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Where are all the Bob Ross paintings? Why is a minor injury more painful to me than literal childbirth? How do I get myself a surprise party? And more!

 Intro (00:00)


(Intro Song)


H: Hello and welcome to Dear Hank and John.


J: Or as I'd prefer to think, Dear John and Hank.


H: It's a comedy podcast about death, where me and my brother John answer your questions, give you dubious advice, and bring you all the week's news about both Mars and AFC Wimbledon except this week, we're not gonna do that, 'cause this is being recorded in advance.  How are you doing, John?

J: I'm doing well, thanks for asking, that's so sweet of you to be thoughtful like that.  The other thing that we need to say, Hank, is that in addition to this podcast being recorded very far in advance, we're taking a week off after this week, which is, you know, good news for people who don't like dubious advice but bad news for people who love AFC Wimbledon and get their AFC Wimbledon news only from Dear John and Hank, which I know is a pretty significant portion of fans of the podcast, most of them, I assume, listen to the news from AFC Wimbledon.  Just follow me on Twitter or follow AFC Wimbledon on Twitter to find out what happens, whether the Dons did indeed qualify for the playoffs.

H: Oh, so this is happening like, right at the, like, most important moment in the history of this year's AFC Wimbledon.

J: And arguably the most important moment in the history of AFC Wimbledon, potentially, because potentially, we have a 25% chance of going over to league one and becoming the greatest third tier soccer team in not just the history of England, but the whole history of the universe.

H: Oh, that's exciting, John.  Well, I'm doing well as well, and we're gonna answer some questions, does that--oh, no, you've got a poem!  You've got a poem!  Poem!  Poem!  Poem!

J: Hank!  Hank!  Hank!  Usually, we have a poem at this part of the day.

H: But?

J: Well, do you want one?

H: Yeah!  Well, as much as I ever do.  

J: I thought we'd read another poem from Frances Cornford, Hank, the poet whose husband was named Frances Cornford.  This one is called The Guitarist Tunes Up.  


"With what attentive courtesy, he bent over his instrument, not as a lordly conqueror who could command both wire and wood, but as a man with a loved woman might, inquiring with delight what slight essential things she had to say before they started, he and she, to play."

It's a little dirty, but you know, I figure we can handle it.  

H: Yeah.  Alright.

J: Alright, Hank, should we answer some questions from our listeners?  

H: Uh, yeah.

 Question One (2:34)


J: This question comes from Lisa, who writes, "Dear John and Hank, My fiance is starting a start-up.  He has funding and everything, it's super swell.  This isn't his first time doing the start-up thing, but it is his first time doing it in a serious relationship.  He's already starting to feel pulled in multiple directions, like going to bed together, getting up together, doing all the work, staying in shape, plus normal day-to-day eating, cooking, cleaning stuff, and feels stressed because he doesn't feel like he's working enough.  It is true that if he were working more, the products would get out the door faster, but it's also true that if he burns himself out in the process, it's moot, as busy well-rounded business people in successful relationships, what words of advice would you have for us?"  

H: I love the idea of a successful relationship.  Every day of my relation--it's full of success.

J: I love the idea that we are well-rounded business people.  I don't know anyone in my life who is less well-rounded than Hank.  

H: Whatever do you mean!

J: I mean, you spend--you regularly send e-mails at 3:15 in the morning.  

H: Uhhhh I mean, 'cause it's a part of my roundness.  It's--you gotta go all the way around if you wanna be round!  

J: Yes, Hank is an extremely well-rounded individual, as long as you are only measuring work output.  

H: Yeah, it happens at all times.  I--oh, yeah, I don't know, it's gonna be a hard one for me, because I don't know that I'm that good at this, actually.

J: I don't think you're at all good at it.  

H: I do work out at least twice a week.  I sometimes make dinner, like two or three times a week, I watch, like, maybe an hour or two of TV a day, and I read probably one book a month, so I feel like I do okay.  

J: Yeah, but I mean--yeah, okay, that's fine.  So what is your tip?  Where, I mean, you are somebody who has a lot of starting up of companies that have become successful and now you have to run them while also starting up new companies to fill some gaping hole in your heart that only apparently more business ideas can fill.  So what is--what is your advice?

H: Uh, well, I kind of think it's a bit of a shame that this is how it's structured now, that like, you have to dedicate yourself 100 hours a week to one thing in order to compete with all the people who are, you know, dedicating themselves to something for 90 hours a week, because that's the only way to get ahead and that's how your, you know, your investors are looking at you for your output, and to get the product out, and I mean, it is such a struggle, and like, my life isn't like that because in the end, I don't have investors, I am responsible to my employees, I am responsible to myself, and I am responsible to my audience, but like, in the end, like, if something, if there's a reason why I can't do something, I can say that reason, and it's not someone who is paying me or has this like, you know, this sort of very interesting relationship that funders have with founders.  So, I don't--I get to make a lot more decisions, I feel like, than the average business owner, in terms of how I spend my time, but um, but my suggestion--but the main thing is--here's my tip. Figuring out how to not feel like you're being lazy, when you are in fact taking care of yourself, is about valuing that. It is about valuing the other things in your life. And because of this I have a kind of unhealthy way of looking at it but it is the only way I can manage to do it where I think of the things, like taking care of myself, taking care of my relationships, as projects in the same way as I think of my businesses. And so I'm like creating a happy, pleasant home environment that I enjoy and that is constructive to me is, itself, an important venture, an important project that I am taking on, and one of the big projects of my life, and like one of the most important things that I will do with my life. And looking at it that way allows me to not feel like I'm not working enough when I'm doing something that isn't traditionally considered work. That's what I got.

J: I like that answer a lot. I do think that adulthood for me has largely been about prioritization, and then to a lesser extent, about weight gain.

H: (laughs)

J: And then the third thing that I would say that adulthood has been about for me has been, uh, eschatological anxiety. I've had a lot of worry about the end of me, and then to a lesser extent, of the species.

H: Oh, well. We got there early, John.

 Question Two (7:40)


H: Alright, we've got another question. This one is from Carly Grace, who asks: "Dear Hank and John, Bob Ross said multiple times that he's painted over 30,000 paintings, and I want one. He also said he's donated over 2,000 of them. Where are those 28,000 other paintings? That's a lot of paintings! I imagine if he had like five paintings they would each be worth huge sums of money, but because this man painted so many, they might not be worth that much. Sentimentality? Sure. But because there are so many, can I just pick one up for $20? Where does one find a Bob Ross painting?"

J: Hank, I do not know the answer to this question. Do you?

H: Uhh, I kind of know the answer to this question, in that if Bob Ross painted 30,000 paintings, which he said that he did and I'm going to trust that he did, I, they all have homes. People like them and they have them and they're on their walls and they do not want to sell them. Because it is very hard to find a Bob Ross painting.

J: It is.

H: And you can buy them, but they are expensive. They're like $10,000, or like, thousands of dollars at least. And there are also, like, a lot of various kinds of Bob Ross paintings, and some- he did a lot of smaller ones. Before he was a person on TV he would paint like gold panning pans, when he lived in Alaska, and so those are like, ya know, very valuable because he did them a long time ago, versus smaller canvases versus- and like I think a lot of them were given away to like friends and family and students and donated and then purchased in fund drives by PBS people, and the people who have those want to keep them. And there are a lot of Bob Ross fans in the world, and having a Bob Ross painting on your wall is a really cool thing to have, so amazingly enough, you can have painted 30,000 paintings and still have people want to pay lots of money for them. Pretty crazy!

J: It is, although to be clear I don't think there are 30,000 Bob Ross paintings in circulation. I think a lot of those have been lost, or maybe he painted them over, who knows. We don't have a great idea of how many Bob Ross paintings are currently in circulation.

H: Yes, and certainly less than 30,000 or even 28,000, because probably, like, when he's saying that, this is Bob Ross saying "I've painted a lot of paintings, that is how I am now able to do this quickly and well." But a lot of those paintings were probably just scrapped. And like, "I don't like this, I don't like this, I don't like this." And that's part of the process of being a creator, is often times as John certainly knows, you do not publish every word you write.

J: I have published fewer novels than I have written.

H: And I'm sure that that's true for Bob Ross, that he painted a lot more paintings than ended up being in the hands of other people.

J: It occurs to me belatedly that lots of people probably don't know who Bob Ross is. He was a painter who painted on public television in the United States, and encouraged the idea that everyone had sort of the ability to paint, and helped us sort of like see something that regular people did, not just that was done by geniuses in ivory towers. 

  Question Three (10:50)


J: Hank, we have another question. This one comes from Paul, who writes, "Dear John and Hank, Over the past year I've watched my favorite soccer team, Aston Villa, become the worst team in the English Premier League. I am from the US, and I have been a fan for about 5 years, but since the second tier of English football is not televised in the states, and Aston Villa will certainly be relegated within the next few weeks (bad news, that "will certainly be relegated" must be changed now, Paul, to "has indeed been relegated") is it wrong to swap my favorite teams? It feels disloyal after closely following them for years, but I have no other choice if I'm going to get my English football fix."

J: So here's my answer, Paul, and I'm interested to see what Hank thinks about this question (just kidding, he has no opinion). First off, you can watch the championship, the second tier of English football on TV. It's on BN Sports. Not every game is televised, but lots are. It's not necessarily an HD broadcast, but it is a television broadcast, which frankly, I would kill to watch AFC Wimbledon every week. And I am not exaggerating. I. Would. Kill. 

No, I wouldn't.

H: (laughs) People die all the time!

J: Yeah, I mean you know. I'm gonna need like, more context of who I'm killing, and why I'm kill- no. I wouldn't kill.

H: (laughs)

J: So I would say, my experience following AFC Wimbledon from afar, which, I'm lucky if they have one televised game per year, is that it is still very fulfilling. And I'm able to watch Premeire League soccer and enjoy it even when Liverpool isn't playing, as a neutral fan. So I think you can have a second team. Sometimes I think it's good to have a second team, it's nice to have a rooting interest, but I don't think you should leave Aston Villa behind. Not least because I think they are very likely to head back to the Premiere League within the next couple years. So I wouldn't leave Aston Villa, but your support for Liverpool is always welcome.

H: Alright, that's all I have to say on that myself. 

 Question Four (12:55)


H: This question is from Krista, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, I recently went through natural childbirth without drugs, or uttering even one single curse word. So I consider myself pretty tough. However, the other day I pulled out a hangnail, and it pulled too far. Every time I move that finger, I think, 'Ouch, that HURTS!' Why is this very small stupid injury so troublesome?"

J: (laughs) I mean...

H: I don't know!

J: The idea of enduring natural childbirth without the benefit of obscenity just seems unthinkable to me. I know that wasn't the question, but I just want to say that for the record. I have witnessed childbirth on a few occasions, and the thought of not having profanity at your disposal in that time of need just seems unfathomable.

H: Yeah, Iiiiii also am amazed. But now I do know, though, John, that when I get a really bad hangnail, I'm basically experiencing the same pain as childbirth. So.

J: I don't think that's accurate. Um, Krista, I will say

H: Duh - Krista seems to think so

J: Yeah, the only thing I'd Krista is your fingertips, uh, have a lot of nerve endings...

H: That's true!

J: So that you can, you know, feel things and that maybe why it hurts so much. I can't imagine that it hurts actually worse than childbirth not least because, uh, my wife is in the next room, and just came out from that room to look into this room to look at me very sternly...

H: Hahahaha

J: To make clear that childbirth is very painful - much more painful than a hangnail. Yeah.

H: Yeah, there may be a matter of scale of, like, going into the experience saying this is going to hurt very badly versus "there is this thing that is going to happen to me all the time and it's stupid, and, why, why. Why does this hurt so bad, uh, is a useless tiny tiny tiny thing, and it shouldn't. And so you think-- so one would be like, "why. This is dumb."

J: Haha. Alright Hank, let's move onto another question.

 Question Five (15:01)


J: This one is from Megan, who writes, "Dear John and Hank, what do you think are the top five best things humanity has ever invented." 

H: Ahhhuuhhh;

J: This is a great question.

H: Should we? Should we do the fun list or the real list?

J: No, I think we should do the real list, what are the
top five all-time things that humanity has invented.

H: Uhh, language!

J: Mmmmmm, ah, that's a good one. That's a good one. And now, there's a question of like, do you count, like, fire; which we didn't invent, but we did master in...

H: Right.

J: And it's proven very useful.

H: Well, you could say that we invented the processes... 

J: Right and...

H: in regards to the creation of fire

J: Like we didn't really invent penicillin, so much as we discovered it... 

H: Right.

J: But it's been huge. However, I would not rank penicillin as in the top five.

H: No, me neither.

J: I would rate language at the top five, I think it's a good one. Alright Hank, this is my, uh, sort of twentieth century, actually nineteen Actually, nineteenth century nomination for the top five: the steam engine. 

H: Um, good. I was actually to say- um, yes. So, hmm- I- can we put the steam engine together with the electrical generator? Could that be one? 

J: Yes.

H: Because that definitely...

J: Yes...

H: Yeah.

J: I think we almost have to.

H: I mean, like...

J: Yeah.

H: Steam engines were good and useful, but like...

J: Yeah, and electricity slash- slash the steam engine.

H: Connecting them to generators. Yeah. That's-

J: Yeah, okay.

H: And those were very different times and happened, you know, in different people and different places, but like, that's- that's a good one.

J: Mhm. Um, what about, uh, what about, uh, sanitation slash, uh, sewers slash toilets.

H: Yeah! I think that, I think that's a really good one. I think the- yes. That'll, that basically allowed for cities to work. 

J: Yeah, it's one of my top five just because I'm such a big fan of, uh, of not- not cholera.

H: Mhm, mhm. I think, uh, I think we would be remissed to leave out, uh, the invention of taking a seed, uh, that you want to grow and putting it in the ground intentionally for it to grow there.

J: Yeah.

H: Um,

J and H: That was huge. 

J: Agriculture.

H: Yeah, agriculture...

J: Agriculture is a big deal.

H: Agriculture and all of the, uh, all of the processes of, you know, that go along with agriculture of selecting the things that went well, that- and having, you know, and planting those more and then selecting the things that went well over and over again through generations, uh, has been a really big one, uhm.

J: Yup. We've got one more.

H: We've got one more?

J: I think that we're- I think that we're on the same page about what the fifth one has to be.

H: Uhh...is it-

J: Let's just say it on three. Ready? One, two, three, vaccines!

H: Bowling pins!

J: Haha oh! Bowling pins are great, but I think vaccines are an even bigger deal than the personal computer.

H: Dahahahah.

J: I would be alright without the personal computer. I don't- I mean, we wouldn't have this podcast.

H: That's for sure.

J: But, I don't think I'll be alright without vaccines.

H: No! I mean... antibiotics are a really big deal too.

J: Yeah, no. I like antibiotics. But I think vaccines are a bigger deal.

H: I'm not sure which one I think is bigger. I'm not sure which one I think is bigger. I guess, you know, vaccines probably bigger than antibiotics. It's hard! I don't know!

J: Yeah, they're both great. I'll tell you what, when people ask me, like, what period of the past I would like to go back to, just, none. None. Because all of those periods in the past, terrible. 

H: Terrible.

J: Terrible.

H: Terrible, full of...

J: Gangrene.

H: Full of not garlic bread. 

J: Just like gangrenous, horrifying, anaesthia-free surgerys. 

H: Yeah, gimme, yeah... (groans in disgust)

J: Ugh.

H: Give me... Give me podcasts. Give me iPhones. 

J: You know what I was thinking about I love recently, Hank? Toothpaste.

H: Ah yeah, I like toothpaste, too. I think it's a good, I think it's a good job. 

J: And fluoridated water, there's so many things that I love about 21st century living. You know another thing that I think is an unappreciated invention? Photography.

H: Oh yeah, man, yes...

J: Idea that we could use light and time to create an image, it's just a fascinating idea, that we never, we never had that idea for like 99.9% of human history. 

H: Right, and the, you know, for historians, it's so huge. Because what we paint and what we draw, and what we sculpt is very, you know like, it's never... it's often times not accurate. We're trying to create pieces of art that have lot of contexts, with regards to the hist..., like, the moment that they are created in. But we lose all that context. Whereas... But with a photograph, at least we know that this is the thing that, and you know there's context there too, but like, you can see what things look like, how people dressed.

J: to an extent even with the photograph, you're seeing a staged image and that's something that's hard to remember because photographs feel-- There's this great essay about this by Susan Sontag on photography where she talks about how you know photographs seem real, but of course, you know, they aren't. Or at least we need to like interrogate their realness. But I'm just completely bowled over by the photograph and we take it for granted because we live in this world that's super-saturated with images where people-- most people around the world have images in their homes, on their walls. We take images for granted now, access to images is all very new.

H: It is, and very cool. Do you want another question?

 Question Six (20:45)


J: Sure, I could just talk about inventions all day, but yeah, what's another one?

H: Uh, we got one from Lorena who asks, "Dear Hank and John, how do you ask for a surprise party? I want one, but it wouldn't be a surprise if I told someone that I wanted it. Your dubious advice is needed."

J: Well, Lorena, the first thing that you do is you just ask your friends to listen to Dear Hank and John.

H: Right, uh-huh.

J: Because you have a pretty unusual name Lorena, not unprecedented certainly but fairly unusual. So Lorena's friends and/or family: she wants a surprise party. Give Lorena a surprise party and make it truly surprising. Don't make it on Lorena's birthday--

H: That's right!

J: I mean make it a surprise party.

H: I think this goes for everyone who knows anyone named Lorena.

J: That's right, all Lorenas love surprise parties, that's a rule.

H: And if you throw a surprise Lorena party, send us your pictures of it, we'll put them up on the Patreon... especially if they are the wrong Lorena.

J: Just like shower your Lorenas around the world with stunning parties.

H: If it's like 85 year old, your grandmother named Lorena gets a surprise party, I'm into it.

J: Yep. Yep. She just like comes home at the end of the day, long day doing whatever 85 year olds do when they go out, comes home, there's like 300 people in her house, chanting "LORENA, LORENA, LORENA" I'm sure that 85 year old grandmothers love that kind of thing.

H: Absolutely.

J: Hank, are you a surprise party fan?

H: Uhhh, I don't know that I've ever had one.

J: I had one, I hated it.

H: And I feel bad because it's totally possible I have and I forgot.

J: No, I ahd one, I remember it was before Sarah and I started dating. It was a very well-intentioned surprise party, the problem is I don't like parties, and I certainly don't like having them sprung upon me. I have to work myself up for several weeks to prepare for any kind of social engagement, so to walk into a restaurant thinking you're going to have dinner with just one person and instead you're going to have dinner with 18 of them, it just made my stomach hurt.

H: And I think also at certain like, there's an age at which it doesn't make sense because you're gonna celebrate the person's birthday party no matter what, and so you're not gonna have a surprise birthday party cuz they know that there's a birthday party, but like after a certain age then you start not necessarily having a thing every year, and so the surprise becomes like easier to pull off-

J: Lorena doesn't mention a birthday. That's why I think the surprise party has to be not on a birthday because then you see it coming, it has to be a truly random surprise party.

H: Mmhmm, mhmm. What I'm worried about John, and I think this is a legitimate concern, is that no one who knows Lorena is listening, or that they think that we're kidding and we're not.

J: Well, but Lorena is obviously gonna tell people "oh, you really need to listen to the newest episode of Dear Hank and John, it's such a fantastic podcast about death."

H: If you're not listening to it, you're a bad friend.

J: And then they will get sucked in. By the way Hank, can I just ask you a somewhat related question that I just-- I find this a fascinating question to ask people, along the lines of how you ask people what their favorite bridge is to try to get to know them.

H: Mhmm.

J: Do you remember, or can you remember, a wonderful surprise moment in your life? Like, if I asked you, "what was the best surprise of your life, what would you say?"

H: Hmm.

J: You know what I mean? You ever had one of those like, bolts of lightning out of nowhere that's just wonderful news?

H: Yeah. The first thing that came to my mind was realizing that this girl that I was really into was also into me. That seemed sooooo unlikely, like so impossible, and I didn't believe it, but like, all the signs pointed to it, and I had to make myself accept it. I've got some others though. There was a large media company that wanted to buy my blog once. And getting that email was like, "whaattttt? I'm gonna make money!" It didn't end up happening, but--

J: I was gonna say, then it fell apart when the economy collapsed in 2008.

H: Yup. That was definitely one of them. Also getting that email saying that: the first, like, three years of Vlogbrothers was like that happening once a month. 

J: Not the first seven months of Vlogbrothers, but yes, I know what you mean.

H: There were a lot of "oh my god, this is happening, and this is happening," and it was very exciting. And that sort of culminated in getting an email from someone being like "do you want to go interview the president?" Which was a pretty intense surprise. But like, that wasn't as wonderful though, because with this whole bag of anxiety.

J: Right, it comes with all the stress. Yeah, the ones that stick out for me are first and foremost, the day that we had just moved to Indianapolis, in I think July of 2007, and I was on my computer looking at the front page of YouTube, and I saw your face. And I realized that we'd been featured on YouTube. And that our lives were dramatically different than they had been ten minutes ago. Then the other that comes to mind is when I found out about the movie deal for Looking for Alaska, which has become a very complicated moment in my life, eleven years later. But at the time, it was by far the most money I'd ever made from writing, and made it possible for us to move to New York and lots of other things, and it really did happen out of nowhere. And so that was a pretty fun moment. I just think it's nice to remember those surprise moments; it gives me a little jolt of encouragement in my life. 

 Question Seven (27:05)


H: I've got a somewhat related question from Megan, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, I love listening to the podcast. It beats out all other podcasts in my listening lineup." So, wow. "And I have started to refer to it in my head as 'Brotherhood 3.0." Is listening to the podcast anything like watching the Brotherhood 2.0 videos when they first came out? I feel like I am now truly enjoying the nerdfighters as part of something and not just 'catching up.' Congrats on a year of podding (almost), and do either one of you surf?"

H: No, neither of us surf. I don't think. John, did you start surfing?

J: I surf a lot of the internet.

H: That's right. I wanted to talk about this, because it is a lot like that in some way.

J: Yeah, it feels more like Brotherhood 2.0 than anything that we've done since 2007. And that's a wonderful feeling. I hope that it's fun for our listeners, but it is a wonderful feeling for us. It's wonderful to see people make Jurassic Mars artwork, it's wonderful to see people make jokes about Ryan, whose name is Ryan. By the way, I just want to be clear about that, it wasn't Ryan's fault. Ryan didn't repeat Ryan's name over and over again in Ryan's email, it was me repeating Ryan's name. Ryan is not to blame for this situation, only I am to blame. But yeah, it's really fun to have that back-and-forth and to feel like it's a community where lots of stuff is getting created on top of lots of other stuff, which is how Brotherhood 2.0 felt for me. And yeah, I haven't had that feeling since 2007, so I think you're onto something.

H: Yeah, I mean, I think that it lasted longer than 2007, but I think that now there's so much built up on the YouTube channel, and I feel a lot of responsibility to make content that I'm very careful about, and that I spend a lot of time thinking about that content, and I feel like I have to, because it has a broad audience, and it has the potential to get watched by lots of people, though not all the time. And recently we had a video on Vlogbrother that probably got fewer views than a podcast. 

J, laughing: It's kinda true. I mean, it's just, this is so much fun. It's so purely fun, you know what I mean? 

H: It feels way more accessible, because not all of this infrastructure is built up on it, and we're just messing around, and that's really nice. I'm really glad we're doing it, even though this is the second one we've done in a row and my voice hurts a little bit and I've gotten a little bit hungry and I have to pee, but let's keep going! 

 Question Eight (30:00)


J: Well Hank, we have a question, as it happens, from Ryan. It's not the same Ryan, but I'm just so excited about it. Ryan writes, "Dear John and Hank, my name is Ryan." 

J: I'm just reading it, I promise! "And I, Ryan, am currently in my second year of college." He didn't repeat himself, but I'm just going to keep doing it. "I'm a writer, a soccer player, a devout lover of Harry Potter, and a brother. I also happen to be gay. I like to think that being gay doesn't define me as a person, but as I've gone through adolescence and been introduced to some of the realities of adulthood, I found my experiences to be inexorably filtered through the lens of my individual perspective. I find it very difficult, for example, to even begin to imagine any high school experience that doesn't feature acute and exhausting bullying due to sexual orientation. Similarly, I find it virtually impossible to imagine a life that doesn't include that utterly terrifying experience of coming out. This is problematic for me as a writer, because of course the majority of people don't see through this lens, and yet I find myself struggling to see anything outside of it. How do I remove this lens from my perspective so that I can empathize with, and tell the stories of, people with different experiences, people who live with different realities? Or maybe is it just my job as someone from the LGBT community to tell the stories of LGBT people? I would very much appreciate your dubious advice."

J: I mean, our advice on this is going to be especially dubious because it's so far outside our own experience, but I do think Ryan brings up a really important point here, Hank, which is that we talk a lot about people from the dominant culture writing outside of that dominant culture or trying to tell stories outside of that dominant culture. We almost never talk about the opposite. Like, this great YA writer Daniel José Older, who's also a great follow on Twitter, wrote about how he wants to see a panel at a conference about writing someday where it's all writers of color talking about how to write white people. Because we have all of these panels where white people talk about how to write about characters of color, and I think it's a really really good point, that it's another way that we are sort of focused on the dominant culture. I don't think it's my place to tell you what kind of stories to write, Ryan, but from my own experience, especially with my first novel, it was impossible for me to put away the lenses of my own experience, because that's a big part of what I wanted to write, and that's a big part of what made me want to tell a story in the first place. And the other thing I'd say is that you're in your second year of college; you're still finding your own writing voice, you're still processing your own experiences of high school. So, I think inevitably they're going to shape your writing. And I think that's good news. I think that the world needs to hear that story, and I don't think you should feel bad about wanting to tell it. I do think that over time, you learn how to use your own experiences to imagine what life might be like for a fictional character, and that's a big part of this kind of imaginative leap of writing. But I'm never going to be able to write a character who went to High School, and loves Harry Potter, and knows what it's like to be bullied about their sexual orientation the way that you can. And I think that's good news, for you. And I think that's part of why I want to see your story in the world. 

H: That was a really good answer, and I don't have a ton to add.

 Commercial Break (33:47)


J: Well, why don't we ask one more question, since we don't have news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon this week. Wait! Hank! We've totally forgotten about our sponsors.

H: We did forget about our sponsors, John, and I apologize to our sponsors who include--

J: I'm so sorry, sponsors.

H: --who include The Art of Bob Ross.  Bob Ross's Art, it's available sometimes on eBay for lots of money.  But also, there are other artists that you can purchase their work for less money who probably need your money more than Bob Ross, who is dead.  

J: That was--that was such a good advertisement, Hank, you should really get into professional full-time advertising.  

H: I think that's how it works.

J: Today's podcast is also brought to you by a well rounded balanced life.  A well-rounded balanced life, kind of foreign to us actually.

H: Yeah, a little bit.  This podcast is also brought to you by Loraina's birthday party, or any kind of surprise party for Loraina.  Whichever Loraina.  For whatever reason.  Lorainas.  They need you to celebrate them.

J: In a surprising way, and lastly, today's podcast is brought to you by agriculture.  Agriculture: the invention that made it all possible.  

H: Oh yeah.  And also, also language.  That's an important part of making it all possible.

J: Yeah, I mean, I don't think--it's funny, I wonder if we could have had agriculture without language.  I also wonder, are emojis language, because if not, does that mean that my new 700 page novel written entirely in emojis is a post-linguistic novel?

H: John, you probably should have tried to write an entire novel with just facial expressions.  So just film yourself for hours making facial expressions and see what kind of story you could tell.  

J: That sounds like a terrible idea.  

H: Well, so does a 700 page emoji novel, John.

J: Well, you're gonna love it.  It's full of surprises including airplane trips, fires, and smiling poop.

 Responses (35:49)


H: We've got a couple of things before we get to our last question that are just responses that I want to talk to.  

J: Yeah.

H: Emily writes in to say that during an episode and much to her horror, Hank called bananas appealing and nobody laughed.  I did not mean to make that joke, but I am also horrified, and we've got another one from--

J: I mean, that is just such a terrible pun, but I would like to congratulate Emily on noticing it. Also, Liam wrote in to say, "Dear John and Hank, this isn't really a question, but it is important.  In one of the podcasts, Hank recommended asking someone what their favorite bridge was in order to start a conversation that isn't your everyday 'Hey, what's up?'.  Well, I said this to a girl I liked and now I am going to prom with her.  Success!  I guess all of your advice is not dubious.  Liam, if you walked up to a girl, asked her what her favorite bridge was, and then like, within a couple hours she was your prom date, let me submit that Hank's advice had nothing to do with it.  

H: Very little.  Very little.

J: Congratulations, though, I hope you have a wonderful prom.  Hank, I'm gonna be crashing a prom this year.  Did I tell you that?

H: No, that's weird.

J: I crash a prom every year.

H: What?!

J: Yeah, so every year there's this great fundraiser for an organization I'm not gonna name lest hardcore fans show up at the fundraiser, and but downstairs from it, there's a prom and every year, I sneak in with some of my friends.

H: Do people recognize you ever?

J: Oh no.  No, they just think that we're chaperones.  

H: Right, I guess that makes sense.

J: Yeah.  So, anyway, looking forward to crashing prom again this year. It should be fun.

H: Sounds like it's gonna be a great time.

J: Alright, uh, Hank, let's ask one more question or answer one more question, but we could also ask one.  Why don't you ask it and I'll answer it.

 Question Nine (37:35)


H: Okay.  I've got a final question for you, John.

J: Hoo-boy.

H: This question is from, I've got it, it's from Grace who asks, "Dear Hank and John, I am absolutely furious with the minds of humans on this planet.  I am so utterly and completely full of rage and the root of this anger can only be traced to one thing: vegetables.  It has come to my attention that every piece of food classified as a vegetable can be sorted into already existing food categories with strict parameters for acceptance. For example, peppers have seeds, and therefore should rightfully be placed with other foods with seeds known as fruits.  Why has our species decided to compile a group of foods that have so little in common and no definitive qualities?  How has this terrible categorization been allowed to exist and what can we do to stop it?" 

J: Well, Grace, the answer to your question is that you're right that like potatoes have very little in common with broccoli, which has very little in common with you know, like, green peppers.  What those foods do have in common is that most people don't like eating them unless they are deep fried, so we've taken all the foods that we don't like eating unless they're deep fried, and what we do is we just call them vegetables. 

H: It's--I mean--basically, yes.  I actually have, John, you may be surprised to find out, complicated thoughts on this matter

J: I'm not surprised to find that out at all. I mean I thought I pretty much elucidated the entire thing, but you can go on if you want

H: So there are-- we classify things different ways and for different reasons. Vegetables are classified with respect to human use, not with respect to their biology, and the best example of this is Fahrenheit versus Celsius.  These are two scales that are very practically different for practical reasons.  They are not just objectively different, and there isn't one that's objectively better. So we have Fahrenheit here in America, but Celsius is often referred to as the superior scale, because it makes sense.  At zero degrees, water freezes. At one hundred degrees, water boils.  

J: But there's a problem with it, which is that Fahreneheit is clearly better for actual humans 

H: Correct. Correct.

J: Because at zero degrees Fahrenheit it is cold and at a hundred degrees Fahrenheit it is hot.

H: Yes and with Celsius, at zero degrees Celsius it is cold and at a hundred degrees Celsius you are dead.

J: Also, at zero degrees Celsius it isn't that cold, you know what I mean? Like, it's cold. You should wear pants, but like, you're not going to die of exposure.

H: Right, right-- well I mean, basically zero degrees Fahrenheit is when you should be legitimately worried about your, like, life outside, as is, from my perspective, a hundred degrees Fahrenheit but the uh--

J: Oh yeah I strongly agree. I don't go outside at either-- I don't go outside over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit or under zero degrees Fahrenheit. That's the whole reason we created inside was to protect us from those kinds of natural disasters.

H: Yes to protect us from the negatives and the three figures. And in the same way vegetables is a classification for human use, not based on their biology, not based on science and so it can be frustrating once we start seeing things from a scientific perspective to be like 'uhh, gaa- why do we use these dumb systems' but it's because humans are humans and we use things for human reasons and vegetables are a categorization that's like 'well it's the things that seem kinda like vegetables' and 'fruits are the sweet things that have juice in them and stuff'--

J: Yeah but then you've got the weird like, crossovers and stuff, like I kind of see the point that-- for instance, tomatoes.

H: Right.

J: Right?

H: They are right there in the middle.

J: Even for human classification, they live in a weird in between space because they're juicy but they aren't delicious. They're like kinda good but they're not great, like a pear is great. A tomato is good; like a good quality heirloom tomato is an enjoyable eating experience but it's not something that you want to have forty of.

H: Right yeah, well you don't want to have forty pears either.

J: Yeah you do. I do.

H: You know shoving a tomato in your face doesn't tend to happen and it would happen a lot more if it tasted more like a pear. Thought I'm not gonna take anything away from people who love tomatoes. And I did not know how good tomatoes were until I moved to Montana and had like not-from-Taco-Bell-tomatoes.

J: Yeah, those are better. Nothing against Taco Bell, which we are hoping will become a sponsor of this podcast. I love me some quesalupas. Hank, I don't like it when you talk about brands and large corporations that could potentially sponsor us as if they are delicious, positive contributors to the social order.

H: Alright well. I have you know, I've been known to visit a Taco Bell, John.

J: Ah, that's disgusting. I can't believe you've been to a Taco Bell. I last went to a Taco Bell in 1996, I have no idea what's currently happening there.

H: I last went to a Taco Bell probably more than a month ago. So like, you know not every day. I have complicated thoughts on whether or not something should be a vegetable and I think it's kind of confusing to take this existing word that existed for the description of something based on how humans use it and apply it scientifically, particularly with fruit not so much as vegetable. I kind of feel like-- I know that there are classifications of what a vegetable is, but I kind of feel like a vegetable is kind of anything that can be grown on a plant and eaten. I don't know if that's accurate, but a fruit feels like it's a thing and it has a scientific definition, and it frustrates me that we use that same word because they mean different thing. So really what we're saying when we say "fruit" is, it is like many words, a word with multiple definitions. And some of that's based on how we use the food item and some of that's based on the biology. of the plant structure.

J: I mean, I thought that nothing could be less interesting than ending a podcast with the news from Mars, but I was wrong

H: Don't be mean!

 Outro (44:10)


J: Hank what did we learn today?

H: Oh gosh, let me scroll up and see what we learned today. We learned that--

J: I mean, I learned way, way more than I ever wanted to know about vegetable classification 

H: We learned that the pain of a hangnail is similar to the pain of childbirth 

J: That is just, that is just not true.  Oh my gosh 

H: I know! That's why it's funny to say!

J: We learned that without agriculture and language, we would've been in big, big, big trouble 

H: And we learned that, when push comes to shove and I'm forced to think of something really fast, I tend to just say bowling pin, apparently 

J: And, most importantly, we learned that Lorena, all Lorenas everywhere, need to be surprised with parties immediately

H: Immediately!

J: Thanks so much for listening to "Dear Hank and John."  You can email us your questions or your comments at hankandjohn@gmail.com.  You can also find us on Twitter.  You can use the hashtag #dearhankandjohn or just reply to us. I'm @johngreen on Twitter. Hank is @hankgreen, or you can follow us on our preferred social media, Snapchat.  Hank is hankgre and I'm John Green's naps or johngreensnaps 

H: This podcast is edited by Nicholas Jenkins, the theme music is from Gunnarrola. Rosianna Halse Rojas helps us out with the questions.  Our intern, our wonderful intern, is Claudia Morales.  You can help support the podcast and all those people by going to patreon.com/dearhankandjohn and, as they say in our hometown,

Both: don't forget to be awesome

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