RL352 - Bellingham Notes

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: They’re thinking about going to Steve’s, referring to John’s example for explaining how he would like to be managed and how you have to approach him if you want him to do something.

The show title refers to a certain kind of way people ask to look at their stuff and give them your notes on it.

They start the show singing each other’s names.

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

Merlin not feeling well (RL352)

Merlin got a lot going on. John has been awake for 14 minutes, but it doesn’t feel like it, but it feels like less because he is not 100% awake. There is a reason they give you two shoulders, but John only has the one and it is big and it hurts so much he had to take two Advil just to sit here. His eyes are not even open yet!

Merlin woke up in a lot of pain. Hs liver is visible and audible, it is like a floor tom, and your doctor will tell you that taking Ibuprofen is bad for you because when was the last time a doctor told you that you were good? John’s doctor said back in May that she wanted John to promise her to schedule a colonoscopy before his birthday and John said: ”I promise!”, but John’s birthday came and went and John has not done it, meaning he has lied to his doctor and has let her down.

Merlin wants his doctor to just once tell him something counter-intuitive, like: "Start vaping!" He warns people not to give other people homework, unless you intend to and then tell them that it is homework. Sometimes when Merlin asks about what the other person wants to eat he wants an actual opinion because he is tired thinking about it.

Les Savy Fav, Bruce Villanche (RL352)

Merlin didn’t sleep well and is a bit of a homemade mess today. He is watching Les Savy Fav live performances to pump himself up. One of John’s ex-girlfriends used to say that John reminded her of the guy from Les Savy Fav and John was wondering if she meant the naked meatloaf who gets up with his underwear off his butt, and she said yes because she was so into them and John seemed so amazing.

Does that bother John more than being compared to Bruce Villanche? No, Bruce Villanche is literally the worst thing to be compared to! Merlin likes to see Bruce Villanche, Les Savy Fav, and Will Oldham on the same stage, but that is exactly what John does not want to see.

John wants to be managed (RL352)

John wants to be managed, but he does not want to be managed poorly. Managing does not mean: ”I have compiled a list of all the restaurants in Seattle, here it is!” or: ”I have decided we are going to this restaurant and you will be there”, but it means: ”We are all meeting at Steve’s Bar & Grill at 7pm. See you then!” That is not the same as saying We can all agree on cheese, but you have made a decision and it is fait accompli.

How do you argue with ”We are all meeting at Steve’s!”? You can argue with: ”We are thinking about going to Steve’s”, which suggests that you got some input and it practically invites you to say: ”Steve’s?”, but if you say: ”We are all meeting at Steve’s at 7pm” it means that how I feel about Steve’s doesn’t matter. It is not even: ”What do you think about us going to Steve’s?”, which is looking for a sign-off, let alone: ”Where do you want to go to dinner?” or: ”We need a place to go to dinner, there is Steve’s, there is Bill’s, there is Jane’s, and there is Alonso’s!”

Merlin talks about what he learned about email: Have a good subject line, and write the shortest viable email that would be easy for someone to say ”Yes!” to what you just asked them, because if they don’t want to say ”Yes!” they are going to say something else, but you could say something like: ”I made a reservation for 7pm at Steve’s. These people are going. Are you into it? Will I see you there?” and you can say ”Yes!” That is managing!

John never wants to know that there was ever a choice in where they were going to dinner. He doesn’t want to see behind the curtain, but he wants to feel that this is the will of the group and there was never anything other than Steve’s for tonight’s meal. He just wants to show up and never have been consulted. There are people who want to do the ”Where are we going to dinner?” work and they are much better at it than John.

John's Christmas album that didn't sell (RL352)

When John and Jonathan Coulton made their Christmas album some years ago, Jonathan had come off a record-breaking career and he was used to that everything he touched turned to gold. They had a lot of fun making this album, they came up with a box with a lot of great stuff like an ornament and a sweat shirt, some stickers and a vinyl, but nobody wanted it and it broke their heart! Merlin argues that some people did want it and they don’t want to hear that nobody wanted it.

John loved his Christmas record, but it just didn’t sell. Everything Jonathan Coulton had ever done had been a screaming success and the first thing he did that wasn’t a success was a collaboration with John. Subsequently he realized that making a living as an artist is hard for everybody, but in his earlier success he got up to a tier of success that allowed him to continue to muddle along at a level higher than John muddling along.

Now he got a basement full of unsold things. John had a publisher and the music business behind him and he thought he could get those songs on television shows, but none of that happened because those are not covers of Christmas standards and nobody wants new Christmas music.

John is used to feeling like a failure and for his whole life he felt like he underperformed. His farm, being one unfinished project after another, was just his inner life exploded out onto a canvas. There are so many things he never got done in his own life and he also had a house like that, but he never put two and two together.

John had bought a place with 100 different things that he was never going to finish and he must have done that for a reason because that is what he expects out of life. He looks at something and says: ”Wow, there are so many things I could do here!”, but then it is immediately Santa’s bag of broken toys that he lugged around for 12 years. John just wants to have a basement where he can sort his cufflinks without anybody hearing and seeing him, like people coming into his house and going: ”Oh, is this a cufflink sorting factory?" - "Snork!”

John doesn’t like looking at things, the WSH album IndieGoGo (RL352)

John doesn’t like looking at things about himself, but somebody had a for-him web-deployed project and they needed him to look at it and give them notes and his sign-off before it can go live. Sometimes it is nice to be asked, but Merlin doesn’t like a general query like that and he would ask back what kind of notes they were looking for.

Saying to somebody: ”This is about to go live, give me your notes!” is like saying: ”You think about buying this car? Why don’t you crash test it for us?” When it is about to go live they should have worked out all the stuff and they should need just the final sign-off.

Merlin has been asked to help promote a thing, for example Relay.fm is raising money for St. Jude children’s hospital and Merlin is very happy to give them his money and to support that. Sometimes you get the ”Hey!”, which is a bit Bellingham and the person is looking for Bellingham notes, which is that they actually ask you to link to this, or separately they want you to tell them this is good.

If you want specific kind of notes it is often helpful to say what kind of notes you want and how candid they want you to be. Sometimes the best answer is: ”You should never have made this!”, like if you made a Les Savy Fav out of pubic hair and put it on Etsy. Merlin is not against looking at things, but he would like to receive the same service he offers to others: ”Here is this podcast or TV show I like, I would start with this episode!”, instead of: ”Check out Science Fiction!” when he just gets handed things.

John doesn’t like looking at things that have to do with him or to listen to his own records. Merlin thinks he knows what John is talking about (he is talking about the Western States Hurricanes record on IndieGoGo) John also doesn’t like hearing his own voice tape-recorded and he will not listen to his old outgoing voice message before recording a new outgoing voice message.

When Merlin was doing The Long Winters website and would ask John ”What did you think?”, he would just say: ”Great, it is fine, I’m sure!” - ”Just go look at it!” It was just about what the wallpaper of the website should look like, but John still didn’t want to look at it and he doesn’t know why. He doesn’t want to hear his music or see himself on video!

This was not their first request, but John has not responded earlier and they have followed up with him. A lot of communications was saying: ”Hey, we are going live with this as previously arranged and we need your sign-off!”, but the last thing John wanted to do is look at it. It is not a bad thing, it is a good thing, but there are times and ways of approaching him and one must read the room before one addresses John.

John is talking about a project he is intimately involved in and that he is very excited about, but that is being run by someone else that he doesn’t want to get emails from because these are not the shortest possible email to get him to say "Yes!", but it requires him to do a thing that is very hard because he doesn’t want to listen to himself or see himself represented. Matthew Caws of Nada Surf or Sean Nelson of Harvey Danger will listen to their own recordings and get a lot out of it, but John cannot listening to one of his songs, let alone one that had a video associated with it!

John has been working on this project for a long time and the guy has been telling him for the last two weeks that it is all ready to go. John sympathizes with people who have to deal with him, he feels bad for them because it is a trial. Merlin considers it an honor to deal with John!

John didn’t respond and didn’t deal with it and it did go live this morning and there was at least one thing about it that was ”Oh no!” that he would have noticed the second he looked at it if he had followed the link and logged into the thing like he was asked to do.

John and Merlin have talked about crowdfunding and for many years they didn’t like it, Merlin still doesn’t, and they have always struggled with it for this show while Dan Benjamin over on the Road Work podcast has sneakily launched a crowdfunding campaign because John doesn’t respond to emails very easily. Dan kajoled and kajoled and John didn’t reply and ignored him and Dan started making executive decisions.

The other day John and Dan harangued about it at the beginning of the show like Merlin does on Do By Friday, and John got a couple of emails from people who took the tone of that pretty seriously because they are only able to give $1 and now they feel terrible about it because John had told them to give $3 (see RW158).

John and Ken launched a Patreon campaign after they took Omnibus away from iHeart Media because they were putting penile enhancement and usurious banking ads on their show, which would be a terrible name for a company. Now some people on the Omnibus fan site think that they will never have any ads because they have a Patreon, which they never said. They are going to have ads, just not for usuriousbanking.biz.

People try to reach John by email and he doesn’t get back to them. Then he gets the ones where somebody is upset, somebody over here is saying he got no soup, people didn’t want to hear about things that hadn’t been invented yet, served on a trash can lid, not a problem. ”What I want…” (reference to the movie The Godfather)

This morning the crowdfunding campaign launched. John was given a lot of warning to sign off on it, but he just couldn’t bring himself to look at it and he doesn’t know why. He doesn’t want to hear his own voice or look down a list of things because he is going to find problems with it and he doesn’t want to find problems with it. It is homework even if it benefits him, but it also turns it into a whole thing and John doesn’t want it to turn into a whole thing. The Omnibus Patreon is nice because the tiers don't do anything, but are just tiers in rain.

John doesn’t know why he didn’t respond, but he probably wasn’t ready and he doesn’t know how you can get to be 51 years old and be dealing with things in the way of: ”I am just not ready and I don’t know what else to do other than to just ignore it!” It seems very childish and not rational!

The Western State Hurricanes record is been put out by the label Latent Print Records and the person running the label wanted John to sign off on the Patreon (actually IndieGoGo) that he is putting out to sell the record. It is not going to be available in stores. This is the record John worked so hard on and cares so much about and he does want people to buy it!

When John came downstairs this morning and turned on his computer there was a comment thread where someone said: ”Wow, this thing just went live and one of the tiers is that John is going to hand-write lyrics for $50?” - ”Boy, he is going to regret doing that!” - ”Well, it is capped at only 25!”

Someone promised on John’s behalf that he was going to hand-write 25 song-lyric-sheets together with a vinyl that should already be $25, so the value-add for this tier was maybe $10. There is no way John was ever going to do this! It is not like he would sit and begrudgingly handwrite 25 lyrics sheets, but it would be so hard, almost impossible. They could have promised a lock of John’s hair and it would not have been a problem because every 6 weeks John cuts a shoebox full of hair off of himself, but 25 handwritten lyrics sheets?

John didn’t know those were the tiers because he didn’t look at it. Most of them are very confusing, there is a lot to chose from and a lot of it makes a lot of work for somebody. John should have looked at this! He didn’t think he had to do fulfillment on anything, but now he has to autograph things. He didn’t want to deal with it, he wasn’t ready, but now it has launched. He is very excited about the music and it will be great to sell T-shirts and tickets to their shows. John also doesn’t even mind autographing a thing, but somebody has decided that John is going to autograph records for $25 when the record should just be $25.

John wrote him immediately to take the handwritten lyrics down. Three of them have already sold and John will honor those three requests. They should have put up 3 of them for $500 each! John doesn’t want to think about things like this. He would handwrite lyrics for Lisebeth in Holland (from The Long Winters Library & Archive) or Monica in Vienna (she did so much work for them) as a Christmas present of their 30 year anniversary of their involvement in the Long Winters website.

John has watched Adam Savage sign 2500 books, maybe more. Hodgman does it all the time, and they don’t complain about it because it is part of the book business.

In the past there were Shareware utility apps and the five of them that were free or on a donation-basis ware would get 4-5 stars and the one that cost a nickel ($0.05) had 1-2 stars, because all it takes is that nickel and now they own a little piece of you. Coin has been exchanged and now you are the baddie because why can’t I get this for free?

The record is on IndieGoGo, these days most known for financing people’s medical care, a place similar to Kickstarter where you can get funding for a thing you are making before you are producing it. Patreon is different because it is a subscription where you pay the same amount each month. Merlin doesn’t know why you would use IndieGoGo instead of Kickstarter.

John goes through the different tiers that he got sent from ”him” and wonders how many they should eliminate from that, but Merlin doesn’t know this territory and is of no help in this decision. His gut says not to have more than 3 level because then you have so many SKUs to maintain.

John should have looked at this yesterday or 3 days ago, but even if he had done it he wouldn’t have known what the problems were because he didn’t want to look at it. He would even have a hard time if it was Merlin who had sent him something, but now that he knows what the problems are he has to tell them to make it all different and that is the wrong thing to do after it has already launched.

John asks everybody to go to IndieGoGo and buy this album, but early listeners might see different tiers. ”There is nothing to stop you from getting all the tiers!” - ”C-Beams off the shoulder of Orion” - ”All the great tiers!” - ”Get the WSH vinyl album literally off the single large aching shoulder of Orion! John will come to your house and personally paw through your cufflinks in realtime while you are listening to it!”

John will tattoo the lyrics of Car Parts as a complete back piece for $25, that is such a good deal! For $5 more you get to choose somebody who will get the tattoo whether they want it or not! They will force-tattoo it on someone who does not even know about the band and who doesn’t want it. They just go Hurricaned!

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