RL403 - Car Bunny

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: Your life is a boat, referring to the necessity to have things organized and to not keep to much stuff around as if you were living on a boat and space was at a premium.

The show title refers to John's daughter having several bunnies for the different beds at bother her mom's and her dad's house and for the different cars she would ride in.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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 having to hot-plug his audio interface (RL403)

John had to hot-plug his audio interface in the beginning. You didn’t used to be able to hot-plug. If you yank out a USB drive without disconnecting it, your data might get corrupted. You can ask John Siracusa about it. John has this disconnect in many aspects of his life where he unplugs too soon or too late and it gets corrupted. Sometimes you need to drag it over to the trash, but sometimes it says you can’t do that because something is in operation.

Merlin has a USB hub because he wants to plug a bunch of stuff, and if that thing gets jarred and he accidentally causes any disruption in his Thunderbolt 2 that is attaching to the computer, then he suddenly sees 5 hard drives go down as improperly ejected. It is like breaking up at scale and you don’t want to do that. There is no scale to break up, it is teaspoons, not shovels.

John’s laptop’s camera being on (RL403)

The green light next to the camera on John’s laptop just came on, unbidden by itself, which is probably a sign that John has been hacked by the Russians. He was just over in the Audio/Video settings and might have accidentally turned the camera on, but Merlin would know that. If somebody in a hacker farm was looking at John, they wouldn’t be looking at him in the altogether, but if this camera could see below the desk, that would be a different story!

John is not wearing a chemise, but a tunic called a shirtjack because it is between a shirt and a jacket, and it is part of trying to look like a CIA agent in Vietnam in 1965. You want to go with a summer-weight suit, but not a seersucker unless you are from the South because otherwise it would be stolen valor. John is the guy in a deleted scene from Apocalypse Now and he wants to be cool while he is enjoying his Bánh Mì sandwich, which sounds French.

He is sitting there with the camera of his laptop still on and wearing a tunic, but no trousers. He put a knitted 3x2' baby blanket on his lap and one over his feet. If the Russians are looking at him, they only could do that if they had turned the camera of his laptop into a camera that can penetrate a table top.

That is why they call it ”being hacked” and they are saying that Comrade Ivan has a very small mohair over his dingus. John is lifting it up and you can see the underside of this blanket, but you can’t see his undercarriage. Do you make them into pillows? Do you put them in a stack somewhere? Merlin would consider taking a step further and put all the things in one place, not just 1 bin, 5 bins, 1 room.

What can John do about this camera being on? It is probably super-simple, and if not he has definitely been hacked. The Preferences window in Skype is not open, but the emoji window is open and John is sending Merlin a slow-clap emoji. Down at the bottom the camera icon has a line through it, saying that the camera is not on. Merlin explains that when you go to the Preferences window oftentimes all the things light up and if you close it and if you quit Skype it should go off. But if it is still on John could have been hacked by a Crazy Ivan (reference to The Hunt for Red October) ”Set one ping only” (see this scene by Sean Connery)

John not being allowed to implement his organization of things (RL403)

John is still very much a guest in this house, although he has been living there for over a year, and he is reminded of that fact when things like the way things are set up in the refrigerator or the one cupboard where all the storage containers and all of their lids are thrown onto a shelf with no attempt made to stack or arrange them. They are not even organized wrong and this is a frequent topic on Merlin’s other show Reconcilable Differences.

In John’s old house the glassware got stacked on a shelf that belonged to them, but then the lids for that glassware were across the kitchen in a drawer of their own, so you picked glassware off the shelf, filled it with whatever you were putting in it, you opened the drawer, found the lid for it, and put the lid on. You did not throw all different containers and their lids or containers with missing lids or lids with missing containers into the same cupboard. Merlin says that on a 3-6 month basis you must take out everything and put the lids on the everything and then everything that does not have an accommodating pair that you are incredibly in love with, it goes that minute!

The refrigerator is very full of things with olives in the back from the last time they were in Italy and right in the center there is the largest Brita you can buy, the size of the box that a pair of Redwings came in, but twice as tall, and all that is in there is 1 inch of water in the bottom. John will take it out and put it on the shelf of a cupboards that never gets used, but one hour later it will have an inch of water in it and be back in the refrigerator. He will say very politely that the real estate in the refrigerator is very tight and neither he nor she will drink cold water, but their daughter likes it, and that is a tough titty moment. Every cubic inch of space in this refrigerator is precious and should reflect your values.

Every time John takes everything out of the refrigerator, resorts it and cleans the refrigerator he also changes where the shelves are because every time he has a new system in mind to have things more accessible and things like mustard that you never use except the one time every once in a while, and you have 6 of them can go over here and this shelf is not going to have 10 inches of space above a bunch of jars that are 4 inches high. We are all living on a boat, you just don’t know it! You will increase the amount of crap you have to fill your house and nobody will have an empty closet or an empty room. Let’s act like we are living on a boat and like this is important! Your whole life is a small bag! Keep it packed!

John is not invited to make decisions of that kind. For a long time he took the Brita out of the refrigerator and arranged things by like and kind and did the crazy thing: ”Tadaaaa! Look!” and he was greeted with stone face, the Brita was immediately back in there.

John cleaning up the toys in the basement (RL403)

The basement in the house where John is staying has become a toy nightmare with too many toys and the other day John had some free time and decided to tear the whole basement apart, which is one of his favorite things to do, move stuff around and sort everything.

John likes sorting small things into little buckets. These days everyone of these LEGO and Playschool and Barbie and American Girl and Fisher Prize come with lots of tiny little things, little plates and saucers and flowers in a vase, Barbie got a phone… Merlin thinks that Calico Critters, the little fuzzy rabbit people, has the best stuff. The LEGO girls sets where you can make an ice cream shop have the best LEGO and Calico Critters is one of the most high-quality products. No matter if you have a Han Solo blaster gun, an adorable bunny fork, you don’t want that stuff out in the wild. Brown LEGO can hurt a man bad!

They have a set of science books that John’s daughter has outgrown and he moved them to a separate staging area as he started to strategize how they would get to a kid for whom they were appropriate. When he was a kid in the 1970s this book of science books would have been super-fascinating to him because it would have been the only book of its kind in his life. It is a matched set with things like ”Why does the Space Shuttle smell like farts?” and John would poured over these books. They are large format 18x11”, the size of Richard Scarry books, they are artfully done and dense with information, they are great and she could benefit from them now, but there is a bit of a Comic Sans aspect to them that she thinks she is too old for.

John’s main focus was the encyclopedia, but that was so dry and meant for adults, while this is made for kids and is about stuff he would have been interested in. He would have spent so much time with these books! There might have been a window where these books was what his daughter had at Nana’s house and she might have looked through them, but she never poured over them. Back then you had access to fewer things and you were satisfied with what was available, back when they had to walk 5 miles to school in the snow.

Every Christmas somebody decided she needed Calico Critters or Polly Pockets, and each one of them came with 1000 cups and forks and there is a bin that is probably 5 inches deep of little plastic things, none of which is larger than a toenail clipping, and when we get into our Vanagon trailer to go travel around, do we really need all this furniture? It is a little caravan to live at a Roman encampment in Ireland and there are enough plates and saucers to have a dinner party for 9, but they have gotten mixed with all the other brands of these little scale features, some of them have only a tiny little difference in scale.

Omnibus recently did an episode on train gauges (see OM290) and John is deeply vested in the question of scale and train gauge. There are trains that are lifted onto a different undercarriage at the border and John has been on a train that was lifted up and put on different tracks and he was allowed to stay on the train, of course, because his dad is Dave Roderick and he is throwing flaming paper out of the back, what are they going to say! (see RL25, throwing paper airplanes from the 18th floor of hotels, John’s dad’s private train-car).

John’s daughter does not differentiate like-with-like in bins. Although she is his daughter she inherited a different gene which allows her to put Playskool stuff, American Girl stuff, art supplies, musical instruments, and books all in the same bin. Merlin is very disappointed by that. The one exception John can make is that things sometimes do get played with with LEGO that can end up getting swept into the LEGO box by a mom. They can stay in there without him becoming agitated.

When Merlin is a fan of the big swipe and when he reaches the end of his rope out comes the Banker’s Box and you never want to see Dad with a Banker’s Box and you need to clear the decks because he is about to do a lot of sweeping. He feels terrible about it now, but he has done it maybe 3 times when he walked into the room and said: ”Is there anything in this room that you ever want to see again, you take care of it right now because in 15 minutes a lot of things are going to be gone!”

When John was young his mom stomped on his toys (see RL161), but she is also 152 1500 times more obsessive compulsive than John is. When he would put things away in a careful order that comported with his understanding of the world she would come back behind him and resort in the way that she thought that the world should be ordered, which created a psychic storm in John that made him into a person that passively surrendered whilst never ever surrendering. For the rest of his life he has a relationship to order and to other people’s systems that outwardly he is passive, but he immediately sets into a mindset where he is undermining their system.

John has spread and staged all of his daughter’s little plates, Hello Kittys, Knights Errant, dragons, Calico Critters, some books, and more books and more books, and he is looking at them and contemplating them. His own trauma as a child was his mom coming through and sorting his things after he sorted them and he doesn’t want to impart that trauma on her, so he has never done it and just leaves her to be, but he cannot help but conclude that there is no sorting being applied here and there is no perception for a need of an arrangement.

Also, there is absolutely no inventory and the clothes for this doll are way over here, and maybe her life could be improved if all like-things would be with one another. If you don’t know where your sock drawer is you will end up wearing the same pair of socks over and over because it is the only pair of socks you can find. The same toys get played with over and over because they are her favorite toys, but also because she has no idea what toys she owns. John has always believed that she has too many things. It is very hard to get anything to go out the door and she in the only child in a family with grandparents and aunties. A couple of Christmases were an embarrassment.

Merlin deliberately never introduced the Matel Barbie franchise for a variety of reason, although American Girl they eventually warmed up to, but they never invited Barbie into their life until somebody, whom Merlin loves very much, decided that this was a franchise that needed to be in their house and that it would be the new thing and they would give a Barbie thing now that it had been introduced into their house. It was right in the middle of Merlin’s no-new-franchises period where they have so much of these 2-4 kinds of things and they will not accept any new franchises at this time.

John was given the same rundown because both John and her mother agreed: No Barbies! For a long time there were no Barbies until someone read them the riot act: ”No Barbies? Barbies are an American bla bla bla!” and they didn’t accept John’s arguments because he was not a girl and there came the Barbies and now there is a Barbie Winnebago, a Barbie Corvette, a Barbie house that is 3 stories tall. John has learned to not go against the aunties, but to save your powder and fight for something else.

John has been going through this bins, past some Melissa & Doug things that look in every way like the wood toys that you think you will raise your kid playing with, the Amish toys, but Melissa and Dough are big toys that have colored blocks and the kids play with them a few times. Merlin thinks those are a bit of a Waldorf thing. He does enjoy the thing where you get a pair that is held together with Velcro and you cut it with a knife, but their don’t need any more of that and they are sufficient for pairs and knives and Velcro at this point.

There are toys that a kid will come back to, like LEGO. You can ebb and flow with LEGO, starting with DUPLO, and the beauty is that they work together and there are a ton of regular LEGO that you can put on DUPLO. There is other kinds of stuff like Melissa & Doug… Merlin’s kid never had a day where they wanted to get back to the puzzle where you put the pieces in and it goes: ”Mooo!” It eventually had to go to a special place because the LED that would detect light caused it to moo. First it was in a closet under a thing and at some point it left the house.

In the most recent bin John found the book Caps for Sale (by Esphyr Slobodkina) and he found one of her early pre-school journals that she was asked to keep and he found some magic tricks that didn’t have a key element, he also found a couple of her baby blankets, and one of the best things about having a baby was that people made her blankets. Christine Connor, Jonathan Coulton’s wife, sent a very unusual blanket that she had knitted specifically for the baby and her grannies made some, a lot of them knitted out of the softest little mohair.

They are all the size of a baby, they are 2x3’, not exactly repurposable unless you turned them all into pillow cases in which case you could go through the rest of your life with these little soft pillows. John is considering that. When it comes to things like making your Rock T-shirts into quilts and similar, Merlin is much more in the camp of ”Let’s pick our favorite!” and if it is something you know that nobody will ever need again… and don’t donate your old Sophie The Giraffe, but let somebody have a new one. The Goodwill doesn’t need your old socks, but a homeless shelter needs your unused new socks or even better: Just give them money!

When John used to live in the center of the city, whenever a pair of socks would get a little threadbare he would put them on the fire hydrant in front of his house and they would immediately be gone (see RL367). There are people who get your recycling who hang out and wait, in Merlin’s case he is considered a whale in the community and people will sit on the curb, staring at him really creepily, waiting for him to bring out his recycling.

John has emptied all the bins and has sorted them the first sort to see what is there. Some paper bags got involved, one of them a garbage bag of course, one of them a bag where everything associated with the franchise Frozen went into and eventually that bag evolved to include all broken things involving Disney, princesses especially, and that one is going to go into the garbage, too because John never wanted it in here. She hasn’t done a Frozen thing in a long time and they are in here and were psychically vibrating.

There are several boxes full of books in good condition that are too young for her now. You can take books like that to the library because children’s books get thrashed and they go through them so fast, so they will put them immediately into rotation. Goodwill has never accepted children’s toys that could have been in a child’s mouth. Your bear that has been barfed on 40 times and that you cleaned off with a damp rag does not meet their standards.

John also took all the art supplies and put them in one pile, but the problem is that they need to be organized internally. There is no bin that is just: ”Art supplies”, but there are papers, and so on. It would be like having a box in your kitchen called food.

John is in the middle and an outsider might think he has destroyed this room and it is chaos now, but it is 1000 times less chaos than it was. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, but you also can’t break an egg until you know where the eggs are.

There is a lot of kid’s stuff that when you really put it into action, it is impossible to play with. So much of the Marvel stuff in Merlin’s world, his daughter was into, but he was even more into, or the Chewbacca mask that makes a growling sound or the Iron Man, the Wilberforce (Marvel comic character that makes SNIKT), those things are branded novelty items and they are not to be played with so much. You could play with your adventure time sword, but it is not a real sword and Merlin would not go into battle with that.

If Merlin would ask his kid if he should read her that book from when she was little where the cat thinks that the moon is a saucer of milk, she will tell him to give her a break because she is watching TikTok and she is following dank memes about whom they are shipping on Supernatural (TV-show). ”The ship is now canon” (see here). If she doesn’t want him to read her the book and it still has to stay on her shelf, that is hoarding.

There is a big-time Star Wars problem around John’s house, but also his daughter can tell him every planet in the Star Wars universe and if John wants to ask how many moons, she would have an answer. There are a lot of Star Wars things that are impossible to play with, but he would not dare to organize because it has colonized the entire house and any time you pick a book off a shelf there is a chance that Ahsoka (from Clone Wars) will fall off of it because she was up there doing something, training Padawans. Merlin thinks they made her a little sexier than what he would have liked, but she is so good in Clone Wars. Merlin also confuses her with a Twi’lek.

There is one guy who is a Twi’lek who has a meat beard and Merlin always says to his daughter: ”That is you!” - ”No, that is you!” John loves a ”That is you!”, they do that at John’s house as well and John might even have taught that to Merlin. The new version of it is that if somebody says: ”Can you pass me the orange sauce!” you say under your breath: ”You are an orange sauce!” Merlin does that all the time as well! Even when somebody is mad and they are banging plates and they say: ”There is a bag of hot sauce over there!” - ”You are a bag of hot sauce!”

There was a commercial with the Hanker for a Honk o’ Cheese guy where he says: ”Bing! You are a sandwich!” (maybe loosely referring to this one) and Merlin still says that all the time. During the quarantine there is no more ”There is you!” because you don’t see anybody. The corollary to ”There is you!” is ”There is your boyfriend!” - ”Look, it is Karl Urban! You love him!”

Grunge fonts, Ray Gun magazine design (RL403)

There was the Ray Gun magazine with all those wackadoo design, Merlin thinks of it as the Cranbrook Art School thing, the fonts that you could barely read that we would now call grungy, that home-made deliberately screwed up pavement look was really ascendent in the late 1980s and the 1990s.

John has an entire large format bound volume that is one after another of a complete typeset of those fonts, half of them absolutely unreadable. Merlin had a high quality trade paper back with tons of stuff from Ray Gun and he was obsessed with that look and tried to ape it, but he never quite got it right. The Grunge fonts! By then of course Grunge was already an over thing, there were the Heroin Chic layouts in Vogue, not that the bulimia went away, but they did suddenly have a lot of really bad typefaces.

Being sentimental about things (RL403)

There are two tears of sentimentality: Their sentimentality and John’s sentimentality. There are things that John’s daughter is sentimental about that are garbage that John would never throw away because she has expressed sentimentality and John is very sensitive to that. Carrying the thing with you for 25 years just so you can have the experience of pulling it out of a shoe box and going: ”Ohhhh!” is worth it.

When Merlin’s kid was born there was a pretty funny picture of him seeing his daughter’s weight, which was almost half of what she was expected to be and they are laughing really hard, and he is wearing a very old Silkworm shirt, the red star SKWM T-shirt, and Merlin loved that shirt and that band, but at one point that shirt had turned a corner and it was time to let go, but it was really hard for him. There are many precious things like that and he finds it very difficult to successfully interrogate his own emotions about why he has this bizarre attachment to this object.

When John’s daughter was born it was just the two of them in the delivery room, John was cutting the umbilical cord and all that stuff that she had told him not to do, and he was wearing a particular shirt that he would not wear now, and this was the shirt onto which the baby was born and he would never get rid of it and he added it to the bin that has his rugby shirt from college and there was a T-shirt that a girlfriend gave him in the late-1980s style of wood-cut printed onto a T-shirt of a coffee cup and underneath it said ”regular”, almost in the font of the TV-show Friends, except predating it by 5 years. John wore that shirt everywhere!

John is pretty sparing with the sentimentality, but for example there is the little book about Peter Rabbit that she doesn’t remember at all (The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter) where he eats his good supper and it is in a non-rhyming Iambic Pentameter. Merlin loved that book. John read that book to her every night and there is no way he would ever get rid of it. He showed it to her and she was just like: ”Meh!” It is completely shredded, but these are the first words she every heard, so this comes with John!

John has not noticed a sentimental tendency in his daughter. When he was her age he was maybe almost paralyzed by sentimentality and if you gave him a Valentine or if you ever cried of something he did or even cried adjacent to him, he carried that with him every minute every hour. He kept that box of chocolates in his locker until the last day of school and then his dad ate them (see RL45 and OM245). He was so hemmed in and had to push against it, but his daughter doesn’t have it.

His daughter is instead a hoarder and has a ”this belongs to me” sentimentality and John has to convince her that this crown is broken, no king or queen would wear it, and he can talk her out of it in a lot of cases and she will surrender with only a little protest and say: ”Yeah, okay!”

There are swords around the house that still get played with. You can’t use a sword against a light saber, but you can use a sword against a Neptune’s fork or against Daddy when he is just walking through the house and not doing anything, minding his own business. Although they date too long ago, swords are still in play and John wouldn’t ever throw away a sword. Somehow baby dolls are still in play, and that is probably why the baby blankets were in the bin in the first place, but John doesn’t think she has sentimentality about them because she doesn’t remember how many times she was wrapped in them.

John’s daughter’s different bed bunnies and car bunnies (RL403)

Merlin sent John a picture of his daughter eating a Peter Rabbit book. He has another one from right before Easter where his wife said they didn’t get her a bunny this year, but Merlin went into her room and was able to produce an entire phalanx of rabbits, so she was probably good for rabbits. You wouldn’t know that unless you put them all in one place and you have to grock what you are looking at and you say to yourself: Do we need all these rabbits?

John's daughter had a bed bunny and then they had a different bed bunny for Momma’s house when Momma moved out of Daddy’s house after the baby was 9 months old, and then they had a car bunny and a Daddy’s car bunny. Nanna refused to play the bunny game and she had a bed doll, the ugliest doll John ever saw, and she had a car leopard, but then bed bunny got lost and bed bunny 2 arrived and then bed bunny 1 was found again, so everywhere the child turned there was a bunny specific to the space. Using Daddy’s bed bunny in Momma’s car was not acceptable, even though these bunnies were initially indistinguishable from one another, but they got worn in different ways and different beds required different bunnies.

Now they have all those bunnies and John can still tell which one is Momma’s bed bunny and Daddy’s car bunny because of the wear on them. Momma’s bed bunny was the second bed bunny because the original bed bunny stayed at Daddy’s house where it was born, but Momma’s bed bunny is more worn out than Daddy’s bed bunny because baby spent more nights at Momma’s house than at Daddy’s house.

She put the little silky tag under her nose and held it there with her index finger while she sucked her thumb and after she learned to talk John would ask: ”You want to suck your thumb?” - ”No, I am getting my sniff-up!” She continued to say ”get my sniff-up” all the way until the day on a 777 on the way to Maui when John said: ”Sweetie, let me put car bunny in my bag!” and she was at this point too old to be sucking her thumb and she said: ”But I need to get my sniff-up!” - ”I think that you don’t!” and bed bunny went into John’s bag and she in her way believed that this bunny stayed on the plane and she never got her sniff-up again after that flight.

That night she went to bed in Maui and did not get her sniff-up and when John gave the bunny to her not very long ago and said: ”Remember this little guy?” she clutched it and later on that night she was in her room not sucking her thumb, but with the bunny in a sniff-up posture. John still wonders about getting your sniff-up, he never tried it himself.

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