RL50 - Check Your Six

This week Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John was supposed to be Joe Junior, referring to John thinking he will be a politician like his dad, uncle and great-uncle and that he was the anointed one that will make it to national level as the anointed one, just like Joe Kennedy Jr was.

The show title refers to a fighter pilot term that means you have to look what is behind you. John learned that lesson the hard way after getting jumped on by three guys with bats.

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

Peanut Butter Sandwich filter (RL50)

Merlin caught John in the middle of a peanut butter sandwich. John was sitting there, expecting Merlin’s call, but he thought he could have a peanut butter sandwich in the meantime. What kind of button would you get for something like that? A Peanut Butter Sandwich Button? They were one of those Elephant 6 bands, if memory serves.

After years of making music records, John learned to think of vocals as a digital graph that shows the wave form of a musical instrument. John’s first thought was: Is there a filter they could put on that would take out all the smacking and food sounds? You can get rid of the hum or the hiss, but can you get rid of the peanut butter and the street car? The Peanut Butter and the Street Car is one of the great Aesop’s Fables.

John receiving Merlin's fan tweets (RL50)

John sees a lot of tweets from people saying that they love Merlin Mann, but Merlin must be on a different Twitter then. Maybe people are sending their appreciative tweets to John to not blow Merlin’s mind? John should not have to carry Merlin’s theoretical fan mail because he is the one helping people, but he enjoys it because his inbox is crowded with his own fan mail and it is nice to see fan mail directed to someone else every once in a while, just to realize that there are other people in the world.

Merlin guesses that John did not expect how many people who should have known about John’s band The Long Winters a long time ago had not heard of the band or had not associated John with the band or with that one song they heard in that one place. A lot of people are saying that John has been helping them or terrifying them with his train (Supertrain)and now they just went on iTunes, bought every Long Winters album, and can’t stop listening to them!

John broke his tooth again (RL50)

Last night John broke his front tooth off while eating some food and he is now missing his one Achilles tooth again. He doesn’t have the plosive power that he normally has when he says words that start with ”f”, like ”fake tooth” and he tries to use as many f-words as he can! The entire tooth is missing and it looks like a bad Hobo custom, or maybe the best Hobo costume the world has ever known?

John has definitely thought about going down to Hollywood in this state, like ”Listen! Do you need to cast someone who looks like he is not thriving right now? I am that actor!” It has become a running joke with a lot of Merlin’s friends that John looks homeless, but he does have a home and Merlin thinks we should have a lot more nuances and that term is abused.

While Merlin was taking notes on his cards ”Hobos, Bums, Homeless, Street Rats”, John was taking another bite of his sandwich.

People might not realize that John looked horrifying, but in a good way, for a surprisingly long time. Merlin has a picture of his daughter with John that he treasures where John looks like a Memphis Yeti with super-creepy smokey Elvis glasses, dishwater blond hair to his shoulders, and a missing tooth. John rocked that look not for a week or a month, but for several years. One can make a lot of cosmetic improvements to oneself to mask the inner grotesqueness, but John had arrived at a point where there was not enough spackle on the Earth to smooth out the cracks in him and he just let it roll.

During the Grunge years John was a terrible person on drugs and he was not living a life that you could show to St. Peter. When they would open the book and say ”Here we go, let’s take a look at this”, John was going to be bashful, touching his toes together and staring at the floor, not because he definitely was going to hell, but it was going to take a really fucking long time he would had to sit there and listen to it.

They would talk about a lot of stuff and John would be ”Yeah, yeah, no, no, no, I mean: Yes, but come on! Cut a guy some slack!” John looked like a cop during that entire time and he was as straight-looking as a guy could be: He had short hair, he was fresh-faced, he had blue eyes that looked innocent, and he would be in situations all the time where he would walk in the door and some guy dressed all in black sitting behind a table covered with drugs would stand up and yell at the guy who brought John ”Why did you bring a cop here, man?”

John would have to stand in the doorway while everybody would jump out the windows and say ”No, no, no, man! I know him, I know him, he is cool!” John was the undercover cop that everybody could tell was a cop. And by ”cool” they meant that John stole every pill in the house. It might be diarrhea medicine, it might be Digitalis, but you never know, it might be Benny (Benzedrine)!

It is almost medieval in a way! You can shave, put on a tie and become this shockingly normal-looking person who is quivering inside, but then you lose your fucking front-tooth! In the 1600s people would try to make a lady float to see if she was a witch and there was this weird Theodoric of York feeling when you really thought you could look at somebody and tell a lot about their morality. They got the plague, but they didn’t.

Many years later all of that behavior came home to roost, which is to say that the decisions John had made during his youth when he felt that he was going to live forever and that nothing could ever hurt him were saving up their consequences for right about the time John turned 40. The day he turned 40 everything that was in him that was held together with baling wire and toothpaste all broke at once: His tooth fell out, his knees gave out, it was a catastrophe! Now John is living in the post-consequences world where he realized that everything you do in your youth just lights a fuse and all the scars just wait dormant until this one moment when all your connective tissue stops working and you become a pile of bones.

John knocked out his front tooth half a dozen times and it had finally broken so many times that there was nothing left to cap and they had to extract this little bit of a root that was left. Most people who are missing a tooth are missing their eye tooth because they were using it to check the veracity of a gold coin. You don’t see a lot of people missing their main front tooth, the largest tooth in their face, the most visible one. It is not a charming missing tooth, but more like you have been drinking hairspray.

Running your hands through John’s hair is like running your hands through a model train set because there are so many criss-crossing scars on his scalp! When John shaves his head he looks like George ”The Animal” Steele with that bumpy topography thing going on.

Getting jumped by three guys with axe handles (RL50)

One time in Seattle John got jumped by three guys with axe handles. He was heavily intoxicated on a cocktail of intoxicants that made him very lucid while also being very intoxicated. It was during the era of gay bashing when people from the sticks would come into town and gay-bash. John was standing on the street with a lighter, lighting posters on a phone pole on fire and watching the posters burn.

A couple of cops pulled up and told him to knock it off and John was like ”Hey, why do you pigs have to step on my scene?” - ”Listen, if you don’t knock it off, we are going to get out of the car and put handcuffs on you!" although it was a busy Friday night and they got shit to do and John was small potatoes ”Oh sorry! Sorry I’m burning your phone pole, cop!” John momentarily stopped, the cops drove away, and John immediately started doing this again.

John was 22 years old and there was no excuse for standing at the street corner. This was the kind of petty delinquency that a 13-year old should have grown out of, but here he was, being on a variety of intoxicants, lighting the phone pole on fire because it was fascinating to him, suffice to say. All of a sudden there were three guys with bats, like ”What are you doing man?” - ”I’m just lighting this phone pole on fire!” - ”Well fucking knock it off!”

It was a challenge where John felt he really needed to stand his ground because he was doing important work and who were these three guys to tell him to knock anything off? ”Why don’t you knock off telling people what to do?” John was acutely aware that they had bats, but he also felt that he was in command of the situation. They circled around him with him in the center and he felt that he had this matter quite in hand.

John started to lecture them on how cities work and how phone poles are coated with creosote and are inherently non-flammable, but at a certain point they were no longer interested. They were argumentatively arguing with John, but they already knew what they were going to do. This was before John had learned to protect his six and one of the guys got behind him, took a massive swing like he was swinging for the outfield, and he hit John on the back of the head with what later turned out to be an ax handle. Once John was down, all three of them just stood over him and pounded on him like they were tenderizing a side of beef.

At this point John was aware he was in trouble and he was yelling and crawling to try and get under a car, but they were just going to town on him. They broke both his hands and he was black and blue from top to bottom. He crawled under a car, some girl up the street started screaming, and eventually somebody nearby screamed loud enough that these guys took one last whack each and ran off into the dark.

The cops who had yelled at John 10 minutes before came back, the aid car came, and John was laying there, convinced that he was holding the back of his skull on, saying ”I can’t move my hands” The aid car guys told him to move his hands but ”No, I can’t, otherwise the back of my head is going to fall off” and they were shining lights in John’s face ”Are you on any kind of drugs?” - ”No, I just had a beer” - ”No, you need to tell us what drugs you are on!” - ”No, I just had a beer, but I can’t move my hand because my head is going to fall apart!”

They took John to the hospital and the doctor told him as well that they needed to know what John was on because he was obviously on some drugs and they couldn't treat him and give him more drugs unless they knew what was going on. John had it in his head that his permanent record was something he needed to be worried about and that this was going to go down on his permanent record. Maybe he wasn’t going to get into graduate school or something!

John had grown up being told that his transcript was something he needed to worry about so much and he didn’t want to tell some doctor in an emergency room what drugs he was on because he was going to write it down on some piece of paper and then the CIA was never going to let him be the president of the United States!

John kept insisting that he only had a couple of beers and the doctor said ”You know what, kid, that’s fine!”, he turned to the nurse and said ”Don’t give him any anesthesia!” and they proceeded to sow up his head and his hands, which were broken and the finger-meats had squirted out. They had to push all that finger-meat back inside and sow it up and they did it all without even giving John a topical anesthesia while he was being sowed like a rag doll by three different people running threats through him. Then they rolled him out into the hallway of Harbor View emergency room on a blood-soaked gurney.

Harbor View is the one Level-4 trauma center in the Northwest, but it is also one of these hospitals where they roll you out into a hall with just one light bulb flickering up above you. Sometimes it goes out and then power comes back on. On Friday and Saturday night it is full of people with motorcycle wrecks and gunshot wounds, and they rolled him out into this hallway and let him sit there as the blood on his gurney coagulated.

People who were really in trouble got wheeled past him, screaming. John was on hallucinogens among other things, and he was tripping while they were sowing up his head without anesthesia. It was a hell of a night and John learned a lot that night about everything, certainly about mortality. This was definitely the time when John was starting checking his six, which is fighter pilot terminology for ”Look behind you!”

Merlin tries not to think too much about his six, but that is probably a terrific reason to check it. You don’t want to get into a position where you are forced to check your six! When John is sitting in a restaurant he will pick his seat rather judiciously and sit where he can see the door, which is what he taught Malcolm X, but he will also sit where nobody is going to surprise him on his six. There can be people behind him, he just wants to know who they are. That was not even how John lost his tooth!

Not getting his bail money back (RL50)

1994 was the last time John went to jail, but there were a couple of things that hung out and a couple of bench warrants were still active into 1995. A couple of times he went to jail on things that had happened before 1994 and it took him a couple of years to get a functioning set of credentials, like normal ID and stuff, and to have it all cleared so that every time he got stopped by a cop, he didn’t go ”Oh, hello!” and pull him out of the car to take him Downtown. Nowadays they send letters out to everybody with an outstanding warrant that say ”You won $1000” Everybody will come down and ”You are arrested!” It wasn’t a scam, but it was a legitimate thing!

One time John was driving in a car in Bellevue with an African American gentlemen named Howard. They had gone over there to go to the movies because they had a good movie theater and as they were driving back at night they got pulled over. They weren’t doing anything, but John’s friend was convinced that it was because he was black and John was white and they were driving in a car. Something was not Dutch with this! The cop was very condescending to John’s friend and then he asked for John’s ID and found that there was a warrant for John’s arrest. He was very happy about this because it seemed like a very ironic situation that the white guy was going to be the one he would have to arrest. He thought this was hilarious!

John went to jail and gave his friend his ATM card to get the bail money, which was $400. Howard went and got the bail money, but because he hadn’t been through this before he bailed John out under his own name rather than under John’s name, stipulating that it was John’s money. The bail money is an insurance that you will show up for court and after John showed up for his court date he wanted his bail refunded, but they said it was Howard’s money and only Howard could get it back.

Howard was a preppy guy and the experience of John getting arrested in his car soured his interest in going to any more police stations or city courts or anything like that with John. He kept dodging John’s phone call, like ”Oh totally, I will help you do that!” and then he would disappear and John wouldn’t hear from him for a long time. It was at a time when $400 meant quite a lot to John.

John went down to the court and explained to them at great length that it was his money, not Howard’s, but they were not interested in his story, and also while John was there, they discovered another warrant. The woman behind the counter was not empowered to arrest him and she handed him a card with an address and told him to go across the street to this place.

John thanked her profusely for resolving this issue because it had been an Albatross hanging over his head for many months. He walked up the street to a store front with frosted glass windows and thought that this must be the city accountant’s office. He walked in the door and it was like the set of Barney Miller. There was a room with desks and a bunch of guys with pistols and shoulder holsters with their jackets off sitting on their desk, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and chatting with each other. As John came in, everybody turned and looked at him, like ”Come on in, buddy! How is it going? Good to see you!” Every single person who walks in this door was about to be arrested, but they didn’t know it.

These guys surely have to sprint down the street all the time after people who turn around in the doorway and run. They sat John down in the chair and he said ”Oh, man! What a rip!” - ”Good to see you, hi! We have got a computer printout here!” It was a real prank and John never got his money back. One day 15 years from now Howard is going to get a letter that says ”We have undiscovered moneys for you!” and he is not going to remember what this could be for.

John has not spoken to Howard in years and he is not going to pursue those $400. He just wants it to go out into the world and pay retribution for some crime John has committed against the city of Seattle. Ben Franklin said: ”Hit your child every day! If you don’t know what it is for, they will!” If nothing else it is for all the parking meters that John didn’t put quarters in when he just ran into a drug store.

Being worried about your permanent record (RL50)

Being worried about his permanent record had a more profound effect on John than what might be obvious. There was a simultaneous narrative going on in John’s head his whole life that was primarily instilled by his dad. John's dad, his uncle and his great-uncle were politicians (his great-uncle raised his dad) and the ambition for John was to also be a politician on a national scale. These guys were all local politicians in the Northwest and they were in the backrooms, smoking cigars, giving handshakes, and making the port run, trading suits and ties with each other. They had the ambition for John that he would go on to national office, which would somehow validate their political dynasty.

John was like Joe Kennedy: He was the anointed one who died in the war in a suicide mission. He was in a bomber loaded with explosives and his job was to fly it over and bail out after pointing it at a damn or something. He armed the explosives when he was over the English channel and for some reason the thing blew up into a trillion pieces in mid-air. What a waste of a dude and of a plane! Hitting a damn is a big deal in a war because it provides electricity and it will send a big tidal wave down the valley, particularly if you believe the movie Force 10 from Navarone. The water from the damn can knock out the bridge where the German were coming across to attack the partisans.

Even at the point when John was living very much in a hand-to-mouth or hand-to-drugs-to-mouth way, there was always a narrative in the back of his head that he needed to protect his reputation because when they would investigate him for top-secret-clearance he needed to be able to pass and one day he was going to be a United States Senator.

There were these two totally incompatible narratives, the one where he was scrounging in the carpet for invisible crack rocks that he might have dropped and he ended up smoking somebody’s dog dander because he was sure it was some kind of drugs that had fallen in the carpet, and the narrative of ”I can’t let anybody know because I am going to be a United States Senator one day” There is still a version of that in John now!

The problem would not be that he was now on record admitting to having done a cornucopia of drugs, literally a horn of plenty, a thanksgiving decoration full of drugs, some of which people have never even heard of, full of yams and mini-pumpkins and bags of pear squeak, he did any kind of squeak! That wasn't even the primary problem, but the primary problem of John being elected to the US Senate was that he had gone on record 1000 times saying that Seattle is a dumpy little shit hole, people who believe in God are dumbasses and everybody who doesn’t know how to drive in snow should be lined up against a wall and shot. If an opposition researcher was given the task of vetting John Morgan Roderick he would be rolling on the floor laughing within 30 seconds of trying to dig up some dirt on him, because how is he going to run for office in Seattle, having said all of the things he has said?

John always imagined he would do what Bill Clinton should have done when they asked him whether or not he had slept with Monica Lewinsky: Instead of hemming and hawing he should have faced down the cameras and said ”Listen, that is none of anybody’s business! Next question!” There will come a time for that, and we have already seen it with Barack Obama who admitted in his book not only having smoked marijuana, but also having done cocaine. Then he said that it is not a pertinent question and it doesn’t bear on his ability to govern. Next question!

If Bill Clinton would have just said that and they would have continued to throw questions at him, he could have just said ”Alright, press conference is over, I’ll be back when the press corps have grown up enough to figure out some reasonable questions to ask the president of the Unites States. Good bye!” What ended up being Clinton’s undoing was not that he slept with Monica Lewinsky, but that he lied about it.

He lied about it in an age where he could not count on everybody to help him paper it over. It was okay for us to not make a big deal out of how much help Roosevelt got walking up to the lectern and we had our reasons. There was a decorum at the time and you know that Kennedy got so much more tail than Clinton. Kennedy made a lot of congress with young ladies, but that wasn’t the problem.

Kennedy was completely doped-up 24 hours a day because of Addison’s disease, he could barely walk, and Dr. Feelgood was shooting a cocktail of amphetamines. Nobody ever found out that every place the president went was full of all kinds of drugs for helping him get by, but also all kinds of stuff for helping him in case he goes tits up. That was a serious security risk during the Cuban Missile Crisis and it would have been nice to know!

Not only would John F. Kennedy not be elected president of the United States now, but from a very young age he would have been treated as a special little flower who needed a little cup with his medication every day at lunch. He would also be seen as kind of a fag, because he wrote books. He was entirely the product of a) being bullied by his father and his older brothers, of course we made that illegal and you can’t bully a kid anymore, and b) he was frail and teased.

Kennedy fought against being frail and sick and bullied and he became president of the United States! We have made all these things illegal now. He got a lot of help getting into office. Today he would be writing on his blog about his struggles to get the right ADD cocktail. There are a lot of people in their 50s in the South right now riding around on boats that their sheriff grandfathers got bought with Joe Kennedy’s money. Don’t worry, that is going to be fine! And they are all nicknamed Gator.

People not wanting to sacrifice anything for the big picture (RL50)

The senate might be a waste of John’s time, but he should certainly be in Special Forces! Merlin thinks that John being elected might be a bad idea for a variety of reasons, but John thinks it would be a tremendous idea. The problem is that you need to get stupid people to like you, but stupid people have always liked John. Stupid people think he is hilarious!

This has a lot to do with spending a lot of time trying to understand someone who does not want to make a mental effort, but who prefers to interact with the world strictly on an immediate emotional basis, not to sit and think about even the basic building blocks of what their experience is, but just react to it emotionally and immediately.

There is the phrase ”All politics is local” John grew up surrounded by people in politics and he learned that so much of what ultimately is national politics, all this ”What are we going to do with our bodies?”, all the different version of what we imagine is government, ultimately comes down to different ideas of land use policy, or zoning. Zoning is a way to really get inside your neighbors’ heads and start to understand why stupid people are so mad all the time.

When you are trying to govern a city you are looking at zoning, like ”This is going to be our business district, this area over here is going to be farms” and if a guy wants to build a skyscraper out here on a farm they are not going to let him do it because they don’t have the infrastructure there and that is not where you get to build skyscrapers. They are confining the skyscrapers to Downtown.

The guy who owns the farm says ”Who the hell are those guys Downtown to tell me I can’t build a skyscraper here?” It comes down to states’ rights issues, which happens everywhere you go. There was no zoning in Seattle for a long time and people were just buying 500 acres (2 sqkm) of farm land right on the edge of town and build a cookie cutter development as fast as they could. Nail it up until there were not farms left!

Everybody was complaining to the city why they would let them do this and the city said ”Okay, you can’t do that anymore, we are going to preserve that farm land and concentrate development downtown!” Instantly every farmer within 400 miles (650 km) of Seattle was infuriated, not because most of them ever intended to build a subdivision on their farm, but because the city had just taken away that possibility.

If you went to each of these farmers, sat them down in their living room, and asked them if they wanted to see a world where there were no more farms, they would say ”Of course not!” If you go to an American and ask ”Would you like to see the death of the family farm in your lifetime?”, they are all going to see ”No!”, but if you say ”Okay, in that case we have passed a law that you can no longer develop your property!”, they are going to say ”Well, I want that line drawn right on the other side of me. I want that restriction placed right on the other side of my opportunity to develop my farm and make $100 million, even if I never do it!”

We all have to make sacrifices and you as a farm owner will have to make this sacrifice! That is the point at which most people walk away from that encounter, not thinking about the big picture, but saying to themselves, and this is the narrative of all conservatism, ”Why am I the one who has to make this sacrifice?” They all speak about it in language as though they are the only one who ever had to make a sacrifice.

That is where local politics expands to national politics, a world John has spent his whole life trying to understand. He could easily run for office and at least make himself understood to those people because he understands. Any one of us can put ourselves in the shoes of a kid on Christmas morning when all of our brothers and sisters get a present and the family ran out of money and we are the only one who doesn’t get one.

Merlin has a problem with hotels who call themselves green, but only when they can save money. They should only get to call themselves green when they give things up, including money. The thing in politics "What the fuck did you give up because you are X?" drives him bananas! If you really care a lot about anything, Merlin wants to know what you gave up for that, not just even money! The problem is that as soon as you start straight-talking with people, the opposition is ”Here he goes!” The gift is to be able to say those things in a way so you don’t end up hanging by your own rope.

What passes for populism today really bugs Merlin because it is often just selfish, stupid and provincial behavior. Everybody has problems and you can’t always understand other people’s problems, but that is exactly the kind of attitude that opens us up to charlatans, these people who can sell us that emotion without ever causing us to think a little more. What do they have to gain by saying those words? That has always been populism! Andrew Jackson ran a campaign based on even more. Populism is by its very definition an appeal to the basest emotions of the largest number of uninformed people. There is no populism that isn’t ultimately also gross.

Not trusting politicians (RL50)

We were raised to think that we through education will one day create a nation of philosopher kings where everybody will be hyper-informed. We were all going to sit around reading Alexander Dumas, talking about the rarified little adjustments we needed to make to our finely oiled perfect democracy. The fact is that education has not produced this situation.

As we hurdle forward we created a electronic mass-communication system that has produced the abundance of information and we have 200 million people in America who feel like they are informed because they are being told things all day, they are watching and listening to people telling them things and they see it with their own eyes.

In 1830 you had people plowing the fields and if you had asked them what they thought about a thing, they would have said they had never heard of it and they didn’t know what you were talking about. They had two books in the house: The Bible and the other bible and that is all they knew. Now you walk up to a person with almost no capacity to be interested in things enough to self-educate themselves beyond just the thinnest one-molecule deep understand of things, but they know a one-molecule deep cut about 1 million things because they have been watching it on TV. They know who won the Oscars, they know that Scoochie just had a baby in New Jersey. Everybody knows all this stuff!

We get deeper and deeper into an experiment of pure democracy. America is an ongoing experiment that is 200 years in and it keeps rewriting its own rulebook. It is unprecedented in human history that there was ever a nation like this that was ever governed like this. We keep thinking that America is a thing that once was perfect and we are corrupting it, or America was on a path to being perfect and we have gone off the path, but in fact America is a petri-dish that all the world is watching, not just in admiration, but the world takes some of the results of the experiment over to their own places where they have recently deposed a king.

Meanwhile America is slogging along, trying to make this experiment work, and the further America goes up one particular path, the more everybody starts to say ”Oligarchy wasn’t that bad in contrast to pure democracy!” 50 years ago we lived in an oligarchical system where people like Lyndon B. Johnson who would take care of things, we trusted FDR, and we trusted this group of… (Merlin) all incredibly competent scumbags. They were heroic people, but once you knew how the sausage got made, you realized they also did some shit!

Somebody like Gandhi was incredibly competent and not a scumbag. He worked his whole life to free India from British oppression and literally the day he achieved independence from Britain Pakistan all of a sudden wanted independence from India and they plunged into what effectively was a civil war and a religious war that persists to this day. It has become the nuclear flashpoint of the world!

The whole India/Pakistan problem and the problem with Afghanistan is that Pakistan and India are fighting a a proxy-war in Afghanistan and that whole problem is a result of Gandhi freeing India from British oppression. Even the man with the most integrity in human history can not produce a situation that doesn’t dissolve into not just Muslim vs Hindu, but… John is not saying we should return to the raj and that freeing India from British oppression was a bad plan, but the cats are now out of the bag and people are going to do what they are going to do.

People who are not as fucked up in liberal arts as Merlin don't take into account how life is a tile puzzle. There is one little space and if you want to get everything in order from 1 to 15 you have to move a lot of fucking tiles around which is super inconvenient. If your only goal in life is to make sure that number 4 always stays in the upper right hand corner, there is going to be a lot of work involved in moving all those other tiles around.

Sitting around thinking you want 4 to always stay there and you don't dare fucking touch it is not how it is going to work. Everybody else wants their tile someplace, too! Some people just want the tiles to move and they don't really care what the numbers are. Those are the lawyers. To get 4 back up to that corner you might have to go somewhere real far and you might have to just shut the fuck up and let somebody else be in 4 for a little while if you ever want to have it back.

It is a weak spot that a lot of us have in America because we all think we are smart and special. If we find somebody who will tell us that our number 4 tile will always get to stay in the upper right hand corner and they will defend against all the people who think our tile should move, we are going to misunderstand so many things about how the world works, setting aside the fact that there are still 14 other people who want their tiles to move.

Being Green drives Merlin crazy because it is so fucking cynical to say that! Green at the cost of what? You have to treat them like a child: When Merlin comes home at 3:00pm and gets to hang out with his daughter, there is a whole list of things that they could do. They could play some Wii, they could go to the library, they could read this comic, they have enough time that they could go to the Embarcadero, the Ferry Building, they could get a chocolate chip cookie, or they could play in the backyard.

The thing is: At 7pm when they still haven't left the house, she will still think they are going to get a chocolate cookie at the Embarcadero. It is like Blah Blah Ginger: All Merlin’s daughter heard was the stuff that she wanted to hear and she did not hear any of the parts about the really important part, maybe Merlin said it wrong, but they really needed to get the fuck out of the House by 3:15pm to do anything. Now he is the dick because he is not going to giver her a cookie. That is politics to Merlin today!

Everybody hears all the ways that they are going to get to call themselves Green and get their vegan meals, but they are not willing to pony up the dough to do it. Merlin bought two CFL light bulbs last week for $0.99, so he is Green now!

A punch in the nose is such an effective problem solver, but they took that away from us. There is often a guy standing on his number 4 square and he is not moving because his family has been in the top right hand corner since aught six. You cannot appease this person, you cannot make it right, they will never be satisfied, and you still need to move that thing out of the top right corner and you need to occupy square number 4. In times past ultimately a punch in the nose was what was warranted.

It is the thing about Eminent Domain or about oligarchy: We elect people because we don't have all the facts and we trust that these people are going to be more informed than we are and they are going to make decisions on our behalf. In America we elect people and then we second-guess their every move because we all think that we are the smartest people in the world. We heard there might be a cookie coming even though we didn't understand how much was involved before it even got near the cookie, or the guy got elected because he promised us a cookie and now where is our cookie?

We can't manage all the things and we hire people as our representatives to figure this stuff out. We used to hire people that we thought were better than we were, but in America anybody just wants to stand up and say ”I'm the best!” and we hire people to go to public office for us who believe that the world was created in seven days, who believe that all you have to do is implement a 2% across the board tax and all of our bills will go away, or people who believe that L. Ron Hubbard got messages from space.

What political jobs would be right for John? (RL50)

If you get elected as the mayor of Seattle you have instantaneously all these agencies, all those people working for you who are trying to run the city efficiently, but who are also open to reform. People are used to a new mayor coming in doing a little housecleaning. John doesn’t want to say that being mayor of Seattle is a dead-end job, but running for mayor of Seattle would be a fascinating journey to go on.

Given what John knows about the city, which is everything, there are some changes he would make and there are a lot of things about the way Seattle runs that he would leave alone and would just let Seattle run. There are relationships you have to maintain. Seattle's current mayor is very effective, he is a hippie and has hippie values and that squares with what everybody around the city does.

There are also a lot of people in Seattle who are not hippies and they have a tendency to run roughshod over the mayor and not respect him. There are even ”There are too many bike lanes” arguments. Really, are there too many bike lanes? John believes that we should have more bike lanes, he believes it is self-evident, and he doesn't need to explain it. He would be gratified if there were only bikes and only the police would have cars.

John would run for mayor of Seattle, but ultimately his ancestors will not rest until he is a United States Senator, which is a harder job to acquire. John is pretty old to start at the bottom unless he did something heroic recently. Sonny Bono got elected to the United States Senate and he wrote Needles and Pins. John wrote Car Parts.

The jobs John has always wanted are United States Senator, professor of history emeritus, or a retired general of the army. The standard model to get to those three jobs is that you start at the local level and you work your way up through the ranks. John doesn’t need to know where the bodies are buried because he will have people for that.

Using Sonny Bono as a model, or the guy who played Cooter on on Dukes of Hazzard (Ben Jones), you just parlay your fame in a different vernacular and at a certain point you pull an Arnold Schwarzenegger, you start talking like you know about stuff, enough people go ”That sounds reasonable!” and pretty soon you are the governor of California. Merlin thinks that Arnold Schwarzenegger is an even better example because he worked really hard, despite taking steroids and stuff.

That is John’s plan! He is going to work inside the system, an electoral system where people who have no business voting are theoretically the ones that are going to give or take a job from him. He says all this stuff that sounds like he is interested in running a monarchy, but basically he really admires the American system with all its faults. Merlin thinks John should go straight to being a retired Senator. Jimmy Carter had a fairly undistinguished term in office that has almost been out-shown by the massive amount of good stuff he has done since then.

David Petraeus, the former general of the Army, is right now director of the Central Intelligence Agency (from 2011-09-06 until 2012-11-09) and is being courted to become the president of Princeton University. This is a career path that John would like to inject himself into right at this point. Petraeus was general of the Army for many years, and whatever he did when he was a lieutenant, whoever’s boots he shined to get promoted to captain, John is not interested in shining those boots. All the wars he waged during the Bush administration? Take them or leave them! But to be retired general of the Army, director of the CIA, considering a move over to be president of Princeton university? That would be so good!

Merlin talks about the CLP program at college level where you can skip over basic classes if you can demonstrate you fulfill the requirements, like a smart person GED. John could clap over certain jobs or just clap out of having ever been in the army, but still have people call him General. The problem is that during his freshman year in college they gave a writing test to the entire freshman class to place them in a spectrum. They wrote four essays and got a score of one through five and that is how they knew how smart you were.

This was amazing, John couldn’t wait to take this test and he wrote a big disquisition, the topic was some dumb thing, but he ignored it completely and wrote how if everybody just adopted the 15 planks of Rodrick-ism the world would be made a better place. John got a zero out of five on his writing exam and the kid that was the dumbest kid in their whole dorm, the kid that spoke as though he had been hit on the head 1000 times with a Lacrosse racket, he got a five and John got a zero.

If John would try to clap out of having been in the Army and go right to being director of CIA, he would get a zero because he wouldn't have filled out the proper form. Merlin agrees that saying what John has said candidly about the city in which he would govern could cause problems, but it is a shame that he can't get some special credit for what he survived and what he put other people through, because Petraeus surely wasn’t all just beer and skittles. He probably had to do some LBJ kind of shit!

It might be that John and Merlin have clapped their way into having a podcast where they talk to each other back and forth and that is the thing that 25 years from now people will be like ”Oh man, if I could just clap into a podcast!” They are generals of a kind, they are already there! ”How the fuck did those guys get a podcast? How is he on the board of Vexxon mobile?” They make it look so easy!

They show up, they got a broken fucking tooth, they are eating a sandwich, talking about getting your ass kicked with an axe handle and about an hour and a half later when the one guy says ”I really have to pee!” the show is over. Merlin already peed once and filled a liter bottle and almost drank it a couple of minutes ago. ”While we were sitting here talking you peed?” - ”Well, I muted it!” - ”Oh my God!”

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