RL271 - Butterfly Ninja Girl

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: It wasn’t three-appropriate, referring to a calligraphy set that John's daughter got as a Christmas gift at the age of 3, although it was not appropriate for a 3-year old.

The show-title refers to John’s daughter's self-invented superhero-costume, because her Supergirl-costume did not arrive in time for the party.

This episode and the next one, running on Christmas day and New Years day, had been pre-recorded.

This was the first year where John was stock-piling Christmas presents for his little girl a long time ago.

Just before Thanksgiving, Merlin was greeted at a department store with ”Y’all done with your Christmas shopping?”, which is a horrible thing to say to someone, because no-one is ever done with their Christmas shopping, especially then! As they record this, Merlin is just getting into the swing of it.

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

John not opening his college diploma (RL271)

The other day, John had posted the picture of his diploma-shaped envelope on Instagram. By using some Photoshop-technology that people otherwise use to look under girl’s shirts you could see the address, but: It is the address of John’s mom’s old house. Unfortunately, op-sec people, his mom basically converted her house into a new house when she sold it. She is John’s mom and she couldn’t sell a house to somebody where the base-boards need to be re-caulked. She and Peter spent 2,5 months in there scraping and painting!

Merlin’s couch (RL271)

Merlin’s wife is really ready for getting a grown-up couch instead of their current second hand model that Merlin got in the 1990s. Merlin has a beef with people who buy furniture that is the wrong scale for the room. His current couch is very a low-profile Naugahyde couch and fits perfectly into the area they have now. Most of the couches they are interested in at are very costly - a couch is not a cheap thing - but they are also almost all 6 inches wider or higher than they want. John knows Merlin’s couch pretty well, although he has never slept on it because he stuck with that bed that didn’t stay inflated. Eric Corsan slept on that couch many times. For a long time, Merlin had an actual spare bed that was somewhat Taco-shaped, but still was an actual bed, but then the inflatable bed came out.

John’s daughter’s half-birthday (RL271)

John made the mistake of celebrating his daughter's half-birthday when she was 3. He created a precedent which has since become as important if not more important to her than her real birthday. She knows that she is going to celebrate her real birthday, but she really feels like she also needs to assert her half-birthday. It seemed like such a sweet gesture at the time, but John had no idea that it was going to have staying-power with this child. Half-birthdays are strawberry cupcakes! He has been talking about the theme of her half-birthday with her.

Collecting Christmas presents (RL271)

Toe socks

John has ordered several pairs of toe-socks for his daughter right around her half-birthday. They are originally meant for running, but they are also cute and cosy. The reason was that they had found one toe-sock and John had no idea where the other one was. A month later, another differently colored toe-sock showed up at which point they couldn’t find the first toe-sock again. They were both very confused because they were sure that the other one had been pink, while this one was blue and they were questioning everything! John has a close friend who wears toe-socks and who also has an affectation for wearing one shoe in one color and the other shoe in the other color, which is a lot of fun, but John didn’t realize it extended to socks. As they could finally find both toe-socks and combined them into one off-set, John's daughter was unfortunately not into that. She does not want her socks to be un-matchy, which is why John ordered her a bunch of matchy toe-socks for her half-birthday. Because of the miracles that are intwined in the Prime-membership at Amazon they did not arrive in time. Because he has already established a half-birthday problem and he doesn’t want to be the dad who is trickling out presents a week later, he was just quiet about it.

There is a one percent change that his daughter will one day listen to this program, but there is certainly a less than one percent chance that she will listen through all episodes until the Christmas episode of 2017. Therefore he is now giving it away: He put the socks into the cupboard over the refrigerator. That’s where a lot of presents went, that’s where his dad kept his pistol. The thing over the refrigerator is the hardest place in the house to get to if you are a little kid!


In a three month process, John and his daughter were trying to define what she wanted to be for Halloween. She went through Moana to Ninja Moana to Ninja Moana from Frozen, but in the very last minute she wanted to be a butterfly and after that a Ninja Butterfly. She had three different events to go to and she had 5 different costumes because she likes to change costumes halfway through. Two days later, she got invited to a superhero party and wanted to be Supergirl. It was tomorrow! John went on his Amazon Prime, which hasn’t become a habit to him yet, but he had the sense that his order will surely show up immediately by dirigible. He ordered one of the 25 different kinds of Supergirl costumes, but it did not arrive in time for the party. She stipulated that this was a real superhero-party and not a party where daddy gets to invent a kind of superhero. One time, John actually went to her Halloween-party as Mr Pickle, a superhero he invented and she wasn’t that impressed. She knew in advance that there was a possibility her dad would send her as Ms Flaghero, dressed head to toe in Canadian nautical standards, so she made it clear from the beginning that she wanted to be a real superhero. She is very into Supergirl and has probably seen it at her friends places. She is also very much into Star Wars although she has never seen any Star Wars. Her favorite is Dark Vader and she has for example a Dark Vader thermos.

The Supergirl-costume arrived too late for the superhero-party and she had no choice but go as Butterfly Ninja Girl, a superhero that she and her father concocted, but because she took the lead on it, she was fine. As the Supergirl-costume arrived, John put it up above the refrigerator which now contained both toe-socks and the Supergirl-costume, but she doesn’t know what wasn’t there. It was an elaborate long-con shell game involving Amazon Prime. John has already established that she wants a Supergirl-costume a long time ago and she has probably moved on from it because she didn’t know it was in the offering.


John held off getting her Barbie stuff for a long time, but those things show up anyway. Somewhere a long time ago John was in an airport and bought her a Barbie bicycle with a basket and little dog. It had like 14 parts. As he got it home, he felt like that she was too young for this Barbie who had a loaf of bread and a pot pipe. It was Juggalo Barbie! It went up above the fridge as well and now she is old enough for it.

Superman Lapel-pin

John was at the thrift store the other day and was going through the lapel-pins and cuff-links, as you do. Every once in a while you will find a lapel-pin saying ”World’s Fair 1964” or ”I was one of the 12 people who walked on the moon” and John would pay $0,99 for that. John found a very nice enamel lapel-pin of the Superman-logo. He can only imagine the person who wore this instead of a flag-pin. Supergirl is the same thing, so his daughter can wear it even when she is not in Supergirl-costume. This means that John got 4 things for Christmas which is plenty because he doesn’t want to be one of those parents who has got 12 presents for their kid.

Giving gifts to your children (RL271)

In order to be able to produce a treat on a bad day or a good day or when his daughter did something special, Merlin always keeps a thing around, like a not-too-costly-Lego-set. He also keeps around things that they accidentally bought twice, which happens quite easily especially in the Amazon ecosystem. If there will be a last-minute birthday party, you will always have a gift ready!

John scored really big on that re-gifting concept when somebody gave Marlo a calligraphy set when she was 3. Such a thing is extremely messy and there are not enough New York Times in the world to take up all the ink that is going to be everywhere. She was at the level when she would put a green crayon in her hand and shout ”Greeeeen!” This calligraphy set was not three-appropriate! It was too nice to give to a thrift store, but then there was a birthday and John said that this will be someone else’s problem now. He wrapped it and sent it to this boy’s birthday party, because he was a pretty delicately attuned little boy who may have enjoyed this. The boy was surprised and Marlo was surprised that she had thought of this wonderful gift, and it was a big success.

At one time John also got burned: His daughter loves his Merlin-Mann-gifted space pen. He carries one in his wallet and she always wants it when they go somewhere. He thought to get her her own space-pen to some half-birthday and they even make them in purple! He ordered it from Amazon.prime and it didn’t come in time. It is always supposed to arrive next day, but then they tell you that your thing will be here in 10 days. The space-pen went up above the refrigerator where it stayed for months. John thought this was a great present to give on her first day in school. He had been in New York and flew back because he didn’t want to miss her first day, but it was a flight that landed at 6:30am and her first day of school started at 8am, so he ran through the airport and jumped into a car to take him directly to her school. She was already in the class room, just buzzing with energy of the first day of school.

Then her father, whom she hadn’t seen in a week because he had been in New York, arrived in the doorway of her classroom. He came all the way into the class, because he is like his father, introduced himself to the teacher and the assistant teacher while all the other parents had dropped their kids off out on the playground. Then he put his hand on top of the head of every kid he recognized, which was 14 out of the 24 kids, while his daughter was sitting in the corner watching her dad do this walk-around. He was lifting up tapestries to look what’s behind them, he looked in the teacher’s desk drawer, like ”What’s going on? Okay, this class passes mustard”, until he finally made it over to his little girl to tell her that he had a present for her. Her eyes were barely focusing as he handed over this purple space pen that he had been hoarding for at least 6 months and after she opened it up, she was just like ”Oh, anyway daddy, I would like you to leave now!” Here is the devastating part: This purple space pen just sort of disappeared, John has never seen it since and she continues to ask for his space pen! He doesn’t want to be the dad who asks ”Whatever happened to your space pen?”, so he dutifully hands his space pen over at times. He is trying to get her to carry a bag that has all her stuff in it, which she apparently is not able to.

Merlin and John talk for a bit about impractical bags and shoes. John’s daughter’s mother likes impractical shoes and she bought their daughter some black ballet slippers, which they call ”nice shoes”, but it feels like ”How are you going to climb a fence in those?” What if the shit goes down and we need to march? John sends her to school in boots and when he picks her up, she is in those little black fucking flats. Where did they even come from? The first thing she will say is ”Will you carry my boots?”

When John gave her this pen, he was happy that this would finally be a thing she was going to treasure and take care of. It was like giving her the watch that had been in this guy’s ass, something she would be treasuring for the rest of her life: Her purple space pen from her first day of school! She is still going to have that at graduation when it will be battered and dented. When she will go off into law-school, this will be the pen that she will sign the bill with that will allow lizards full rights in the United States, or to sign the ”Keep moving and get out of the way!” act into law! Instead if went to the bottom of the bag and she never saw it again, because she has got 40 bags.

John used to visit the Filson restoration department where he used to know all the bag-makers. They would talk about the bag that John was going to have custom-made for his daughter. A custom Filson-bag! They used to say ”What if we sourced some sail-cloth from the USS Constitution?”, but John wasn’t sure if that was good enough. He was asking for a cloth that had actually been to the Yukon and that they have been keeping in some back-room. When they get in a special bunch of leather that has been dyed purple, they promised to give John a call! He did that until the people who were working in the Filson restoration store ended up working for Patagonia and a whole bunch of new characters replaced them. John is still cultivating them, but he keeps thinking about this space pen and this one-of-a-kind Filson bag is maybe only what John cares about. She will throw it into a pile of a bunch of other bags and say that it is too heavy. John doesn’t know what to do, he can just keep buying her Supergirl costumes and can only hope that one day he will get it right.

Merlin’s wife is good at finding stocking-stuffers while Merlin is good at medium sized $20-60 presents.

Christmas Lights (RL271)

John’s daughter told him that there were not enough lights in her room and she knows how he feels about Christmas lights.

John loves Christmas lights! He believes that you should decorate the outside of your house in white Christmas lights, but he doesn’t believe in LED lights. He uses both the bulbous kind and the butt-plug C9-size. He outlines the entire roof-edge of his house in large white Christmas lights because he has a white house. He will put little green stands of Christmas lights which are not blinking into the bushes and trees. Then there are white strand lights against the white picket fence. They go over the arbor that John erects at the front gate only at this time of year. The giant blue spruce in the front yard gets decorated with large colored bulbous C9 lights to make it read as a Christmas tree, because the blue spruce is the finest Christmas tree. There are awful people in this world who will drive up to your blue spruce, climb on the roof of their truck and cut off the top 6 feet of your blue spruce. Then for the rest of your life you will have this tree without a top, because a blue spruce can live for 200 years! It is like cutting off a poodle’s tail to stir your drink.

John’s second strong feeling about Christmas lights is that you cannot have a Christmas tree with colored lights that you illuminate all year, you cannot have a fence line that has Christmas lights on it all year nor can you have bushes, but you should have your house outlined in giant white lines all year long. John had his on a timer that he had to adjust all the time because it gets darker at different times during the year, but now he switched out the timer for a photosensitive. This new light sensor has an app and if he wants, he can turn on his Christmas lights from Uzbekistan, but he doesn’t need it, because they will also turn on at dusk and that is how he would do it even if he were in Uzbekistan. John believes in light as a decoration and his house is kind of famous in the neighborhood because it is this big beautiful white house that has lights on it all year, but then at Christmas time: Booooom! If the lights were blinking, it would look like a Riverboat Casino.

Welsh Rarebit and other Christmas traditions (RL271)

John’s mom traditionally filled their stockings with walnuts and oranges and then on top of it there were a few things that you would call stocking-stuffers. Mostly it was walnuts and you would have a nut cracker and sit during Christmas day to crack walnuts, which non of them liked. The only one in the whole house who liked walnuts was John’s mom, because it was such an old-person thing to sit and do. There were also filberts and stuff. Who eats filberts? John is not recapitulating this problem by filling his daughter’s stockings with filberts, but when his mom arrives, she wants to get her nuts from 1820 into the stockings anyway. When John was a kid, he was already wearing Dickensian clothes and he could at least get close to the idea to put another charcoal on the fire while Scrooge would get mad, but John’s kid is so far away from a filbert! Still, there they are. His daughter just looks at them like they were dried pieces of shit, which is what they look like.

The top-Christmas tradition in John’s estimation is that Christmas is the one day a year that his mom will make him Welsh rarebit, a kind of cheesy toast, but they put also a slice of ham on it. This is a meal that you can make every morning, 250 times a year, but John's mom will only make it on Christmas morning. John might also be the only one who likes it! Who wants Welsh rarebit? It is one more Dickensian weird thing! She puts a tiny bit of mustard in the cheese sauce, which is like a crazy thing! They don’t have a roast or a turkey or a ham for Christmas dinner, but the Welsh rarebit is the Christmas pomp.

Merlin likes traditions that once started as an accident or a dumb thing.

John says that on Easter, they will hide the eggs again after the Easter egg hunt in order to get the children involved in the process of Easter egg hiding. All afternoon they will hide and find and hide again. It is such a small thing, but every kid not only wants to find eggs, but they also want to hide them!

Merlin’s daughter is allowed to have Lucky Charms only on her birthday. The week around her birthday and around Christmas is called Jubilee week, which Merlin got from an old friend from Florida who did something really nice for her cats during one week a year which she decided was their birthday week. John’s daughter’s mother has the concept of a birthday month for herself, not for the kid, which is kind of a Jubilee, except that John doesn’t endorse it. It was probably something that her mother started with her back in the 1970s. She certainly has a non-negotiable birthday week where John walks around with his ”What can I do for you?”-hat all day.

When John was young, he and his mom had a tradition: After Susan went to bed, they would sit in the living room with all the lights out and look at their tree. John was 8 and because Susan was 6 she had to go to bed while John could stay up and sit with his mom to look at the tree. The tree had probably two strands of lights that didn’t blink and two strands of lights that did blink randomly. As Susan got older, the three of them would sit and watch the tree blink together. It was at a time when Christmas was still spooky. They did not spend any time during the year thinking about the baby Jesus, the three wise men, the manger or any of that stuff, but right around Christmas time you would start thinking about the gift of the Magi, the camels, sleeping in the manger, the little drummer boy and all this spooky shit. In particular during the 1970s, not only all 3 television stations, but even the rest of the media plus all government buildings accepted in general that everybody was dolorous and lonesome like ”Ho, ho, holy night”, not just ”Santa Claus is coming to town!”

The religious holidays like Easter and Christmas, but also Halloween are the only times of the year where everybody including adults are acknowledging that there was a supernatural world. Grownups would say ”Well, you know, in the middle of the night, spooky things happen! Dead people rise and you can follow a star around the world to find a poor baby who is living with some sheep, but that baby is actually God who is making himself a poor baby just to fuck with everybody!” John was totally spooked because there was a tree full of flashy Fairies, there was a poor baby somewhere and a little girl died of freezing because nobody bought her matches! Now John's family doesn't have those traditions anymore all that is left are the filberts and Welsh rarebit.

Merlin talks a bit about his Christmas traditions, like creating Christmas fan fiction with different action figures from completely different universes.

When John was in High School, he found a bright red plaid three-piece suit at the Goodwill. He doesn’t know who had this suit made and when they were going to wear it, but it was a beautiful suit made out of kilt material and it fit John as a teenager. John and his family would bake cookies and fudge all day before Christmas Eve, put them on two dozen plates and John would would walk around the neighborhood in his plaid suit and give cookies to all the neighbors.

John’s mom loves Dickensian methodist hymns and wants John to sing some of them on Christmas, songs like ”Lord our God!” They are droney, obtuse and very holy and while she loves to hear them, she does not sing herself. She will hand John these hymnals which should be his Welsh rarebit for her, but he doesn’t know the hymns. Maybe he can look them up on Spotify, get them playing on his Sonos and sing along. His mom used to toddle off to the methodist church and listen to them singing the hymns. John would like to learn her favorite on piano and sing it for her, but these hymns all have 350 medieval chords.

Merlin’s daughter is currently learning the ukulele and so he and his wife went to a concert with little girls singing and terribly playing the ukulele.

John’s daughter sings in a choir all year long. They have been doing a Christmas pageant which was actually surprisingly lovely to see. In this little-girl choir there are 5 little Asian girls, 2 little girls from Pakistan and a couple of African American girls. They are all singing Oh Hanukah which they love because they get to spin the dreidel. John's daughter asked him the other day why they don’t celebrate Hanukah and John’s reply was that they could do it if she likes, because it is just as meaningful to them as Christmas is. There is a lot of pressure on Hanukah, because it is not the big holiday in Judaism, but it has to compete with Christmas which is the real banger!

They continue to talk about Jewish holiday traditions.

Explaining cultural appropriation to little children (RL271)

John was in a thrift store in Bremerton, WA recently together with his daughter. She found a Chinese brocade dress and a Japanese paper umbrella, two beautiful and fancy items she associates with one another. John was standing there and was not sure what to do, so he took a picture of it and sent it to Jesse Thorn, who wrote back ”It is cultural appropriation that you are traipsing into. Either thing is fine, but she cannot have them both!” John bought her both things and told her that she can’t take the parasol outside because it is not a functional umbrella. It is not possible to explain this correctly to a child. There is no reason to burden her mind with the whole idea of cultural appropriation because it is a fashion rather than a truth. By the time she will be 15 there is another thing for people who want to be upset about something and cultural appropriation will go back to being an American tradition rather than a thing to be mad about. Right now Moana is extremely popular with John’s daughter! She thinks it is an amazing movie and she wants a Moana dress. John knows from the fact that he is sometimes on the Internet that this is very controversial because to wear a Moana costume is i-don’t-know-what-to-something.

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