RL360 - Chicken Arse, IA

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John’s phone is fogging him, referring to John’s phone calling to him even if it is in the other room or in a drawer. He can’t even have a conversation anymore without also thinking of his phone.

The show title refers to the Instagram account ”Cheap old houses” that will show houses in rural places that nobody has ever heard of that cost almost nothing.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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 and his daughter watching Star Trek (RL360)

The cable car is extra loud today, some days are louder than others, maybe because of humidity or barometric pressure. Now the sirens were coming. John thinks it might be the local kids putting pennies on the track, but Merlin doesn’t hope so. There are so many things that are still a mystery to Merlin, which is one of the great joys in life. That is a real Generation X thing, because the Boomers and the Millennials don’t think there is anything they don’t know, whereas Generation X doesn’t know anything and never did. John thinks we know that we don’t know what we don’t know what we don’t know.

That reminds Merlin of the Star Trek TOS episode Plato’s Stepchildren (S03E10, The Original Series) There is this puppet master that controls their bodies and makes Kirk and Spock walk funny. Merlin and his daughter are really deep in Star Trek right now. Merlin reads the plot of this episode and concludes that as much as they are trying to be not Earth-centric it is still a pretty Earth-centric show, which is why John doesn’t watch it. Merlin just told his daughter that when he was a kid they used words like foreign, but also oriental. He thinks that foreign could be a foreign substance or a foreign influence, but if you mean international you should say international. Oriental used to mean lady with slanted eyes or oriental carpet. ”Does it match the drapes?”

Thanking military people for their service (RL360)

Merlin is a little off his game because they are having jubilee, a three-day weekend, thanking people for their service by watching a lot of Star Trek. John doesn’t know anymore how to thank people for their service. Most of the people he talked to who have served don’t like it when you say it, but then they also don’t like it enough to stop getting it. It is not a thing we used to do, no-one ever thanked John’s dad for his service, and it seems like a modern affectation, but at the same time John doesn’t want to put anybody down and do the reactionary thing and say: ”I don’t like that, so I am going to do the opposite!” Amongst Merlin’s friends it is considered really glib and they would no say it in a million years. He finds it really annoying when Robert or Marc says it on Shark Tank just because somebody used to be in the Army.

When John went over with Lt Colonel Matt Martin on the tour with Jonathan Coulton and David Rees of the Air Force bases in Africa, people thanked them for their service. It had become a ritualized way that made it seem like there was a sense that supporting the military was unusual and you needed special recognition because you had done something odd. From the standpoint of a bunch of musicians, John is the only one he knows personally who has ever done that, so from that standpoint it is odd, but it is probably not odd among Country Stars or Rap Stars or something who do things like that a lot. It feels like it is code on 3-4 different levels.

Mike Squires (?) posted a picture of himself in his Marine Corps uniform on Instagram yesterday and he as a Marine forever (there is no former Marine), saying something like ”The Marines really helped me!” and in the comments it was just ”Thank you for your service!” over and over. John doesn’t want to thank Mike for his fucking service, he knows what he did, he was in the typing pool and he got kicked out for drinking, although he will always be a Marine. At the same time, John’s dad was a veteran and in the old days Veteran’s Day was a somber holiday where you sit and think about it a little bit that World War I ended. They used to call it Armistice Day, which is a good day.

This is a thistle and Merlin is just glad everybody is doing their best with whatever they are doing. A thistle that is pinned to our kilts as we merrily march off to make war on our brothers. That and we don’t really pay teachers enough. All the teachers who can find a place in San Francisco have roommates.

Predestination (RL360)

Merlin watched the movie Predestination the other night based on the short story All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein. To say anything would spoil it and Merlin recommends John to check it out because it is really good. Merlin can’t remember why he mentioned it, but he likes to talk about media, but not too much because everybody’s opinion is like buttholes: Everybody has one.

Merlin says ”Thank you!” to everyone because all lives matter.

First responders (RL360)

The hard-on that this country has gotten for first-responders… Merlin knows it is extremely difficult and dangerous work and he is incredibly grateful that there are people who have chosen this as their career, but something about the culture around the current occupant of the White House has fetishized the whole notion of those two words ”first responders” John thinks that already happened in the Bush administration. Merlin thinks the current president has a difficult time expressing, let alone feeling empathy for pretty much anybody because he sees empathy as weakness, and the weakness of people who have gone through a hurricane or an earthquake or a mass shooting it is virtually impossible for him to express empathy for these people.

Instead it gets expressed as the great work of the wonderful first responders. Among the hundreds of grating things he has done that is one that Merlin worries will have an impact for a while, reducing our amount of empathy that we are having in the public conversation, even as we continue to fetishize cops in particular.

Generations turning right with age (RL360)

Maybe we oscillate between two poles in this country between periods where moral absolutism is the currency and then other times when moral relativism is the currency. Those two things seem to be two poles that we seem to bounce back and forth between. John is realizing more and more that the Boomers weren’t always conservative, but they were liberals, they were the most liberal, they were the hippies, they were the freaks.

Merlin adds that they were the original trustafarians, it was an era where there was a real middle class, the people you would meet in Merlin’s college who were in a position to explore a lot of usually far left or sometimes libertarian ideas, but like Merlin’s ex used to say: You can’t choose to join the proletariat. They were the OGs, they were the one who ”learned it from you, dad!” They had the funding to drop out of school.

John adds that it was not that they were rich, but the barrier to entry was so much lower, including college. It was the product of the toaster: After the war, all of a sudden washing machines and toasters and irons and public swimming pools all combined to make a society that we had been intending, it was the whole project for 400 years: ”Can’t we free ourselves from labor so that we all can be philosopher kings?” It was the whole premise behind education: ”Send kids to public schools!” and make public schools in the first place so that we would have that leisure which wasn’t the leisure of wealth, but it was the wealth of leisure.

Merlin says it was to try and reduce scarcity and privation through things like automation and productivity, but washing machines just increased the expectations and didn’t reduce the work. Now we need more people to tend to the AIs, it is not like people just get to have their 4-hour work week. At the time of the Boomers, their dads and moms were all half of them still working in factories, but they had the luxury to go to college because college was $500 a quarter. They were leftists and then they turned right and we are right now making the mistake of thinking that the Millennials will be leftists their whole lives and John doesn’t think they will.

The Boomers had that same conviction that they were right, that they saw through the false mask of the world and they knew the truth. It is exactly the same conviction and later on they got a little bit of wealth and a little bit of property and they became conservative. The Millennials would have us believe that there is no opportunity for them in the world, but of course that is also what the Boomers thought and what we thought. A big part of Merlin’s brand was graduating college right into a recession, one of the worst economies of the last 40 years.

No 30-year old in the world sees a clear path to owning their own home, but the current generation thinks that they should or that this is evidence that there won’t ever be a path, and when they all turn 45 they are going to start turning to the right just like it happens with every generation, and we are going to see another boom generations that believes that they were right their whole lives, that never had to really consider their believes because they were such a big generation that nobody challenged them and they all become conservative and we are going from one moral absolutist plan to the next.

Generation X is nothing if not morally relativist, at least it always was. They never settled on an ideology, they never promoted one because they didn’t ever have enough conviction about anything. All they were convinced of was that everything sucked and that hasn’t lended itself very well to creating a government. ”Everything sucks” is not really an ethos and it also not dogmatic either. Every little kid has that innate sense of justice about who got more candy than them.

Character alignments (RL360)

Merlin thinks also about alignment in D&D and how that maps. The innovation with alignment, and Merlin doesn’t know if Gygax was the first one to do it, but it is one thing to say: ”Are you a good guy or a bad guy?”, a classic spectrum, but then introducing that Y-axis of how you feel about order vs chaos.

Merlin has seen one hilarious D&D alignment meme that is just 9 different George Costanzas (probably this one). The idea of mapping your approach to order… when you first get into D&D you can understand lawful good and chaotic evil, but a lot of us would probably say we are neutral good or maybe lawful neutral, but when you get into lawful evil, that is a very interesting alignment and it does not map directly to real life.

When Merlin was not too far into college he realized that on one hand you get the X-axis of not Conservative vs Liberal, but let’s say Progressive vs… when we say stuff like Liberal and Conservative that is actually more a Y-axis, it is how you feel about a political position, but then there is also how you feel about the importance of systematic change. Those are very different and for a long time Merlin got those conflated in a way that was not useful.

Liberals vs Conservatives (RL360)

Hippies for example are selfish evil. They branded themselves as being all about freedom and sharing, but ultimately they are the most selfish people Merlin has ever met in his life. When you encounter the helpful white ladies and the helpful white men of certain parts of the mainstream Democratic party, if you were to map some alignment to them, they are actually quite conservative in their ways. They don’t want things to change, they don’t want to go back to 2015, or whatever, and that is part of the debate right now: ”Is there a thing to go back to?” It is one reason why Bernie (Sanders) and Liz Warren are so threatening and scary to people: They are proposing something that isn’t just a classic post-war Liberal model, but some of the stuff is pretty substantial.

After playing D&D as a kid Merlin got more and more interested in the question: How many axis are we really talking about here when we are trying to understand our differences and our similarities, when we are trying to find common cause with people? How is it so difficult some times for us to all agree on this one thing and then find this other thing so difficult to agree on. Right now the Liberals eat each other alive over a standard that folks on the other side of the aisle are not holding themselves to and it is pretty crazy to watch.

It is what separates the Liberals from the Conservatives in a fundamental way: There is much more ideology in the Liberal world. You can also have an axis of Practical vs Theoretical: How is your morality about being practical about achieving a certain outcome, or is it about adhering to a set of values?

Bernie and Elizabeth Warren, all they are proposing is what the Democratic party stood for in 1937. It isn’t radical, but it is just old Liberalism that we have lost along the way. The idea of a social safety net is FDR stuff and by today’s standards it sounds pretty radical only because we have slid so far into the direction of… the wonderful thing about conservative ideology is that the practical and the ideological are really the same. In the Left for you to follow along even, to believe in Leftist principles, you have to accept all these premises about the way people are, the way they interact, the way they are socially ordered, what they aspire to be, what is holding them back.

The Left has a lot of philosophies or theories, for example about what is holding people back: It is not as simple as saying: ”If people had more money they would be better!” because that is not the liberal mentality. People need a variety of things to encourage them to grow. On the Right it is really not that complex: Their idea is that if people have money they improve and if they don’t improve when they have money then they are hopeless. Basically their practical thing is: Do things that make money and that increases opportunity for people if they want it! That is the whole premise, it is the philosophy and the action all rolled up into one.

On the Left you have to have read a bunch of books first just to get the… it is a real obstacle course. You can read those books in a certain way and then someone else reads them a different way and now you are both Liberals, but you hate one another because you don’t agree on the interpretation. This is not relegated to America or modern politics, but it goes all the way back to the first people who ever had an idea about what the solution to a problem was. Somebody said: ”The problem is just what you see and we need to solve it!” and another person says: ”The problem started somewhere before the problem!” and if you think that you are a Leftist and if you think whatever came before is irrelevant and you have to focus on the problem at hand, you are a Conservative. John doesn’t think those two sides will ever meet in the middle.

It has become impossible to talk about Pop culture (RL360)

John doesn’t want to talk about Star Trek, although Merlin thinks he has a background with Star Trek and they never really explored it. John is sick of talking about Pop culture. Everybody is so frustrated with talking about stuff and so they default to Captain America and John can’t take it anymore. Merlin just wants to record something they can put out and he is worried that one of them or both of them will go down a road they can never come back. You can’t even talk about war movies anymore because it is either political or Pop culture.

On Friendly Fire they watched Captain America the first one (see FF96) and they reviewed it as a war movie and they came down on the side of thinking that it was not very good as a movie that is anything other than just complete brainless ”Turn your mind off!” stuff. They recorded their episode the way they normally do, talking about the movie they just watched, and Ben is a Millennial and Adam is one of the Generation Y people and they both are super-fans of Star Trek and all the SciFi, but there was no escaping that if you really look at the movie and ask any questions at all about what the movie is trying to say or do, you come to the conclusion that it is not worth very much. They had recorded it a month or two ago before the Martin Scorsese comments.

They put that episode out and absolutely Uboy (?) is right, our social media, which for that show happens all over in Facebook, Reddit and Twitter and various different places depending on whatever social platform they believe in. The predictable amount of MCU (Marvel Comic Universe?) Fan Community that really takes it deeply personally that they have talked about Captain America and came to those conclusions. Merlin says it is very tribal. We can’t just differ in what it is that we like in life, but when we differ about this thing we consider part of our tribal brand we are going to have words! If they were just mad, that would be one thing, but they were hurt and betrayed and those are reactions that John doesn’t really feel about anything that someone else made.

If you would tell John that his songs suck and his music was bad he would feel those feelings, but if you say that about something someone else made that John just likes, if you say: ”A.C. Newman is a bad songwriter!” - ”Alright, whatever you think!” If you say that the declaration of independence is stupid, John will go: ”Whatever you think!” It is not just ”I don’t like the thing!”, but he can’t begin to imagine how an adult person would have that reaction of feelings. Arye Dworkin, who started Heeb Magazine… Merlin only knows Andrea Dworkin, she was amazing, she was a little ahead of her time, she seems so moderate now… Arye wrote John the other day and asked him: ”What do we do? What is there to talk about? What can we talk about?” and John didn’t have an answer for him and he doesn’t have an answer now.

John and Merlin used to talk about everything and little by little there were things they couldn’t talk about or didn’t talk about and gradually that list got longer and longer. People are listening, they know that. John is muting on Twitter as many friends as he is muting randoms. There was a period where you would be muting trolls, people who came out of nowhere, just talking shit, but these days John doesn’t want to hear from some people who are friends. it is not fun and he doesn’t believe in their public persona anymore and he doesn’t believe it represents who they are. They are starting to believe their own Twitter feed, which is the most scary part of it.

Merlin doesn’t want to know what a ton of people think about something, let alone what they have to say about what he is doing here! But then what is it that he is doing? Is he just writing stuff on a white board in the men’s room? Why is he here? He is not on Instagram anymore and he hasn’t been on Facebook in 10 years. It is strange! Merlin finds himself consuming more political stuff. He picked up from Max (Temkin) political Twitter, which is a couple of lists that Merlin looks at 90% of the time he is on Twitter. He is not saying it is good or healthy. John has bounced out of that completely. It used to be a place where he spent hours a day writing a Twitter and he was really fucking good at it, but it got to be not that fun. At the same time he was addicted to the nice things that people had to say and the nanoliter of dopamine he would get.

He is having fun, shucking and jiving with his pal, but all it takes is one person to come in and be a dick, but increasingly Merlin has become overly sensitive to ”Bring your own joke!”: ”There is a thing happening here, read the fucking room, figure out what the thing is before you bring your own joke because that is really lame and now you have kind of ruined it and it is not fun anymore!” Just hold your thought for a second!

Randomly looking for hashtags of rural American towns (RL360)

John posted a thing on Twitter the other day: He follows an Instagram account called Cheap old houses where a person finds these houses in strange rural places, like a 1901 house with 10 bedrooms in Chicken Arse, IA that was settled by British people, on an acre of land at the bank of a river and it is $65.000. The houses are incredible, but when you are really trying to situate them in the geography and imagining yourself moving to a part of South Carolina that is an hour from any piggly wiggly you can see why this house is $65.000 because you would be going completely off.

John loves these houses and he loves geography, too, so is always trying to figure out where they are. When you click on the link to Chicken Arse, IA you can see the Instagram feed for everyone who hashtagged their photograph with that and invariably you get a bunch of prom photos, a bunch of people in camouflage baseball hats who have just shot a wild turkey, deer or duck, but some of these towns are just a crossroads and invariably in those prom pictures there will be an interracial couple, so much so that John would just look around what was in those weird towns, and there is always something in those photographs that were completely unrelated to each other.

It is a lot of fun and very surprising and you are going to see some stuff that confirms your expectations: There is going to be somebody with a MAGA-hat (Make America Great Again) on and a deer draped over his pick-up truck, but then the next photograph is going to confound you because it is not that and as soon as you start thinking that rural America is monolithic, if you want to challenge that, there are a million opportunities and this is just one of them John stumbled on.

1). Take a map of the USA
2). Pick any rural town in any state
3). Search that town name on Instagram
4). Enjoy the exceedingly charming prom pictures
5). Marvel at the actual diversity of rural America

John posted it and there were a lot of people replying to that who agreed that this was very fun and they posted pictures they saw that was of a prom date in some tiny little Wyoming town and it was a Japanese guy and his blonde girlfriend. There is always this outlier picture that is a shock. People were commenting and it was really fun, but then somebody who clearly had not done it, tweeted: ”Then they should vote like it, so …. no.” and John was like: ”Wow!” It was the first thing he looked at when he woke up in the morning.

It was not a person John knows of who even follows him, but they are commenting because somebody else retweeted it (John Siracusa did). This is a person who is a Liberal and John probably shares 90% of his believes with them. Friends on Merlin’s side of the aisle always talk about the Russian bots, but it is probably just a person who disagrees with you and thinks you are a dick. Some of the absolutely worst and simple-minded people on that website are the people who you would consider your ally and they are not any smarter or more perspicacious in their approach than all the people you think are bots out there. John loves the word perspicacious, he has not said that word in 25 years. Merlin got that on an evaluation in college once and it made him so happy.

Part of what is so sad and depressing right now is that basically everything has become about Trump or about Twitter or Twitter and Trump. Just give me a minute away from this! We had a moment here for a minute, but then you came in and ”Beep Boop Orange Cheeto”

Always thinking about your phone (RW360)

A couple of weeks ago John started to feel that feeling that is probably a lot of people’s normal baseline feeling: That feeling that John’s smartphone is a slow morphine trip of dopamine hits that is actually fogging him. If it is in the room, if it is in the house, just like his hash pipe or his methadone, it is calling to him, he can hear it, and he can’t focus, he can’t really carry on a very smart conversation with another person because some portion of his brain is elsewhere, looking for the phone, wondering where it is. It is waiting for his next change to be alone with it.

John was feeling it really deadening him and it has been made clear by the fact that he has an 8.5 year old daughter who wants and needs his attention. When he feels that attention divided, when he is thinking about something else and she is there wanting to play with him or has something to talk about, that is when he really feels that deadening on him as what it really is, which is a real disease. In trying to be rid of it, it isn’t anymore enough to put that phone in the other room, on the nightstand, or in a bag, because that is just like putting your hash pipe away: It sits over there and calls to you and a portion of you is thinking about it.

It is real! John says this as a drug addict who has felt that way about drugs. He works hard to resist it, but it is past that point. A couple of weeks ago John thought he bought this Apple Watch (he says iWatch) precisely for this: To remain in touch, but to not have access to the constant taint-diddling that this fucking stuff does, so he put the phone down, he strapped on the watch and he went for six days where he never touched the phone. It was in a drawer, he had the watch on, and because the watch does provide that baseline connectivity, you can text, you can get phone calls, you can look at a map.

The first thing he noticed was that when he pulled up to a STOP-light, he just sat there, he did not immediately reach for the phone and look at it until the light turned green. He remembered what it was like to just sit at a STOP light and have to wait and watch the people walk in front of you and walk around the intersection and when the light turned green he was looking at it, so he went, and pretty soon the trip from that STOP light to the next STOP light, because he had not just put down his phone and was driving to the next STOP light where there would be another opportunity to pick it up, he didn’t spend that intermediary time also still in his phone head.

For a week he was doing this and it only takes a few days for that pattern to get out of your system. Just like when you stop drinking coffee or you go on a low carb diet or you stop drinking for a week. On Saturday John picked up the phone because he needed to look something up and within a week he was back to looking at it 6-7 hours a day. A lot of us are on a kind of precipice where we are starting to accept that this is our reality and this is how the rest of our lives are going to look, and if we don’t interrupt it, then it is what the rest of our lives are going to look! It is not going to ever turn the other way. Apple is not going to make things less interesting if they can help it and uglier it gets, the more it sucks us in.

Barsuk records not understanding the meaning of Twitter (RL360)

John used to spend 5 hours a day writing for Twitter for free, and he remembers getting a lot of criticism. He found a letter he wrote to Barsuk in 2011 because the folks at Barsuk, in particular one person, not Josh, not Emilie, but someone higher up in the organization, wrote John an email telling him that he is wasting all this time on Twitter instead of working on his album. He actually ran some numbers and said: ”Here is what your album sales were like in the 6 months before you joined Twitter, and here is what your album sales were like in the year since you joined Twitter. You will notice that even that you think that Twitter is some big promotional thing that is raising your public profile, your album sales have not experienced any significant bump as a result of all your Twitter fans”

What precipitated it was probably that John was in New York playing a show and he looked at the Barsuk Twitter feed and he wondered why they were not promoting his show. They had a tweet from the day before, saying: ”Coffee cups are available in our store!” and they said: ”We don’t want to clog people’s inboxes with too many tweets!” John was flabbergasted. He just found the letter he wrote them in reply where he was extolling the virtues of social media and how he was not doing it to promote his albums or to raise his public profile, but it was its own creative outlet and it was a future they could barely understand. John remembers feeling that way!

The people who run Barsuk are all 7 years younger than John is, but they just didn’t click with… they were the new version of the old media paradigm and they didn’t realize that although they were the latest version they were also the last version of old media. They were selling CDs. Instead of restricting people’s abilities they should make their fans feel as welcome as possible. Spending 5 figures on apps that prevent people to take screenshots is not the way to go.

Companies wanting you to communicate in the way they want (RL360)

The most incredible version of this is the degree to which Instagram restricts your ability: You cannot repost without an outside app, you can’t link to something in a comment or in a post, they have all these restriction that John would have thought would have killed them, because people want to repost, people want to put links to thinks, but they just built it so you can’t. When Facebook that in order to DM people on Facebook you had to download a separate app, John resisted it and it so disagreeable to him! It is just a small little pointless stand to make in the world! The same thing you couldn’t get him to go on LinkedIn, although he has a profile that is sitting there moldering away.

Merlin keeps profiles on different services because he doesn’t want people to have a username that is associated with him. It goes back to his old racket of how we communicate with each other: Not only was he expected to constantly monitor email and respond on somebody’s terms to email, but then you also needed to get this up and basically mining personality bitcoin fucking all day long. ”No! You are not allowed to add new mailboxes to my house that I am expected to check, let alone put them someplace else and I am just supposed to discover that there is a mailbox you are mad I didn’t check! Fuck that!”

When Omnibus was on How Stuff Works and that got acquired to iHeart Media, in both cases they gave John and Ken email addresses, like moc.aidemtraehi|kciredor.nhoj#moc.aidemtraehi|kciredor.nhoj and they would send him email there that was pertinent to their business, but they never told him that he had an email address there and he had no idea how to access it or that any mail was going there. They were sending John and Ken mail and then when they didn’t reply to those things they assumed that silence meant consent. ”Where did all this happen?” - ”We sent you all that stuff!” - ”We never got a thing from you!” - ”We sent it to you!” - ”Where?” - ”Your email account” - ”Which email account?” - ”moc.aidemtraehi|kciredor.nhoj#moc.aidemtraehi|kciredor.nhoj” - ”You have to be fucking kidding me!”

As John finally looked at it there were 600 emails there because John and Ken were cC'ed on every intra-office business communication back and forth, because that is how they are doing business and at the end of the day they hit that punch-out clock and think they have earned their pint of bitter down at the local pub.

Merlin turning down his productivity career (RL360)

When Merlin first started to… right after he told the publishing company he wasn’t going to finish his book, and he said: ”I am out! I am not going to be Merlin Mann anymore and I want to do less of this things!” it was a surprise to a lot of people because his career arc looked like it was successful and all they wanted him to do was to fly to fucking North Carolina and spend two days there and give a presentation and they would pay him all this money, but Merlin was like: ”Yeah, but it is just not worth it. I don’t want to!” because it will end up being three whole days of his life and they want everything, they don’t want to pay for it, and he would rather be home.

John remembers feeling: ”What is he doing?” because he had invented for himself a career that didn’t exist before, he became Merlin Mann, which is what they all wanted to do, Hodgman became Hodgman, he wasn’t getting a job somewhere, and John was trying to be John Roderick and not just some guy. Merlin had done it and it seemed like he enjoyed it, but then he pulled back which was confusing. Now John feels it more and more. When he looks at his calendar and there is nothing on it for two straight weeks, he wants that to be the new normal because everything feels like it asks more than it is claiming and it delivers less than it claims and John would rather just not.

Merlin first heard Patrick Rothfuss say that on a podcast called Unintended Consequences that he used to do with Max Temkin: ”Don’t compare your backstage to other people’s onstage!” and Merlin still thinks about this so often. People are envious because that person’s onstage is so good and your backstage is a mess, but stop doing that! First of all: It takes time to do anything, even things that look easy take so much time! Merlin missed a lot of his kid’s growing-up for that time, and that was important to him.

One particular example just leveled him when he was struggling mightily to keep his publisher and his agent happy and he was really doing a bad job and Merlin also wasn’t doing that much new work and he got an offer for a speaking gig with a very prominent company to speak at an event. It was as simple as: ”We are going to give you a bunch of money! Come here for an hour!” - ”Great, let’s do it!”, but Merlin had asked a lot from his wife and kid for a year to get this book out and get this draft in, if it is not in at that drop-dead date he will be fucked, and he was! On top of that, this easy low-hanging fruit of ”Come out and talk to us for a day!”

They gave Merlin the Boeing contract. They wanted $1 million for Merlin to come out and ”speak for an hour!”, but Merlin spent about six weeks in negotiations with them, having to take this hundreds of page long contract and run it through a lawyer, all this stuff, all for this ”easy 1 hour talk” and it never happened. On top of what he was blowing what he blew and was doing a shit-job with that book, he also wasted so much time on that seemingly easy thing of just coming down to Daily City and do talk at R.G. Namics company. It never happened and Merlin blew dozens of hours with these people.

Merlin fell into his own trap, he didn’t have the sense to stay focused on his damn book thing, but at the same time he needed to make dough and had this ”easy gig” and it didn’t happen because it was never easy and it only seemed easy because he wanted it to seem easy. Merlin blew it with that. It seems like Merlin was trying to be a Daredevil or a contrarian in taking his career a different way, but he was not having fun what he was doing, the way people made money with what he was doing was changing very quickly and was getting really scary really fast and really recession-y still at that time, and what he had to sacrifice to get what he got had become very inconsistent.

Merlin is glad he got out of the productivity stuff in particular because podcast is more fun, talking about creativity with Dan ended up being a lot more fun, but there are still consequences and stuff he had to deal with that sucked. Let’s hope podcasting lasts! Something with audio will be around forever. What is a related axis to what he is doing? Is it radio vs podcast? John at some point was turning into something like an MC, was that a thing he wanted to explore? He likes writing things, and maybe he doesn’t want to write this particular book that is this long, but he likes writing things. There is a reason Merlin doesn’t write much anymore: The audience is not fun, the money is not there, and the publishers are all terrible. Why would he want to dig in to this idea of the race car bed that he thought he should have when he was 12? Let alone 40! Hard pass! ”I sleep in a big white bed with my wife” (Homer Simpson) - Beep beep! That was a challenging episode! Thank you for your service!

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