RL234 - Boo Hoo Hoo

This week, Merlin and John talk about

The problem: John is an interloper, referring John trapsing through a very complicated social environment on eBay without really understanding the culture.

The show title refers to a story of John’s sister making the Boo Hoo Hoo sign to another woman in the parking lot who was upset about John almost hitting her car, which was not even true.

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

Noise Cancelling Headphones (RL234)

John is wearing noise cancelling headphones which he has never done before and he finds it very disconcerting not to hear any background noise. John is in Southern California where it is pouring rain and whenever he comes down here he always forgets one key thing. Forgetting multiple things would at least be careless or unprepared. A lot of times he forgets his power chord, other times he forgets the simple USB cable that goes between things and this time he forgot his headphones and is borrowing those noise cancelling ones. As far as he knows there are ambulances going by in the room but John wouldn’t be able to hear them. Merlin thinks that John sounds circumspect, thoughtful and wise.

eBay (RL234)

John shouldn’t be on eBay because he doesn’t belong there and he doesn’t understand the cultural moires. He is an interloper traipsing through a very complicated social environment.

One time John ordered two things from a person and asked them to combine them into one package. They said they had replied with a revised invoice, but John couldn’t find it in his inbox and after two exchanges back and forth they said ”I’m done dealing with this”. John had to pay $10 shipping each for two things that would have fit in a single envelope. When it was time for the feedback, John wanted to give them zero stars for shipping, not only because they had not been helpful, but they had been really rude. Then he noticed that they had 99% approval rating and he thought that the problem might be with him.

He emailed the person back, but got no reply. When he wanted to leave negative feedback, eBay even asked him ”Are you sure you want to leave negative feedback? You should try and resolve this with the person!” The guy had 5000 transactions with 99% approval rating and John’s zero stars wasn’t going to affect him, but what if he will retaliate and gives John zero stars? John does not even know what he is doing, but he is just some guy bounding in with a bare-skin coat on and he is like: ”Zero stars!” and they will be like: ”You want to see zero stars? Boooosh!” and then all the people wearing satin jackets with their gang name on it will all be zero-staring John. It is like an episode of Black Mirror! Until now John still hasn’t acted.

The thing is that you are not actually ordering stuff, but late at night a thing goes by and you will say ”I’ll bid on that for $30” and all of a sudden you won a $30 thing that is $50 in shipping because it will be sent from Kuala Lumpur. If something is from England or from Canadia [sic], the amount of money is in italic so you know it is foreign, but somehow you can sell a thing in Kuala Lumpur and put it in American Dollars. Now John won this thing where the shipping is more than what he paid for the thing.

John wants there to be a button in eBay for ”Wow, wow, wow, I didn’t see!”, but there is no ”Wow, wow, wow”-button and John has already committed and signed a binding contract with these multi-star people. It took a month to ship from Kuala Lumpur because they put it into a raft, but now it says they have delivered it to John and ”handed it to an individual”, but there is no individual at John’s house, his neighbors wouldn’t pick it up and John certainly doesn’t want Randy to have it (his name is Gary)!

John's latest problem is that he bought an item of apparel. There was some damage documented on eBay, but as it turned out, the item had a big X in sharpie over the brand name on the tag, meaning it is a factory second, which the seller had failed to document. The person is sending John three emails a week asking for their feedback, they are offended and they are starting to get rude about it because not giving feedback is short of not paying. Sometimes you order something that someone clearly found in a thrift store and managed to sell for $15. They will even send you a little handwritten note in your bag! This item however is just something they bought at a factory second sale for $90 and then sold it to John for $94. There is no personality to it and now they are desperate for their feedback.

John was about to give them their feedback because he was brow-beaten into it and he told them he will do it when he comes to the office. In the meantime he looked at the ad again and there was no mention of the X on the tag, which was a very prominent feature of the item. John wrote the seller that he wouldn’t have bid on it if he had seen that it was a factory second because that is something that sticks in his craw. The seller replied that he had wondered about the X, but didn’t know what it meant. Maybe it means that somebody sowed a Krugerrand into the lining of it?

John thinks that if you are identifying features of a thing and the tag has a huge X through it, you would mention it. The seller offered to refund the purchase, but John didn’t want to go that whole-hag on it, but he wanted $20 off. Merlin remarked that John is spending too much time on eBay even if all goes well, but this whole process would not be a good use of John’s time. John doesn’t know if he knows that. ”Am I talking to meme?” The seller then said that they had to interrupt this conversation because he was about to go to the hospital for 3 days.

When they came back, they said because John had mentioned feedback, they cannot refund any money because that would be extortion. It makes sense! eBay is going to make a Google and read their email or they are going to make an Uber and know where they are even when they are not using their app. The guy wanted to leave it as it is, but John had a little bit of his justice hackles on. Right before Merlin called John was composing a justice-based email to him that was going to set this record straight and if eBay was reading it over his shoulder, then they were going to know how things were going to be, too.

Mercifully, Merlin interrupted him and John hasn’t sent this email yet. So far there has been a lot of ladida-talk between him and the seller during the course of maybe 12 emails, meaning that John is getting a pretty good value for his $20. The total amount including shipping is $100, so $20 off would be 20%. Merlin is glad that he has a surpassing amount of transactions like that in his life, whether it is a ride-sharing service, grocery delivery, Etsy, or eBay where you are dealing with a person on some level. Merlin going to Safeway and buying half a gallon of milk is a really clear transaction and how well the cashier did does not factor very heavily into the purchase as long as it is not rancid.

It is so strange that there is so much hubris, personality and humanity involved in buying a jacket online from somebody! Merlin does a lot of Amazon shopping and he tends to prefer buying things directly from Amazon, no least because you get the Prime shipping. Merlin continues to talk about Amazon and mentions that there is a secret menu where you can change the cascade of delivery services, for example to always put the USPS to the bottom.

In the Kuala Lumpur case, John asked the eBay community message board if there was a solution, and there is, but he would have to do this for each and every search. At 4am John is searching for

  • Pendleton blankets
  • Hudson Bay Company jackets
  • Native Alaskan parkas
  • Zippo lighters from Adak Island

and adding that filer could cut off his supply chain because if he would find his white whale Zippo lighter from Adak Cost Guard station that he had been looking for for years, he might be willing to accept a delivery from Kuala Lumpur and pay $50 shipping.

Merlin got a GUND Pusheen 18 Sticker sheet for his daughter, not realizing that he now has homework to do when being asked for feedback.

John bought a Ghurka leather pouch from a guy with 526 feedbacks and a purple star next to them. Merlin and John continue to talk about the email exchange with the seller who was requesting feedback without using exclamation points after ”Thank you.” or ”Happy New Year’s.” Merlin explained the different stars that sellers on eBay can get. There is even a silver shooting star for somebody with 1.000.000 transactions. They ruminate if the seller might withhold their rating until John has given them his rating and then they might give him a bad rating in return. John does not bear that insult to his reputation!

John’s reputation at the time of this recording in February of 2017 was 60 transactions with a blue star and 100% positive feedback! John also had 186 followers because he made a big show out of selling everything he has on eBay, starting an entire store, but he thought he did not tell people what his handle is (actually he did in RL184) and is wondering where these followers come from. As he discovered the system with followers and profile pictures on the show, he mentions his handle again which is morganridesfree.

Ghurka bags (RL234)

Ghurkas are Indian soldiers who were enlisted in the British army during the colonial period as ferocious special forces and who have fought for the British in their various colonial wars. They are kind of like the Sikhs because they are Indians, but of a separate ilk with a very identifiable set of characteristics.

Ghurka the leather goods company is a New York company. The legend goes that some rich smarty pants guy called Marley Hodgson was bidding on the complete luggage collection of a former officer in the British expeditionary forces at an auction at Sotheby's. It was a beautiful set of luggage that was kind of like the Louis Vuitton bags in Kundalini Express. He lost the auction and decided to reproduce these bags in New York City. It was one of the first sets of a very fancy line of bags where the patina of a used bag was worth more than a new bag, but as it happens so often with these heritage brands: The company was sold to an offshore conglomerate or to a holding company in the 1990s, basically it was sold to Mitt Romney and Bane Capital who changed it and started making garbage bags in China.

A lot of people care about these things, which John is embarrassed to say he is not one, but he is adjacent. If there was a cocktail party at the Red Lion in Wenatchee Washington where everybody had name-tags on and John would be happen to walk through the halls, he would poke his head in while they were talking about heritage brands and he would put his foot in the room and maybe take a drink off a passing tray. John would spend the afternoon there and talk to those people because he wants to know what they are all about. Maybe he would take a brochure and maybe he would think about filling it out.

Later someone bought Ghurka back from Bane Capital and restored the glory. You can’t just say that there is a before and after date, but you need to have some clarity about certain models and certain years produced. There is a subtlety to that which John has learned by being adjacent. People order Ghurka bags made in China on the internet all the time and they don’t know it and they are perfectly happy because they think they have a fancy Ghurka bag! Somewhere buried deep in some inside pocket tucked in the lining there is a little Made in China tag, but they never see it and so the spell is never broken for them, but John is the type of person who immediately goes looking for the tag. He wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if it said Made in China in it, because he would have been rooked and he would have an inferior thing. John does know how to not buy a garbage bag! He bought this nice little pouch that is not a purse and not a wallet. You could put a notebook in it, let’s call it a folio.

John packing pouches inside his suitcase for extra weight (RL234)

John recently discovered that if he packed his suitcases not by rolling up his clothes, but by packing them into a pouch and then packing the pouch into his suitcase gives him somehow more gratification. He also decided at a certain point that he was no longer going to use nylon, but all his bags are going to be made out of jute, hemp, woven grass, wool, sail cloth, canvas or leather. Now John is carrying his socks and underwear crammed into a leather pouch inside his canvas, leather and brass bag, Merlin will call him Ishmael and soon he will be sleeping with a native American. Of course John is looking for his Pocahontas, who isn’t?

John's bag weighs 60 pounds, but if he had everything in nylon rip-stop made in China it would be half the weight. He doesn’t even know why he is carrying around all this brass and leather which is basically steam punk. John should get some suitcases with gears and whistles, for example a bespoke leather goggle case. Whenever he pulls up into a hotel and he throws his bag down that it is full of all these other bags with little bags inside those bags, none of them purses, and down at the very bottom there is a Saucier with a pair of cufflinks, John feels like he is really living.

John deleting Twitter from his phone (RL234)

A few days ago, John deleted Twitter from his phone. His Instagram ports over to Twitter, but he is not actively tweeting anymore. He put up a photograph of Merlin on Instagram, retweeted it and Merlin thanks everybody for the comments on his personal appearance. John doesn’t even know how to go in and actually delete Twitter from his life and he doesn't want to know.

This is the first time that John is not using Twitter since he first joined back in November of 2008 (John's first tweet). It has been emotionally complex! He was a regular user who had thoughts in the course of a day that he would flag as tweets. He would either pull over at the side of the road and tweet or he would earmark it as a tweet and try to remember it later in the day, but being unable to remember it.

John was interacting with Twitter for almost 9 years, he got his news from there, he kept in touch with people there, but he finally couldn’t be there anymore. For the last 7 days he had thought tweets, but there wasn’t anywhere to put it and he just let it go. If you have a tweet, set it free. If it comes back to you, it was yours.

John’s sister’s cold deep eyes solving conflicts (RL234)

John recently took a car trip where he visited Merlin and gave him a cello (The one from the Instagram picture? John already promised Merlin to send him a cello in RL22, exactly 5 years earlier). They had rented a Mercedes and they were talking during the ride until someone remarked that they hadn’t listened to a single song on the drive. John’s road trip partners were his 82 year old mother and his 46 year old sister. She seems younger than her years and Merlin really likes her because her energy is buoyant.

If you are ever on the highway with her and you get into a confrontation with another driver in Oregon, for instance, you will see that although that she is a very buoyant, ebullient, young-seeming woman, all 46 of her hard road years can come out in one encounter. They were pulling into a parking spot in rural Oregon (and that should say enough to anyone from the West) while some woman was pulling out from a neighboring parking spot. They were miles away from John’s car, but because of their meth-adled (?) paranoid lack of depth-perception, they somehow felt like John had come close and had swiped their Pontiac Grand Am.

At no point in time did any part of John’s car venture outside the two lines defining his area. He slotted it in like a key in a lock and she was already out of her spot, but there was something she didn’t like and so she honked and was literally shaking her fist and screaming that John almost hit her car. John was shrugging at her: "Is this your first day?" John’s sister was in the back seat, turned around, looked at her, put one hand up under her eye in a fingers-forward-facing light fist with her thumb pointed at her face and she did the Boo Hoo Hoo sign, shaking her first back and forth, wiping imaginary tears out of the corner of her eye. The smallness of the gesture was devastating and steam was coming out of the woman's ears.

She looked at Susan and Susan looked at her with eyes like the center of the North Pole. They had the depth of the deepest glacier in Greenland and no emotion of any kind, just going Boo Hoo Hoo, and the woman realized that she had nowhere to go with her issue. It was resolved and she needed to go away now. She turned and drove away. Susan got that depth of Greenland in her eyes from the time she had spent in rural Oregon. Her eyes are old, but not the skin around the eyes. Ever since that incident, John caught himself practicing that gesture a couple of times, but if John would do that to somebody he would end up in a fist fight. Susan can do it in a way that the issue is resolved, but for John it would just start something new.

Music banter (RL234)

Merlin made a playlist about the music from last episode called New Wave that still stands up. Stand and Deliver by Adam and the Ants was Merlin’s favorite song for about 3 years. Yesterday John listened to it on the phone a couple of times and then he listened to lots of Adam and the Ants music. It was one of Merlin’s choices for the best A&A song that stood the test of time, but he picked Kings of the Wild Frontier. Ant Music was also a contestant, but he didn’t just want to pick the obvious ones. As much as he loves the Prince Charming album, a lot of it doesn’t hold up. There is a cover by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists of Everybody wants to Rule the World from the AV clip thing that is good!

Tears for Fears is the classic example of a band from the time of the keyboard-drenched 1980s productions and histrionic vocals. Merlin would call it pretentious in the best sense of the word. It is very post-Morrissey. There is no moss on the Tears for Fears record The Big Chair and every song is great. Merlin continues to talk about his playlist. They also talk about Devo. Their cover of Satisfaction boggles John. When it comes to U2, the thing about John and Merlin is that everything before Joshua Tree seems real and everything after Joshua Tree seems unreal. John’s sister argued the other day that although U2 kind of invented stadium rock, the song-writing on their first two albums is really complicated, but later it got all stripped out, streamlined and simplified for the big epics. The chords and songs are much more complicated in Boy and in War, which is not how John and Merlin remember it.

The song Everybody got to learn Sometime by The Korgis, covered by Beck, is easily forgotten although it is a wonderful 1980s song. Even thought it was a hit, it didn’t make it all the way to the canon. Blondie is tough, but Hanging on the Telephone has a timeless quality to it. Flock of Seagulls with their song Space Age Love Song are more like a punchline to Merlin and he would have to go back and listen to the records. John’s pick for Merlin’s playlist would be Wishing I had a Photograph of You, but Merlin doesn’t want to go with the obvious.

Merlin has YouTube on his Apple TV and is watching a lot of YouTube videos at night because he is out of TV shows and there are not that many good movies. YouTube Red is the best! You get the latest Hot Videos from their latest original content partners, which are mostly 18-year old boys with Macklemore haircuts, but most importantly you get YouTube without ads, an eel that Merlin takes on very happily. They mention Masquerade by Berlin. You don’t want to be with the Berlin of the Top Gun, but you want the Metro, or No More Words, you want the EP. John’s Berlin track is Now Its My Turn.

This all started because Merlin went down the AV Club rabbit hole. Their editors pick out 25 songs by 25 bands and then other bands can come to visit them in to their little tiny studio in Chicago, pick any song on the list that has not been picked yet and cover it. Merlin and John wonder if they really learn those songs in 20 minutes. Merlin has very strong feelings about Ted Leo, he has kind of a hard-on for Ted Leo. Chris Wilson is one of the greatest drummers in the world. They are all on YouTube.

John has played Shake it Off with Ted Leo on the cruise. A couple times a year Merlin returns to Colin Hay playing an acoustic version of Overkill and that is when he usually falls down the AV Club rabbit hole. That song reminds Merlin a lot of Def Leppard because it has that little chromatic walk-down. Merlin taught that to John who now uses it everywhere. It adds a little bit of a country / western sassafras. All of John’s songs are either in C or G. Merlin learned the C with the added low G from John. He is from the old school and does the high G which is a little bit more college Rock, while the rafters are rattling with the low G.

John doesn’t augment as much as he subtracts. If he can take one of the fingerings away and let that string ring, he will play that chord in its normal posture and drop a finger out somewhere in the bar to let a sympathetic string ring. It creates a lot of pseudo major 7th and it sounds like you are playing two things at once like Steve Howe, which you have to do if you are the only guitar player in the band. John is even the only person in his band.

John is not as good a guitar player as Ted Leo who is an exceptional guitarist. Instead he has to throw all the little chim-chimes and jing-jangs that he can find in there. Jonathan Coulton would then tell him what the chords were and why they work together and what better chord John could have thought of, but that is why John doesn’t hang around with him. He is a bad person and his amount of giftedness is off-putting and not a turn-on. A lot of people John and Merlin know are very talented and have worked hard in addition to having talent. Those people are really infuriating and John doesn’t like them a lot and wishes they would shut up with their talent and go have some problems.

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