RL42 - Your Hands Would Be Your Passport

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • Getting LPs from the $1 rack at the drug store (Music)
  • How John got hooked to The Beatles via the radio (The Beatles)
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Mia Sara, Gwendolyn Cooper, Danica McKellar (Movies)
  • John Lennon with long hair (The Beatles)
  • How cars and fashion changed every year in the 1950s and 1960s (Cars)
  • The major label period of The Beatles only lasting 7 years (The Beatles)
  • John being trapped in the bathroom with a cockatiel (Stories)
  • Where Merlin bought his records when he was young (Music)
  • The Beatles
  • Dating John (Attitude and Opinion)
  • Why most Big Band music was instrumental (Music)
  • Merlin getting six misdirected records in the mail (Merlin Mann)
  • Judas Priest, the look of Heavy Metal (Music)
  • Adults have been much scarier in the past (Factoids)
  • John’s dad visiting a Wobblies meeting (Parents)
  • Tweeting weird spells to John (Internet and Social Media)
  • Being an expert on the Duchy of Lithuania (History)
  • Black Metal, Goth, Ministry (Music)
  • Board Games, Merlin in Diplomacy club (Merlin Mann)
  • Thinking about Naval Strategy in World War II in school (Military)
  • Conspiracy theories, Behold a pale horse (Conspiracy)
  • Old Testament God vs New Testament God (Religion)
  • White Supremacy (Factoids)
  • Bill W. and Dr. Bob (Drugs)
  • Merlin ordering a horse head (Merlin Mann)

The Problem: Precipitous decline in the mean scariness of adult men, referring to the fact that adult men were much scarier at the time John and Merlin were young than what they are today.

The show title refers to John’s dad and friends going to a Wobblies meeting and him being let in because he had calluses on his hands from rowing while his friends clearly had not worked a day in their lives and were sent home again.

They start the show singing Merlin’s name. John sings Nasty Boys by Janet Jackson as usual while Merlin does a New Wave parody on Tainted Love by Soft Cell with a fart joke. Josh recently signed them (John's contact at his record label Barsuk), but Merlin will stop making that joke because nobody besides them understand it. John can think of at least one person who will get it and who will also think it is funny (probably somebody from The Rutles). Merlin used to laugh at this band-name which is not a Monty Python joke but a Neil Innes joke. A lot of people think a Monty Python joke is pretty nerdy, but a Neil Innes joke is sublime and very deep! There is a movie from 1978 called The Rutles as well.

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

Getting LPs from the $1 rack at the drug store (RL42)

John got a lot of his early music in the late 1970s from the $1 LP-rack at Bartell Drugs. His mom would go to the drug store because she needed to buy some rubbing alcohol and some band-aids and for John the drug store was always a thing like: ”What are all these isles? Are they splints? Are people buying face masks and stuff here? Why does the drug store have so many isles?"

There would be a big selection of $1 LPs and this is where John got Frank Zappa’s orchestral record with the London Philharmonics (the album is called London Symphony Orchestra), a Crazy Horse record and Neil Young’s Re•ac•tor (Reactor), a record he still listens to. It sat comfortably next to the Gene Simmons solo record (called Gene Simmons) for about 42 years. John also got Terrapin Station by Greateful Dead and Machine Head by Deep Purple. While all of his friends were buying Foreigner 4 and Billy Squier’s Emotions in Motion, John was listening to Machine Head and Re•ac•tor, wondering why he was out of step with his peers.

Another record he bought there was The Rutles (The Rutland Weekend Songbook). He wouldn't walk in there with a copy of Trouser Press (magazine), but he would take some chances and buy a lot of the albums just because of the good-looking cover. Each of them was only a buck! This was the beginning of John's lifetime Beatles obsession and he was just getting into them. He had discovered The Rutles before he discovered Monty Python, meaning The Rutles were his gateway to Monty Python rather than the other way around and he definitely struggled to understand all the nuances at first.

How John got hooked to The Beatles via the radio (RL42)

Until he was 10 years old John's understanding of music was that Count Basie was a contemporary artist. The only Pop records available to him were four 8-track tapes that were his only exposure to music that was not being played on a clarinet:

  • The Jackson 5 - Greatest Hits
  • Studio 54 - The Disco Compilation (A Night at Studio 54)
  • Simon & Garfunkel’s - Bridge over Troubled Water
  • The Beatles - Revolver

In 5th and 6th grade John started to meet kids who feathered their hair with a giant plastic comb that they carried in their back pocket and that stuck 6 inches (15 cm) up above their pants. Those kids were a little bit rougher and they turned John on to the radio. It was the heyday of Album Oriented Rock (AOR) and they told him to listen to the 102.5 Rock station in Anchorage. He did have a clock-radio, but it was set to whatever station his mom found when she put it in John’s room and he was not somebody who looked at a radio and thought: ”Turn the knobs!”, but: ”Hmm, knobs!” That radio station played Seals, Crofts or super Soft Rock like Christopher Cross because it was a little bit pre-Asia. The music was gentle like petting a rabbit’s vagina, which sounds oddly appealing.

One time in 1978 a friend came over who had a baseball-hat on backwards before that was a thing, a giant comb in his back pocket, feathered hair and a puka shell necklace. He said: ”Why are you listening to this crap?”, he tuned John's radio and the first tune that came on was I Am the Walrus (by The Beatles). John wondered: ”What is this insane music?” - ”Are you kidding me? It is The Beatles!” It was totally terrifying, particularly because Revolver was one of John's favorite records, right up there with Count Basie’s Jumpin’ at the Woodside. He thought he understood The Beatles!

He stared at the radio uncomprehending and it completely transformed him in a moment. His mind was instantly blown, just as it would have done to somebody 10 years earlier in 1968. You could get the Blue Album and the Red Album at the drug store as well, but they were $5.99. John bought them immediately and it was basically all he listened to from then on.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Mia Sara, Sloane Peterson, Gwendolyn Cooper, Danica McKellar, Ione Skye (RL42)

see Movies

John Lennon with long hair (RL42)

Merlin’s cousin had an original numbered copy of the White Album. He also had the four iconic Beatles photographs on his door where Paul looks like a milk cow, one of the classic John Lennon pictures. John is a Sgt. Pepper John guy and hates that look with the long hair! Lennon looked amazing on everything from Rubber Soul to Sgt. Pepper, but then he started growing his hair long and looked like a big dumpster. There are photographs from when they were recording Rubber Soul and Revolver where Paul had the glasses and they were up there with Chet Baker and Buddy Holly as in: ”Wow, you guys look so cool and you have no idea how cool you look!”

How cars and fashion changed every year in the 1950s and 1960s (RL42)

During the 1950s and 1960s they changed car designs and men’s and women’s clothing fashion every year. Every year for a period of 20 years they designed a brand-new car, brand-new clothes, and brand-new everything. It was some of the best American industrial design in history! Now the Chrysler Sebring has been in production since 1989 and all they do is change the air freshener, they don’t even change the front!

If you had a 15 year old car in 1985 that was from 1970, like a (Ford) LTD or a (Lincoln) Continental, it was hard to tell how old that was. The same was true for Buicks and Olds and those kinds of cars. Merlin’s mom had an early 1980s car that looked pretty much like a smaller version of a car from 1973. That change started happening in the mid-1970s. John can tell you the model year of every American car from 1985 back to 1920. He can see the differences between a 1964 vs 1965 Mustang from across the street, like the hexagon vs the rectangular grill. Merlin had a friend with a 1964 1/2 Mustang with Pony Interior (see RL274, RL326) where the horses run across the seat!

One time John argued with a Danish guy about the headlight surrounds on a 1965 Cadillac Seville vs a 1966 Cadillac Seville. You don’t have to specify that you were talking about a man, just like when you start a story with ”I was at the model train store…”, ”I was at the Dungeon Dice warehouse…”, or ”I was at a Steely Dan meet-up…” Now in 2012 it is difficult to place a car from 1997 within 10 years of when it was built.

There is always a 5-year "What the fuck?"-period around most cars. They fucked-up the Thunderbird around 1983-85 and they looked like an Advil. Merlin hated them, but so many people (liked it). The Thunderbird was the first pregnant Porpoise. It was the moment when the cars in America went from being a shoe box on top of a shoe box to being a Beluga Whale humping a Tic Tac. The Nissans and the Toyotas went the other way and got square and looked like an ATM machine or a night deposit or a door stop, something you would kick, a Japanese door stop (Merlin had to go ping pong for just a minute). There is one in Merlin’s neighborhood.

Also the music and culture changed significantly between 1960 and 1970, while it has not changed between 2002 and 2012.

The major label period of The Beatles only lasting 7 years (RL42)

The major label period of The Beatles was 1963-1970, which is the same interval as 2005-2012, the amount of time since John last recorded an album, from Please Please Me (1963-03-22) to Let It Be (1970-05-08), because Abbey Road is technically later (1969-09-26). They recorded Let It Be first, but for Merlin it doesn’t count because it is non-canonical.

The other day John was listening to the radio while driving and a tune from Let It Be… Naked (released in 2003) came on. That album is basically like Han shooting second in Star Wars, but Merlin thinks it is better and he wants to save this topic because this is a big show on its own. They are going to do a Paul McCartney show! According to Merlin one track called The Long and Winding Road from that record is surprisingly, astoundingly better, a song that nobody in the band was madder about because it is so fucking over the top. John loves the Phil Spector version of it and listening to the original is like listening to Paul play Yesterday.

If Merlin had heard the new version of Yesterday first, he would go: ”Oh my God!” The fact that Yesterday is so unadorned is so perfect, but now when he goes back he is adding strings and a Carol Kaye on bass in his head. To not have that sounds like they are playing some fucking demos! In 1995/96 they put out the stupid Anthology 1-3, like: ”Here is everything else we had. Stop pirating! Buy this!” and there were little 10 minute long motion graphic Featurettes on PBS for each record that were annoying, but Merlin could watch the one for Revolver over and over just because Paul looks so fucking cool!

There are really different alternate takes of And Your Bird Can Sing with and without background vocals. They were trying to add harmonies to one of the takes, but they were so high that John and Paul cackle with laughter through the entire take completely freely. Merlin gets happy and sad every time he listens to it. It is so awesome to hear these guys having fun and it is so sad because there were maybe three more times after that when they were in a room together and didn’t want to fucking kill each other. John Lennon was so unhappy! Merlin loves to hear them high and laughing while recording one of his all-time favorite songs. That song is astounding!

John being trapped in the bathroom with a cockatiel (RL42)

John has a video-tape of himself from 1989 when he was trapped in a bathroom at his drug-dealer’s house with a friend and a cockatiel. The bird did not try to make out with him (see RL21), but it was a different one. It was right after the harvest and every flat surface in the house was covered with marijuana. They were sorting it, clipping it, drying it, and doing all the stuff that you do with a big harvest of marijuana. Everybody was incredibly stoned and drug-dealers usually had birds, snakes, turtles or a tarantula.

This guy had a cockatiel that was flying freely through the house. He was a great bird! John was very stoned and at a certain point he tried to get the bird. The bird stayed away from John while John was walking around the house, but then it figured out that it was not going to be enough to just go from lamp to lamp and it started to fly around the apartment with John running after him and falling over the couches. John’s friend joined the chase until the bird went into the bathroom and perched on the shower curtain rod. John’s friend had his video camera on and they went in there and shut the door because they wanted to get the bird, not because they wanted to do anything bad to it, but John just wanted to pet it and see it.

They were in the bathroom and the bird was like: ”Oh shit! I did the wrong thing coming in here and now I am trapped in this bathroom!” John was trying to get it and the bird started flying around this 8x8 sqft (2.5x2.5m = 6.25 sqm) bathroom. John fell into the tub, grabbed the shower curtain, pulled the rod, and the curtain came down on top of him, the shower went on and the bird was flying in circles squawking. Neither John, his friend nor the bird could breathe because they were all so high and it was the funniest thing that had ever happened.

John has this moment on video tape, but it is not a thing he would ever show to anyone in the world, he can’t even believe he is describing it here! He will never have to smoke pot again because he has a recording from when he was as high as you ever need to be. If he will ever feel like he needed to get high or wanted to feel what it is like to be high, he will just watch that.

John did not do an And Your Bird Can Sing to the bird because everyone at that party was on a strict Led Zeppelin diet at that point, the bird included. The Battle of Evermore (by Led Zeppelin) was probably playing really loud! Eventually somebody opened the door and the bird got out whil John was in the bathtub covered with shower curtain and thought it was the greatest moment of his life. It might have been! He might have peaked right then and the rest was just a long and winding arduous slog.

Where Merlin bought his records when he was young (RL42)

When Merlin was 13-16 years old, he and his mom would always get Chick-fil-A together whenever they went to the mall. Did she buy him some kettle corn or a feather roach-clip earring? No, but he would ask her if he could borrow $5 and of course he would never pay it back because nobody has ever paid their parents back anything ever. John once asked his dad if he could borrow some money to buy a van and his dad was like: ”Borrow?” - ”Yeah, borrow! You are going to make me say it? Let me borrow it! You are going to make me say: Give me the money?” (see NT11)

If you don’t have a lot of dough but you want to buy records you will not have that many chances and you will do your research beforehand. The two stores Merlin would go to were Record Bar and Camelot and he would flip through all the albums there. He bought his first two Beatles albums at the drug store for $3 less than what they usually cost at Albertsons where he used to buy his albums.

The Beatles (RL42)

Until college he still referred to the White Album as the Red Album and the Blue Album, which was the Beatles Greatest Hits up to about Paperback Writer. After that everything changed. Merlin thinks that the best Ringo beat ever might be Rain, which is really colorful.

Dating John (RL42)

Merlin is so glad he doesn’t date John. There are the shirts, the birds, the bells, the candles, which is one of Merlin’s favorite Kim Novak movies (The Bells and The Candles). There are a lot of reason that everybody who used to date John and doesn’t now is glad that they don’t date him anymore, but there is always a little taste of melancholy in everybody.

Why most Big Band music was instrumental (RL42)

John was listening to one of his dad’s old records the other day and he is really looking forward to that specific male vocal style coming back, that tremulous Crooner, the old Big Band singer stuff, which is so unappealing that it explains why so much of the Big Band music was instrumental. Merlin counters that this was maybe true in the Swing era, but the Big Band era was when (Frank) Sinatra started who was with Tommy Dorsey and there was lot of… apparently Merlin is John’s father!

Merlin getting six misdirected records in the mail (RL42)

In the late 1970s Merlin’s parents were veterans of the RCA music club and they owned 5000 8-tracks of Mantovani and Percy Faith because they had checked off the Easy Listening box. There was some Roger Whittaker in there who had started out as primarily a whistler while Slim Whitman both yodeled and whistled. It was very popular in the Christopher Cross period, the reformed America period. John is actually not a bad whistler.

Merlin had a Show'N Tell, the audiovisual version of a V-master, a device with a little screen and a record player. It made a slideshow and you would learn about Edmund Hillary and that was where Merlin would play his records on. Christmas of 1977 was a Star Wars Christmas for him and he got the Soundtrack and The Story of Star Wars, but that was all the records he had.

One day in 1978 he came home from school and found an innocuous looking thick album-shaped box from RCA on his door step. He picked it up, went inside, and walked his dog first before he opened it up. It had been sent to the wrong person and was a six-for-a-penny box of RCA-joining-up-records (see this story). This turned out to be a very important day for Merlin!

The albums were:

  • Beach Boys - Best of The Beach Boys
  • Peter Frampton - Frampton Comes Alive!
  • Kiss - Destroyer
  • Kiss - Rock and Roll Over
  • The Monkees - The Monkees Greatest Hits
  • Dolly Parton - Best of Dolly Parton

Discounting Dolly Parton, Merlin now had six Rock’n’Roll records! Imagine being 11 and suddenly owning two KISS records! It was unheard of! Merlin was scared by KISS even though some of his friends were into it. KISS were Kids in Satan’s Service (actually Knights in Satan’s Service).

Merlin used to listen to AM radio all day long, he knew every song, and he had watched The Monkees of course. He would play in particular The Monkees Greatest Hits and The Best of The Beach Boys, which is a really good Best Of, but he wasn't as much into Frampton Come Alive even then because it is not that good and it is one of the most overrated records of all time. Merlin recommends people to trade their copy for Odessey and Oracle (by The Zombies) and everything will change. What people like about Frampton Comes Alive is that it sounds like the smell of marijuana.

Judas Priest, the look of Heavy Metal (RL42)

John recommends people to listen to Judas Priest’s live album Unleashed in the East, the one with the long The Green Manalishi solo, even if you are not a Judas Priest fan or if you are ambivalent to Judas Priest in any way. It is arguably a bunch of overdubs over the sounds of people screaming in Japanese (Kiss inspired a lot of people) that sounds like somebody left a steam valve open, but it is absolutely phenomenal! It is from a time when he still had hair, before British Steel, and it is effectively a Greatest Hits of Judas Priest up to 1979. All of their albums from the early-to-mid-1970s were concept albums with just one giant song in six movements on Side 2.

In their old videos when he was bald, but still had long hair and looked like the Rocky Horror guy they were much closer to Prog, they were coming at it from Queen or Rocky Horror. They did some great singles! It wasn't until the new wave of British Heavy Metal that people understood what Heavy Metal should really look like. Merlin wouldn’t count Motörhead in that, but the bands with the spikes between Motörhead to an extend and definitely Saxon and Iron Maiden. Judas Priest looked like a leathery gay man at the time, it just happened to fit in with what Metal became. This is why they are called Heshers! Before that Heavy Metal people used to look more like stoners unless you were Richie Blackmore or Ronnie James Dio.

This generation of British Heavy Metal spawned that look that became a cartoon. The guys in Saxon looked like four guys rebuilding a Camaro who had wiped their hands off on a dirty rag. They weren’t costumes! Certainly AC/DC had their costumes, but Bon Scott was 5’ (150 cm) tall and even if he was wearing jeans and no shirt he looked like the scariest motherfucker you ever saw. He was a great guy, somebody you totally want to party with and hang out with, but also somebody who would climb up John’s pant leg to bit him on the neck. John is 6’3” and 1/8 (190 cm).

The fact that John is twice as tall would not stop him for a second! He would mount John, basically! That whole generation of guys were harder, scarier, and creepier. There was a cultural creepiness and the whole key-party-looking shit. Merlin hasn’t seen a picture of Gerry Rafferty where he didn’t look like a child molester. He was also drinking himself to death.

Adults have been much scarier in the past (RL42)

When Merlin and John were kids, some adults seemed especially scary, but even the mean scariness of adult men then was much higher than it is now. Everything was scarier then! Even when John was a teenager, adult men were not to be trifled with and they did not need to advertise that they were scary by growling or wearing clown makeup.

A man with a denim jacket and a cigarette in one hand and a wrench in the other hand was an unpredictable and dangerous animal that you avoided if you could! Today adult men are defanged and not scary anymore. There are guys everywhere, even among hipsters, who try to mask their lack of adultness or lack of actual masculine scariness that should be in them but isn’t with tattoos or by trying to be weird, freaky, or deliberately dirty.

Merlin sometimes sees people with a really old Timbuk2 bag and a bunch of tattoos and a mustache on a Fixie looking all mad with a leather cuff on their wrist. They live in a city where it costs $100.000 a year to live, or you live with your friends and you make $50.000 a year, but you are not living in fucking West Virginia cooking meth, you live in fucking San Francisco! Dial it down! They also paid $42 for a jar of beard conditioner made out of beeswax from the Himalayas. ”Hey Ben, Kiehl’s hires lesbians, asshole!”

John’s dad visiting a Wobblies meeting (RL42)

John's dad was the lawyer for the longshoreman’s union in Washington in the 1950s, but already in 1938 when he was 18 years old he showed up at a meeting of the Wobblies, the original hardcore unionized dock workers, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Together with some buddies he went down to the docks late at night to go to this meeting and John seriously imagines it to be the type of thing where the parking lot was lit by torch light and there were guys just sitting there rhythmically slapping a giant pipe wrench into the palm of their hand.

As these kids walked up to the warehouse, the guy at the door grabbed them by the shirt and asked them to show him their hands. All four of them showed him the palm of their hands and he pointed to John’s dad’s friends and said: ”You three have never worked a day in your life! Get the fuck out of here!” Then he looked at John’s dad and said: ”You are alright, kid!” His hands were covered with calluses from the ores because he was on the crew team and he could come into this meeting by himself. He became a life-long labor organizer, but what enabled it for him was the preppiest of all sports: The crew! His hands were his passport, a thing that does not exist anymore, at least not in any world John lives in.

Merlin looks at a picture of an IWW picket in Australia from 1981 where the guys looked like they were either in The Band or in a violent pederasty club. The labor union guys looked like hippies and yet there was also guy in a leather blazer who looked like a newscaster or Kevin (Whelan) from The Wrens. Times were really changing and 1981 was such a pivotal time! John made a Dale Bozzio (from Missing Persons) impersonation: ”Didn’t need no welfare state, Everybody pulled his weight. Gee our old LaSalle ran great.” (lyrics Those Were the Days by Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton). Merlin shouts: ”Destination unknown!” (by Missing Persons).

Tweeting weird spells to John (RL42)

The other day somebody tweeted some weird fortune to John in the voice of a dwarf soothsayer from Leonardo da Vinci’s town, saying: ”I have seen your future and you have nothing to fear from owls, only their judgement. Crows, however, will bring you pain.” Watch out what you say to a guy on Twitter! John does not receive a lot of curses, but there is sometimes an incantatory element to things that people send him. He doesn’t typically attract a lot of people who want to role-play with him, but there are some Scandinavian Black Metal people who just want to run stuff by him.

Being an expert on the Duchy of Lithuania (RL42)

John get a lot of weird spells and stuff on Twitter, maybe because he is a recognized expert on the Duchy of Lithuania and he gets a lot of Central Europeans who (want to talk about that). Merlin wonders how they found John because he is not on any of those lists of people who like to be on talkshows. He is busy and he is an expert on everything, so how would he register? A lot of the people that end up on TV are the specialists who just know about the Battle of Gettysburg or how aliens built the pyramids. It is very hard to be a polymath anymore and you have to enjoy the satisfaction of knowing everything. In America, in particular on the West Coast, nobody wants to know about Lithuania or about the Treaty of Versailles. John tries to bring it up all the time, but he just gets glazed eyes.

The only people who care about Lithuania are Lithuanians and not even the children of Lithuanians want to know about it. It is just old Lithuanians and people in Scandinavia who are trying to reanimate Golems that live in the attics of decommissioned synagogs, which is really localized in Finland and Sweden. Norwegians are on a different trip. A lot of the synagogs in Eastern Europe have been converted into recreation centers, video game parlors or Internet cafés. You don’t even know that it is a former synagog except for the giant Star of David Rose Window.

Reanimating clay automatons could be a Mayan calendar event and we need to think about who is the constituency of people who want to do that. Who wants to come back to wreak havoc? Who wants to do that more than Scandinavian Metal heads? The Jews aren’t into that anymore and they are certainly not in Lithuania! Ozzy Osborne has not been interested in Iron Man (his song) for some time and he doesn’t remember a thing!

Black Metal, Goth, Ministry (RL42)

The kids that are serious about Black Metal are not the ones with cartoon lipstick, but the ones that are dressing like normal people. Merlin has a book about Black Metal and the whole scene of bands that are called after nouns, like Arbitrage (which doesn’t exist). He is going to start a list of fake Norwegian Black Metal bands and the first one is called Arbitrage.

John has a book on the whole Gothic movement that is just called Gothic with a title written in Gothic lettering, but he has not looked at it in many years. Merlin hopes it smells like Clove cigarettes and has an interesting arch. He can eyeball the Gothic arch, that is the only arch he can eyeball! They had a class in High School called Humanities, which he is sorry he didn’t take. It was very tedious but it is something he could have used. At this point he can’t tell a Dora-column (?) from a Dirity-colum (?). This was a Factory Records joke that wasn’t very funny.

There was a time before Ministry were all angry, but John had already gone a different road by the time they became a thing. That song was everywhere! John was in a band with a guy who shaved the sides of his head, but left the top grow long which divorced John from Ministry and everything related. The guy was like a young Trent Reznor still figuring it out, before it had become entrenched. ”Why can’t they see they are just like me!” (unknown lyrics) They were from Chicago. There was a Vlad the Impaler in this thing who was a real person. John knows that because he has been to Transylvania, which traditionally was Hungarian, but is part of Romania after that World War I bullshit.

Board Games, Merlin in Diplomacy club (RL42)

Merlin asked about Diplomacy (a board game) and John wondered if that was a game or a sex game. John has played sex diplomacy being the person he is: Somewhere between a military historian and an anti-paladin. He seems like only a military historian because that is what they end up talking about, but he likes all history. He is a polymath and he can’t talk about everything at once.

Was that a song by The Bangles? Everything At Once? (it is by Lenka) Everything Hits at Once is by Spoon! Merlin likes their Advance Cassette song. In Diplomacy you have a board with pre-WWI Europe and Russia and the only element of chance in the entire game is which country you are while trying to take over Europe. Merlin continues to explain the game. He was in Diplomacy Club in military school and there is a picture of him in dress blue in front of the Diplomacy game (see also tweet about it here).

Merlin was on the drill team, but not on the one with the girls with thighs, but he marched and did moves with a rifle. His uniform was a Navy Auxiliary uniform, he was in the was NJROTC, the Naval Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He had straight A's the entire year and he got the Radford Star which you can see above the anchor. Merlin was a very cute kid with a very cute underbite. The Diplomacy game looks simple, but you walk around with paper for 11 hours, trying to undermine your friends. It is a lot like a reality show except in pre-World War I Europe, which is where Merlin understood his affection for pre-World War I Europe.

John is going to have to dig up a picture of him in the Civil Air Patron from the same era, wearing his dress blues. He might even standing in attention and saluting the camera. John did not play any board games growing up and he never understood this type of board game playing. Merlin fucking hates board games and he despises board game people! Stop with the board games!

John was watching people play Settlers of Catan once and he found it to be very soothing. It is a board game that was popularized by the Germans where everybody is given a number of natural resources and you trade and use those resources to gain territory and build a little civilization. John had expected that after 3 minutes he was going to be bored and he was going to leave, but he sat through an entire game and found it very interesting and very relaxing. It still wasn’t a thing he would do himself, but he started to understand the board gaming culture.

Merlin respects all things where everybody is into it because there are not that many things like that. One of his friends' sister was one of the co-creators of Magic the Gathering and they still have the original cards. John has been in the house of a guy who has an entire floor full of LEGO and his job is to sit with little LEGO bits and build new LEGO cars or ships. He is an imagineer and he sends these things off for LEGO to produce them as new kits. He was a guy whom John picked up in a bar or he picked John up and took him home, John does not remember how it happened, but he showed John all of his bins, which was pretty hot!

Thinking about Naval Strategy in World War II in school (RL42)

For the most part John ran home when school was over, not because he was being chased, shouting: ”Quit it! These are prescription shoes!” and with his elbows in his sides and his hands flying outward: ”Stop it! Stop hitting me!”, flapping around like giant Gaybird (?), ”If I were Daredevil, you wouldn’t do this!” No, he was running home because he was so consumed with the life of his imagination that interacting with other kids around the topic of World War I or discussing who was going to take over Europe was unimaginable to be more fun than just him sitting alone in his room, staring at the wall, imagining himself taking over Europe.

Merlin should have peed first, he wants to hear so much about this! When John was 11-13 years old he was literally steeped in military history. His dad had shot a Zero out of the sky with his .45 and John was surrounded by truly astonishing stories. Whenever he was assigned a research project during 4th-9th grade he would write a paper on some aspect of World War I or II, in total maybe 100 reports, and in 10th grade he started to write about Marxism.

John’s understanding of those things was very incomplete, but he had the sense a Hitler had made a mistake invading Russia. He did not understand the Russian contribution to the war, but he understood that the Japanese had made a mistake in bombing Pearl Harbor, in particular because the Navies of all these countries in 1938 were still very battleship-oriented.

The battleship was the leader of the fleet, the flagship or the commander of the fleet because the planes couldn’t go as far and it wasn’t the same air-based warfare that we have today. Everybody was always fighting the last war! Before World War II it was just battleships, but while there was a growing understanding that aircraft carriers were going to play a bigger role, everybody was still fixated on battleships.

In Pearl Harbor the Japanese destroyed all of America’s battleships, but certainly in the Pacific the aircraft carriers were the definitive ship and when America sank four Japanese carriers in the Battle of Midway the Japanese never recovered from that. Their error was thinking that they could sink America’s ”fleet” and put them out of the war in the Pacific, but they didn’t get a single carrier at Pearl Harbor because they were in San Francisco and they were arrayed around, but it was also still unclear that aircraft carriers were so important.

A battleship is something with giant canons like the USS Iowa and it is the center of a Flotilla. In the old days Naval warfare was bringing your ships up to within range of your guns you would fire fusillades of canon shells at one another until somebody sank the other guy. There were different sizes of canons, torpedos and mines. At the point when ships had canons that could fire over the horizon and when there were submarines and airplanes, the strategy and the importance of a fleet really changed because you could station an aircraft carrier somewhere. World War II taught us that if you control the air you control the whole game.

In World War I airplanes were firing machine guns and bombers were a guy who leaned out of the open cockpit and held a bomb at arm’s length. Zeppelins were a bigger factor than airplanes in terms of bombing, but by the time World War II came along airplanes were the whole war. Before there were synchronized guns so that you wouldn’t shoot your propeller off they had to mount the machine guns on top of the other wing of the biplane. Try flying with one hand and reach up and grab the trigger of the gun! Try holding two 38s at arms length or up above your head, like in a Robert Rodriguez movie: ”Take that, Jerries!”

Certainly Before World War I but even up to World War II the ships of your Navy were the only way to assert your colonial authority over your far-flung territories. If you had a colonial governor in Goa, you took him there on a ship and you maintained your hegemony over that territory by having a Navy. Control of the seas was control of the world.

The entire concept of the insurance industry was born in Italy during the renaissance when the Italian navy was trading all around the world and people realized that their entire fortune was in this one boat full of Franken Cents. If it went down they were ruined, but if they pooled their money with some other guys who had their ships floating around they could all get together and decrease their risk by being partners. The concept of shared risk was invented then.

The Spanish Armada was sunk by a freak storm and Elizabeth’s England’s was preserved: Talk about the tides of history, talk about a turning point! If God did not love England, the Spanish Armada would have survived and this would be a whole different world.

Congratulations to John and Merlin for keeping the Hitler topic going! Somebody told John the other day that they listened to their Hitler episode and they thought they had never talked about Hitler at all. Hitler is the Austrian in the room and you don’t have to talk about Hitler to talk about Hitler! When you stop talking about Nuclear War, that is when everybody is worried! It is called ”Hitler 'n Stuff”, including Hitler-related stuff as well. There are two ”f” in Stuff, like in Fahrvergnügen or Hasenpfeffer. They should spell it with these cool ”s”-es, like ”Hitler ’n’ Stuß” or do a ligature.

Conspiracy theories, Behold a pale horse (RL42)

Behold a Pale Horse is the crucial conspiracy theory book that has all the documentation that ties the trilateral commission to the… Merlin had that talk when he was in Diplomacy club and before he knew about that batshit insanity he had a very interesting talk at his parents’ steakhouse. The book ties all the masons and everything together and makes a very compelling case that all of these groups are working on behest of our extraterrestrial overlords. John read it at a time when he was doing a lot of recreational use of exploratory… (see RL250)

Merlin opened his mind a lot in 1988, often while inhaling. This was the time when John was making the transition from the nice drugs that allow one to play Frisbee for several hours without ever wondering what you are doing with your life, or that make you think you can talk to dogs, to bad drugs that are made by human beings and are full of evil forces. He used to smoke and then get in the bathtub, but now he was getting stuff that was made in a bathtub that you smoke and once you smoked it you did not want to get in a bathtub at all, you didn’t want to do anything nice, you didn’t want to play Frisbee, you did not think you could talk to dogs, but dogs were looking at you in a way that made you very uncomfortable.

It was during that period John read Behold a Pale Horse, but doing these terrible things did not make him a stupid person who would think that aliens were controlling our government through the masons. At one point he did lie in bed under a spell of various powders, his apartment was right under the flight pattern for the local airport, and he wondered that if aliens were transacting daily business with America they would disguise their spaceships as 747s.

You are not going to hover your anti-gravity orb over the center of a city if you don’t want them to know you are here, but you would change your anti-gravity orb into the shape of a 747, make it very loud, and fly it right over the top of all the people. If you want to drive through a factory in the middle of the night, you don’t go through it in a fucking clown car, but you get in a blue van and drive through it like a gentleman and nobody will even need to wave you through (see RL39).

John was lying in bed with various powders in his person, thinking that this was just a little too sensible. He had to quiet down the growing feeling that maybe people were living in the center of the Earth. Would they pretend that they were trolls or hobbits? Everybody lived in Middle Earth, even the humans lived there before the elves went across the ocean. Podcast #5: "Elves ’n Stuff". The Shire is not inside the Earth. Middle Earth only means it was in between the one place and the other place. It wasn’t inside the Earth, but it was just Merry Old England. Like the Battlestar Galactica cosmology it happened a long time ago.

Old Testament God vs New Testament God (RL42)

A long time ago is was a regular occurrence for God to come down to Earth, meddle in people’s what they were eating and: ”Kill your kid! No, don’t kill your kid!” - ”Ha?” He was dressed up like a bush for Moses, but when he came to Abraham he was just a voice. This God routinely said confusing things to people, but it was a long time ago and it makes perfect sense. Old Testament God is not just a dick, but a supreme asshole! He is really terrible! New Testament God is also really confusing.

Merlin’s friend Dave did a very funny radio play based on the book of Job. The closing line was: ”The lesson of Job is that life is a bitch, your friends are dicks, and God is a betting man!” Job is a pretty rough slog if you think about it. A lot of the stuff in the New Testament is very smart! It is a wonderful book and John highly recommends it. Merlin is almost touching that third rail! He gets very frustrated about the gospels because it is a God-damn shame… you don’t have to be Heraclitus to dip into the river!

White Supremacy (RL42)

Merlin asks about A8 White Supremacy, but John doesn’t really follow the whole White Suprematist numerological code system as much as he should. When Merlin finally bought his own computer in 1988 he had his first Mac with two floppy discs and he bought this book… 88 Precepts is an essay or manifesto written by David Lane and it is called 88 because of Heil Hitler and H is the 8th letter in the alphabet. It is totally code for White Suprematists! Merlin had pasted this into the wrong window right after his wife had sent him a beautiful thing that his daughter had done. He sent her a link to a thing about White Supremacy. ”Take that, Jerry!” You have to be careful on the Internet what you send people! You are going to send them a little diagram of you making yourself a lady horse (see RL21).

Bill W. and Dr. Bob (RL42)

John never met Bill W. (founder of AA) because he was gone before John came around. Merlin would have loved to have a drink with that guy sometimes and with Dr. Bob who was Bill W’s first buddy (reference to the play by Stephen Bergman). John is friends with Bill W. on some level and he still takes it one day at a time.

Merlin ordering a horse head (RL42)

Somebody sent Merlin a horse head, but not in the Mr. Woltz sense. He wanted to send John a link to the horse head he had on his Amazon wishlist and almost put it on Twitter, he got too much communication going on. He is social-networking out his yin-yang and he was clouding his tooter. It is hard for John right now to social network.

His 4-year old daughter runs around naked all the time and wears his horse head that for a $40 product is an extremely realistic horse head. Even when it sits there on a chair it scares the shit out of Merlin! As a father there is nothing wrong making a short film of his naked infant daughter running around with a horse head. How do you not?

But when you try to sell that for $10.000 to a Japanese collector you have crossed a line. They are going to want to sniff the horse because of the Japanese laws. What if you sold it wrapped in the horse head? How old is the horse? You have to have a meeting of the horse minds. Merlin doesn’t know. There are horse people. Merlin jokes about horses, but look at those nostrils! John thinks that it is two more entry point than a human has (see story about the dead rubber girl in the closet in RL21)!

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