RL71 - Everybody Has a Hamburger

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John had no idea what happened to Mountain Girl, referring to John having a crush on Mountain Girl, the later-wife of Jerry Garcia because he had seen one photo of her and he never knew anything more about her until he looked her up recently.

The show title refers to John being a very picky eater with 4 items on the menu, but he wasn’t afraid to hitchhike across the States because you can always get a hamburger.

John says that it is really early, but only out of nostalgia for the old days where they did not record at night like they are doing now. They received plaudits from people who enjoy the later recording time, but they don’t care about the praise of their fans, which is the Supertrain talking. Merlin cares, he is gentle and soft! He had a heavy meal.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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

John eating food at room temperature (RL71)

John got food from El Taco Bus, but he didn’t have enough time to eat, and now there is taco bus food downstairs as his prize that is waiting for him. It doesn’t matter that it won’t be hot anymore because John does not object to food that has cooled or warmed from its initial service temperature to room temperature. Some people including Merlin find it repulsive that he will open a can of food and just eat it out of the can.

One of Merlin’s very good friends in High School would eat pretty much anything in almost any state. Eating out of the original container really says: ”Bachelor for life!” Merlin is notorious in his household for liking piping hot food. Dunkin’ Donuts is famous for how scolding hot their coffee is and it is good, all of his family in Rhode Island will pop a stitch if he would say otherwise, and Merlin’s sister in law will microwave it to make it even hotter.

There is the old story about exploding hot water heaters. Today they don’t explode anymore because they have 17 layers of failsafe valves and vents to keep this from happening, which John learned from Adam Savage. It is a sealed tea kettle and if you don’t have shut off valves for the heating element and steam vents for the steaming elements the water gets hotter, but can’t boil because the pressure also increases. Finally the pressure gets so great that the hot water heater explodes and the second there is an opening all 80 gallons of water turns to steam instantly and it can blow up your house with this flash explosion of instant steam and all that pressure.

They fixed it after the Triangle Short Waist Waterheater Incident, which is a great Guided by Voices EP. John loves Doug Gillard’s playing on that. Merlin claims that John never listened to them, not even one entire song. But John happens to be friends with Doug Gillard. Merlin knew his wife on LiveJournal. John was very mad about LiveJournal because Merlin was on there with the Barsuk Mafia and a bunch of teenage girls who were talking about John and nobody was telling John what they were saying because it was a super-secret cult.

Merlin thinks that if you are a Hobo with just a little bit of fucking human dignity you would stick the can over a fire like a gentleman. If you are the person who eats out of a container and has it at room temperature you are not above picking up something that might have been open and room temperature for an unknown amount of time, like the guy who eats the maguro that has been on the table for an hour, all the way up to Merlin’s friend who eats the ravioli that was almost blue.

Back in John’s college days because in the position that he ended up sleeping in half on the floor he would have a view under his bed and discover two slices of pizza under there and he would reach under there and eat it. When Hobos were cooking those cans of food on the fire, that is because those were cans of raw ground pork, which was a very popular food during the depression and you have to cook that stuff. Modern food is all cooked in the can and if you open a can of Chef Boyardee RavioliOs heating them up just fills the house with a smell of a cat that died on top of a furnace, and if you don’t heat them up they don’t smell like that.

At some point Merlin had made some store-brand Ravioli in his dorm and a very small bit was left in there and with a completely straight non-ironic, non-jokey, non-fratboy, non-hey-look-at-this expression his very good friend said: ”Are you going to eat that?” - ”No because that is trash!” and he picked up a table spoon next to it and ate it. John says that it was garbage from the beginning, rewinding to the pump chili discussion (see RL13).

Imagine the same pumped meat that does not even have the advantage of chili powder to camouflage its essential nature, and it is pumped at Chef Boyardee headquarters through a multitude of tubes, like Bob Hoskins in the movie Brazil, except those tubes are full of liquid meat, and they are making little Ravioli pods. Why would you cook it again? Merlin is fancy about whether you should eat it like a fucking bum. His friend could eat anything any time.

A bit after college in his early 20s John had a 3-bedroom apartment with a couple of guys and their kitchen had so many flies in it that no-one ever went in there again and they remained in that area although there was no door in the kitchen because that is where they were born and where they fell in love. Their whole culture was there! They had a détente: They lived in this room and the flies lived in the kitchen and John never went in that kitchen again under the whole 3 years he lived there. It was his Munich. You can have the Sudetenland, which is our kitchen, we will have peace for our time (reference to the Neville Chamberlain speech).

Merlin puts a lot of Half & Half into his coffee. John likes Half & Half, but Merlin goes through a lot of it, he goes through a lot of everything. He makes strong coffee in his office in his dingus and then he will pour in an admixture of hot water and Half & Half until it is exactly the perfect temperature to drink immediately.

John will drink room temperature Pop. Merlin has just recently read the diary manuscript pages again that John sent back to his professor from his walk across Europe, they are fantastic and he should write a book about it. Merlin will write about email if John will write a book about his walk. It sounds like John’s diet was uneven at best and his feet were ringing. Sometimes he did eat roots and berries if he was lucky.

How John became a less picky eater (RL71)

John was the most picky of all picky eaters when he was a kid. He only ate 4 menu items: Macaroni and cheese, boil-in-the-bag Salisbury Steak, Pizza, and Spaghetti if you put the spaghetti sauce in the blender and blend all visible lumps out of it. What John’s mom ended up doing was make spaghetti sauce with drizzle tomato sauce and she wouldn’t put anything in it. John was very stubborn and multiple times he sat at the table in front of a cup of cold peas until it was time to go to bed and he wouldn’t eat until continuing to not feed him would constitute child abuse (see RL185). He wasn’t crying, he was just sitting quietly, staring over the top of the cold peas.

When he was in High School and had a car he was growing and was getting big and at lunch time he would go to McDonalds and get two cheeseburgers, a 20-piece Chicken McNugget, a Strawberry shake, a Strawberry sundae, an Apple Turnover, and one other thing, a meal that would feed a soccer team. He wouldn’t eat a green vegetable and he had a powerful gag reflex and if you would put a piece of broccoli under his nose he would be retching like he was in an outhouse.

It was a big reason why never went on a foreign exchange program although it was suggested to him because it might straighten him out or show him something about the world that was going to change his weird little provincial attitudes. He was afraid to even apply for fear that he would end up going some place where they would feed him frog’s legs and clams and made him eat lettuce. He sheltered himself from experience all the way through High School, largely based on: ”Am I going to be able to get to a McDonalds or to Taco Bell?” Even at Taco Bell he would order tacos with no lettuce and the cheeseburgers at McDonalds were plain with no ketchup or mustard.

This was true of John into college. Unfortunately the food you get in college is basically exactly John’s menu with pizza, mac & cheese, and Salisbury Steak. Until he was 20 he had an incredibly small palate and he lived in fear of the wider world strictly because if he ended up going home with somebody for dinner and their mom put a plate of food in front of him that he couldn’t eat or they made lumpy spaghetti sauce.

Many times he was at somebody’s house and they had made spaghetti and everybody was happy, but John was dying inside and got panicky because he didn’t know if it was going to be fine or if it was going to have big green peppers in it and onions and all these things. You can not eat spaghetti at someone’s house and pick out the green peppers. John has done it all: He put the food in his pockets and wrapped it in a napkin and stole the napkin.

John had been like this hitchhiking across the States because everybody has a hamburger in America and if you have any choice of food you will be fine because you can just choose a hamburger and it is fine. Then he went to Europe for the first time and for most of the time he was just living on French Bread and cheese. You can find a ham sandwich, a piece of French Bread with a thin slice of ham and some cheese everywhere you go.

One day he was on a train that deposited him in Innsbruck, Austria at the end of the day. Instead of heading left he headed right and he met the lady who made him the asparagus with the hollandaise sauce (see RL58). It was past closing time and she laid out an entire banquet for him.

The conflicts about John’s pickiness didn’t start with his mom, but his dad was weird about food. When John was a little kid, after they got divorced, his dad would come stay with them and he remembers this moment although he couldn’t have been any older than 3.5, but his dad got up with him and his mom slept in and he made him eggs. His mom would always make his eggs sunny side up and he would pop the yolks and eat the yolks with toast. His dad scrambled the eggs or made them some other way, he made the eggs wrong and John refused. Up until that point he had eaten everything, it wasn’t a problem.

His dad lost his mind and was screaming and it was a traumatic experience and he was not going to eat those eggs because he knew what an egg looked like and this was some garbage food. John and his dad had a showdown and it was the first time there had ever been any conflict between them because they had always been very close. His mom came running into the kitchen: ”Leave him alone!” - ”You are ruining him!” and it sticks in John’s head not just because it has been talked about since, but because it planted a big flag in the ground and from that point on food was the way that he could control his environment.

Any time a plate landed in front of him, if it was something he had never seen before he was just: ”No way!” and his palate stayed at the chicken strips / grilled cheese sandwich level of a 3.5 year old and with every passing year he just reinforced it in his mind and in everything he did. He grew up in Alaska, but he never ate fish of any kind. People would pull King Salmons out of the Kenai river and gut them right there and throw them on the open fire and everyone else was digging it. A King Salmon right out of the river is like ambrosia and John was eating a hot dog.

His teenage friends wondered what that matter was with him. They were eating a fish that just came out of a river! Think about it! They were thinking about it as they were eating this delicious fish that just came out of the river! No thanks, John was just going to stick with this amazing and pure hot dog that wasn’t just in a river. The one thing that holds over from that time is that John still eats at Arby’s from time to time, although not very often, and an Arby’s sandwich is probably the worst thing that humans have ever devised (see also RL13). You know the food gets there in tanker trucks and they just plug a huge fire hose into a slot in the wall and pump it in.

That experience in Innsbruck was like going from black & white to color. Asparagus was on the very top of his list of things he would never ever eat. It looked and smelled so wrong. All this with the knowledge that Europeans have no idea how to cook asparagus: they eat white canned, limp, gross and soggy asparagus that is nothing compared to the amazing olive-oil drenched broiled asparagus, but even this soggy Austrian asparagus was so delicious and so astonishing that it could have been in the world the whole time while John was sitting on his cold log eating a hot dog while his friends were eating French salmon.

Merlin has the same experience with his daughter who is a 5-year old in many ways. Merlin had a handful of women tell him that their relationship with food became really fucked up in a divorced family where food became a way to control something in an environment that they didn’t have control in. Merlin will just ask his daughter to try a bite, but they are not going to make her eat shrimp with lobster sauce. She has a habit of not liking stuff until she tries it. Merlin has met a lot people with often shameful things like that, like being an adult bedwetter.

John being a bedwetter until 4th grade, deciding nothing could shame him (RL71)

John was a bedwetter until he was embarrassingly old, at least until he was in 4th grade. He did not give any outward sign of being affected by his parents’ divorce and all the little broken gauges all came out in these other ways. They tried everything they could to get him to stop bedwetting and in the mid-1970s there was an appliance that took the form of a complete sheet of stainless steel that was under his sheet and that was connected with two electrode clamps to a loud buzzer and if he wet the bed in the middle of the night the liquid hit this sheet and made the alarm go off, which shouldn’t make a shame problem worse. It was supposed to wake the child up and that way they would learn to equate their full bladder with the need to get up at night and go to the bathroom.

John was no dummy and he pulled the sheet back, figured out how it worked, and took the electrode off the sheet and then he would wet the bed and wake up in the morning and lean over and plug it back in and it would immediately start sounding and his mom came running in: ”You just wet the bed now? It is time to wake up! You made it all the way through the night and you just wet the bed now? I don’t understand!” and for a long time he pulled this scam convincing his mom that he would sleep all the way through the night and then just pee 2 minutes before she was about to wake him up. It was better than being woken up in the middle of the night by an alarm.

It was another thing that kept John from going to slumber parties and from going over to other kids houses. The person he is today is absolutely a product of the person he was at 10-12. He already had the sense of adventure that he has now, but it was in a shell of timidity brought on by fear of being exposed as a picky eating bedwetting thumb-sucking kid that played with GI Joes until he was 17. He was a very late bloomer.

John felt a prisoner of kid-shame, not for anything he had done specifically, and he was not even afraid of kids pointing at him and calling him a bedwetter, but he was afraid of adults doing it because in the 1970s it was not far outside of the realm of possibility that some coach of teacher or friend’s parent would call him a little baby. Living confined by kid-shame was a big part of him at some point deciding that it would be impossible to shame him.

It was the moment he realized that the only reason you couldn’t be gay in the CIA was because that would give the Russians power over you and you are vulnerable because you can be exposed. People were so afraid of being exposed that they were enslaved. It is not hard to enslave another person: You just find out what they are afraid of other people knowing and then you hold it over their head.

The umbrella guy at the Kennedy assassination (RL71)

Merlin read about Ann Curry, but he didn’t see the umbrella story. Right when Kennedy was assassinated as he was driving past The Grassy Knoll in Dallas, there is a man standing right at the point of impact when the first bullet hits with an open umbrella. It was one of the major ”What the fucks?” Why was this guy at that exact spot on a sunny November day? Everybody thought that this has to be connected.

Errol Morris, who made a film about McNamara (The Fog of War) with the camera that talks to you, has interviewed a guy who went through great lengths to find the umbrella guy (short documentary The Umbrella Man) who came forward and testified before congress at the end of the 1970s. His story was that his open umbrella was a reference to Chamberlain’s umbrella as a protest against Kennedy’s dad who was a Nazi sympathizer, which is extremely subtle. If you examine any historical moment in excruciating detail, the number of things that are too bizarre to describe will blow your mind.

The same with the Boston Marathon bombing (one week prior to this episode’s recording): How many suspicious looking guys with backpacks are there at the finish line of the Boston Marathon? Turns out: A lot!

Iconic photographs, Mountain Girl (RL71)

Whenever a photographer makes an iconic image, like the one of Winston Churchill looking taciturn, you usually don’t see it alongside the 17 rejects with white X on it. John’s favorite picture of him is the one with the Tommy Gun. It becomes like the Mona Lisa: You see it so many times that you go dead to the foreground and the background. It is amazing when you get to see a whole sequence of photos how completely different a scene looks in a fraction of a second and it changes the entire story. Imagine you saw the nurse slapping the sailor on V-J Day! Or the Italian woman walking down the street with all the guys whistling after her (American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin) If they hadn’t captured that one moment if would have been a completely different story.

This came up for John the other day: There is that iconic picture of Mountain Girl next to Jerry Garcia (from The Grateful Dead) in probably 1967 right before he grew a beard. The first time John saw this picture was back in the 1980s when seeing pictures of your favorite Rock stars was not just a simple matter. You did not just google Mountain Girl and immediately get every picture of her ever taken, but you would cut them out of Magazines. You would buy Up and Down With the Rolling Stones (book by Tony Sanchez) and you would pour over the two pages of pictures in the middle of the book because those were the only candid pictures of The Rolling Stones you had ever seen.

The first time John saws the picture of Mountain Girl with Jerry Garcia before he had his beard is a picture of utter carnage and horror because he is a terrible looking person with a weak chin that his beard later concealed and it is crazy to think that he was the leader of this whole movement, but once he grew the beard he is amazing looking, like Santa Claus (see RL54), and he rightfully never shaved it again. But Mountain Girl to John at 21 years old was so beautiful, like the girl in the Obermeyer Ski Catalog (see RL66), and she looks a lot like her.

This picture of Mountain Girl, looking up, slightly squinting her eyes, dark hair, so fresh and clean, embodies the 1960s from John’s perspective in the mid-to-late-1980s when 1960s-worship was at its highest and John was at 18/19 years old consumed by this nostalgia for the 1960s and the feeling of loss and regret that he hadn’t lived through the 1960s and they were lost forever and now they were stuck in those miserable 1980s. John wanted so much to be with Mountain Girl. It didn’t have anything to do with the Grateful Dead because John didn’t particularly like them, although he had a period where he hung out with Deadheads. John often has multiple periods simultaneously. he had a lot of Deadhead friends and he saw them live 3 times.

There is the movie 1969 starring Iron Man Robert Downey Jr, Kiefer Sutherland, and Winona Ryder that came out in 1988, a super-stroke-off ”The 1960s, man! The 1990s are going to make the 1960s look like the 1950s, man!” (Dennis Hopper’s famous quote from the movie Flashback). John spent years thinking that Mountain Girl was his ideal Hippie girl, but he had only ever seen the one picture of her. At a certain point many years ago he just assumed that she had gone up into the mountains and never come down, or that she had turned into an eagle. What happened was that she married Jerry Garcia, had two kids, and wrote a book about cooking with pot and she is still alive today.

The other John was thinking of her and google her and there are all these pictures of her. She is cute, but no so cute that she would burn herself into a person’s mind for 25 years, and the Mountain Girl of John’s imagination trumps the real Mountain Girl because he only ever saw this one great picture of her, and there were probably 25 pictures on either side of it that no-one has ever seen, which is so unfair, considering how many terrible pictures of John are out there. Merlin thinks John looks very different from different angles.

John doesn’t think he is going to shave his beard again, not because he has a weak chin, but he has too much face. Merlin thinks John has big everything. Normally you can only have one big thing on your body, and John has a really big melon head, big nose, big wide shoulders, André the Giant: Everything on him looks big, it is Gallic, and Merlin thinks that John pretty French in a lot of ways.

There is this famous photo of Winston Churchill by Yousuf Karsh with his head slightly down, a cane, he looks great, and he had asked Churchill to remove the cigar from his mouth, Churchill refused, Karsh walked up to Churchill, supposedly to get a light level, and casually pulled the signature cigar from the lips of Churchill and walked back toward the camera and clicked his camera remote, capturing the ”determined” look. With that in mind he looks like a fat man who is pouting, and further down on that link there is the one of him smiling broadly from the same set and it looks like Oliver Hardy.

The life of a gym coach being so much easier (RL71)

The story of Julius McCray is Shower down to get an A! Merlin doesn’t understand what makes you want to be a gym coach, but maybe you have to be a jock in order to understand a jock. John thinks they probably live a fairly happy life that is happier than his. It is uncomplicated by wondering why and fretting about stuff that can’t be fixed. A jock throws a ball, catches a ball, has a feeling of accomplishment, it maybe is just as real as the accomplishment as writing a great novel if you catch a great touch-down pass and it saves the day for the team.

A lot of the guys who didn’t have the glory for themselves or their glory days are behind them and they get to work with kids and bask in the reflected glory of young people having those experiences. There is somebody out there right now who has reached his career pinnacle and he is secondary teams coach for a small Midwestern college and he is out there for 50 years on the sidelines, season after season. Those seem like valid, poetic, and beautiful lives and it is never a thing John can relate to at all.

He can only picture himself if it was Freaky Friday and they switched positions and John was standing there in his polyester pants with the wind blowing over his windbreaker, watching the secondary defense squad running drills for a minute and a half and then looking around, wondering where the bus station is. But people devote their whole lives to it. John’s dad would probably been a happier guy if he had just followed the sports thread of his young life and had found a way to stay in sports without all the pressure of trying to make a difference and trying to settle disputes with labor unions.

Merlin says that jocks shouldn’t be fat, but John thinks by the same reasoning Christians shouldn’t smoke pot. Merlin doesn’t understand coaches, and he doesn’t like those shorts. At his High School they had to find some phoney-baloney jobs, they might have mentioned it in the Mr. Finnell episode (see RL11, probably not). They are all history teachers or social studies teachers. The soccer coach taught in-school suspension and sat in a silent room for 6 hours a day, watching people who had gotten in a fight. He looked like somebody who listened to Peter Frampton and followed a lady to a car, but not in a good way.

Framton Comes Alive! (RL71)

John is not a Frampton fan. The first time he ever heard Frampton Comes Alive! was also the first time he saw somebody light a fart. He was over at a kid’s house and he had big brothers and they were playing Framton Comes Alive! and they asked him if he wanted to see something cool. That album is where Merlin learned the Amaj7 chord. It is a great chord and the official chord of the 1970s. Merlin’s guitar is just out of reach. That should be the name of John’s autobiography for the last 7 years: My Guitar is Just Out of Reach.

John not playing as much music anymore (RL71)

John saw his good friend Will Johnson of the band Centro-matic last night and he has put out 12 albums since the last Long Winters record. He and Dave Bazan was standing around in a circle with John and Dave Bazan plays 200 road shows a year and Will is in 10 bands and puts out 4 records a year. They were all talking shop, but there was a time 10 years ago when they would do that and they all had very duplicatable experiences, and now they are talking about Jimmie’s Chicken Shack down in Osceola Florida and John has given some keynote speeches. They used to play so many shows together and why haven’t they played any shows lately? John is the reason for that.

John giving his first PowerPoint presentation at EMP Pop Conference 2013 (RL71)

Yesterday John gave his first PowerPoint presentation. He was at EMP, the Experience Music Project (now called MoPOP, Museum of Pop Culture) on the Pop Conference where intellectuals and journalists get together to talk about Pop music as though it is a serious academic discipline. John’s presentation was about weathering the storm, the fall-out of his Punk Rock article (called Punk Rock is Bullshit) and they wanted him to do a presentation and sent him a bunch of templates in emails he didn’t open that day before (The talk is still available here).

There is a gal who works over at the Grammy Awards where John is also on the board and he asked her to make him a PowerPoint and he didn’t need to see it, it was fine. Just make a PowerPoint demonstrations that is x minutes long that has pictures of Punk Rockers and Punk Rock. She didn’t even like his article very much, which was perfect. The slides were programmed to change every 15 seconds, going on behind him, and he had never seen it before and he still hasn’t seen it because he wasn’t looking at it while he was talking. That is terrifying to Merlin.

John knew he was going over his allotted time and the last slide was going to just sit there and the only advice he gave her was that he wanted that slide to say ”Fuck you!” and she did it. It was great because it was terrible. Merlin suggests John could just have somebody with sink-stoppers in their ears slowly flip through an NME (New Musical Express)or a Maximum R&R (probably the Maximumrocknroll zine) while he was up there. Just get a barista and an overhead projector! John has not practiced or rehearsed it, but he improvised it and gave no thought to it until he arrived. John likes to give Impromptu speeches and generally the response is good.

Merlin heard it said that the only people who really need poles when they ski are beginners and experts. The typical moderate-level skier doesn’t really need the poles to ski. To Merlin that is slides. If you are nervous and you don’t know what you are saying they make the classic mistake of having a bunch of bullshit slides with tiny letters on them and they are doing the rookie mistake of reading off the slides. Merlin knew his slides got better when they didn’t make any sense on their own.

It would really frustrate him when people would demand slides, they wanted him to send them their deck so they could print it out and put it in their binder. It is like handing somebody the fucking script for The Godfather II right before the movie rolls. That is not the thing! Merlin would send people his slides and on their own they would make no sense at all. There was a picture of a cardboard box, a douchebag making two devil’s horns while he bites his lower lip. The shittiness of presentation culture is so deeply ingrained in not only the people who give the talks and the people who have to suffer the talks, but also the people who put on the talks.

Merlin did a talk a year or two ago where he was expected to hand them a PDF because they couldn’t handle a Keynote file with all the builds and stuff, and then he had a remote to change the slide, except that remote sent a signal to someone that turned on a light to let this guy in another room know to advance toe slide. Imagine you had cards that you hold up to let someone know what chords to fret. He did what he ends up doing 80% of the time, which is to say: ”No slides!”

Merlin watching holocaust documentaries (RL71)

Merlin saw a documentary of Hollywood’s treatment of the holocaust and they talked about one scene in Sophie’s Choice where Meryl Streep is walking across the concentration camp. John had never seen the movie and always thought it was about horses, like National Velvet. It turns out My Friend Flicks was about the Sudetenland. John didn’t see that movie either. Meryl Streep has a very peculiar gate and is walking strangely, she is very ill, and she is walking across the ground being led along by a mean Auschwitz ladies. It is very memorable when you see it.

They hired consultants because they wanted to get every detail right. She wasn’t walking like that because she was malnourished, but because there were several inches of mud and you would make every attempt you could to follow the footsteps of other people in the mud so you wouldn’t get bogged down or fall down in the mud (Merlin told this story because he previously talked about how people are getting in a rut). He also watched three movies about antisemitic propaganda the other night.

Being more deliberate what ethnic group we are talking about, generalizing Arabs or Semites (RL71)

John was feeling the other day that when we talk about semites it is all the people of Arabia and the Levant, but antisemite only refers to Jews. Semitic is a description of a language group that includes Arabic and Aramaic and Hebrew. Merlin doesn’t want to go ping pong, but he is a total piker and as a holocaust scholar he didn’t know that. Anti-semite only became more of a targeted reference to Jews in the 19th century when the Germans were really wrestling with how to integrate the Jews into their culture and they decided not to - spoiler alert!

Merlin wants to ask John about his tweet from yesterday. After 9/11 Sikhs were being beat up and there was this entire Venn-diagram of confusion about whom we were supposed to be mad at. Anybody with a turban and Sikhs couldn’t have been further from the truth. Indian and Pakistani guys were getting hassled, too and even though they are very similar racially they have very different religions. There are 700 different racial groups in India.

John’s tweet was ”Remember that a Chechen is not a Czech, nor a Chetnik, nor a Moravian, a Moldavian/Moldovan, or a Monrovian, nor a Roman, Roma, or Romanian!” It is exemplifying an unbelievable error that we all make, including Merlin. He is the ”I don’t even own a TV” guy about the news. He actually doesn’t follow the news and he is also constantly letting you know that he doesn’t. His filter file on Tweetbot actually slows his computer down and you can’t even begin to visualize how many things he never sees anywhere. John talks a bit about the people from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia and how we think of them as Russians, but they are not that at all.

Chechnya is a weird little landlocked mountain read-out that doesn’t want to be in Russia anymore and it is ruled by an autocratic dictator who thinks he is God. John is not talking about Turkmenistan, that guy is amazing, but Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, and Tajikistan are all on the other side of the Caspian sea and they are much more the horse riding people. The Turkmenistan dictator has built a couple of Brasilias out in the middle of nowhere that are full of pyramids and globes.

Moravia is half of the Czech Republic and together with Bohemia they are united in their contempt for Slovakians. Moldova used to be part of Romania and they speak Romanian, but it was absorbed into Ukraine (John said The Ukraine again!) and the changed the alphabet of the Romanian language into Cyrillic. All these places are probably going to erupt in war and everyone will be sent to camps.

The Beatles, Happiness is a Warm Gun (RL71)

Georgia, setting aside the White Album (by The Beatles), ”Ma-ma-ma-ma-mind.” Merlin’s daughter loves that song (what song?) and loves to hear it on repeat. She is cool! It is a good song. The song Happiness is a Warm Gun is very important to The Beatles. It is the last song they had fun making. In the outtakes from And Your Bird Can Sing you can hear how high they were and they are laughing.

Admitting at the doctor’s if you drink or smoke (RL71)

John doesn’t want to say on a public broadcast that he has been high before. The CIA might still have him in their file. When he goes to the doctor and they put the piece of paper in front of him, asking if he had done any drugs or smoked cigarettes, there is no way he is going to tell them. If they find an undifferentiated mass in his lung, they are both going to wander where it came from.

Merlin has a good friend who had a really bad traumatic injury to his hand and many listeners will be able to figure out who this is. He went to the doctor because he severed a nerve and it was a big deal and of course they ask you if you take Ibuprofen, if you smoke, if you drink, and of course, like Merlin, he paused conspicuously. If you are the information taker at that facility you can get good at something in a day if you do it often enough and within a week you are going to be fucking Kreskin at knowing whether somebody drinks a lot or whether somebody lies.

They don’t just ask you if you drink, but how many drinks per week you have. Merlin’s friend says that the rookie thing is to say that you have a couple of drinks a day, like he is talking to a cop, which is exactly what Merlin would say which really means he has about 3-4 times that much, and Merlin’s friend’s wife could just hold herself back not to knock him onto the floor. She said: ”When they ask you how much you drink, you say: I only drink socially!”, which Merlin finds a great answer because it doesn’t answer the question. John thinks it is an archaic Mad Men answer. It sounds like something you heard your mother say to your father many times. Or maybe when she asks you how many drinks you have per week you say: ”Do you think you are better than me?”

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