RL16 - Cotton Candy Pink Poofy La-La

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • Show tunes / musicals, gay culture (Music)
  • Iowa City, Ceder Rapids (Geography)
  • Young bands don't do anything with music (Music)
  • Buying some albums from a Top-listical on the Internet, blogs (Music)
  • Overproduced pop songs (Music)
  • The Kinks (Music)
  • People don’t like to argue with John over text messages (Internet and Social Media)
  • John’s sister dealing with customer service people (Family)
  • John wanting to be in the CIA, but losing the respect for them (Dreams and Fantasies)
  • TSA security theater (Flying)
  • Salad bars and buffets didn’t go away (Food and Drink)

The problems:

  • some Tommies in rock; °
  • the ad mominem attack; °
  • a Shirley Jackson “The Lottery”-type situation; °
  • passing diabetes to the tater tots; °
  • John’s quest for a worthy Smart Hate Sink; °
  • fighting to stay grandfathered into free nights, weekends, and friends; °
  • always with the ping-pong; °
  • why it might finally be time for John to whip out his long, pastoral paean. °

The show title refers to people having become too nice now so they don't wanting to argue anymore and John being afraid of that.

Merlin first started the show with ”How is every little thing?”, but he changed his mind and said ”How is it going?” as he usually does. It sounded like song lyrics from a 1960s musical and they start the show singing in musical style.

John hasn’t slept.

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

Show tunes / musicals, gay culture (RL16)

John is not really a show tunes man and Merlin’s wife can’t stand show tunes either. John came of age in Seattle during the last great waning days of the true renaissance of Gay America when gay people still had show tunes, drag, and Barbara Streisand. They rallied around and it really meant something. It was a separate culture that is all lost now and no-one cares about those things anymore except for 50-year old former drag queens. There is no ironic hipster show tune thing, not like listening to Soft Cell or YMCA, but there is a certain campiness that Merlin admires. Before even minute two of the episode they are already working the ping pong.

Iowa City, Ceder Rapids (RL16)

Merlin is not going to talk about the Tea Party, but that was disturbing. Seriously? Iowa? Really? (probalby this topic). You don’t want to get Merlin started, literally! His 4-year old daughter woke up really early today and was very concerned about the Santorum: ”It seems like it skews very heavily toward a small group of people who are really needy about being asked what they think!” and it stays ”undecided” because as soon as they become ”decided” nobody cares anymore.

John has spent a lot of time in Iowa, it is a fascinating state. You wouldn't expect Iowa City to be a progressive and beautiful college town. Merlin makes up a musical song about Iowa. Ceder Rapids is a very interesting town, but Merlin doesn’t believe that is a real place because how can you have Ceder Rapids unless you had liquid trees? John really wanted to go there once because it is not on the way to anywhere, the Interstate doesn’t go through there, and you have to make a little detour.

The entire town smells like Cap’n Crunch and like Crunch Berries because there is a General Mills cereal factory. Both Merlin and John love that smell so much! Busch Gardens (in Tampa Bay) smells intensely of hops because of the brewery there. At first it is kind of interesting, but then it is really not and it is just overbearing. Is it like living with a smoker that you eventually stop noticing the Cap’n Crunch? John can’t believe that you could become so cynical and so inured to the smell of Crunch Berries that you would ever not wake up and think: ”Ahh…” It is so much a part of the culture, how could you ever stop enjoying that on a day-to-day basis?

The Long Winters never played in Ceder Rapids, but they did quite well in Iowa City. Merlin was thinking of one of John’s Charles Kuralt adventures where he went on a blue highway in a camper with his faithful dog Charlie and they were traveling around America in the late 1950s/early 1960s (see RL24), stealing panties all along the way. They hadn’t even invented Crunch Berries by that time. The Long Winters do quite well in Iowa City because it is a place of discernment and simplitude. They get floods and tornadoes there. Last week they discussed Pittsburgh (see RL15) and it caused John to think about Pittsburgh all week, another great city! There are a lot of great cities in America!

Young bands don't do anything with music (RL16)

John used to see so many local bands. John is afraid that the young people, the new people, the beards, the longer beards, aren’t doing anything new with music, is that heretical to say? Merlin totally agrees! John does go to see young bands all the time.

What it means to be old is that Merlin hears some band and says they are pretty good and because they remind him of Joy Division he will listen to Unknown Pleasures. Then he listens to this other thing and finds it really cool and it reminds him of a 5th Generation Buzzcocks thing which makes him want to listen to Going Steady. Inevitably he ends back with the same 35 albums, like Pixies. A lot makes him want to listen to Come On Pilgrim.

Buying some albums from a Top-listical on the Internet, blogs (RL16)

Merlin avoids making or reading end-of-year lists and John calls them a cancer. "The Top 10 Carcinomas according to Rolling Stone"

This is a blog thing and blogs are typically short and the headlines can be longer than the post. In the interview John and Merlin did many years ago John said that the whole idea of blogging is to have a little bit of content the size of a can of tuna surrounded with ads. Many of the lists we find on the global Internet are largely about affiliate links and making 5% off what people buy on Amazon.

These lists are often made into multiple pages that you have to click on, or they are a whole bunch of 500 Top-albums of the year, but you will almost never see a list that doesn’t have links to somewhere where people make money, not that that removes all credibility, but if the impetus to what you decide to write is based on getting people to buy something, then you are really writing ad-copy rather than producing prose.

If you want to make any money on a blog you have to post a lot and often. To get people to click through you have to produce those things that are the equivalent of a first draft of a jingle based on somebody else’s song and will you bury the fact that it is somebody else’s song in a link after the jump. Merlin can’t read this stuff because it has become such a factory of unpalatable confections. He doesn’t have a blog anymore himself.

You don’t have to step back from the Internet very far to see that it could consume your every waking moment or maybe it is absolutely meaningless and none of this matters at all. John can’t think of a precedent in human history that was so all-encompassing and yet potentially be: ”Meh…” and add up to bobcus. The Internet is not the problem! It is like not liking books or not liking music. It is just a medium, except it isn’t.

Books aren’t a thing that you use to talk to your friends and keep in touch with your grandmother and store all your photos. People are putting their lives on the thing and are spending their entire lives on the thing. John is going through a really weird phase right now because he is arguing with people, but what would he do it he wouldn’t argue with people? He would be happy, sleep, and have turkey!

You have to find trusted sources and Twitter is a great example: Before they added all the bullshit with the promoted stuff you didn’t have to see anything you didn’t want to see unless you chose to see it. John is talking about zooming out a lot further than that to a place where ”Did you chop some wood today?” is the question of what makes a valuable life. You literally don’t want to get Merlin started on this, because this is what he does for a living, he is a dick about that point professionally, and it is why he comes here to this show. Talking about busman’s holiday!

Merlin provokes John by asking if he is more like Charles Kuralt than Bruce Vilanch.

Overproduced pop songs (RL16)

Merlin had accidentally looked at some meta-lists of what people thought of as the best albums and he bought a couple on the iTunes store. He liked them okay, one of them was by Farewell Continental and the other one was by Yak. CDs and music in general have gotten really loud and there is not a lot of dynamic range anymore, which is a pet peeve of all recording people John works with. Recording engineers, mastering engineers, people who are responsible for making records loud all hate to do it and they despise it, but they do it because it is what people want. It is the Nuremberg Defense: ”I don’t personally hate the Jews, it is just what people want!”

Those are good pop songs, but Merlin still had a crack about this on the Twitter yesterday because he can’t believe on how much Pop music you can hear the pitch correction. They will put it right on the key and there are not even any glissandos, it sounds almost like Cher’s song Believes, combined with an extraordinary amount of compression so that everybody sounds like their voice is exploding and they have perfect pitch all the time.

It doesn’t sound natural because it is so heavily produced! It is a good record, it is fun and very poppy, and if Merlin danced he would probably dance. He likes a beat! Does he ever dance like no-one is watching? He does the Ian Curtis Joy Division dance sometimes and John just got a mental picture of that. Merlin says he has a video and will put that up.

John has always been a proponent of the idea that all this stuff is just a technology, a way of making music. People would jammer on about gated snares and too much reverb, John officially called it one of the things they were not allowed to talk about on here, but it is just a technology, a sound, and there are no bad sounds. John and Merlin's generation said they want to embrace the flaw, celebrate the humanness, but the kids now find that boring. They can make it perfect by clicking their little box and all the waveforms are straight lines and instant perfection.

At the same time those same kids are compulsively unedited bloggers who are blogging, writing, and certainly tweeting with no sense of punctuation, no sense of complete thought, and no sense that once you have droned on for 5000 words maybe you should read it one time and cut out 2500 words to make your thing better. On one hand the culture is speeding head-long into this over-sanitized lack of any sign of human hands ever being laid on the thing, just like robot music, and on the other hand the written culture is a spew culture where they haven’t done the minimum amount of editing to make it even seem human. It is inhumane in the other way that it is so rude and scatological!

Merlin laments the loss of the single as an art form, although iTunes has kind of brought it back. From so many bands he likes like The Move or The Beatles the best stuff never appeared on a proper English album, but they have only been glommed together for some American abortions. Yesterday and Today is really a collection of singles. When they put out the proper UK versions on CD they made Past Masters I + II, which are fantastic, but they are singles collections. John made snoring noises although he loved it, but they are talking about The Beatles and they should reserve that for their podcast ”John and Merlin talk about The Beatles”.

Yesterday Merlin was listening to the Cock Rock station (maybe KFAT) and they played Over the Hills and Far Away, which is close to the point where Led Zeppelin became less interesting, but they were still interesting. It is a great song from Houses of the Holy (Merlin said Physical Graffiti) and it has dynamic range to it, meaning that it is loud and quiet and at the end John Paul Jones plays a quiet bit that fades out and fades back in.

In the noise of their kitchen Merlin thought that the song went off even though he had heard it 100 times, but then it came back in. You would never hear that today. There is also a Beatles song that goes that way, but you can’t do that anymore because people would flip the channel. The Fleet Foxes might do it because they are artists, but Merlin has never heard the Fleet Foxes and these names are just crazy-making to him!

Merlin recorded his Karaoke jam using an extraordinary amount of pitch correction and compression and you can listen to Kenny Rogers’ She Believes in Me. He deliberately over-processed it to make the point.

Merlin loves Yak, they are great, but the instant the first song comes on it gives him total wood because it sounds exactly like Teenage Fanclub being covered by Dinosaur. It sounds a little bit like Sonic Youth, or like the later Teenage Fanclub, and each one of these bands sounds like other bands before them. Teenage Fanclub already sounded a lot like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur, which is a weird recursion. Merlin doesn’t know if he is going to listen to this album for six months because it is a lot like a highlights reel from the late 1980s / early 1990s for him, which is his favorite period in music together with the mid-1960s.

The Kinks (RL16)

Starting with Something Else and going through Muswell Hillbillies, each album by The Kinks is a pastoral paean to an old British pastoral life. That is what Village Green Preservation Society fucking means! That guy (Dave Davies) was crazy and John could do his own Emerald City Preservation Society. Dave hated his brother (Ray Davies) and he hit him and he made all that music just to thwart him: ”Check it out! I wrote another five great songs today, younger, suckier guitar-playing brother!” Merlin thinks Dave (Davies) was the Tommy Shaw of The Kinks. John thinks he is the Tommy Stinson of The Kinks, the one who keeps it rocking. Merlin agrees! Merlin wonders if everybody named Tommy in a band wants to Rock more than their people? Dave Davies’ harmony is what makes those songs.

People don’t like to argue with John over text messages (RL16)

John is angry at the fact that he is a non-starter now. He is not making the transition, he is not changing gears to get with the times. Not that he is a stick in the mud or an old fogey exactly, but he is a frustrated contrarian. He sees a problem in everything and makes the mistake of taking solace in the contrary, which is not a position where he is making anything. It is not an active but a passive place, it is what teenagers or pundits do, but it is a respectable place in modern life: People love the guy who sits on the side and quetches.

If a curmudgeon does not have a nemesis, then the world becomes the curmudgeon’s nemesis, whereas if he has a nemesis, he can focus all that energy on a solitary point to clear the smoke and he can look at the rest of the world with a more open-minded sense. Everything he hates he reposits in his asshole little brother or in his antithesis. John needs a smart hate-sink like that, a worthy opponent who can be his whipping boy, or a Shirley Jackson Lottery-type situation.

The problem is that John gets into arguments with everybody these days and a lot of it happens on texting now which is a terrible way to conduct an argument. He is not talking about Twitter, but about his friends, the people who occupy his daily life. He gets into arguments with them because a lot of times they are idiots, he is here to straighten them out, and they get into a text argument.

Then they send 3 or 4 whiny, bitchy texts back and forth before they say: ”Okay, you know what? That is it! I am done!” - ”What are you talking about? We are having an argument!” - ”Nope, I’m done!” - ”What do you mean, done? You are not done! This isn’t a pop quiz that you are just over! We are having an argument!”, but nobody wants to engage in a discourse that is anything other than constantly reassuring and constantly validating. Everybody is structuring their world in a way that the news they get and the text they get from their friends are always like: ”You are the best! Two thumbs up! OMG! I love your thing!”

Merlin says that this gets them back to the bad words and to the fact that John is not going to be able to help them if they are just looking for him to console them. What he has to offer them, the penetration of his help, is to force them to stay with it and to literally stay up all night texting to receive it: ”No, you may not go to bed, we are not done!” John is really up a creek right now because their refusal to stay with it not only makes them miss out on the opportunity to have John straighten them out, but John is also feeling the loneliness and estrangement from having his primary way of engaging with other people traditionally being: ”Hey, that thing that you just did was fucked up and here is why!” Nobody wants to hear it anymore!

The doors are closing all the way around him and nobody wants to be his friend anymore or at least he can’t maintain a thread of conversation that goes through the five stages of argumentative conversation, which are 1) you start off with a premise that you both agree on, 2) you find the thing you disagree about, 3) you inflate the significance of your disagreement until you really have an all-out war about something, 4) you resort to ad-hominem attacks, and 5) you realize that you are fighting over something that doesn’t matter, and you apologize and have rough sex, essentially.

Now people get up to the ad-hominem attacks, a place John doesn’t like to go because he is not an ad-hominem attacker and he only mentions that plateau because most people are starting some ad-hominem attacks at him. He can only reply in kind and they say: ”I’m done! You have hurt my feelings!” Merlin wonders if text messages are an imperfect medium for the level of discourse that John is looking for, but the problem is that John is great at carrying on an argument over text messaging and other people just can’t keep up. It is so infuriating because John will drop some serious science on somebody in a text message and all they read is that John said something about their mom, which is called ad-mominem attack.

Merlin suggests that John needs his own version of Fight Club where he can meet with other assholes. John is essentially saying that people are arguing wrong and he needs somebody who agrees that his incredibly broken way of communicating with people is not only acceptable, but is even very relaxing. Eventually when they are done and both of their phone’s batteries have run out they can go to sleep for a couple of hours before the Alec Guinness movies start.

John needs to seek out somebody in an underground culture, he needs to meet with a lot of broken people who buy things from IKEA and then like to hit each other in a basement, somebody who likes the same thing as John does. He also needs to focus his energy on one nemesis, not somebody he hates, but somebody he grudgingly respects that he can text with all night so that he can have friends again. There are a lot of people John respects grudgingly, but hierarchies are so tenuous now.

In Ceder Rapids in 1900 there were a limited number of people in town. Nobody was moving anywhere, you picked your nemesis, you picked your friends, you figured out what the hierarchy of the group was, everybody was on their Maslow-trip, and you hashed it out on a daily basis. Now these hierarchies are all spread across the Internet so that if you engage with somebody who doesn’t like your tone or the cut of you your jib they just turn their focus three degrees away from you and there are 10.000 other people vying for their attention.

Particularly when you become more of a public person yourself, then you are in a realm where you are talking to other public people and you all have only to turn your attention one or two degrees in any direction and a whole new world opens up. Nobody has their skin in the game enough to sit and really engage with somebody who is counter them. Nobody wants to sit and have somebody make points at their expense for a prolonged period of time, which is what having an argument with John is like: Just sitting across from him while he enumerates all the reasons why they are flawed and they have to just accept it if they have a brain in their head.

Nobody wants to do that, but people turn their attention three degrees and there are 10.000 other people on Twitter who are telling them that they are great, that they love their stuff, and that they can’t wait for their new blog post or their new book. Something is lost and John is feeling the loss! Nobody is talking to him in that way anymore. Even a few years ago he would read reviews of his band and some of them are still pretty scathing. Obviously he hasn’t put out a record in years, but he hardly even sees intelligent negative criticism anymore on the Internet. It is just fan stuff or real base-level takedown stuff!

Merlin can not think of a worse way than text messaging, short of sending chess moves through the mail, to try and have an intelligent conversation with somebody. John might have a mental illness, but Merlin doesn’t think so. John is trying to tell himself not to carry on arguments with people via text messaging, but then he does it anyway because a part of him likes to take relationships up to the edge, to see what they are made of, and that isn’t paying off for him right now. Most of those people Merlin is probably familiar with in some way.

Last night he texted with someone in California and considered provoking an argument with them just to see what would happen, but at the last minute he realized he was too tired and he kept it at the level of fun banter. John is terrified of niceness, he does not want to become nice and get indoctrinated into a world where niceness is the currency, and yet he has never intentionally wanted to be rude or mean. Right now he is stuck in the pole from the dark side to get bitter, mean and angry for its own sake. He obviously doesn’t want to go that direction, but everything is so nice now, everybody is so Cotton Candy Pink Poofy La-La and John just can’t relate to that way of talking to each other, not with anybody he cares about.

John doesn’t know what to do because he doesn’t want to become nice. Merlin suggests volunteering at a local home for the aging because they can’t leave. ”You think you know, old man? You think you know?” Those people don’t text and that will take John out of his comfort zone. He might find a nemesis in a deeply crippled man with dementia, partly because he can’t leave or text John back. He rejected all new ideas since the 1960s and he hasn’t learned a new thing since the Johnson administration, he probably hated John before he was born or he hated John’s dad. John does feel like there is room in his life for selflessness and getting out of his home to argue with people in a different environment is not a bad start.

Maybe John should get rid of his phone or change his texting plan, which makes him mad at AT&T because he has unlimited texting grandfathered in from back when they offered that and they are always trying to get him to do some thing to make him lose his unlimited texting. They want to sucker you every time! John learned this from Verizon when he was on them back in the old days, like ”Hey, take advantage of this great opportunity we are offering you!” - ”That is amazing! Okay!” - ”Haha, but you no longer have free weekends, nights and friends because you changed your plan and now you are paying for all these things that he used to get for free!”

Another suggestion from Merlin is to call companies that make products he doesn’t use, and have a beef with them in customer service, just to get the ball rolling. John’s sister does this to great effect. Merlin loves John’s sister and would have followed her for eight months in college.

John’s sister dealing with customer service people (RL16)

John sister loves to deal with customer service and if you have a problem you can call her and ask her to deal with it and she will happily embrace your customer service problem. Merlin’s friend Pete is like that and they used to call him action line, it was like calling the local news station if you ever needed anything done. That is the role John’s sister fills and she is more than happy to wait that thing out and wear them down.

She will get a customer service person on the phone and although you are only hearing one side of the conversation you think this person is going to hang up on her because she is absolutely Scorched Earth, reading them the riot act with the biggest smile on her face, having the time of her life. Half an hour later the customer service person is giving John’s sister her home number, they are making plans to go snowboarding, she has given his sister everything that she asked for plus some. She wins every time.

John saw her do this one time when they were on a night train passing through the Slovakian portion of former Czechoslovakia in the early days when they still had a very Warsaw pact mentality. Some border guards went on the train, coming through the car, checking everybody’s visa, and as John handed them their passports they said that their visas were invalid and they would have to get off the train at the next stop.

It was 3am and as they pulled into the station they saw it was some teeny village and the station was closed. John’s sister said: ”We are not getting off this train!” and these guys with machine guns said: ”You get off!” They didn’t speak any English, and she got right up in their faces in the hallway of a sleeping car: ”We are not fucking getting off this train! Fuck you!”

They were incredibly fierce, stone-faced, Red Army soldier types, and you could watch them absolutely start to quiver in fear as this blond girl stood on their boot toes and got right up in their face: ”We are Americans! We are going to call in a fucking airstrike on you if you bat an eyelash at me right now! We are going on to Prague and take this up with your boss at the embassy.” Meanwhile John was holding their bags, like: ”No no no, it is alright!” He was fine to get off, but she was like: ”You are not moving! And you are not moving!”

The train car was full of people, Gipsies piling in to watch this girl pile on these army guys. Then some officer came who spoke a little English and she was in his face as well. Pretty soon she did the thing where the guards were laughing, she was poking them, she got nicknames for them and everybody on the train car was singing a song together.

John doesn’t know how she does it! He watched it happen right in front of him and he didn't know how she made the turn that suddenly everybody was (friends with each other). She made it work, the train kept moving, somebody came and stamped their passports, and John didn’t even know there was anybody on the train who could do that!

When John’s Northface experience ended (see RL14), there was no singing of songs, but everybody was humiliated and furious. John’s sister is incredibly gifted and John doesn’t know what it is. You see people like it in the world and those ten minutes when she is right up in their face are so excruciating even to witness that you have to be prepared to go all the way, to come out the other side and have everybody be friends. The release of tension when she smiles and goes: ”Right, buddy? Ey?” and everybody is just like ”Mary me!”

John always tries to use reason long past the point when his sister has abandoned reason entirely and is living in a completely emotional world. John is still trying to reason with the person when the steel doors shut and all they are trying to do is manage you or get you out of their store or get you away from them. They are not trying to reason with you anymore or understand where you are coming from! By that point it is too late to go to full nuclear emotion mushroom cloud, because their doors are already shut, but John’s sister goes there right away and gets right inside these people’s world and they can’t shut the door behind her because she is already chewing on their cerebral cortex.

John will not climb up on the front of someone’s boots like his sister for two reasons: 1) A lot of people have a belief system and they will climb up on the front of someone’s boots because their belief system is driving them. John doesn’t have that, but he has generalized believes that are discreet from one another and he doesn’t have a system of believes that will put him up somebody’s boots. 2) In that situation, fully half of John’s brain was thinking: ”Wow, getting kicked off of this train in this tiny little village in Slovakia is going to be a real adventure!” and he was gathering his bags with one eye out of the train already, like: ”Let’s get kicked off this train! Let’s find out what happens next!”

What happens next is often that you sleep outside of a train station until the morning and deal with some functionary and get on a new train, but to John that seems as interesting as standing your ground and fighting to stay on this train. He doesn’t care about this train and he doesn't want to stay on this train necessarily, while when you tell his sister: ”You have to get off this train!”, her first instinct is ”No, I don’t!” That isn’t John’s first instinct, but his first instinct is: ”Why? Oh, I do? Well, let’s make the best of it!” People with the: ”No, I don’t!” instinct are incredibly frustrating in a lot of ways when dealing with them in the world.

A lot of people in the world who have tremendous power operate in these moments like: ”Here is what is going to happen: I am going to beat you and then I am going to make you feel good about it, but first I have to own you and beat you and then I am going to make you fall in love with me at the end!” It is the Stockholm syndrome!

Beating other people is never interesting to John, but it is interesting to be right. If the other person is truly right, which is very infrequently the case, then nothing gives John greater happiness than to admit it and to adopt their world view. John likes to meet people who are right, but it is so rare! John likes people who are right and then he likes to show them the other ways that maybe they haven’t considered.

John wanting to be in the CIA, but losing the respect for them (RL16)

For a long time John really wanted to be in the CIA and it was only later that he realized that 99% of the people in the CIA could just as easily be working at Verizon for how interesting their work is. It is dull work and the fact that the intel they are processing is supposedly secret doesn’t make it any less sorting through boxes of paper.

Merlin says that after 9/11 the term humint came up, meaning ”human intelligence”. The problem is not that they don’t have data, but they got so much data that it is difficult to find a pattern or an outlier to be useful. Having more data than you have resources to filter and act upon is a whole different kind of problem and your old problems don’t just go away. You still have to file the paperwork and torture the guy in the trailer, but now you also have to go through 1000 pages of people speaking in Arabic, hoping to find that one communication where somebody says: ”Let’s go blow up that thing!”, but that never happens.

The premise of the CIA is the same premise that so many conspiracies have: Somebody on top has a master plan. The CIA was built to combat the Soviets and there was somebody on top with a master plan, but there is no master plan anymore. Now it is groups of 4 or 5 guys who mostly are incompetent. The CIA is an anachronism and John finds very little about that organization to respect anymore, while he used to have tremendous respect for them. When they did that tremendous work in Chile and Angola they were at the top of their game!

TSA security theater (RL16)

Merlin finds it concerning that something emblematic is wrong about the whole TSA / airport deal. It is complete security theater, like going to a play, just that the actors are barely High School graduates, like an improv play where the script is: ”Let’s get two words from the audience! First: You are in charge, Second: You are in charge” There is no script, but just these High School drop-outs, like tissue paper on top of tissue paper. The entire thing is farcical down to the fact that they shouldn’t even have uniforms because they are bureaucrats. The people who are searching you are not police officers, but they are bureaucrats and whatever ability they have to do stuff to you is by making a call. They are basically security guards!

Take away the silliness of trying to chase around a shoe bomber so now we got to take off our shoes, setting aside the lady who has to take off her colostomy bag, setting aside yelling at the old Indian lady who has water for her pills, setting all that aside, all you have to do is see one thing happen to understand the problem: The special line for people who work at the airport. A janitor walks by with a giant garbage can, waves and walks through. That is all you need to know about the entire thing (see RL23).

Here is Gus who makes $9.40 an hour, walking by with a 100 gallon trash can, but you have to take off your shoes because they think you have 1 oz (30 g) of explosives in your shoe, and there is a guy going through there who could have The Blue Boy in there. You gotta be kidding me! Merlin’s mom accidentally brought a box cutter on a plane and discovered it only when she opened up her laptop case and she completely flipped!

Merlin had an unbroken stretch of 3 years where he never set off the beep and one time he forgot to take a pen out of his pocket and they touched his nads. There are not many things more galling than a nad grab! No-one ever touches John’s nads. And they keep talking to you, which is really creepy, like an apologetic rapist.

Generals are always fighting the last war. It was the problem with World War I and it is the Maginot Line problem. It was very costly, but they were putting up a really nice chain link fence with a lot of gates, like putting up a nice concrete wall between you and your next-door neighbor, but then not continuing the wall around your property, but just ending in at the lot line. Your neighbor could just walk around the end of it and come from behind while all the guns were pointed in one direction. If the terrorists want to hurt Americans, they are not going to do it on an airplane again, but there are so many other ways you could do it.

Salad bars and buffets didn’t go away (RL16)

Merlin was wrong about a couple of things. Sloan? No. Merlin thought he was a futurist and thought that buffets and salad bars would go away and now he cannot believe we still have buffets and salad bars. He thought they were a pretty bad idea because you could just go by with an aerosol and spray anthrax on them. You will frequently find grubs and screws in the salad, but that is just happening because it is careless. John never found machine parts in his food, but he used to work at a pizza parlor and they found little caterpillars in the potato chips all the time.

In Tallahassee there is a Chinese buffet, no this is not ping pong, but all the good Chinese food restaurants eventually had to become buffets because it was the only way to compete. $6 and you are in, you can eat all you want. Merlin thought that would go away, but it didn’t. People were afraid to open their mail and yet Johnny Diabetes can walk in there and stick his hands into the tater tots anytime he wants. Really? He could give everybody diabetes!

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