RL53 - Kennebunkhead

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • John getting a new iPhone 5 (Technology)
  • John being busy with travel for the rest of the year (Travel)
  • Queen Victoria's chambermaids (History)
  • American coins (Factoids)
  • Black and white TV shows (Movies)
  • John loaning out his portable color TV (Early Days)
  • John’s mom jumping on his toys in the closet (Early Days)
  • John going to thrift stores to keep his daemon dogs at bay (Objects)
  • John collecting brass candlesticks and globes (Objects)
  • Merlin’s good friend from college collecting unlicensed ET figurines (Objects)
  • Scott Plouf collecting the best thrift store paintings you have ever seen (Objects)
  • John going on tour for his Christmas album with Jonathan Coulton (Career)
  • Jonathan Coulton reinventing the music business (Music)
  • People who never have to work again (Humanities)
  • John going to an Emmy party and feeling he is missing out (Awards)
  • The creative climate in Hollywood, approaching celebrities (Movies)
  • Toy Story III is about the holocaust, Lee Unkrich (Movies)
  • Finding your duck
  • Merlin and John’s show at The Showbox (Shows and Events)
  • John trying to make a living, teaching others how to get rich (Career)

The Problem: It’s time people learn how to become a gentleman with John, referring to John wanting to give seminars on how to become a retired senator or director of the CIA.

The show title refers to Sean Nelson’s classmates in High School being family-money rich kids with a house on a promontory in Maine looking out over (fictional) Kennebunkhead.

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

John getting a new iPhone 5 (RL53)

John now has an iPhone 5, but he can't say yet that he doesn’t have a shitty phone anymore because it did not import all his text message history, but at least he can take nice pictures now and he can talk to Siri if he wants to. He was prepped for the upgrade to be a transformation in his life, but it just works like he wanted his 3Gs to work. it is like a 3Gs, except it works.

John being busy with travel for the rest of the year (RL53)

John is very busy and he is not used to it. Merlin is not very busy in general and when he gets busy it is extremely stressful to him. John often reads reviews of autobiographies in The New Yorker by important people of important people and they all make important people sound like they are just going, going, going! Merlin was half-listening to NPR, which is really the only way, and they said that the sitting president has 5 campaign-appearances in the next 4 hours. Merlin hasn’t been 5 place in 48 hours in his whole life. Then they sleep 4 hours a day and feel rested and vibrant and away they go.

John went up at 7am this morning, drove into town and all the other people were also driving into town and John was appalled that they were using his roads and there was all this busy-ness. The person he was seeing asked him to come back this afternoon, but John was busy and couldn’t do that. He is not suited for all this business, although that is what you have to do in order to get The New Yorker to write a review of your biography, because John has no interest in writing an autobiography.

A lot of these people, Benjamin Franklin notwithstanding, have handlers (see RL52), schedulers, assistants, and they have given themselves over. It is the basic Bill Murray: ”What time? What do I wear?” They just show up, somebody points them somewhere, clips a mic on them and they start talking.

In the winter John is going to do a tour promoting his Christmas record with Jonathan Coulton (called One Christmas at a Time). He is also going back to MaxFunCon this weekend. Merlin and John talk about how they are busy, but most of the time they are busy with stuff that nobody could fucking give a shit about and wouldn’t know if it never happened.

Normally there is no public humiliation involved if it is a day late, but John now has time sensitive stuff and is really busy like a fucking normal man, having to get on airplanes and having to have that stuff done.

In November John is going to fly to Europe for some shows, and he is going to perform as Neil Diamond in a re-enactment of The Last Waltz in San Francisco very close to Thanksgiving. He probably sings Ricky Don’t Lose That Number, even though that song would not come out for another five years. All the things John has to do are all stacking up.

John will fly to Edinburgh Scotland, go to Ireland, and fly back to San Francisco where he will play a show the next night. Then he will fly to San Diego where he will join Jonathan Coulton for a bus tour across America.

John likes going to the UK and although people there are window-peepers and panty-sniffers they are wonderful and John loves the country. Scotland is like the Canada of England if Canada was Sparta. When it comes to Wales, successive invaders came there and the Welsh did their old trick of going into the mountains and throwing rocks down from the mountains, so it was very hard to subdue them, although they were finally subdued before the Scots.

Doing this podcast with Merlin is like a healthful draught of mead, a healthy glass of vitamin-enriched mead that John looks forward to every week and he would not want to miss it. Merlin doesn’t see a way they could do this while John is traveling, and he just wants him to take care of himself.

Queen Victoria's chambermaids (RL53)

Merlin thinks that Victoria stepped down on her spouse, as did Franklin, but back in the Victorian era everybody was lifting everybody else’s skirt. Was she a tiger in the sack? John thinks she might have preferred he company of other ladies. Do you have a different sack for this? Merlin thinks if you get a whole era named after you, then you can get as many rooms and discretion as you like and you get to have Zulu Chambermaids (Did Josh just sign them?)! John would have made a Zulu sound, but he doesn’t know what that is.

John can only imagine what he would do with a couple of Zulu Chambermaids. A chambermaid changes the sheets and does things with beds, they are there with the washbasin where you go poop at night, called the chamber pot. Merlin would change that name to scholarly pot as soon as there would be an open position for a scholarly maid in order to shunt the less pleasant parts of your job off to someone else.

John argues that the scholarly maid is the one washing your cutlery and your bowls and stuff and you don’t also want her washing your poop pot, you have to distinguish bottom of the house and top of the house stuff.

American coins (RL53)

Last night John was thinking about the US coinage. The quarter ($0.25) has Washington on it, which seems reasonable, the nickel ($0.05) has Jefferson, which is eminently reasonable, the penny ($0.01) has Lincoln, the half-dollar ($0.50) used to be Benjamin Franklin and is now Kennedy, which seems right. The dime ($0.10) has Roosevelt, which seems perfectly plausible, but then the old silver-dollar that was the size of a coaster, the biggest American coin ever minted, had Eisenhower on it. That is like giving Duran Duran a Grammy award! John had accepted that his whole life until last night when he thought: ”Wait a minute?”

Merlin would have been flying out of bed to look it up because it seems so wrong. Although Eisenhower was a very fine president and a very nice man, John can think of 6 presidents that should have been on that coin before Eisenhower, so there must have been some horse-trading. Eisenhower died in March of 1969 and missed seeing a man walk on the moon by just a few months. Who is running this show? He probably got on that coin as the retired general who won World War II and his 8 years as president are fine, too.

Merlin wants to know who else was in the running to be on that coin, but lost to Eisenhower. You have to give props to Roosevelt for longevity. For a guy who couldn’t use his legs he had a lot of tail. Being the only three-term president accounts for something. When Merlin’s mom was a kid Roosevelt had always been president, just list Victoria was queen for about 250 years. They don’t talk about a Rooseveltian era like they talk about the Victorian era.

John thinks John Adams should have a coin. Wilson is on the $100.000 bill, but John has some misgivings about him. There is no Teddy Roosevelt coin, but he is probably a little robust for today’s culture and people would blanch. Merlin thinks John is the Roosevelt of his time, but no-one has ever named a stuffed bear after him, unless they took a knife to it, threw out all the stuffing, packed it full of diamonds, put it in their anus, and carried it across an international border. Merlin loves that movie!

It is a huge honor to be on a shitty low-denomination coin because there are more of them! Lincoln is Merlin’s favorite president, but he hates pennies and thinks they could get rid of the nickel ($0.05) too and get Lincoln onto a better coin, like on the dime ($0.10). Roosevelt should be on a $3 bill because he was homosexual and there is the saying: ”Queer As a Three Dollar Bill” (reference to the band Three Dollar Bill).

John thinks that pennies are a wonderful piece of numismatic history. Merlin interjects that so is slavery. John will put pennies in a jar and never cash them in. At a certain point they stopped making pennies out of pure copper because the copper in a penny was worth $0.035, so they were making them out of zinc and coated them with copper, but you can find pure-copper pennies every time you pick up a handful of change. It is like going off the gold-standard and going onto the zinc-standard.

Every time Merlin hears about the gold standard, the only thing he can think about is how Thirstin Howl was mad that we went off the gold standard. It was Nixon in the early 1960s, so Merlin’s one piece of incorrect information could be wrong.

Black and white TV shows (RL53)

Gilligan’s Island started off as a black & white TV show and later became a color TV show. How many other TV shows had that experience? Bonanza was always in color and Gunsmoke, obviously. The other night Merlin had to explain black and white things to his daughter, which is very difficult to explain.

One of her favorite phrases right now is: ”Oh brother! That is so boring!”, like when she is getting her hair brushed or when she has to look at a black and white thing on TV. Even when it comes to comics she always favors the more colorful over the monochromatic thing. When Merlin was a kid they didn’t have a color TV in the house although those were already around.

John loaning out his portable color TV (RL53)

John remembers his first color TV. At some point in the 1970s a portable color TV that was the size of a milk crate and weighed 45 pounds (20 kg) was given to him as a personal gift. Whenever someone they knew got sick or bedridden John’s mom would poke him in the ribs and tell him to offer them his TV and he would loan them his portable color TV that he had no independent control over anyway. There was TV time in their house and it was 2 hours long on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

John would carry his color TV out to the car, he would sit next to it on the back seat, and they would drive it over to whatever person wasn’t lucky enough to have a TV in the bedroom because at that time a TV was something you only had in the living room. It was weird if you would meet people who had more than one TV. It must have been into the 1980s before John knew somebody who had two TVs, except for this color portable TV that somehow ended up in his possession.

Loaning the TV to other was the kind of good-deed Samaritan thing that was instilled in him by his parents. He was doing a good thing helping a sick person and he would sit in the backseat proudly, thinking that he was like a doctor of color TV delivery.

Merlin was always filled with envy as a child, he was never generous like that. They didn’t have a lot and he was selfish about what they had and he really liked TV. If they would have loaned them a crockpot, then more power to you, unless they would be getting Happy Days on the crockpot. If John would have been ungenerous with his things his mom would have taken it away from him.

John’s mom jumping on his toys in the closet (RL53)

John's mom was always trying to get him to clean his room, but John was a passive kid and would tell her he will do it in a second even when she would remind him, and he could keep that game going for 6 months. One time he just stuffed all his toys in the closet and shut the door. His mom came in and said: ”You cleaned your room?” - ”Yeah!” - ”Good boy!” and she actually gave him praise as a reward, which he knew he didn’t deserve.

Later when he was out running around the neighborhood she went into John’s room, opened the closet door and discovered that he had stacked all his toys in the closet. As a response she climbed into the closet and jumped up and down until the biggest piece of toy was the size of a Roosevelt dime. She demolished everything, all the toys and the models he had built. It left quite an impression and she only had to do that once. She was maddest that John had misled and had portrayed the room as being clean and had accepted the congratulations.

It was a different time and the Soviets were right over the horizon. People today don’t understand! John was heartbroken and his long-term lesson was: ”Don’t get attached to stuff!”, although John is speaking from a room that looks like an outtake from Storage Wars where the guy emptied a 50’ storage container full of broken music equipment and old hats. It is like the end of Citizen Kane, except John has taken everything out of all the boxes.

John going to thrift stores to keep his daemon dogs at bay (RL53)

A few years ago John's casual hobby of popping into thrift stores and browsing around looking for a couple of choice items became a dedicated pursuit of thrifting as a way of keeping the daemon dogs off the trail. Those of us who have daemon dogs nipping at your heels do things to keep them at bay and at a certain point John put all his daemon dog eggs in a basket that he had bought at a thrift store and he goes to thrift stores now as a form of retail therapy like other people are going to the movies or eat.

Pawing through these bins is a kind of entertainment. John often goes to the thrift store without buying a thing, but little by little he has filled up his house with other people’s detritus and it is untenable, particularly knowing that the crevices are packed with other people’s dander. He tries to clean them as much as he can, but there is a little bit of DNA left on a lot of this stuff. His leather-coated book-ends that look like Y’Olde globes are surely covered with dander.

The other day Merlin read a thing about how the people in England don’t wash their hands. One in four people has poop on their hands and just by entering a room there can be elements of your personal dander in that room for weeks.

Merlin has his own daemon dogs and he appreciates John’s thrift store addiction. For him right now it is comics and collecting comics is easy because there is always another comic you need to fill in this part, to learn this part, and Merlin can just buy them online.

John has puzzles inside of puzzles and his next puzzle is the puzzle of getting rid of stuff, The Agony and the Ecstasy idea of chipping away all the stone that isn’t Michelangelo’s David. John has The Agony and the Ecstasy somewhere, probably sandwiched between The Joys of Yiddish and American Fighters of World War II Volume 1. John has a lot of books and 90% of them could go into a pyre and the remaining 10% would be an awesome collection of books, but that is too much to take on because John is really busy.

John collecting brass candlesticks and globes (RL53)

When John crossed the threshold of having more than 40 brass candlesticks the people closest to him started to do that little side-to-side dance that people do right before they stage an intervention. He eventually reached a point where had every kind of brass candlestick that he could think of and when he would see racks of candlesticks at thrift stores he would think that they were all junk and he hasn’t bought a brass candlestick in two years. The puzzle was completed and he has no idea what candlestick it was that he finally got that was the missing last one.

John is also where he needs to be with globes. The other day he saw a globe that was pretty cool, 80 years old and very weathered, the patina made it cool, but when he looked at it he realized that it was not the right puzzle shape. For everything he acquires there is a docking port still open for the next cool thing, but he has never been a completist and didn’t want every issue or every one of a certain kind of thing. Because he finds those things for very cheap he is also very reluctant to sell them and he will rather give them back into the river and take it down to the thrift store in a box instead of selling an item that he got for $0.50 for $50.

The thrift store is a Gaia figure, a Mother Earth with big forested tits through which she provides mana to us and part of that mana is a constant flow of brass tchotchkes. John takes the cornucopia that he has unloaded, fills it up with old stuff, and takes it back to the Mother Gaia store. Merlin has heard people say that it only becomes a collection when you have more than two, put them somewhere, and take care of them. John is really not a collector of wives, he failed in every test on that one.

Merlin’s good friend from college collecting unlicensed ET figurines (RL53)

Merlin’s very good friend Dennis Gebhard from back in Florida is a very interesting guy and very tidy. He treasured everything he had and didn’t have things he didn’t treasure. There are guys who buy 25 pairs of shoes and they are all over the floor, or there are guys with 25 pairs of shoes all in plexiglas, but he would have 5 well-maintained pairs of shoes like a gentleman. John admires that, it is the way to be! He was on the one-in-one-out school. It is an overused word, but curating your belongings is an art.

Merlin looked at Dennis as a paragon in so many things. They went to college together and were eventually roommates in Tallahassee. He collected many interesting things before it was fashionable and ironic. He would collect outside art, things that people had painted themselves and that he found at thrift stores. Now it is a thing. He is probably 6’2” (188 cm), he is wearing overalls, he is from Arkansas, and he is a very colorful and interesting guy who works at Wall Street. His primary collection is ETs and you would think he goes out and gets small ET figurines and he got 100 of them on a shelf, but he only collects unlicensed homemade ceramic ETs from craft projects (see RL22).

It is not jus purely ironic, he genuinely loves these things, and he got eight or nine of them in a cabinet in the corner of his house. These are all incredibly fucked-up looking because ET is super weird to begin with and these look like special people made them. They are all super-shiny because they are made of ceramic and Merlin admires this because it would have been really easy to just collect ET stuff and be a weirdo with a bunch of stuff in boxes, but instead his collection has taken him 30 years to put together and it has nine items in it.

There are Japanese little porcelain figures that are a big part of Japanese culture, there was a book about them, not Weebles. Merlin’s daughter loves erasers that look like food.

Scott Plouf collecting the best thrift store paintings you have ever seen (RL53)

Every restaurant in Seattle has an ironic collection of bad paintings on the wall, but Scott Plouf, the drummer of Built to Spill, has a collection of naive portraits in a room in his house. Your first thought is that it is like a hipster bar anywhere in the Northwest where there are a bunch of thrift store paintings, but as you look at them one after another, and he probably has eight of them, you notice that they represent a lifetime of cultivating this collection because each one of these paintings is the greatest thrift store painting you ever saw.

They are not just well executed, but capturing an ineffable aspect of human condition, an actual work of art. The only way to have those eight paintings together in a room is to have bought 400 paintings in the course of your life and gotten rid of 392 of them in order to have these eight. Scott is a magnet, he has this incredible aesthetic and he is a drummer, so you would never know about it by looking at him (see RL22). This collection belongs in a museum and his house is like that.

John going on tour for his Christmas album with Jonathan Coulton (RL53)

John made a Christmas record with Jonathan Coulton (called One Christmas at a Time) and they are going to do a bus tour across America in the winter, which is sweet except John is an oversized person and in those bunks both his toes and his head are touching like he has been put into a cigar box and he is about to be buried in some kid’s backyard.

Nobody wants to be buried alive except probably some Germans who call it buryscheißen, and John doesn’t want to be in a tiny bunk when this tourbus rolls on the Interstate and he is crushed into this space that was already too small for him. Touring on a bus is a mixed bag for John. He has slept many nights on an open train car, hurdling through the mountains, and he is more comfortable on one of those than in a bunk on a bus. He knows he is going to be tired for six weeks, but that is absolutely endurable for all the great and wonderful fun times that will make up not really getting a good-night’s sleep.

That tour bus is going to be stinky because every bus is stinky, except this one has a living room and everything, it is like being in a space ship. 5-6 guys in their 40s is a different kind of smell than 5-6 guys in their 20s. To take a bath you take a hotel room in a town and everybody uses it as a way-station. You also don’t poop in the bus. On the first bus John ever toured on, he came in with his suitcase and his guitar case, he picked his bunk, he went into the toilet, and there was a big sign that said: ”No mud pickles!” That takes a lot of the value off for Merlin. He would rather deal with dissipating the after effects than not having that. It is like not having seats in it, as far as he is concerned.

The reason you don’t go poo in the bus is that we can put a man on the moon, we can make a sports car that runs on electric power, a guy can jump out of a balloon in outer space and fall to Earth, but you cannot make a mobile toilet that doesn’t stink up the whole bus with poo, no matter if it is just a hole in the floor of the bus and the poo goes just right out on the pavement, somehow psychologically that poo will stay there with you as you go down the road. You just can’t have that!

All the other smells, the close proximity, being tired of seeing the other guys, and the onanism you can manage. The bus is loud, so that works. Merlin thinks that for guys in their 40s that doesn’t work as well anymore as it does for guys in their 20s and they might need to warm up, do some stretching exercises, and have some electrolytes.

Jonathan’s band and extended staff are all coming. Merlin thinks they are like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, including Jonathan’s manager Kum Merch-guy (?) with which Merlin got along so well, famously. They have since mended fences.

After they went across the country they will end up in New York City where they are playing a Christmas Pageant the second week of December, meaning that between now and then John is going to have fewer baths and probably more meatball sandwiches, but he is going to have less control over them. Then it is going to be Christmas and John will have to get up on New Years Day and start all over again, making his nut.

Jonathan Coulton reinventing the music business (RL53)

John and Jonathan are both learning from one another how to make money. A few years ago Jonathan had reinvented the music business and there was an article in the New York Times (called Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog). Now the cat is out of the bag and you just put everything on the Internet for free and then they buy your T-shirts. 3-4 years later everybody realized that this a) only works for Jonathan Coulton and b) increasingly doesn’t work for anybody.

John’s experience in the actual music business has become handy for them as they were making their Christmas record and trying to promote it. They have a guaranteed audience of people who buy anything Jonathan Coulton puts out, but they want to get this record into other people’s hands too and just putting it for free on the Internet isn’t really enough. They are working in concert to make money as performing artists, changing the game!

Even though all of that sounds easy, it is still fucking hard. People say: ”He is a half-millionaire and all he had to do is write a Zombie song”, but he still had to do it and then tour relentlessly and ultimately practice his guitar for 15 years in order to write that Zombie song.

People who never have to work again (RL53)

John and Merlin have proximity to people who never have to work again. Merlin maybe knows half a dozen of them from his tech world and John maybe knows a dozen in Rock’n’Roll who maybe never have to work again and lately he got to meet people in Hollywood who don’t have to work. It does a job on you and John is glad he did not go to prep school and meet family-money rich people when he was a young person because that permanently scars you. John would just be churning and could never relax. He was growing up around middle-class people and everybody knew they all had to get a job.

Sean Nelson, former singer of Harvey Danger, went to Episcopal High School in Virginia (Catholics in everything but name because of Henry VIII) and a lot of his classmates were the real sweater-knotted-around-the-neck set while Sean, although not a poor kid, did not come from that storybook money with a house in Maine built on a rock promontory that looks out over Kennebunkhead. That exposure to preppy millions worked its magic on him and he is never feeling quite fully realized as a person.

John going to an Emmy party and feeling he is missing out (RL53)

One time John went to the HBO Emmy party where people were walking around with Emmies in their hands. Those are surprisingly big statues and after the 16th nebbishy 35-year old guy in a tuxedo was walking past him holding an Emmy, John started to wonder where his fucking Emmy was. These guys aren’t any smarter than he is, but they got an Emmy and they are going to put it up on the mantel where it is going to sit for the rest of their lives and the day they die the first thing the obituary is going to say is that they won an Emmy.

John does not want an Emmy so badly that he is going to work for one, but the concept of not having an Emmy is a disappointment that has being introduced into his mind. To get an Emmy one must chase one, but it doesn’t keep you from sitting around grousing and internally feeling that there is something missing from your life or your career.

The creative climate in Hollywood, approaching celebrities (RL53)

Working in Los Angeles is so crazy, even just being down there for week! How can you be anything else than perpetually broken? Lately John has spent a little bit more time down there interacting with the creative class, the aspirational young people who are trying to get their scripts looked at and made, and it is the same as with young bands who start off and one of them gets successful.

In Los Angeles you get six guys sitting around the table who are all trying to get their scripts made except for this guy over here who just won an Oscar. The level of possible achievement is so much greater, but even after you won an Oscar you have to get up the next day, brush your teeth, and wipe your butt like anybody else.

The fuckstains who learned guitar to meet girls are so distinct from this culture of sucking up to the right people. There is a meritocracy and it is a hard place to work because everybody is constantly kicking your ass to do things 100 times better, it is a very Steve Jobs-y kind of company where ridiculous perfection and innovation is expected from everybody.

John carries that around with him a lot lately: He does not locate that drive in himself. When he searches files on his C:-drive in folders marked Relax Chill-out, Take-a-break, Cool, What-effs, and he is scrolling through JPGs at the bottom of What-Eff-What-Eff-What-Eff-What-Eff there is a JPEG called Untitled-3.jpg that says: ”Just do it! *thumbs up*”, and it is a 16x5 thumbnail picture and John can’t even see it.

Maybe it is just a Vitamin D deficit or he needs more sunshine, but all of that does not give him any relief when he looks across the room at an Emmy award, sitting at a table with some Schmedrick and thinks: ”What the fuck!” Merlin is uncomfortable with this divide. When he catches himself moving towards a more famous person over there, he thinks about why they would want to meet him and what he would say if they did, while there might be somebody over there who does want to meet Merlin and who might be super-cool, but he doesn’t know what they are famous for or they are not a famous metric.

John has the trade of feeling like everybody is going to be interested in him because he is fascinating. When going into a room full of famous people he is never going to be cowed by that because he knows once they really start listening to him, they are going to stop looking over his shoulder. That is the fallacy of a whole generation of thinking that all it takes to rise in a meritocracy is to be intrinsically meritorious rather than to do good work. You have to know people, you have to know things, and you have to be working your ass off.

John struggles against walking into a room, saying: ”I am here! Let the awards flow!” and realizing that are a lot of people in this room who are just as talented and who have also been working hard and are more deserving. He could have this tattooed on his fingers and look at it every day and he would still not feel it. There is a series by Jerry Seinfeld called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and in one of the episodes he goes to Rob Reiner’s house who talks about how for 30-50 years Mel Brooks comes to his house every night and they eat deli food off TV trays and watch Jeopardy! on the TiVo and he asked Jerry to tag along.

Those two are really old, they are still really funny, and they are super-Jewish, but it becomes apparent that while Mel Brooks is familiar with Jerry Seinfeld he is not super-duper familiar and he is being a gentleman about it. Nobody has been more successful in comedy in the last 30 years than Jerry Seinfeld. The guy did pretty well for himself, but one of his biggest heroes is not that super into it. Mel Brooks is an EGOT, like Rita Moreno, one of 10 people in history. As soon as John learned this term he was wondering why he doesn’t have one.

Toy Story III is about the holocaust, Lee Unkrich (RL53)

In the context of a party John met Lee Unkrich who won an Oscar for Toy Story III and he was talking to him for half an hour before it was made known to John that he had just recently won an Oscar. He is John’s age, a super-nice, mellow dude, and he won an Oscar for making a thing of such consummate beauty as Toy Story III. They had been talking about their dads for the last half hour, but now John was going to switch gears and start talking about the incredible holocaust metaphor in the form of a children’s cartoon.

Merlin is so tired of bringing that up at a party, have somebody tell him it is not true and then have to make the entire room cry after an hour of explaining how Toy Story III is about the holocaust. It is written into the fabric of the movie and you can’t possibly miss it. The fire at the end? Come on! If you are not crying at the end of Toy Story III then there is something dead inside you!

John told Lee that he had made this incredible and amazing thing that has all of the depth and breath of 15 years of the Simpsons and also the tragedy of a Russian novel, and he was like: ”Thanks man!” There was nothing more for John to say other than: ”High five!” John’s takeaway was that having made a thing like that Lee's only thought was about the next thing he was going to make. As a Pixar-uberfan and nerd he has so much respect for the process of always improving, learning the tools, and moving on to the next thing.

Finding your duck (RL53)

Everybody always looks what everybody else has got and everybody is always seeing something amorphous about them that represents the last puzzle-piece in their particular thrift store collection, but Merlin doesn’t thing that exists. You keep climbing up that tree and you finally get up to the point of: ”What is the meaning of life?” John knows people who have devoted their lives to pursuing adventure sports and doubt has never been introduced into their mind that this is anything other than an awesome way to spend your life.

John wonders whether they have a greater store of wisdom somehow or they have been around the karma loop a few more times than John has that they are so effortlessly able to enjoy life and to not care that the only mark they are making on the Earth is their snow track. Maybe that is their duck?

Merlin thinks a lot about finding your duck since they have talked about this topic a few weeks ago (see RL43). His genes are telling him that there is this thing out there that he should be seeking out, but just because you know that there is something out there for you and just because you know you want something intensely, the gestalt of that is not actually that useful until you know what your duck is.

John’s concern is that his duck is to be discontent, which might be a Jewish thing and he doesn’t even have that advantage. Nobody likes a dissatisfied caucasian. The reason that Mel Brooks is less impressed with Jerry Seinfeld is that in the 3rd inner room in every Jewish temple there is a little mount and the top-ranking ones sit higher on the mount, it is all some inner workings thing.

Merlin doesn’t consider himself a writer anymore because he doesn’t like writing for a job that much. He really likes writing and within the next few months or a year he wants to do it more earnestly after he has burned off some of the bad karma of his writing experience of the last few years.

Merlin he loved doing that, but it wasn’t his duck and he made himself very unhappy because he was convinced that he was the hunter of that duck. It took a different kind of thinking to let go of his pride and admit that he is somebody who likes doing this, but that is not who he is, and it made him so much happier.

John’s duck is to be helpful to people, largely people who can not be helped, a bit like Mother Theresa, except he doesn’t want dirty little sick kids touching him. John might want to rethink his trip to the isle, because there are a lot of dirty little sick poor kids there, although Ireland and Scotland are no longer the Ireland and Scotland from A Christmas Carol (by Charles Dickens).

They have made some dramatic improvements since Victoria's chambermaids. They would get coal in their stockings and be overjoyed because it was the first square meal they had in a week and also they could put their stocking back on.

Merlin and John’s show at The Showbox

Merlin and John are going to do a show at The Showbox on Monday the 29th of October 2012, which is going to be a hilarious show that is largely improvised by very talented improvisers: John, Merlin, Scott Simpson, and the other two guys (John Hodgman and Jonathan Coulton). Merlin didn’t like the brown tuxedo idea, but he treasures his friends and picks his fights and there are some things he has to let go of. It is a little gimicky and a lot of dough and it introduced entropy, but now it is too late for any of that to matter because they are running brown tuxedos.

John trying to make a living, teaching others how to get rich (RL53)

John has to make this nut every year because he need to make money to live. Until he was 30 he never made more than $900 a month and he had adjusted every expectation and every aspect of his life to fit comfortably in a $900 economy. He had a $300 apartment which was a loft without a bathroom, he got his mail and did all of his socializing in a café where he knew everybody who worked there and they treated him like he lived there, he worked 20 hours a week, and he spent the rest of his time playing Rock’n’Roll and chasing girls.

For the first 7 years of his 30s John was in a van, driving around, staying in hotels and playing in Rock clubs. Then he made a bit of money and spent 4 years sitting on his ass, and how he is 44 years old and has to figure out how to make a living. This sounds familiar to Merlin, except all the other parts. Merlin is envious of the people who are secure and just do this thing. How are they doing this? Don’t they have to plan a lot for that?

John and Merlin can help people by showing them that if those two dingdongs can make money, other people can make money. There is a shit-ton of money to be made in telling other people how they can make money. For Merlin and John it is all downhill from here as they are getting old and they may have to resort to helping people get ”rich”. You have to work smarter before you work harder. What if you could be smart and hard and not have to work? John wants to run a seminar teaching people how to be retired directors of the CIA.

John wants to be a retired senator or general, but that requires him being a senator and/or general in order to become retired, but there is nothing to stop him from teaching other people how to do it. There is no fucking reason John couldn’t fill up the ballroom at a Motel 6 with people who are interested in learning more about how to become the thing that John is not but wants to be. They might pay $125 for a packet! They could quit getting lottery tickets and Kools for a month and they could learn how to become a gentleman with John.

Then you have to have a merch table in the back. Merlin has gone to see one of the preeminent self-help gurus of the century and he had a place in the back where he was selling baseball hats and CDs and all kinds of stuff, whatever the opposite of a commodity is.

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