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Halloween costume advice. Does John think people are evil? Misunderstanding Risk. Advice for referees of kids soccer games. Would the Bat Signal actually work? How does the stock market work? And, of course, a very brief discussion of the self.

 Intro (00:00)


Hank: Hello and welcome to Dear Hank and John.


John: Or as I prefer to think of it, Dear John and Hank.


H: It's a podcast, a comedy podcast, where me and my brother, John, talk about death and we answer people's questions and give them dubious advice and bring you all the week's news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon. How you doing, John?


J: Oh, I'm doing all right. I'm surrounded by darkness.


H: Ah. Well, I'm surrounded by light.


J: I'm not really... I'm actually doing, I'm doing fine. I don't know why I said I was surrounded by darkness. In an astonishing development what I've now referred to as the long, improbable summer of Taylor Swift in Indianapolis continues. It's perhaps...


H: It's actually really lovely here in Missoula too.


J: I don't know if she played there this week but it's 74 degrees outside right now and it rained briefly and I was like "OK, it's ended. It's finally ended. The autumn has arrived." But though the leaves are changing and it could not be more beautiful to watch the yellow and red appear throughout the trees of Indianapolis, the weather itself remains just blissfully sunny.


H: Well I'm glad we get to talk about the weather here on the podcast, John. I had my customary post-convention wave of depression crash on me yesterday. That's just something that happens and so, you know, you're ready for it, you know its gonna happen 'cause I... For those of you who don't know, I run a company that runs conventions that's very, like, you work really hard to make this thing happen and then it happens and then it ideally goes well and then you feel real good until you don't anymore. It's very strange


J: Yep.


H: And it happens every time. And so that happened yesterday.


J: Yep.


H: I'm still a little bit reeling from it. I had...


J: Did you take the day off? What do you do in that situation?


H: Well I tend not to realize it's happening for a while. And so no, I just did my normal thing which is good, like, the normal things sort of, like, carry you through but then what happened is I had this period of not having anything to do and then I immediately went in search of people who might be on the internet trying to make me angry. I don't know why that's a thing I do when I'm depressed, but I do, I go on the internet and I look for people who dislike me.


J: Well, and to be clear, you mean sad more than depressed, like, you don't mean that there's some-


H: Yeah, sure. Sure.


J: -like, crushing pathological problem, just that there's a sadness that descends upon you.


H: Yeah, yeah. Well yeah, like a mood that I am not in control of and that is unpleasant.


J: Right. Yeah, no that's no fun, and I myself have also been known to, in those times, go onto the internet and try to find people who hate me so that I can, yeah, feel bad about myself and be confirmed in the knowledge that everything I fear about myself is true and that the world knows it.


H: Alright.


J: Do you want a short poem?


H: Yeah, let's do it. 


J: God, this is a funny podcast. Okay Hank, here's our poem for today it's called The Skylight by Seamus Heaney. It's actually a recommendation by Jeremy.

"You were the one for skylights. I opposed
Cutting into the seasoned tongue-and-groove
Of pitch pine. I liked it low and closed,
Its claustrophobic, nest-up-in-the-roof
Effect. I liked the snuff-dry feeling,
The perfect, trunk-lid fit of the old ceiling.
Under there, it was all hutch and hatch.
The blue slates kept the heat like midnight thatch.


But when the slates came off, extravagant
Sky entered and held surprise wide open.
For days I felt like an inhabitant
Of that house where the man sick of the palsy
Was lowered through the roof, had his sins forgiven,
Was healed, took up his bed and walked away."


The Skylight by Seamus Heaney, a funny poem to start our comedy podcast.


H: (Laughs) I was just thinking the other day about how I like enclosed spaces, and how my house is, my bedroom is very large, it has a large, it has a high ceiling, it's not a very large bedroom, but it has very high ceilings and I sometimes am like, "I just want to be in the closet."


J: (Laughs) I love glass and steel homes. I believe, like, my favorite house is Phillip Johnson's glass house and I would be very happy in a house with no walls at all, just so long as I had extreme privacy.


H: (Laughs) Nope, that's not how I feel. I used to, when I was a kid just make little nests in the closet and pack myself in there and spend time there and my parents thought it was super weird. Our parents.


J: Yeah, they were my parents as well. Henry does that now so maybe he got that from his Uncle Hank.

 Question 1 (04:27)


J: Let's answer a question from our readers. This is an important one, Hank and it's kind of breaking news, it's seasonally appropriate. It's from Abby, she writes: "Dear John and Hank. As Halloween is approaching, I have a question. What are your favorite costumes you've made?"


H: Ooh. Hmm. I was Jayne from Firefly once. Last year, I was Hiccup and Katherine was the dragon. What's the dragon's name?


J: I mean, our friendship is in danger right now.


H: I mean, I obviously know this. My wife was the dragon for Halloween. The dragon is a Night Fury. I know what kind of dragon it is. Why is that, why is the thing not in my head?


J: Does he have any tooths? Does he have any tooths?


H: Oh, Toothless, Toothless. It's Toothless the dragon.


J: Yeah, Toothless.


H: So we were Toothless and Hiccup and once we were-


J: That's cute.


H: -Napoleon and Deb from Napoleon Dynamite, which I think was my favorite of all time.


J: Yeah, you've always been better at costuming than I have. Sarah and I never really dressed up, we went to one costume party together. I can't remember what I dressed up as but she dressed up as a cowgirl and it was unconvincing.


H: (Laughs) I should say also when I was Jayne, Katherine was Kaylee so we like to do the couple thing.


J: Kaylee is my favorite. She's adorable.


H: Oh, she's totally my favorite, yeah.


J: So the only costume I can remember properly loving is when I was a little kid my mom made me a robot costume that I wore like three or four Halloweens in a row because it was just...


H: That robot costume was awesome!


J: It was magnificent, yeah. It was just amazing.


H: I remember that.


J: I felt like a robot.


H: I was so jealous of it.


J: I mean when I was inside of it I felt like "This is it man I did it. I've become an artificial intelligence". (Hank laughs)  It was great plus I got candy. What a great, what an underrated holiday.


H: I, as an adult, I find it very strange. Here's the thing I like about Halloween. I like that we send our children to strangers houses.


J: Yes.


H: I think that that's a good thing that we should do more often. I don't like...


J: Not too much more often. As an adult I don't want too many strangers coming to my house if that's...


H: Right, right, right. I like that we send children to strangers houses, I don't really like that they send them to my house. (John laughs) But I like, but I'm willing to accept it because I like the institution of just, like "OK, let's have faith in humanity for a day". What I don't really like is that the payoff is just awful, awful food that is very bad for children.


J: Oh, it's...


H: I don't know. It seems a strange thing to celebrate.


J: I think it's fine. By the way, do you how many children have died in the United States from poisoned Halloween candy?


H: I believe its zero.


J: It is zero. You know how many times there's been a razor blade inside an apple? 


H: That's also a zero.


J: Also a zero, yes. This is a great example of the sort of disparity between actual data and our perceptions. It just seems dangerous to send our kids out and allow them to accept candy from strangers but in fact it isn't.


H: Yeah, we are bad at understanding danger as humans.


J: Oh terrible at it. I mean I can't tell you how many times I've risked my life by applying hand sanitizer while driving a car.


H: (Laughs) Yeah, that is definitely a great example of misunderstanding risk.


 Question 2 (7:58)


J: Speaking of all this, Hank, I think this would be a great time for a question from Caitlyn.


H: Caitlyn says, "Dear Hank and John. Through listening to your podcast I get the impression the John as a writer believes humans are inherently evil while Hank as a scientist believes humans are inherently good. Do you agree with this viewpoint?" No, John doesn't believe humans are inherently evil, do you?


J: No, I just believe humans are inherently hungry.


H: Well, I mean for at least part of the day.


J: No, I don't mean like physically hungry. I mean hungry, I mean ambitious, I mean that when necessary, you know, homo homini lupus because you're hungry and ambitious and, you know, the heart wants what it wants kind of thing. I don't think people are bad, I think that they're hungry.


H: Right. Well I think, but I think that there's also a lot of, like, in addition to the hunger, there are a lot of other motivations that are good. And like, of course what is good and bad? But the distinction between the author and the scientist is interesting here, that, like, if you take an objective point of view people look like good people and if you take a more, like, you know, imagining possibilities, maybe, then humans look more dastardly?


J: I don't know. I mean, yeah. I think that's an interesting point of view. I don't think that... I have to say I don't think that humans are good or bad, I think that they're good and bad. I... Henry is obsessed, I have a five and a half year old son, for new listeners to the podcast. My five and a half year old son is obsessed with good and evil and, you know, most of the stories that really resonate with him, whether it's, you know, Star Wars or Ninjago or Penguins of Madagascar, like, most of those have good guys and bad guys. And the good guys are pretty darn good and the bad guys are pretty darn bad. And then there are the characters that Henry calls "complicated." (Hank laughs) And I remember one time he said "Daddy, Hulk smash is complicated." (Hank laughs) And I said "Is he?" and he said, "Yeah, Hulk smash is complicated, 'cause he's good and bad." and I think this is not just Hulk smash. I think in fact almost everyone is good and bad, and I also think that, like, in trying to do good you can do, you know, horrible, horrible evil and in trying, you know, in trying to do bad you can also do good. Like it's so hard to, it's so hard to sort it out.


H: I, yeah. I think that what I mean when I say "Humans are inherently good" is that people are bound by the contracts of culture and that is one of the thing that we consider to be the good, is that, like, culture has rules, and we tend to obey them. The other thing that I mean when I say that humans are good is that, in general, a lot of the motivations of people are to make life better for the people they love.


J: Yeah, I agree with that. And I believe in empathy and I believe that humans are capable of extraordinary altruism. I wouldn't go so far as to say that people are good, like you keep saying. (Hank laughs) In fact every time you say it I'm wincing a little bit because it just seems far too optimistic.


H: I don't know. I've just, I've met a lot of people and they seem pretty nice.


J: I agree, almost all of the people that I have ever met are good and... I will say this, I guess. All the people I've ever met are both good and broken. (Hank laughs) But most of all hungry. (Hank laughs) I can't emphasize enough how much I believe in human hunger.


H: Ugh, ugh, I guess. OK, let's move on. We can agree to disagree. People are good and hungry and broken.


J: OK. It's our first proper disagreement! Hank thinks that humans are good, I think that humans are good and bad. (Both laugh) That's as close as we've ever come to a real disagreement.


  Question 3 (11:57)


J: OK Hank, We've got another question, this one is very important and it comes from Adam who writes "Dear John and Hank. I am a junior in high school and I referee kids' soccer games" First off, Adam, I just want to pause to thank you for doing the Lord's work. (Hank laughs) "This means I have a lot of experience with angry parents yelling at me. Why do you think adults are compelled to yell at teenagers during sports games and what should I do about it?" Ugh, Adam, this is such a good question.


H: It is.


J: I am so sorry that in refereeing children's soccer games you, a high school junior, are being treated by parents as if you are an actual figure of authority.


Hank: (Laughs) I think... So I don't know if this is gonna work, but my suggestion to you, I don't really know how children's soccer games work, but I assume that it's just a bunch of people standing along, like there's no... This is just a bunch of people standing around, right? With like a line on the ground and some goals.


J: Yep.


H: So go up to the people before the game and say "Hi, my name is Adam, I'm a junior over at the school, over at Middledale High School and I just wanted to say, I'm gonna, you know, I'm out here to, like, make sure everybody has a good time and try and make sure everybody doesn't get hurt and it was nice to meet you." And then maybe they will have some empathy and realize that they are yelling at a child.


J: Yeah. I actually agree with that strategy and maybe also say, just actually say "I am a person." (Hank laughs) In addition to pointing out that you are a junior in high school because one of the weird things about referees is that, I have a theory, actually, that wearing uniforms is a way of dehumanizing, is a way of dehumanizing the other.


H: Oh yeah.


J: So like... And that uniforms are kind of, like, designed so that you don't have to think about people as people. One time when I was in college, I went to a girl's softball game, I was dating a member of the softball team, and I am just an inveterate talker at public sporting events, and I don't... Even, like, you know, like... Alice, my daughter, is two and when she plays soccer, I will even, I won't criticize the refereeing, but I will comment upon it.


H: (Laughs) Just 'cause it's the thing to do. It's part of the sporting event.


J: Yeah, exactly. It feels like it's part of the sporting event, so I remember anyway, I was criticizing the strike zone at this women's softball game at Kenyon College, a Division III school, and the umpire just took off his mask, and he turned around, and he looked at me, and the moment he looked at me, I was like, "Oh my God, I'm so sorry. I didn't realize you had eyes. (Hank laughs) I just realized you are a person like all the other people, ugh". Yeah, so, Adam, I think what's happening is that, you know, people aren't thinking of you as a person, they're thinking of you as sort of an obstacle to their child's success, and when you do that, you know, like, you're... it feels like someone is opposing your child, and you're very defensive of your child. But I really like Hank's suggestion of just going up to them before the game and being like, "I am 16".


Hank: (Laughs) "I am doing this out of the goodness of my heart".


John: Yeah. "I'm gonna make $50 over the next three hours, so maybe don't be a jerk to me".


Hank: Yeah, I think also like, even, you know, if people continue... Recognize first of all that it's not, it's probably not most of the people, and second, you know, the people who are doing it, it might just be that, like, this is the way they experience sports. You yell at the referee, that's a thing you do and at a large sporting event, like, they have been trained how to behave at sporting events at, that you certainly do that. Of course you do that. I am very kind of anti-this, I feel very strange. We have a hockey team in Missoula that is, like, sort of, it's like, the lowest professional level you can be, and a lot of the players on the team are like, 16, 15 even, years old, so like, they've dropped out of high school to start their professional hockey careers, it's very weird. And when the crowd starts jeering these children of the other team, I'm just like, "No, no, no! Stop!" Or like, when they get in a fight, like, it feels very strange to like, like, be in a group of people who are cheering for children to fight each other, like, that just, it seems very, very wrong, very weird, and I like very much that I get to watch live hockey even if it is a very low level of hockey, but I am often disturbed by the audience.


J: I'm pretty concerned, I have to say, by the fact that you live in Panem and you guys are doing the Hunger Games there in Missoula.


H: (Laughs) I mean, basically, yes.


J: That's weird.


H: Uh-huh. Yeah, with really bad pizza.


J: Oh, God. Adam, you are a person, this is not about you, it's not even about the quality of the refereeing as the other thing, like, a really well refereed game will still get a lot of jeers. I don't know, I think it's something that's inherent to the, an inherent problem within the sport is that, it's the black and white striped uniform, I think.


H: I agree. Uniforms are definitely dehumanizing and that is part of their goal.

 Question 4 (17:32)


H: We have a question from Gillian who asks, "Dear Hank and John. Gotham uses the Bat Signal, a modified searchlight, to let Batman know that they need help during times of crisis. Knowing what little I do about the functionality of searchlights, admittedly a very small amount, wouldn't the light need to be projected against something reflective or solid in order for it to be visible and not escape unnoticed into the great beyond of space? Ultimately, does this mean that Batman only works on cloudy nights?"


J: Well, first off, Gillian, every night is cloudy in the city of Gotham.


H: I think that is the clear answer, and from a scientific standpoint, I think that what is factual is if Gotham happens to be in a very humid area, no matter whether it's cloudy or not, you could see that a searchlight was being shined into the sky. If you lived in Phoenix, Arizona, you might not be able to see it reflecting off of any of the particles in the air, but if it was in Orlando, Florida, you definitely could. Is Gotham Chicago?


J: Well, Gotham is a fictional city. It's, sometimes it's Chicago, sometimes it's New York, occasionally it's Pittsburgh, at least judging from the movies. (Hank laughs) So here's my question, Hank. When I was, when we were kids, there were a lot of searchlights in Orlando, remember?


H: Yes.


J: Like, a new club would open or whatever, and you could always see the searchlights.


H: Yes. Uhhuh.


J: I remember being able to see the beams of light, you know, moving around, because they were moving searchlights. I don't remember being able to see, like, the thing, the equivalent of the Bat Signal. Like, I could see the beam of light. I couldn't see the equivalent of the Bat Signal. I'm wondering--


H: Yes. From... Absolutely not, you cannot proje... Like, there is not a way to project an image onto a cloud, for a number of reasons. Now, clouds can be fairly flat on the bottom, that certainly isn't always the case, but they are far enough away that it is, it would be very difficult to focus light in that way. You might be able to do it with lasers, but you could not do it with a normal searchlight, a searchlight style of thing. You certainly couldn't like, just strap a logo on top of a searchlight and have that be projected into the sky. The good news, though, is during the 80s, Batman got a beeper.


J: (Laughs) So you can just, what you do is you just call him. He's at 555-1212. (Hank laughs) Wait, so the whole Bat Signal thing is, it's just a lie? It's just a visual, it's just made up?


H: Yeah! No, yeah. I mean it's a comic. It's a great trope for a comic, absolu... Like, I love it. I don't dislike it or anything, but yeah, no, that's not gonna work. That's fine. Sorry.


J: That's a bummer.


H: Yeah. I mean, humans are inherently evil, John.


J: I didn't say they were inherently evil, I said they were inherently complicated and hungry. (Hank laughs) Oh man. Anyway, today's podcast is brought to you by Batman. Batman: totally unreachable, apparently.


H: He has a beeper! (John laughs) Okay, today's episode of Dear Hank and John is brought to you by angry parents yelling at referees. It's a whole group of people who really just haven't worked out reality quite rightly.


J: Today's episode of Dear Hank and John is brought to you by human evil. Human evil: Hank doesn't think it exists, and yet, it keeps happening.


H: And of course - I think it exists - and of course, this podcast is brought to you... I don't know that I do even. (John laughs)

 Question 5 (20:39)


H: We have another question, this one is from Rory, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, I recently have been watching old Vlogbrothers videos, and in 2011, you guys were talking about stocks and the evil company Warner Chilcott," (which, by the way, raised my prescription drug prices a lot and so I told people to not buy their stock, which I guess that was my act of activism) "Anyway, this got me thinking, how does one buy stocks? So if either of you had any insights into this, and any advice on whether I can or should invest in stocks, that would be greatly appreciated. Best wishes, Rory. P.S. Keep in mind that I'm 17 years old."


J: Yeah. Um, you should definitely buy stocks if you're 17 years old and you have a bunch of money sitting around, Rory.


H: Yeah, I mean, this is the time to do it.


J: Yeah. When you have a 55 year investment horizon. So, Rory, the answer to your question is that a share of a stock is essentially a very small percentage of that company. So if I buy 100 shares of Warner Chilcott stock, I then own some fraction of the company Warner Chilcott. I can later sell that fraction of the company to someone else. It may be worth more or less depending on whether, you know, Warner Chilcott has grown its business in the intervening time while I've owned the stock, and then there's another way that you can potentially make money from owning stocks, which is dividends. If Warner Chilcott makes a profit of, say, you know, 100 million dollars, they may pay out a portion of that profit to their shareholders, to their owners, in the form of dividends. That's--as for how you buy a stock, you mostly these days, people set up accounts with brokerage firms, you, you know, from Fidelity, you may have seen commercials for companies like eTrade or TD Ameritrade on TV. Those companies are basically places where you can go to buy tiny amounts of companies and also sell them.


H: Yep. Yeah, and the reason why stocks are--tend to be a good deal is because the economy has grown in the past and we believe that it will continue to grow, and indeed if it doesn't, then there are larger problems than we would need to face, and the, yeah. So the stock market tends to grow over the last, you know, 100 years, at around 6% per year, which is a very good return on your investment, and if you put, you know, $100 in now, that $100 would be a lot--a lot of money by the time you retire, and that is kind of the way to make sure that you have, you know, can take care of yourself into old age.


J: Yeah, actually, you know what I'm gonna do? I'm just gonna find out what Rory--so let's assume that a 6% interest rate compounding, a $100 initial investment, that's gonna be $1,800 in 50 years, assuming a 6% return and that you reinvest the money that you make. So, based on the averages of how the stock market has fared over the last hundred years, in fifty ears you could turn your $100 into the equivalent of $1,800 today. Now, is it going to feel that good? In fifty years to have $1,800 dollars? Or is it going to feel better now to have a brand-new pair of sneakers? That's up for you to decide. Not here to make your decisions.


H: But do not buy just one stock.


J: NO, no.


H: That is a very bad idea.


J: The great thing about financial tools now is that they're so cheap that you can buy lots and lots of stocks at the same time, even with a relatively small investment of $100.


H: It's important stuff! And, I mean, it's kind of exciting.


J: It's incredible important, and it is horrifying to me that we had to learn in as adults, and that everyone has to learn it as adults, that it's not part of, like, education.


H: Well, we should do a Crash Course on personal finance, John. We've talked about it, and maybe someday we'll be able to.


J: I would love to


H: But in the meantime, you can watch the Financial Diet, our new channel we're producing with our, uh, the lovely people in New York City. It's called the financial diet. You can Google it and learn about how to live in the world, and make your dreams come true, without destroying your life.


J: I wish that all of your answers were in the form of songs, Hank. 


H: That was my jingle for the Financial Diet.

 Question 6 (25:22)


J: Let's have a question from Ryan, who asks: "Dear John and Hank, I'm 20 years old, I am from Texas but go to university in Scotland, and I'm gay. When I try to think about who I am as a person, I usually try to make a list of adjectives and facts about myself like the things I just mentioned, but that doesn't really feel like me. At a time in my life when I'm still working on finding my niche, I have to evaluate myself in terms of those around me to figure out whether I fit in with them, but at the same time I'm also trying to find myself. How do I balance understanding myself in terms of the surface level performances I put on for others, and the need to understand myself out of an external context? Or is there even a difference between the two?"

The subject line of that email, by the way Hank; "Am I the Sum of My Recent Emojis?" which is a beautiful, beautiful subject line. That's a big question. One that I've been trying to write about for the last four years, so hopefully Hank will have a good answer.


H: Well I believe strongly, for myself, that there is no such thing as "myself" that is separate from my experiences and my values. There's not a "core Me" that just connects to what I, to all the things that we describe as identities. I am just those things. Like in the way that a calculator... there isn't a calculator if you take the calculator's parts away. A calculator is like the circuit board and some buttons and a solar panel- I'm holding a calculator right now- and some plastic. And that is the calculator. If you take away all of its parts, it isn't anymore. there's nothing there. It's not like a bunch of stuff that's tied to a calculator.


J: Yeah, I don't want to make your life harder, but what if you take away one part of the calculator? Like what if you took away... the button for the number 9? Is it still a calculator?


H: Yeah, it's still a calculator. And at some point you take away enough things; yeah I get it. But that's not the metaphor I'm trying to make. That's not connected to the metaphor I'm making. The metaphor I'm making is simply that I am just a bunch of things, that I am just a bunch of expectations, and certainly I have predispositions toward emotions, and maybe those are slightly different than other peoples', but the idea that... I just can't get behind the idea that there is a thing that I've been trying my whole life to uncover, that I can be my true self, when in fact my true self is just an amalgamation of my predispositions and my values and my experiences.


J: I mostly agree with that. I think the only thing that I...Ryan's question and your response are to me sort of indicative of this shift that we've had in the last hundred years of human history away from the soul, or the idea of the soul as being sort of-


H: I mean, let's say Western history.


J: -core to personhood. Well, I wouldn't, necessarily say Western history.


H: Well, I mean Buddhism is very much about this idea of the Self not being a structured thing, and that is a constructed thing that people create for themselves.


J: But within Buddhism, in almost all sects of Buddhism, there is something inside of you that survives into the next life in the Karmic circle, so there is still some essence that is "capital Y You". And that idea, I think, has been deeply challenged in the 100-150 years by industrialization, by globalization, by...and to some extent, scientific discovery. But I think...I am very interested at what point I stop being me. Like, you know, if I had a...for instance, I had a friend who had a traumatic brain injury before I knew them, right? And if you speak to people who knew my friend before the traumatic brain injury, they always say like, "Oh, he was a different guy then." But he wasn't. But yet he also was. And it's a difficult thing to get your head around when it comes to identity and understanding yourself and also understanding other people. 


H: But I'm also a different guy that I was when I was 16. There are other ways to become different than for just physical change to occur.


J: Yeah, that's the... absolutely! That's what I think is so interesting about the calculator metaphor, that you don't find interesting about it, which is okay. But I am interested in "If I take things away and add things, at what point is the calculator no longer a calculator and it becomes something else entirely, like it becomes a computer or it becomes a robot or something?" 


I don't have an easy answer for that question, and I don't think there is an easy answer, and I think Hank is absolutely right, that you are the sum of your identities and experiences and feelings, and that you aren't separate from those things and that's part of the reason that understanding your identity is in being able to process your experiences in a way that helps you to create a Self. Like I think that's part of the reason why that's such an important process, and anytime somebody is sort of dismissive of that process, particularly among young people, I get really angry because I think it's important, I think it's valuable, and it's something that not just teenagers and not just young people are doing.


H: And there's also a sense, that there are also some people who just find it very easy to know who they are. And that often comes with something like just being like who people expected them to be, being sort of...like if you grew up in Texas, for example, you would probably not be a gay person moving to Scotland.


J: Depends on the Texas.


H: Like the average person...depends on the Texas, very true. But like, if you sort of fit into society as it exists, then you, it's sort of a less-difficult path. And I kind of fit into the expectations of me, early on in my life, a lot. Like was just like, "Oh, you're a nerd, so do nerd stuff". And I was like, "Kay!" Whether that was like, "Do well on tests and enjoy Star Trek." or "Get punched by people at school". Like I just did all those things, and there was an identity for me to fit into really easily, and so I did that.


It's like when you realize your identity is something that you construct for yourself, it can be liberating and terrifying, and I think that's what it should be. And I think that like stripping yourself a little bit of like the constructed identity that's been applied to you or that you've applied to yourself is necessary to do sometimes.


J: So I guess all we're saying is that this is a healthy process and that there is not an end to it and there doesn't need to be, right?


H: Yeah!


J: Okay, well, that doesn't help me with my book much but hopefully it's helpful to Ryan.


H: It's a great question. I think Ryan needs a whole series of podcasts on what the self is. You can go and watch some good TED talks on what the self is. You can just type in like "identity" into TED, into the TED website-


J: The problem with all of these self...all these new ways of looking at the self, whether they're constructed or derived, the problem to me is that all of them seem to imagine a self, that I don't know if it exists in a body that is 90% not-me. 90% of the cells in my bod are bacteria. Am I me, or am I actually just essentially a colony-


H: But by weight, by weight, the vast majority of you is you. The bacterial cells are very small. By weight you are almost all you.


J: I find that very unhelpful. I cannot overstate how-


H: Well, 100% of your brain cells are you, so there's that. 


J:Yes. I don't know. I... (sigh) I'm very distressed in general, I have to say, about like, what, how we understand what constitutes personhood and how we sort of give or acknowledge personhood in others and I don't think we do a good job of that right now and I think one of the reasons that we don't do a particularly good job is because we don't think about it very much, we don't think about what actually makes people people or how to actually treat a person as a person rather than treating them as a, you know, as so many people are treating Adam the high-school referee. 


H: Right. Or just like, you know, your sort-of off hand construction of a person because of your you can't, you just don't have enough cognitive resources to try and imagine everybody the way you imagine yourself.


J: No, not nearly enough, but you should have enough cognitive resources to be able to confer personhood onto others. But I think increasingly that personhood is both something that is won and conferred, it's both achieved by... because I don't think people who are benefiting from power structures particularly like to confer personhood upon people who are oppressed and not being treated by the world as full people, but I also think that it is conferred in the sense that we all have to agree that each other is human, we all have to agree that one another is a real person.


H: Right, and so people who are afraid to, or dislike the idea of bestowing personhood on people create constructions that they can dehumanize them in their own minds and have themselves believe that those people deserve their situation or that they're some threat that they represent to their way of life that is not about, like, just the fair distribution of resources but it's about like the destruction of something greater than any individual human etc. Which is something that we sure do see a lot, and that I've been thinking a lot about lately.


J: I don't know. Now I'm back in the darkness in this comedy podcast. 


H: Well, it's bound to happen. We are all going to die.


J: Not just "We're all going to die", Hank, it's much worse than that. Everyone we love is going to die and everything that we work for will disappear into dust. Everything. Forever. 


H: And you sometimes eat poop.


J: Not just a little bit either. Lots. 


H: It is just a little bit! It's just a lot of different poop. You just eat a little bit of poop a lot.


J: Speaking of which, it's time to get to the news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon because we've gone too far down the rabbit hole of darkness, and it's almost recursion at this point - just sort of spinning around this idea of self hood. Thank you for the excellent question. I'm sorry that we answered it so poorly and ended up in this recursive nightmare.


  News from Mars (37:09)


J: But, we're going to move on to the news form Mars and AFC Wimbledon. Let's begin with the news from Mars. Hank, I saw The Martian!


H: Oh good! How was that?


J: I thought it was great! Can you- can you- I have some questions.


H: Oh okay, ask me some questions about The Martian.


J: Could you really grow potatoes on mars using only your poop and martian soil?


H: No!


J: Aww, that's a bummer!


H: I mean they're working on ways to do it. I mean basically what you'd need is you'd need to rinse the soil real good, cause there's some stuff in the soil that would eat potatoes. Not like consume them, but just like harsh chemicals that would oxidize the roots which would make it impossible to grow so you'd need to wash all that stuff out of the soil. You'd need more water than Mark Watney had, but maybe real life Mark Watney, if that ever happened, would have access to more water, because they'd have some kind of water production system in place that was more significant than the one he had.


H: But yeah, it is absolutely possible to grow potatoes on Mars, but not with only human poop and Martian soil. And water.


J: Another question for you - to what extent is that what Mars looks like?


H: That's what Mars looks like, I mean that was one of my favorite parts of the movie. Some people complained that there was like a lot of just like shots of Mars and they're like "Come on, get with the story!" and I'm like "Shh!" If the whole movie was just renders of the surface of Mars with like little dust devils rushing across it, I would be perfectly happy.


J: Yeah, that was also my favorite part of the movie, was just the Mars parts, just the parts where you were just looking at Mars and he was a tiny little person. I thought it was a very enjoyable movie though, I have to say.


H: Yeah, you know I liked the book, but I think it was sort of made to be a movie. I think it was a better movie than a book.


J: Sometimes that happens.


H: Absolutely. And sometimes people get angry at me when I say that it doesn't happen that often or when I imply that books are a more enjoyable experience than a movie because I'm being an elitist dillhole, but I like books a lot. And also I feel like they're the underdog in this fight so don't you feel like maybe movies are doing okay and don't need to be protected so harshly? This is a little bit of a personal thing that I have experienced in my life that really has no bearing on reality or this podcast.


J: Yeah, seriously. Speaking of which, is there any other news from Mars, other than the fact that I saw The Martian? Or is that the big news?


H: That's big news. There is also a recent report that was put together, and this has bearing on a question that was asked to us by Samuel, who asks "Dear Hank and John, why aren't there more moon bases? We hear a lot about wanting to go to Mars but it seems to me that if we're serious about living on other planets we would go to the moon first to test the technology. It's real close, so why aren't there any moon bases?" Well, a recent report from MIT (I think. I'm not entirely sure if it was- yes, it was.) A recent report from MIT says that if we want to go to Mars, it indeed might be a really good idea to set up some moon bases, and particularly, set up a moon base that would produce fuel that we could use to get to Mars.


H: Now there's this huge problem that we have in getting to Mars, and that huge problem is called Earth. It's very heavy, it is hard to get stuff off of it because it is so heavy. It has a lot of gravity. And so in order to get to Mars, you have to not only launch all the stuff you want to get to Mars, but you have to launch all of the fuel that it takes to get to Mars, and also all of the fuel necessary to push the fuel to Mars, and the fuel necessary to push the fuel to push the fuel... it's a big problem. It's why it's hard to get to space. But, if we launched some little robots to the moon that just created fuel using electricity from the Sun or from nuclear generators and water and some other stuff on the surface of the moon, then we would be able to get to Mars much more easily by having a sort of pit stop at the moon because you can launch fuel off of the moon much less expensively because the moon is much lighter than the Earth.


J: So your proposal is to build a nuclear power plant on the moon?


H: Well, I mean a lot of space stuff is powered by nuclear generators of one kind or another. So that's not a crazy idea.


J: No, it's just nice to know how the human experiment will end.


H: Well, I mean it's the moon. What's the worry?


J: Yeah, I know, and when we blow it up we're going to find out just how big of a deal it was.


H: Well, first of all, you can't blow up the moon with even a very large nuclear weapon. That's not going to happen. And two, this might be solar powered. It might be solar powered, John. Or three, it might be more of a thermo-electric generator, which is just like basically a lump of radioactive stuff that is just hot that is used for electricity. Not a nuclear reactor.


J: Sometimes I feel like you haven't even seen the movie Armageddon, like it's just not even part of your scientific understanding of the world. 


H: I did recently read a book in which the moon explodes, and it turns out to be a very bad thing for Earth.


J: Oh, yeah, I think I reviewed that book in the New York Times book review actually.


H: Oh really? You read Seveneves?


J: Nope, different book. Amazing.


H: Oh wow, different books with moons exploding! Wow, it happens all the time in literature, apparently.


  News from AFC Wimbledon (42:22)


J: Well, I mean that's all fine and good but let's get to the real news, Hank: AFC Wimbledon. 


H: Alright.


J: A team owned by its fans, just the most wonderful institution that humans have ever made. What is good of us is all contained inside of AFC Wimbledon. So we played Morecambe on Saturday the 17th of October, and we lost. And we didn't just lose, we lost 5 to 2. So that was not good. And then, this Tuesday, as I'm talking to you (which is yesterday) we went to Accrington Stanley, and we played them away. And we've never beaten or tied Accrington Stanley in the last four years of playing them, and we gave up three goals... AND WE WON, 4 to 3! It was amazing! We were two-nil down in the first half, but we've got this new striker, Lyle Taylor. He's 15, I mean he's 25 years old-


H: He's 15, he's just a child.


J: He's 15- we do have a couple of legit 15-year-olds, but he's not one of them. Lyle Taylor, he's a very promising striker, though. He's had a kind of a journeyman's career like a lot of League 2 players. He played in Scotland for a club called Patrick Thistle, and he's actually Montserratian. Do you know where Montserrat is, Hank?


H: I couldn't tell ya.


J: Well, it is in the Caribbean Sea. It is a Caribbean island, and he plays for the Montserratian national team. In fact, he scored a goal for them. He is an international goal scorer! He scored two goals in this game for AFC Wimbledon. We came from two-nil back, and won 4-3, and put ourselves in a situation now where, you know, you don't like to get ahead of yourself, certainly, but there's some promising things going on over at AFC Wimbledon. Right dead center in the middle of the table. 10 points from last place, 10 points from first place, on 19 points. But you know I feel... scared but good.


H: Well, so all they have to do is score 10 points in the next game, right? Cause that's how it works.


J: Well no, you get three points for a win, one point for a tie, and zero points for a loss. So we would have to win three games, and tie one, while the best team in the league doesn't play any. 


H: Okay, I see. Oh, alright. That makes it hard.


J: That would be ideal. But it was an absolute thriller of a game. And there were only 125 AFC Wimbledon fans who were able to make the Tuesday evening trip to Accrington Stanley, but they enjoyed a heck of a game. And I'm starting to feel like this team is coalescing a little bit, so we'll see how things go but it seems good right now.


H: Alright! Well congratulations on your mediocre season thus far, John.


J: Thank you so much.


  Conclusion (45:29)


H: So what did we learn today, John?


J: Well we learned that when we start talking about self, or when we start talking about getting rocket fuel to go to Mars, we quickly get into a recursive spiral.


H: And we learned that it is important to have a diversified stock portfolio if you are capable to invest through index funds at a brokerage firm, such as Fidelity, or eTrade, or TD Ameritrade. 


J: None of whom sponsor our podcast, just to be clear.


H: Nope.


J: Also we are not certified financial planners.


H: Nope!


J: Please god do not listen to us. And of course we learned that Seamus Heaney likes skylights, and Hank likes small enclosed spaces.


H: We also learned that John had the best robot costume of all time for three years when he was a child and I never got to wear it. And maybe by the third year you were just wearing it so I couldn't.


J: Well, it all worked out in the end, Hank, because you were able to use your anger over me having the better costume as a child to become the better costumer as an adult, so I hope there's some comfort in that for ya.


H: Yeah, I think I just spent an awful lot of time trying to make up for that. And maybe I don't even like wearing cool costumes, I'm just trying to make up for my scarred childhood of not having a good enough costume for a couple years. I'm sure I had a great costume. I'm sorry, I feel bad about saying that. And I'm sure my mom, if she's listening, would be sad to hear that I feel as if my costumes were inferior. They were not. I love you, Mom!


J: Oh, she's listening. She's a great friend of the pod.


H: Thank you for listening to this episode of Dear Hank and John! I am Hank, and that guy is John. We are always open to more questions. You can send them to dearhankandjohn@gmail.com. This podcast certainly would be-


J: Nope!


H: Dyaah. hankandjohn@gmail.com, no "dear", just hankandjohn@gmail.com. I'm sorry, everyone. And what would we be without your questions? Just a bunch of news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon, and who wants that? And a short poem as well. You can also send questions via twitter, #dearhankandjohn. This podcast is edited by Nicholas Jenkins. Our theme music is by Gunnarolla, and as they say in our hometown:


Both: Don't forget to be awesome.