RL93 - Between the Monkey Bars

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: John needs a bear with balloons, referring to Flash-animated bears with balloons on websites in the early days of the Internet.

The show title refers to Demi Moore in GI Jane.

It is so early!

Merlin always waits until he sees John somewhere online in the morning before he contacts him. He has a Google alert set up on his Android phone for when John tweets in the morning. The great thing about this podcast is that it is a professional-sounding, professionally organized podcast in every sense except for the money part. They even got a website! There was a time when having a website meant that you had arrived! Getting a website was a $40.000 proposition and you would have a Flash-animated bear holding a bunch of balloons and a button ”Skip the intro”. Merlin can’t believe that the Internet is still around, but John interjects that it barely is.

John has a lingering unrightness.

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

John eating an old cookie he found in the van (RL93)

This morning John ate a cookie, the first one in a long time. He found it when he was cleaning out the van and he didn’t know how old it was, but he didn’t want to throw it away because that would have seemed like a waste of a good cookie. He kept it around in a jar for a couple of weeks and this morning he was feeling vulnerable and he ate it. He doesn’t know what happens to a cookie when it is 6 months old, whether the salt in it condenses, whether it drew salt from the air, but it was a very salty cookie. It was not between the seat cushions, but it was a solitary cookie in a cookie bag. It was good, but salty. John has to watch his salt intake now because he is aging so fast.

John being measured shorter than he used to (RL93)

The other day John went to the doctor, for the first time in a long time, the nurse weighed and measured him, and John had lost an inch (2,5 cm) in height, which was extremely unsettling. He doesn’t have osteoporosis and his spine is not collapsing. John was there to see the doctor about a thing that was bedeviling him, but as soon as this nurse gave him the diagnosis of being one inch shorter than he ever was, he didn’t care about whatever the problem was that got him to the doctor anymore, but all he wanted to talk about was how this is possible. The nurse practitioner measured him again and said ”I don’t know what else to tell you!” It was very disquieting and John has no context for it. His dad lost an inch or two and was not the towering man in his later years anymore, but John is not an old man who is shrinking in his shoes. High blood pressure can wait, although it can not.

The other day John's back went out while he was washing his hands at the sink. It is the worst! He doesn't need to start working out in order to get lean and look good at the beach, but he has to start working out just to survive and be able to wash his hands at the sink without collapsing into a pile of nerve endings. He needs compensatory hand-washing muscles! John could get a standing desk or one of these backless chairs where he has to kneel all day or he could sit on a yoga ball. He could get a lectern or a pulpit instead of one of those hipster standing desks or treadmill desks. Maybe he could get a really giant 5 foot (150 cm) tall yoga ball, not to sit on, but to lean back on it?

John has always been 6’3” and 1/8 (191 cm) and now he is 6’2” and 1/8 (188 cm), which is the height of a normal guy, while 6’3” put him into a special category of people who can legitimately walk around as if normal rules don’t apply. They can lumber into a room and expect that special compensation will be made. 6’2” is like having 22.000 frequent flyer miles and they will tell you to take a seat anywhere. They are already talking to him like that, he just didn’t realize he had lost an inch. Why did he end up riding the bus the other day? Oh, because he is a normal-height person and it was a really long way up the hill and maybe he should take the bus.

John wondered if by losing all this weight he lost some fat in his spine, knees and joints which had made him an inch taller? On the other hand he had reached his normal height of 6’3” and 1/8 in the 1980s when there was no fat in between his joints. John did not even try to stand up a little taller when they remeasured him, because he never had to before and he could even slouch a little bit and still be over 6’3”. Now he is going to be one of these guys where you can see his neck muscles straining when he is getting measured at the doctor. The medical staff were just laughing and smocking him, they were really normal people in the 5 foots and there isn’t anybody who doesn’t want a 6’3” guy be told he is 6’2”. A 6’6” (198 cm) guy is going to be happy to have John cut down an inch, because: ”Fuck me!” Sean Nelson, being 6’5” (195 cm) not counting the hair, was never impressed by John’s 6’3”-ness. No-one has any sympathy!

It is probably a calibration problem and the floor of the hospital rose up an inch relative to the walls and nobody has checked it. Merlin recommends John to get re-tested somewhere else, but John doesn’t want to get tested at a drug store because then everybody standing around buying peanut brittle is going to see him and John Corbet will be talking to him over the PA. John doesn’t want that!

Merlin doesn’t want to sound derisive, but he can see this happen to John when he gets to be about another 10 years older. But in the case at hand he thinks that there has to be something wrong because that is a lot of inch. John is in the prime of his life and the other day he was shopping for 4x4s! A guy doesn’t just buy a new 4x4 to compensate for the fact that he is an inch shorter. John sounds like somebody in an erectile dysfunction commercial.

The staff was not worried about John getting soft bones, but they gave every impression of not believing him that he had ever been 6’3”. They were just like ”Well, hmm, tape doesn’t lie”, so now John also sounds like an old man who lies about his past and who has not lost an inch in height, but who is either lying about his height or who has never known his height and who at some point in his teen years has developed a fantasy of what his actual height was. No matter what people told him the whole time, he just ignored everybody and for whatever reason his ears are open now and he is being told the truth. None of those things are possible! The only possibility is that the floor of the hospital is wrong! Either the water table has been rising under the hospital or the walls have sunk. It is an old facility and it is probably breathing, an inch give or take.

Asian girls in Santa hats (RL93)

Merlin likes the Kelly Clarkson song called Underneath the Tree that John doesn’t like, because John thinks that sex and Christmas have no business being in the same room. Merlin is very strongly against Christmas porn, like pictures of intercourse with a lady in a Santa hat. John questions that opinion and Merlin gets unsure and maybe wouldn’t just reject it out of hand. What about an Asian girl in a Santa hat? Merlin is not going to touch it! The problem is that you want to have Christmas an hour later and you have this guy over here having a soup.

They go through great lengths to not talk about porn on this website. Merlin doesn’t know about great length, but it surely has come up a lot for somebody who is trying that hard. Nobody likes to talk about it, but it is out there, clogging the tubes that make up the Internet.

Merlin doesn’t want to edit the show anymore (RL93)

Merlin doesn’t want to edit the show anymore. Garbling John's daughter’s name took him a really long time and one of the great things about Roderick on the Line is that it requires very little work and if you script it well enough and do rehearsals, you don’t have to do as much editing. They are already on page 4 of their 10-page script.

The all-camo family (RL93)

John went to a Black Bear Diner for dinner and there was a family of 10 people with 3 dads, 3 moms and 10 kids. The parents were in their late 20s / early 30s and every single person was all in camo, but not matching camo either, but it was snowing at the time and it was Vietnam-era jungle camo. Some of them were photoprint-camos as opposed to garment print. Camo-technology has evolved and it is all digital now and John doesn't like these camos that are actual prints of pictures of leaves that are somehow spray-afixed onto clothes.

Reports about pharmaceutical problems (RL93)

The doctor who popularized the diagnosis of ADHD is now coming out saying that ADHD is being over-diagnosed in the American people by a factor of 10 and he doesn’t believe that any of those people have it (It was in The Atlantic or The New York Times somewhere). It has been a crazy couple of weeks in ”Turns out” medical literature. There was also a letter from esteemed physicians about how vitamin supplements do nothing but harm you. Merlin also saw one from a guy who was taking green tea extract to lose weight and he almost lost his liver.

Everybody thinks Merlin is a nut because he is not crazy about generic drugs. His problem with all of those things, expressed in his own ham-fisted non-expert way is that just because it has .0001% of this active ingredient in it, you could still have cat-shit in there besides that, and who knows what else is in that stuff! The people making the generic drug are not going to get the most high-quality filler they can find.

Those drugs are 98% Saltpeter and 2% active ingredients, which explains why John recently lost an inch. Merlin wonders if that is really true, but having never been to Catholic school, John has no idea about the efficacy of Saltpeter as an erection reducer. John has also never been in the army or in prison in the army and he has never been to prison, which is not a jail.

There was a report that there is too much anti-bacterial stuff out there and Merlin agrees. John even says that there should be no anti-bacterial stuff at all, except in conditions where bacteria is the actual problem. If you are in a field hospital in the Sam in 1918, an anti-bacterial would really be an advantage, but if you are a house-wife cleaning your kitchen, you do not need anti-bacterial anything. Between bars in the jungle gym, these little kids… but between bars is an empty space, Zeno’s anti-bacterial paradox.

John not getting the right pill (RL93)

One time John went to the emergency room in Eureka, California and the doctor was a smug Northern California ER-doctor, a smirking guy who probably went to medical school in Grenada. It is the part of California where everything at the gas station is Duck Dynasty branded, like motor oil or coffee sweetener. It is everywhere and people love it!

The doctor told him ”Oh, it is clearly this, although it could be that, here is a prescription”, but if it is clearly this, although it could be that, what is this prescription for? Is it for this or that or is it for the space between the bars? It was just an antibiotic and it felt like the doctor had put Plaster of Paris into a fire extinguisher, spraying it all over the place. What is it for? It is an antibiotic for a thing that he doesn’t know what it is.

The issue at hand was causing John some psychic discomfort, so against every of his principles he took this drug for a week, but his problem did not improve. He went to another doctor back in Seattle, brought the empty pill bottle and asked what it was, why it didn’t help, and what the actual problem was. The nurse practitioner said that the doctor gave John that pill because he probably thought it was this, but she thinks it was probably this and she was going to give him another pill, at which point everything John thinks about the medical profession and the world was confirmed.

Right now John’s car is producing a high-pitched wine in the transmission and although he couldn’t do the work himself, he knows pretty much every part that goes into a car and he has an idea of what is making this sound. If he took it to a guy, he would listen to it and have an idea about what it was, maybe this or maybe that, put a little STP oil treatment in your gas or whatever, but he is not going to break open the transmission. There are only a couple of things he is going to do to treat the problem, but this is a car made by humans and there are books with every part laid out.

A human body has many parts that we don’t understand, John is only talking about the pumps and valves, and doctors are just throwing pills at it like it was a dart game, but none of it is working. It is just making John madder! 1.5 years ago he was infuriated by a doctor who was throwing little blue mind-pills at him that were going to improve his mood by blocking his betas with serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. None of these people know anything! John went to school just as long as they did and maybe he wasn’t taking labs, but he would happily prescribe stuff to people! Merlin never finished a course of the prescribed antibiotics until his thirties. They would tell him that he had to take all of them, but whatever, if he doesn’t have the ear-ache anymore?

Merlin's friend’s son has allergies and it could kill him if he took certain vaccines, so it is really important that other kids get vaccines because they would love to give his kid vaccines but they can’t. Let's all work together to make our immune systems stronger, let’s not take our little bugs to the gym, but let’s all really take this a little bit more seriously. The whole concept of working together as a group of people seems like a thing that an all-female congress would address.

Ann Bancroft, GI Jane (RL93)

John loves the movie GI Jane where Demi Moore was a Navy Seal. The Southern Senator in this film was played by Ann Bancroft who was married to Mel Brooks, who is an EGAT. When John met Mel Brooks, they talked on several occasions over the course of a couple of days. At one point Mel Brooks was standing there, talking to Richard Lewis and Dick Cavett, and John really wanted to say something to him about Ann Bancroft because he is a huge fan of her, like Mel who was married to her for all those years.

John wanted to say that their relationship was a pretty good thing and he really admired it, but she hadn’t been dead that long and John didn’t want to be creepy, but at one point John said to him that he really admired his wife and she seemed like a nice lady. He directed his attention toward John, accepted the remark, said "Thank you!", but John felt like he had crossed a line and he should have just kept that to himself.

If Merlin had the chance to meet Paul Newman, he would be tempted to say something similar than John said to Mel Brooks. They appeared to have had the kind of relationship that is very inspiring to him and there are not many people who can say that they have been married to an amazing person for 60+ years (actually 50 years). They probably had their hard times as well, but what a couple! The whole idea that we are halves of a whole, that we are incomplete without our other, was an idea that was not clear to John first-hand, but when he sees it manifest in the world, it is appealing at a distance.

The idea that you just haven’t met your other half is horrible and it makes John so mad! He once met the lady who wrote the book Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert) and was really mad at her already because she had written that book, but after he talked to her a little bit he realized that she was a pretty smart lady, which made him even madder. He was trying to rake her over the coals about her dumb book that sold millions of copies, but she did not even flinch at him and just Heismaned him and blew him off and now John is super-mad about that. Eat, Pray, Love is the antibiotic soap of books!

Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk was very good and she is a very smart lady who has written several books. When John talked to her he didn’t expect her to demur and say ”You know what, you are right!”, but he just wanted to have his day in court and say ”For the record: Your book has increased the amount of free-ranging bio-matter in women’s minds, specifically the ones that are around me all the time!”, but she didn’t even stop eating the shrimp from the ice tray. John didn’t even get to the second page of his thesis and he never got to praying while she was already moving on to other better conversations at this party.

John working for an all-female congress (RL93)

The other day John was thinking that he is going to change his tune and he is going to change course. For the rest of his life he is going to pursue the end-goal of having the US Congress be composed entirely of women. For many decades it was all men and then there was Patty Murray, the mom in tennis shoes who was an amazing senator. Then there was Maria Cantwell, the junior Washington State senator who was a great lady as well. If the house and senate were all women, the country would be run better and the quality of life in America in general would skyrocket. You can’t make a case against an all-female congress!

Half of them will be Republican Phyllis Schlafly style nutcases, maybe there will be a couple of token guys, and the United States would only benefit. To keep the flavor of America it has to be done via democratic means and not via a Coup d’état, but it is not going to work if there is some guy like John behind it pulling the strings. Instead he would have to voluntarily step aside and not run for congress or for the senate in order to make space for a more qualified woman. Ladies first! John will make the ultimate sacrifice which is not running for Congress. All gave some, but some gave all! (lyrics of Some Gave All by Billy Ray Cyrus)

Ann Bancroft's role in the movie GI Jane is a crusty Southern-accented Democrat who is playing both sides while Demi Moore is trapped in the middle between the Monkey Bars. She is a character that John would like to see duplicated and made real, like the Bella Abzugs of the world. John would like to see Congress filled with at least a handful of people like that character, or even the actual Ann Bancroft. Another good late wife is Joanne Woddward.

Comics (RL93)

Merlin recommends John to read the comic ”Y: The Last Man”, which is about the last man on Earth, written by Brian K. Vaughan who does Saga, which is another comic John doesn’t read. John said he will happily read it and Merlin promised to send it to him.

John getting a new coffee maker with more features (RL93)

The other day John replaced his coffee maker with a new one, not because it was broken, but because he saw a coffee maker that had more features while his old coffee maker was featureless. All it did was make coffee poorly, and everybody who came to his house was wondering if that was really his coffee maker. Jonathan Coulton’s wife said ”You have a blade grinder and not a bur grinder? How do you even live?” You wouldn't even use that coffee maker at an AA meeting because it was too shitty even for that. John saw this new coffee maker with 15 cup capacity and a timer and you could wake up in the morning to freshly brewed coffee.

It was one of these aspirational moments where John thought that it was going to change his life. He is also going to get one of those alarm clocks that comes on in the morning with a full UV spectrum light and is going to wake him up with the light of the rising LED while his coffee maker is going to fill the house with the smell of freshly brewed coffee. John is going to get up in the morning, do 200 push-ups, write from 8am to 11am, and then go to the gym to the climbing wall. This will be the first domino that gets all that other stuff moving and pretty soon he is going to be standing in a park with an easel wearing a Panama hat and doing watercolors, because he has so much time to pursue all his dreams. He is going to be 6’4” (193 cm) because he is going to stand up with pride because he got it going.

After John bought this coffee maker he left it in the box for 4 months and continued to use his old coffee maker. Eventually he set it up, but he only used the timer setting once because it was too complicated to scroll through all the menus to figure out how to do it regularly. Every one of its features comes with a corresponding bug. It has a gold filter instead of a paper filter, but that means that every one of his coffee cups has grounds in the bottom like if he was in Turkey.

Now John uses twice as much water than he used to use because he has to clean this gold filter and if the water bucket isn’t seated in the grommet properly then it won’t turn on and beep 20 times. When John wakes up in the morning, the prospect of making coffee with this thing makes him roll over and go back to sleep. He is not painting water colors and he is not wearing a Panama hat, it is infuriating!

John also has never plugged in the light that is supposed to wake him up with a full UV spectrum. Merlin says that John has a color television with a remote (which John does not have), and he heard that ”They went and built a skyscraper seven stories high: Everything is up to date in Kansas City” (lyrics from Everything’s up to date in Kansas City from the stage show ”Oklahoma”).

There is only one name you ever need to give at a take-out place and that is Bob, and there is only one coffee maker you ever need to own, which is this one Cuisinart that Merlin owns. You pay a little bit more, you get one or two of these every year and it is all the coffee maker you need. Merlin really used to go through them. He used to say ”Fuck it, we will just get whatever!”, but they finally popped $40-60 for a Cuisinart DCC-1200, the slightly retro-looking one with a metal front thing.

John wishes that somebody would keep a blog where they would review new gear and tech stuff and tell you which one is the best. Merlin says that the only site you need to go to is the Wirecutter. He just added a $1500 TV to his Amazon wishlist because his friend John Siracusa spent months and months researching it. John thinks that the Wirecutter should sponsor their podcast and they should retroactively give them $1500-TVs because they have already done an ad-read.

AA meetings (RL93)

Merlin has never been to an AA meeting, but he has always been curious. On TV they give the impression that people there smoke and drink a lot of coffee. In reality you can’t smoke in most of them anymore, but there is a lot of coffee happening. Screen writers all belong in AA meetings but have never been to one, and they are portraying AA meetings in film and on TV with a lot of cross talk, which is when one person is telling their story and someone else in the room confronts them about it, or the ”leader” of the meeting gets up and makes some comment about what they just shared. They always introduce some back-and-forth between a person who is in authority of the AA meeting and the protagonist.

This never happens in a real AA meeting because there is no leader and no-one ever replies to you. You get up and talk, then you sit down and the next person gets up and talks. No-one ever says ”You know, part of your problem is…” It isn’t ever done that way, which is part of the ethos, and they frown upon cross-talk. They also don’t think you should date people that you meet at AA meetings, but that is really hard to enforce. For a long time John thought that screenwriters were intentionally obscuring it because everyone in Hollywood was in AA and they didn’t want the secret to get out, but then he realized that they need there to be some authority figure for dramatic purposes. They are now setting a lot of those scenes in rehabs, which are a lot more cult-y feeling. Fight Club did a pretty good job in representing what those meetings are really like, but John has never been to cancer survivor meeting. Meat Loaf was funny.

A lot of these meetings are held in churches. Going through the cupboards in those church basements you will sometimes find 8 to 15 coffee makers that are just dead soldiers. It is not that they stop working, but a new one is cheap enough and somebody brings the new one and then you feel that you need to plug the new one in and start using it and the old one is not broken, but you are not using it anymore and it goes up in the cupboard. Many kitchens in church basements are not used for anything else but AA meetings and these cupboards become a fucking museum of coffee makers, like ”Is that an original Mr Coffee?” If they weren’t all so coffee-stained, some of them would probably be worth a little bit of money.

Shooting coffee makers at a Volkswagen (RL93)

There should be a pneumatic canon that shoots coffee makers, like a T-shirt canon, but coffee maker sized. People could bring their old coffee makers, they would put a couple of old Volkswagens down-range and people could shoot coffee makers at them all afternoon. Who wouldn’t pay $15 to shoot a coffee maker at a Volkswagen? Think about the satisfying impact of an entire coffee maker! Half the time the carafe would come separated from the heating system in mid-air and you would end up with a shrapnel- or grape-shot effect. They continue to fantasize about this idea. You could bring your old coffee maker to shoot it and then let them sell you a new one, like those services where you can shoot an automatic weapon. There is a firing range right down the street from Merlin.

There is a Police-shooting-range over by John’s house and sometimes you can hear them shooting machine guns, which is pretty great. They do a lot of shooting in the summer and not so much shooting in the winter, does that mean that they are underprepared for gunfights in inclement weather? If they are not practicing all-year around, then they are an ineffective force. This could alter the course of history, this is what happened to Napoleon and to Hitler, too! They weren’t ready!

If they had been out there year-round, shooting coffee makers in the dead of winter, both of them would have made it to Moscow, or Hitler wouldn’t have needed to got to Moscow because Napoleon would have already gotten there and they would be speaking French in Moscow more than they already were. What would have happened if Napoleon would have conquered Moscow? John still doesn’t think they would have survived the winter and the majority of Russia has never been governed. Were there really 10 time zones in the USSR like the Negativeland song says? (yes, there are!) John’s friend Sean Wolf who did the cover art for When I Pretend to Fall also did some Negativeland cover art. All these people should pay them for being mentioned on the podcast, including Hitler.

John’s and Merlin’s shared understanding of how people actually make money from things has become so backward that it just might work. How does anybody make money? John sees people all the time who have a lot of money, but how did they make it? Venture Capitalists? How do you get one of those? Do you set a trap? John and Merlin should make a proposal to attract the interest of a serial-entrepreneur, like the guy John met at a party in New York City where Arianna Huffington was. He gave John some books. There were slides of poor children on the wall and the guy came up and asked ”Are you an entrepreneur?” - ”Yeah, sort of!” - ”Did you see our slideshow about poor children?” - ”I did!”

Do they know it's Christmas? (RL93)

Back in 1948 there wasn’t snow in Africa (lyrics of Do They Know It's Christmas by Band Aid). 1980s culture was still in-between the monkey bars with rampant ignorance and still soaked in casual racism of the 1960s and 1970s, but there was all this new flibbidy-jibbidy that was only 10 years old that nobody could quite figure out. How do we show that we are compassionate, but we have no experience with real compassion? The presumption is that Christmas doesn't even apply to half of the continent of Africa! Do they know it’s Christmas? Just the title of the song implies that Africa is a cave.

We could feed everybody very easily, but we just don’t like paying the transportation cost on things, which is true for half the things in John’s house where he is just paying for the container. Seeds don’t cost anything, they just fall from the sky, right? They are like baby plants, or sky seeds! John had to pay somebody a couple of cents an hour to pick these seeds and put them in a bin, but the rest of it is just transportation.

Merlin doesn’t eat seeds, he is more like a nut man, but his wife likes seeds. Mixing seeds and nuts feels like a jam-up and you are not going to get the same quality control than if you had just gotten an ass-ton of nuts. Somebody was yelling at John the other day that Cashews aren’t nuts. What about peas? Peas are not nuts! Don’t they know its Christmas time at all? Maybe a cashew is a fruit?

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