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How do you reattach John's head? Why aren't supreme court justices chosen more efficiently? How do you hug? Does Mars have seasons? Why don't people eat grass like cows?

 (0:00) Intro


Hank: Hello, and welcome to- is that how it starts?

John: Yep.

H: Dear Hank and John. Hello, and welcome to Dear Hank and John.

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

H: It's a comedy podcast where me and my brother John answer your questions, give you dubious advice, and bring you all the week's news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon. Today-

J: We're in real life!

H: We're together!

J: There is no need for, uh, you to pretend that we're in the same room because we're in fact in the same room right now, in the great state of Florida.

H: It occurs to me that they might not be even be pretending. They might actually think that we are in the same room.

J: And in some ways, maybe we are. We're just in some kind of third space that we visit on the phone.

H: It is a other room. 

J: Yes.

H: A room made of electrons.

J: I'm fascinated by the spaces that we, uh, make up, or sort of make physical. What was once called cyberspace-

H: Mhm

J: -before it became so assumed that it, uh, that we stopped thinking about it as space.

H: Do you ever, uh, have that experience where you will have a very intense interaction in a online space and then you will ascribe it to a physical place?

J: No.

H: That happens to me, that has happened to me several times- 

J: Really?

H: Where I have had big moments happen to me in my life that were- happened on the internet, but I feel like they happened, I put them in a physical space that I've been to before, so I think of them as occurring in that space.

J: One of the only three times I ever vomited entirely from stress or fear or emotion was from a cyberspace interaction, like with my, uh, my girlfriend at the time. We met on the internet, and she, uh, how do we look?

H: Alright.

J: Alright good. Hank is looking at the levels right now. My girlfriend and I were sort of in the middle of this long, 6-month breaking up process, and we just had a very tough conversation and immediately after, I like, uh... it was almost like hanging up back then, cause going offline was an action in a way that it isn't now, an I just went to the- immediately went to the bathroom and threw up at our house back in Winter Park, Florida.

H: Well, uh, that... never has happened to me. I don't think I've ever puked from emotion.

J: Really?

H: Yeah.

J: I've puked from emotion a few times. I've puked from reading once.

H: Wow.

J: Yeah.

H: I've never puked from drinking either.

J: I've also puked from drinking.

H: I've puked for the other reasons.

J: Which is from illness.

H: Illness and motion sickness.

J: Oh. You know, it's been a long time since I've puked from motion sickness. I remember it being a very unpleasant puke though.

H: It is not good. It is not a good puke, John.

J: Alright, should we talk about Florida, or should we move on to, uh, the poem?

H: Well yeah, I feel like we should do the- how are you doing today, John?

J: I'm doing well, uh, I am in the midst of a somewhat crazy, uh, few days for me.

H: Yes.

J: I was just in New York talking to, uh, Bill and Melinda Gates for the launch of their annual letter, which is fantastic, you can read it at gatesletter.com. Um, and no, they didn't pay me to say that. Bill and Melinda Gates are not sponsors of this podcast.

H: They've got it, they've got the money.

J: They could sponsor, but they chose not to. I believe that they're spending their money in smarter ways. Um, and uh, I'm here for about a day, and then I'm going on a trip to, to visit some refugee camps for the rest of the week, which should be very interesting.

H: So you can actually talk about that now.

J: But on my way-

H: Oh yeah.

J: I'm going to stop in London for 7 hours and go to an AFC Wimbledon game.

H: Ugh. Your life exhausts me.

J: How are you doing, Hank?

H: I'm doing good! I think, I feel like I, uh, just going to Florida for vacation is just an awful lot for me. You're like, the Florida vacation is like a 6 hour layover on your way to Tunisia or something.

J: So we, uh, we grew up here. Hank grew up here more than I did, but we both kind of grew up here. And every time I land in Florida, like when I'm flying over Florida and the plane lands and I get out into the airport and everything, I always think that this is the stupidest thought that I have every time that I land in Florida, that there is no place on Earth like Florida more like Florida. And Hank-

H: Than Florida.

J: It's the most Florida-i-est place in the world.

H: It's very Florida-ey.

J: It's so Florida!

H: Well especially the Gulf Coast.

J: Yeah.

H: Where everything's pastel-

J: Oh my god.

H: And there's all kinds of kitchy sculpture gardens, and there's this, uh, there's whimsy.

J: Oh, there's so much whimsy and sea shells. If I had to describe the gulf coast in two words, it would be "whimsy, seashells".

H: (laughs) Not "whimsy seashells". 

J: No, no no no. Cause the sea shells are very serious.

H: (laughs)

J: Alright, let's move on to a poem.

H: Okay.

J: I wanted to read you this poem last week. It's from- it was in a recent Vlogbrothers video. Have you read Octavia Butler?

H: Yeah.

J: Have you read The Parable of a Sower?

H: No.

J: You've gotta read that one.

H: Alright.

J: It's the best. I've gone on to read like 6 Octavia Butler books in the last two weeks, but, um, this one was- this one was maybe my favorite. So it's, uh, from Parable of the Sewer, um, and it's a very short poem today. The shortest of the short poems. Not the shortest we've ever done, but near!

In order to rise from its own ashes, a phoenix first must burn.

It's good, right?

H: Mhm.

J: Octavia Butler, man. One of America's great novelists. And one I hadn't even ever read until, like six months ago. Yeah.

H: Yeah. Uh, phoenix. Burned. I never know what to say after poems. Just think about it in silence, everyone, together.

J: I just think it's- it's not even really a poem, it's just an observation. It's just a fact about phoenixes. You know what AFC Wimbledon's badge is?

H: Is it a phoenix?

J: It is.

H: That makes sense.

J: It makes sense.

H: Yeah.

J: Because they had to- they had to- they had to burn.

H: Yeah.

J: Before they could rise from their own ashes.

H: Yeah, and I feel like just even- just because it's such a nice image and it's so- it's good colors, that I maybe would like to wear an AFC Wimbledon scarf, if it were cool out.

J: Well, if that is the case, you can always go to DFTBA.com, where AFC Wimbledon scarves are for sale, and the proceeds from those scarves go to benefit AFC Wimbledon, a football club owned by its fans and arguably the greatest fourth-tier English football club in the history of football. And maybe, maybe soon-

H: We'll get there.

J: -the greatest third tier football club!

H: Let's get there.

J: Okay let's get there, let's go to some questions from our beloved listeners who emailed us at hankandjohn@gmail.com.

 (7:00) Question One


J: Hank, can we start off with me asking a question?

H: Sure!

J: Alright, this question comes from Miranda, who writes:


"Dear John and Hank,
It wouldn't be Dear Hank and John without some talk about death, so with the recent passing of Justice Scalia, I realize that I know nothing about how the Supreme Court Justice selection process works." Don't worry, Miranda, Congress also knows nothing about it. Um, "Why does it take so long to elect a new justice?" Uh, they aren't elected, that's part of the reason. "Why aren't there backups already lined up like a US Vice President has a Vice President?" That's a great question, maybe they should have thought of that while they were making the Constitution. "Why aren't there more specific guidelines in place for who should select a replacement in an election year?"

Miranda, those are excellent questions, and they are all questions that I wish our founding parents (mostly fathers) had borne in mind when they were writing the United States Constitution. Here are some other things I wish they'd borne in mind, uh, while we are discussing it. I wish they'd borne in mind that while we weren't going to be part of the United Kingdom anymore, their Parliament is actually a pretty high-functioning organization, and maybe we should have adopted a parliamentary system instead of adopting the absolutely bananas congressional system that we currently have.

Some of this is about the fact that the Constitution is extremely vague about the Supreme Court. It says that, uh, Supreme Court Justices will be chosen by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. That's all it says.

H: Is that really what it says?

J: Pretty much. Advice and consent. And the Senate this year has interpreted that to mean- over the years that has meant different things. It used to be, until about 1960, I think? It used to be that the President just chose the Supreme Court justices and then Congress said, "As you wish."

H: Or, yeah, I guess. I guess "consent" implies that they could say no, somehow.

J: But they didn't actually figure out that they could say no until like 1960.

H: Okay.

J: One of the weirder things that happened in the Supreme Court is that when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President, he wasn't pleased with what the Supreme Court was doing, and none of the Supreme Court justices were dying, so he just decided that the Supreme Court should have more justices, and he appointed a bunch of new people to the Supreme Court, it was called "packing the court" and that's how he got all of the New Deal legislation through.

H: That would be fascinating if, uh, if we just kept doing that. Because then there would be as many Supreme Court justices as there are Congress-people.

J: Or as many Supreme Court justices as there are Americans. We could all be on the Supreme Court. Um, so, yeah.

H: I want to back up for a second and just, um, bet that we're going to get a lot of feedback from our British viewers about how their Parliament does not function well.

J: I mean you can say that their Parliament doesn't function well, but come on.

H: Well, I mean, we're comparing it to Americans?

J: Yeah

H: Congress?


J: There's much... well I think the idea of the parliamentary system that is effective is that the party that has the most seats in Parliament is able to elect- is able to choose its leader, and that person becomes the Prime Minister, rather than potentially having a President and a Congress who profoundly, intensely hate each other and see there being a great deal of political hay to be made form hating each other.

H: That's true, I hadn't thought about that. Yeah, and it does seem like it does not work out super well, because oftentimes you get the President from one party and then everybody pushes back and elects Congress from the other party.

J: Now the alternate argument is that basically the United States was set up to be a country in which it was extremely difficult to do anything, and that it has been that, and that it has often benefited from being that rather than, you know, going populist in this direction or populist in that direction. Um, I mean essentially, the US revolution was this extremely conservative revolution in which one group of rich, white, land-owning men exchanged control of the United States with a slightly different, but largely identical group of rich, white, land-owning men. And, uh, I think a lot of both the- I think a lot of the problems of the United States were sort of sealed into the cake. Were sort of baked in, from the very beginning.

H: Right, but also, you know, it's gone okay.

J: The United States has been an incredibly successful country. And one of the reasons that our revolution was a successful revolution was because it was a reasonably conservative one, versus like you look at the French revolution, which was so radical that in the end it wasn't sustainable, and so they went from having one despite named Louis to one despite named Napoleon. 

H: Right. So back to the Supreme Court.

J: Yeah. 

H: The President gets to pick one, and the Congress gets to approve it, after- post-Nixon. That's the idea.

J: They get to advise and consent. Although in this case, they are refusing to advise.

H: And also pre-refusing to consent.

J: And they are preemptively refusing to consent. I think the proper response to this, to be honest, what I would love to have happen, is I would love to have President Obama nominate a moderate justice and then have Congress approve it. That is not going to happen, for a variety of reasons. Congress is able to make- is able to cite precedence for what they're doing. The President is able to cite precedence for why this is crazy. The truth is that we should have prepared an answer to this problem at some point in the last 230 years, and we really haven't. Now, I think, you know everybody brings their own bias to this. I would like to think that even if the President were someone with whom I disagreed politically, that, you know, with 330 days left in office, that President should be able to elect a Supreme Court justice, and I think I would think that regardless of my own political opinions, but it's hard to know because, uh, you can't see past your own biases.

H: Yep. Uh, yeah. Well, fascinating. Here's American history. The Constitution is not perfect, and-

J: Nor, in fact, is it very clear a lot of the time.

H: Yeah, there are also a lot of things that we're glad we've changed. I've got another question- everybody's glad we've changed about the Constitution. It's very weird to me when people think that the Constitution is some kind of, like the founding fathers were, uh,  gods of some sort and they passed down this document that is perfect in every way.

 (14:04) Question Two


H: Anyway, I have another question, John, and it's time to move on. That was a pretty long one, and as usual, packed with comedy. This question is from Lane, who says:


"Dear Hank and John:
I need help with hugs. As I've gotten older, I've started to hug more people outside of my family, and I can't say that I'm very good at it. I love a good hug, but I don't always know how to go about giving one. My question is this: when you go to hug someone else, do your arms go above or under the other person's arms, or does it go over one shoulder and under the other arm? Does it change with different genders and situations? I have no idea!"

J: Well, Hank is much more of a hugger than I am, uh-

H: I have LOTS of opinions on this.

J: Yeah, and you will recall that one time the President of the United States attempted to shake Hank's hand and Hank said "No, sir, we are going to hug." 

H: Well, he'd just hugged two other people!

J: But he extended his hand to you, and you were like, "I'm coming in, Mr. President!"

H: Well, I figured, I thought that people would say the President is a sexist if he hugged two women and then shook the hand of the man.

J: I'm inclined to agree, I thought you made the right call, for sure.

H: Yeah, and he's very fit, by the way. Uh, he uh, so yes, I uh... there is no wrong way to hug. But it is like a handshake in that you kind of can tell things about people by their hugs, and I think that in general a hug should be firm, not uncomfortable, and where the arms end up going is almost entirely up to circumstance. And that often has to do with height - if there's a great height differential, then you're going to go around the middle and they're going to go over the top, and that happens. This doesn't happen to me very often because I'm fairly tall, but I have a friend who's like 6'8" and I don't try to get my hands up to go around the shoulders.

J: Oh, I do. My best friend is 6'7", and when I hug him I go one hand over the shoulder-

H: Even as dumb as it looks, you can't even get it up there.

J: It isn't even that it looks dumb, I just feel like I'm at a middle school dance, which was the last time that my peers were so much taller than I was, you know? And the boys, who were always shorter than the girls back then, were supposed to be- we were supposed to have our arms on their shoulders, and they were supposed to have their hands on our waists, and it would just look ludicrous. And I feel like that every time I hug Chris, I think to myself "I'm just a middle school boy at a dance again."

H: So yeah, and uh, I will find myself going up on tiptoes when I'm hugging Adam, and trying to get one hand over his shoulder. But uh, and I do feel a little bit odd, I will say, now that I'm thinking about it, when I give him a hug, cause I feel kind of like a little girl, and I'm just like cuddling into his chest. But, I uh, I think that it's mostly down to height, where your arms end up. If you're roughly the same height you do one over, and then you sort of like, you, the whole process of giving a hug you have this wind-up where you pull your arms out while you're still a fair distance away, and that's the time when you're like using your weird monkey brain to figure out where my arms are going to end up. And if you do that dance and your hands keep matching each other, then you've gotta like, you just, eventually you will get close enough, and there will be enough of a difference that you'll end up in a hug, and it will be okay.

J: Yeah, you know, Lane, what I would say is that I always let the other person, based on the way that they hold out their hands for the hug, I let the other person dictate, and maybe this means that I'm too passive or I'm never going to be successful in business or something, but I let the other person dictate the terms of the hug. And if I find that they are like me and not a hug term dictator, what I do in that situation is I just go right arm up, left arm down, just as a-

H: Just sort of a natural-

J: That's my, in an emergency, this person also doesn't lead the hug, I'm going to go right arm up, left arm down. So that would be my recommendation.

H: What do you think about body contact in a hug?

J: I'm not crazy about body contact in a hug, I think hugs are mostly for arms and collarbones.

H: I deeply disagree. I feel like your toes should touch, your knees should touch, your hips should touch, your chest should touch-

J: No, no...

H: All the way down.

J: I like to think... well, if I'm hugging my wife, or my kids or something, but I like to minimize...

H: Touching?

J: Yeah.

H: Just bodily contact?

J: I do, just generally.

 (18:43) Question Three


J: Can we move on to a question about Mars?

H: Yeah, sure.

J: I thought I could get you off the topic of hugs, by bringing up Mars. alright Hank, this question's from Neda, who asks "Dear John and Hank, a few podcasts ago Hank said 'Martian winter' and that got me thinking - does all of Mars have winter at the same time, or is it like Earth where the Northern and Southern hemispheres have it at different times? Does Mars have hemispheres? Or an equator? I'd love to know what the seasons are like on Mars and if it depends on where you are. I love the podcast, it is the highlight of my week, and I think it's absolutely hilarious" Neda, you do not have a very good sense of humour.

H: *laughs* Well, but we appreciate the sentiment anyways. Yeah, Mars is just like Earth, it has an axial tilt like Earth's and thus it has seasons like Earth. It has a winter in one hemisphere and then - while it's summer in the other hemisphere. And all planets have hemispheres, um, the equator is defined by the spin of the planet, so where, it's, you know, when the planet is spinning - I'm doing hand gestures now so this is a visual thing. Look on the internet, you can see what hemisphere is. It s halfway down. Uhh-

J: The sphere

H: yeah. Halfway down the sphere

J: Its almost like its the hemi-...sphere

H: *laughs* yeah, exactly. But there are some, like for example, Uranus spins on its side-

J: HA HA

H: And so its hemispheres are left and right not top and bottom. Uh-

J: You're never gonna say Uranus without me laughing at you ever.

H: That's fine.

J: We need to rename that planet!

H: But there would be a... so there would be planets that... there could be a planet that doesn't have winters like that - that would be perfectly 90 degrees with the plane of the solar system. And i don't know if there are any planets like that. There probably are.

J: But, so-

H: I think Mercury's like that.

J: Would you be better off, like, so you could do what you could do in the United States where you spend, you know, summer in New York

H: mhm

J: And then you're like ' its starting to get cold I'm gonna go to Sydney Australia-

H: yep.

J: -and enjoy more summer.'

H: yep. You could totally do that except that instead of summer it would just be a little bit less frigid.

J: *laughs* 

H: You might get up to like, I mean in addition to never being able to go outside because there's no air.

J: mhm

H: You would, you know, you're never gonna get above freezing. I don't think ever, on the surface of mars.

J: really?

H: mm yeah

J: That sounds miserable.

H: Well, uh, you know, I live in Montana where it doesn't get above freezing for quite a hunk of the year

J: But, but-

H: It does have air though

J: I just think air is such an important part of what makes Earth enjoyable.

H: It is a big part of what makes Earth enjoyable. Do you want to know another part of what makes Earth enjoyable?

J: I do.

 (21:33) Question Four



H: This question is from Gavin who asks, Dear Hank and John, cows eat grass-

J: Yep.

H: -so why don't people? Its cheap and easy to grow so shouldn't everyone just eat grass?

J: No.

H: Grass: a thing that makes earth great.

J: No, they shouldn't eat grass and i'll tell you why. So humans need certain things - protein, fibre-

H: All things in grass!

J: -,some vitamins.

H: Also in grass.

J: Uh, its a calorie inefficient food versus like our agriculture staples like rice, potatoes

H: Yes

J: It does not have aas much energy in it...okay. Alternately, it uh... There is a reason

H: There is a reason

J: What is the reason?

H: Well first, we're not cows.

J: Well I understand that we're not cows but what is the reason, if it is as energy intensive and as digestible by the-

H: Its not as digestible.

J: oohh

H: I mean so that's the thing. You have just as much energy in grass which is why you can burn grass and there will - dry grass- and there will be energy released. Basically whats happening in our bodies is just a slow burn of all the things that we eat. But there are certain things that our bodies are not metabolically set up to digest.  And cellulose is one of those things where as in a cows body, they can convert that cellulose - which is just made up of sugars - but sugars bonded together in a particular way. They can break that cellulose down into those sugars and then use those sugars the way that we would use sugars as fuel. We can not do that. Um, and we cannot do that because we don't have the same digestive system as a cow and also because cows actually I'm pretty sure don't break down cellulose themselves they do it with bacteria in their guts 

J: mm

H: and that's why they have like a bunch of different chambers because they have this whole fermentation thing happening with  bunch of different bacterial colonies that are turning that cellulose into fuel for a cow.

J: So each of a cows four different stomachs is colonized  by different bacteria?


H: I bet. I bet it is.

J: Now, 

H: That is not a thing that i know for sure but it seems very likely to me.

J: Follow up question, what percentage of a cow is actually bacteria?

H: I would guess that, uh, that the number of cells-

J: Yep

H: of bacteria, there are more bacteria cells than cow cells in a cow.

J: Really.

H: I would just... Certainly. By weight, again, by weight its going to be almost entirely cow. But by number of cells - because bacteria cells are much smaller than cow cells.

J: But I don't think of myself... When I think of what constitutes me,

H : mhm

J: I do not think of the number of pounds that the cells I think of as  me weigh.

H: mhm 

J: I Think of the number of cells that are me. And that's closer I think to what I am than a number on a scale that could fluctuate wildly. So the thought that I am actually (and yes, you're going to see a lot of this in my new book) the thought that I am actually only half me is distressing. 

H: Well here's the question, are you even half human? What cells count as being you? 

J: That's a great question right because if you cut off your, uh you know, your pinkie finger,

H: Yeah

J: you're still you

H: yeah you're still you

J: ...even though you've lost this part of you.

H: uhuh

J: Uh, and then-

H: So really its mostly brain stuff. 

J: It isn't-. But it isn't entirely brain stuff-

H: No, definitely...
J: - because I would argue-
H: Definitely some endocrine system stuff too
J: If you had...

J: If you had a traumatic brain injury right now, like, your personality would be different, you would be different in important and central ways-

H: Right

J: But I would still think of you as you.

H: Right

J: Uhm, and you would still be you. 

H: right

J: Uh, so the actual, I mean this is...its just like fiendishly complicated. That's all I can say about it. 

H: Yes absolutely.

J: But we should probably move on--

H: I do sometimes feel like I just have all of these, like, meat parts to the me that are necessary to like hold on to stuff and move around.

J: Well yeah, I will remind you--

H: And made weird noises with my mouth.

J: I will remind you that your brain is also made of meat. 

 (25:45) Question Five


J: Okay, here's a question from Joanna who asks: "Dear John and Hank, My name is Joanna, I'm from Berlin and I'm not a native English speaker and only 13-years-old so I apologize in advance for any grammatical mistakes that I'm going to make." You make none in that sentence. "Here's my question:" Colon, that's appropriate. "I've been a Nerdfighter for 2-3 years now and when the John bobblehead that first came out I was just a little kid and didn't know you existed, so when the John and Hank bobblehead collection came out I was really happy and bought them." This is the best email in terms of grammar I have ever read. "I really love them, but John fell down yesterday and his head fell off (sorry for your headaches, John)." She even put the parentheses and the period in the right place. "I don't have the money to buy another set so do you have any idea how I could fix John? Thank you for your dubious advice and don't forget to be awesome. Best wishes."

I mean, first off, never again apologize for your grammar, Joanna, in English or in German, because that was phenomenal. That is-- I can only hope that seven years from now my son will be able to write in any language that well. Okay, so, first off, how to fix the head-falling-off-the-bobblehead problem. Hank, we've talked about some big problems in this podcast. Um, whether you are you, whether there should be a supreme court justice over the next 330 days or whether we should just leave that seat empty inexplicably for an entire frikking year, (sorry, that revealed some bias), we've talked about martian hemispheres, we've never talked about anything as important as how to reattach a bobblehead.

H: All of that preamble makes me feel like you just have no idea, do you? 

J: Oh, I do know.

H: Oh, okay. What's your thought?

J: Okay, so what you gotta do Joanna, is you gotta glue the very top of my neck. You've gotta put super glue on the top, not on the sides, on the top of the neck. Because that's how they do it in the first place. And then you put the head very carefully back on to the neck and you should be able to retain a percentage at least of the the bobble. 

H: Right, I would say close, but I wanna suggest instead of super glue which has no flex, it dries extremely strong but hard, I would say something like rubber cement or caulk, something that will be happy moving around a lot. 

J: Yeah. Alternately, just get a new bobblehead set at dftba.com.

H: I don't suggest that. Definitely repair rather than replace when possible.

 (28:23) Commercial Break


J: Today's podcast brought to you by John and Hank bobbleheads, available now at dftba.com for the low, low price of just $35. Might be $40.

H: We're not sure. Something around there. Today's podcast is also brought to you by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's supreme court justice stacking. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's supreme court justice stacking's responsible for the New Deal and possibly all of current American prosperity.

J: [Laughing] That's a bold, bold statement.

H: Dubious. 

J: Very dubious. I mean, some American prosperity, some percentage of American prosperity might be able to be traced back to that. It's one of those things where if it had gone wrong we would remember it--

H: Oh yeah.

J: As like this power grab by the first president to be elected four times who was essentially president for life. It was basically a power grab. Today's podcast is also brought to you by martian summer. Summer on Mars, still incredibly cold.

H: And finally, this podcast is brought to you by cellulose. That component of grass that's made of sweet and tasty wonderful sugar, but is somehow yet still inaccessible to us because we are not sufficiently made of bacteria.

 (29:37) Question Six


I've got another question, this one is from Alin who asks "Dear Hank and John, I'm a listener from the French speaking part of Belgium. Like most of my friends, though, I consume more English-speaking media be it books, TV shows, movies, etc. than French-speaking ones. From my point of view here in Europe it seems that especially in the internet era, culture from the English-speaking world, mostly the USA, automatically has a wider reach and is seen as cooler, more relevant, or simply better. This is making it more difficult for non English speaking creators to compete and reach an audience. I'm worried about what this means for diversity. While I love the American and other English-speaking media I consume, I still want to hear about other cultures including my own." This is a great point! And I forget about it because obviously, you know, you and I have a big audience overseas, especially in Europe, in places where they don't speak English as a first language but a lot of people speak English nonetheless. I feel like the number of people in Europe speaking English just continues to rise.


J: Yeah but I think it's a big problem for internet culture in general because the internet feels so big and it feels so inclusive, a lot of times we forget that the vast majority of people can't participate in online discourse, at least in the internet's lingua franca, which is currently English. So you know, when we talk about internet discourse, we're excluding people who don't speak English, at least when we're talking about the kind of internet discourse that I engage in I'm excluding people who don't speak English. I'm excluding people who don't have regular access to the same internet tools that I use, most of which are dependant upon broadband. So you end up excluding most people. You feel like you're being inclusive, you feel like you're listening to voices that are systemically silenced but in fact you're participating in a tool that is furthering the systemic silence of many voices, and in many cases the most vulnerable voices -- not the French speaking part of Belgium --I'm thinking more poor communities where people don't have access to those tools. I think the first thing that I'm in favor of is more content in more languages. When I was in Davos Switzerland, I spoke to a lot of internet entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa and the number one thing that they said was that "yes, we need internet connectivity, we also need content."

H: We need something to connect to.

J: We don't have a ton of content. We don't have a ton of high-quality content.

H: I have a friend who has gone over to several places in the developing world to-- and the Nerdfighter community, a long times ago, worked together to get some equipment for her to bring over there so that she could teach people how to make content. That was sort of focused on photojournalism at first and also documentary film, and like documentary film in sort of internet style which just becomes another kind of YouTube video. And it was amazing to me both how much she was able to do in terms of teaching people who then taught other people, and also how inexpensive it was for her to go do that. I mean obviously there's more than dollar cost, and also it's just a difficult, time-consuming thing to do to take a piece of your career away and spend some time doing something that's not gonna make you a bunch of money, but it was fascinating to see. And I really am excited about hoping that more of that gets done and that, you know, there are a lot of people who have more experience creating for the internet and hopefully those people will share those tools with the rest of the world. Now it was really interesting to me in this question, something I hadn't even thought about is that Alin says it's "cooler" to watch English stuff, which is interesting to me like, how that might get tied up in-- but like I have noticed trying to watch the YouTube communities of other countries, that a lot of places in Europe don't have that many native, interesting YouTube things happening. There are some, but not tons. And that's, I think, partially because European culture and American culture are different, but much more similar than other cultures are, across the world. And so there's a lot of connection that's pretty easy, and then there's also, like you already see that this stuff is popular, like you know that people are liking this, they have a tons of subscribers, whether it's Dan and Phil or PewDiePie, and you, like, of course it's the easiest path is to go with the thing that's already popular.

J: There's also a culture built around those creators as well, like there's fanart that you can have access to and that makes the world more--

H: You feel like you're a part of the thing.

J: Yeah and it makes the whole world more enjoyable, it makes the fan community more enjoyable if you don't have to like build that stuff from scratch.

H: Yeah, and I think there might be something special about watching someone who's a little bit different than you, in the same way that people like watching PewDiePie, because like he's a really talented, funny guy who also has that extra spice of not being American.

J: Right. And this is a big issue in my other life in publishing because in the US, very very little is published in translation and even less is read in translation. Americans are just woeful at reading books translated from other languages-- except The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

H: (chuckles) We're good at that one!

J: But yeah we did-- in general we actually do Scandinavian mystery novelists fairly well, but everything else we're really bad at.

H: We also converted the Harry Potter novels into American.

J: That's true, we took the u out of colour.

H: And made is Sorcerer's Stone just to confuse everyone in the whole world.

J: I hear a lot from my readers in Europe that they want to read them in English, they like reading them in English because they want to read them the way that I intended them to be read. But, so my counterargument to that is that if you don't think in English, you kind of can't read it in the way that I intended it to be read. In fact, in some ways that idea, "the way I intended it to be read," is to me at least, a flawed idea. Like I don't think that-- I wasn't thinking of it being read in an intended or an unintended way like that when I was writing it. And people always talk about how translation makes books worse, I would argue lots of times translation makes books better, too. Like it's just as possible that a translator can improve a novel as make one worse, and I see that in my career. There are places where my translators are so good that my books are compared to books that are much, much better than mine. Like in Germany especially a lot of times, Sophie Zeitz is my translator there, and she's a brilliant translator so my books are compared to Philip Roth, and Jonathan Franzen, Toni Morrison and stuff and I'm just like...

H: What did you do!?

J: Yeah, clearly that's not me! Clearly Sophie is doing something to my novels that's making them very, very good. And so I guess what I encourage you to do is to find content in your language and celebrate it.

H: Right. You know interestingly, Canada has rules with national broadcasting that you have to include a certain amount of Canadian content, and that's not something you can do with the internet. You can't force a certain amount of people to watch a certain amount of content from inside the country. And the problem you run into is all of these European single-language markets, non English markets, are going to be definitionally smaller than the English market because of America and also because lots of people who don't speak English as a first language do speak English. And so if you have a smaller market it's harder to make money, it's harder to make a living, and it's harder to like increase your production values. So a lot of what -- it's a much more difficult path for creators and kind of what we need is for people to like content specifically because it's less popular, and whenever somebody gives that sentiment a hard time for being like "hipster-y" I'm like "well how else is anything new ever going to get discovered?" You have to like something different and new, and there's something wonderful and freeing creatively about not having a huge audience that allows for interesting things to happen creatively, that we have to have a certain percentage of people who are always looking for something that isn't the mainstream. Not just because it's not the mainstream, but also because interesting creative things happen more easily outside of the mainstream.

J: Yeah, I totally agree. The last thing that I would say about this is I have a friend who calls this the Lithuanian Poet Problem, that if you are a Lithuanian poet, your chances of winning the Nobel Prize, your chances of finding a wide audience, are so infinitesimally small compared to if you write in English or even German or French, that it almost discourages you from ever starting. And it's, in a very small country, or a relatively small language, it can be hard even if you find success to make a living because there just aren't that many potential customers for your work. And this is a kind of privilege that we almost never talk about but it's an intensely important kind of privilege, and I would argue like one of the most important, but because it's so important and because it's so omnipresent, it's easy not to look at, like air. Like it's easy to feel like it's in the air, but it's not in the air, writing in English is a massive structural advantage and being able to read in English is a massive structural advantage and those are things that we have to kind of be conscious of.

 (40:10) News from Mars



H: Alright John, this is the part of the podcast where we talk about the news, I think.

J: The news from AFC Wimbledon.

H: Well that. And also the news from Mars.

J: A cold, dead rock in the middle of space!

H: Correct!

J: (giggles) Or maybe not dead, but probably. Probably dead.

H: But if it were alive, John,

J: Yes.

H: That would be, to be clear, the biggest news ever. In the history of humanity.

J: Nope.

H: That's not the news today, though.

J: (laughs) Also I would argue that it would not be the biggest news in the history of humanity.

H: Really!?

J: Yes.

H: You think that life on-- that we're not alone in the universe..

J: Yes.

H: Would not be the biggest news?

J: No.

H: What if there was a person, who was not a human on Mars.

J: A sentient person?

H: Yeah.

J: Like a wookie.

H: Yeah, like a wookie.

J: If Mars had Wookiees that were living in underground tunnels.

H: Yes.

J: That would be the biggest news in human history.

H: OK. Just making sure.

J: If Mars once had bacteria that might have come from Earth...

H: Well, we'd be able to figure that out.

J: If Mars had life separate from Earth, that evolved separately from life on Earth, would it be the biggest news in human history. I'm gonna say hard no, but I'm gonna say it would be in the top 200 news stories in human history, but I would also argue that AFC Wimbledon's return in 2011 was one of the top 200 news stories of all time.

H: I mean that's the thing about arguing.

J: The printing press.

H: You can literally argue anything.

J: (laughs) The agricultural evolution, the Colombian Exchange, AFC Wimbledon's victory over Luton Town in the 2011 Conference playoff final. (Hank giggles) The problem is there are a bunch of big stories right, so it's hard to pick which is the biggest.

H: Alright do your news.

J: No you do yours first I have important news.

H: (laughs) The bad news is that I somehow, while walking up the stairs, wandered

J: You lost the news from Mars!?

H: into the internetless area of this house. It's just Popular mechanics asking me to submit my email address for something.

J: Can you just go to No thanks? Just hit the X. Boom.

H: It worked! Thank you John.

J: Oh wow. I'm so good at navigating the internet

H: You're really good at the internet. We've got a news story here. NASA's investigating what's called photonic propulsion, which could potentially send a spacecraft to Mars in as little as three days.

J: And with current technology we'd be looking at like a year to get there.

H: A little less than a year, depends on the time of year you leave, depends on the route you take.

J: Sure.

H: But, so big problem in space travel as we always say, is you have to move the fuel to move the fuel to move the fuel to move the fuel

J: To get to Mars

H: That you need to get to Mars.

J: Right.

H: So you're mostly pushing fuel around. The nice thing about photonic propulsion is you don't have to move the fuel around, you are shooting the fuel at the spacecraft kind of. So imagine you've got a hose and then at the other end of the driveway, you want to move some stuff off the driveway, some leaves. You spray the hose at the leaves and all the leaves go whoof off your driveway and you're like "Ah, good old clean driveway, the neighbors are gonna be so envious." So it's like that except instead of a hose of water it's a hose of photons, a laser beam, that you point at a mirror, and the photons which do not have mass but do have energy and momentum, remarkably enough, can transfer that momentum onto a spacecraft from a centralized place where those photons are being generated by some extremely powerful laser, and then that laser will shoot at the reflectors on this spacecraft - which would have to be fairly light, at least to start - and move it to extremely fast speeds with this extremely powerful laser. Now, you gotta build a really powerful laser and you're probably not gonna be shooting it from the surface of Earth. There's a problem here which is that the laser would vaporize some of the atmosphere, it would have a hard time getting out of the atmosphere, so you probably want the laser to be in space. But you wouldn't have to carry this fuel because the fuel is made of photons and photons don't have mass. But you wouldn't be carrying them with you, you would be shooting them from a place, probably in orbit around Earth or on the moon. And they've been doing research on this, it's a system that works, that functions, they've done it in the lab, but what you have to-- and NASA's obviously trying to figure out how this would work, but you have to build a really massive laser and probably you would be, for this initial step you'd be sending a fairly light thing like maybe a 200 pound or 100 kilogram spacecraft to Mars, but you could do it REALLY fast which would be amazing because the solar system is really big, so big that Voyager I just left the solar system after being launched in 1977. So if you want to get-- and also because this is a good way of transferring energy and you don't have to haul your fuel along with you, this would be sort of the way if you wanted to send a probe to another star.

J: Mmmmm. That's exciting.

H: Yeah!

 (45:56) News from AFC Wimbledon


J: But not as exciting as AFC Wimbledon's heroic one-nil victory against Carlisle United. Hank, you will remember that we were supposed to play Carlisle United a couple weeks ago,

H: Right. Soggy pitch.

J: But then that game was won by waterlogged pitch. Waterlogged pitch has had a great season in League two, they're in second. (Hank laughs) But we beat Carlisle United, you remember in the game before that we beat Barnet, and in the game before that we beat Luton Town, the same team we beat in 2011. That means, I'm not good at math Hank, but I believe that means Wimbledon has won three straight games. 

H: Is that unusual?

J: It is unusual yes. 

H: Is it unusual for everybody in the league?

J: It is unusual to win three straight games. Here is the most exciting part of this: AFC Wimbledon are currently in fifth place in League Two with 15 games to go.

H: Wow. The top three don't have to compete at all?

J: The top three automatically go to league one.

H: Do they still play in the playoff just for fun?

J: No, they choose not to, they take those days off.

H: OK.

J: And then 4, 5, 6, and 7 enter into a playoff and the winner of that playoff goes up to League One, so only one team from 4, 5, 6, 7 goes up to league one. Right now AFC Wimbledon is in fifth, and crazily they are not that far behind third, so I am officially dreaming, but I'm starting to think about dreaming of automatic promotion. But this has been an amazing, amazing run that Wimbledon have been on, they've had a great season--

H: So some other teams have had some bad games.

J: We have benefited from other teams having some bad games, but also Wimbledon's been winning all of their games and like if you win all your games, you go up. And so I'm starting-- now here's the crazy thing, Hank, I actually looked the other day and so the third tier in English football is called League One, helpfully. And I actually looked at the average attendance for all the teams currently in League One and they are all at least 3,000 more than AFC's stadium can contain. (they laugh)

H: All of them?

J: Yeah!

H: Every team in League One

J: The lowest one is 3,000 more than AFC's stadium can contain, the highest one is like 20,000 more.

H: So you gotta get that new stadium built!

J: So obviously we have to get the new stadium built, but also it makes me think that if we were to go up to League One somehow, that would be a wonderful season. (they laugh) But I can't imagine how it would be sustainable. But I mean who knows!? Obviously nobody thought that AFC Wimbledon would go from the ninth tier of amateur football and be promoted five times in nine years so who knows! Who knows! I'm starting to dream, it's incredibly fun, it's so exciting, the goal by the way was scored by 34 year old Paul Robinson, a journeyman center-back who was up for a free kick. I myself am only 38 years old, meaning that seeing that Paul Robinson scored that goal I began to dream that in addition to sponsoring AFC Wimbledon, they might have a place for me on the club.

H: You know what the great tragedy is, John?

J: Huh?

H: We're in this house that our parents have rented, and it has an Xbox, but you didn't bring FIFA!

J: I had no idea that they would have-- it has one of the like ancient X-boxes from way back in like 2008.

H: It is an old Xbox.

J: But I could have brought at least FIFA 10 or something.

H: Yeah.

J: I could have just schooled you.

H: Yeah and it would have been fun.

J: Well.

H: But instead we'll just play that bad Mario Kart ripoff. Over and over again.

J: Yeah, Sonic the Hedgehog Mario Kart ripoff that is. I don't like to criticize because I know that a lot of the developers for Sonic the Hedgehog's racing game are big fans of Dear John and Hank, but it is not a great game. You guys should have worked harder on that one. Feels like you phoned it in. It's a pretty obvious Mario Kart ripoff.

H: Yeah, it seems a little bit like you took every single thing that Mario Kart has and just did that, but maybe with a little bit more terrible... terrifying colors.

J: Just worse. Just worse in every way. My favorite thing in that game is instead of green and red turtle shells there are green and red boxing gloves, but they do the exact same thing and the red one is heat-seeking just like in Mario Kart and the green one just shoots straight

H: and bounces, just like in Mario Kart.

J: It's amazing. It's beautiful. So I am actually going to AFC Wimbledon's game against Oxford United this weekend which will be in the past when this video is uploaded, but I'm incredibly excited because it's just-- AFC Wimbledon are suddenly THEY'RE IN FIFTH. So we'll see. This is a huge game against Oxford United because Oxford United is third. Oxford is sitting there in that automatic promotion spot, so if they win that game, the math, even with so many game left it doesn't work in Wimbledon's favor. If we win that game, I'm gonna be properly dreaming.

 (51:17) Updates


H: Alright, that's exciting. We've got a couple of updates from the last time we had a podcast. Many people, many people wrote in to say that when we said that if you were bleeding out of any orifice you should go see a doctor, they wanted to remind us that in fact about half of people have that happen regularly and it is a healthy normal thing to have happen. So we apologize for being so... dudes.

J: We were blinded, as we so often are, by...

H: The patriarchy.

J: By the patriarchy. By our own experience.

H: Mhmm. Yes.

J: We also got a comment - speaking of places where we were blind - about social identity from Rachel, who points out that when I said in the Saved By the Bell question from last week "you can't actually separate who you are from how people see you because identity is something that is hashed out is social spaces" that that may be true of ego identity, but that stereotypes of how people see you obviously, that can be extremely destructive, and she says "I think it is possible and positive to be able to separate who you are from the stereotypes that other people have about you or your group, for example all of the research about a phenomenon known as stereotype threat is basically about the benefits of separating yourself from how people see your group." So that's an important and interesting correction comment.

H: And we also had a bunch of-- we had two different people who wrote in about the phrase "turn of the century."

J: Yes.

H: First, somebody who is a linguist and has access to linguistic databases and was able to identify the first time "turn of the century" appeared in print and it was in the 1890s to refer to the turn of the previous century, from 1700 to 1800.

J: Wow.

H: And it was only used like three or four times in that entire century to refer to that, so obviously just a clever turn of phrase, and then in the 1920s it became used much more frequently.

J: 1921 I believe. You're allowed to use it in 2021 and not until then.

H: But Jacob has suggested that since we do not have the opportunity to do this very often, we should in fact be using the phrase "turn of the millennium." There's no reason not to, we can, why not do that in order to avoid confusion in this one century when we can?

J: Yeah, we probably won't be around for the turn of the next millennium so we should enjoy the phrase while it is available to us. Also, we got this comment from Andrew, more of a question but an interesting one. "Dear John and Hank, I dropped my four-sided banana in the sewer half a year ago but I fortunately managed to fish it out. It's been in my cupboard ever since so it's several months past its expiry date. Part of it has been eaten by mold but the rest is in tact if a bit worse for wear. Is it safe to cut the banana up and put it in my cereal? Also, I collect water from stagnant pools around my neighborhood and use that instead of milk. Thanks, Andrew."

H: Uh, that sounds wonderful!

J: (chuckles) Delicious.

H: I bet you could have packed at least three or four more Dear Hank and John references in there. Speaking of which OH MY GOD IT'S BURNING. (John laughs)

 (54:19) Outro


Alright John, what did we learn today?

J: Well, uh... nothing. (Hank laughs) This is not a podcast where we learn anything. We learned that there is winter on Mars!

H: We learned that only recently did Congress decide that the Constitution's request for their consent meant anything at all. (John laughs) Which honestly I did not know and I am fascinated to hear-- to talk to you more about the Supreme Court.

J: I probably got the decade wrong but it was some time in the 20th century. There were a few things before that but it was really only then that they got a real... I want to say "bug in the britches" but I'm not sure that that's actually a phrase. But I think it should be.

H: Sure.

J: They got a real bug in their britches about Supreme Court nominations. Is that a phrase?

H: It sounds like it should be. I'd Google it but the internet doesn't work up here.

J: (laughs) What else did we learn today, Hank? Uhm... we learned that 13 year olds in Germany have better grammar than the average American.

H: And we learned that John is not a real hugger. Nooooot--

J: No. I mean I like hugging but it's just it should be almost exclusively an arms event.

H: Yes, we learned that John believes hugs should be almost exclusively involving arms and potentially in extreme intimate circumstances collar bones.

J: Yeah, I'm OK with collar bones. Thanks for listening to our podcast which is edited by Nickolas Jenkins, our intern is Claudia Morales, you can email us at hankandjohn@gmail.com, or use the hashtag on twitter, Facebook, wherever you hashtag #dearhankandjohn.

H: Our theme music is from Gunnarolla, and as they say in our hometown,

Both: Don't forget to be awesome.