RL366 - Cafetorium Seppuku

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: The AIs become UIs, referring to their idea of redoing all old shows as video calls or having an AI that allows the listener to chose other actors and podcasters to reenact the show.

The show title refers to a form of suicide that Merlin wanted to do when they talked about sexual education in school and had to look at drawings of people having intercourse.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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

Redoing all of their episodes as video calls (RL366)

John asks if Merlin wants to initiate a video chat, probably because Skype asked him that question. Merlin said he would do it if John will. They could go back 366 episodes and redo them all on video. They are going to need transcripts and listen to each show a couple of times, which is really the only way to improve. It is going to be a real Borghese situation. They would also have to look at their photos and try to duplicate their appearance during all the different phases of Merlin and John.

But video is in the past and they have to make it forward-compatible with technologies that would be satisfying to a person in the future so that John’s daughter can look at it 2-40 years from now. Video is going to be seen as table stakes and they should be doing this in first-person VR and you could choose to be Merlin or be John and sit there and look at a microphone. You can choose your fighter and you can upgrade with Roderick-coin to get a nicer hat. ”Body blow! Body blow! Knock them out!” (reference to game Punch-Out!!)

Merlin suggests they could do a very special episode where they recreate one episode, or they can let people do animatics of their funny bits, like they exists for the McElroy brothers, a thing like a storyboard with very slight animation. John has a transcript of their first episode and sends it to Merlin via Messages. Then they read it together for a short while. They could be in VR for this and both be Data (from Star Trek) or Travis McElroy. You could also be Jesse Thorn, but he would still have to conform to the words of the Transcript.

The third question is: When UIs get bulky enough, well all these AIs become UIs, it is going to make the 1950s look like the 1920s, you could then play Roderick on the Line with Travis McElroy and Scott Simpson, but they would still be talking like themselves, otherwise it would be just a puppet show and it has to be much more sophisticated like that. But it would then take off in other directions because Jesse Thorn might take umbrage at John in the first episode saying that he was late because he is never late.

This is going to break the time line in the most creative of ways and they will be creating new product while still owning all of the IP and could license it. They could do it using young people who will inhabit it and live the roles, but somehow Merlin could be Dark Vader and John could be Lucie Skywalker. It could be like Bugsy Malone and have music in it. Merlin’s daughter finds that movie very confusing.

Bad News Bears, The Brady Bunch, Eight Is Enough (RL366)

Yesterday John had a group of five little girls at the house and at a certain point they wanted to watch a movie. The other parents were also Gen-Xers, not Millennials like a lot of parents who have kids their age, and they pride themselves on Gen-X-references and deep cuts, so John looked across the table and said: ”Bad News Bears!” and the other mom said they would have to do a lot of front-selling because there is a lot of sexism, racism, bad-wording, drinking, and smoking. This was the movie they watched when they were eight and John suggested to put it on anyway, guns in the air, at least it has a strong female lead!

This is the first movie Merlin remembers with Jackie Earle Haley, and Haley Joel Osment isn’t there, but would be there if it was rebooted now and the coach was Melissa McCarthy and she wasn’t drunk and nobody swore. John would go watch that movie because she elevates everything she is in! They all thought about watching Bad News Bears, but then they settled on the 1969 TV Show The Brady Bunch and they were soaking it up. The trials and tribulations of those kids transmit through time and people can really relate what they were going through.

What people don’t remember is that Alice does a lot of physical comedy and she is the butt of almost every single joke. She slips on every banana peel, she hits her head every single time, and they treat her terribly. Merlin thinks she lives in a tiny room behind the door in the kitchen. Ann B Davis was born in 1926, which means in 1969 she was 43, but she was playing like she was an old spinster. There is a lot about her character that leaves you with more questions than answers. They continue to talk about the plot of The Brady Bunch. The craziest thing now is that Greg and Marsha are 15, but somehow they are super-fine with calling the new spouse mom and dad and John can’t imagine that in 1969, 1949 or 1910 that a 15-year old would do that without effort.

Ever since TV came along there has been a tension between TV and movies. First they were trying to create great experiences you could only have in a movie theater, like Cinerama, but in the post-Kennedy era it became about social relevance, where you had to create something that was socially relevant, but it had to operate within the perceived moirés of Middle America.

The classic example is that in the first version of the wonderful Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary was supposed to be divorced, but they decided they couldn’t do that because the most famous thing she was on up to that point was the Dick Van Dyke Show and people would read things into it, so they had to make her a widow instead… no, broken-off engagement, but Brady Bunch both widowed! You couldn’t talk about divorce until One Day at a Time. They mention more things that are crazy about the plot.

Merlin and John lived through a lot of the social changes of the 1960s, 70s and 80s through television, which was way behind the actual social curve. John watch with his daughter the pilot episode of Eight Is Enough from 1977. The eldest son is played by Mark Hamill and this is pre-Star Wars Mark Hamill. He is in the pilot and he got cast in Star Wars and asked the producers to get out of his contract because he has this movie and the producers say: ”Sure, good luck to you!” and they recast the eldest son.

In the pilot episode of Eight Is Enough one of the daughters gets arrested for possession of pot. Mark Hamill moves out of the house because he thinks he is a grown-up now. John continues to talk about the plot. There was a lot going on, but John’s daughter was okay watching it. John was 8 years old when this episode came out and he was watching it in realtime then. This is what TV was laying out for them. It is a dramedy, they are going for laughs.

John’s daughter realized that Luke Skywalker was in it, but John explained to her that he left after the first show and they also swapped a couple of daughters who didn’t test as well. She didn’t want to watch it if it didn’t have Luke Skywalker in it anymore and John also wasn’t ready to watch a show with her where the third daughter was a junkie now and there were a lot of adult themes.

John was identifying with One Day at a Time because he was living with a divorced mom, but they didn’t have a kindly Super (Schneider) with a cool mustache who keyed himself into the apartment where three women live all the time. Today he would be posed on Next Door in a New York minute.

Sex Education (RL366)

John got a copy of My Body My Self from his mom, a book with drawings of naked people with a lot of body hair who are having a lot of different sexes. It was toxic to John and he didn’t even want to touch it with his hands. Merlin got one as well and he gave his daughter one. John’s mom bought a Playboy and a Playgirl, the one with Burt Reynolds from 1972 (he was in Cosmopolitan, not in Playgirl), and she tucked them into the bookshelf between the encyclopedia, as though it would have been brought to John from the porn fairy.

John knew every book in the book shelf and he would sit on the floor with the books of the encyclopedia, she knew he would find those. John had talked about this before (see OM125). In the book with the drawings of the body hair people they were having intercourse with one another, that was a little bit later. His mom had introduced him to porn first, like: ”Here is naked people! Here is the real damage that naked people can do”, but John didn’t want to know about it or see it.

Then there was the class in 7th grade where they took the girls away to a different class. They don’t do that anymore, Merlin was shocked that they do it all in the same room now. His daughter had this in 5th grade and all the girls were very mature about it and all the boys were literally scribbling on the workbook to cover the ding dongs. John would have been hiding under the table, making fart sounds. Merlin says: ”Caffetorium Seppuku” and would be out (Seppuku is a form of suicide). Even in the room with just boys, they were climbing the walls to get out of there. Merlin thinks that is because you have a tiny little dingus that is nowhere near the illustrations.

In 7th and 8th grade the girls are already tormenting you with their womanhood, they have so much power, and they are just beating you into submission with every look and every little wave of their hand, dismissing you as children. There was a time a girl looked across the table at John and said: ”A milk mustache doesn’t make you a man!”, and she and the six girls at her side of the table stood up and walked out, leaving John standing there. That was before mic drop even existed. It wasn’t out of nowhere, she was responding to a comment John has made, but his friend Kevin stopped playing Brick Breaker on his digital watch and looked over and said: ”You are done!” She was right! John was cooked by that remark for a year and he didn’t grow a mustache until he was 24!

TV shows (cont)

With Eight Is Enough they are shoving too much relevance. There was pot, cancer,… For example MASH is a movie and TV series about Vietnam except it is in no way about Vietnam and had to be about Korea. It was relevant because it was in the middle of this bloodbath of Vietnam that we can’t get out of.

Sex education (cont)

There was the movie Little Darlings in 1980 with Tatum O’Neal, it was like Little Foxes (Merlin misspoke here, this movie is with Bette Davis, he meant just Foxes) or A Little Romance, which all had ”Little” in the name. John was 12 years old and in Foxes Jodie Foster and Scott Baio were exploring their teenage sexuality in Foxes, which has a cameo from Cherie Currie, the lead vocalist of the Runaways, for the Pinky Tuscadero (Roz Kelly) angle, and Randy Quaid. John watched these movies with both hands over his eyes.

In Little Darlings Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol were at a summer camp, she was born in 1962 and was 18 playing younger, and they make a bet to lose their virginity. John’s mom drew a line in the sand at Animal House and saw it by herself in order to screen it to see if John could go see it, but she came home from the theater and told John he is not going to see it. He wanted to because it had John Belushi in it, and he didn’t understand why. Of course John and his sister got to see Jaws that summer which traumatized them forever, but by 1980 Blues Brothers came out and they went to see that without hesitation, although there are a lot of adult themes in that.

John doesn’t think a parent went with him to see Little Darlings and it made him feel total insecurity because he was millions of miles away from losing his virginity at summer camp. He was still the guy from Specter and GI Joe waits for him over the hill and the helicopter lands and there is a fierce fire fight, but these girls who were not much older than him were talking about sex. John carried that insecurity until he was 29, maybe. He had a massive crush on both Jodie Foster, Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal, but for different reasons. He was a Candleshoe man! Those three are the pantheon! All of them tomboys at the time and all of them came out as lesbian.

John had the copy of Dynamite Magazine with Kristy McNichol in frame on his wall. Merlin als had it, she was just so darn cute, there was something to the tomboy thing! Merlin wonders how many people who are out gay as adults didn’t know by the time they were 18 that this was their deal. John knows a lot of people, more than a handful, who had long-term live-in gay relationships and then later on married people of the opposite sex and had children. They don’t identify as bi, even, but they also don’t disavow the 4 years they spent in a homosexual relationship. It is a phenomenon of the 1990s, the story of people who are married and have children and come out later, but the opposite also happens.

Merlin doesn’t think he was allowed to see Foxes or Little Darlings, but he did with his mother go to see A Little Romance. He has been if not horny but very romantic and has wanted a girlfriend all his youth. John wonders whom Little Darlings is made for, a movie with 14 year old girls losing their virginity. Is it a movie made for 15 year olds. It is from that period where it was boobies and drinking in everything.

A Little Romance has Laurence Olivier and Diane Lane and has an Academy Award as best score. Merlin as an ignorant long-time romantic felt deep yearning, not to bone down, but he would have loved to kiss Diane Lane in Paris so much, and he was sitting there with his mom watching this with his changing body. She was in Dynamite Magazine as well, John remembers that face.

This movie is certainly not for John’s little girl at 8 years old, but he owes it to the world to eventually show her Bad News Bears, and not as late as at 18.

TV shows (cont)

A lot has changed. When you want to show something on TV that is relevant, it can’t be too out there. Back then if you wanted to talk about Breast Cancer, Gay People or Assault, you had to tread very lightly, you would get the Mature Content warning, but you could only go so far and you couldn’t really tell the whole story. Today the difference is that you are not trying to jam that relevance into the same thing for everybody. There are so many fewer boobs in movies today and there is less of the dumb sex stuff that had to be in every movie. It is a bit brainier and gives you a lot to think about because you are not trying to jam in the relevance and titillation for everybody.

A lot of kids in the movies John and Merlin saw were trying connect by being kids that were latchkey, that said a lot of swears, and that were mature before their time, which was characteristic of the era because a lot of kids were unsupervised. Sassy kids who were smarter than their parents, who were smoking pot at age 11, who learned to drive and got shot by the cops, like in Bless the Beasts and Children that John saw on television some night when he was unsupervised, watching TV with the lights off after the grown-ups had gone upstairs. They talk about the plot of this film. It is a movie with kids with ”Children” in the name, but it is challenging material.

They would not make a movie for grown-ups that had a cast of 9-year olds that were saving the buffalo and who are called bedwetters, but it is a movie about kids that is for kids, and it scorched John! He was laying in the dark, thinking about the bedwetters for years, and the buffalo plot gradually in his mind morphed into something, it was very tied to that song. As someone in 1977 who identified as a bedwetting misfit because he did wet the bed until much later than his friends he watched this movie and thought: ”I guess this is me!” and then he saw Little Darlings and thought: ”That is not me!”

What about the 1985 movie The Goonies? Merlin remembers this was horrifying, maybe it is a Hans Christian Andersson situation and it was the idea, or a 19th century Treasure Island thing. At some point all of that was taken out of kids entertainment and it just became a bunch of kids going on an adventure. At some point we didn’t need to put everything in everything. A neutered version of pro-social values, or wokeness, you could make something that was a little more out there, like Harry Hamlin who was the gay guy in that TV movie.

When John was in 9th grade there was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which actually had teenage nudity in it, and big-time stonerism. They always involved a girl getting pregnant, like Last American Virgin, Caddyshack, or Porky’s. Those were definitely targeted at teenagers. It got tamer by the time of Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink, but those themes were still there. Merlin is the one guy who doesn’t like Breakfast Club, but all the other ones were pretty brainy as teen movies go at the time. There were also the slasher/horror/gore movies of the late 1970s after Halloween there was Friday the 13th, the Howling, An American Werewolf in London, some of them comedies, but basically teenagers boning down and getting killed, punished for their sex times.

John doesn’t know how teenage movies are like now. Are they still all super heroes? Since Harry Potter came out in the late 1990s there has been a huge resurgence in Young Adult stuff, like Percy Jackson or The Fantastical Things(?). Then a few years ago it was all about werewolf sex and vampire sex. Merlin has a photo from a time they went to Barnes & Noble and there was an entire rack of supernatural fiction and all the covers looked like Twilight and it was all about werewolf sex. John’s friend Isaac Marion wrote Warm Bodies that got made into a movie about a zombie who has feelings and who gradually falls in love.

The Lost Boys was vampires and Corey Feldman from The Goonies was in that one. That was a transition movie because it had sex, but it was romantic vampire sex. There wasn’t any Michael Anthony Hall selling panties (as in Sixteen Candles) and there wasn’t any joke sex or hole-in-the-wall-sex, but the girl in the convertible was pretty upsetting to Merlin.

The success of Hunger Games led to Battle Royale, then there was The Maze Runner. There is no sex in Hunger Games, but a lot of privation and the sex was killing. In John’s era it was killing in a different way in the sense that all sex meant death, which is a very French idea. Gremlins was scary, even E.T. was scary. John saw Gremlins and was left unmoved by it. Don’t feed your dog after midnight and don’t get them wet. Don’t give your cat Ibuprofen and don’t give your dog chocolate, it is basic stuff! You can’t roller skate in a watermelon patch! Get with it!

Your internal age, what age would you want to go back to? (RL366)

John came through his childhood terrified of everything because he saw all these movies a little bit emotionally too young because he was emotionally a bit younger and did not catch up until he was 34, or he is emotionally 34 about now, which is a bit embarrassing. John doesn’t feel 19 years old anymore. There are 19 year olds who already know what they want to do and they are doing it. They want to be a guitar player or a lawyer and they are following through with it, or they already know whom they want to marry because they had been together since they were 15. Even now John is not that 19, he is some other teen.

Merlin asks John for his internal age. It is in the family of: If you could go back and be any age, what would you go back to? This is a very different question, but the reason John connects those is that if he would go back to where you basically feel ready and be that. At no point in John’s life did he feel ready to be where he was when he was there. He doesn’t even feel like he could be a good 28 year old now, but he could be a good 33 year old, he got the skills to be 33 that he didn’t have when he was 33. You are always fighting the last war!

All kinds of people become parents at 33 instead of 41 like John and Merlin were, which is very different. Now at 51 John feels like he could be a very good 33 year old parent. John still doesn’t feel he would be good at being a 28 year old who was in the middle of his music career. He would be sitting in bars and there would be the girl sitting next to him that he said something that made her say: ”Well, I’m calling it a night!” He definitely doesn’t want to be 28 now, but in 1996. Merlin doesn’t want to be anything in 2019. John might want to take a shot at being 33 in 2019 and be a parent because he feels he can navigate that. They continue to discuss what age they wanted to be in what year and if they could handle that.

Merlin learned from Jonathan Goldstein on the podcast Heavyweight after episode that the real lesson of life is that he should have stopped being selfish sooner. John also feels he could have been less selfish a lot earlier. Looking back, he can examine events and wonder: ”Did you really do those things and say those things in those moments? Because those were not really appropriate reactions to that set of conditions!”, but he cannot inhabit the emotional world he was living in at the time.

When John’s friend Kristen Kosmas first introduced the idea to John that he was an introvert, which had never occurred to him and no-one had ever said it before, and it became just that simple little kernel that was one of John’s original though technologies because all of a sudden so much about who he was and what had happened to him snapped into some clarity. Like when Merlin’s friend in college said: ”You are your options!” and he still thinks about that twice a week. When Mike Squires sat across John and said: ”Feelings are real!” The first thing John replied to that was: ”You are a dumbass!” - ”No, listen to me!” and he got all sincere. It was a really dumb aphorism but John walked away from that, thinking about it. ”I’m the sky, no the weather!”

Nowadays there is not a single 28 year old who hasn’t already long ago identified which HMTP (?) they are and there is no introvert out there who is in the dark about whether or not they are an introvert, but for John is was: ”How can I be an introvert?” - ”You are the knowable cipher who retreats from all human contact and stares at a wall for hours at a time and can’t be touched or loved?” - ”What does that have to do with anything?” John is so many generations of thought technology that he built on the ”Feelings are real!” understanding from 20 years ago, long past the land of ”Introversion and extraversion are on a spectrum and not mutually exclusive!” No one little thumbnail ever makes sense of everything, which is a further technology.

John being surrounded by borderline personality disorder women (RL366)

Recently, understanding that the women in John’s life that he really connected with, most of them have borderline personality disorder on a spectrum. They are not the ones who… ”Difficulties regulating emotion” This is his mother, his sister and all the women that he really loved. As a manic depressive person John has never dated a woman who was bipolar or just normal and stable. He is compelled by women who are: ”Oh, my new emotional reality is this and now this is the only reality that ever existed and this is a state that is going to exist until a new emotional reality arrives!” and just knowing that about himself, that compulsion to be in that state… like a girl who is attracted to bad boys…

John’s whole life is defined by being in a state that is defined by someone else’s emotional radicalism and he can’t think of a time when he wasn’t living in that world, which is a world he continues to seek even now that he is fully grown. He can meet someone coming through the rye and be: ”You seem emotionally stable! Great to meet you! We should get coffee sometime!”, but then he comes to meet someone coming through the rye, they are like: ”Hi, OMG, meeting you is amazing” and three days later: ”Why are you staring at me?” - ”Well, you are amazing, what do I have to do to spend more time with you?”

That is a strange knowledge to have. Lately John has been in this new world, the preaching the medicine land where he took this medicine and it really helped him, but the problem with borderline is that there is no treatment for it and the only thing you can do is to sit and meditate and try and do better. The people John knows who suffer from it are tormented by it, it is not just that they sit in a depressive state, but they go from total depression to complete agitation, but not in the bipolar way, but their mind is completely transformed by a new reality. How would John go back to be 33 and explain that connection to himself? Merlin says he would avoid women who introduce their career as: ”I make jewelry!”

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