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How do I find joy when my main source of it has been taken away? How do I deal with my unfortunate name, which is not Ryan? How do I handle compliments? How do I deal with over-the-top laughter? How do I deal with the closest thing there is to death? And more!

 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 comedy podcast about death! Where mt brother John and I, we answer your questions, we give you dubious advice, and we bring you all of the week's news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon. John, I was wondering how you're doing?

J: You know, I'm doing really well, mostly because of the news from AFC Wimbledon, but I'm also doing terribly because I just have gotten out of the dentist's office. Like, I have just risen from the dentist's chair as I am recording this, and I am in terrible, terrible pain in my lower jaw.

H: Do they let you cast? Do they let you do the pod from the dentist's office? That's nice of them.

J: No, I mean, I then drove to work, and you know, now I'm here. But yeah, I cannot recommend-- this all started, as you know Hank, many many years ago, like 18 years ago, when I was hit by a bike messenger on the streets of Chicago. His shoulder into my jaw and nose. Uh, and here I am, 18 years later, still being-- I mean, I was in tears, I am not a brave man when it comes to dentistry. Still suffering, trying to get this problem solved once and for all. But hopefully we're only one dental visit away. But then again, it's far too soon to count the chickens. They have not yet hatched. How are you?

H: Good. I wanna ask you a quick question. Answer one of my questions, John. If you could, had the opportunity to, meet that bike messenger, would you? And if so, what would you say?

J: I mean, the thing is, I really, I genuinely don't hold it against the bike messenger because I think that that bike messenger was forced by the nature of his profession to be going the wrong way down a one-way street at great speed, and to be fair to him, I was standing on the curb, and he had to bike, because of where the cars were, very near the curb. And he just didn't notice me. I was reading a book, he was, you know, biking. His shoulder, my face. The one thing I do kind of wish is that maybe he had stopped. He did stop briefly; I lost consciousness for a little bit, and when I regained consciousness, I did see him, but the moment I started to get up, he biked away.

H: He was like, "well, I didn't kill him, let's move on." J: Yeah. It wasn't, I mean, I honestly don't bear him any ill will, it's just funny-- what's that great Fitzgerald line about "you never know how much space you take up in other people's lives?" Like, that bike messenger has no idea how central he has become to my personal narrative.

H: Oh man. Yeah, you never know, you never know. I'm doing good, John. It's beautiful! I'm home in Montana, it's gorgeous. My wife is very ill. Not very, not in a way that that makes that sound, but she's sick, and I'm taking care of her, and I am a pretty happy camper aside from that. I gotta lot of stuff to do, but I'm gonna stop saying that on the pod, John. Because I keep saying it, and I think it makes me sound like a broken record a little bit, and also like a bit of a douche. I don't wanna always be saying "I'm so busy, I'm a busy man."

J: You know, the problem with being busy.

H: I'm a very busy man, John!

J: Back when I lived in Chicago I would often think about this because I would see business people in suits rushing to the train, as if their time was fundamentally more important than my time, and as if the three minutes they might save was going to make a big difference to the rest of their day. And even if that's true, you're correct that it comes across as douchey. That's why I never run to the train. In fact, that's why I never run.

H: You run all the time! You are an exercising fool.

J: Hank would you like a short poem for today?

H: Okay let's do it.

J: This poem is by Francis Darwin Cornford, who Hank you'll be pleased to know was a granddaughter of Charles Darwin himself. This poem is called On Rupert Brooke. Rupert Brooke was a World War I poet who died in World War I. "A young Apollo, golden-haired, stands dreaming on the verge of strife, magnificently unprepared for the long littleness of life." The long littleness of life, one of the great phrases about human existence I think I've ever come across. That poem was recommended by Sam, so thank you Sam. By the way Hank, Francis Cornford's husband was named... Guess!

H: Uh, Charles Darwin!

J: Francis Cornford!

H: Oh interesting.

J: It was Francis and Francis.

H: It woul've been fun it it'd been Charles Darwin and she just kept her maiden name instead of going back to her old... that's what I was hoping for, but I was wrong. It maybe would've been my next guess, John, if you had asked again. Did you know--

J: Do you want to know what Francis Cornford's father's name was?

H: Francis Cornford?

J: No, Francis Darwin of course. Because he was a Darwin.

H: Oh god dangit.

J: Let's move on to some question from our listeners.

H: I want to say first, John. Did you know that the god Apollo was born in a place?

J: I did not.

H: I just think that's very strange, the whole panoply, the whole Greek god stuff, it's all fascinating to me, and I think we understand it improperly in some ways because we are not of that world. And so we read and think about these things inside of our own frameworks. Only recently, and I don't know why I learned this, but it was like "this city in Greece... the birthplace of Apollo." And I was like, Apollo? God's don't get born. But of course they do, because it's a different kind of thing. And that's all I wanted to say, John. Is it time for other things? Is it time for questions? Is that the thing that we do?

 Question One (06:00)

J: I think we should go ahead and address some of the questions our listeners have sent us via the email address

H: Okay, let's do that. We have one here, it's from Foster, and I like this question a lot. It's kind of a Hank question, but I think you can weigh in as well, "Dear Hank and John, according to the dictionary, a desert is 'a region so arid because of so little rainfall that it supports only sparse and widely-spaced vegetation or no vegetation at all.' Does that make outer space a desert?" Yes. That's what I'm gonna say, I'm gonna say yes. What do you think, John?

J: I agree, it's the desertiest desert of all, because the vegetation is, as far as we know, exceptionally sparse.

H: Exceptionally sparse.

J: Like in the big massive universe, there is just the one locale with vegetation.

H: That we know of, certainly. And even if there are millions of spots of vegetation, they are sparse, they are spaced apart.

J: Yeah.

H: And it's interesting to think of the amount of rainfall in space, but in a way, rain does fall, precipitation does fall from space, we know that Earth and other planets are seeded with water from comets that crashed down on Earth, and that's part of the reason why we've been able to maintain the amount of water that we have on Earth throughout the last four billion years. And so in that way it kinda does rain on these little oasises of vegetation, at least in our solar system, and I... And deserts were always kind of seen as, you can think of them like oceans in ancient times, because it was so difficult to cross them that they were basically like, whatever's going on on the other side of that desert has nothing to do with us and kind of never will, and in that same way outer space is our desert right now. It is the inhospitable place that we still cannot cross, and will remain that way at least until we get our butts to Mars, John. Which is also a desert.

J: Well I for one hope that we never begin to cross the desert of outer space, because from what I can tell from soap operas set in space, that's when all the trouble starts.

H: Well there's soap operas here on Earth, too, John. We start trouble everywhere we go.

 Question Two (8:20)

J: Alright Hank, we have another question. This one comes from Isis, who writes "Dear John and Hank, my name is Isis, which is sort of the problem. I'm named after an Egyptian goddess, but ever since the Salafi jihadist militant group started gaining more media attention, my name is viewed from a very different perspective. Every time I introduce myself to someone new, I'm scared for their reaction. While a lot of people are aware of my struggle, there are still people who like to joke about my name and people tend to associate it with something negative, and I don't know how to deal with this. Do you have any advice? Lots of love, Isis. PS Maybe I should consider changing my name to Ryan." First off, Isis, that is a fantastic idea.

H: Let's just have a, I'm surprised that we keep getting questions from not-Ryan. It's upsetting.

J: Yeah it's weird. In fact, Hank, this week we didn't get a single question from Ryan, which is so odd because everyone should have changed their name to Ryan based on our previous podcast.

H: I don't know what they were thinking. Obviously--

J: Maybe they just haven't gotten the memo yet, but Isis, I think the correct decision here is to abandon your name, your family heritage, and your parents, and change your name to Ryan. No, I don't think that's the correct solution at all.

H: I want to point out here that Isis has put the word "struggle" in quotation marks, so Isis is aware that this is... I want everyone to know that, is all.

J: Yeah, no I think Isis is aware that it is a problem of limited import, but still significant to Isis.

H: Yes. That blows. Are we allowed to say that word? I'm sorry.

J: I think we are allowed to say that something blows. But only if we then say "chunks."

H: I think-- that blows chunks, Isis. I apologize for the structure of the universe that this unusual thing has happened to you.

J: Yeah but at the same time I think it's important not to let ISIS hijack your name. Yeah, you've got to continue being Isis and explain over and over and over again as annoying as it might be that you were named after an Egyptian goddess, not after a recently-formed jihadist group.

H: Yeah, what I mean from my previous comment is that we will all be in circumstances in our lives, to great or lesser extents, that are unusual, surprising, weird coincidences that we think "why has this happened to me" but it's because there are so many of them that we are bound to have one of these weird unfortunate things happen to us, and this is one of the ones that has happened to you, Isis. And when they happen the thing to do is just live your life despite it.

J: Yeah I mean the only alternative is to start going by a nickname, which I think is fine if you want to. Like I don't think-- this isn't necessarily the hill one has to fight and die on. If you want to start going by a nickname, I think you should feel welcome to. And if you do choose to start going by a nickname, might I just Ryan.

H: Alright John, we've got another one. This one is from RJ who asks "Dear Hank and John, I'm a biology teacher in Texas were we give a standardized test every year from the state. While I'm proctoring this test, I cannot read, grade papers, plan lessons, work on my computer, or otherwise do anything except stare at the students as they sweat it out for sometimes up to five hours. If I break these rules I could lose my teaching license. Any dubious on how I can pass the time without being bored to death would be much appreciated." Oh I don't know... just burn it all to the ground. That sounds awful. J: Yeah spend those whole five hours fantasizing about a world in which we find ways to measure educational outcomes other than standardized tests.

H: That require such dedication to the prevention of cheating that we require someone to be paid what I hope is a fair wage to sit and do nothing.

J: My first response is just that I'm fascinated by your use of the phrase "bored to death" and I think there's something worth unpacking there. Like David Foster Wallace wrote in The Pale King -- can I read you a quote, Hank?

H: Oh of course you can.

J: "Maybe dullness is associated with psychic pain because something's dull or opaque fails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other deeper type of pain that is always there if only in an ambient low-level way and in which most of us spend nearly all our time and energy trying to distract ourselves from feeling, or at least from feeling directly or with our full attention." And maybe that's like what's so utterly horrifying about the prospect of spending five hours doing nothing, except sort of being alone with your own thoughts. For me at least, the thought of being alone with my thoughts is rather terrifying.

H: Right, I get that. At the same time, we're not all Buddhist monks, and maybe RJ is perfectly well adjusted and fine with being alone and thinking in silence sometimes. But not for five straight hours, consistently several times through the year. I don't know, that seems--

J: No, just once a year.

H: Is it? I don't know.

J: Well that's what it says, it just says once a year. Once a year is not so bad to spend five hours alone with your thoughts unless there's something terrifying inherently about being alone with your thoughts. Which I think there is. Because I think the thing that it raises, the question that it raises, at least for me, when I spend an extended period of time just thinking, is that I am not actually in control of these thoughts. Like I don't actually decide what to think about, which is truly like a horror movie. Like if you're stuck inside of a consciousness but you cannot shape the directions in which it goes, you are kind of like a protagonist in a horror film.

H: Okay, at the same time. I mean, maybe. Maybe there is a fundamental problem with this boredom, that's beyond just the nothing to do, that is the being inside of a brain that one cannot control. That seems to me, I'm just going to disagree with you, and I think that it's fine that we disagree, that seems to me to just not-- doesn't have to be a deep philosophical problem.

It can just be like "I'm bored! and this sucks!" and that's okay. That's how I feel. We can differ, but I don't really have any solution for RJ though, which he's asking for.

Not a clinical diagnosis.

J: I'm not trying to diagnose anybody with anything, I'm just telling RJ that he is not alone it not wanting to be alone with his thoughts for five hours. In fact I think it's pretty much universally human.

H: Yes. And the people who can do it, and spending time, like even five minutes meditating can be very difficult. And my mind is always racing and always doing things. And even if, even if I'm sitting there doing absolutely nothing. That doesn't mean that I'm paying attention to these students. I could be in another world. The idea that I can't be listening to a podcast while I'm watching these kids. Is ridiculous, because whether or not I'm listening to a podcast, there's a podcast in my brain and I could be on Planet Z, like I am not there, and I'm just as oblivious sitting in my chair staring into the darkness of my psyche, as I am listening to Hank and John Green talk about the darkness of my own psyche, right? So I think that this is a dumb rule, and RJ should be allowed to listen to a podcast specifically because there's a great podcast he should be listening to, and he's listening to it right now. Hi RJ!

J: I was gonna recommend My Brother, My Brother, and Me. But I guess this one's alright. The only thing that I would say in the way of real, actual advice, RJ, is that when I was a kid, and to some extent still now, I had this trick that I used to distract myself when I had to be alone with my thoughts, which was that I just doubled numbers. So I would say 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4192, eight thousand three hundred...

H: We get it, John, you know a lot of numbers.

J: And then I would just keep going until I couldn't go anymore, and I got to the point where I'd have to add very slowly in my head, which is a great distraction. Let's move on, Hank, I think we've spent 45 minutes answering this question. Maybe it's time to move on to a different one.

 Question Three (17:58)

H: I think that's probably a good idea. It's from Jackie.. Can I do another one? Should I do another one right now? I feel like I just did two in a row...

J: Sure

H: OK, It's from Jackie and I love this question because it lets me talk about Snapchat. "Dear Hank and John, I'm on the older side of the generation sometimes called 'millennials' and I feel like I'm unique in the fact that I JUST DON'T GET SNAPCHAT. I have one but I don't use it, I got bored. What's so great about it? Why not just use Instagram?" Oh, Jackie, you're so confused.

J: Well, I think the reason not to use Instagram is because Snapchat embraces the temporariness of human existence in a way that Instagram doesn't.

H: Snapchat is primarily a messaging app, which is not what Instagram is at all. Snapchat has become also a social app, but it started out as a messaging app. So just like me sending you basically a text. This is the thing I didn't understand about Snapchat when I first heard about it. When I'm sending you a Snapchat -- like I send Snapchats to my wife, even as a 35 year old man which is weird -- I will be doing something that I know she will know that I spent some time on. So I take a picture, I draw on the picture, and I leave a little note, and I'm like 'I wanted you to see this thing'. And that's like a new form of greeting card. It's a way of spending some time making a thing for a person. Which I think is lovely. Of course that other person has to be on and active on Snapchat in order to get and appreciate that message. But I think that's a lot of the reason behind why people do it. And also, this feature of the temporariness of the Snapchat as an object seems to my brain initially to be a bug not a feature. Like, I want all things to last forever so that I don't lose the things that construct me. Cause losing those things is kinda like little deaths all the time. I don't want to lose those things because I want to continue to keep all those little parts of me alive.

But for someone who's been raised in a world where all things always last forever, that can be terrifying and it's wonderful to think that you can create something and then it will go away. And you don't have to worry about it being a part of who you are forever. You can change. And people who are young change very fast and they don't necessarily want those parts of themselves that are representative of who they were once to be representative of who they are forever. And that is a very understandable thing to me. And that to me is the sort of core functionality of Snapchat and how most people use it. Which is not mostly how I use it, I use it as a way to interact with an audience, because I have one.

 Question Four (19:38)

J: I enjoyed that answer, and I don't want to add to it, because I think that this might be one of the few episodes where you talk more than me, so instead we're just going to move on to another question, from Matt, who writes "Dear John & Hank, love the podcast, I have real trouble dealing with laughs that are just too far over the top. They make me think that nothing could possibly be that funny. I find it very hard to concentrate or enjoy myself when around an over-the-top laugh-er. How do you do with this?"

Well Matt, fortunately I don't have to, because I myself am an over-the-top laugh-er. And so I don't even know what it's like not to be one.

H: As am I. We just aren't going to hang out, you and me, Matt, it's just not going to work out between us. Do you like this podcast? I feel like we over the top laugh all the time.

J: So I went to a play recently that my friend Nat Wolff was in, who was also in the movies Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars. And right as soon as the play ended I got a text from Nat that said, it just said "I could hear your laugh the whole time." And I was like, it's not that loud of a laugh. And he was like, "I could hear your laugh and only your laugh and it was almost impossible to be in the play and be like 'That is John laughing.'"

H: I once watched a movie in a small movie theater, like a little independent movie theater, and then afterward a woman came up to me and she said " I think your laugh is lovely."

J: I almost never get compliments on my laugh, I just get observations about it.

H: Yeah, like literally it's the only time, but I was very pleased and it made me feel good because I don't... Matt, I do worry that the people around you will notice and laugh less, and I think that laughing is one of the best things. I worry about the potential effect that your opinions of laughter might have on the people around you and make them laugh less because they're worried, they're self-conscious about their laughter, which I never want anyone to be.

J: Yeah I have one friend that has what seems to me a weird laugh, and I can't help but notice it whenever they laugh. I'm not even going to risk gender-identifying them for fear that they will know about this and be devastated. And I know that I have that laugh for a lot of people. Like I know a lot of people are like oh my god like he's a nice guy but that laugh, is he kidding? Yeah no, I'm not kidding, I'm just in love with the world! (both laugh) Now we're both so self conscious about it.

H: Yeah like I'm gonna laugh like this! I have this problem when I edit myself, especially conversations, when I'm just being normal Hank, right now I'm sort of being podcast Hank so I have more of a robust laugh, but like normal Hank laugh is very like... it's just laughing at the fun little parts of the conversation that aren't super funny, you're just sort of like reacting. It's very, it's like a wheezy noise, it's like *makes deep exaggerated heeeh sound*. Like that, that I just hate and I always do it on top of people's sentences so it's very difficult to edit the video because I'm like, I hear this weird wheezing begin as soon as it's time for, right before the end of their sentence.

J: Yeah and then you think, well I guess I need to keep the laugh in, because otherwise people will be confused by what that wheeze is, but like I hate the laugh and also it's an unnecessary three seconds in the video. I can totally relate to that, which has nothing to do with Matt's question.

H: No it does not.

J: We are so far off the rails, Hank.

H: We sure are, John.

J: All we can say, Matt, is to judge silently. It's okay to be a silent judger, it's better than being a loud judger.

H: [chuckles] Put it on a shirt! Put that one on a shirt.

 Question Five (23:29)

J: We have another question, Hank. This one comes from Gypsy who asks "Dear John and Hank, I have a beautiful greyhound named Alaska. I adopted her because of Lemon in Hank's video on saving greyhounds." Aw Hank that's so sweet and she named it Alaska that you so much!

H: That's very sweet, I did it! I did it.

J: "She falls asleep as soon as I start playing your podcast. Your voices must be very soothing for her. She howls and cries whenever we leave the house, so I was thinking if I could play your podcast for her while we're gone, it might calm her down. How do you suggest I do this, as I cannot obviously leave my phone at home playing it and I don't have an iPod and she'll definitely destroy my laptop if it's left out. Do you have any suggestions?"

Yes, Gypsy, I have a solution that suits both of us very very well. Which is that Hank and I would like to send you an iPod in exchange for you playing our podcast on a loop over and over to your greyhound, which will be great for our download numbers and great for your greyhound, and third great for you because free iPod. So write us at, we'll get you an iPod.

H: Oh damn, we're giving away iPods now, John.

J: No, just that one. Just one, and only because the person agreed to listen to our podcast over and over, or at least have her dog listen.

 Question Six (24:44)

H: Okay. I love, I love it. We've got another question, this is from Sarah, John. Do you want to hear a question from Sarah?

J: Yes.

H: She asks, "Dear Hank & John, I find myself in awkward situations quite often but there is always one that seems to be recurring, when people compliment me--" It's interesting that you say that it's recurring, (sarcastically) 'people compliment me so often I just don't know what to do' -- (reading question again) "I always seem to just smile and nod along and awkwardly laugh. How is someone supposed to respond to compliments? Do I compliment back? Please help." Well I was just talking about this time that a woman came up to me in public and complimented me on my laugh and she was a stranger. And that was well into my history of figuring out how to deal with this. Because I used to suck at it a lot. And I think that there is kind of a problem with the way that we are taught to respond to compliments, which is to basically say "no I'm not that great," basically invalidate their opinion by saying like you're wrong I'm nothing special.

J: Right right. What you want to do instead is you want to acknowledge the compliment and share with the person who complimented how it made you feel. So some way of saying "Thanks, that's very kind" or "thanks, I really needed that today." I don't think it makes sense to respond immediately with a compliment of your own because it's weird, right? So like, for instance, if someone says to you "oh my gosh I love that Doctor Who t-shirt" you could say "thank you." What you don't want to say is "thank you, I love your scarf." Because if you say "I love your scarf" -- it's clear, we all know what you're doing there, right?

Like that isn't born of a natural love for the scarf, it's born of like a panicked looking at the person and trying to identify something you can compliment about them. And when you say "I love your scarf," all it makes me think is "oh, every other part of me must be totally reprehensible." Because this person needed to find a compliment and the only thing they could find is my scarf.

H: Though you can compliment them on their compliment by saying something like "oh I love Doctor Who, do you also love Doctor Who? I find that great people love Doctor Who." Or "thanks for saying that, I really appreciate people who take the time to say nice things to people." Like that sort of thing. I like the idea of appreciating people's appreciation because I think that that breeds more and I think that appreciation is one of the vital currencies of human interaction that is in demand and in short supply.

J: Hank I like that we've gone back to agreeing, after our brief fight over the deathliness of boredom.

H: (laughing) the stupidest thing ever.

J: I'm really glad that we've gone back to just the old school Hank and John always on the same page business. Speaking of which, let's ask--

H: I was just going to say, I think we should disagree more. There has to be some tension in the pod, John.

J: Well unfortunately I just don't often disagree with you, at least not about important things. I disagree with you about silly things like zombies versus unicorns or whether Batman is an interesting superhero, but we don't disagree about like the core deep down stuff, I think possibly because we were raised by the same parents.

H: Right, like Snapchat. We agree on Snapchat.

J: I like Snapchat more than I used to because I now understand it to be a messaging app, not a social media app. And I like it. Like Sarah and I have also started using it, and it's a sweet way to, as you said, make a greeting card. So I am, I would say, 40% converted to Snapchat, but in general I have to say that I find my overall interest in virtual experiences and virtual networks to have declined in the last year.

H: Yeah.

J: For the first time in my life. I mean since I was you know 12 and my dad brought home the internet, I have liked the internet more every year until last year, and that's kind of a distressing turn of events in my own life. But I'll get over it.

H: Okay well you should make a video about that, I'd love to hear more. And I am kind of there with you.

J: I don't know how to make a video about it though. I don't know how to talk about it because--

H: Yeah, it's very sad.

J: I'm going to seem ungrateful, I think, if I talk about it honestly. Like I'm going to seem like the kind of person I don't want to be, which maybe I am, I don't know. But I don't think I'm settled enough to make a video about it. Instead I think I'm going to make tomorrow's video about how Looking for Alaska was just announced as the Most Challenged Book of last year by the American Library Association.

H: But Panama Papers, John, I need you to explain it to me.

J: I was going to make a video about how to make a million dollars a year and only pay $45000 in taxes but then it proved to be so complicated that I gave up on it. The Panama Papers are complicated because corporate law is intentionally complicated because that's how tax avoidance, basically at its core, works, is by being too complex to effectively unravel. And so trying to make a video about it is just completely overwhelming to me. And I'm working like day and night on my novel, so I don't really have a ton of energy to spend on the Panama Papers, but I hope you make a video about it. I would greatly enjoy your take.

H: Uh that's not gonna happen, 'cause I've got a lot of other stuff to do.

 Question Seven (30:25)

J: Well see there we're both in the same boat. Let's answer one more question before we get to the all-important news from AFC Wimbledon and the slightly-important news from Mars.

H: Okay John, I have one that I've wanted to ask since the beginning but I haven't got to yet. This is a more serious question, John. It's from Margaret, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, I'm in a rather dire need of some dubious advice. I'm very passionate about gymnastics, I practice four hours a day and six days per week, but I have recently fractured my spine and even though it will heal and it's not as threatening as it sounds, I have to take six months off. I'm pretty devastated and I was wondering what you think are good ways to find joy and happiness and purpose when I could not do what I want to be doing."

This is something that I think about a lot because I am also a dedicated gymnast. Not actually. I cannot touch my toes. But I am worried that the thing I love and want to do will somehow be taken away from me, whether that's because it will just become like this thing will just become less interesting culturally, whether that's the pod or it's the videos. Or because like some terrible thing will happen in my life where I can't do it anymore. So I do think about this. Do you want to talk about it John, or should just I?

J: Well I actually have a little bit of direct experience in the field. Without being overly dramatic, after my book The Fault in Our Stars came out, the attention and wide readership and success of it was so overwhelming and paralyzing to me that it became totally impossible to write, which had never been a problem in my life and I'd always made fun of writer's block and it wasn't that I couldn't write words down on a page, it's that I couldn't have the experience of writing that I loved. Which was sort of this experience of being alone inside of a story, navigating my way through it, feeling like I wasn't stuck inside of my body or myself, and all of that was taken away from me because I was just so hyper-conscious of the audience and what people would think and what people would say and the fact that I might have to publish it some day and I could't get that stuff out of my head.

J: I think that's a pretty common problem among writers who have successful books, and a lot of times it's the end of their career. Like for, a couple writers come to mind, JD Salinger never wrote a novel after Catcher in the Rye, and Harper Lee never wrote a novel after To Kill a Mockingbird. And I think, it was really hard, it was a bad time in my life, and it's only really just ended in the last ten months or so.

J: And what I did, and what I would recommend you do, Margaret, is I found other stuff that I liked doing and I tried to treat this setback as an opportunity to explore those things. So I couldn't write, and that sucked and I had written pretty much every day since 2002, and I couldn't do that. But I could do other stuff that I liked doing.

J: That's a lot of where the initial energy behind Crash Course World History came for me, a lot of energy behind the podcast came for me, lots of other things too. I just had to find other things that I liked doing and get excited about about them. And I'm sure that there are those things in your life, whether it's reading or writing fanfiction about Chewbacca and Han Solo having a romantic relationship, whatever it is, that you just find that stuff and you celebrate it and get excited about it and sort of use that as a focus for your energy until you can get back to training.

H: That is a lot of exactly what I wanted to say, John. We agree too much. I will also say that in general when we dedicate ourselves to things day-in day-out and those things then temporarily, of forever, go away, that can seem like a tremendous end. And almost like a waste, like we spent all this time doing this thing that we can longer do but while there are certainly things that you have learned while doing gymnastics that aren't directly applicable to other stuff, there are lots of things that we when we dedicate ourselves to anything that we learn that will be very applicable to how to control yourself, how to dedicate yourself, how to get excited, how to interact with other people, self control is just a huge thing in all of ours lives and will always be, and obviously something that you have found a way to get at. And I think that that's the important thing, that you find other ways in this six months and in the future when you are no longer doing gymnastics, because that doesn't tend to be something that people do for their whole lives, that you find ways to dedicate yourself, like find those same wells of passion for new things, and find ways to apply the skills that you have learned to the new things that you are into. And I'm sorry to hear about your injury and I hope that you recover quickly.

 Commercial Break (35:50)

H: And this podcast is brought to you by the rapid recovery of Margaret. The rapid recovery of Margaret: hopefully six months or less.

J: And this podcast is also brought to you by over-enthusiastic laughter. Over-enthusiastic laughter--


H: This podcast is also brought to you by judging silently. Judging silently: the correct response to over-enthusiastic laughter.

J: And of course this podcast is brought to you by boredom. Boredom: the closest thing we have to understanding death itself.

H: Ah, the unavoidable darkness inside of all of us. And I also want to say this podcast is brought to you by our supporters on Patreon. If you want to go there and participate in the community, we also do a monthly livestream before we record so that we can talk a little bit with ya'll. And those are always really fun. Tends to be the first Tuesday of the month. And, is that right John?

J: I think it's... I don't know. Can I say one more thing about Margaret though? But yes thank you to our Patreon subscribers. You know I was just thinking... you love gymnastics but that doesn't mean you are gymnastics, and a lot of times those two ideas get kind of co-mingled in our heads, like I mean me specifically as a writer, like you know in a way you are your writing, because I say out loud "I am a writer" or "I am a gymnast" -- which I'm not -- and that makes you think of it not just as something that you love but something that's you. And when that's taken away, it feels like you have lost you. But you haven't of course because you are a gymnast, but you're also of course many other things. And I would just encourage you to remember that.

 Updates (37:45)

H: Yeah, absolutely. We've got some news from Mars, John, if you're interested in that.

J: Yeah I wanted to do a couple quick updates, Hank, if we could.

H: Oh about other things? Besides Mars and AFC Wimbledon?

J: Just previous things that we talked about on the podcast. First off I just wanted to say Ryan's name a couple of times. Ryan Ryan. And the other thing is Orianna wrote in, and I thought this was a really interesting comment, because when we were talking about drive thrus and who should be allowed to use the drive thru lane and the fact that we think that like families with ten children should be allowed to use the drive thru lane because it's such a pain to unhook your kids from their car seats. Orianna wrote in, and she made a great observation, which is that we were thinking about that only from the perspective of the people using the drive thru lane.

She writes, "Dear John and Hank, we need to talk about drive thrus and your recent comments on them. I'm a university student who supports herself by working part time during the school year at an establishment that includes a drive thru. Drive thrus are supposed to be fast."

H: Way to be vague!

J: "This is so much the case that most corporate fast food business impose mandatory drive thru time standards. Where I work, at peak hours, we're allotted a maximum average of 50 seconds for the entire process of ordering, paying, and receiving food. There's a timer over the window that counts as the person sits there trying to find their change and begins to flash red after 20 seconds. If people sit at the speaker thinking about what they want for two minutes, that counts toward our times. If we don't consistently meet our corporate standards, our store risks being shut down which makes owners come down hard on managers, and managers come down hard on employees. So if you have ten children, perhaps consider sending one of the adults into the store to purchase the food. If this isn't an option and you must come through the drive thru, at least figure out what everyone wants before you pull up, and try to have your wallet out and your payment ready when you get to the window." That's a great observation. Thank you Orianna.

H: Wow, I mean, there is a piece of me that is very frustrated with the established corporate structure that should accept that there are places and times when lots of families will be going through the drive thru, and thus there is a reason that has nothing to do with employees why it is taking so long.

J: Yeah but that said, we live in the world in which we live. So if you're using a drive thru, remember Orianna. Have your order and your payment ready.

H: Yes, have your payment and your order ready. Especially if there's a line. What amazes me when I feel like there's a line and I've been waiting in the drive thru for like six cars, and then the car ahead of me has like one person in it, and they're clearly just thinking. And I'm like, what are you thinking about? You've had like twenty minutes to decide. There's only so many items on the menu!

J: Alright I also want to point out one other thing, Hank. Nicole and Steven wrote in "Dear John and Hank, on this week's podcast that your GPA in college does not matter. While this may be true for you, it is not true in certain fields." Which is a really good point. "They include medical school, other specialized grad schools, most Ph. D programs especially in the sciences, and if you apply for certain positions in the scientific industry, like doing bench-top work at wet labs, they look at your lab GPA." So sometimes your GPA in college does matter.

H: Yeah I've been thinking about that question a lot, actually. I've continued to think about it, and I don't know that we did the best job of answering that particular question, which was about how frustrating it can be to struggle with work while watching other people cheat and get good grades in college.

J: No, I agree, we were pretty dubious. We're generally dubious, but we might have put a like a little dubious sauce on the dubious burger.

H: It sounds delicious though. Can I get it in the drive thru? That's a great point, Nicole and Steven. And I also just like, in thinking about that question I have continued to think that it is just so difficult to feel direct injustice and to know that like this thing is happening and I'm being negatively impacted by doing the right thing.

J: Yeah, it is annoying.

H: And I do want to commiserate with people who are in those situations, and certainly not invalidate their feelings.

 News From Mars (42:11)

J: I agree. Hank, what is the week's news from Mars?

H: So John you know how here on Earth we spend a lot of time, you in particular, worrying about things that could cause the destruction of the human race? Like asteroid impacts, comet impacts, that kind of thing? You would say maybe that the impact of a comet, a large comet, the size of the say West Virginia or something, that's pretty big, but we'll just say that, would be a bad thing for Earth. Life on Earth. Right?

J: I think it would be very bad.

H: So that would be a very bad thing for life on Earth. However, according to recent research, the periods of time when lots of things, asteroids and comets, bombarded early in the formation of the solar system, bombarded Earth and Mars and a lot of the inner planets, and probably a lot of the outer planets although there's less evidence out there because they're made of gas, and created like all the craters on the moon and a lot of craters on Mars.

These periods of time are thought of as hostile times, right? But according to recent research, they might have been very good times for life on Mars, because in addition to the constant bombardment of, and the changes to the surface that this would create, and the instability it would create, both on Earth and on Mars, it would add water and heat to Mars, which are two things that would be very good for Mars in terms of being habitable. Good for life. And so you would see things like Yellowstone National Park-y areas, places where there's heat that could be used for life.

There's weird chemicals that are forming and those chemicals could be digested, they might be formed because of the heat, and as they cool off they could be digested and the energy that ws stored in them by the heat could be used by organisms. So you have these geothermal areas, you have more water, and in general the best time on life for Mars might have been those periods of time which we would consider the least conducive to life for Earth. But indeed also may have been good times for microbial life on Earth.

And more and more we're thinking that Mars might have a really good place for microbial life, just at this point no longer one of the oases of the universe that Earth has become, where not just life exists but life is on the life that is on the life. There's so much life, it's everywhere and you can't get away from it. Even in your own body, John. You're covered in life.

J: Really especially in your own body, covered in life both inside and out. It's like just a life, what is it like, it's like you're a life sandwich. Where I am the meat in the middle, and I got life on the inside and outside of me.

H: You're more of a life donut, John.

 News From AFC Wimbledon (45:23)

J: Okay let's get to the news from AFC Wimbledon. I am distressed by the news from Mars. So Hank you may know that your six year old nephew Henry, my son, is a soccer player, he plays in a kid's soccer league, under 7's. And he had a game, as it happens, during the exact same time as AFC Wimbledon's game this weekend.

H: Oh my goodness.

J: Which made for some very compelling watching on my part. Henry's team won, he played great. And AFC Wimbledon, playing Plymouth, one of the top five teams in League 2, was winning 1-0 thanks to a goal from the Montserratian Messi that man Lyle Taylor, and they gave up a goal. Plymouth was heavily favored in the game, and then it was looking like it was going to be a 1-1 draw, which did not suit AFC Wimbledon's interests really at all. And then in the 88th minute, Adebayo Akinfenwa, the largest man in professional football, scored an Adebayo Akinfenwa brilliant vintage goal, coming on as a substitute, scores a goal, AFC Wimbledon wins 2-1, and suddenly finds themselves, not in 10th where they were last week, but in 7th, the final playoff position.

7th place goes into the playoffs. 4-5-6-7 all play each other in the playoffs for one spot in League 1, the third tier of English football, and AFC Wimbledon are currently sitting in that final playoff position, level on points with the teams in 8th and 9th but with a better goal difference, and just two points ahead of the teams in 10th and 11th, and only three points ahead of the team in 12th.

So basically there are a lot of teams fighting for that final playoff spot. But right now AFC Wimbledon is in the driver's seat. I would also add that they have a game in hand, having played one less game than other teams that are looking to get that final playoff spot.

It is tense at the top, Hank. It is very very tight. AFC Wimbledon having a far better season than anyone anticipated, I think it's safe to say. And after that win, consecutive wins agains Wycombe and Plymouth, both teams likely to go to the playoffs, it's looking possible. I'm dreaming.

H: That's exciting, John. I am very pleased that AFC Wimbledon has had such an exciting season for us to talk about here on Dear Hank & John, because it could easily have been super boring.

J: I mean, we're very lucky because most seasons the season would be well over by now, or we'd be looking down at the bottom of the table in true epic fear.

H: So how many games are there left?

J: Well that depends on which team you are. If you are any of AFC Wimbledon's opponents, there are 5 games left. And if you are AFC Wimbledon there are 6 games left. So other than Portsmouth, which is one spot ahead of us on the table, all the teams that are likely to go to the playoffs have played 41 games. We have only played 40. So it is tense, and it is tight. According to bookies, and like gambling professionals, AFC Wimbledon has about a 66% chance of going to the playoffs, which again that would just be an amazing result for the year. But I am properly dreaming now, I have figured out how I am going to get to the playoff final, should they make it there.

H: Wow.

J: I'm going to have to drive directly from the Indianapolis 500 to the airport.

H: Oh my goodness. They have to win the first game, and then go to the final after that.

J: The first game is actually kind of a home and away. It's two games. So it's like cumulative score over those two games. You play one away and one at home. And then if you win that then you get to go to the playoff final. So you know there's a 66% chance of AFC Wimbledon having a 25% chance of getting into League 1. So it's not, the odds are still stacked well against them. But hope is the thing with feathers.

H: Yes indeed, yes indeed. Congratulations John. I'm excited for you, and even a little excited for myself, so that's saying something.

J: Hahaha yes, it's happening!

 Outro (49:53)

H: What did we learn today,  John?

J: Well we learned that Gypsy's getting an iPod.

H: That's what you get for adopting a greyhound. It's the only way to be a truly good-- no. [both laugh]

J: Two kinds of people in this world. Good people, and people who don't own greyhounds.

H: I do want to encourage people-- Uh, we learned that you can accept compliments, and that's a good thing to do to appreciate other people's appreciations even if it is difficult because we are taught to be humble folk.

J: We learned that you must have your order and your method of payment ready when you get to the drive thru.

H: Absolutely. And we learned that we are surrounded by an infinite desert that is space.

J: Is it infinite?

H: We're not sure, John. There's a fair chance.

J: Wow.

H: It's a 25% chance that there's a 67% that it's infinite.

J: Yeah, if AFC Wimbledon make it to League 1 I am announcing that the universe is infinite.

H: 'Cause how else could it have happened?

J: Exactly. Only in an infinite universe full of infinite possibility can a team like AFC Wimbledon make it, not to the 8th tier of English football, or even to the 4th tier, but to the 3rd tier. Just two promotions away from the Premier League, Hank. Oh man, it's hard not to imagine a day when the John Green stand is hosting Manchester United fans. But we'll see. We'll see.

H: You know John, I think that might be a little out of your budget at that point.

J: It probably will be. But I have an existing relationship. Well hopefully by then I'll be super rich from having made the AFC Wimbledon movie.

H: 'Cause everyone knows that's where the real money is. Alright John. I just want to thank you for being a podcaster with me, I want to thank all of the people for sending in their questions, which you can do. You can send them to

We are also @hankgreen and @johngreen on Twitter. You can find us there. That's two different Twitter handles, not just the one.

We have our Patreon at, which helps pay for our intern and the editor of this podcast. Our intern is Claudia Morales, our editor is Nicholas Jenkins. Rosianna Halse Rojas helps us find good questions in the Dear Hank and John email address, again

Our theme music is by Gunnarolla. And as they say in our hometown, Don't Forget To Be Awesome. Did I get all the things?

J: You did, but I forgot to say don't forget to be awesome with you. So we're gonna do it again. Because that's how we go out.

H: I did it very poorly. And as we say in our hometown...

Both: Don't forget to be awesome.