RL326 - The Cat and the Kettle

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John could funny crash, referring to John's ability to crash an the ski hill in a very funny and authentic-looking way.

The show title refers to Merlin’s tea kettle giving him the same type of grief as his aged cat, but Merlin doesn’t want to get rid of either of those things. The Cat and the Kettle is one of the great Grim Brothers stories.

John has been up for a while this morning.

This might be the last day John will use his old computer.

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

Merlin’s cat and tea kettle (RL326)

Merlin is struggling with his tea kettle. It is giving him the same type of grief than his aged cat. Does it fart? Sometimes it leaves a turd behind the fake plant for no particular reason. The Kettle is not connected to Merlin’s Nest, which could be the problem. It has a microphone in it and its bow tie is really a camera. Merlin was sold the bill of goods on his cat regarding its age and health and he spent thousands of dollars removing teeth!

When Merlin initially had shown pictures of the cat to John, John said ”Hmm, there is a little milage on that cat, that jalopy” As they say on Bring a Trailer: ”There is no way this car has less than 100.000 miles”, meaning that the odometer has already rolled over once. It will say 65.000 miles, but to the professional car people the upholstery will give it away. Too many butts have been in that seat!

Like with the cat, Merlin doesn’t want to get rid of his tea kettle. The Cat and the Kettle is one of the great Grim Brothers stories and it ends with blood and murder. Both things take a lot of caressing. The tea kettle is a Cuisinart, a very good kettle, but kind of old, and sometimes when you hit the boil button nothing happens and sometimes you have to reboot it. They still make the same model and Merlin has already bought like four of these, but he wants to get the maximum miles out of it. John recommends Merlin to just call Amazon Fresh and they will bring it right to him with a giant roll of toilet paper. As they record, Merlin has six 8-packs of Seltzer and a pack of rechargeable batteries delivered. He is not against delivery.

Listener feedback (RL326)

They received an overwhelming amount, meaning at least three, responses from people about the last episode (see RL325). Their listeners really enjoyed John’s story about getting his uncle some new shoes and Merlin wanted to pass that on to John because he might need an Attaboy. John is still holding on to some of the Aloha!

Who could replace Merlin on the show (RL326)

John can talk about anything he wants because this is his show, he is the named character on the show, and he could replace Merlin at any time to bring in a new guy. He could have Adam Pranica do it, who has all kinds of material, he could have Adam Lisagor do it, who has a lot of time to spare. Every time Merlin thinks about Adam he is in a hotel room and Adam is on his TV and it is really weird. He is selling Hondas, he is always holding a phone for a service and is this lovable Stanley Kubrick character.

Adam Lisagor represents the modern Stanley Kubrick who is not afraid to use his phone, but who is also very picky about his lenses and about the apps he puts on his phone. Maybe they could get Scott Simpson out of retirement to host the program? Merlin has been in talks with him and they almost had lunch. Jesse Thorn also said he almost talked to Scott. Things are changing! Jesse is like a long-torsoed Yeti: You see him out in the wild and think ”Man, that guy has a long torso" What is he doing? Is he vaping? Where did he go? He disappeared into a cloud of vape and Dim Sum!

John Siracusa could replace Merlin on the show, but he would just be yelling at John for 70 minutes about what he was doing wrong, which is now given to Merlin via iMessage every week.

Sports cars (RL326)

John Siracusa thinks that John likes all the wrong sports cars. Siracusa likes all these Lamborghinis and stuff and one time they exchanged lists of their Top 10 favorite sports cars and there was not a single overlap. There are some European sports cars that John would happily have, but he is not looking for a sports car for the sports.

Merlin’s neighbor just bought a totally sweet bad-ass black Mustang GT in classic styling, not that Mustang II bullshit. The Mustang with the classic styling had the classic styling for much longer than the classic styling had it. You get to a 1968, you get to a Fastback. Merlin always wanted a 1964 1/2 with a hex grill, which is what everybody wants, but he wanted one with a Pony Interior. One of his friends had one and there were literally horses running across the seats. It is not a safe car, though!

John’s mom also loved the 1964 1/2 Mustang. She also liked the Mercedes 280 SL, but right when she could get one, she was like ”These cars have no safety features!” Every time she needs a new car she goes through a period where she really gets John amped up because she thinks about getting a 1968 Mercedes and John will say ”Do it!”, but then she will come back saying ”No, I was thinking, what about a…”

She will run down a list of super-hot cool cars that she has always wanted, but in the end she will buy a Honda Fit with the smallest motor and no electric windows. What happened? She had a long list of things, like "These cars don't have any safety features", "They are made out of recycled cardboard", "It has no pickup!", "It is a loud rough ride" You can take the depression out of the girl, but you can’t take the Ohioan out of the depression. At least she is considering it!

Siracusa likes Lamborghinis, but John wouldn’t even fit in a Lamborghini and Siracusa would probably not fit either. People of Italian heritage who live on the East Coast have a barber pole out in front of their house, they are driving around getting way more kinds of sausage than John ever knows, they call spaghetti sauce for gravy, they do all these things, and they are driving Lamborghinis. None of that would fly in Seattle. You can’t have pointy shoes in Seattle!

John’s new computer (RL326)

John Siracusa sent John a configuration of a custom computer he should get and John went to the Apple people, to his friend Todd, and gave them the specs. Because it was a custom job that had to be made by hand by elves in Cupertino and there was a three week window when John would have to pick it up, he waffled for a long time because he was going to be out of town, but he ordered it anyway.

It arrived and John picked it up at the Apple store two days before he went to Hawaii because he didn’t want to deal with it then. At the same time he also got his laptop fixed and took that one to Hawaii. It was sort of fixed and it started doing something else equally weird, but John figured out a workaround after he texted Siracusa who told him what it could be, but which didn’t help. John figured out you could just hot-plug it! There was a time you were not supposed to do that!

Right now John is sitting next to his brand new Siracusa-designed iMac that is bigger than any TV he ever had. He didn’t want to make the old computer feel bad, although it barely worked anymore and he could hear the Habitrail in it, but he was not ready to hook the new computer up yet. It sat there for a couple of days, but John got uncomfortable with it just sitting there and he put a very interesting Afghan over it that was knitted out of crazy wool by Christine Connor, Jonathan Coulton’s wife.

Everybody who comes in will ask if that is a computer under that Afghan, because it is kind of obvious, and John will say ”Maybe!” - ”Is that the new computer that you have been talking about buying for years?” - ”Well!” - ”Why don’t you take the computer out and set it up?” - ”I don’t know! Maybe I’m not ready yet?” John wants to hook this thing up, but honestly he doesn’t know whether computers are Aloha. Merlin has the same issue with new devices every time: Sometimes setting it up does not make him happy and sometimes he says a curse-word out loud. When it comes to his Kettle he is very gentle with it because it is just like an old cat and what is he going to do? Yell at an old cat? If he will step on a squeaky toy the cat might die! Everything is going to die!

Merlin switching beds with his daughter (RL326)

Last night Merlin ended up sleeping in his daughter’s loft bed because her mom had been away and they wanted to sleep together and re-bond. He had to go up 5 wooden steps into a child’s bed and it was probably like watching Uncle Jack: Don’t accidentally step on the bottom of your sweat pants because you will die in a child’s bed!

Merlin was half-way up a child’s bed, thinking ”Just don’t fuck this up!” He should have put his Kindle on the loft bed before he went up because he could have really used that other hand to read his book about anxiety before he went to bed.

Fan art from The Omnibus (RL326)

As John took his daughter to school this morning, she made him take off his baseball hat that a fan out in the world had made for him. It is a trucker hat that said Omnibus. Merlin almost wore a Roderick on the Line shirt to the Apple Store yesterday, but he figured it would make him ”that guy!” He never gets recognized anymore!

Somebody on the Omnibus Facebook page mentioned Bacon Ray (Merlin's band in High School) the other day when they were talking about bands named after food. Merlin says they were underrated, the made cassettes and singles and two CDs.

John going to Whistler for skiing (RL326)

As John came home from Hawaii, holding on to his Aloha for dear life, he almost immediately went to Whistler for skiing. It was nice to be on skis, he was carving some big turns, but it took him a while to remember all of the things his body was supposed to do because he had a different body the last time he skied well. He strapped everything together with a big knee brace for the one knee and a little knee brace for the other knee and he got all the different gear that he bought in remainder bins over the years, slapped it all together, took the gondola up to the top, skied down to the lift, and took the lift up to the higher top on the black comb side. The diamonds keep going up the higher you go.

Merlin once was on the Donald Duck hill where you grab a moving cable. At the top of Whistler you can take a T-bar lift to an even further top, which is a very old-fashioned way to get to the top of a mountain. It is like a rope-toe except there is an upside-down T made out of wood or plastic. You step out, maybe together with a friend, and the guy who is running the lift grabs this T that is on one of those retractable cables like the one Schneider from One Day at a Time carried a famous ring of keys on. The T has only the size of a broomstick and they put it under your butt, the retractable cable goes "Zooooooop!" and in the last minute it grabs you by the butt, pulling you up while you are standing on your skis. Part of the fun of a ski lift is usually that you don't have to stand and you can relax while you get a little breather. For John, the legs always got tired first.

90% of the people who were taking the T-bar up to the tippy top were trying to hike over the summit and ski down the back bowl. John does not care about that and he is not going to take two lifts and a T-bar to get up to the back bowl, because that is ski theater (like security theater). Who knows, maybe it is amazing, but John doesn’t care about it. There might be a bunch of powder back there, but John is not some powder-hound, skiing in blue jeans and he doesn’t have a Soppressata in his back packet.

Right under the T-bar they had groomed the bejesus out of the snow with their Caterpillars, their big snow cats. They had made a perfectly groomed slope where the snow had been flattened by the cats, but nobody was skiing on it because everybody was hiking up to do this ski theater on the Back Bowl. The T-bar would drop you off way up here at the top and everybody took their skis off and started climbing up this golden staircase while John would turn and ski down the slope. The first thing you want to do when you are a good skier is to ski under the lift so that the people on the lift can admire you. You don’t want to be out by yourself, skiing some stupid bowl, but you want to be making big huge turns.

John being alone on a perfect ski slope

John took up the entire mountain because nobody else was skiing this slope and he skied from one side to the other. At the beginning of the day he thought he didn’t remember how to do it, but he was still good. As the day went on he started to hate and loathe the T-bar, but it took him up to the top of this wonderful place. He was making big waterski turns where you lean all the way out and make big rooster tails.

1000 years ago when John was a ski racer he was up on the mountain with his ski team and their ski coach. In a ski team sometimes 5 to 10 of you are skiing together, following one another like a big snake, with the coach in the front taking you down routes. Then you stop at the bottom, look back at what you did and talk about it. One time they were standing there in the middle of the mountain, talking about the big turns they had been doing, and down the mountain came Tommy Moe. He is a couple of years younger than John, at the time he wasn’t super-tall and he was skiing by himself. He was on the ski-race team and everybody knew he was a good ski-racer, even at the age of about 14.

He skied past them, he gave them a little ”Hey what’s up?” as he was going by, and afterwards the coach said ”Look at that!” and skied over to the divot that Tommy Moe had made as he skied past, a perfect arching turn without any chattering or sliding. He had dug this trench with his amazing edge and the coach made them all stand there and look at the ski track that Tommy Moe had made and they were supposed to be stunned and awed. Once you have walked across the rice paper and left no trace of your passage you will have learned! Tommy Moe went on to win some gold medals in the Olympics as a surprise American gold medal victor.

Later John and Tommy went to a Metallica concert together and to the first tour of Lynyrd Skynyrd when they came back in the late 1980s after a long period where they had decided that they couldn’t play since their singer was dead. Even when he was 14 year old Tommy was just a natural! Ever since then John has been trying to make those Tommy Moe turns when he gets on a big groomed slope. By the end of the day John had broken all his muscles down into Jell-O and he remembered all the ways in which you are meant to make these turns with as little effort as possible, while at the start of the day he was making a lot of effort.

John skied on this hill all day long and there was never anybody on it, while the rest of the mountain was full of people. Most people do not take a gondola to a lift to a T-bar to get up to the top of this place because it is windy up there. Everybody is looking for something else and some people don’t even know what they are looking for. They think they want to go down a chute or down over this thing that is called this and they are supposed to want to do it.

The best skiing was up at the slope where John was and the only thing that made it terrible was the T-bar. John skied it all day, which didn’t make any sense, but he wasn’t looking for anything, he was just looking to do these half-mile wide super-turns and he got to a place where he was in a different state of Aloha. There were no turtles, but John was 1/2 with the mountain and 1/2 with the constant threat of an emergency room. John did this two days in a row and the second day was better because he wasn’t fighting it as hard at the beginning of the day.

Everybody on a ski mountain is now wearing skateboard helmets or crazy ski helmets, while John was not wearing a helmet, but a stupid Cowichan hat with goggles, looking like some kind of weird old-fashioned with a bright-red ski jacket, which nobody does either. Everybody’s ski jacket is some color of mauve, but John was in a bright-red jacket from 1985 and bright yellow pants, brighter than the sun, making these giant turns with his stupid hat with a ding dong at the top, and he is sure that the people on the lift said ”Man, that candid apple is really going fast!”

John probably looked like an emergency room on wheels and everybody on the lift was looking at him, expecting that the yard sale that was going to come off of this guy when he finally went down was going to be one for the ages. John went really close to this T-bar just to spray everybody and spill the guy’s coffee and he was like ”Damn that, Maverick!” It was great!

John's daughter showing him what she had learned

John’s family was with him on this trip, but his daughter was in ski-school and her mother was at the spa all day, getting spa treatments. After his little girl was done with her ski lesson John asked her to show him what she had learned and they had to take the gondola up to the very top of Whistler because that is where her ski hill was. There was a little bunny slope that she had skied on all day before she then took the gondola down, but John said ”Why don’t you just show me what you learned on this green-circle easy slope that goes this way?” - ”That’s not the way we went” - ”I know, but it is still easy!”

She trusted daddy, but then it got not easy. It is the momentum that gets you! The trails are not all approved and get small. As soon as you hesitate you are lost. You need courage more than skill and they talked about that for the entire 1.5 hours it took them from the top of the mountain to the bottom. She felt that John had betrayed her fundamentally by taking her away from the bunny hill, which was the most tiring. They kept stopping and John would point up and say ”Look how far we have come!” and she would be proud of that, but then turn and face the next challenge and be like ”Dad, you bastard!” (without using the word bastard) Getting all the way to the bottom was a triumph, but John’s body was not prepared for 1.5 hours of snow plowing at the end of a day full of big turns.

When John asked her what her main fear was besides crashing, she said interestingly that she didn't want to be embarrassed and fall in front of everybody. He asked ”You mean like this?” and did a big comedic ski pratfall that she delighted in. Merlin is not allowed to do anything like this, it is an anathema in their relationship, but she is also a little older and Merlin is very embarrassing to her.

Trying out for the college ski team

John used to do comedy pratfalls like that all the time and he used to be able to funny crash in a way that looked like a real crash. When he wanted to join the college ski team they had try-outs. They took everybody up at the top of the mountain, have you ski down in front of everybody to show off how good of a skier you were, and they would put you in whatever level of ski team they were trying to do. John was a dick, of course, he always was until just recently. He was a lot to take in with his Swedish army surplus trousers in green-gray wool and some kind of suit jacket. He doesn’t remember what he was doing, but he never looked right, he always looked especially wrong! Then it was John's turn to do the ski test in front of everybody and he was a very good skier at the time.

It is hard for a singer to sing like somebody who can’t sing, or for an actor to do bad acting because it requires super-good acting. It is very rare that a singer can actually duplicate what bad singing sounds like and not sound like a singer doing bad singing. Steve Malkmus was the best at that and all of Pavement sounds like he can’t sing, which is their whole sound.

John was really good at looking like he didn’t know how to ski very well. He was a good funny crasher, he was off-balance the whole way, leaning back, looking like he was about to crash the whole time and everybody must have had that feeling in their stomach that you have when you are watching somebody who is about to crash really badly.

During the last quarter of the ski hill when everybody had already been writing on their clipboard ”Nope! Not this guy!” John suddenly did a really nice swooping turn, flipped around, skied backwards for a little while and then finished with some big wave of snow. This was before they made skis that could ski backwards, but these were just regular skis. The new ones look the same front-to-back and curl up a little at the back like elf shoes. There is a whole style of skiing now where people flip around and ski front and back without a difference to them, like with skateboarding.

John did this whole performance, came to a stop and sprayed everybody with a big wave of snow. He was literally the worst, he was such a show-off, but he got a big round of applause from everybody because it was actually funny. Skiing then was still just for snobs, it was collage, and John was acting like a townie, or like a cutter. It was at a time when it was still very conformist, very white, and very rich kid, like in the movie with John Cusack called Better Off Skiing (actually Better Off Dead). John was a dick, but he could walk the walk and back it up and he got into the team.

Tommy Moe and Tony Hawk

Either he was the best skier on that team or the best skier on that team was the guy who had all the gear who skied really perfectly and flawlessly. John did not ski perfectly, but like a runaway-locomotive. This was college and Tommy Moe was on John’s High School ski team, he had that thing where he was poetry in motion, but he was also his own man, he did not just ski flawlessly, but at a different level where even the perfect skiers like James Harden had to stop and wonder ”What the hell just happened?”

The only way you can win an Olympic gold medal in downhill is that you are absolutely out of your mind because you are going so fast! Merlin says that when it comes to snowboarding in a halfpipe, even the compulsory stuff looks extremely dangerous. John recommends Merlin to look at Tony Hawk skateboard videos, he is the same age as John. Merlin is the same age as Luke Perry who died of a stroke today. He saw a sweet video of Tony Hawk teaching his daughter and she had a lot of courage. He probably has a lot of money. He invented a lot of skateboarding but then he fell out of fashion because the style of skateboarding changed and everybody was skating street style. Merlin’s knowledge of skateboarding stopped approximately at The Bad News Bears. He has only skied once.

Merlin’s first skateboard was a piece of plastic with four roller-skates on it. It didn’t really turn, but you had to kick it up to make a turn. That was John’s first skateboard, too. Skateboards used to be really different and John didn’t adopt skateboarding as a hobby because it seemed like suicide! Tony Hawk is analogous to Tommy Moe in that he can do all the things, but he can also do things that no-one else can do. He flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

Merlin was having a difficulty going up the stairs of his daughter's bed, while Tommy Moe and Tony Hawk are 60 feet (18 m) in the air. How do you even get a name like Tommy Moe or Tony Hawk? The effect is called Nominative Determinism, it is why you don’t name your daughter Jeeves because there is no jobs for butlers anymore, like Onomatopoeia. Merlin Mann is the ultimate name and he could have done anything! He could have been a sword-fighter or any kind of wizard!

Music at the hill

John also went on the Tubing Hill and all of the people working there were 20 years old. They were cranking some tunes and had a very good playlist of Classic Rock with no deviation, including Wings, ELO, and all the Led Zeppelin. At the end John asked some kid who made this playlist and he said ”I did, dude!” - ”Holy shit! You are a time traveller!”, but then John realized that this was a type of Hufflepuff. Stoner ski dudes are an eternal kind and this kid was just leveling up.

John always thought that Led Zeppelin was now being thrown in some melting pot with Stained and Alice in Chains, but it is not! There is still a Classic Rock demographic! Maybe they use a different style of apparatus to get high, but this dude surely had a Graffix Bong and he still smoked out of a proto-pipe, because he was so perfect in every way!

Competing as a downhill ski team

Merlin wonders how a ski team is evaluated points in competitions. It is not like in Figure Skating, that would be all Freestyle, or Freedogging as they called it when John was in High School and it was very much looked down upon as something that stoners did. Those were the ski-in-blue-jeans with the handkerchief tied around their legs.

Instead a ski team in ski racing cares about one thing, which is the time it takes you to get through the poles to the bottom. In really good ski racing you are down to 1/100th of a second differences between skiers. Even at John’s level they were at 1/10th of a seconds because they were all good skiers. Every course has a theoretical perfect line and you go around the flags, you can hit the flag and you can bend it. When John first started skiing, the poles were made of bamboo and if you hit one hard enough they would break, but it would also break your shins or hurt very badly. Then they developed break-away gates with a hinge at the bottom that would spring back up and would not hurt you as badly, but it still hurts.

The reason you hit those gates, as they are called, is that the best line for your skis to take does not necessarily mean that your body is going to clear the pole. The skis are getting as close to the pole as they can and that means that 3/4 of your body has to be leaning over such that you are going right through the pole. The problem is that there will be trick gates and if you are not looking way ahead, you are going to go straight out of the course. At trick gates your line has to shift in order to get through the next gate. You do look at the course beforehand and you have a sense where you are supposed to be, but there is absolutely no room to fuck up.

There are differences in the ability of some people to go faster. Tommy Moe won a gold medal because he could just go faster. Part of the ”faster” is that at the moment when you are going over the rise too fast, you look ahead and something in your body goes ”Oh shit” and somewhere deep inside you something clenches for a second, which slows you down. If you come over that rise and you are so Aloha that the thing doesn’t clench and your toenails don’t curl, you are 1/100th of a second faster.

Getting good sleep, judging himself (RL326)

John did have improved sleep when he was at elevation because he did get tuckered out. His relationship with sleep has changed now because he is working hard not to judge himself all the time. Somebody asked him the other day ”What would it take for you to be happy?” and John said ”One thing: Stop judging myself constantly from morning to night!”, which is very hard, because it is one of John’s core characteristics. John gets great nights of sleep and wakes up in the morning fully rested and the fist thing he thinks of is that he should have woken up a long time ago because he should have been doing all these other things like sharpening his fucking broad sword. The first thought in the morning is already being down on himself about something he hasn’t done.

Character alignment (RL326)

John always thought of himself as Chaotic Good when he was younger and as time went on it became pretty clear he was Chaotic Neutral. He just recently went to the Wizards of the Coast website to take a character alignment test. At the age of 14 he knew for sure he was Chaotic Good, when he was 29 he was pretty Chaotic Neutral, but in this recent test they classified him as a True Neutral. They said that in some ways it is the best alignment, but in some ways it can also be very fucked up because you may be so many different chaos that it evens out to neutral. John still feels Chaotic Good, but he is trending more and more Neutral all the time.

John always wanted to be a magic user, but the question is what you are going to use that Magic for over time. Merlin thinks that an opening Magic user is not a lot of fun, while on 6-8th level is a little more fun. John does take a lot of naps, doesn’t he? Magic users always end up having some ineffectual thing that somebody else rolls a defense against although he thought his bag of holding was going to be the solution.

Merlin likes to think that his character alignment is a Hufflepuff, but he is probably Chaotic Good, maybe Chaotic Neutral. He always wanted to be a ranger with nice mix of fighter and thief that could do cool stuff and do tracking. Later he also wanted to be a barde. He is not really a Hufflepuff because he is not particularly loyal and hard-working, but John suggests that he is pretty Ravenclaw, he even has a couple of Ravenclaw scarfs. You get sorted partly on what you like to be and Merlin doesn’t want to be a Gryffindor. His daughter obviously aspired to be a Slytherin and she has some Slytherin clothes, but Merlin’s culture is not anybody else’s costume.

The problem with Hufflepuff is that you might have aspirations or you might like their colors. For example when Merlin was a kid he would like a certain football team like the Rams because he thought they had cool helmets. That doesn’t mean he is a Ram in real life! Both John and Merlin's Junior High mascots were a Ram. Merlin's Junior High were the Ridgewood Rams in orange and blue while John's school were the Wendler Rams in green and white. Merlin’s High School was green and yellow, which was awful. They had painter’s caps made up in October for Football season, but they misspelled Buccaneers on the hat.

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