When the #SUPERTRAIN shirts went on sale last year, I went back and listened to the titular episode. Not only do John and Merlin lay out the blueprint of the #SUPERTRAIN society, they also discuss the cannibalistic tendencies of birds and the under-appreciated contributions of Mike Anthony to Van Halen.

It’s a classic of the genre.

So after seeing this tweet from John, I decided episode 25 needed to be committed to plain text. If you haven’t listened to the episode, do yourself a favor and listen. I think it was on an episode of Back to Work where Merlin said a transcript of Roderick on the Line wouldn’t capture the essence of the show, and I completely agree. This is supplementary material.

If you ever get the silly idea to type up a transcript of your own, here are the super helpful apps I use. Feel free to scroll past all this to the transcript.

This clocks in at over 15,000 words, ~800 of which are “John” or “Merlin.” I wouldn’t have been able to get it done without a few great apps:

A few editor’s notes:

I’ve included a number of links for the more obscure references. (Boethius’ Wheel, really?) My favorite is I think I found the actual Popular Science article John was talking about in regards to an underground train from NY to LA.

There are Overcast links inserted every 5 minutes so you can skip forward to the relevant section of the podcast.

And above all, huge thanks to John Roderick and Merlin Mann for this great show. “Roderick on the Line” is my favorite podcast, and the old episodes are just as amazing and funny as they were at the time they aired.

(Oh, if people like this, I may do either “Campfire Spaghetti Party” or “House Trotter.” For those unfamiliar, “House Trotter” features the finest podcast ad-read of all time.)

On to the show…

Roderick on the Line
Episode 25 - Supertrain

[Intro Theme]

John: Hello.

Merlin: Hi John, how are you?

John: Hi Merlin!

Merlin: How’s it goin’?

John: [Musically] Merlin Mann!

Merlin: Hehe. Ahhh…

John: It’s goin’ pretty well. I’m getting kind of a late start, this year.

Merlin: [Laughs] Ahhhh, so it’s March - so you mean you’re getting a March start on a January year, or-

John: Oh no, is it March already?

Merlin: Oh no…

John: I have so much to do.

Merlin: Haven’t even sent out my… something cards. You know, I was in a relationship-

John: St. Patrick’s’ Day cards?

Merlin: [Leprechaun chattering sounds] I was in a relationship for a long time with a person for a long time who was, eh… you know, this is Anna Karenina, right? We never have the same problems, but-

John: You were in a relationship with Anna Karenina?!

Merlin: Yeah, it went way off the rails.

John: Oh wow, that’s hot.

Merlin: Hold for laugh. Uh, we were bad. We would have a Christmas tree, we would buy the Christmas tree late. Excuse me, holiday tree.

John: Mmhmm. Holiday tree.

Merlin: [Chortle] Holiday tree.

John: Non-denominational-

Merlin: It never, never well, certainly not Catholic, you know. I mean really.

John: Catholic tree?

Merlin: I would never have a Catholic tree - not in my home. I wouldn’t let it teach my kids, either.

John: There was a Catholic tree growing on my street.

Merlin: How could you tell?

John: Well, it’s a Catholic tree…

Merlin: C’mon, that was a softball! There’s a million ways you could have taken that!

John: [Laughing]

Merlin: Oh, I dunno, the kids that touched it kept crying? I dunno, I got nothing. Its transubstantiation made bread?

John: [Still laughing] Transubstantiation?

Merlin: It’s hard to say, it’s got two s’s, I think it’s misspelled a lot, just like “misspelling.” I misspell “misspell” all the time.

John: Because it’s got two s’s?

Merlin: Yeah - that’s called “recursion.” Which is also known as “recursion.”

John: Yeah, that’s recursive. “Transubstantiation” has more than two s’s-

Merlin: I can tell you’re not Catholic-

John: And I have braces, so it becomes very hard… halfway through the word, it’s one of those words sometimes I bail out of. Transubstas….

Merlin: Oh yeah, you mean…we call it “Jesus-breading.”

John: I don’t get all the way through-

Merlin: We just call it “Jesus-breading” now.

John: “Jesus-breading.”

Merlin: Yeah! It’s like you get some panko bread crumbs, you roll that bastard around. Not bastard, I can’t prove it, but he didn’t have a dad. You know, Anakin Skywalker didn’t have a father, either.

John: That’s not true. Anakin Skywalker had father.

Merlin: He absolutely did not. Shmi. Shmi. Name is Shmi, which is I think a very unfortunate name.

John: How did Shmi get impregnated?

Merlin: No one knows. I think she might be covering up. She might be covering up.

John: Wait, is that true? Is that part of the Star Wars cosmology?

Merlin: [Sigh] Well at least-

John: I didn’t read any of-

Merlin: -at least Joseph and Mary that the kind of sham marriage? Where he like, he was called a cuckold-

John: Cuckold?

Merlin: Cuckold. He was called a “cuckold.” You know “cuckolding” is a thing.

John: Yeah I know it is…

Merlin: Yeah, that troubles me. I wonder-

John: It troubles you because you have a hot wife-

Merlin: -how you say “cuckold” in German. “Das Kukolding.” I bet there’s a lot of that. There’s a lot of everything in Germany, John. The point is, that like our Lord and Savior - yes yours - like the man behind the tree-

John: Anakin Skywalker - also the product of a virgin birth.

Merlin: -did not have a traditional - yes, precisely. Now I don’t know if she’s a virgin, maybe she turned it around. Maybe she got surgery.

John: Maybe she got it from a toilet seat.

Merlin: Oh my-

John: That happens.

Merlin: -you think they got toilets on Tatooine?

John: Of course they do!

Merlin: They got slave toilets.

John: Unless George Lucas devised some some… unless they’re a special race that poops wheat-grass juice shots or something.

Merlin: Maybe they got droids that do that?

John: [Laughs] No, they look like human beings in the movies, but maybe that’s just a representation, maybe they’re really like Jodie Foster’s father in “Contact,” where they just appear in a humanoid form because we can’t understand their true-

Merlin: Oh, stop right there, stop right there. You’re getting close to actual religion an I’m gonna have to stop you there. Now um, Catholic trees, you got those in what, southern Seattle? Where are you, you’re in the like, southern part of town?

John: I’m in southern Seattle, yeah-

Merlin: The “Southside,” they call it?

John: Catholic trees, they grow mostly in Bavaria.

Merlin: [Laughs] Not in Romania at all?

John: No, no, no. Not in Romania at all.

Merlin: Anywhere in the Balkans, John? Do they get trees in the Balkans?

John: No, you won’t see a Catholic tree in that whole area but it-

Merlin: Oh, ’cause it’s all orthodox, it’s all orthodox, right?

John: It’s orthodox. Well there are Catholics there-

Merlin: Yeah-

John: But I made a pact with myself not to talk about the Balkans anymore on this podcast-

Merlin: I wanna learn, no no, please don’t [???] You know what? No, No.

John: No, No. Are you telling me I’m doing it wrong? Am I doing the Internet wrong?

Merlin: I’m telling you. Don’t listen to people. You keep every key on that keyboard, my friend. Keep it plugged in. You know what I’m saying? Or not plugged in in your case, you got the blue-toot.

John: That’s right. I do have the Bluetooth. I do have the Bluetooth, that’s why I just bought stock in a AA battery company.

Merlin: Yeah. You know, at our Walgreens - apparently everything I do revolves around Walgreens, you can go and you can drop off your old dead batteries, which is nice.

John: And then what happens?

Merlin: I don’t know. As Micheal Stipe says, “When you throw something away, where is away?” Did I just blow your mind?

John: Oh my God. Whoa. Where is away? I wanna go there!

Merlin: I know! I wanna go to “Away!” Lately my daughter’s been bugging me to have a picnic at the dump.

John: At the dump?!

Merlin: Yeah, they told her at school that there’s parts of the dump they’re gonna try to turn into a picnic ground, so if you don’t like ants, ask yourself how much you’re gonna enjoy seagulls. Oh, and did I mention? Stinky garbage.


John: One time, actually right after the first freight train I ever hopped-

Merlin: [Trying not to spit out beverage laughing]

John: -I got off the train in Vancouver, Washington, cause it stopped in Vancouver, and I didn’t understand that it was gonna keep going. This is a thing I learned over time, hopping freight trains - they stop, but that doesn’t mean they’re done.

Merlin: Is this after you had a pilot’s license?

John: I had a pilot’s license already, but I was learning a new skill, a new thing-

Merlin: -Bustin’ a Guthrie.

John: So it pulls into Vancouver, WA and it stops and just sits there and I’m like, ah God… I guess this was just a really short train that just went to Vancouver, so I get off and of course immediately the train starts up and off it goes, and I’m standing by the track in the middle of the night. And so I walk across - for those of you who are not in the Pacific Northwest there’s a giant river - the Columbia River - and there’s a giant train bridge that goes across the Columbia, and I walk across this train bridge, I’m walking, looking for a place to sleep, it’s so late and I’m so tired, and I’m so stupid, and I find this big beautiful open area, and I’m like, oh, perfect. I’m carrying a tent and I walk over this kind of rough ground, and I find a clearing and I setup my tent, and in the morning I wake up to the sound of bulldozers, all around me.

Merlin: [Laughing] Oh no-

John: And it’s already hot, it’s like 7:30 in the morning and it’s already hot because it’s the middle of the summer, and I poke my head out of my tent, all sweaty, and I look around and I have pitched my tent in the middle of a garbage dump, on a patch of land that had apparently - they laid down many layers of garbage and then they would put dirt over the top of it-

Merlin: Right.

John: -so I’m on a very thin layer of dirt-

Merlin: You’re literally in a landfill - they’re filling the land, putting land on top, and then more filling, like a big dirty garbage sandwich.

John: And all around me are those giant bucket-loaders driving around full of garbage, and the guys in the bucket-loader trucks have never laughed so hard in their life.

Merlin: [Cackling]

John: The guys are doing their job, they’re taking their buckets of trash, and every one of them makes a point to drive as close as he can to my tent, and just laugh and laugh, tears streaming down their face, as I get out in my underwear and get dressed, fold up my sleeping bag and my tent-

Merlin: Is it really as comical as it sounds though? Were you amongst garbage, or had you just found a clear spot?

John: I was surrounded garbage-

Merlin: [Laughs]

John: I was - there was a layer of dirt over the top of it so in the middle of the night I thought it was just this really freshly plowed-

Merlin: You didn’t have a Coleman lantern you were bustin’, you had set this tent up many times, you know, “I need this much flat land, I need this much stuff that doesn’t have a washer/dryer on it, and I can pitch my tent.”

John: Yeah, and I was seventeen, so I was dumber than rocks, and I didn’t, I mean, this is the kind of thing that even if you were the ripe old age of eighteen, you probably would have stood there for a minute and thought, “Wait a minute… what is this place?” You would have caught a whiff of it, or you would have, something would have-

Merlin: That’s the part, as someone who used to read books, this is the part in my mind where it’s unresolved, is that I feel like, for myself, when I’m anywhere even anywhere slightly near a dump, there’s a very specific smell to a dump. I would call it the “dump smell.” /META/ If you listen to this on slow speed in Overcast, Merlin sounds HAMMERED saying this https://overcast.fm/+BmEOLGr30/09:11

John: It is a dump smell, but there were a couple of things working here, on me-

Merlin: The dirt. The dirt, for sure.

John: The dirt, and also it was right next to a river and so there was a strong breeze, it was open country, you know… I don’t know, it was very late at night.

Merlin: Oh, so there was a river smell, too?

John: There was a river smell, but also… the combination of the fresh dirt and the breeze disguised the dump smell long enough for me to pitch my tent and fall asleep, but boy in the morning in the hot sun, it sure smelled like a dump.


Merlin: And in retrospect, you look at this as a rookie mistake - I try to be sensitive to these things so if we need to cut this out we can. I try to be sensitive to the things that you’ve learned in your training in autodidacticism, but my question to you is in retrospect, does it scare the living shit out of you made such a potentially poor decision about location - I bet it was not a defensible position, I’m guessing, you may have been on lower ground than you would have liked.

John: Well here’s… it occurred to me later that there was absolutely nothing from keeping one of those guys in his dumper-load-

Merlin: He’s a little bit hungover, he rubs his eyes for half a second and pretty soon, you have the contents of, three days ago KFC is now covering a seventeen year old John Roderick.

John: That, or, they just think it’s a piece of tent-trash that didn’t get mushed down.

Merlin: Is that what they call hobos there, “tent-trash?”

John: Tent-trash! And the first thing they do when they get up in the morning is to see which guy can roll over the ratty tent first.

Merlin: [Laughter] It’s like a little game of quoits. They just try to get it in there.

John: Hey! What’s that up there? A spot we missed last week - let’s get it, you know? But seriously, if I made a list of the top 50 rookie mistakes I had made where I should have ended up-

Merlin: -right-

John: -covered in KFC buckets, buried in-

Merlin: I think when you’re at a point when you’re out of the business long enough, in the variety of businesses that you’re in, it would be very interesting for you to put out a probably unsuccessful ebook about the places where you learn because you went a little wrong. Again, the things that you can talk about.

John: Oh, wow.

Merlin: You know what I’m saying? I’m just saying, now you, I’m just guessing seventeen year old John, setting aside that you were probably not a big ebook reader, that probably wouldn’t have helped you, that was a lesson you had to learn.

John: True.

Merlin: And yet, and yet, I’m just gonna guess, we can always guess, it’s like when you get broken up with by some awful girl and you realize you were probably not the first person to do that. Or in this case, the probably literally hundreds of women that you’ve broken up with. In this case I’m just guessing, “hobo in a tent” is something they were dealing with a lot between the river and the railroad.

John: Between the river and the railroad, absolutely, but probably most hobos at that point were seasoned enough to not pitch their tent in a garbage dump.

Merlin: They call ’em salty travelers.

John: I’m gonna guess that I’m in the decided minority of people… I mean, surely people pitch tents in garbage dumps that have been capped and turned into parks and picnic grounds, that happens all the time.

Merlin: Capping - I got mixed feelings about capping.

John: Oh yeah, I do too.

Merlin: That seems, that’s oof, that’s like kinda like putting Saran Wrap over something and thinking it won’t go bad.

John: Well here’s my feelin’-

Merlin: -yes-

John: -that all the landfills that have been capped an turned into public parks in America are actually trash mines for the future when the future is mining trash - so they’re gonna uncap that stuff and mine all that plastic, it’s just gonna be the cheapest way to get petroleum products.

Merlin: Ohhh. Oh my God, you just wrote the beginning of what will be an awesome - if it’s not already something that you’re just stealing - a speculative fiction series on what happens, we’re talking way beyond peak oil, we’re talking post-post-Kunstler, if you’ll pardon my French. You’re talking about literally the only oil we have is by melting a Mr. Potato Head.

John: Yeah, right, because by that point all the biodegradable stuff will have at least have turned into pink slime-

Merlin: -Mmhmm-

John: -and then all that’s left in there is plastic crapola that has already, that’s just ripe to be recycled - reused, reduced and recycled.

Merlin: And then, re-re-recycled-

John: And then re-re-re-re-

Merlin: There’s gonna have to be a fourth triangle. That’s a really good point, now here’s the thing, they always say, I think we’ve discussed this on a previous visit, but they always say, one thing that all these gloom-and-doomers get wrong about lots of things whether that’s population growth or running out of food, whatever… For example, ever since I can remember the problem of world starvation is not really that the food isn’t there, it’s a distribution problem, and it’s an economic problem of caring enough to get that on a boat and take it somewhere. But in this instance, they say, “We’re not thinking enough ahead about how the technology changes.” I’m still not persuaded that technology is changing fast enough, but, if I could say - this is your speculative fiction series, not mine - for the sake of argument let’s say we realize how majorly fucked we are on the fuel situation and we do find some way, this cold-fusion-style way, to get way more energy out of way less. You’re saying, if I understand correctly, that you could potentially run a future dump of tent-slammers on just a few Mr. Potato Heads that had been melted down in the appropriate way, setting aside the pink slime which we could use for something, you’re saying, maybe we become so efficient, we uncap, we go on and we fill our tanks with Mr Potato Heads-

John: Absolutely right - look at the third episode of “Back to the Future.”

Merlin: Hmm… really, is that really something I need to write on a card?


John: We know already that that car requires 1.21 gigawatts, and in the third episode, or the end of the second episode, I dunno which-

Merlin: I think they filmed them concurrently.

John: Oh. Well at one point he comes back from the future to the present in the eighties, and he goes and gets some trash out of the kitchen and throws it into the trash compactor inside the-

Merlin: Ohhhh, right, I think he does that in the first episode.

John: Ok, that’s the first episode, well in any case, we know it takes 1.21 gigawatts, so he’s getting that amount of energy out of some coffee grounds, and some plastic-

Merlin: Probably, I’m gonna guess a two liter Pepsi bottle-

John: Two liter Pepsi bottle - so we know that energy is in there.

Merlin: Pepsi Free.

John: And these trash dumps are right in the centers of our cities, so there isn’t gonna be a transportation problem. It’s cheap energy.

Merlin: Oh, John, I’m sorry, I’ve been getting you way wrong. You’re a fucking futurist. Have you really thought about this or are you just stealing this from somebody else?

John: [Indignantly] No, I’m not stealing it from someone else! I’m offended. My real plan, my real project is to go out to those giant floating seas of plastic detritus that are out in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

Merlin: Oh, those big, like those reefs of trash that form.

John: Yeah, the big-

Merlin: Those are scary!

John: -Sargasso Sea sized dead zone of garbage, floating garbage? And just go out there with some kind of long-net fishing trawler, and just gather it all up and process it on my converted Exxon Valdez future ship, that’s captained by Dennis Hopper.

Merlin: [Laughing] Oh, you are so ready to be like a Jonathan Coulton character. You’re gonna be the garbage czar.

John: I’m garbage czar!

Merlin: And you know what, my daughter and I have started reading, last night we read a Batman comic from 1941, which was awesome. But you’re like a Bat-, or a James Bond maybe, you’re like some kind of a supervillain where all- or maybe SMERSH, right, SMERSH? That’s the bad guys, right?

John: Some of the bad guys.

Merlin: That’s where all the girls wear combat boots?

John: [Approvingly] Mmhmm!

John: Here’s what happens. What’s gonna happen, the people at MI–35 or whatever are gonna be sitting around going, “We’ve noticed some unusual activity.” Right?

John: [Chuckling]

Merlin: “People are using Swiss accounts, which probably have lots of pistols in them, to buy out capped garbage dumps across the US.”"

John: Right… “Who is cornering the market?”

Merlin: “There seems to be a lot of interest in buying capped dumps near-”

John: “And old decommissioned oil tankers-”

Merlin: “And old decommissioned oil tankers, yes, but there’s a pattern here,” and the go and they make the giant, you know like every supervillain you gotta have your giant, miniature version of whatever you’re building, like in Die Hard-

John: Oh yeah, absolutely, sure-

Merlin: Was it Goldfinger? No, From Russia With Love, I guess-

John: The model-

Merlin: Exactly! And the pointer, you gotta have the pointer, and it’s nice to have a midget - if you can find one. Right?

John: Oh, my God, they’re everywhere…

Merlin: [Chortles] I think the midgets are gonna come to you.

John: The thing is, when you’re a supervillain they come to you.

Merlin: I think that’s where you send your resume-

John: We say “little people,” too. Not to get too ping-pong.

Merlin: Ok. Well, little people become droids. The midgets, that’s the bad ones. They’re the ones to look out for. They’re the ones that carry vials of poison and blow-guns.

John: Right! Well-

Merlin: Little people, there’s always gonna be jobs for droids, you know what I’m saying?

John: Or munchkins.

Merlin: Did you know that Kenny Baker and Jack Purvis used to have a cabaret show together? The guy who played R2-D2, and the guy who played-

John: Um, I didn’t know they had a cabaret show, but then I don’t follow the trades.

Merlin: But, the pattern they noticed, I’m sorry, I’m almost done with this, I swear to God. Here’s the thing though! I learned this from you, fucking John Roderick. You’ve just brought it all together in a way that, well it’s blowing my mind. You got the water, you got the dumps, you got the trash, you got the railroads, again, we’re back to the same thing. How do learn about a fucking city, its transportation, its energy-

John: Warren Buffett knows it. He bought all the railroads.

Merlin: That’s right, you know what he says - he says you should buy things when they’re inexpensive and then sell them once they’ve become expensive.

John: See…

Merlin: That’s all you have to do-

John: Why didn’t anybody ever say that before?

Merlin: That is the one thing that those Wall Street fat cats don’t want you to know. And all I’m saying is if James Bond or somebody else who has a miniature model and a pointer and some midgets starts pointing, they’re gonnna notice that a lot of the places-

John: “Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute! All our garbage dumps and decommissioned oil tankers have been bought up!”

Merlin: [Laughing]

John: “Where are all the midgets?”"

Merlin: “We’re also having a lot of trouble finding used pump-chili containers.” But no, what I’m saying, you buy these, it becomes like a fucking gas station. If you find these near a waterway and a railroad, you have built-in-

John: Even if you find them near a waterway or a railroad, they are precisely situated near waterways and railroads!

Merlin: Eventually this business will grow, and you know what you’re gonna need - office space - can I just say? Mobile home parks. The poor people live in mobile homes in the shittiest part of town - low lying, right? It’s probably near the railroads and the dumps…


John: So you’re saying there’s a potential script for a Bond film in this, but instead of the Bond villain being a super-billionaire, the Bond villain is a genius white-trash dump-living trailer-trash guy.

Merlin: If by white-trash you mean rich procrastinating sometimes-musician I would have to say yes.

John: [Laughs] A rich procrastinating sometimes-musician who, knows how to speak white-trash enough to communicate with all the denizens of these outsider communities.

Merlin: Ok, listen. I’m totally fine with your head getting big…er, and you getting more self-involved, but do you honestly believe that you can talk white-trash that well?

John: No. I know I can’t. I know I can’t.

Merlin: I could see you getting super-super frustrated at a little general at about two in the morning.

John: It’s, it’s one of the things that… I had a really interesting conversation with a guy many many years ago, where I had been prowling through America’s underbelly - America’s undercarriage for a few years-

Merlin: America’s lady-basement.

John: -I was talking to this guy in New York, it was at Cornell, and he was a smart kid at Cornell, but he was from the Bronx, you know. He was one of those smart kids from the Bronx where he had street smarts. And I was telling him about all these places in West Virginia and Alabama, Tuscaloosa, that I had been, and how I was trying to communicate with these people in their native dialect, and this kid, we’re both kids still, you know, whatever 19 years old, and he looks at me and he goes, [heavy NYC accent] “What are you talkin’ about native dialect? I just talk to people like I talk, and uh, and then they understand me and they respect that I’m speakin’ in my own language.” And I was like, what are you talking about? You don’t want to talk to people around America like, in your weird accent. You wanna try to get inside their minds and get inside their culture, and seem like you’re from there. And he’s like, “What? You’re never gonna fool anybody that you’re from there! You just talk like you talk, and uh, they know you’re who you are.” And he blew my mind. And at the time, that was a heavy, heavy lesson I learned from this kid, and I stopped making the rookie mistake which I had been making, the rookie mistake of going into places and trying to, trying to like figure out how they do it and then-

Merlin: Were you trying too pass?

John: No, not trying pass, but like, obviously the first thing I said was, I’m not from here, but I didn’t understand, but half the time I’d go, [goofy country-ish accent] hey y’all, I’m not from around here.

Merlin: [Laughs] Or you talk jivey-

John: [Laughs] Yo dawg! I’m not from- you know, I would try and adopt their local mannerisms because I thought that was how you… how you greased the wheels.

Merlin: Mmhmm.

John: And this guy from The Bronx was saying, no, I have a comically Bronx accent, and I go everywhere and people are fine. And he was a wise man for his 19 years, and I was actually embarrassed when I learned, when it was revealed to me that I was being kind of a turkey.

Merlin: [Laughs]

John: By going around, and like, mimicking people’s accents back to them and thinking that I was really getting inside-

Merlin: I’ve done that, I have done that, I know I continue to do that, and what’s weird about it is in my head when I’m doing that - and now I really notice it when other people do it. There’s this guy I see around the neighborhood, and whenever he talks to anybody he acts like they are an ESL, like English as a Second Language person who is profoundly retarded. [Extra enunciated and stilted] Every thing he says to them he explains like this. I think that he does things like buy and sell cars, but what I want to do is explain to that I will park it here and then you can get it later. It doesn’t matter, he could, he talks that way to me. He talks that way to anybody. That’s how the guy talks. But what’s funny is like-

John: Maybe he’s from The Bronx-

Merlin: Could be, could be. Maybe they’re a very candid people there. Here’s the thing though, I think that is, ironically enough in my experience, a weird kind of provincialism.

John: Mmhmm. Hmm.

Merlin: Because, my provincialism, I’m so provincial I think I’m fancy. I don’t know enough to know what I don’t know.

John: Uh huh, uh huh.

Merlin: Right? So that’s what a fucking dumbass I am. I go out and act like the entire world needs to have my brilliance dumbed down a little bit-

John: Oh sure-

Merlin: And you know what, I’m not saying this is you, but for me, you know what, I’ll even throw in a little bit extra by trying to catch up with your little code-switching patois-

John: [Laughing]

Merlin: -my dark friend.


John: Coming from Alaska, I really did come to America as though America was a foreign country, and not just a foreign country, but multiple foreign countries within one big continent, right, so that-

Merlin: How long were you there? So you were born, I’m sorry, you were born in Washington, right?

John: Yeah, I mean I grew up between Seattle and Alaska and moved-

Merlin: Your mom did oil-based computing in-

John: Oil-based computing, and my dad was lawyer, a government lawyer, for a long time-

Merlin: In the corridors of power?

John: Uh, he was the chief counsel of the Alaska Railroad, which was at the time-

Merlin: Wow!-

John: Which at the time was a federally-owned railroad, doesn’t connect to any other railroads, it’s just the railroad that goes across Alaska, and-

Merlin: [Clicky keyboard sounds]

John: -and so he was a big wheel there, he had a pass in his wallet that allowed him to get on any train-

Merlin: [Excited inhale] It’s like a Eurail pass except in America, and you can just ride-

John: Oh my God. It was so amazing.

Merlin: Oh my God, what was, what was, sorry-

John: I think I still have it, but it doesn’t work-

Merlin: Oh, was it, was it trains with seats, or was it a cargo plane kinda thing-

John: What do you mean, “trains with seats?” Yes yes yes, it was-

Merlin: You got to ride, on like, consumer trains…

John: Not only that-

Merlin: Oh, I’d kill for that-

John: Sometimes when he had um, when he had a reason, he would call up and the Alaska Railroad had a presidential car-

Merlin: Oh my God…

John: Which was a three bedroom apartment with a living room and a kitchen and a butler’s pantry-

Merlin: [Clicky keyboard noises]

John: -and a balcony on the back, and he would have them attach this train, this presidential car which had been Truman’s whistle stop car.

Merlin: Are you kidding me?

John: He would have them attach it to the back of any Alaska Railroad train and he would go choo-choo-training around Alaska-

Merlin: The Ferdinand Magellan Railcar.

John: Oh, you’re looking it up?

Merlin: Uh, I’m looking, there are several here, what I’m telling you John Rod- I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I’m just already, I’ve just got such a train-boner you can’t even imagine.

John: I can imagine.

Merlin: John Roderick, do you understand what people pay to do practically fucking anything near Alaska today? You mention Alaska and and whales and people are writing checks.

John: I should do that more.

Merlin: To ride around in a really nice, three bedroom train car in Alaska? Oh my God. Did you ever get to do it?

John: All the time! Are you kidding me? My sister and I have pictures of ourselves just partying in this train car, leaning off the balcony, sleeping in train. Sleeping - cause the train would get to Fair- we’d sleep on the way to Fairbanks, and then we’d get to Fairbanks and we’d stay in the train car while they turned it around and got ready to go make the trip back. We did all kinds of stuff. My dad actually-

Merlin: Did it have TV in it?

John: Uhhh, I don’t remember but this was not, watching TV was not a thing you would have been doing.

Merlin: I would have. I mean, you had books or games, you probably had board games.

John: Well, you’re on a train going through Alaska, you’re like hanging off the back the whole time. We would spend hours hanging off the back.

Merlin: I can already tell in your biopic, you’re probably already massively over-funded and behind the Heaven’s Gate of a biopic that you will have some day, I can see that. Now if that were me I’d be sitting there like, why can’t I watch Shazam!? But I could see you curling up with a book on Special Forces, Special Ops, just getting up in the sky car, sitting their - I’m just looking at the photo of this right now, “The best way to see Alaska is on the railroad, the Alaska Railroad Corporation.” And already, I’ve got a total train-boner. I would love to be in sky car reading an encyclopedia right now, this is gorgeous.

John: Yeah, and the thing is that this is something I learned when I was a kid traveling with my dad, cause my dad always stayed in - I mean, my dad was a high-roller, so my dad would always stay in high-rise hotels, classic hotels, hotels that had full-size swimming pools in them, and not in the basement either. Hotels that had swimming pools on the eight floor, you know what I mean? Pretty nice places. And private train cars and these things. And what I learned is that when you stay in a giant hotel or when you stay in a deluxe train car, you can entertain yourself almost indefinitely by finding things to throw off the balcony, so-

Merlin: [Laughing]

John: -if you are in a train car and going across Alaska, you are scouring the train, and the thing is the train is connected to the regular train full of regular people, and actually there was a man, an Alaska Railroad employee who was posted at the door of our car to keep the regulars-

Merlin: Are you kidding me?

John: Not at all.

Merlin: You had a riff-raff monitor?


John: We had a guy, in a coat and tie, who sat on a stool, and was like, “Oh, sorry, this is the end of the public train.” So we would go through the train and we just collect all the things that might be interesting to throw off the back of the train as the train is speeding through the countryside. And I’m not talking about litter - litter wouldn’t be interesting. But things that might break, things that might fly… These were also all the things I would scavenge hotels for - because my dad, being guy that he was, he would often say, “Uh, you stay in the room, I’ll be back in a couple hours.” And then I’d be in the hotel room, and I always took that to mean, “You stay in the hotel, or you stay around the hotel.” As I got older it was, “You stay in the vicinity of the hotel.” So I would collect stuff, like I would get a bucket of ice cause you’re gonna want to throw some ice off the 18th floor-

Merlin: Mmhmm - evidence melts.

John: That’s right. And I would get lots of paper, and I would try to find matches, because you wanna make paper airplanes and light them on fire and throw them off the 18th floor, out of your 18th floor hotel room. And I would sit and just huck stuff out of the hotel, and I cannot tell you the number of people that looked up from the sidewalk in the busy, urban environment and shook their fists at the sky, because I had slimed them from high up in the air.

Merlin: I’m just glad to know that you wouldn’t abuse power if you had it.

John: Not at all! Not at all. You know, in addition to having my pilot’s license when I was 17, my dad took me down to the railroad one time and had a man teach me how to drive a locomotive.

Merlin: [laugh]

John: He knew that this was something I would be interested in-

Merlin: Was this something they planned ahead-

John: Oh yeah-

Merlin: -put on the calendar, or did your dad just show up and disrupt things, to teach you.

John: Well, I can’t really tell. He knew this engineer-

Merlin: It’s all a little foggy now.

John: -you know they all knew him, cause he was at the head office, but-

Merlin: Well, let’s state the obvious here, which is that your father was important, powerful, whatever, enough, that he was a man you - if you had the choice you’d rather not disappoint him? In any role, right? And let’s be honest, even if you’re the hotel serving him, he’s a big gun in the travel industry and so you wouldn’t want him to fill out that card and say, “I’m Dave Roderick” and-

John: “And some bellhop chastised my son for throwing a bucket of ice out of the window on the 24th floor-”

Merlin: “Since when can’t you throw flaming planes out…” But also though-

John: “I’d like his job, please. I wanna see this kid. Bring him to me.”

Merlin: Now that would be funny - if every time he got mad, he insisted to that person’s boss that you got to have that person’s job for a day.

John: But driving a locomotive-

Merlin: Oh, sorry about that, locomotive, yeah-

John: Oh my god, so fun. Because really, there’s not much to it. You have a little handle that’s the throttle and the break, and you have a horn. [EMD GP7? This site is bonkers http://www.alaskarails.org] But boy, when you put that thing in gear and it starts to move. Woo! Oh also, they let me ride, they let me ride on the front of the locomotive.

Merlin: [Laughing] By the cow-catcher?

John: Yeah, up there, you know there’s a little railing and you can walk around on the nose-

Merlin: I think that’s for maintenance, John.

John: It is for maintenance, but the let me go out there cause I begged.

Merlin: Oh my God…

John: I was like, C’mon, please please please let me ride on the front-

Merlin: You got to do a Titanic thing? That would be so fun.

John: On the front of the locomotive, yup. It was very fun, but you know, I’m sure everybody was shitting bullets, because, you know I was climbing on the front of this train and all the guys inside were like, “Ugh, it’s the boss’ kid.”

Merlin: And the great part is your dad would probably have to adjudicate the case when it went to trial, and the people from the insurance company were there-

John: At the time-

Merlin: [In southern-lawyer voice] I just want to understand. According to the lawyer the lead counsel for your company asked that the child be pushed to the front of the prow.

John: [Laughing] At the time there was no such thing as child abuse, so they wouldn’t have put my dad on trial for letting-

Merlin: They didn’t have a name for it. It was like autism.

John: Yeah, they didn’t have a name for it. It was like, I don’t understand why all these kids are so sad, anyway…

Merlin: [giggling]

John: Let’s sue the schools!

Merlin: Ok, well so far I’ve got three lessons, I’ve got lesson one, and again we can cut this out if it’s too much, but lesson number one for your ebook is don’t pitch your tent at a dump.

John: Right. Good.

Merlin: Number two, don’t have a fakey patois to act like you are understanding someone better-

John: Exactly.

Merlin: And if you’re gonna lean out a window, have stuff to throw.

John: That’s right! You’ve, you’ve nailed it, you’ve nailed all the topics.

Merlin: I’m just gonna, I may end up being your Boswell, so I’ll just capture all this, I’ll just keep it here, nearby, I just don’t want to get too far away from something much deeper here though, which is well, you know, it’s your show, but I don’t wanna get too far away from the idea that I hope is not stealable. I think you may be so far in front of this idea that we don’t need to worry about it being stolen, but-

John: No, I think it’s gonna be stolen-

Merlin: Well obviously, well here’s the thing, you’ve got contacts inside the industry, you’ve ridden on the front of a fucking locomotive that you were driving-

John: That’s right-

Merlin: How many people have ever even - that’s a terrible idea. That’s an awful idea. You’ve done that and-


John: And people are way too timid to throw things out of high-rise windows.

Merlin: You’ve, you’ve thrown flaming paper from the Harry Truman car, how many people can say they’ve done that? So here’s all I’m thinking, is when you do have this, I dunno what you want to call it, when you have this dystopic future empire, that involves tearing open garbage dumps in order to melt Mr Potato Heads, or what-have-you, I think you conduct that by train. I think you go, from one mobile home park to the other-


Merlin: [laughs] via John’s #SUPERTRAIN.


Merlin: And here’s the thing. Can I just point out it is scalable and extensible, you can literally hook new cars on, you’re gonna be so rich and so fucking weird at this point, that could have just a new throw-in car - #SUPERTRAIN could be whatever you wanted to to be that fucking week!

John: #SUPERTRAIN with a giant claw? Like a giant claw-crane and you could drive #SUPERTRAIN right up to old trash dumps and the giant claw-crane reaches out and grabs the whole trash dump in its giant claw, and puts it on flat cars, and you take it to your supertanker processing-

Merlin: Oh, that is, now would that be on your own train? Because… Here’s the thing though-

John: You’d have trains all across America-

Merlin: You know what? There’s too much you, break it off. You call somebody else and you have junior train come in and take care of the rest of it. You’re saying, you literally tear the top off of that, where the children might be camping or having a picnic-

John: Yeah, people are out there playing Frisbee and here comes #SUPERTRAIN-

Merlin: Tear it off like cheap toupée, and then Mr. Claw goes in there and starts filling all the potato containers for future fueling. I think that’s a fantastic idea.

John: The thing is, that in the future, right, like already we notice that plastic cutlery is being made out of compressed potato starch-

Merlin: Compostable, yes-

John: Yeah, we don’t need oil and petroleum products to make plastic forks any more because they’re making them out of potato starch.

Merlin: Hmm.

John: And we don’t need petroleum to power automobiles any more because we have these electric automobiles and we’ll have hydrogen cars or whatever, so we’re gonna need a lot less petroleum in the future. But there are some things that you really need petroleum for.

Merlin: Like lawnmowers.

John: Yeah, or petroleum jelly.

Merlin: Ohhh. Ok.

John: You need petroleum for anything that has petroleum in the name.

Merlin: Ok, I see, you’re saying there could not be, for the sake of argument, a solar powered jelly, that would have the same performance features-

John: Exactly, exactly. You need petroleum jelly, you couldn’t have like a hydrogen jelly-

Merlin: What about other kinds of lubricants, like for motorcycles or butt-plugs? Cause you shouldn’t use a petroleum one for that.

John: You can use whale oil for some of that stuff.

Merlin: Now how do you get that, do you have to kill the whale?

John: …You could…milk the oil-

Merlin: You know they’re mammals? Did you know that?

John: You can milk ’em! Milk the oil out of ’em and then throw ’em back.

Merlin: Ok. Ok.

John: And uh, that could be a subset of my supertanker. It has a whale-milker on the side.

Merlin: [Gasping laughter] Well here’s another obvious, again, I’m sure you’ve already thought of this and part of your very large book of plans, but, it would be pretty cool also if you basically never had to get out. Let’s say there’s like one Truman car that it’s always yours, it’s always there, it’s like your bedroom-

John: And it goes into the supertanker-

Merlin: Into the fucking supertanker, the #SUPERTRAIN goes on the supertanker, it can move you around - it becomes sort of like a, like a what, like a large-scale Rascal, or a-

John: Yeah, right, it’s like a superrascal-

Merlin: You know what, you know what? You’re gonna be so fucking rich you could potentially have a superrascal on the #SUPERTRAIN, so you don’t, you could just move around very easily. And the thing is you’re gonna have a lot of those cool little levers and knobs-

John: …mmm…-

Merlin: -maybe even the kind of things like, maybe you could get one of those um, one of those uh, what’s his name, the universe guy, where you could blow to make your chair move around? Or, to for example say-

John: [Laughing]

Merlin: -tear the toupée off this picnic ground and put the contents inside of my potato uh, car.

John: Right. Because I’m not, you know when I tear the top off of that, off the picnic ground-

Merlin: Yeah.

John: -I’m not just harvesting old plastic bags, and I’m not just turning that into petroleum-

Merlin: No.

John: -There’s also all those batteries that Michael Stipe threw away fucking 50 years before-

Merlin: Right.

John: -that are full of, who knows what’s in those batteries? Probably they have a solid gold core! I’ve never-

Merlin: There’s probably a lot of stuff, and also, I know this from San Francisco what people leave on the street. People will get rid of stuff that is still kind of mostly good.

John: Yeah! Sure!

Merlin: A little elbow grease and that would be fine again. So you could also have a Goodwill car, you could have a Goodwill car or, you could have a Goodwill supertanker.

John: Here’s the problem, though. A lot of that stuff has been sitting in a landfill for 50 years, probably like, a kind-of-OK couch…

Merlin: I think the consumer is gonna get way less picky when they can’t run their lawnmower anymore, they can’t use their butt-plugs, and they’re wondering how to get a new Mr. Potato Head. I think they’re not gonna be asking questions, they’re just gonna say, “How much?”

John: They’ll also have generations of hipsters by that point, who will be so starved for vintage material-

Merlin: Ahhhh…

John: That it’ll be like, this is vintage, I know it’s been sitting in a landfill for 50 years and it smells like a dump, and it’s like, permeated with batteries-


Merlin: Yessss.

John: -and whale oil, but this is a vintage couch. How much will you pay? And they-

Merlin: You think, if you think your appreciation of Stealers Wheel is ironic now, just wait until I give you a literally non-functional 8-track that has literal battery acid and human shit on it.

John: If someone has a, if someone is listening to this podcast and can only appreciate Stealers Wheel ironically-

Merlin: Yeah.

John: -I will personally come and beat your ass-

Merlin: Will go you ride there on your train?

John: -because my god, Stealers Wheel is amazing.

Merlin: And that was what Gerry Rafferty was in?

John: That’s right.

Merlin: Mmhmm.

John: Um, I love this idea-

Merlin: It’s a scene in that movie - big scene in that movie. Remember that?

John: Which uh, oh, Harold and Maude?

Merlin: Mmm, no. I was thinking of-

John: Star Wars.

Merlin: …ok, we’ll come back to that. I’m sorry, please go ahead, all I’m saying-

John: Oh, no, you’re talking about the Mr. Pink movie.

Merlin: Yeah, exactly. He doesn’t tip. Please continue. All I’m saying is I have a few questions I’d like to ask later for some follow-up.

John: I love the way you say “please continue” and then talk.

Merlin: Mmhmm

John: And then you talk-

Merlin: Alright, please continue, but the main thing I want to ask, I would like to get just a rough idea, just generally so I know whether I need to start, uh, getting weapons, is please don’t answer it now, whenever you’re done, after you continue, do you think this will be largely benevolent? Will you want people, will you force people to perceive it as benevolent, or will this, will this really, truly be like a dark dystopian vision where you really run the entire universe based on your own caprice? I think I know the answer.

John: You know, power tends to corrupt-

Merlin: Yeah…

John: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Merlin: That’s what Lincoln said!

John: Thats, that’s uh, George Lincoln.

Merlin: No no no. I’m sorry, you’re thinking of George Lincoln Rockwell-

John: The second president of the United States, George Lincoln.

Merlin: Was that? Ok…

John: But I think what will happen, is initially it will be presented as an ecological, you know, I would be a benevolent eco-warrior.

Merlin: It seems like a friendly, helpful option.

John: Yeah, and the #SUPERTRAINs will all be painted kind of iPhone-white, and it will be, and the supercrane will also be iPhone-white, and it will look like a very nice, you know, people will flock to fund this operation-

Merlin: Mmhmm.

John: -I’ll have lots of IPOs, I’ll have seven or eight IPOs, and each one will raise billions of dollars, and the president will shake my hand, and I will, I’m thinking I’ll dress like Tom Wolfe - I’ll have three-piece cream colored suits-

Merlin: You could trim your beard and get a walking stick, a green walking stick, a walking stick made out of park benches that used to be milk cartons-

John: Right, and people will think, they’ll think, John Roderick, eco-warrior, #SUPERTRAIN founder, like, hyper-recycler.

Merlin: How bout this, how bout this - John Roderick, white-suited eco-peacemaker. He’s got children, he’s giving jobs to children, and not in a mean way, he’s handing out, he’s going across the country in a green train that is literally creating energy as it travels across the country, you know what? Maybe it’s got wifi transmitters, too - you’re helping people, poor people to get people on the Internet-

John: Oh, oh my god. Wifi trans-

Merlin: You give out CFL - wifi train, yo give out CLF lightbulbs, and vegan meals, but nice vegan meals.

John: I let kids ride on the front, let kids ride on the back-

Merlin: Yeah, but not in an unsafe way.

John: There’s a whole section where you can light paper airplanes on fire and throw them, in a way that will not start a larger fire.

Merlin: Oh, you’re saying it’s like a renewable airplane source-

John: Well, let’s say it’s not-

Merlin: It’s not non-renewable.

John: Right, it’s not non-renewable. But anyway-

Merlin: People would fall for that in a second, are you kiddin’ me? People go to fucking Whole Foods, they would love the… it’s called #SUPERTRAIN? #SUPERTRAIN?


Merlin: Hmm.

John: But then as time goes on, of course as I become richer and control more and more garbage dumps, and more and more of the parks are disappearing, no one can play Frisbee anymore. There’s no place to picnic anymore.

Merlin: Mmhmm.

John: Because #SUPERTRAIN has been there.

Merlin: But at this point who cares, because BMW and Bear Bayer are doing great. They’re very happy, cause under the #SUPERTRAIN system everybody’s making money, everybody’s happy. The poor people have CFL lightbulbs, and vegan meals, but things are subtly changing.

John: That’s right.

Merlin: Subtly changing…

John: Pretty soon people are addicted to vegan meals, and where do they get ’em? #SUPERTRAIN.

Merlin: #SUPERTRAIN [laughs]

John: Can’t get ’em anywhere else, #SUPERTRAIN cornered the market.

Merlin: Pretty soon you can’t afford to buy a mobile home any more, since there are so many superoffice parks.

John: Well, and a lot of those mobile homes have been recycled by #SUPERTRAIN.

Merlin: But they’re all green technology so at first it all made sense.

John: [Ruminating] Mmhmm. I like this a lot.

Merlin: You got people burnin’ sage, and hittin’ fucking drums-

John: And then I become… evil supergenius.

Merlin: I mean, it writes itself, there’s no question about it. You know, here’s the thing, John, can I point out one thing?

John: I hope nobody steals this idea-

Merlin: Well see, here’s the thing. I don’t think anybody can steal this idea, right? So success, you got uh, execution is uh, ideas are a multiplier of execution, something like that. I’ll look it up later. The point is, comin’ up with ideas, that’s a dime a dozen, it’s how you implement it, right?


John: Right.

Merlin: And so here’s the thing, you gotta say to yourself, like, who do you want having this job? If you had your choice of different dictators, I say you want a truly, a competent dictator who knows where you shouldn’t pitch a tent. If you know what I mean.

John: Yes.

Merlin: I think you want John Roderick, because here’s the thing, all these other guys are gonna come along and they’re gonna have their own pale version of #SUPERTRAIN.

John: Sure. They’ve never ridden on the front of a train-

Merlin: It’s gonna run Flash, the battery’s not gonna last for very long, right, but they’re gonna be all copy-catting on the #SUPERTRAIN program.

John: Right.

Merlin: Right? And still those garbage dumps are gonna sit there with their little hats on, nobody’s gonna make any money, Mr. Potato Head’s just sittin’ there doing nothing. I think, I think you, I dunno. I just think you could change a lot of this.

John: The thing is I already figure, just by having spoken about it, I mean, normally a supergenius wouldn’t talk about his plan like this until he had the hero tied up in-

Merlin: Oh, like floating over the shark tank full of acid?

John: Yeah, exactly, tied up, floating over a shark tank of acid on a supertanker, the #SUPERTRAIN-branded supertanker, that is when I would be explaining this whole thing, to him, as I’m about to drop him into the shark tank full of acid. But uh, the reason I’m doing it now, the reason I’m talking about it now, is that I’m very confident it will produce some fan art, which I’m gonna use to galvanize-

Merlin: [Laughing] Ohhhhh, what do they call it, instead of grassroots, they call it, uh, astroturfing, is that what they call it?

John: I’m astroturfing!

Merlin: You’re astroturfing.

John: Yeah.

Merlin: Huh. You know what I’m thinking about, there’s this, I wanna say, I can’t remember, it might have been Billy Jack, yeah, I’m sure it was Billy Jack where the guy says, the guy’s facing off with this actually kind of elderly man, who actually if memory serves may have been dressed as Colonel Sanders, but what I recall is Billy Jack, or it might be a different movie, I’m old, he says something along the lines of, “you know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna, I’m gonna kick you on this side of your face with this foot and you know what, there is not a damn thing you can do about it.” And you know what he does? He fucking kicks him in the face.

John: With that foot.

Merlin: Yeah, and you know what, can I just tell you there was not a damn thing that guy could do about it-

John: Nothing that guy could do.

Merlin: Uh-huh.

John: What I want is a BLT, and I want you to hold the lettuce, and-

Merlin: [Laughing] Hold it between your knees.

John: Hold the tomato… Between your knees!

Merlin: [Still laughing] You know, once you get into, as the president-for-life of #SUPERTRAIN Industries, I think you’re gonna very easily have these kinda conversations with people who actually literally can’t do anything about it.

John: Yeah, well I hope so. You know, my present project, here’s my present plan-

Merlin: Oh, I can’t wait to hear about this!

John: Yeah, I got a good plan. My present plan is, all through Silicon Valley and in Seattle too, there are all these startups. These uh, these uh tech startups, where people who are working in the tech industry are all in this sort of mutual-masturbation-society where they all think they know what the world is made of and what the world needs, and they’re making apps, and they’re launchin’ apps and they’re launchin’ sites, and they’re makin’ techs, and they’re techin’ makes, and whatever it is that people are doing. And they’re all on each other’s boards of directors and they’re all, makin’ IPOs-

Merlin: Thoughtleaders.

John: They’re thoughtleaders. Well, they think they are.

Merlin: Mmhmm. [Laughs]

John: But here’s the problem, here’s the problem, there’s not a single person on any of those boards of directors with real world experience. And I bring that kind of real world experience to the table. So my current plan is to start marketing myself as a potential member of the board of directors for some of these Internet startup companies because they really need somebody who can speak truth to power, they need someone who has thrown stuff out of a high-rise.

Merlin: [Stifling a laugh]

John: They need somebody who once had pilot’s license. They need somebody with this kind of real-world experience to help guide them through the rocky - cause you see a lot of these, a lot of these companies they’re like a flash in the pan, right? They arc across the sky and then, then kaputsville. If they had me on their board of directors tellin’ ’em like it was, telling them hey, you guys don’t need to speak in a fake Southern accent to sell your app in the South, you just speak in your regular Brooklynese-

Merlin: Regular, stupid, Stanford accent-

John: You just talk in your Stanford accent and people are going to buy it or not buy it based on whether or not it’s a useful app that works on the iPhone.

Merlin: This is the amazing part though, John, it’s these guys, the ones who are takin’ mechs, makin’ techs and takin‘, what’s your phrase? Techin’ makes?

John: Makin’ makes? Yeah.

Merlin: That’s like Tex/Mex? They’re out there doin’ all this stuff and the ones who, I’m a serial entrepreneur, I’ve had all these different startups, the ones who consider themselves really smart, and really as we say in the business, forward-looking, if they are really looking as forward as they claim to be with their forward-looking, they are gonna wanna be on the good side of the guy who owns the #SUPERTRAIN… [laughs]

John: That’s right. That’s exactly right.

Merlin: It’s not precisely extortion, it’s “prestortion.”

John: It’s prestortion.

Merlin: It’s just a way of saying, you know, hey, you know you’re gonna have a real pretty daughter someday, and it would be a shame if at some point something were to happen to her. Involving an extremely costly train.


John: I do that around Seattle all the time, when people, people, like you know there are a lot of people - I interact with people at the mayor’s office, I interact with-

Merlin: [Laughing]

John: -a lot of people that, you know, are part of the the “machine,” here?

Merlin: Yeah - the corridors of power.

John: The corridors of power. And I don’t even have to say it, it’s just understood among these people like, “I don’t know what Roderick does, I don’t even know why he’s here at this meeting… Isn’t he a singer/songwriter?”

Merlin: [Bursts out laughing]

John: Why is he here?

Merlin: Why is he so involved in civics?

John: “But at the same time, the mayor is listening to him, so there will come a time, maybe, when I don’t want to be on the wrong side of him. I don’t know why-”

Merlin: Ohhh-

John: But I’m gonna be nice to him and give him what he wants.

Merlin: This might have been how your dad started.

John: It’s how everybody in power starts, you just end up, you show up places, and people go, why is he here, and then, they go, “Well, I better not cross him.” And if enough people do that, pretty soon you walk in a room and everybody applauds.

Merlin: There’s a guy who - well they better applaud, if they have any sense. Here’s the thing, there’s a guy in my neighborhood, we’ve got a handful of really colorful guys in my neighborhood, by which I mean crazy homeless guys. And one of these guys, who I tend to avoid, because he cycles, as you do-

John: You mean he’s a bicyclist? Or he-

Merlin: Yeah, he’s got a fixie. And he what, well, I think he’s bipolar, or something, or maybe, ehhh no, he’s probably schizophrenic, he’s not bipolar-

John: So you’re saying he cycles through many phases.

Merlin: Wellll, he has days where he uh, doesn’t stand in the street throwing fried rice at pigeons-

John: [Laughing]

Merlin: -and days when he does. And that has a kind of cycle.

John: DING

Merlin: Like Boethius’ Wheel, hee-hee! It turns around and around. And here’s the thing, I avoid this guy cause I don’t wanna get fucking fried rice thrown at me. I mean, I’m a pretty snappy dresser-

John: Even though, you’re clearly not a pigeon.

Merlin: Ok, and as much as I don’t like to admit it, I do go to the KFC slash Taco Bell, which as you know is near my home, and I go in there, and probably three out of five times I go in there that guy is in there. This guy I’m pretty sure does not have a lot of dough, but every time I go in there - I should explain a little more - he wears like basically like, filthy sweatpants, and he ties lots lots of plastic newspaper bags around parts of his body-

John: Whoa!

Merlin: And he has kind of an ad-hoc-

John: He’s a real San Franciscan it sounds like-

Merlin: Yeah, if you took like, if you made like an acid helmet, out of like a bandanna kind of thing, out of a rag you’d use to clean off tools on a car, he wears that on his head, he has a very large salt-and-pepper beard, he looks a little bit like a young Oliver Sachs /CITATION NEEDED/, and eats the shit out of some fuckin’ chicken-

John: If I was this guy-

Merlin: Yes-

John: I would be very careful about how close I got to #SUPERTRAIN-

Merlin: [Laughing]

John: Because #SUPERTRAIN might just pluck him-

Merlin: The big claw? What’s, the-

John: He sounds very recyclable-

Merlin: [Guffawing]

John: He sounds eminantly recyclable.

Merlin: What he needs to worry about is being reusable. Cause #SUPERTRAIN’s gonna have a lot of technology that Captain Bird-hate is not gonna be ready for. So, it is kinda funny. You know me, you know my brain, I see see things, I tell stories-

John: So he eats at Kentucky Fried Chicken, but he hates birds?

Merlin: He fuckin’, he throws, he stands in the street taking handfuls - you know people will leave food around - he finds some fried rice from the Thai place, he’s screaming in the middle of Taraval St. and throwing rice and pigeons, and the pigeons are just fucking with him. At first they’re just like, “Obviously, that guy’s crazy,” but pretty soon, if you’re a pigeon and somebody’s throwing rice at you, what do you do?

John: This guy is a fried rice fountain-

Merlin: Exactly. Oh, don’t throw me in the briar patch. So they’re just fuckin’ laughing. They’re just standin’ there-

John: He’s gotta know that though. First of all he has to know that-

Merlin: He does know, John. He’s crazy. That’s the problem. So here he is, I go in, 2 outta 5 times I go to the KFC he’s sittin’ there, and he is, I’ve never seen anyone eat angrier than bird-guy. He’s fuckin’ goin’ after some dark meat, his beard is shiny, he’s diggin’ in, and you know what? I’ve never seen the guy ever ever ever pay. So, I, there are things I haven’t asked, but you know me, in my head now I’m wondering about things.

John: Right.

Merlin: You know? Maybe #SUPERTRAIN has an answer for this at some point, but all I’m saying is I don’t know if they’re doing this out of charity, I think they’re not-

John: Is he digging in the trash and just pulling out-

Merlin: He is not. He is sitting right at the table next to where my daughter and I are enjoying a cookie, he is sitting there and literally shoving dead fried bird into his face.

John: Wai-wai-wait, you get cookies at KFC/Taco Bell?

Merlin: I don’t want her to have to eat the chicken, that’s not healthy.

John: [Quietly] Oh, alright. You’re a good man.

Merlin: Yeah. And so, and so, and so, it could come out, I don’t know, I’m not precisely sure where I’m going with this-

John: Even fried chicken that’s made with Jesus-panko?

Merlin: Ok, ok, I go there a lot!

John: [Chuckling] They have those chicken bits now.

Merlin: There’s nothing that isn’t wrong with KFC. Every single aspect of KFC has something that is wrong with it, the messaging, the posters, the photography, certainly the oil that they make things in-

John: [Disdainfully] Mmm…

Merlin: -every single thing, oh the signage, don’t even get me started on the signage. I’m gonna take a photograph of the signage for you.


John: Where they got, where Colonel Sanders is no longer a person, he’s just an-

Merlin: Oh! An icon? No, no-

John: -action-figure?

Merlin: No, no. I don’t mind that. You know we got a big bucket here. The bucket is bigger than you think because of what is known in art as foreshortening. The bucket’s actually quite large, but can I mention just one other thing in passing, that you know who likes to sit around the rim of the bucket?

John: Uh…

Merlin: Birds.

John: Oh, birds.

Merlin: Birds. Mmhmm. Birds.

John: They know which side their, I mean, they’re cannibals, those birds-

Merlin: But, but, but, much like the man throwing the rice, there’s a certain kind of uh, what? Self-destruction? A need for self-harm? But all I know is that guy’s gettin’ fuckin’ free chicken and I’m not, maybe I just haven’t asked enough, but Pauline, who I don’t think listens to the show-

John: So you’re envious of the guy with the plastic bags around his legs-

Merlin: Envy’s a strong word. I would say-

John: Cause he’s gettin’ free chicken.

Merlin: I’m not envious, I would say I’m jealous. I want him to not have it either.

John: I see-

Merlin: No, that’s not accurate. But I, anyway… [Sighs]

John: I understand what you’re saying. I think #SUPERTRAIN’s gonna solve all of this.

Merlin: I don’t know if #SUPERTRAIN’s gonna solve all of these problems-

John: [Laughing]

Merlin: But I’m saying there’s a lot of complexity and America’s got a lot of stories to tell.

John: Yeah.

Merlin: And a lot of people are gonna need help. Now hmm. I gotta tell you, John-

John: Are you familiar with “pink slime?” Do you know what “pink slime” is?

Merlin: Uh, that’s different from “gray goo?” Is Kurzweil the guy that makes the keyboards or the the guy that makes the gray goo. That’s Ray Kurzweil, right?

John: Kurzweil makes the keyboards.

Merlin: It’s not Robert Moog. Do you say “M/ō/g” or “M/oo/g”, how do you say it?

John: Well I, you say “M/oo/g” because you’re not a dope, but-

Merlin: I totally agree-

John: But if you’re a music industry dope and you wanna call him by is real name, it’s “M/ō/g.”

Merlin: How do you pronounce the French film festival which is a homonym with what you drink a Coke out of?

John: “C/ŏ/n” [Rhyming with “on”]

Merlin: I think it’s “C/ă/n” [Rhyming with “ran”]

John: “C/ă/ns!”

Merlin: I think C/ŏ/n" is fake white-trashy patois. I think you’re doing, I think. I’m sorry-

John: Is that right - it’s “C/ă/ns?”

Merlin: I think you might be, you might be doing-

John: Going to the “C/ă/ns” Film Festival…

Merlin: [Laughing] I don’t know. As your Boswell, or excuse me as your Boswell I think you may be at least bending rule number two of the patois problem.

John: How do you pronounce the capital of Vermont?

Merlin: Uh, “pier?”

John: “Montp/ĕ/lier”-

Merlin: “Montp/ē/lier”, right? “Montp/ē/lier?”

John: I guess, “Montp/ē/lier.” “Montp/ē/lier,” “Montp/ĕ/lier”… [In goofy French accent] Montpelier… [sort of rhyming with Champs-Élysées, or “warm Alizé.”]

Merlin: Mont, Mont-pelier.

John: Pelier…

Merlin: Like the whole, “Ho/ow/ston,” “H/ū/ston” thing? Again, this is more ways that New York is trying to fuck us - and I’m gonna be glad when #SUPERTRAIN drops the giant fucking claw on New York. No offense to our friends who live there.

John: Ah, there are a lot of people in New York.

Merlin: Most of our friends have moved out of Manhattan and I think that’s smart. There’s a lot of trains in Manhattan, I think #SUPERTRAIN’s gonna have a huge influence over all of that monstrosity that we call Manhattan.

John: This is a good question, will #SUPERTRAIN be able to - because as I am working to convert people in America over to my way of thinking - will #SUPERTRAIN also be converting the other trains?

Merlin: Oh, it has to-

John: #SUPERTRAIN will speak Train to them, and-

Merlin: Oh, it’ll speak Train fluently and not in any kind of a jokey Bronx patois-

John: Right-

Merlin: I think you’re gonna have something like 160 years of parallel tracks behind you on all of this. I think, it’s again like the Treaty of Versailles, let’s be honest. People are going to be looking for a hero - I think there are a lot of trains out there that are not happy with their work-

John: There’s so many great trains and they’re held back by, by, people with insufficient vision. Do you understand?

Merlin: Oh yeah, and especially the law, when a lot of those laws were signed I think a lot of those trains were already felt a little bit, let’s be honest, a little bit neutered, and there’s things they couldn’t do-

John: Sure - well, the whole Amtrak business, I mean why is there even an Amtrak, it makes me so mad.

Merlin: They should just call it “Rolling Vagina.”

John: What about [laughs], what about that train that was gonna go from New York to LA in 5 hours because it was in a vacuum tube under the ground?

Merlin: Oh, come on!

John: What happened to that train.

Merlin: There was gonna be a tube train?

John: Did you not ever read Popular Science magazine?

Merlin: I know about Maglev.

John: Well that, so you take Maglev-

Merlin: And put it in a tube-

John: You put it in a tube, then you vacuum all the air out so there’s no resistance.

Merlin: Are the allowed to have air in the train?

John: Well yeah, you have to have air in the train…

Merlin: So it’s got compression of some kind.

John: The train is compressed like an airplane-

Merlin: OK-

John: The train is you know, sealed.

Merlin: Would they have food?

John: Well yes, it would be a super - they would have incredible food because it would probably cost 20 million dollars to ride this train, because how much would it cost to build a pressurized tube from New York to LA, it would cost a lot of money.

Merlin: Yes.

John: But-

Merlin: You’d probably have to move a few things around.

John: But if you did it, you could have a train that went from New York to LA, almost as fast as an airplane! But it would be a train!

Merlin: And you’re underground, which is pretty appealing.

John: I think it would be even faster, I think if you had mag, if it was magnetically-levitated and you had no air resistance-

Merlin: Mmhmm-

John: You could go, conceivably, faster than light-

Merlin: Mmhmm, and that’s based on science, you’re saying that?

John: You’d be faster than fast. It would be so fast, yeah, you would get there-


Merlin: I think you could go as fast as is safe and practical, which is not true with a plane. A plane’s got a lot of problems and a lot of overhead. You ever do this? You ever have to go somewhere in the Northeast Corridor, but you have to go through New York? I’m telling you, I always do the math and it’s frequently faster to jump on a fuckin’ Peter Pan bus rather than like, do anything like changing at an airport.

John: Oh, absolutely-

Merlin: When I went to Connecticut I did that, when I went to Rutgers I did that, it was all, it was just so much easier, you know what I’m saying? It’s such a pain in the ass.

John: The secret is to fly into Pittsburgh and rent a car-

Merlin: You fly to Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh is still there, that’s still considered an incorporated uh, city?

John: Yeah, Pittsburgh is still there and in fact there’s that guy, that bald kid who’s the mayor of like, one of those outlying factory towns who’s turned this little town into a mecca of entrepreneurship-

Merlin: Mmm, are sure you didn’t hear about this, that sounds like an NPR story.

John: [Laughing] I think I read about it in Parade Magazine, or maybe I read about it in United Airlines in-flight magazine, but it’s, it’s a guy, and he’s like my age, he’s like your age, he’s our age-

Merlin: [Laughing]

John: But he’s a big guy, he’s bald-

Merlin: He’s part of the #SUPERTRAIN generation.

John: He’s #SUPERTRAIN generation. He’s bald, he weighs 350 pounds, and he got himself elected mayor of this town where all the factories closed - it’s like a Billy Joel song, this town, and uh-

Merlin: Handin’ out forms, standing in line.

John: Yeah. The union people go awaaa-aaaaa-aaaay… I dunno the lyrics to that song-

Merlin: /????/

John: But he’s, he’s turning this town into some kind of, he’s trying to turn it into, well if you read Parade Magazine he’s turning into utopia. If you’ve ever been on the ground in that part of the country, you know he’s just trying to keep the radioactive devil dogs from eating children like-

Merlin: [Laughing]

John: -right out of the cribs.

Merlin: They call it a “tech incubator.”

John: [Laughing] You know, like, he’s just trying to keep the glaciers back-

Merlin: What kinda dogs? I want to write this down - what kinda dogs?

John: Radioactive devil dogs. They’re rife through that whole area.

Merlin: [To himself] Radioactive Devil Dogs. Sounds like a minor league baseball team.

John: He’s basically standing out there with a Bic lighter at the front edge of a glacier, and he’s trying to hold it back. He’s meltin’ it back with his lighter.

Merlin: [Laughing]

John: Well that’s his plan. But anyway, he’s converted-

Merlin: It sounds like you admire him a little bit, though. Is it because of his weight, or his hair, or his prestige? It sounds like you admire him a little bit. You look at him and you go, [rising tone] “Ahhh!” Right? You’re sizin’ him up.

John: The thing is, you know, he is mayor of, of like, Asspimple, uh, Pennsylvania, which is more than I can say.

Merlin: You need… #SUPERTRAIN needs him, and he needs #SUPERTRAIN.

John: I think it’s true.

Merlin: That bit’s gonna run out at some point and he’s gonna have to, he’s gonna need to shove some Mr. Potato Head into that, and that’s only available with your giant fuckin’ crane-hand.

John: Well, and he’s a visionary, I’m a visionary, we’re gonna meet a the TED Conference, cause that’s where visionaries go.

Merlin: Aren’t you going to, is there any way…, I’m sorry I don’t wanna ask personal favors, we’re close enough to do that, but is there any chance you could just destroy the TED Conference? Replace it with something much more #SUPERTRAIN-like?

John: I think the TED Conference is doing a very good job of destroying itself.

Merlin: OK…

John: You know, like-

Merlin: Did you think about having a conference maybe, literally on a parallel track - #SUPERTRAIN?

John: [Laughing] Here’s what’s happening to the TED Conference - it has already become a brand, it’s like, I went to Marshall’s the other day - now first of all I went to Ross-

Merlin: [Losing it, laughing] -Had to get some pillows-

John: -cause I was looking for a blanket. I have enough pillows but I was looking for a blanket, cause all my blankets were dirty, and the only way you can wash a blanket is in one of those super-sized blanket-washing washing machines at the laundromat-

Merlin: Which #SUPERTRAIN will have eight to ten of-

John: -and I hate going to the laundromat-

Merlin: Hate it.

John: -so I said you know what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna buy a new blanket and I’m gonna put these dirty blankets in the closet, I’m gonna go buy a new blanket. And so I go to the Ross, but all the Ross blankets are, they’re, that’s gross, they’re gross there. So I went to Marshalls cause that’s a higher caliber. It’s a higher quality blanket store. And I discovered that there are blankets - there’s bedding, let’s call it bedding - there’s bedding branded with Valerie Bertinelli’s face.

Merlin: [Laughing through nose]

John: It’s the Valerie Bertinelli line of bedding and home, uh, home fun stuff…

Merlin: Is it remaindered items from somewhere besides Marshalls or is this an exclusive to the Marshalls-

John: No no no, it’s remaindered, I’m sure the Valerie Bertinelli line is only available- in the finest department stores.

Merlin: Huh.

John: And it’s got a picture of Valerie, and it’s-

Merlin: It’s a Bertinelli blanket.

John: Yeah, and it’s not a picture of Valerie, it’s not the one I would have picked-

Merlin: Yeah.

John: -you know, like I would have picked-

Merlin: Like she’s in a baseball cap, and she’s still little and lived with Ann Romano?

John: Well, that’s the one I would have picked but-

Merlin: Me too-

John: -for my fan-fic, but no, it’s a picture of her but they tried to make her hair look like it had blown in the wind, and she, I dunno, she looks-

Merlin: They did the Jaclyn Smith at Sears, too.

John: And the thing about it is, well first of all I didn’t realize that Valerie Bertinelli still had enough cultural cachet that people trusted her to sell them their, their household goods-

Merlin: Mmhmm-

John: -but also it was really, I really noticed how much she and Eddie Van Halen, who already looked alike when they met, grew to look almost exactly alike.


Merlin: No…

John: I mean, Eddie Van Halen looks like a dessicated version of her, you know what I mean? Like if you took Valerie Bertinelli and you put her in a fruit dehumidifier-

Merlin: [Trying to stifle a laugh]

John: -it would look like Eddie Van Halen.

Merlin: [Laughing] If she got plumped up a little bit?

John: Well no, like a de-humidifier, if she got all the-

Merlin: Yeah, if you make the raisin back into a grape.

John: That would be Valerie Bertinelli, yeah.

Merlin: Eddie, Eddie Van Halen God bless him, like Mick Jagger - wow, you think it’s smoking that does that?

John: I think, they both look like they’ve been in a smoker…

Merlin: [Uproar of laughter] With, like wood chips?

John: Yeah, I think they have been, they have been wood-chip-smoked-

Merlin: And like, they’re going to be covered in some type of regional sauce, in the next couple hours?

John: If I was a cannibal-

Merlin: [Losing it again]

John: There would not be enough meat on Eddie Van Halen to keep me going through the afternoon.

Merlin: You’re so bummed Mike Anthony left.

John: Oh my God, that guy-

Merlin: He would fry up so nice.

John: Steaks. Make some steaks.

Merlin: I was wrong, I was wrong about him.

John: Michael Anthony? You thought he was the weak link, but you realized-

Merlin: Was that on this show?

John: He was the Bill Berry.

Merlin: This is years before this show, right, that I said this? This is one of our many, many, you know the visits that led up to this are on-

John: Yes, all of our long conversations where we would yell at each other about Van Halen and The Beatles-

Merlin: I think this might be one of the evergreen ones that I continued to stand behind at least twice or three times, and you were adamantly, oddly enough, adamant about saying I was wrong about-

John: Oh, that is weird-

Merlin: Hmm. Hmm. Is Mike Anthony in fact, a competent, let alone good, bass player. And we held two, if memory serves, two extremely different points of view. Let’s put it this way, yes. But was he a fucking important point of Van Halen?

John: And can you, can you reiterate your stand?

Merlin: I was fucking wrong about everything, my stand was, OK, here’s my, wanna hear my… here’s my eight note Mike Anthony joke, ready?

John: Mmhmm.

Merlin: [Playing guitar, all open low E string]

John: Digga-doooooo [decending] Wah-wahhh [guitar impression]

Merlin: But here’s the thing -

John: Signature bassline!

Merlin: I used to make that sound with my mouth, when I wanted to make fun - I usually do you know, just one measure because that’s kind of boring-

John: Bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp-

Merlin: And to me that represented, and to me his biggest move was always, “Hey, I got the Jack Daniels bass!” and he’d do that thing, and let’s be honest it’s kind of a douche thing, where you don’t pump your fist… yeah you pump your fist laterally with your left hand, while you hit an open A or E, which I have never… it’s very Winger, it’s really, superWinger. And can I just say on many counts, I was dead wrong. On the new record, which is not great, but OK, it’s got moments where they have replicated the super important harmonies! I always thought it was Edward! I thought it was Edward, Edward’s in there, but he’s not the crucial harmony, right?

John: Noooo. Mike Anthony-

Merlin: It’s Mike Anthony who was the crucial, [in falsetto] “Beautiful Girls,” right, that’s him?

John: Yeah, high harmony. He had it, he had it.

Merlin: That was him. Ok, so Eddie was singing along, do you think Eddie was just mouthin’ along, or was he really singing?

John: Ahh, well, he had the Linda McCartney mic, I think.

Merlin: Ohh gosh, he had The McCartney Switch. Do you think, Ok, so when they were recording with Ted, though, like were they, was that, three? You think they were doing like three harmonies? Do you think Mike was doin’ like, cause it sounds like three part harmony, at least? Is it all Mike?

John: Well you know that Diamond Dave had harmonies that he was like, “Aw, hey man, gimme a microphone, Waahah, wooo!”

Merlin: But you can hear that, you can definitely hear that on the first couple records, especially when they do, you know what I’m talking about, there’s a tight harmony, let’s just stipulate we’re talking about early Van Halen, there’s the tight harmony, it sounds like a fucking glorious machine harmony? And then there’s the slightly more rowdy sing-along harmonies, which were Dave’s harmonies.

John: I sure Eddie was in the sing-along harmonies, but who knows. Who knows what Eddie Van Halen’s singing talents are? He’s a great musician.

Merlin: Yeah. It’s fun when he sings along though, it’s nice to see him singing along.

John: Michael Anthony - key element, he’s-

Merlin: Yeah…

John: I swear to you, back in the 80’s, if anybody had to pick a weak link of R.E.M. it would have been Bill Berry every time.

Merlin: Ugh! Sickening.

John: But, it turns out-

Merlin: [Mocking tone] Turn’s Out!

John: The only one, he’s the only one He’s the only one with any taste. He’s the only one with any sense of what a good pop song is, cause as soon as he left the band they couldn’t pick their songs. They couldn’t-

Merlin: Ohh…

John: He was the guy-

Merlin: He was their Tommy. He’s the one who kept the taste up.

John: He was the one who was like, “Uh, Michael, you know, that’s not a very good lyric.” Or, “I don’t think that’s a good song.” Or, I dunno what he was doing-

Merlin: Mmhmm

John: -but he was the one that decided what the good songs were, and once he was gone, Michael Stipe - nobody can say anything to Michael Stipe-

Merlin: Next time you’re sitting around not drinking wine with Mike Mills I would like you to have the #SUPERTRAIN-stones to ask about that.

John: Mmm…

Merlin: Mmhmm. Cause I bet he has a different point of view.


John: You know, Mike Mills once accused me of being a homophobe-

Merlin: Oh, as in you don’t like houses?

John: [Laughs] Because I don’t like words that sound alike.

Merlin: Oh, of course, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Huh.

John: A homophone-aphobe. But, that was because Mike Mills had had four bottles of wine at that point and he didn’t-

Merlin: He probably meant something else, too-

John: -he was talking, he turned and he was talking to the fern-

Merlin: Yes.

John: -next to him at the restaurant and I happened to be on that side of the table.

Merlin: Thank God alcoholic bass players are out there getting in front of this on behalf of our nation’s homosexuals. It must be nice to have a friend, I mean, I saw him at a show in town a few years back, and you know what, never mind. He seemed fine. He read a little creepy to me. Little creepy.

John: You know…

Merlin: He read creepy. He read creepy in the room, he read as, “I’m Mike Mills, in like a Todd Rundgren circa ’72 outfit,” like spangly granny-

John: Yeah yeah yeah-

Merlin: -that kinda thing?

John: Well the thing about R.E.M. is that in a way I feel like R.E.M. became a cult, but-

Merlin: By 1982 they were a cult-

John: Sure they were a cult to like, girls-

Merlin: Oh, I’m sorry you mean, like the talent was like a cult-

John: Yeah, I’m saying, yes they were a cult to girls in Rhiannon skirts, but they were a cult within that, where the members of the band were actually in the cult themselves, and it was hard to tell who was making the rules of the cult. You know Mike Mills is a tremendously talented guy, and probably just a regular, indie-rock guy. But, because he was in R.E.M. and because they had this kinda weird groupthink policy where you’re not allowed, you know no one ever says anything on the record, or… You know you watch those videos of them when they’re really young, and they already took themselves so seriously when they were eighteen years old. Mike Mills just never had an opportunity to have a good time-

Merlin: He was like a child actor.

John: Yeah! He has been his whole life-

Merlin: He went from being a child-actor to working on a really super weird commune.

John: Yeah, and now he thinks, that like - this is a theory that was advanced by a close friend of mine, who happened to once have been in R.E.M.-

Merlin: Is he a vampire?

John: -I’m not gonna say who, but one of my friends who used to be in R.E.M. said that what Mike Mills should have done, many many years ago, was release a Mike Mills solo album. If he had just - he writes songs - if he had just put out a record of his own music he would have been free of this like, “I’m the bass player…”-

Merlin: You mean get it out of his system?

John: Get it out of his system! And also break that weird, break that weird spell that was over those guys. Like Peter Buck ended up gettin’ out-

Merlin: He had side projects. He had side-projects and stuff to keep him lively.

John: Yeah! And what is Peter Buck doin’ right now? I guarantee you wherever he is in the world right now he’s playing a guitar right now, at this very moment.

Merlin: Is he still doing that mandolin thing?

John: He does all that stuff! But Mike Mills? He’s livin’ in some hotel room somewhere, he’s probably putting cocaine in his penis-

Merlin: [Gasping with laughter]

John: -and he never got out.

Merlin: [Singing] Near wild heaven…

John: [Laughing]

[Ending chime] /DING/

John: OWW!