RL34 - A Shit Barge Full of Long Pigs

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problems:

  • Brobdingnagian morning cookies; °
  • the time LTJG David Roderick (USN) kind of maybe scared off a Zero with his rogue Colt M1911; °
  • Merlin windmills through his brief Kneepads and Floppy Epaulets Phase; °
  • why John thinks depths charges are a careless and potentially orphan-endangering pussy move; °
  • John discovers an oxidizing superpower—then struggles to find a cool name; °
  • Billy Joel and his stupid goddamned loose tie bullshit; °
  • Merlin tries in vain to keep his new bell a little special; °
  • fortifying your underwater home against an attack by Navy SEALs; °
  • nobody just “walks away” from a Coffeetology® audit;
  • John poses for Playboy with his cripplingly handsome friend, Jon Hamm; °
  • post-mortem on ’30s gangster things; °
  • Pete Townshend is attacked by a long-range baby marmot cannon; °
  • “Oooooo, hey, everybody, look at me! I’m some Somalian guy and I give everybody tickets!”; °
  • that one time when John and Merlin shot big guns; °
  • methods for concealing your (standard) yacht from Malaccan pirates; °
  • The Dardanelles Mountain Goat; °
  • streamlining childbirth via the metaphorical ordnance of Battlestar Galactica (no, the 1978 one); °
  • a much-needed clinic for teaching ladies proper loogie aperture; °
  • Really? Wooden knife? Really?; °
  • no, sir, you can’t slip a urethra by John Roderick; °
  • fantasies of Elle Macpherson on a juicy and super-hot Copenhagen run; °
  • arriving late to the Damascan spy game—perhaps in a robe; °
  • in Soviet Ukraine, collaborators Vichy you; °
  • never hide stuff in the actual yogurt place, because that’s just what they’d be expecting; °
  • apolougies from the deferential bottom gangs of Canada; °
  • the gun that lets pirates know when business is meant; °
  • okay, so, we’ll give Turkey maaaaaaaybe a “7”;
  • one headlamp per doorknob; °
  • years John was literally soaking in war; °

Plus: John and Merlin finally prepare to launch Hitler ’n Stuff.

The show title refers to all airlines being bad and airplanes being shit barges full of long pigs, no matter how much you pay for upgrades and you should just get the cheapest ticket.

Merlin is in a good mood. He just ate a burrito really really fast.

Somebody told John they need cough mutes, but they need to shut up! That is part of the show! You know what that costs?

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Merlin getting a bell (RL34)

Merlin got a bell, but he is going to keep it special and not use it too much. John moved his bell and can’t find it right now. It was extremely hard for Merlin to explain it to his daughter, but there are some times when he is talking on the Internet and really wants to hit a fucking bell. Merlin has been cynical about John’s candles and bells, but sometimes you just need to hit a goddamn bell. It is like not having a microwave: ”Why would I want a way to make soup faster?”, ”I don’t even watch TV!”, or: ”Is this something I need to own a coffee maker to understand?”, and then you get a bell next to your computer and a couple of times a day you punctuate a triumph with a little sound.

Merlin is going to start a new stack of index cards with things they don’t talk about. He doesn’t mean the things they were supposed to circle back to because he already had an entire cigar box full of cards from this show that he would be happy to go through at some point. But for example Triumph or Kiss are things to avoid. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog! There is a gateway drug, in the same way John experimented with man love in the past. Merlin never realized he was outing himself when he made an unconscious giggle or hit a coffee cup with a nice pencil, but that is not the same as hitting a bell that says: ”Welcome, you have arrived! This just got where it needs to be!”

The thing about the bell is that you have to forget that the bell is there and then you say something and you thing: ”God, I wish I had a bell! Holy shit, I have a bell!” It is like a headlamp. John has a variety of headlamps around the house, not collected on one shelf, but around the house in case the lights go out. If you hang them on door knobs around the house you forget they are there and you stop seeing them, but then the lights go out and you reach for a door knob you will discover that there is a headlamp.

John having cookies and coffee for breakfast (RL34)

John had his usual breakfast of two chocolate chip cookies and a half a cup of coffee. They are not Brobdingnagian cookies, but normal sized ones. A proper cookie should be the size of a dollar pancake, not like Chips Ahoy which is paltry cookie the size of a 1966 John Lennon eyeglasses lens.

When Merlin was traveling he found himself having these out of a machine, which is the worst. You find yourself living in a shotgun shack (lyrics by Talking Heads). Merlin’s other program (Back to Work with Dan Benjamin) had a reference to that, which is really weird. John doesn’t want to talk about Merlin’s other program, but what he needs is productivity.

Merlin will have a cookie sometimes, but he can not eat a lot of sweet stuff in the morning and to begin with he is a savory man, which John knows from their experiences with dim sum. John is, too. Merlin would eat a rib-eye steak every morning before his family rose if he could, but it would smoke up the house.

John will eat spicy pork for breakfast all the time if he can get it, and he hates the normal breakfasts: He does not like French Toast, he does not like most of the sugar-sweet breakfast things, but he also doesn’t like to wake up in the morning and start making dim sum right away. The cookies are lying around and he needs something to cut the coffee.

The pattern they have slipped into is that they have agreed on a time to do the podcast and then they alternately add 15 minutes to it for 2 hours, and it is working for both of them. Sometimes it will be 2pm, it is like working your urethra. Merlin was just going to slip that comment by John, but not when John is sober. It is like a poop joke: You have to keep the poop jokes dry because if you do them too much then you are just the guy who does the poop jokes, and Merlin doesn’t want to be the bell guy.

John’s cereal being Cocoa Pebbles (RL34)

John’s problem is his productivity; he is not doing what he loves. There was a cereal called Cookie Crunch and to Merlin it was the apex of ”Really? Cereal?” John’s cereal was Cocoa Pebbles (see OM293) You could fit so many of them in a bowl, while Cap’n Crunch would leave a lot of holes. People would often confuse it with Cocoa Puffs, which is like asking from a Dr. Pepper and the give you a Sgt. Cumin from the Cash & Carry.

Cocoa Pebbles had Bambam from The Flintstones on the box and it was puffed rice soaked in chocolate until it could hold no more chocolate. They don’t make it anymore, or John doesn’t see it anymore at least. It must be because of the decline of The Flintstones and it is a God-damn shame! Merlin hates it when breakfast-foods go away! He doesn’t like sugary cereal as he used to.

Ann-Margret (RL34)

This is the third Flintstones reference for John in the last 24 hours. The first two were references to Ann-Margret’s character on The Flintstones (episode with a character named Ann-Margrock). Her head was so big and her hair was the biggest of all hair. Merlin wants to lose his compass and fucking get lost in that hair. It would be so hard to get your hand out of that hair if you lost yourself for a minute and really got in there. Merlin has never seen Bye Bye Birdie, but he has watched the opening credits a lot. Ann-Margret in Tommy is perhaps the hottest of all things.

Merlin transitioning into weird Rock music (RL34)

Like John, Merlin had a weird phase in 10th grade where he was really transitioning to different weird Rock music, at least by white middle-class suburban standards. He liked Black Sabbath and The Who and he was getting into The Fix, he started to like New Wave and Split Enz. The Fix was amazing, they are underrated, not as much as Missing Persons, but it was up there. Merlin and his friends used to wear knee pads to school so that they could slide down the hallways on their knees like Pete Townshend. Merlin is just lobbing softballs at John! ”Is that what they are?”

He had a Members Only jacket where he had undone the epaulettes because he had once seen a picture of an epaulette-unattached Pete Townshend. Back then you were still trying to make his hair do something, but Pete Townshend in the 1980s was 35 years old and he was still a young guy who was trying to get hip with the times. It was like somebody shot a very young Marmot out of a cannon and it happened to land on his head and then he played guitar. It was like A Flock of Seagulls, but Punk.

Billy Joel, Phil Collins (RL34)

Just as there was a time when everybody had to make a Disco record there were also tons of bands who felt they had to respond to New Wave, including Billy Joel, but Glass Houses was not his attempt to do a White Album. John can’t talk about Billy Joel because he despises him with such a white-hot feeling on a molecular level. John likes no part of him, including his puffy face and his dumb East Coast working-man horseshit. Merlin does not have that problem with Billy Joel like he has with Phil Collins. John thinks Phil Collins is a saint, he is amazing. Merlin says he was good in Genesis, but then not…

Billy Joel’s bad clothing style with a lose tie, John knowing Jon Hamm (RL34)

As Merlin got a little bit older he started to understand that if he saw pictures of pretty ladies in magazines that somebody had lit them to make them look good. Every time you see a professional photograph of something a lot of trouble had gone into it. Maybe he is thinking of 52nd Street (album by Billy Joel), but he hates the fucking knit loose skinny tie in a posed photo because it is so douchy and so overused. If you are wearing an adult man’s tie and you have loosened it because you are getting down to the nitty gritty, that is one thing, but if you are getting dressed in the morning and you are putting your tie on pre-lose? Come on!

He probably got the sleeves of his suit jacket pushed up his arms, which is Merlin’s second-least favorite sleeve trick. Only Jon Hamm on Mad Men looks good in this, but everybody else looks like the biggest cock in the world. Merlin accidentally did this yesterday, you got your sweater and your long sleeve shirt and you unbutton the buttons of your long-sleeve shirt and you are folding up the sleeves, starting with the cuffs, over the sweater, and then you are making it look really tidy. Jon Hamm can pull that off, he is a very slender man and a handsome guy, like a TV Clooney. He is a nice guy and he is very funny, for example the Between Two Ferns thing with Zach Galifianakis.

The self-effacing things he has done make Merlin understand that if he were more handsome he would be able to be a lot more funny and adaptive, but maybe he is just making excuses now. John has met Jon Hamm and in the opening paragraph of his Playboy interview the writer says: ”At one point he wandered over to the next table to give a back massage to his friend, author and Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, who was dining with indie rockers Aimee Mann and John Roderick.” Merlin claims that they don’t even publish Playboy anymore.

Merlin is very upset that John is mentioned in something in fucking Playboy where somebody was interviewing Jon Hamm and John was near him. John would go so far as to say that he knows Jon Hamm, but not in a biblical sense. He does have a relaxed sense of humor. John is not speaking for him, but he imagines from interacting with him that his handsomeness is somewhat of a burden for him pursuing what he truly loves, which is comedy. If he was an uglier guy he would be a better comedian. Merlin mentions Eugene Mirman or Patton Oswalt, but John thinks those guys are handsome guys. The thing is that they are Tolkien characters.

Merlin thinks that John must struggle with this as well because he is very good-looking and very charismatic and at time he says: ”Stop staring at my tits and listen to my song about the Space Shuttle!”, having trouble keeping people’s focus on the way he helps them. John thinks that his inner ugliness suffices, and like the emperor: the more of the dark side of the Force he uses, the more wrinkles the portrait of him in his attic gets. He is not aware of people undressing him with their eyes, but he also walks around unconscious, at least in the 1990s.

John teaching girls how to spit, which is like having a baby (RL34)

You know you are truly handsome when you are Elle MacPherson and you can just wear some sweatpants that say ”Juicy!” on the back, put your hair in a bun, and go to the store to buy some snuff. Can you imagine how hot it would be if she did some Copenhagen? The beast part would be that she could spit very well, because most girls can’t spit. There was a while in the 1980s where John was running clinic, teaching girls how to spit. You have to walk her through the process, it doesn’t happen from the lips, but from the back of the tongue, and you setting a thing free that now has a life of its own, it is not just a spray of wet air, but you are creating a new thing, like giving birth.

Merlin risks going a little ping pong for a minute, but one problem with people learning to throw, especially girls, is that they don’t understand when to let go of the ball. Also, girls don’t really want to spit and then you are never going to get any good trajectory. The girls who signed up for John’s loogie clinic all truly did want to spit. They would contact him and say: ”I understand that you can teach girls to spit!” - ”Yeah, if you are ready!” It was Alaska with the midnight sun, so it was no night class because there is no night. John sounds like a Native American in a commercial. The very first rudimentary thing is how to not spit on yourself.

The mistake people make is that they think spitting involves pursing the lips. When you are giving birth to a baby, you don’t purse the lips, but you want to open and let the baby be free. Your mouth-lips are the same: You want to create a loogie-shaped aperture in your mouth and then let the loogie make its way down the launch tunnel, like the fighter in the original Battlestar Galactica. When John’s baby was being born he was there in the hospital and he was saying: ”Battlestar Galactica launch sequence!” and it really helped everyone there.

Women who are having a baby love advice. If there is ever a time when a woman needs advice from a man, it is when she is having a baby. That is what guys are for! John is helping people to understand what is wrong with them in terms of what they are not doing correctly because he has perspective, and if he were pregnant and was having a baby he wouldn’t even have that much perspective, it might poison his well, he might be too close to it.

The problem with a pregnant woman is that she has a baby in her, and you resolve this problem by getting the baby out. From the perspective of a pregnant woman that might not be entirely obvious. She wants to get the baby out, but she doesn’t see what a simple 1:1 problem that is. Merlin thinks that those stories that a lady doesn’t know she is pregnant until the baby comes out are a little hard to believe. In John’s life he has learned that no story involving a woman is too far fetched.

Being prepared if the Navy SEALS were to intrude on your house (RL34)

If the Navy SEALS or an associated group decide to cut the power to John’s house in advance of coming in through the windows, no matter where he is at that moment he is going to have access to a headlamp, a defensive weapon, and a source of fire. John recommends everybody to look around their house where the defensive positions are, the corners where you are going to get trapped and the corners where you are going to be able to make a stand. Doing that thing like on Baretta where you knock all the glass out of the window and are making a circle with the gun is dumb, that is a 1930s gangster thing where you are trying to hold the cops off.

Using a Thompson Submachine Gun to defend against pirates in the Straight of Malacca (RL34)

John Wayne recommissioned a Navy destroyer or minesweeper as his personal yacht. If you are going around the world on a yacht the smart move is to not have it look like a fancy yacht, but camouflage it as an oceangoing tug boat and you can go to places like the Straight of Malacca where pirates rule, and they will not think that you are Paul Allen in the Octopus, but they think that you are just a seafaring sea-tug. John would definitely have some 1930s style Thompson .45 Caliber Submachine Guns, the one that you put a disc of bullets on that looks like a film canister, because that gun internationally communicates that you are a gangster and mean business, more than an M16 and more than an AK-47.

If you are going through the Strait of Malacca and some pirates start assaulting your yacht, you can see them on the radar although they don’t have any lights on their boat and they are coming at you, wanting to jump on your boat and take it over, but you suddenly put on all the spotlights and your crew is standing at the back of the boat with Thompson Submachine Guns, no pirate would ever make a stab at your boat. The Strait of Malacca is one of the places in the world where all the boats have to go because it is the only way through. You leave Singapore and you have to go to this narrow straight on your way to the Indian Ocean, like the Panama Canal, except it is a natural waterway where the Indonesian and Malaysian pirates wait in the night.

There are some great stories of people in big boats who are watching their radar and see this flotilla of pirate boats come out of the night and they gun it and the pirates chase them. You can’t see those ships because it is all dark, but they are running from these little dots on their radar screen and sometimes they outrun the pirates and sometimes they don’t. There is too great a risk with putting depth charges out there because if you put mines in the water maybe the pirates are going to miss them and then a boat full of orphans comes along and hits the mines.

John thrills to the battle, so he would have Thompson Submachine Guns and maybe a box of grenades, which gives you flexibility. John prefers personal warfare, he doesn’t like this pussy-shit of hitting people on the screen, but he wants to literally see the grenade blow them apart. The pirate has to get his boat touching your boat so he an make the leap, and if you are hiding over the gun veil with your Thompson Submachine Gun and you lob a grenade into his boat, you can throw a grenade 10 feet when the pirate is still 10 feet away, and that is preferable to throwing a mine in the water. You don’t even know if you hit your target, let alone the orphans.

What if the pirates were clowns and they used a pirate cannon to shoot clowns at your boat? You could shoot a clown out of a cannon. All you would have to do was rig up circus netting around your boat and catch the clowns. You needs circus netting and defensive clowns.

John doesn’t like war technology to kill other people remotely (RL34)

John doesn’t like modern fighter pilot technology. These guys are shooting missiles at planes over the horizon, which is a bit of a pussy-move, and John feels the same way about drones. If you are going to kill somebody you should be at least proximate to that person.

John being back on coffee (RL34)

John is back on coffee. All of his friends who have learned not to be enablers about drugs is really good about that, but when he stopped drinking coffee it struck at the heart of every friend he has and they were saying: ”That is the stupidest thing I have every heard!” Coffee is a wonderful drug and John loves and enjoys it, but he is trying to moderate it a little bit and not drink 30 cups a day. To Merlin it seemed like John was drinking a lot of coffee and there was always a pot of coffee being made. He can’t be making another pot of coffee after 6pm this time, though!

Merlin is just here to audit John and find out what some of his weaknesses are and how much money he can get out of him to put him on this electronic machine that doesn’t actually do anything. There are tunnel people down in the MUNI at Powell St. Station, and Merlin doesn’t know how they are allowed to do this unless there is a conspiracy, and they offer free stress tests. It is totally a Scientology thing. There are 4 in a row with dead dark doll eyes and they have a friendly looking sign that says ”Free Stress Test”, like an existential free estimate. No matter what, you are going to need some shit changed, you are going to need a new timing belt.

All airlines are bad (RL34)

There was a time when there were Hare Krishnas in the airports. What happened to them? Merlin can only speak for his own airport. San Francisco is fucked up in so many contradictory ways and Merlin has only lived there for 13 years, so he can’t be getting to understand the stupid, but in the United Terminal 3…

John doesn’t fly United, which is why he has never been in Terminal 3. He is getting on US Air tomorrow. Merlin has been upgraded to first class with US Air once and it was like being in a portal with gum on the seats, and not in a good way. John is flying from Seattle to New York, and he bought the ticket yesterday for $190, which sounds very inexpensive. He has flown every airline, except SriLankan and El Al, the Israeli one, although he always wanted to go on a vacation to Israel and walk around in a robe and see who will follow him.

All the domestic airlines are all shit now. Jet Blue or Virgin are nice, but it is still crap. Merlin thinks Virgin is pound for pound as close as you are going to get to what it was like to fly in the good days. Just the airport experience alone is crap! On Virgin they are pumping this Chris Cornell song with Dr. Dog and the purple lights (Hunger Strike). Stop doing that! It is a nightmare to get on an airplane now and John was fooling himself for a long time and telling himself that it is worth the $50 upgrade to have two more inches of legroom, but it is not, it is just a shit barge full of long pigs and John just needs to fucking recognize that he is going to spend 8 hours on there and he wants the cheapest ticket he can and: ”Fuck you!”

Merlin has read about somebody who had made a fake ticket, but could get on an airplane with it, despite all the TSA theater nonsense from the last few years. Making a fake boarding pass is not that hard. If John got there when it was really busy he could basically walk up there with a Dum Dum sucker and try to convince them that it was a $190 ticket. He could demand satisfaction to a level where he could walk through security and they would apologize to him like a gentleman.

John’s dad was great at that back in the day, but it is just not worth interacting with the sub-normals in that way. When he walks into an airport, John puts on a protective shield of ”Do not touch me!” and carries it all the way to his final destination. Merlin wishes he had a 2 sizes smaller version of that suit for pretty much all the time. He would like a full-body plastic suit that slowly released Purell over his entire body, and he wants to walk places and never touch anything, including himself because he is a carrier.

John’s superpower as a superhero: The Oxidizer (RL34)

John has put a lot of thought into what his superpower would be because he spends a lot of time with Hodgman and this is the type of question he asks. It would be the power to rust. He could just point his finger at something metal and make it rust (see RW50). He himself would be impervious to it because his metallic parts would be made of stainless steel. If somebody points a gun at you, you could just point your finger at it and it would rust. If you have the power to rust on command at a distance, you could rule the world.

Merlin has spend literally every free moment for the last month reading X-Men comics, and it seems that if you got that tuned highly enough and if you went to meet with Professor X and spend some time in the danger room you might be able to get to a point where you could work at Cyclops. You don’t just want it shoot out randomly and you can’t make carbon rust, Neil Young showed that, but everybody has metal in their body and if you could just excite the base metals in somebody’s body you could fucking rust their insides just enough so you could run away.

John is not super worried about some person causing him damage with their hands, but he is worried about them using a tool of some kind that gives them some advantage. If they had a knife John would rust their knife. If they had a plastic knife or wood knife John could probably improvise something. If they would be chasing him in a car he would make it rust. he would not even waste his rust powers on somebody with a wooden knife, but he would just beat the shit out of them or make them feel bad about themselves (see RL33), like ”Hey, what’s up, wood knife?”

John eventual goal as a superhero is not to be part of a team of do-gooders, but he wants to bring peace to the world, he is a messianic superhero. He just has to come up with a name, he could be the Oxidator. Iron Man is a pretty cool superhero, like a pretty high-tech Batman, but against the Rustinator he would not stand a chance. John would have to develop his skills with this rust power, like he would kiss a girl with braces and then she can’t open her mouth anymore. As part of his rustability he might also have an innate sense of something threatening that could be rusted getting near him, and might have honed the power to not have to rust the whole gun, but just the little spring on the inside of the gun or just the muzzle so it would blow up in his face. Selective rustology!

They would have to get John a better name. Rusty is terrible, Rustman sounds too old, and Oxidator sounds like a bad guy. John would dress like Tom Wolfe and wear a white 3-piece suit and at the end of every battle he would have to flick little bits of rust off of his coat. His Achilles’ heel would be constantly trying to keep his jacket white. Merlin thinks John also needs a gimmick, like Captain America’s shield, Thor’s hammer or Wolverine’s claws, or he could just have something handsome like a walking stick. John has always been partial to sword canes, but the problem with that is that John is the Rustaffarian… he has dreadlocks!

Canada (RL34)

John mentioned Spicy Pork, when you put the word ”spicy” in front of any food Merlin is back in Vancouver after he had some spicy tuna and went to a Sloan show, but he did not get to see a lot of the Sloan show because the spicy tuna caused him to do a dad boner in the men’s room. In Canada they call it explosive diarrhea.

They wear a lot of jeans jackets in Canada because in some ways it is still 1987 there. It is like the original 21 Jump Street and everybody is hip and groovy, but in a 1987 way. Canada is like a polite pilot for the 1990s. The gangs don’t wear red and blue handkerchiefs, but yellow and green. They want to be gangs, but they don’t want to get the Crips upset, so they came up with their own colors. The hanky code there is very complicated when you want to negotiate whether you are a top or a bottom because not everybody is a top, and Canada is probably a bottom, although there are some pretty tough characters there.

Merlin has only been to four countries, and the two of them he likes a lot are Canada and New Zealand. They say that New Zealand is like England in the 1950s: A simpler time! England was fine, that is Merlin’s third country. He had reached a point in his life where he had some things to think about, so he took a very long walk from his office to the Burrito place and when he came back he tore the shit out of that God-damn Northface place because his fanny pack broke while he was waiting for his Bronco Burrito (see Demanding Satisfaction, RL14).

John getting a parking ticket on a Sunday (RL34)

A few weeks ago John was going to be in a rehearsal all afternoon and didn’t want to get a ticket, but when he parks on the street he always gets a ticket, so he was going to outsmart them this time and park in a parking garage, and only later did he realize that on Sundays there was no charge for parking on the street. He was trying to outsmart them, but he was outsmarting himself and paid $10 to park in a garage when he could have just parked right in front of where he was going, but then there was a ticket on his windshield from the parking garage people although he had paid the amount and he had kept his receipt from the machine and this was insane!

John took those things to his mom and said: ”Can you make sense of this?” and she was wrote them a strongly worded letter down from the Marcia cave where her computer butler said: ”Welcome! How may I assist you?” They wrote back a three-word response, like: ”Ticket is cancelled!” First of all: How many people have a mom who has a bat cave? How many people actually write the strongly-worded letter? A small percentage! These people are just blanket-ticketing everybody and then you get into this collections process where you don’t pay the thing and then you owe them double until you finally pay it to get them off your back.

What he got was an answer, but it was not a solution and it is far from satisfaction. There should have been an explanation, there definitely should have been an apology, and there should have been some gift for John and his mom, something she could have put in the cave. John would have accepted a gift. Merlin suggests that John should probably punch the guy lightly, hold them by the collar, or step on his toes, and have him give an apology in full sentences. John thought about that, but the guy is probably from Somalia and had seen war-torn lands and lived 1000 lives. Merlin counters that the only people living in Somalia are warlords and pirates.

Like that Nazi in Cleveland, just because you get old doesn’t mean you are not a Nazi. John Demjanjuk? That is not the one from the movie Citizen X, but that is Andrei Chikatilo, the guy who killed all the people in Russia and who might be the greatest serial killer of all times. There is an HBO show about him. He was the Nazi in Cleveland in the 1980s and then he died. Merlin compares it to Nuremberg: If John doesn’t go in there to pick up the Somali by his collar to demand satisfaction, then he is tacitly letting the brown shirts win. John should not let someone’s refugee status from a war-torn anarchic African nation obviate his need for satisfaction about being ticketed improperly. By the time he starts overthinking this shit and starts wondering if somebody is from fucking Somalia, he is not only going to stop helping other people, but he is also going to stop helping himself.

Learning about World War II (RL34)

John Demjanjuk died March 17, 2012, he lived until 2 months ago. He is from the Ukraine. The Nazis had an outpost there because they took over the Ukraine on their way to Moscow. At the time the Ukraine was part of the USSR.

Merlin wonders if one of the dumbest things Hitler did was go to Russian because Napoleon already had the same problem. This is a different podcast, they need a podcast where they refight World War II, called Hitler ’n Stuff. It would be one where they had guests because John has learned from the Internet that there are a lot of guys who want to talk about World War II and they could have them on the program. Some of the songs from Silkworm are about World War II and one of the guys, the guitar player, not Tim, but the other guy (Andy Cohen?), likes talking about it. John has seen them play, but he has not met them.

Somebody sent John a tweet yesterday, just saying: Discuss World War II! Merlin thinks it might be John’s old teacher Mr. Detlefsen, who had the class where John had his final, but John doubts he is on Twitter.

You really don’t want to invade Russia, there are problems with the supply chain, the winter is bad, there are a lot of reasons! If you are ever in a situation where you have taken over Europe and have most of it in your iron grip, leave Russia alone and steer your ambitions for example toward Turkey, although they are hard to invade because they are fighters. There is a lot of reason to invade Turkey because you would gain control of the Dardanelles and of the access to the Black Sea. Then what is Russia going to do? Is that the Mountain Goats guy? John Dardanelle (his name is John Darnielle)?

In Hogan’s Heroes General Burkhalter would threaten to send people to the Eastern Front, which is the Russian front because it is from the perspective of the Germans. The reason why we have the satellite nations from the post-war on is because never again will a drop of Soviet blood be spilled on Soviet soil. If they were going to shoot them they would have to do it in Czechoslovakia.

Merlin thinks that the Hitler ’n Stuff podcast needs to happen. Maybe they should record it and never release it? It would help Merlin a lot because he could learn a lot about Hitler from John. John gets that a lot, probably because people want to know about the wars because they sense that it would contextualize the world for them or even just make them understand what the story behind Captain America is. John grew up literally soaking in World War II. His dad was a World War II veteran and the Vietnam war was on television. He grew up knowing about the war from his earliest times as a boy and as he got older he added everything he learned about it to his body of knowledge.

John can’t remember a time when he didn’t have an understanding of World War II, but he had to go back and learn about World War I later in life. He can’t picture how you could be a modern person and not have an understanding of that conflict and to go back and know where to start.

Merlin reads a lot on Wikipedia about all the history he wished he would have known in High School and just the stuff toward the end: The Bataan Death March being the apotheosis or a well-known example, but it was just pretty miserable what they were doing to American prisoners. It would suck to be captured by the Germans and going to an uncomfortable camp, but there probably was not any Andersonville, whereas what the Japanese were doing was just inhumane, the way they would treat American prisoners.

The Japanese who were living strung across all these archipelagos had no supplies either, that is why they had the march, or at least that was the flimsy cover for it, that they couldn’t waste ships on this because they already couldn’t feed their own people. No-one was living high on the hog out there. What made the German camps in addition to the mass-murder with gas, in the prisoner-of-war camps the guards were drinking champagne from France, and the camp commander was probably practicing his oil painting in the afternoons, listening to Wagner, while in the Japanese POW-camps the guards themselves were eating roach sandwiches and there wasn’t much left over for the Americans.

John’s dad was aware what he was facing in case he would go down over the Pacific, but those guys were all 22 years old and when John was 22 years old, was he aware what he was facing? Merlin wants to hear the part about John’s great lost years that was like the Bataan Death March. ”Once I had a lot to drink and then they randomly shot three of us for no reason! My buddy was infected and had dysentery, so he went and got another round.” John could have lost a leg just as easily as one of those guys. When you are 22 you really do think you are a survivor, and when you are 22 years old and you are fighting in a war, you really do think that it ain’t no thing.

Communism (RL34)

Communism was inevitable from the Soviet perspective and the entire world was one day going to be communist. If revolutions weren’t going to sweep the land then the communism had to be gifted to people in the form of imposing it on them. Like all young men John’s age he spent a few months in 9th grade very enamored with communism. He did the whole ”Soviet Communism is not communism!” and he spent many years in college arguing with Marxists. John was never a communist himself. He read all that stuff, but it all very quickly gets to the heart of the Hobbesian question: ”Is man basically good or basically evil?”

Communism and Marxism ultimately depend on people making sacrifices for the greater good and personal experience has shown that people are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good within limited context. Merlin thinks that the problem is that it is not necessarily for the good when Mao wants you to make steel in your back yard with a grill and then you don’t get food. That is the part that drives him crazy! He was very interested in Marxism and Marxist criticism, and the premise of it is very idealistic, even more than Christianity.

John can’t believe Merlin started talking about politics and he should put a card on the wall ”The day Merlin started talking about politics!” Is that the Jerry Lewis movie (The Day the Clown Cried)?

Merlin and John on a shooting range (RL34)

The one time Merlin and John shot guns together Merlin had to stop at the .45 because it was just too much, even with the earplugs, but the recoil was too much and Merlin could not have this in his hands, it was so loud! Merlin never did the .44 Magnum. John and Eric were shooting that and Eric was doing great and was hitting everything, he was the stand-out. Jonathan Rothman (?) was a Deadeye Dick, as we say.

John’s dad being Navy pilot in the Pacific in World War II, his .45 pistol (RL34)

John’s dad was a Navy pilot in the Pacific. Merlin wonders if that must have been scary because even before the whisperers about the camps people knew what the Japanese were doing to people and they knew what would happen if their plane went down and it was not going to be pretty. That is why John has his father’s pistol. He was issued a M1911 model .45 pistol as a Navy pilot early in the war and he wore it in a shoulder holster.

Later on in the war the rumors started getting out that a lot of pilots were using their knife to etch a cross in the top of the bullets so when it hit it would explode like a fake dum dum bullet and do more damage, which the Japanese said was unfair and bad war-making and they issued a directive that if they would capture an American pilot who had a .45 they were just going to kill him right away because the gun itself was unfair.

In reaction to that the US Navy recalled all the .45 and issued .38 revolvers to all the pilots, but John’s dad, being a Roderick, said that he had lost his pistol and they said: ”Of course he did!” and they issued him a .38 and for the rest of the war he would carry both those arms. By the end of the war he had to turn in the .38, but he kept the .45. John still has it and one time he took it to a gunsmith and they all gathered around it and were like: ”OMG, this is amazing!” because John’s dad’s M1911 was in the first batch made during World War I and it must have sat in an arms-depot for all the inter-war years and was issued to John’s dad in World War II.

This gun would be worth thousands of dollars, except sometime in the 1970s John’s dad had it reblued because it was tattered and that ruined it, not as a gun, it is a great gun, but as a collector’s item. Merlin looked at a picture of it and thinks it is such a fucking cool-looking gun. It is heavy.

John’s dad shooting down a Zero with his .45 (RL34)

John’s dad did not fly fighter planes, but DC-3’s or C-47’s, the transport planes, but he told all these stories like there was an anti-aircraft gun on the bridge, and so they flew under the bridge and they couldn’t get the gun down fast enough. He also tells the story that he comes through the clouds and sees a plane coming straight at him in the distance, pointed directly at him, and then he realized it was a Japanese Zero (Mitsubishi A6M Zero), and in his version of the story, failing to know what else to do he opened the side window in the cockpit, pulls his .45 that John still owns, sticks it out the window and fires 8 rounds at the Zero and grabs the stick and pulls straight up and he never saw the plane again so he assumed that he shot it down with his pistol. They really were the Greatest Generation, possibly the most full-of-shit-Generation.

John’s favorite story was when his dad was landing supplies like ammunition. The Americans were taking over an island and the goal is always to get to the Japanese airstrip on that island and when they got there they would park a Jeep with an American flag on it at the end of the airstrip, which was the sign that they had seized the strip. John’s dad in his transport with guns and ammunition and medical supplies would land on the newly captured strip, they threw the supplies out, load the plane up with wounded, spin it around and get back of there while the fighting was going on all around the strip.

One time he was coming in hot full of bullets on this strip where he saw the Jeep parked at the end of the strip and as he touched the wheels down he sees a guy run out of the jungle, jump in the Jeep and peel out, spin around and get the hell of there and bullets started coming out of everywhere, and John’s dad was hauling ass down the runway, but he was too far along to pull up and take back off, so he ran the plane down to the end of the runway, the Japanese were coming out of the jungle, he span the plane around, head back down the runway the other direction while the load master in the back of the plane was just throwing crates of bullets out the door, trying to get the plane light enough so that it could get back off the ground, and they got off the ground and made it out of there.

John wanting to join the Army or the CIA (RL34)

Merlin’s anxiety would forbid him from being very useful in a situation like that. Good times! John just regrets that he had no life to give for his country and he sometimes regrets that he didn’t join the Army, which of course is crazy, and at the time when he was 19 there was nothing he was going to do less than join the Army, but now that he is old he looks back and was wondering what the hell he was doing. He wasn’t doing anything!

If John had those rust powers, he could have made a difference, but then they would not want him in the Army, but in some special secret group, while John would just want to be out there on the front lines rusting things. That has always been John’s problem with the CIA: He knew at a certain point pretty early on that the CIA would never recruit him as an agent. Even at the age of 20 he had already fundamentally jeopardized his chances of being in the CIA, but now he still feels like the CIA could recruit him, but he would be an asset, not an agent.

John would be the one with the beard and he would have a CIA agent as an handler and he personally would not have a license to kill, but his license would be under the umbrella of somebody else’s license, a sublicense to kill, and John would take it, but it would not be as satisfying as being a spy himself. But still, John could be in Damascus walking down the street in a white 3-piece suit with a sword cane and a big beard and when agents came through he would be running a safe house or he would be able to say: ”Sounds like it is the Jackal again! My old nemesis!”

Merlin would love to work in a Three Days of the Condor office, he wouldn’t want to be killed during lunch, but he loves that movie so much. They are in a town house, doing spy stuff, and that would be the best thing in the world. You have to wonder, somewhere in San Francisco there is a town house where people are doing spy stuff and it is probably in Merlin’s neighborhood and he walks by it all the time. There are so many places, not just the ones for hand jobs, but there is a storage place for a Yoghurt place that it actually Mahjong for money, and if you can pull something like that off two blocks away from a police station, then there is a pretty good chance that somebody is here in a bath robe fighting a jackal. They are so inscrutable.

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