RL387 - Don’t Talk to Dongus

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: She was a Lifestyle Egyptian, referring to John’s girlfriend Shanti who was from the Shoegazer Liverstyle Egyptian scene.

The show title refers to John having renamed his Amazon Echo to Computer because the boy across the street would tell Alexa to play music every time he came into the house.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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

John’s Amazon Echo being called Computer instead of Alexa (RL387)

There is a little bit of an issue because although Merlin can hear John through the microphone he is hearing Merlin through the computer audio. He just changed it in the menu, so now it is good. John prefers to have Merlin in his headphones, because otherwise if Merlin will say computer, his Amazon Alexa is going to answer. She is called Computer because the little boy across the street Jarod is familiar with the Amazon Dingus and he used to come into the house and say: ”Alexa, play Old Town Road!” - ”Jarod, don’t control our Alexa! You are not allowed!” - ”Oh, okay, sorry!”

Because there are one of these donguses at 4 different places in the house he would go somewhere else and say: ”Alexa, play Old Town Road!” John would tell him not to talk to his girlfriend and because you can only change it to 4 things John changed it to all 4 of them and eventually at ”Computer” no-one expects the Spanish inquisition. Merlin wishes you could pick your own wake word for convenience and security reasons, but it would all be swear words or Dongus, which would be a great name for a dog or a pretty little girl with curly pigtails.

John’s dating live in the 1990s, Shanti and Meagan (RL387)

In the early 2000s John dated Shanti. It was a little bit before Merlin’s time, but the reason they call her like that is that these were the very early days of having a flip-phone that you could push a button and say someone’s name and it would dial that person. Merlin got his first cellphone in 1999, he was a bit late to the game, and it was a candy bar, not a flip phone, but just a year before it was all about those Motorola Startacs because they were like the Star Trek communicator and people loved those.

John’s first phone was an LG, he got it in late 2001, when he and Michael Schilling went to the phone store and they each bought phones. John was dating Shanti, who was out of character for him, she was what they at the time would call an Egyptian because she wore Cleopatra eyeliner, she was a Lifestyle Egyptian, one of those girls who in the 1990s wore a turban and danced and was listening to Trip Hop and whatnot and went to Burning Man back in the 1980s. She was not part of John’s normal social world, but she was the ex-girlfriend of Cody who was in a Swervedriver-style shoegaze band. They were super-loud, they were the fingernail-polish boys, and they were all a lot prettier than John and they lived in a pretty world, they had amazing hair and were slim and ethereal.

When John started dating Shanti it was a real scandal in this town, like the Soshes and the Conserves. John wore wool, and the two worlds should never have met. Years before in 1994 John had dated Kira who went on to date Jeremy who was in a band with Cody. Kira and Jeremy went out for many long times, it is less of a Rock family tree, but a naughty Rock family shrub, a small world that nobody knows about because those shoegazer Egyptian people were such a different universe. They were fancy boys, but they were still boys who wanted to get in each other’s faces about things.

Having dated Kira before, and Jeremy dated her after John, they were all young and that was plausible, but for John to date Shanti just destroyed everything. Unfortunately Cody looked and looks even now like Sting in Quadrophenia with platinum hair that never stopped and he was queen of the scene. Everybody was queer in addition to being mostly straight and Shante and Cody were elven, also Cody really laughed her while she was a free spirit, like: ”Can’t tell me what to do!” When she and John bumped into each other they immediately couldn’t stand each other, but it was raining and they had to walk together because rain brings people together.

The first words out of her mouth were: ”I can’t stand you!”, but by the time they got to the top of the hill, she asked: ”Do you want to get a drink?” - ”I don’t drink!” - ”Great!” and they went to a bar and by the end of the day they were dating and they went out for a year. It came out of nowhere which made it scandalous. There is no reason that John and Shante should even have gone to a second location together, it was only that they met Downtown in the rain and were introduced and walked up a hill together.

Merlin listened to a podcast called Blank Check with Griffin and David about When Harry met Sally, which he loves so much and he watched it last night again. Griffin said that when you think back on the memories you have with people it is so often locatable with a location, song, or meal. In the same way, that one day must feel indelible to John.

Before they parted ways that day she wrote her number on a piece of paper for John, which was the style of the time, and John got home, took off his famous blue raincoat, made a grilled cheese sandwich, picked up the phone and called her. She answered the phone, he said: ”It is John!” - ”You are not supposed to call me!” - ”What do you mean?” - ”No one ever calls that day, they wait like 2-3 days!” - ”Anyway, here I am! What are you going to do about it?” - ”This is amazing! This is unprecedented!” She was genuinely baffled, impressed and flabbergasted that it all happened in one day.

Shanti was not approved of by any of John’s friends. He has discussed how the fancy Egyptians felt about John, which they continue to do to this day, although they all came to the Western State Hurricanes shows. The Egyptians were all Romulans, but not all Romulans were Egyptians. John’s people, even those who haven’t even met her were like: ”Shanti? You are dating someone named Shanti? What is a Shanti?” It is peace in Sanskrit and she had the Sanskrit for Shanti tattooed on the back of her neck in 2000, which is pretty early, but she had tattoos in many places. She did not have any piercings, probably because she was an adventure girl and didn’t want to get caught on a chain-link fence.

She wanted to go to Thailand and Bangalore and she was a barefoot person. She also made a living for a while as a fire juggler. Merlin had a girlfriend who worked at Arby’s. She always smelled like Arby’s, but Merlin loved her. She didn’t like taking her shoes off because she didn’t like her feet. John loves the smell of Arby’s in he morning.
Shanti was a like a circus contraption person.

John’s friends and his universe couldn’t believe her because she had a loud laugh, she was an exhibitionist, she was a free spirit, and when she would sit at a big table she was one of those people that you never didn’t know she was there. With all the flamboyance, the many scarfs, the many fires, tattoos and laser beams shooting out of her, John cannot put together exactly what made them a couple because culturally there was so little to draw on, but they were absolutely inseparable for a year.

John got her into books, she changed the way he dressed a little bit, and they just loved hanging out with each other. John is fairly immune to embarrassment, but there were times when she would push him right to the limit because he is an introvert and he doesn’t like to walk into a giant space and draw immediate attention to himself, although he assumes that everybody is there to see him, while she walks in and is: ”Tadaa!”

She went down to the restaurant where Meagan worked, the little French place, the Le Pichet, and said: ”My name is Shanti and I am John’s new girlfriend. I would like you to know that John has a new girlfriend and you should meet me and here I am.” and Meagan was appalled: ”I have no idea why you would come in here and tell me this. I don’t care! I am not dating John anymore, and so: Fine, I guess?” John had never talked to her about Meagan, but she had heard the legend of Meagan and she wanted to make sure that Meagan got the picture.

This was not in the style of communication that John and Meagan had. John heard about it and told her not to poke that hornet’s nest with a stick because the last thing she would want to do is activate Meagan, but she said she can handle Meagan. But don’t even try! Meagan and John got back together two years later, so it is not that Shanti was wrong! Shanti actually joined a circus and ended up in New York City where she made one critically acclaimed racy movie in an early 2000s way, like breaking down all the boundaries in a celebrated independent film and then the professionalized fire juggling

It was all in the family of burlesque. She is not juggling in a burlap sack, more like a Leia slave-costume, but not like Dita Von Teese. Part of the reason John always describes that culture as the Egyptians is that it has that bikini made out of copper snake-taming culture, all the cultures combined to make one that seems both ancient and also science-fiction-y. Merlin continues to talk about the United Colors of Benetton campaign where they said that America is not a melting pot, but a salad and they showed different kids with different clothes and skin colors.

Romulans are a form of fingernail boy pop punk as much as they are anything else, whereas the Egyptians are fingernail boy pop punk world beautiful people. The Murder City Devils, a band Merlin hated, absolutely count as Romulans, the tight pants, the haircuts, the black everything. In a city like Seattle at the time in the old days before the Internet the scene was small. if you were Siouxsie and the Banshees in Seattle, you didn’t have access to all the Suzies and the Banshees around the world, but just the ones that were there.

The Romulans and the Egyptians were both beautiful people, and beautiful people find one another and exceptionalize themselves away from schlubby people. That they were both beautiful meant that they had more in common with one another than the people who were playing more similar music or living more similar style. The heart and soul of the Egyptians was a band called Maktub, a Funk Soul HipHop Blues World Jazz music, and the name is an Arabic word meaning ”It is written”.

They were fronted by Reggie Watts, the comedian who makes the mouth noises on Comedy Bang! Bang! He is a wonderful piano player and at the time he was a real presence in the Seattle music scene before he did comedy and for a decade he was a HipHop Jazzbo who was Jazz enough that he could hang with the Jazzbos although the real hot jazz people probably didn’t consider him that Jazz, but he could sit down at a Rhodes Piano and jazz it up with a guitar player and a trumpet player in a 3-5 person combo. He also was a singer and a composer.

Maktub played really big sold-out Showbox shows and if you put Jazz, Blues, Soul, Funk, HipHop all together you end up with no hooks because it is all vibes and grooves. They were playing shows contemporaneously to the Western State Hurricanes and John had known Reggie since he was 20 years old. He showed up in Seattle coming from Montana, which makes him even more fascinating, but he is not from Bozeman, but from Big Sky in small-town Montana and he showed up in Seattle with his piano over his shoulder.

Reggie got into the Cornish College of the Arts that really affects the Jazz and Dance scenes in town and he was always John’s nemesis a little bit because he is a big entertainer and if he posts up in the corner at a party there will be a crowd around him pretty soon. Merlin has been in a room with him a couple of times and he has the energy that someone like Merlin wants to be liked by him. He is very charismatic and very cool in the old sense of the word. Before he became a comedian he always wanted to be a musician, but he was already really funny.

What made him John’s nemesis is that he is a person you never have a conversation with, but you stand there and listen to him and he will never ask you to tell him about that thing you are wearing. He is also a great Frisbee player, which puts him in high rank in John’s estimation. John will play Frisbee with anybody at any time, it will take him about three minutes to get his game back and off you go.

What made him John’s ultimate nemesis is that he dated Meagan during the period when John was dating Shanti, which was again a complete twisteroo and John remembers saying to Meagan: ”Reggie? Really? Of everybody?” - ”Oh, Shanti?” and she kind of won that one. Meagan was not Egyptian or Romulan, but she was Cat Power, but that is a different story.

Gaps between generations (RL387)

John is on a genealogy thing because he is a Boomer and because his parents were older and to accuse him of being Boomer is not entirely wrong, although Merlin disagrees. His dad was a World War II veteran born in 1921 and his mom is from the silent generation born in 1934, so he has Boomer older siblings on both sides, which is why he is so interested in both-sidesing everything.

By the time John arrived in 1968 his parents and older siblings were all over it and were thick in middle age. His dad was John’s age in 1971, so a lot of his interests and vocabulary, when he was a kid they were sitting and talking about fucking World War II, which is an angle Merlin has never considered before. He feels like he who is born in 1966 is right on the cusp, but now John is giving him a thought technology that what if the qualification is not when you were born, but when your parents were born, because that is how you are going to get raised.

Shanti, John's girlfriend from the early 2000s, was born when her mother was 22. When her mother was born her grandmother was 22 and going back in her own personal history the women in her family had children around the age of 22 and Shanti brought this up because at the time she was 26 and had not had a kid. She was busy dancing the Dance of 1000 Veils, she wasn’t thinking about kids at the time. What was interesting was that John’s dad was 48 when he was born and his mom was 36 and John’s dad’s mom was also 36 when he was born and people in John’s family on both sides are super late-breeders with the lady in her late 30s and the dad in his late 40s.

Her grandmother was born later than John’s mom and she was 9 or 10 generations from the American Revolution while John was only 6, meaning that her family was potentially hundreds or thousands of generations more evolved for the natural selection to kick in. She was so many more iterations from the ur-human, so all the Neanderthalness of John wasn’t just that half of the things coming out of his mouth were Victorianisms because his grandmother was born in 1885, but also his weird stubby forefinger and his second toe being longer than his first and he not having earlobes, all these weird things while Shanti was already walking on water.

John has never 100% worked out how much that affects… we are now constantly talking about Boomers and Gen-X and Millennials and Zoomers and no-one even mentions the Greatest Generation anymore because they are all gone and John doesn’t even know if anybody remembers the Silent Generation, they didn’t even remember them in the 1970s. Just going back 10 generations, not everybody’s genealogy is knowable and if you think about it in the sense that everybody has forebears 10 generations ago and what iteration you are just of that.

John’s ancestor 10 generations ago was probably born in 1540 and Shanti’s 10 generations ago was born in 1740, it has to have a profound effect that would be completely invisible to us and unknowable, you would never be able to place it as a factor. People ask for you Enneagram, but the time and place when your great-great-grandmother was born must have as least as much influence on your personality.

Merlin has a lot of time on his hands, which is the greatest and does allow him to find an hours to make what he just sent to John: One day he thought about that his kid is a certain age today and he wondered what date he was the exact same age, conversely, what date will his kid be the age he is now. Because he is a stupid white guy from Ohio he has a lot of things that are pegged to events like Christmas of a certain year or when Star Wars came out. He knows that the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire that his aunt and uncle were almost in happened about a week before he saw Star Wars.

Merlin did some back of the envelope calculations and noticed that the age that his kid is now was right before he realized they were moving to Florida. They were currently moving his grandmother out of her house in Florida to move to Cincinnati with them. He was that age on July 16th 1979. Today he is the age that his grandmother was two months before he was born. If his dad had lived, Merlin is the age that his dad would have been in 1983.

Merlin calls this Chronanalogies, which Siracusa says is a terrible name, and he would think like the amount of time from Synchronicity (album by The Police) until now is the same amount of time from 37 years before 1983 and at the time Artie Shaw was popular. Merlin can’t possibly that old! Both John and Merlin do this all the time. In 1986 when John graduated form High School, if he had a 20-year old car it would have been a 1966 Pontiac which seemed like a classic car even then, but now John drives a 20-year old Jetta and it seems just like a freaking Jetta.

Merlin would not have thought of Shanti as being more evolved, but it is fascinating to thing about the difference of generations. If you have more kids starting earlier there are all kinds of ways that creates a different world than people having fewer kids later. You get more people to work on the farm and you get a higher chance that some of them survive. There is something useful to gain out of doing a transparency overlay with two or more generations and looking at what it means.

All of the different strands of John’s family did not typically have 15 kids, but they were late breeders who had generally three kids and a lot of them weren’t farmers. John’s mom’s people were quakers and that changes the nature of the size and shape of the family. John talks about this a lot in his house because his daughter is fascinated with what it was like when John was a kid. Most recently he realized that she just got out of 3rd grade and John started 3rd grade in the fall of the bicentennial year, so his 2nd grade year was completely consumed by the bicentennial. They were talking about the revolution, the tall ships, the colonial era, and the constitution.

Merlin was watching Rocky the other night which came out in 1975 and the peg for that is that Apollo Creed wanted to do something super-American for the upcoming Bicentennial. John had an American flag on the wall of his living room that he had made with fabric shards and Elmer’s Glue in May of 1976 and he found it in the bottom of a box about 10 years ago and he put it in a frame on the wall and it is one of his proudest possessions. Merlin wished he could say that about some of the ash trays he made at church camp. His dad was always sweet enough to use them for his non-stop chain smoking at work, some lumpy thing of clay that was very disappointing.

When John’s kid asks what it was when John was a kid he will say: ”People put their cigarettes out on you and no-one cared what you did!” He asked her mother what they should do with her during summertime and she asked back what they did with John when he was between 3rd and 4th grade and John doesn’t even know if they knew where he was. ”Exactly! She will be fine!” He was probably in his Kennel, reading Archie comics and smoking Winstons. When people evaluate the United States now, John was in very impressionable years in a period when America was in crisis in the 1970s: Nixon and Ford and Carter and Vietnam, those weren’t happy times!

Also the 1976 Olympics, it was a Bruce Jenner year, there was the inflation, the Energy crisis, Iran. If you ask his daughter who Thomas Jefferson is, she is not sure. She has a pantheon of American presidents she does know, but she never heard of John Adams and she is unsure about Jefferson because it just doesn’t come up now. Ken Jennings comes over every week and he is the absolute prime source for that kind of material and you can ask him to give you 15 minutes of Zachary Taylor and he just got it.

Merlin thinks everybody should pick their president, but you can’t have Lincoln because everybody wants Lincoln. It is also one that John’s daughter knows a lot about. Because John’s daughter is an only child she was just born having an interest in families and wants to know about family dynamic and about how people talk and how families worked socially. Her mother is also an only child, and while John had a sister his parents were divorced during his whole childhood and they lived in Seattle - Alaska - Seattle - Alaska and his daughter has sociological questions, like: Did you open pop cans like this? Were you allowed to drink pop? Because she is not allowed to drink pop.

They talk about the different evolutions of pop cans, especially the push button aluminum cans that only existed briefly and that Merlin can’t remember. Look at that! Yes, he hates these cans! The new phone books are here!

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License