RL179 - A Good Box

This week, Merlin and John talk about

The problem: We’re dancing in SORELs, referring to a kind of shoe that the kids were wearing to the Youth Disco in Alaska because it was cold outside and they didn't know anything else.

The show title refers to Merlin and John appreciating and keeping good boxes around to the dismay of the women in their life.

Their sponsor Cards Against Humanity asked Paul & Storm to say Hi to John:

Good morning, John! What’s going on? How are things with you? Gonna find out with John Roderick on the Line! Roderick on the Line!

You know it is Roderick on the Line because John has no cough button.

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

Paul McCartney (RL179)

They start the show singing each others names. John was singing Prisencolinensinainciusol which will now be in Merlin’s head all day besides Doctor Worm and Man, It’s So Loud in Here. Last week it took him three days to get rid of Listen to What the Man Said, which has so many hooks. John often gets into arguments about that era of Paul McCartney. That song is unimpeachably great, it is 200% wonderful, it is absolutely the best, and it completely conjures the 1970s for John and makes him feel like a kid again. Being nonsensical, it does not communicate any cogent thought at all, but it is pure music that means nothing and makes ELO lyrics look like Chaucer. At that point, Merlin started to sing Live and Let Die (also written by Paul McCartney), but none of it worked. They had a run, but it requires you to think that music is supposed to do a different thing than what he thinks it is supposed to do. It is a lot like Buddhism.

CGP Grey videos (RL179)

Merlin watched the CGP Grey video explaining all the creatures in Lord of the Rings. His most famous one was explaining the different between the UK, the British Isles and England. He has also done great ones on the history of the British Monarchy and on how you become a pope, which Merlin did not know. It is a nice process that feels very home-grown and very authentic. It is a way to get to what God is thinking.

John can’t get to his mp3s (RL179)

John can’t get to the MP3s that are on his computer. 50.000 songs! You can use 3 computers and after that they will tell you that you can’t listen to A.C. Newman’s first solo album anymore. John got so many replies to that and Merlin says it is very easy to fix this problem. John Siracusa will be tearing out his hair! Part of the reason John is here on Earth is to literally be a D&D bug bear to John Siracusa’s Half-orc.

Packages (RL179)

When John arrived at the office today, there was a box waiting for him. He has an unboxing segment on his other show and Merlin thinks that John’s chemistry is having an Up-period right now because he announced his office address on the podcast (see RW11). John wanted people who are making stuff to send him anything that is not dead (with an asterisk) for him to test it out and people are doing it. If somebody is making leather watch-bands, feathered head dresses or these strange Mormon undergarments, and they just don’t know how to get it out there to the world, just send it to John and he will talk about it on his show.

John repeats his address even at this point. There are people building Banjos out there, people working with goods and people making some artisanal tea. A couple of years ago, a fan of Merlin and John came up to them and handed them two Banjos made of cigar boxes. John still plays on of them all the time! He tuned it in a Raga Tuning, and he sits on the steps and plays his daughter to sleep with this cigar box banjo. Merlin just drop-tuned his Ukulele guitar and he never looked back. He dropped it from an A to a G and it sounds very metal. He can play Prisencolinensinainciusol.

Purple envelope

John found an envelope under the keyboard of his computer and doesn’t understand how it got there, because it was stamped on the 3rd of November (about 2 weeks ago) It is a purple envelope addressed to John from Waltham, Massachusetts, the home of the email marketing company Constant Contact. John Siracusa saw Merlin talk there. Waltham is probably named after Waltham Abbey, a town North of London, England.

Merlin wonders if the fact that the envelope is entirely purple is culturally significant. Sometimes around Chinese New Year (Merlin hopes it is not Ping Pong to say that) they give out a red envelope with a gift in it, they don’t cut their hair, and they don’t sweep the house, because that is bad luck. But what does a purple envelope in the color of a Blackberry smoothie mean? In the traditional Massachusetts culture, a Blackberry smoothie colored envelope means ”May you have many oysters this year!” It looks like a harbinger, not an omen!

If the envelope of that letter had been portentous, if it had been a black envelope with gold foil, he would maybe have gotten invited to a witches’ mass or an international organization he had never heard of. John would open that shit right away and maybe there would be a curse inside or maybe he would be the member of a secret institution. It would have a clue that amounts to an elaborate puzzle.

John is not sure whether he is obligated to not open these packages now because it is a bit on his other show, or whether every time he walks into his office, he should just unbox whatever is there. Merlin counters that this is John’s main show and he can do whatever he wants. What is John’s obligation, promise, or commitment when people send him stuff? It is very hard for John to write a thank-you note.

Someone bought something on Merlin’s Amazon list and Merlin wrote them a thank you note email the next day. They bought him the 40th anniversary Monty Python and the Holy Grail Castle Catapult Gift Set Blu-Ray with 4 animals. Thank you, Jared!

Part of John’s offering is to put things into a cultural context, something that everybody could use. He is going to give his honest appraisal of the whole experience. John usually has no idea of what is in any box that arrives at his house. Whenever he orders stuff on eBay or Amazon, or when people tell him they are going to send him things, John immediately forgets about it. Every time he arrives home and there is a box on the door step, it is a wonderful Christmas morning every time.

He will open the box on air, he will be surprised by what is inside, he will describe the experience, he will try to utilize the item as best he can, and he will explain his experience of using it. If it is not useful, he will probably describe that, but a lot of their listeners are making things well. Some of it is in the category of art and it is difficult to know how to use it, but you can appreciate it and John will use all of his faculties to appraise the thing. Now Merlin is very curious about the envelope and they briefly discuss pronouncing it ”envelope” vs ”anvalope”.

John opens the envelop using his IKEA sheers and inside is a yellow piece of paper. The two colors contrast against one another delightfully! It is a long letter on two pages and the first sentence is ”As promised, please find enclosed a few mementoes from my recent trip overseas” It is a stack of Saudi Arabian money and a Czechoslovakian stamp. Not a Czech stamp, not a Slovak stamp, but a Czechoslovakian stamp!

They split up in the early 1990s, pretty soon after the velvet revolution, because the Slovaks wanted away and out from under that Czech dominion. They wanted to form what ended up being a totally repressive government while the Czechs flourished in their Václav Havel superstate of poets and playwrights. The Slovaks were tired of being rules by those damn Czechs, but they elected a despotic former communist Assholio. Now they are recovering and are on their way, but they handicapped themselves for the first years.

Merlin is looking at an image of a Saudi Riyal that has a pretty strange picture of King Saud on it and he is asking himself if that was the best picture they had. One of the 4 bills John got has a picture is of King Fahd, his son. The picture almost looks like the famous Saudi ambassador to the US, F. Murray Abraham, but it is not. He had always been a cultural attaché and a very expansive personality and he was the long-time face of Saudi Arabia in the United States. Recently he was recalled or banished after some intrigue happened.

There are so many princes in Saudi Arabia, but which one is going to be the king? There is a ton of intrigue there! John has learned that it is very difficult to go to Saudi Arabia. You can’t just get a visa and their mentality is that they don’t need Western tourism because they have all the money in the world. You are only going to come here to look askance at our veils and you are trying to use your Western powers to screw with us! Locals only at this beach!

Why would we ask you to come here and what would you bring? We don’t need your money or your culture, what else are you bringing? Tell us why we should let you come here? Very few people can pass that bar and the people who do come are engineering professors or oil macky-macks. The person who sent John the letter was in Saudi Arabia for a week for work. He administers a fellowship for Saudi Women at MIT and they sponsor Saudi Women PhDs to come to MIT to conduct research.

Wow! Merlin and John do a podcast! They are here almost every week! They should do a scholarship as well! John got the feeling that all of the applicants would be men in their early 20s from New Zealand and they could find work for them. Germans love podcasts and Slovaks love podcasts. John has this collection of money from all over and he would never have thought he would get Saudi Arabian money, but now he does, just in case!

Amazon Box

The box that John found at his door was from Amazon Prime and is probably not something somebody made! Merlin suggests it might be a dildo, but then it would be a very lightweight dildo and one of the criteria for a dildo is that it should have a little heft and a good hand-feel. If there is anything you don’t want in a dildo, it is ”insubstantial” and regardless of the size it should have some gravitas. It is like the Field Roast of penises, a meat substitute made in Seattle. In some restaurants you can get a Field Roast meat loaf or a Field Roast turkey dinner and it is just a combination of vegetables, formed into the shape of a turkey breast. It is delightful, not especially like meat, but something that you can eat instead of meat.

A lot of dildos are exaggeratedly other. Some are made of glass, like somebody was making bongs and then a bong failed and wasn’t really filled with bong life and they collapsed upon themselves or they were too honkey. Then they moved them over to a separate place of the assembly line where somebody was turning those miss-shaping bongs into dildos. But anyway, dildos are meat substitutes and it has to approximate the quality of the original item.

John opened the box and it was full of airbags. Inside was a blue gift-wrapped square box and an orange envelope saying ”Keep your gift a surprise! Open your present before opening this envelope” which gave John another conundrum because there was little floppy sticker decorated with snow flakes, which means that this was a Christmas present, saying:

”Hi John, big fan of All the great shows! Here is something that works great for refreshing and cleaning guitar strings. I first read about it here: http://bit.ly/1MmDix!” — Dimitriy Perinskiy

The sticker had defaced the box which really bothered John. If you are sending him a box, he wants it to be a reusable box and he doesn’t want your sticker-gunk to deface it. People think that once a box gets opened it is going right into the recycling, but not necessarily! Now John is not going to be able to open the box until he gets this stick-em off. It was packaged in a way that indicated that someone in a warehouse really cared.

Inside was a little can like one you would use to wax your cross-country skis the old-fashioned way, called the "Zenith Tibet Almond Stick. Wipe-out for furniture and flooring, quick as a wink." The sender said that it refreshes guitar strings, but Merlin is skeptical. Inside the little can was a further piece or wrapper, the wax had a very strong citrus smell like it would also work as a breath freshener.

Good boxes (RL179)

Merlin’s wife is the co-chair of carnival at his daughter’s school and she put an extraordinary amount of work into organizing it. They raised a lot of money and it was really great. Merlin was on the clean-up crew and part of his job was breaking down boxes to put them into recycling, which he happens to love and which he finds very meditative, but which he at home also uses as an opportunity to look for a good box. John only keeps his office for found boxes that are good boxes. Merlin nests them like Russian dolls to get a good box inside of a larger good box.

An ordinary amazon box might be a pretty good box. Sometimes you would get a box from CostCo with a wax coating on it, something you could put 250 wet swimsuits in and it wouldn’t blink: That is a good box! Merlin’s wife does not love good boxes, because Merlin is a collector of good boxes. Sometimes Merlin feels like this is a guy thing, but he doesn’t want to stipulate that. He got some really good boxes in his office! He breaks them down and takes them outside, but there are times when you need a good box and if you can use anything more than once, you are on the right side of history!

John gets into that argument all the time, primarily with his mother and other people he shares a living space with. They will simply say ”Can we get some of those boxes out of here?” which would be like going to the refrigerator and throwing out half the produce. That is what it is for, it is a refrigerator! They say that there are too many boxes in here and we have to get rid of some of the boxes, but that is not true! Clearly those are the boxes that are headed out to the recycling, and these are the boxes that are organized and hence we are not going to get some of these boxes out of here, because these are important boxes.

Is there anything in them? Not yet! What good are they? What good are they! That would be like only keeping the pretty $100 bills. Merlin is not an idiot, he doesn’t keep every box. If it is a generic, oddly shaped box that electronics came in, he is more than happy to take it out to the curb, but there are so many things you can do with a heavy, high-gauge box where the flaps close right up, particularly a nice square box that can hold an 11x17 legal-sized piece of paper.

John will pull over to the side of the road anytime he sees an old plywood road case that had been used to carry a surveying implement. Sometimes they have shaped foam inside where there was a telescope or some kind of router. These boxes are practically equipment, they are very old, they have tremendous patina, they are beautifully worn and they have heavy great gauge latches. John will cross three lanes of traffic to pick one of those up off the street.

Merlin once sat down in Microsoft Excel trying to figure out how many times he had moved during a certain period of time. He loves that software and finds it very absorbing. If you move often enough, you learn some things. If you are in college and have a lot of books, you learn not to get a giant box for your books, but there is a certain size like a milk create that is really great for carrying books around. Merlin is not going to move, but he can’t stop seeing it in the back of his mind.

John has a lot of mementos and needs memento-boxes for photographs, little notes that people have left him, Saudi Arabian currency and Czechoslovakian stamps. The box doesn’t have to be big, but it does have to be pleasing. You don’t want to put your mementos in a box that isn’t pleasing!

Merlin sometimes buys Banker’s boxes, which is cheating, like buying Bitcoin instead of mining it. He will buy a multi-pack off Amazon and they come with a nice lid. It is a real good-sized box for a lot of boxing. It is good to have boxes of the same size that are labeled clearly when you are moving, but that might also be an affliction. This is where John differs from his mom: She will write ”Mementos” in black indelible ink marker right on the surface on the box. Sometimes she will buy small bags at the thrift store, like makeup bags or pencil bags and she will write in indelible marker right on the bag ”Pens” or ”Drill bits” on the outside of a bag that had formerly housed some MAC cosmetics. It drives John to distraction! Don’t write on the thing because then John cannot repurpose it. It doesn’t help either to put a label over it, because you will always know it is there. Merlin has a lot of feelings about boxes and bags.

John has one hemp shopping bags from every SxSW he ever attended. They were swag bags and John used them as his Hippie-go-to-the-grocery-store bags, but now he starts to feel that he doesn’t want to use SxSW 1999 anymore at the Trader Joe’s. Instead he wants to keep it somewhere, but it is not that he is going to frame it, so now he needs to have a box where he can keep all his special bags. Merlin has a special box where he keeps floppy bags and the nice thing about floppy bags is that you can put a bunch of floppy bags into another bag, kind of a meta-bag.

He calls it meta storage and that is why he nests his boxes: He will fold his floppy bags in a sensible kind of way because you should always be able to see which bag is witch and you should be able to know that if you grab this much, you will be getting 3 of these. Knowing that there is somebody else out there with a similar kind of thinking makes John feel so much better! For Merlin it is also a certain kind of preparation: Thinking through what is going to happen! You always bring a jacket! Do you have to go anywhere else? Are you going to pick anything up along the way? You have to think about all this stuff and sometimes Merlin feels like he is the only one thinking about this!

John’s hat and overcoat being his uniform of the day (RL179)

The temperatures have plunged and it is cold in Seattle now. When John walked out of the house today, heading to his meeting with Merlin Mann at his office on Seattle Blvd, he was looking at his basket of hats, but he felt like it was still a little early in the season to bust out a ski hat. Instead he will cycle through his medium temperature hats and, feeling bold, he reflexively reached over to his display of vintage Tom Waits hats. John collected those over time, but he very rarely wears them, because he doesn’t see himself as a guy who goes out into the world in a Tom Waits hat. He loves to have them because they are beautiful things, but he just can’t see himself walking around in a funky old hat very much. It would be a bridge too far!

John is asking himself every morning: What is the uniform of the day? Also: Which hat will speak to him and will tell him what the uniform of the day is? If they don’t speak, it is like going to an Amish church: You just wait until somebody is moved by the spirit. For instance, if you are wearing an overcoat, you can’t wear a ski hat, but you wear a ski hat with a jacket. This morning, John's overcoat was the thing that picked the hat from his basket of hats and his Christmas tree of Stetsons. The one he chose is a wide-brim imperial Stetson, formerly owned by H.K. Robins, sold at the Byrnie Utz Hat Store at 310 Union Street, Seattle, which are the last haberdasher in Downtown who is still in business.

This hat is from 1930 and it is very well worn. It has a wide brim with 2,5-3 inches all around, but not turned down like a ”Come up and see me sometimes, sweetheart!” hat, but turned up like a Jim Norton hat. It is khaki-green and has a very wide ribbon around the brim that was once pink and has now darkened to dusty rose. The whole hat is dusty like the Tom Petty video where they ride their motorcycles to a video game parlor in the dessert in a post-apocalyptic landscape, called ”You got lucky, babe!”, which is a great video and very much ahead of its time!

John walked out of the house wearing an overcoat and this hat that has been crushed and mushed over the years, but it has so much character that John had to ask himself if he has that much character. As he caught his reflection in a piece of plaid-glass window, he thought ”Yeah!” John is a middle-aged guy now and he can wear this hat and nobody will blink an eye, but somewhere inside himself it would feel pretty heavy. It is hard to inhabit a hat. John is looking at it now and he is very proud of it. He loves the hat as a thing.

After the program John is going to walk around town in his overcoat and hat and he is going to see what happens. The overcoat is a beautiful thing as well: It is from the 1940s, a peak lapel, double breasted herring bone dark blue overcoat. It is dynamite! The whole thing is unimpeachable and the only looks he is going to get are going to be ”Wow! Hot!” But when John is inside this space suit, he is wondering if he looks like a Swing Dancer, which is not what he wants to look like! Here is Jessica Rabbit! He wants to look like a detective lost in time, where the years are irrelevant, who is timeless! John doesn’t want to get out there and feel like somebody in a Brian Setzer video. The jury is out!

John sent Merlin some selfies and Merlin finds him very stately in his uniform of the day. If a Java-programmer in his twenties dressed like that it would be weird and creepy. You do you! They would be buying all this stuff from an Australian website or maybe get a box delivered once a month that has a thing in it. John has had this Fedora for 25 years, and he has not worn it very many times, frankly. Maybe he has probably worn it 25 times. He would wear it around the house, but when it is time to get out of the door, he will stop at the door and hesitate. There have even been plenty of times where he had worn it out the door, but taken it off to get in his car, thrown it on the back seat of the car and it rode around with it for a couple of weeks.

Somebody asked John the other day what happened to his Hoodies. He used to wear hoodies all the time, but now he is always dressed up in a tie. They expressed a desire for John to see some hoodies in the mix and be a little casual. If one person says it, then 10 people are thinking it! In a different conversation, somebody was teasing him with ”How long did it take you to put that outfit together?”, but you should never spend more than 5 minutes thinking about you ensemble. You compose your uniform of the day as you make your way through your house, microwaving some coffee, like a painting made of garments. Then you walk out the door and you are committed to the thing you have put together.

It is very impressionistic and you enjoin the day. Today the coat picked the hat and John was on to a different thing. Maybe this is some kind of turn? Confidence is a nice thing to have: Even when you know it is not perfect, you can live with your decisions and you are not constantly looking back. It doesn’t mean you are always right, but you have a level of commitment that this is the thing you are going to do and you are not going to second-guess yourself all day. A guy in a hat should not be second-guessing himself, because people will see from a mile away that this guy hasn’t earned that hat or he doesn’t think he has.

Merlin has a quote from a Tom Wolfe essay:

”His accent arrived mysteriously one day in a box from London. Intrigued, he slapped it into his mouth like a set of teeth. It seemed right” — Tom Wolfe

That is how Merlin feels when he is wearing a hat. You can wear an overcoat in a John Bender (from The Breakfast Club) way with a hoodie and fingerless gloves, but you are not going to put a Fedora on with that! John Bender is almost like a druid or a goth with his motorcycle boots and his very 1980s overcoat. John's overcoat is from the 1940s or 1950s, but it has been re-appropriated in the 1980s as a Punk Rock item. There was a time when you could walk into a Goodwill and pick which overcoat from the 1950s you were going to spend $4-10 on.

Merlin didn’t have a lot of dow at the time. He would go to thrift stores in 1986 and buy a lot of shirts. Then he would wear a punk rock T-shirt with a slightly ironic vintage shirt over it and he rarely paid more than $2 for a shirt. John is now 47 years old, which is an age approaching 50 which he never thought he would see! John and Merlin are aged like Archie Bunker or getting there! At any other time in history they would be fully vested as trending to old men, sitting on a rugged couch with a cigar and one hand down the front of their pants and they would be yelling at somebody.

All through the 1980s, John was buying John F. Kennedy suits at thrift stores for $2, but he didn’t know what to do with them and put them in a closet. Because he never throws anything away, he gets to be 47 years old and open his old cedar chest with 25 Kennedy suits inside and all the Fedoras that he has been collecting at thrift stores his whole life because they were beautiful old things for only $2.

Because John was walking around town in hoodies, he put those things in a cedar chest, carried it from place to place whenever he moved like a sarcophagus filled with the garment history of the United States, and now that he is in his mid 40s he can wear all these garments that he bought in High School, because he is still the same size. Now he started wearing this stuff that he had been schlepping. Part of the fun of it that these garments, although they are pretty old and pre-date him, have been with John for years, meaning that they are double-old. He has been trying these things on, he walked around with them in his own house, thinking they were really cool, but then he took them off and walked out of the house in a hoodie. Now he started walking out of the house in these things and all of a sudden John is Mr. Fancy. It is pretty fun!

The problem is that Thinking is not our friend, but it is a bad thing that burns all the fuel and produces nothing but steam. People rarely do thinking at the time it would be most useful. Thinking about stuff was useful a long time ago! Once something is already a thing, thinking about it is better than not thinking about it, but a lot of thinking leads into different decisions that would have been better a while back. In this case it is like aging wine where the match is not there yet and you have not found the meal to pair that wine with yet, or the herring bone just isn’t ready.

Before the show, John tweeted that if you go to the tattoo parlor and get your 25th tattoo, they are obligated to give you a Fedora, because it is part of the culture. There are plenty of people walking around in a Fedora with an upturned brim, but very few of them have as much story behind their hat than John has. John doesn’t see himself as one of those people! He is not wearing creepers and a watch on a chain. He has to be coming from a very different place with it and it is very unclear what that place is. You don’t want to look like you are in a Ska band. John is not a saxophone player!

Deerstalker hat at the Youth Disco (RL179)

In the 1970s, American culture arrived to Anchorage with a considerable time lag. 1978 was like 1976 everywhere else and 1980 was still kind of 1978. Alaska was not on the bleeding edge of culture. Down in Girdwood, Alaska at the Alyeska Hotel, underneath the Sitzmark Bar & Lounge there was a multipurpose room in and the hotel never quite knew what to do with it. In 1980 they opened a youth disco in there on Friday and Saturday nights, but most of them were at least a little bit conscious of the fact that Disco sucked and the world had turned against Disco by then.

Nobody had ever thought to give the youth at Mount Alyeska anything to do on weekend nights and that is why most of them were getting drunk and stealing their parents’ cars. Somebody suggested to turn this room at the bottom of the hotel into a Youth Disco and for a couple of years it was a place that actually attracted kids. They would play Disco music and the kids would all go and dance. Alyeska is a ski resort and it is freezing cold outside, so you had to wear your SORELs over to the Disco and quite a few of the kids didn’t have a change of shoes, so they were dancing in SORELs, but that was all they knew.

One night when John was 12 years old, he was on his way to the Youth disco and decided that his outfit of the day was a deerstalker hat, like a Sherlock Holmes hat with ear flaps that tie with a ribbon on the top. This particular one was not only made out of tweet, but patches of tweet with slightly different colors and types of tweet. John found it around the house because his dad was a little bit of an eclectic kook and he had surely bought it in Ireland, brought it home and had never worn it.

John got his moon boots on, he put on the deerstalker, he headed into the Youth Disco and as he was standing there he realized that the deerstalker was not very Disco. The moon boots he could own, but the deerstalker was not saying Disco to anybody. Even at that age he could say that he was walking into that Disco in a fucking deerstalker and he was going to walk out of there in a fucking deerstalker. There was nowhere to put it and he was not going to take it off and stuff it somewhere. There was no hat-check at the Youth Disco!

Any normal kid who made it as far as the front door of the Youth Disco, which is not very many normal kids, would say ”Deerstalker off! In 20 minutes nobody is going to remember it!”, but John was ”Fuck that! I’m here, I’m queer! Get used to it!” He spent the whole night dancing in that deerstalker hat and it was going well, he was even dancing with a girl who did not remark about it, but as he looked around, there was another kid, maybe 14 years old who was making out with his girlfriend.

Publicly making out at the Youth Disco was astonishing and a big deal! It was almost like having sex! The guy looked over, saw John looking at him, walked over the dance floor and said ”Hey Sherlock! Why don’t you investigate somebody else?” That was good! He is probably still working at a ski life right now, but at the time, he burned and singed John and he was right. John was fucking Sherlock and he should have been investigating the girl he was dancing with.

That deerstalker was already covered with an ectoplasm of shame, but the guy walked over, set that ectoplasm on fire and John didn’t even know that it was burning. He walked out of there with steam coming off that hat and it went back into his dad’s own Christmas tree of hats and just sat there and would sing that little song to John every time he would walk past it: ”Hey Sherlock!” The only purpose of that hat is to make you look like Sherlock Holmes!

Scholarships (RL179)

John and Merlin think they need to get grants and scholarships for the show, meaning that they need grant writers, because grants don’t write themselves. They could ask the Robert Wood Johnson foundation, the Sarah Williams foundation, or the MacArthur foundation. There are a lot of places they could go.

Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint (RL179)

One time at Bonnaroo, Elvis Costello introduced John to Allen Toussaint. John was at the side of the stage and Allen was an incredible piano player! One of the great things about Elvis Costello is that he puts the spotlight on people he admires. John was transformed by that.

Not having received any podcasting awards (RL179)

see Awards!

Inbox Zero (RL179)

Try looking at an empty inbox on your phone! John’s good friend Cal McAllister asked John the other day if Inbox Zero was still a thing and John replied that it had entered into the culture and had become an aspirational thing. It is a bit like Communism: A lot of people have heard about it, but they have never bothered reading about what it actually means and so they are just mad.

Religions are a game of telephone (RL179)

The strength of a religion lies in how it is translated to people who are not paying attention, who are not prepared to read the book, but who are looking for a religion where the garbled translation makes sense. Every religion is basically a game of telephone: The original story got whispered from person to person and then you throw a ring around a duck and your grandfather goes to heaven. If that makes sense to people, the religion takes off. Nobody is reading the book! All the religions in the world right now are a game of telephone from the original story. That is also the problem with Scientology.

Merlin hates to talk about this and he is drawing the blinds down in his office. He could cut the show right now and go back to the last ding before Roderick said the word Scientology. There is a scrobbler who listens to every podcast and when anybody says Scientology, somebody pulls up outside of your house in a Lincoln Continental. Pretty soon Merlin will be scrubbing floors in a trailer in Florida. The problem with Scientology is that the original book sounds like a game of telephone. How is that going to translate? They are adding even more ODs! It is like giving a 6th star to George Washington, John doesn’t endorse that! You know how many stars he had? Fuck you stars!

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