RL0 - Suit of Vomit

This week, Merlin and John talk about

  • Processed food and the Fruity Pleaser cocktail (Food and Drink)
  • Dressing your child (Children)
  • John’s different outfits and phases of clothing (Style)
  • Getting old and losing your hair and your abilities (Aging)
  • The Fastbacks, Kurt Bloch and John acting in music videos (Music)
  • Inside Baseball after the first episode (Podcasting)

”Steak, Babies, Hitler, Molecules, Hearing Loss, and the Best of the Liberal Arts. Pretty much what you’d expect.”

The show title refers to used baby clothes that sometimes are hardly worn, but sometimes are like a suit of vomit.

Merlin was late, but it was okay because John was early.

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

Processed food and the Fruity Pleaser cocktail (RL0)

Last time Merlin and John met, they had steak at El Gaucho, the fancy dark place that was like $1000, but they had a good-ass steak! Another time in the past when Merlin was in Seattle, he and John sat outside the Edge Water Hotel for a steak, a place that looked like it would serve bad fish to tourists, but it was a little bit fancy and they had water in a clear glass. They gossiped about John’s former band mates for about 4 hours. It much have been a pretty long time ago because John still thought about people who had quit his band. John ordered an Arnold Palmer and it was the first time Merlin ever heard of that drink. The reason Merlin was late is that Arnold Palmers have exploded in popularity lately. He got a morning Arnold Palmer? Merlin got into a terrible habit, which is how it starts with abusing any substance: The gateway drug for him was the Lemon Tea Snapple, which is terrible stuff! Those guys are like Nazis who bomb Abortion Clinics that they had just built. You get them both ways: East and West! 9/11 was a conspiracy, it was faked!

Merlin tried to avoid HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) which is probably bad for you. Not that sugar is any better, but Merlin is onboard with that particular trend. It might be liberal health food store overprotective mom posh food, processed so much that all that is left in it is hydrocarbons, if you believe that processing is inherently bad. It seems like a spiritual argument. The thing itself isn’t any worse for you than sugar cane, because the molecules are the same, but through all the processing the healthful spirits have been taken out of it. The elves of health have been chased out and all that is left is some Hitler crystal that sends you marching into battle. All that is left is elf-poo and very old Hustlers, but if John would find a stockpile of very old Hustlers, definitely if they were Elf-Hustlers, he would certainly not turn askance. That guy on PBS would say: Some people hustle cards, I hustle elves when they walk up the rainbow. He had a members-only jacket zipped all the way up. The problem is: Merlin doesn’t know if it is the High, the Fructose, the Corn or the Syrup.

Merlin didn't have time for a coffee this morning, but he still wanted something to pump him up to keep up with John. At the supermarket they were out of Lemon Tea, so he got Arnold Palmer LITE Half & Half Iced Tea Lemonade. It is like these CFLs that save 10% by making it a 90 Watt bulb that then needs to be disposed in a hazmat container because it is full of Mercury. It is a 20oz slender and tall bottle that has a triptych of a young Arnold Palmer on the front to sell this drink to a generation who has never heard of him. If you encounter a bottle that has only 4 pictures of Arnold Palmer on it: Turn it away! It is literally Hitler-poison! This one has 6 pictures of Golfing Legend Arnold Palmer, but the main one, the Triptych shows him staring off in one direction, undecided whether he is confused or mad.

John does in fact worry what he puts in his body. Arnold Palmers have always been an opportunity for him to craft a drink out of a set of ingredients. It is an entry-level Fruity Pleaser, a drink that was invented for him by his long-time bartender Jeff Sparks, who now owns his own bar in Seattle called the Dexter and Hayes. After he quit drinking, John went into his bar and said ”I quit drinking” and Jeff replied ”That botes ill for my business!” and John countered that he was spreading the suffering around. He quit drinking, so fuck you! Jeff made John a drink that was similar to a Suicide or a Graveyard except out of mixed fruit juice instead of pop: Cranberry, Orange, Grapefruit, and a little bit of Maraschino Cherry water. John opened for them once. They were amazing and they were ahead of this whole Twee Rock thing. He called the drink a Fruity Pleaser and it has been a Fruity Pleaser ever since. If you order a Fruity Pleaser in most bars in Seattle, they will know what you are talking about.

Merlin likes that John has introduced some entropy into this, because it is going to be a different drink every time. First of all, John found his version of the Arnold Palmer and he needs to brand it and get past the FDA to get it out. It is different every time, it might be good, it might be bad, it might even be from concentrate. Sometimes you walk into a nice bar, you order a Fruity Pleaser and the fruit juice has that kind of vaguely moldy taste, because it has been sitting in the gun or the freezer for too long. Those things come out of white plastic containers that nobody rinses very well. In some bars, the fruit juice comes out of the gun and has to get past some moldy Coca Cola molecules on its way out. In Seattle, Portland and other super-irritating American communities, when John orders a Fruity Pleaser, the bar-tender will hand-squeeze five limes, two grapefruits, a pineapple, and a water-melon, making a drink that by all rights should cost $25 because of the care that has gone into it. Some of those Fruity Pleasers are the best drinks John has ever had! An Arnold Palmer is in the same class. It is a drink that somebody is going to make for you out of what they have at the bar, not something that comes out of a can, but John likes the idea of selling Fruity Pleasers in a can.

Merlin says that as John is getting older and heavier, it is going to get harder and harder for him to move. He will be lying on the backseat of a car driven by Michael Jackson with Elizabeth Taylor on the passager seat, yelling ”Stop at Kentucky Fried Chicken!” and Michael will be in tears because he doesn’t want to go to the Jack in the Box again. John needs to extend his brand in wholesome ways that scale well, like with an enterprise class beverage that he put his name on. John has a lot of notoriety. People have heard of him and they might be annoyed, but they are thirsty. The sheer amount of different drinks that are now in stores is one more way that John is being assaulted and sodomized by America. Back in the old days there were 7 kinds of beer in the grocery store, but now there are 750 kinds of beer. You get artisanal ones, you get Mexican ones with tomatoes in it, and there are all different sizes now. Setting aside that Merlin has no idea who needs that much selection.

There is also the corn problem: There is a lot of fucking corn, much of which has been subsidized by the fucking government. There is a whole documentary about corn and the whole economy is falling apart. $3 trillion had to find a home, it went into a lot of bullshit, they didn’t check people’s credit, nobody paid it back and now that is why nobody gets to have a house anymore. It is all about corn! It has to land somewhere and it is surely a big part of the HFCS problem. At the Safeway there are probably 7 or 8 of these big wide doors of milk, it is completely baffling. There is soy, chocolate, and lactose free, but there were only like 2 containers of 2% milk in the entire thing. That is a failure! If you can have that much of chocolate soy milk and you can not have a gallon of 2% milk for a beautiful little girl, something is wrong! John feels like most of the molecules in that milk have been adulterated with big chunks of Hitler through all the freezer cases. A lot of that Hitler has now been subsidized by the Vichy government.

As he was a bachelor for many years, John ate almost exclusively in restaurants and in most of them he knew at least one of the waitresses. He didn’t know where his food came from, because his food came from pretty girls, which is like his 6 months old daughter who also thinks that food comes from pretty girls. Now that John has a little girl and has mouths to feed, he is going to supermarkets and grocery stores, a thing he never used to do. Like George HW Bush, John had not been in a grocery store since before WWII. How much is a gallon of milk? I don’t know, $0.15? $50? Now John is going to grocery stores all the time and tries to sort through those walls of produce to find enough nutrition to keep his family going, and also enough raw carbohydrates to fill him with self-loathing. Those are the two things he is looking for: Here is the food for his family and here are 8000 calories of carbohydrates mixed with cheese. The foodies call that a pairing. John is actually very careful about buying nutritious and unadulterated things because he is trying to feed people he cares about. He spends hours being that guy with the shopping cart blocking the aisles, reading the ingredients on the back of some can of Malta Mix, wondering what the hell it is and how it is going to interact with him.

The farmer’s market model where he would a) grow his own food or b) go somewhere where some hippies are selling home-grown food is just so much trouble. You have to go through a lot and you end up with all this Kale. If you need to buy plants, you might as well pick up some salmon. There are probably free-standing hippie courts where John lives. He has to shoo them out of the garden and he has to put some copper tape and boric acid down to keep them from coming into the house. You could also offer them a job and put up a Help Wanted sign, which is hippie kryptonite. Setting aside that this may be the only 2 minutes he got to himself today, Merlin gets to the store a lot. He could get diapers from Amazon.com, but you are just always buying something and then the kid gets sick and you got to get something for that. And then the clothes!

Dressing your child (RL0)

John is a proponent of the naked baby philosophy, but often enough when his child comes in through the door, it will be dressed in some pink outfit that has been put on her by unscrupulous others, usually the women that the baby has encountered through the course of her day. She will pass through the hands of many women and every time a woman touches her, she also changes her clothes. Something happens, like a hat goes on or some socks. When baby comes in the door, the first thing John does is to strip off all of the accoutrements that she has acquired in the course of the day and reduce her down to her natural state which is baby in diaper. That is how she will sit around his house all day and it is his preferred clothing as well. It will be the two of them, they will share a wet wipe and they reset. Wipe-sharing is a big part of attachment-parenting. Merlin did a version of that. One of Merlin’s good pals would not even sit the kid down for 90 days, but they would just pass it around. The nature of it is that the child is not allowed to touch the ground, otherwise it will be emotionally broken. Gratefully, there are so many ways Merlin’s daughter is more like Madeleine than him, but one way they got a lot in common is that they both want their pants to come off. He can not keep the kid in pants and they are pretending they are in a Pixar movie where they are mutually pants-less.

Why do some cartoon characters have pants, but not others? Why does Goofy have pants, but not Pluto? Donald Duck: No pants! Hardly any pig has pants. It is a practical thing because pants are hard to draw and the curly tail is cute. Merlin’s daughter spends her whole day surrounded by people in pants who are pushing a pants agenda. It is a lot like homeschooling where you try to make them crazy with the bible. When she comes home, she needs to have a comfortable place where pants are not only optional, but frowned upon. John is behind Merlin 100%. He has met Merlin’s daughter, unfortunately not enough times, but she is a magical creature and why would you imprison that child in pants?

John is an inveterate thrift shop visitor. He and Merlin have been to many thrift shops in San Francisco together and Merlin would describe John as a very serious thrift shop connoisseur. He might as well have a store because he takes it so seriously, which is terrible because people come over to his house and tell him that he should open a store, but why the fuck would he want to open a store? When Merlin and John went together, Merlin wondered the entire time when they were going to leave, because John looked at anything that might fit him. Having a child has introduced this whole new universe of shopping for things for the child at thrift stores. John has a hard time with buying children’s clothes, because you could simply wrap the child in Burlapp for the times the child needs to be outside and protected from the elements. Why are we dressing this baby the rest of the time? John, like Merlin, is in the decided minority because he lives in a world of women. When he looks out from his ivory tower, all he sees is a sea of women stretching to the horizon, and somewhere in the very far distance there are some guys in a band. The women dress this child compulsively in six different outfits every day.

When John goes to the thrift stores, he can’t look for little sailor costumes or whatever, but he is now finding old broken toys for the child. It dovetails with so many of John’s interests! Fixing broken toys is one of his interests, as are old broken things in general and an internal appreciation for disappointment. The child will learn from a very young age that her toys don’t work and in order to not to get ahead of herself and wanting everything, this is what she will have. She will have a wooden toy that other children have played with to death and now she gets to caress its worn surfaces and try not to get cut on anything sharp. That is daddy’s life condensed! There is a big difference between a thrift store and the consignment thing. Merlin was very opposed to anything used when people were offering them stuff for their child, because children have all kinds of stuff all over them all the time, but they have done it with other people who wanted to give toys to other children. Now they got some hand-me-downs and Merlin couldn’t be happier.

Most of the things that John’s daughter owns and wears are hand-me-downs. They did have to go through a two-stage process: First eliminating the things that were visibly covered in barf, and then going through it one more time, trying to detect the invisible barf. You have to hold it up, feel it with your fingers and ask yourself if this garment is just held together with dried barf or if this is mostly clean. A lot of kids' clothes are fairly pristine, because they grow out of them so quickly, but other things are just a suit of vomit. After they culled those out, they had some pretty nice stuff that was all either free or pennies on the dollar, which is true of everything John owns.

John’s different outfits and phases of clothing (RL0)

John had never owned a Ralph Lauren garment in his life. Ralf Lauren garments first became fashionable among his peers when he was in High School and his mom refused to buy him Ralf Lauren anything, because that shirt was $65 and at Sears she could buy him six shirts for that. He never had one of those very popular polo shirts. In the beginning of 2011 John left the house thinking that it was going to be a warm day. It later turned out to be a cold day and he went into a thrift store and bought a Ralf Lauren shirt. It was a really nice shirt and because he is a grownup now, he decided he was not going to spend the rest of his life wearing Creeper Lagoon T-Shirts, but he can buy some nice shirts for himself. As he is recording this show, John is wearing a T-shirt that Merlin gave him from the San Francisco Transit, commemorating the trolley cars.

In addition to the stuff John usually looks for in thrift stores, he added a new section that he was willing to peruse: The button down shirt section. He started buying Ralf Lauren shirts that were in good condition and in the $2-5 range. A lot of these shirts had originally been expensive and had probably been purchased by rich wives or girlfriends and given to men who did not have any interest in the shirt. Then they died or got divorced and they gave away all their shirts. Now they are sitting somewhere with their hand down the front of their dad-jeans, watching sports on a big TV. Thrift stores are full of these clothes that really haven’t been worn, but that have been expensive initially, and you can buy them for next to nothing. John probably bought 20 of these things in the past year and he is now Mr Horsey Shirt Guy.

There are many clothing items that Merlin associates with John, like for example Clarks shoes, Lacoste shirts, or Stan Smith sneakers, setting aside the chick-magnet trucker cap for a minute, but John wears those things at the wrong time. He didn’t wear the Stan Smiths shoes when they were hot in the 1980s, dito for the Izod Lacoste shirts. Instead he brings it back, takes it and turns it. John gets fascinated by a thing and then it demarcates the passage of time in a while. He had been wearing Izod shirts for a while, but it wasn’t in reaction to or participating in other people’s fashion, but it was just something that he got interested in. Now he is over it, he doesn’t wear them anymore and he sent them back into the river of life.

At one time John had developed a vintage cowboy boot fascination. It spread to everybody in his band and for a while Eric and Michael were wearing cowboy boots as well. They would go to these junk shops on the side of the road in Arkansas and there would be Tony Lama cowboy boots from the 1950s, covered with cobwebs, for $20 a pair! That became a thing for John for a while and now he got 25 pairs of vintage elephant skin powder blue cowboy boots in the house that he doesn’t wear that much. Instead he bought a shelving unit and turned them into an art display. John is a lot like Einstein, but not in a good way. Einstein was like a cartoon character and wore the same thing every day. John also has a very busy mind and wants to keep it simple, so he orders the same Fruity Pleaser when he goes into a bar, he gets the same burger when he goes to the burger place and he wears the same clothes, because then he knows what he is in for.

John’s friend Dave Bazan from the band Pedro the Lion, formerly a devout Christian, now a questioning man in the world, is driving on a suspended license and is one of the seekers. He does not want to have to think about his clothes and he wears the same black T-shirt and Levi’s jeans every day. Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie has a very similar mentality. At least 10 years ago when Converse decided to stop making shoes in America and started making shoes in China, Chris went out and bought 25 pairs of low-top cream colored American-made Converse which he is still working his way through. He has them stacked somewhere and when he wears a pair out, he goes into the vault, brings out a new pair of Converse and breaks them in. John is not like that. Chris once said to John in the studio that from day to day he doesn’t know whether John will walk in that door looking like a tenured professor of literature or like a space cowboy from the planet Zoltan. He didn’t get it! Every day John comes in and he is not exactly in costume, but he is in an outfit that doesn’t have any relationship to the outfit he was wearing the day before or the outfit he is going to wear they day after. John hadn’t even noticed that that was true until Chris had pointed it out, and he doesn’t know what it represents. It is curiosity about identity! Merlin is glad that John does wear clothes, at least when he goes out of the house, because John is not wearing clothes while they are recording. Merlin thinks John has an interesting way of dressing.

Getting old and losing your hair and your abilities (RL0)

Merlin’s hair is iconographic. If Merlin would show up at an event professionally styled, people would ask when Merlin Mann will arrive! It has gotten flat in the meantime, it is no longer the hair it used to be, and Merlin needs to see Joey. Merlin is already in his 40s and still has a lot of hair, meaning it is probably not going anywhere. It is getting grey, though, which his lady says that she likes. Merlin is feeling lucky in that sense, because he is insecure about enough things and he is glad he doesn’t also need to be a cliché of a man losing his hair. John doesn’t appear to lose his hair either, but he is losing everything else, like his hearing. He went to shoot AK-47s at a birthday party and when he had his earphones off in between clips, somebody fired a round. In 20 years of playing Rock music, he did less damage to his hearing than that one bullet fired right next to him. It was like an ice-pick to the head and now he has got a ringing. It is not tinnitus where he would be clawing at the side of his head in madness, but it is a sound. His dad's favorite word for his last 30 years was ”What?”, which makes everybody around you lose their mind and John is already starting doing it.

Merlin thinks a lot about his senility. He knows it is going to happen and it is kind of on its way already. He likes to think how all his numerous drawbacks as a human being are going to coalesce nicely together. Being a guy who doesn’t listen very well, talks a lot, isn’t very smart, doesn’t think a lot about what he says and is sometimes a little bit nervous and paranoid is going to come together very nicely. There was a time when John was concerned about Merlin’s paranoia, but Merlin doesn’t understand why people worry about him. He just goes through phases and he is always the same awful person. John thinks that Merlin's paranoia had ballooned and he ratcheted it back, because he seems a lot less paranoid than a year ago. Merlin has a tight-knit group of friends spread across America who care about him very much! They not just care about him, but they also think about him, which Merlin finds to be a horrible thought that totally freaks him out! When he is not with somebody, he disappears.

When John was on tour, people would come up to him in bars and at shows with outstretched hands, reaching for their peace and John would put two right between their eyes. In that situation he is ready to say ”Hello! Oh, you like my records? Well thank you!”, but instead they exclaim ”You know Merlin Mann!” Merlin doesn’t believe that, because it is very hard to get to John because of the phalanx of security he has around him. John is frequently a little fast and lives with the bathing. He does like to bathe, but he doesn’t use soap, which is a religious issue. He takes 4 baths a day, but he doesn’t believe in soap. No buttons! No soaps! They are both vain conceits of the English!

The Fastbacks, Kurt Bloch and John acting in music videos (RL0)

The Fastbacks don’t sit around thinking about drummers all day. They are coming to San Francisco and Merlin has already got tickets. Half of The Fastbacks are watching moths floating around in their room and thinking ”Pretty!” and the other half are just regular Americans. The Moffs are the openers and they got a lot of their shtick from The Fastbacks. The Fastbacks are as great as they ever were. John introduced Merlin to Kurt Bloch in a barn and made his fucking year, because Merlin loves that guy! John was be starring in a music video together with Kurt Bloch for a local band called Stag. John was playing a dejected heart and he was wearing a giant heart costume, while Kurt Bloch was Santa Claus. Merlin thinks that John should do more acting. He is great in the video by The Decemberists with the big ass beard. Somehow John thought that appearing in a Decemberists video was going to send his career through he roof, but most people don’t recognize him because of the beard. Merlin thinks that most people probably only remember the bear smith and the black smithy. Colin and his wife just released a book for pre-teens or early teens called ”Wildwood”, where Colin wrote the story and Carson did the drawings. The vagabond character in the book is called Jock Roderick. He doesn’t TP anybody’s house (toilet papering), but John is now immortalized in cartoon form again.

Inside Baseball after the first episode (RL0)

As John was telling Jonathan Coulton that he and Merlin were going to do this talk once a week, Coulton suggested that John needs to have an angle, which John wasn’t sure they have. He probably just spent too much time with John Flansburgh! Coulton said that they should play 20 seconds of any song as their launching pad and start talking about the song. Merlin’s feeling is that these things find their own through-line. He considers this episode a pilot and he doesn’t know if they will ever do it again, or if anyone will listen to it. He doesn’t even care! He is going to put these on a website and they will keep doing this. Merlin is going to do whatever John is going to do. The idea of Roderick on the Line just makes him happy! John thinks they should just play the first 20 seconds of Taxman and every week they could talk about it for half an hour in a totally different way. Listen to that bass-line!

They need some intro music and Merlin plans to use that song called Sugar From Sand that John doesn’t like, but that he likes. John hasn’t listened to it in 4 years and doesn’t have a copy around, because he is one of those artists who do not only not listen to their own music, but can hardly bear to. If John is in a store or a bar and his music comes on the stereo, his reaction is always the same: First he is ”Hm, what is that? How do I know that?”, then ”That’s pretty good! What is that? I know that!” and then ”Oh, oh no, I have to get out of here!” It happens the same way every time and the only saving grace is that he always goes through a two second period where he likes that song and finds it cool. It would be worse if his reaction would be ”Ugh, what is that?” It is a little bit like accidentally masturbating about yourself, because now you don’t even trust your own taste, but that has never happened to John. He tried to listen to the episode that he and Merlin did last week and he actually caught himself laughing a couple of times during the first 10 minutes of it, but the second time he caught himself laughing he just turned it off, like ”What are you laughing at?”

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