RL35 - You Give ‘Em Israeli Eyes

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problems:

  • Preparing the stage for Mr. Roderick; °
  • laminating the lady in the field; °
  • John battles mean stycks with Feminesium; °
  • oratory from a conveyor belt; °
  • graciously accepting a doll made of human hair; °

Plus: Everybody hates a crappy birthday grift °

The show title refers to how airport security in Israel works where the guy will just look you in the eye and will not ask the little old lady to take off her shoes, and you have to apply the same if some fan gives you food in order to make sure they are not giving you cupcakes with LSD in them.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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.

Microphones in different Rock clubs (RL35)

John starts the show singing Merlin Mann in the usual way. Merlin responds by singing ”John! Ahaaaa!” in the way of the Flash theme by Queen and John appreciates Merlin’s mic technique. He considers himself as someone with good mic skills because you can’t sing into microphones for 20 years without learning something. A SM57 that smells like a butt is going to be different than a Sure Sieg Heil 5418, which is a terrible mic, but at least Hitler made the microphones run on time. The Germans make great microphones, but then they put them up their butt.

Merlin sent John three different kinds of messages and all of John’s things are bleeping at once, but he is used to that and has 700 iCal invitations to Skyping from Merlin. John doesn’t want them because he is trying to keep his inbox at Zero, but Merlin is adding things to his inbox.

You know you are in a hell of a club when they have Sure microphones that smell like the bottom of the ocean. It is a real Rock club when you know they have never sanitized their microphones. If John, as a man of his high status with his big kloud, had a club he would sanitize his mics.

There is a club in Denver called the Lion’s Lair that had been promoted to John as a legendary place, but when they first arrived there it was legendarily abysmal. It was a bit like the one Merlin took them in San Francisco recently, the Great American Music Hall, one of the finest clubs in the world, with a smell of fresh paint mixed with bleach mixed with Hepatitis C. John wouldn’t come into this place to get change for a dollar, but he was playing there that night. The guy who was setting up the PA was giving John the choice where to set up their 3 microphones, meaning they were not going to mic their instruments.

The microphone they gave John was the best one they had, and it was covered with rust and actually had been thrown to the floor in a Punk Rock rage so many times that it had sharp cutting edges on it where it had broken and someone put it together with a hammer and the first time John touched it with his lips he cut himself and he needed to get a tetanus shot after the soundcheck. It is like with the Viet Cong where they put poop on the sticks in the punji traps that will give you an infection. John ended up playing there 4-5 times over the years.

The problem with bringing your own microphone is that you forget it at the club because it is the last thing you are thinking of when you leave, unless you have your own sound man. John carried around a mic in the pocket of his jacket for a tour, and he left it behind three different times. He left it at the Bowerly Ballroom, another of the greatest clubs in the world, and it had John’s name written on it, and when he called them they claimed they didn’t know where it went.

John is never going to say one bad word about the glorious and honorable guilt of sound engineers, roadies and technicians who make the clubs of America resonate like giant cellos. It would be like taunting your proctologist. This army of men and women dressed all in black with Leatherman multi-tools on their belts and large and small Maglites. The real pros have tiny Maglites with red lenses so they can be on stage and not disrupt the show with a distracting white light. It is basically Special Forces stuff.

Merlin has experienced in his time that playing in exactly the same Rock club with the same equipment and the same sound man sounded completely different every night. If the owner of the club were behind the board, and two guys Merlin played in bands with owned this club over time, was in charge, because they cared. John’s pro-tip is to not let the goofy guy do the sound. John Coulton’s soundman John Carter is a consummate Rock’n’Roll professional. It is not the young taciturn guy that Merlin met and parried with in the hotel lobby who is a Yale-educated merch lackey who is hauling gear and doing merch. Coulton’s soundman had done the sound for the opener on the Michael Jackson Bad tour, he has been around, he is a sword-wielder.

Merlin’s microphone that he is talking into right now is a single-use microphone that has never seen anything worse than Merlin’s mouth. By single-use he means he does one podcast episode and then throws it away. You have to do that! It is like a toilet paper, a fast lady, you just move on. No offense, Merlin doesn’t want to work ping pong.

The SM57 is a work horse and they seem to be everywhere because they are inexpensive and used well you can use them for all different things. If you lost all the mics in the world you could still build a house with an SM57 all day and you can mic a kick drum and you can get by with it as a vocal mic. John doesn’t want to advertise for the Sure SM57, but he wants that company to pony up and sponsor them first.

In most places there is a rat’s nest of XLR-cables and a pile of SM57s on the floor in front of where the kick drum would be because they wanted to get home and get back to more Marijuana. Merlin is describing the experience of a young up-and-coming band in Florida, but they never got up or came, they were down and not coming. It has been a long time since John played in a club where he walked on stage and there was just a pile of SM57 cigar-buts stacked in front of the kick drum. He is a professional Rock musicians and when he shows up in a club there is a selection of nice microphones that are being mastered by the commander on the stage who is directing his sailors and mid-shipmen up the rigging to prepare the stage for John’s show.

A lot young bands make the mistake of putting $3000 worth of Sushi on the writer (?), but they are taking that money out of the money they would otherwise pay you. John’s writer is fairly simple because he would rather have the money than have somebody charge him $7 for a Gatorade. If you say you need a clawfoot bathtub or a shower they are not going to charge you for that, unless they are really unscrupulous.

If when you bring your own sound guy or have a big writer, does that peg you as trouble? No, everybody loves when you bring your own sound guy and your own gear, except one time in Minneapolis where John played a club with his own sound guy and at the end of the night the house sound guy pitched a fit that John’s sound guy had not zeroed out the board, which is really not a lot of work, and if you are obsessive compulsive like John there is nothing you like better than to zeroing out the board.

John being on a panel about groupies in Rock’n’Roll (RL35)

One time John was on a panel on groupies in Rock’n’Roll at the Experience Music Project in Seattle (EMP, MoPOP). He was the only man on the panel and also the only musician. The chair woman of the event was a feminist writer from The Olympia Evergreen State College, the hippie college, and she had stacked the panel with women who are Rock writers who shared her view that being a groupie was almost the worst thing a woman can do, not only for her, but it degraded women all across the world.

To love a band and follow and band and be a girlfriend of Rock musicians was a debasement that left a lasting scar on women everywhere. On this panel with very serious-minded young writers there was a woman who was 55 years old who had written a book about her 25 years as a Rock groupie (not Pamela Des Barres). She started off her presentation by saying that all the big bands came through her home town of San Antonion, Texas, but there was no competition to be the hot Rock girl. It is not like in Los Angeles where 2500 models are standing there, trying to talk to the band, but she and her little group of friends had no competition.

She was walking down the streets at 14 years old in 1973 and a white limo pulled up and the door opened and it was Rod Steward asking her to get into the car, and she did and so began a 15 year odyssey where she dated Iggy Pop for 3 years, she travelled around the world, she has been everywhere up and down, and she said it was the greatest experience in her life. She and John became fast friends on this panel because they were surrounded by these very serious ladies in their special underwear with their mean sticks and John did not let them take the fun out of it.

She said from the dais: ”You are my kind of Rock star! If I was 20 years younger…” - ”Baby, you don’t have to be 20 years younger. I think we got a special connection right now. You want to do it just right here on the table?” They were getting really political questions from the audience, hyper overthought 4th generation feminist theory. Later John found out that the women who had chaired the panel who had hand-selected John for this thing, and she was somebody who John respected as a writer, was calling on girls in crowd who were her students in the classes she taught. John thought this crowd was really hostile, asking him how he felt about mind-raping the youth of America.

The deck was stacked against those who believe that sex is not really that big of a deal. It was not the woman who misspelled feminism, but that was on the cover of Bust magazine where it was spelled Feminisium, and John still has a little jar of Feminisium in his office, in case any feminist came in during the middle of the night he could wave the Feminisium at them and it would repel their mean styck (spelled with a ”y”). John used a witch voice from the Wizard of Oz to describe feminists, but that is so ping pong and John is going to get a lot of angry mail.

A lot of their listeners are feminists, as John and Merlin are, but feminism is a big tent and there is room in there for different view points and different body mass indexes, different positions, different costumes.

Ween (RL35)

Ween just recently broke up and John was one of the first people to know because he was awake in the middle of the night, looking at Twitter when Aaron sent that inscrutable tweet. Merlin doesn’t want to upset feminists or Ween, but if you are going to end a slowed-down career with a very popular cult band, would you move directly to a Rod McKuen cover album (called Marvelous Clouds by Aaron Freeman)? John would not, but he is also not a fan of the ”We are breaking up now after nobody cares about us!” because there is no point and he doesn’t think that R.E.M. should have broken up either. You just stop putting out records. John does still have a band and the are young and very talented.

Cough button, people complaining (RL35)

Merlin made a loud hissing noise as if he let the air out of the pneumatic suspension of this desk chair, but he said it was shrimp salad. John wished he had a cough button because he just coughed right into the microphone. They have a listener who is going to get mad and who has already said he was going to buy them cough buttons, but Merlin has never seen an actual cough button. He is in a band and picky about sound, but he is a man with really good ears and you can hear it in the production. He is a legendary person, definitely in the pantheon of all-time greats, but he is offended by a great many things like John sometimes being very phlegmy.

John has friend in Seattle who thinks that his post-nasal drip is such a medical condition that it excuses him from sitting at a white tie dinner and repulsively snorting. John has taken him aside a dozen times, but he will just point to his medical condition, but he just has snot in his nose and nobody ever taught him the basic things like blowing your nose like a gentleman. This is one of the handful of things that according to Merlin must never be done at a table:

You must not speak on your phone. When they had their last fancy dinner and Merlin needed to talk to his lady he left. There was this creepy couple where she looked like Minnie Mouse and he was really small, but it was San Francisco. John just recently played in San Francisco and people were telling him that it was a really intensely weird crowd at that show, but it is San Francisco and that is where weird people go. That would have to have been John’s first Jonathan Coulton show and according to Merlin that was easily the least weird audience he has ever seen at anything where Jonathan Coulton is in the building. He is definitely moving away from weird, but there is weird.

Merlin’s friend Scott Simpson had a tweet about this a while back that affected Merlin deeply: ”I will judge whether you are a bad person based on whether you type on your phone at the table!” Merlin tries very hard to not do that until after the entrée has arrived.

Their listener is a member of John and Merlin’s generation, but he is a little bit older, a very handsome man, and he feels like he was in the trenches more than John and Merlin were in terms of the latter part of the Civil Rights Movement and the latter part of the 3rd generation feminism, the real heart of it, that 1980s feeling that we are fighting to change the language and the thinking and you want to get on the right team. He can be ironic about those things, but he also still feels like those battles are important and we need to be waging them at all time and we need to be vigilant over our language and our thought.

John and Merlin are just a little bit more in the camp of ”Naaaah, people of other races should be sent back to their countries where they came from, it would make a lot of them a lot happier, it is a Marcus Garvey type situation. They can go back to Liberia and start a whole new nation, it is right in the name Liberia = Freedom” Women just need to understand that they can’t have it all and you should stop complaining because your shrill high-pitched voices are keeping John from being able to think and daddy needs time to think in quiet.

Eating subway sandwiches in front of an open sewer (RL35)

The last time John and Merlin met they were standing on the street in front of a Subway in front of an open sewer where it smelled like shit and piss and Merlin was eating the last of four Subway sandwiches that he had ordered. He went back for more because this part was really going and he thought people were going to eat it together with him, but then he was standing there like a dope with a plastic bag full of crappy sandwiches at 2am (see RL268 and RL246) Also Merlin doesn’t smoke, thank you for tweeting that.

Merlin drank 5 of John’s beers, Scott and Merlin pretty much cleaned out John and Jonathan’s beer, they made sure there was no Brandy left…

Merlin had B.M.T.’s (Biggest, Meatiest, Tastiest), too and meatball, with extra monkey peppers. Merlin has a Subway system that he would share with John if John were less snarky. Starbucks and Subway is all you can count on when you travel, but Merlin doesn’t want to give John advice he will not take. John bought a sandwich at a Sunway in Bellingham right before going into Canada, and he did not apologize because it was American, but he had explosive poops for two days afterwards because of the banana peppers and he did not eat there anymore for eight years until standing in a sewer on the street corner on Market in San Francisco eating four sandwiches.

John was the only guy in the entire group who could even conceivably handle being punched by somebody. He was also the only guy that wasn’t swilling off of a Brandy bottle on the sideway, but Merlin doesn’t have any recollection of that. It was carnage!

Merlin’s band opening for a lot of big bands, fan gifts (RL35)

The weird thing about living where they lived is that Merlin’s band got the entirely inappropriate opportunity to open for a lot of amazing bands. Their friend Alex Weiss (?), the promoter, used to say that it was good exposure, which basically means that he didn’t want to pay you.

Merlin’s band opened for The Mekons and for Ween. They were in on the totem pole, they were local openers and they maybe got $50-100 for a show, but who cares because it was an honor and in retrospect Merlin was in his 20s and was opening for these bands that were his heroes. Now he is in his 40s and he is still talking about it. Like the Poster Children, that wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t living in this cow town and Merlin gave them a present, but that was creepy and you shouldn’t give people presents when they are on tour because they have to either pack it or throw it away.

If a fan someone gives you something they made while you are on tour, either a food item or a piece of fan art, like something cast iron that they made in their forge, you cannot throw it away because it is extremely bad luck and also bad faith and there is something sacred about things that fans have made for you. John was talking to a group of people, some of them musicians and some of them touring crew people, and the crew people all agreed that if a fan has made something for you that spooks you, which happens, like a voodoo doll or something that is not 100% cool, you gift it to a member of the crew and then the crew can do whatever they want with it.

Like a bunch of cookies that all look like you except they have all gingerbread penises on them and John doesn’t want those and he doesn’t know why somebody would make them. He doesn’t want to keep them, but he definitely doesn’t want to just throw them away either, and if you give them to the crew then you have given a gift that releases you from the bond, and the crew have no morals about it at all and the penis cookies go away and everybody is fine and you have given the crew something to think about and if it shows up on eBay later, that is on them and not on you.

Merlin has given John a bag that is kind of lame, but John finds it quite good, he just needs the strap that Merlin couldn’t find at the time, but he will give it to John next time he comes for a visit. John will throw him the cello and Merlin will throw him the strap. The cello is worth more than the strap, though! It doesn’t have a case, though, so you would not be able to check it in when you are traveling.

Back when John had a tour van… for a lot of bands the dashboard of the tour van ends up being a shrine where all your old backstage passes and shit that fans have given you all gets thrown. Death Cab for Cutie have a box of Peeps (chocolates) that melted in the sun. John had his Tinker Bell poster up there for an entire tour and every time one of the others would ask him what that was and if they could get this off the dash he would shout at them: ”Get your hands off!” (see RL17)

For Merlin, if somebody would give him something at a talk in town, he would absolutely bring it home, but if you got to travel and Merlin is such a back packer, like Diana Ross, to quote Seinfeld, he brings so much stuff he doesn’t need, it is already packed, he is late, he is hungover, but John says you can never arbitrarily throw that stuff away, but you have to break the spell by giving it as a gift to somebody.

People used to make incredible stuff for John’s band. He had a set of beads that said The Long Winters. They once had a T-shirt with a little fat penguin in a circle that said The Long Winters and somebody made a stuffed penguin. Merlin likes crafts. His friend Moxy (she) gave him a felt finger puppet that had its own finger puppet, which is a Robin Goldwasser thing right there. She is the best.

Giving Food

If you get food you like and it doesn’t seem like there is anything weird in it, will John eat it? People give him food all the time and there are a couple of fans who will routinely give him food, like cookies and cake. One friend in San Francisco always makes black-bottom cupcakes, which is not ping pong, although she is an Asian person. One time John was playing in Portland and some students from Reed College came with a bunch of cupcakes, but Reed is the type of place where people would put LSD in cupcakes and give them to a band. Also, there will be no eggs and no animals were enslaved to make these cupcakes. John asked them from the stage and they were all: ”Haha, no way! Tihi!” - ”I am giving these to the crew!” because he has never met a crew person who wouldn’t eat a vegan LSD cupcake. Chocolate chip cookies are always good.

With the one exception of the time John was desperately ill and Merlin brought him some cold medicine, John always said ”No!” when Merlin would ask him if he needed anything, he probably had diaderias (?) and picks, but was there anything Merlin could bring to bring comfort, but John always said: ”No!” because he is a gentleman. You want that comfort when you arrive somewhere, and if you got a cake waiting for you in a room… John wouldn’t touch the alcohol…

You have to look into the eyes of someone who is giving you food. When you take food from people at a Rock concert you give them Israeli eyes, you look at them like a member of the Israeli airport commandoes, and you say: ”Are you carrying a bomb? Do your cupcakes have LSD?” and 99.99% of the time you are going to get all you need to know through their eyes.

People pretending to offer something for free

What is really frying John’s gears that has happened recently, he doesn’t have enough machine oil in the world to keep his gears running smoothly when somebody comes up to him at a show and says: ”Hi, I make instruments, effects pedals, or guitars, and I would like to make a guitar for you!” - ”Wow, that is amazing, really?” - ”Yes, I am a big fan of you and I want to make you a guitar!” - ”I would love for you to make me a guitar” - ”Great, can I have your email address so I can contact you and we will talk about it?” - ”That is fantastic! Here is my email address!”

The next day they send an email: ”Great, I am going to start working on your guitar. Let’s talk about artist pricing!” - ”Artist pricing?” You said: ”I am going to make you a guitar”, which means you are going to make a guitar and give it to me, that does not mean that you are going to sell me a guitar, that is not what ”Let me make you a guitar!” means. It is a much more common thing now, where people say: ”I love you and I want to make you something” - ”Great, get started!” - ”Okay, here is my pricing!” But that is not a gift, but it is a grift.

Giving their own book or CD

One of Merlin’s frenemies, he is not his nemesis because Merlin has yet to meet the person who deserved to be his nemesis. Being a nemesis must be earned. An evil Merlin Mann would look pretty much like Merlin with glasses, but his sister in law threw away the beautiful glasses that John had given him and shit he is wearing now is ridiculous! It is not some Warby Parker horsecrap? (Merlin doesn’t reply, which means it probably is)

The guy who gives you the gift of his Chapbook, a self-published book of his poems or essays. Happy fucking birthday! Merlin knows a guy who came to an event, it may have been a house warming, it was the flimsiest grift Merlin had ever seen, and you can describe this frenemy in one word: ”Squeeeeee!” and he handed Merlin a hastily wrapped gift and goes: ”I hope you enjoy this!” and it was a signed copy of his bound-at-Kinkos book of things that he has written, with a lot of white space and the typefaces are a bit off the skew because he basically Xeroxed it. Thank you so much, this is so nice! He also brought 3-4 extra copies in case anybody wanted to buy one.

This falls into the same category of the person who gives you their CD. John knows what that feels like on the other side of the line, like: ”God, I made this record and I really want John Roderick to hear it!”, or: ”I really want Merlin Mann to read my book because I admire him and I made this thing and I am very proud of it!”, but Merlin thinks that is very different from acting like it is a present for your birthday. Intentionality is important! John argues that to give a CD to a guy at the merch table and to give you a hastily wrapped book of poems at your birthday party are not different because the CD and the book are going to end up in the same place, which is left in the dressing room.

Merlin’s simple solution is to say: ”I am so overpacked right now, there is no way I can pack this. I am going to give you my email address, please send me a link to an MP3 of your favorite song you have done!” and he will probably listen to that link. Merlin is grateful that people are interested in him knowing about what they do and a lot of times he ends up loving it and following their work, but if somebody goes: ”Check out my blog!” that is like saying: ”Absorb my oeuvre!”, Merlin will say: ”Could you do me a favor and email me your favorite thing you have written!”

Imagining that Merlin is going to treasure this chapbook is totally lame because it is all about you! If you really want him to enjoy this, why don’t you send him something that is an easy in-road to loving you, rather than foisting that on him and then make him feel bad that now he has to pack a CD. How many CDs can you pack? Merlin will actually read that or listen to that honestly. ”A CD? Will you give me a CD-player, too? I will just pop that in my bag! I will put it in here with my reel-to-reel with Kraftwerk covers that somebody gave me!”

For decades people have been asking John how he discovers new music and he discovers new music the way anybody does: Either he is at a show and sees a band that surprises him, or somebody he likes or trusts says: ”You should listen to this!” John has never discovered new music because somebody he didn’t know came up to him at his own merch table and handed him a CD. Merlin has done that, he has foisted his music on John, he foisted stuff on a lot of people, but it doesn’t work. Merlin’s idea to send a link to one thing that you are proudest of sounds like a workable solution and John thinks we should all adopt that policy forthwith. ”Your best thing cannot be a 5000 word document, it should be a thing that I can digest in three minutes and if it is great, include where I can follow up!”

If somebody gives you a hair doll that looks like you with a giant penis, a doll of hairs that they have collected from your hair over the years, make room in your suitcase for that thing! Merlin is going to come to John’s house very soon for the thing they are doing, and he expects to find hair dolls and penis cakes. Looking around the room right now, John has old military uniforms, so many vintage globes, even one for Merlin’s daughter. New globes are gross unless you spend a lot of money and they have all those new borders that don’t fucking make any sense anymore. Merlin would love one pre-World War I with all the offensive names.

Merlin getting rid of all his old band T-shirts (RL35)

Everywhere you go somebody will give you a shirt, and in 2006 Merlin turned a corner on that because he used to be Rock’n’Roll shirt guy and he had really good shirts, he had an ”I <3 Mekons” shirt, but it had a bacon stain on it. Also his cool green Pavements shirt had a bacon stain on it, he had a really cool Dumptruck shirt and a really cool Replacements shirt, and at the time he thought it was silly and he got rid of them. He took photos of a lot of them, like his Archers of Loaf shirt, which was really nice with long sleeves, from back when they made nice shirts.

Merlin didn’t just put it in a box in the attic because the point of his purge was to stop putting things in boxes and he made a lot of tough decisions and got rid of some nice bags. John thinks a good solution to this is quilts, but that doesn’t seem creepy at all. You put it on your bed and pull it up under your chin when you are cold in the winter. Merlin wishes he could go back. He had turned a corner and said that he needed white shirts that didn’t have yellow pits and he needed to buy new ones because he was a man now and he couldn’t have all this stuff.

He made the difficult decision to get rid of the Dumptruck shirt that was really disgusting and gross because it was from 1988, but he was still wearing it and he has a family, but he was pretty gross pretty late into his 30s. He isn’t even done with this trip yet if he can eat that many sandwiches in front of an open sewer.

The problem whenever you get a relatively inexpensive shirt with the logo of a company on it is that you have to carry it. For John the exception is if someone gives you swag from their company you can put it immediately into the garbage because that is not fan art. If a fan has made something beautiful for you, that is something else, but any kind of company swag?

John missing a flight because of incompetent TSA, airport security in Israel (RL35)

The way the Israelis handle airport security, they don’t make every old lady take her shoes off, but they just stand out in front of the airport and look everybody in the eye as they are walking in. If you are going to blow up a plane and you are going to walk into an airport and some young Army guy looks you in the eye, you will give it all away, no matter how much of a sociopath you are. These guys are trained to pull you aside and say: ”You know whose shoes we are going to take off? Yours!”

John’s band missed a fucking flight on their last tour because the TSA in God-damn Minneapolis could not solve a simple Sudoku and figure out how to get the other toilet paper roll in a double-toilet-paper-roll-systems in a public bathroom over when the first toilet paper roll runs out. They are the stupidest TSA John has ever seen and they literally actually said: ”We are not in the customer service business!” and the only reason John did not stand up on the conveyor belt and gave a long lecture is because he knew he would be pulled down and put into a jail. He would have been walking in place until they turned it off, saying: ”People of America!”, but he kept his mouth shut.

This incompetent TSA was fighting the last war and it was the only time in John’s life where he got to the gate and they had closed the gate 5 minutes before because they spent an hour at TSA. He told the woman at the gate: ”You know, my dad would have that plane back here!” - ”Yeah, a lot of things have changed since the 1970s!” - ”No, I am serious! If my dad was alive you would be opening this for me!” It was the most flaccid satisfaction demand! They were all laughing.

In the old days they would have brought it back and given them free drinks, but everything has changed. The plane was still there and was still connected to the building, but this door is shut and it is shut and you can say all the things in the world you want, but this door could not be more shut. John was pacing back and forth and was thinking if he should go back to TSA and give that speech in any case. ”My father shot a Japanese Zero out of the sky (see RL34) with a .45 he wasn’t supposed to have through the window of his God-damn airplane that was moving, and you people? God, is it a training day?” with bits of Subway sandwich falling from his beard.

Merlin hates talking about travel. The TSA is just the worst. They are not actually police officers, but they are bank tellers with fake uniforms. These people could not get jobs at a mall! The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) will not hire you if you have smoked marijuana or said a bad thing on the Internet about America or have done anything but be a total straight arrow all the way through school and go to Yale and be a complete ram-rod up your rectum. That makes sense merely on the surface, but it makes so much less sense in the day-to-day affairs of a CIA agent.

If you are in the field, there is probably no better CIA agent than a guy who smoked a bunch of weed and has periodically trafficked in rare tortoises and was maybe a white slave trader for a while. These are the guys! He quit because his love of America compelled him to go to work defeating people who… Merlin is no position to run the CIA, but if he were looking at some resumés, maybe he is looking at something written on a garbage can lid that ends up being much more effective.

This person says: ”I used to have a crippling problem with alcohol and drugs, I have made a lot of people’s life hell, and I am not afraid to blow something up if I am in the right mood!” - ”Welcome! We disavow knowledge of you, but we need you, garbage boy! How many people have you killed with scissors?” The worst time to train for getting jumped in an alley is when you are getting jumped in an alley. If you killed a lot of people with scissors you will get a lot of confidence to start killing people with children’s scissors, left handed safety scissors, and then you move to mechanical pencils and to your fucking pinky in eye ball.

John doesn’t like mechanical pencils, fuck them! Merlin really likes the ones called Golden Bear, but John says that part of Merlin is Japanese, but Merlin denies that and claims in return that part of John is deeply French in a way he has never accepted. John says that the only part of him that is French is when he invades France he gets a little bit of it on him and he gives it some tongue.

Globes and map projections (RL35)

Globes do not have projections, but maps do because you are trying to put a round thing onto a flat surface. There are globes that are less geographically accurate, but it is not a problem with projections. John hates a lot of projections, the most common one being the Mercator projection where Greenland is bigger than South America and where Alaska looks like a huge face on top of a tiny, shrinking North America. John likes an Eckert IV projection if you have it on a flat thing and don’t have it exploded like an orange peel. He also like those where the Earth is upside and you look at (inaudible) like it is in the North. You can have a vertical Lazy Susan on your wall so you could flip you map upside down.

You can also post a map on the ceiling above your bed and then flip it around so your feet are on your pillow and your head is at the footboard of the bed. It works, except John likes a little space between the mattress and the footboard and if you flip it around that is where your pillows are going to fall off. You also going to have to move Shannon Tweed centerfold. John never put porno on the ceiling. He did not ever have a picture of a girl in a bikini lounging on the hood of a Lamborghini, but Merlin never said she had a bikini.

The one porno-y thing John ever hung on his wall in the very early days, Tinker Bell notwithstanding, and John actually does have a picture of a naked girl on his wall right now, but it is a poster that has been shellacked to a piece of wood and the edges of the wood have been burned and she is standing in a wheat field and is taking off her shirt, wearing white panties. That has to somehow hook up with three of somebody’s very special things. It is an amazing piece and it is almost life-sized, she is 4 feet tall. All you need is a squeechy (?) and a couple of seconds and you are good to go. John could also put legs on it and make it a coffee table!


Merlin doesn’t understand John’s sister’s Twitter. He doesn’t either and in fact he doesn’t follow it, but he will peek in sometimes.

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