RL91 - Roller Derby Boyfriend

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: Here’s my Hitler painting, referring to John briefly thinking about buying an actual Hitler painting.

The show title refers to people who own Gacy paintings and are a particular type of Roller Derby Boyfriend who have all the Modern Primitives books on their shelves and they think owning a Gacy painting is edgy.

Things are going good!

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

John’s different robes (RL91)

John got out of the bathtub specifically to do this podcast and he was sitting in his Hawkeye Pierce outfit: a wet cotton kimono with large blue flowers, a baseball hat from Merrill Field Airport and some Ugg Slippers. He wants to live in a world where he dresses in kimonos, but he doesn’t live in that world. He would wear a big serious warrior kimono, wooden sandals and a baseball hat to the bank like a normal guy. Merlin feels self-conscious if he wears a robe for too long. The kimono John had right now is not the robe that he uses to defend his perimeter at night with a sword.

John's longest standing robe, if not the longest in length, is a Pendleton robe that belonged to his dad and that is made out of the scratchiest wool that you wouldn’t make a blanket for a horse out of, but for some reason Pendleton made it into a robe in the 1940s and John’s dad had it for his whole life until John stole it from him. It is literally an expression of a hair shirt and at that point you are like a wet horse. First the bath soothes you and instead of jumping into a cold pond you jump into a totally harsh robe. After John grew to adulthood he said to himself he doesn’t have to wear this robe all the time, but it is a robe to wear over silk pajamas where its scratchiness isn’t a factor.

John also has a white Terry Cloth robe like you would steal from a hotel and he wore that for a long time except that the sleeves are too short. Then he bought a blue Terry Cloth robe, but made the classic mistake of buying it in XXL because in the old robe the sleeves were too short and XXL should then fit him properly, but he looks like Rasputin in this thing and the sleeves are 4 feet (120 cm) too long because it is made for a 500 pound (225 kg) man. The sleeves are like wizard sleeves and Peter the Great would lop off John’s beard if he caught him in this robe.

This is the robe that John wears out into the yard because it wraps around you like a snuggie or a Terry Cloth house and it is also midnight blue and blends in. It is something like Hammacher Schlemmer would come up for Christmas time, it is basically designed for you and a friend. John has confirmed that raccoons can’t see it because it is a certain color and has a shark skin quality that raccoons just think is leaves blowing in the wind and they walk right up on you. John just started collecting kimonos recently.

Merlin’s office (RL91)

Merlin and his wife went on their honeymoon with their moms and they liked the robs at the Victorian Gasthaus in Sinoma Countyand so much that their moms bought them the fancy robes. Merlin feels feeble in it. It is very big, thirsty and comfortable, and nice for coming out of the shower. Merlin’s office is a block from his house, but would he walk in this robe from his house to his office? When he got this office he has measured the time it takes to walk there and he can easily listen to the first two verses of Thunder Road. Merlin has been at resorts and large hotels where it would take him far more time to walk to the lobby of the hotel.

Sometimes Merlin has to do a TV-related Internet thing where he has to go and do something at the office. His sartorial decisions for ambling towards the office are getting more and more informal. He has now had this office for four years and he would always get dressed like a gentleman, but lately he has been sliding into sweatpants territory. People would tell him that they have seen him the other day and they have all seen him walk in the area, so why not just wear a garbage bag with two holes cut out? A week ago Merlin was really sick and his standards slipped even further. He started going to the office without his wallet and only take his phone, because he usually listens to music or a podcast and it slips in a jacket sleeve pocket. Where he will be in 2.5 months? It is just going to be him on rollerblades with a dish towels wrapped around his waist.

Going to the office without a wallet can end up in a problematic situation if you suddenly need two chili dogs. It is not even a money thing, but Merlin berates his beloved wife when she goes out of the house without all of the kit. He is a big believer of carrying a giant backpack everywhere he goes and he has always got everything with him: Several forms of identification, cash, cards, and he has heuristics to not lose things. The door of his office requires a key to get in and luckily the door locks with the same key, which is the one-key life hack. Merlin wonders if he at a certain point will put on a comfortable warm jacket and walk to the office in his underwear.

A lady walking to her office in her underwear would seem like a Penthouse forum thing. John’s favorite thing in the world is a lady in a trench-coat with nothing else on. He has that image in a lyric in the unreleased song Not Moving to Portland. Knowing how scared Merlin is of everything John suggested a shirt to him with the text ”Driven by fear” in very tiny paint-dripping 1980s rollerskating letters from the mall with a little kitty-cat on a branch. Merlin can see pushing himself to that. Like with procrastination or any kind of substance abuse where you get away with something for a while, you eventually have to see how far you can push it. Merlin may walk home tonight with his wang out to see if he can do it.

Being ready to climb a fence (RL91)

John has made a practice out of wandering around his local neighborhood in nothing but a bathrobe and a sword and he finds it incredibly liberating, but he would not go into a car like that. When Merlin is driving somewhere he really likes to take a blanket because what if something happens with the car and they are stuck out there? They should have some energy bars, some gallons of water, and some extra oil, because if somebody T-bones the car and everyone else is knocked unconscious, Merlin has to escape through a side window. Is he going to get his fucking bathrobe tangled in the read view mirror?

You could drive naked for years and never have a problem, but one day you will forget your driver’s license and you are entering a world of pain. This is why John won't get a belly button piercing: He doesn’t want anything that could possibly get snapped if he has to go over a chain link fence. He thinks that you should make all of your life decisions based on if there is a chance that you have to go over a chain link fence today. When John walks around his perimeter in his bathrobe, he always makes sure there is never a fence between him and the front door behind which is his small bag and his arsenal of medieval weapons. It may not come up for years, but then it might come up three times in a couple of days, like if Mossad is after him.

John gets into this all the time with people and their stupid shoes. Make your shoes as fancy as you want, make them 10 feet tall with a fish bowl in the soles, but if you cannot make the pace in the shoes or get the heck out of those shoes in a hurry and make the pace? Sometimes John is walking around and all of a sudden he is holding hands with an Instagimp. They looked great at the party and it is only a couple of blocks over to get to the next party but then they are limping and their feet are bleeding. How the fuck do those people live in the world? The great pantheon of women’s shoes includes plenty of cute little shoes that can also be used to scale a fence. There are lots of very handsome boots that a lady can wear that are attractive, comfortable and ready for evading Mossad when it comes up.

People not dressing as nicely anymore (RL91)

The crazy Italian and French super-custom-made really high-end fashion have been marching their runway models up and down the street in logger boots for 30 years. There is nothing new to it: Giant Gene Simmons Kiss boots and motorcycle boots. Why don’t all women take the cue that that is the best shoe? A black knee-high motorcycle boot goes with everything! We have crossed this bridge time and time again, but John keeps seeing people choosing pumps because it makes a girl’s foot look like a cloven hoof. Being in the court of Louis XIV where you are deliberately wearing completely impractical clothes to show how powerful you are is one thing. No-one will require you to lift a thing except your petticoats to go to the bathroom behind the curtain or to hide a page or a horseman. John would happily hide under a petticoat.

John often bemoans the fact that people dress shabbily when there are so many wonderful ways to dress that are just as comfortable as shabby dressing. When his mom was a kid back in the 1940s everybody dressed great and it was a much more beautiful world where all men were in suits, all women were in dresses and everybody was wearing a hat. John is longing for it, although he only ever saw the tail end of it.

His mom replied that those photographs do not convey that everybody smelled to high heaven. It was before deodorant had been invented and people doused themselves with perfumes and powders. Rich people smelled like a Victoria’s Secret dressing room and poor people smelled like toilets. Everywhere you went you were constantly assaulted by poop and powder while when you are in a public space today and somebody smells strongly it stands out. Back in the 1930s and 1940 everybody just reeked.

Everybody was wearing wool suits all year round and people owned fewer clothes. They took care of them and mended them, and a normal person maybe had 3 or 4 suits. Merlin ordered 12 pairs of white Gold Toes socks from Amazon today because it really is that simple. One time Merlin's good friend Jesse Thorn gave John a real lecture because John was wearing white Gold Toes with a suit.

The last time Merlin ordered socks was August (3 months earlier). He had a hole in his sock, which only happens about twice a year because he throws his socks out when they get too gross. Back then you might have had 5-10 year old underwear just as a matter of course. You got wool, you had to wear a suit to work, but not everybody in the 1940s was like Jesse Thorn with a lot of fancy suits and people would wear the same suit they wore yesterday and the day before. The shapes of the foundation wear for ladies were not natural and women wore 10 layers of underwear.

How cities were disgusting in the past (RL91)

People were pretty stinky back in 1840 and in France they are still pretty stinky even today. The most extraordinary aspect of traveling back in time would be that your smell senses would be assaulted immediately after you landed. People on the Lower East Side were butchering animals in the streets instead of going to the Whole Foods organic chicken place. They were grabbing a chicken off the roof and cutting its throat. The streets were running with blood, offal, poop and pee, yet we look at those pictures and say ”Aw, simple times!”

Seattle was largely constructed in the last 100 years, and Anchorage in 1940 was four pub-tents and a windmill. The entire city of Anchorage has been built after the advent of All Mod Cons (1978-11-03) and there was no opportunity to ever smell an open sewer. John first experienced a smell come up out of a hole in the ground that suggested the amazing warren of dookie pipes in New York City, a city full of people. The smell was unfamiliar and John had to control his retching, but he also knew what it represented.

The streets of Paris are just strewn with feces because they don’t curb their dogs there, first of all. Part of being a Parisian is to walk down the street with your shitty little dog and let it shit anywhere. It is a cultural problem and they are really adamant about it. Your dog can also sit at a table in a café, It is part of the Gaelic culture and John doesn’t understand it because they are being deliberately annoying.

Paris was also built by the Romans and the underlying foundational sewer system is still Roman made from Terracotta with gravity-fed poop tumblers which was incredible 2000 years ago. Anytime you go into an European bathroom, the first thing you are struck by is ”That is your toilet? And that is your bathtub? Interesting!” Americans share so much with Europe, but kitchen appliances and bathroom facilities are always just a little bit off, like the cars in the Woody Allen film Sleeper. They look like they are from the future, but you can tell that they are just a papier-mâché car over the top of a Lambretta. John always thinks the same way when he is looking at a European dishwasher or bathtub.

Manhattan (RL91)

The last time Merlin was staying in a pretty quiet hotel in the Garment District of New York, he looked out the window and there was something going on all night long all the time, which is very different from almost anywhere Merlin has ever lived, including San Francisco where everything closes pretty early by metropolitan city standards. New York really feels like a big breathing, eating, pissing, and shitting organism, there are trucks delivering stuff to crazy places at crazy hours, and they are hosing down the street. It feels like a brute. Manhattan feels like a giant complex animal that we just happened to be living on for a while.

The great thing about Manhattan is that there are no alleys. Most cities in America were built with alleys for delivery, trash and all the facilities. UPS people in Manhattan are fucking wizards and have to make it to the most improbable places in the craziest traffic. People learn how to park on top of phone poles, because, talking about Keep moving and get out of the way, everywhere you are, as soon as you stop moving you are in 500 people’s way. There are no alleys and no backdoors to anything and all the deliveries and all garbage has to come in and out through the same front door that also business is being conducted through. The city can’t afford to rest because there is no such thing as ”I just put it out back, we will figure it out!” If you put something out on the sidewalk and go back in, it will go away, while in San Francisco you can let people drop off deliveries behind some access door because everything is public.

John thinks Manhattan is the most amazing place. Any hour of the day, even at 4am, you don't have to walk more than a couple of blocks from where you are to find a place with a 4-course meal: Chicken Parmesan, Apple Pie, Decaf Coffee and Fried Calamari. There would be people there who think that is the most reasonable thing in the world and they will bring it to you with no comment and there will be people around you having similar meals. There is going to be a guy working on his novel, there will be two sweethearts canoodling in the corner, and all that is just normal.

San Francisco is a really weird place. There are not that many fast food places and there are not that many gas stations, but in Florida for example all kinds of places were open 24 hours. There were enormous 24 pump gas stations with a Blimpie inside that were open fucking 24 hours a day. The Walmart is open 24 hours a day and you can buy a lawnmower in the middle of the night. The difference is that in Florida there are loonies in the middle of the night and the only people who are out there at 2am are there for something lured, generally.

People being out alone in the middle of the night (RL91)

When John drives around his own town in the middle of the night, reflecting on why the fuck everybody is not out hanging out with each other, he can’t but come back to the fact that we are all at home watching television. It is not that everybody is asleep, but everybody is watching workout commercials and weight-loss commercials alone in their little sanctums. They are not making the small extra effort of going to that small place that is open and go to sit and read a paperback. This is the one time of day when John does like to be in a place where there is a little hustle and bustle around, like a Denny’s type place where you can get a piece of pie with a cup of coffee and you can write your journal or read your paperback. We all take that kind of experience for granted as being lonely, but in fact those are the greatest experiences that we should all seek out.

It does not replace carving a turkey with your family and friends, but it replaces sitting in front of a TV watching garbage in the middle of the night. Replacing solitary television watching with anything else like walking around the block is a net improvement. Even having a cigarette out on the back porch, shivering in your night gown, is ultimately better for our spirits than the passive TV. People are embarrassed to dine by themselves, while John thinks that dining by yourself is the ultimate power move, especially if you have a book. Merlin also likes eating by himself, and going to the movies by himself is the best.

Before the Baby Boomers realized that they were going to die, they went through a phase where they needed to cherish themselves because every moment was precious. John and Merlin were 25 years younger and didn’t understand it because they hated themselves as God intended. Now John is starting to see that cherishing yourself does not mean buying something expensive for yourself, but taking yourself to the fucking movies! Merlin enjoys watching extremely good TV and movies at night, but his taste is incredible and there should be an Amazon just with things Merlin likes.

A lot of people are uncomfortable being seen being alone and we are meant to feel bad about ourselves if we are in public by ourselves, unless you are on your way to a pap smear or an abortion, but John always offers women his services to take them to their pap smear or their abortion. He can read a fishing magazine in the lobby while it is happening. John has gone with some friends to their abortions and sat in the armored lobby while every other woman in the place was glaring at him because he read Women’s Wear Daily. Having an abortion is a thing where you really do need a friend and a culprit is not a friend.

Suburban culture is another part of it: When Merlin was a kid and wanted to go to Denny’s, he would have to get in his car and drive there. Why is there a 19 year old kid driving to Denny’s in the middle of the night? If you want to get a kebab at 4am in San Francisco there is a pretty good chance you could walk there in 10 or 15 minutes. One reason why Merlin puts up with so much horse shit in this stupid town he lives in is because it is pretty walkable and pretty public-transit-able.

Merlin is advancing in years and doesn’t need to go out in the middle of the night anymore because it will actually make school drop-off the next morning kind of hard, but he still likes that he can walk places and he despises having to get in a car to go somewhere and do a thing and drive back. He did that for so many years in Florida where he had to drive to Tampa for 40 minutes if he wanted to buy records and it was a bummer.

The one thing John failed to take into consideration when he bought his house was that he would have to drive everywhere. He loves to drive for sport, but he hates to drive out of necessity. There is one little shop near him, but it is useless because they don’t have Half and Half and all they sell is Faygo and Kools. They had never even heard of Half and Half and weren’t interested in learning about it.

John likes to drive and he is not drinking anyway, but everybody wants to have a fucking meeting at the other side of town. Just send him the Liner Notes! Is there something he can say "Yes" or "No" to? The traffic is so capricious! At 11:30 on a Wednesday it takes 5 minutes to go to town, and at 11:30am the next day under the absolutely same conditions it is stop-and-go traffic for an hour, it is just crazy-making!

John wants to fix this house up and he can see himself living there for 20 years, his mortgage payment is inexpensive, he has a lot of property, he has plenty of room, he can have a room just to practice the viola, as John Hodgman describes his childhood home, and John likes that, but he is consigning himself to either drive or being a weird hermit.

The internet is not what it was (RL91)

John cannot be a person who just lives on the Internet, but Merlin wonders if that includes John’s phone because although John acts like he is some cat lady sitting there alone with his PC, he tweets a lot. Lately John had some very strong feelings that in particular the part of the Internet where he lives in, the Twitternet and the Instagramnet with a Hail Mary Pass once a week to the Facebooknet, is now greatly diminished from what it was a year ago. Merlin was an early adopter of all these technologies and has already felt the great sorrow of how much worse it is than it was, but John has a career trying to provide top-shelf free content and Twitter is the only way he has to tell people that he is playing a show, and playing a show is the only way he has to connect with people outside of Twitter.

John was trying to promote things just recently, but Facebook has put up all those firewalls so your posts do no longer go to your friends, which is the worst! Facebook used to put his little tweets in the timeline of everybody who is friends with him, but then they realized that people like John were promoting things on there and now they don’t show your posts to 70% of your friends. It just randomly decides and it says that if you want your posts to go to all your friends, it will cost you $99, which is how they are trying to make money.

John used to send out things that generated a lot of interest and he felt that the Internet was a comfortable place that allowed him to transition away from needing magazines to write about his band because he could just write about his own band and promote himself, but in the intervening 4-5 years since he has been on Twitter, everybody in the world started to promote their cat videos and no-one has any attention span for it. Nobody reads their Twitter feed anymore, the Facebook feed is all gamed and John can no longer effectively communicate with people who want to find him.

People listening to this podcast already drank the Kool Aid and are ruined forever, pulling their fingers waiting for more information, but the majority of people out there that John is trying to reach are just normal ticket buyers who have smelled the Kool Aid, but haven’t had a taste of it yet. Among the people John follows, Paul and Storm's Kickstarters are taking up 3/4 of his Twitter feed. Everybody wants your attention, everybody is asking for money, and everybody is making a new thing they are very excited about. There is no distinction between John who makes things professionally, and the guy next door who makes things to keep the daemon dogs from filling his head with screaming and howling.

John feels that the Internet has legitimately moved on. By the time he joined Twitter, Merlin and his old cadres were already saying that Twitter was dead. It used to be so great and you could run a business this way, but that is all gone or ebbing and John doesn’t know what the next thing is. Do we go back to blogging? Should John design an app so that every time he farts in a glass it goes onto your phone? Merlin thinks that is a really good idea and John should get frtgls.co and get the lonely sandwich to do a promotional video for it. It is interesting that a successful independent artist like John looks at the cat video people and sees that they are eating off his plate. They are not not releasing records, but what are they doing?

There was a brief moment where there was an audience for being pithy with no expectations and it generated interest. It was all Merlin, John and all their friends every wanted: Getting paid just hanging out in a Chinese restaurant, talking funny about Rock ’n’ Roll. Isn’t that the dream job? For a brief moment they were basically doing that, but John was stupid enough to think that it will last. Now he is back into the ”Oh shit, I have to make something that rises up above the din”

Merlin feels the same way! He doesn’t check in on his Twitter timeline like he used to and he is beyond okay to just let the whole thing go by. When John goes to San Francisco, all he is doing is saying that he is going to San Francisco, ”See you guys there!”, with the assumption that all his friends are watching his Twitter to see what he is doing, but nobody is watching Twitter anymore. John hasn’t gone back to texting and emailing his actual friends, which was what Twitter was originally designed for, like ”I’m at this bar tonight!” and all your friends would see it.

In 1976 when Merlin was 10 his mom bought a house and did something that was very strange by her standards: She didn’t just get a touch tone phone, but they had an office phone on the wall in their kitchen. It had a red hold button and the two buttons for line 1 and 2 were white. They had a home line and a business line in their house, which you would only see someone fancy having, but that was their $28.000 house in Cincinnati.

Merlin's mom had a personal line and a business line for her real estate business, because that was many years before cell phones. There were very different rules and Merlin was never ever to use the business line, because that was not what it was for. This seems so exotic now! Think about being 10 years old and the phone in your kitchen has a hold button!Nobody had that when Merlin was a kid.

John’s Twitter doesn’t have a hold button, but it should have numerous white buttons. It is really just one big white button. John is using it to talk to his friend, to be funny to strangers, to promote his business, to talk about politics, and to bitch about how the door on the plane just closed. All the people who follow him are theoretically seeing all of this. Part of what made that so great was that the rules of Twitter are just wonderfully simple, but how can you be a real person on there with just one big white button? The integration of all those different realms was the primary revolution. Before that, the challenge was that his songs are a place where he is very passionate and writes about his feelings, about girls, about being disappointed and about being lonely and scared. They are not especially funny songs and they are not political songs.

When his songs were John’s only ambassador to the world, he had all this other penned up energy and desire to be understood. Unlike a lot of his peers who didn’t want to give interviews because the songs speak for themselves, John was the absolute opposite. He asked for interviews to contextualize his music in the larger picture of how he sees the world. Twitter was the first time when he had access to people who were interested in his songs and who wanted to know more.

John also got into fights with Hilton Hotels (see Tweetstorm), he also could talk about things late at night and he could also make jokes. That integration, that one button, felt like ”finally!” He didn’t want his songs to be a separate realm because every time he read a review about his music that said ”Well this guy obviously doesn’t know how words work. He is just throwing random words at a dart board!”, you fucking idiot, how could you listen to John’s music and think that?

Ever since Twitter John has felt very confident that if you are interested in The Long Winters, even a cursory search will deliver a person to a place where the whole spectrum is at least available to see. He doesn't like the idea of having to start cutting that up again. John owns @thelongwinters and @longwinters so that nobody else would take them, but he doesn’t want to have a band account that just posts ”Coming to your town!”

Merlin has about 15 different Twitter handles for different things, He is @fakemerlin and @nicemerlin, but not @fakehotdogsladies, but there is not that much point to it because for whatever reason the percentage of people who would follow that particular thing would be far less than 1% of the following he gets for this one thing that has already been established. These days Twitter is just a funny joke platform, not a place where he talks about too many intricate details of his life, because that doesn’t scale.

There are only five people in the world who really want to hear every single thing John has to say. Two of them are himself, one of them is his mom and then there are two stalkers. He knows that because he follows a lot of his friends and every one of them has a place in their core interest where John goes ”Oh God, not this again!” At the same time there is that desire to be an integrated person and to take your party to the world, but the reason why television, radio, books or any media is such a narrow aperture is that nobody wants to have everything from any one person. A novel or journal writing would be the closest you could get. You might like Norman Mailer’s books, but you don’t want to be with him. You might like Hitler’s paintings, but you don’t want his recipes.

Hitler’s paintings (RL91)

John once went through a phase where he thought about buying a Hitler painting. There are dealers in a dark corner of the Internet who specialize in Hitler watercolors, but those are not his best work because all of his big full-size canvases are held in private collections. There is this world of people who collect fucked-up shit and Hitler-paintings is one of those things that you don’t publicize, it is not a thing that you can really be above ground about, but there are people who have big Hitler paintings on the wall and at least right now their value is still very prurient. It is still not okay to have a Hitler painting, like owning Jayne Mansfield’s tooth because during her autopsy some unscrupulous doctor pulled it and sold it to a guy. There will come a time when we will look at Hitler paintings differently.

There are paintings by Napoleon and by John Wayne Gacy who realized that was an industry. The people who own Gacy paintings are a particular type of Roller Derby Boyfriend (Merlin completely looses it and doesn't know what that means) who have all the Modern Primitives books on their shelves and they think owning a Gacy painting is edgy, but a Hitler painting is a more expensive proposition and also a pretty ugly thing. Even if it is a watercolor of a stream running through a forest, every time you look at it you have to ask yourself ”Why do I have that? Oh right, it was painted by Hitler!” Hitler is a better painter than half the paintings that are on the wall of John’s house that he bought at thrift stores for $5.

Jason Finn would not buy a Hitler. He likes modern art and Hitler is pretty art school water colors. He was really good at architecture, but he was really bad a figure drawing. He painted a lot of buildings, which is really ironic. He got the idea of a good-looking Berlin, but he just couldn’t get people. John would love a catalog of all the buildings in Munich and Vienna that Hitler had painted and that were destroyed in the war. He was pretty good! People say that you could go back in time and tell him what a good painter he was and avert the war. He was criticized by his harsh art school teachers who told him that he will never be a good painter, but in fact he should have just set up an easel at the German version of Fisherman’s Wharf and painted water colors all day and he would have been fine.

There was a period when John had a little extra money laying around and he was thinking about buying a painting by Hitler and he put a little square on the wall and said ”Okay, that is your Hitler painting, now every time you walk past that and you look at it and think 'That’s a Hitler painting’, how do you feel?” and John walked by and looked at this square on the wall for a couple of weeks and every time he looked at it, he was like ”What the fuck is that square? Oh, that’s my Hitler painting. Oh… Hitler painting… That’s not cool, dude! People are going to be creeped out."

The problem with a Hitler painting is that you don’t want it to be a secret. There is going to be a girl who comes over and ask ”What’s this painting?” and you are going to say ”Actually, that is by Adolf Hitler!” and she is going to get her coat and walk out of the house without another word because that is fucked up! John did not get a Hitler painting, but he really thought about it for a while because they are so fraught and it is all in the painting: He wanted to be a great painter, but then he was not and he killed millions of people and destroyed all of Europe. John would be more likely to have a Stalin painting because even though Stalin killed more people, he is not quite so Hitler-y. A Hitler painting would be the crazy thing at the center of sight and people would think that John's Merchant Marine coin collection takes on a new strange vibration.

The other problem was that John saw the Hitler paintings that were in private collections compared to the paltry offerings that he could still buy and he didn’t want a sub-standard Hitler painting. If an extremely gifted artist who also was an extremely bad person did a reproduction for John, like if Donald Rumsfeld did an imitation Hitler painting, John would fucking hang the shit out of that on his wall! You go with the Hitler painting you got, not the Hitler painting you want. John never would have thought of this, but now he wants some Donald Rumsfeld art!

John's visual art collection (RL91)

John has a lot of visual art that does not quite rise up to the level of actual art. Jason Finn and Chris Ballew, John’s main bros from the Presidents of the United States of America, have houses full of really cool art. Jason’s art is mostly paintings, while Chris Ballew’s house is a wonderfully curated collection of raw art and handicrafts that are fantastic while John’s house is much more like a junk pile of garbage.

In his room right now there is a giant 4 foot (120 cm) square flag that says Vota Comunista that he tore down off of a balcony in Barcelona in 1989 and got chased for through the streets by the police, there is an oil-painting that an ex-girlfriend did of herself that John could never throw away because it is wonderful, and he has a poster of a 1970s playmate taking her shirt off in a wheat field which has been lacquered to a board and the edges of the board are burned. There is a rope with a bunch of baseball-hats clothes-pinned to it, which is John's baseball-hat storage hack, he has a The Melvins, Nirvana, Dwarves, The Derelicts poster, a wonderful single of Adriana Celentano’s Prisencolinensinainciusol that was sent to him by a girl from Italy who listens to the podcast, a weather vane that goes up on top of a barn, and a rack of Vuarnet sunglasses in every different color.

None of that is garbage to John and he could sit and talk about every one of these items, but taken all together they do not form a collection of any kind. No single one of them does have any intrinsic value at all, it is all just crapola, and there is not enough space in a Boeing aircraft hangar to put all of it on the wall at once and none of it actually broadcasts any kind of aesthetics other than ”This guy has 24 different voices in his head at all times, talking to him in various accents and telling him to do things”

Furthermore John has two different picture frames, one of them, made of brushed aluminum, has all of the coins in circulation in 1941 in a picture frame, each one with a hand-typed label underneath them saying ”1941 Liberty Walking dollar”, ”1941 Mercury Dime” and another picture frame, but not a matching one, made from totally Baroque brass, that has all of the coins that his great uncle brought back from the Merchant Marines when he went on his world tour in 1937. The coinage value of these things has value, you could take them out of the frame and sell them individually for the value of the coins, but as displays they just say ”These are on the wall in the house of a crazy person!” There is also the old Alaska license place from John’s Vespa.

Other authoritarian states (RL91)

In the world we live in, Stalin’s crimes didn't really touch us as much. He seemed like he was doing the best he could, but was a paranoid sociopath. One guy in Turkmenistan named all the months after his family, he is still in power (Niyazov died in 2006) and he is building his own Brasilia. Brazil built a modern capital, an amazing campus, out of whole cloth in the middle of the jungle in a place where no-one should ever build a city. It was built to represent Brazil into the future and it looks like the World’s Fair of 1939, but it is an actual city where government work gets done.

The guy in Turkmenistan is building a capital that looks like the strip in Las Vegas with a pyramid and an Eiffel Tower, and the official library is a 1/4 size crystal moon, it is just insane. He is fully bonkers! The thing about a guy like that and his insanity and probably with the brutality that is just under the surface, is that we give a pass to Dubai and the emirs of the Persian Gulf. We are allowing it as a global banking center, NYU is opening a campus there and the Louvre is opening a branch-Lourve in Dubai.

We are rewarding the insanity of Dubai, which is only slightly more Liberal than Turkmenistan, but just as bonkers and John can only imagine how the immigrant workers are treated like. It is another ”Now we love Saddam Hussein, now we hate him! Now we love Bin Laden, now we hate him!” Right now these crazy despots in Dubai are our friends. It would have been nice to be an anti-communist lunatic in the 1960s and 1970s. How much awesome free shit would you have gotten! We supported many lunatics, just because they were against communism, like Ferdinand Marcos, the Shah (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi), and Augusto Pinochet. It is unbelievable!

Soviet scholar who should not have been in academia (RL91)

John knows a guy who was a Soviet scholar in the 1960s/1970s/1980s, an academic with a career that took him as far as to the State Department. He should never have been given any portfolio of any kind because he was a Soviet scholar and his entire scholarship was based on his conviction that the Soviets were Godless heathens and yet he had teaching positions in major universities and was sent around the world for years including to the Soviet Union He learned to speak Russian and he was a person who was living and studying the Soviets and was never shaken for a moment from his complete conviction that it was a completely bankrupt system and culture and people.

He was a paranoid bigot, but because there was a need in academia, people from ERAmerica wandered around Berkley campus in 1968, trying to find one person who thought communism was bad and when somebody showed up in a 3-piece suit with a pocket protector and said ”communism is godless!”, they were given an immediate chairmanship. This guy had an entire career, and he is a nice enough guy, but he should have been on the lunatic fringe. He is blind to it, he was not actually working for the CIA and was oblivious to it, but they had to have been the reason that he ever got a job or was ever promoted.

He was the Ferdinand Marcos of the university of Maryland (?), but he probably doesn’t phrase it that way in his resume. He is unaware of it, he was a bad academic, and yet he continued to work, he was surely marginalized by his colleagues, but a guy in a blue suit showed up at the president of the university’s office and said ”This guy has a lot of interesting ideas and you would really benefit from giving him this chaired position” as he slid a brown envelope across the desk. That had to be going on everywhere and still does. It is the same idea as museums devoted to intelligent design: ”We are teaching the controversies!”, sliding a brown envelope across the desk.

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