of the movie and it was $5.99 to rent, but paying that just to see the last 15 minutes? Now John is in a crazy state, like being in High School, falling in love with Natalie Wood, and then she dies and it is never resolved and you are always in love with her from then on.

Meeting Marc Olsen from Sage down at the beach in Normandy Park (RL460)

Merlin always imagines everybody at the age they were when he knew them. His best friend from 1st grade Rob died recently and it was weird looking at the photos, Rob was a very fit and handsome guy. Everybody he knew is probably old now! John agrees, and especially in the last few years they have crossed a certain line where some people look amazing and some people have fallen off.

The other day he was down at the beach in his neighborhood, he had been introduced to a young couple who used to work in restaurants on Capitol Hill like in Spinasse, which was interesting, and John felt thrown a little under the bus because his daughter’s mother / partner had told him about this woman and had pronounced the name of the restaurant ”Spinass” and maybe that was a secret code when they were talking to each other, like the way the astronauts say ”Gemini” Then John called it ”Spinass” while talking to her, but later she said it and she said Spinasse. John had known it correctly from the beginning, but he got bamboozled into saying it wrong.

When John was down at the beach talking to them he saw a guy who looked like Marc Olsen, a Seattle Rock musician from the early 1990s who played in the band Sage which John was a big fan on. They were in the family of bands around Hammerbox or The Posies where everybody knew who was going to be huge Grunge Rock stars even though it hadn’t happened yet, but who were going to be the next bands, because Seattle was going to make new bands for the rest of time. Of course most of those bands were slightly too interesting to be big. Those second wave bands were Indie Rock for all intents and purposes, and that is not what the culture was buying at the time.

John was a big fan back when he was just a worm and he would go up to Marc after shows and ask him about what kind of knobs he had on his amps, and Marc was always like: ”Yeah kid, stay in school!” even though they are the same age. John hadn’t seen him in a long time and over the years Marc had gone through some rough patches involving drugs and other hard times. What would have to happen to see Marc Olsen on the beach in Normandy Park? He looked good and healthy, his skin was good, and he wondered if that was really him, but the group of people around him including the girl who had worked at Spinasse was just 5 years too young to have every heard of Sage, they were all Millennial cusps who weren’t there in 1991/92.

John was not just going to walk up to a guy on the beach, going: ”Hey, if you got clean 10 years ago you might be Marc Olsen from Sage!”, but he couldn’t start looking at him. He was dressed like John, like a Hipster, and this is a neighborhood where there aren’t very many hipsters. John couldn’t be on the beach with Marc Olsen and not say: ”Hi!” because that would be a crime, so he had to risk it not being him and he marched down the beach, walked up and went: ”Marc?” - ”Oh, hi John!”, but he said it too fast because he had already seen him and thought: ”Is that John Roderick?”

Then they had an hour-long conversation on the beach and Marc lives by the fire station, they were both less crazy now, both clean and sober, both doing great, he had a couple of kids, living a life, John never would have expected it because everybody else they knew along the way are all Soylent Green by now. John was like Tom Hagen and Franky Pentangeli, talking about how everybody is gone now (reference to The Godfather II). They continue mimicking the voices from the movie.

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