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A lovely and unexpected thing has happened today! Many of you have donated to PIH's efforts to support a stronger healthcare system in Sierra Leone. THANK YOU. It's the perfect birthday present. http://pih.org/hankandjohn
Catch up on The Anthropocene Reviewed before the last (maybe?) episode comes out Thursday: https://www.npr.org/podcasts/735466018/the-anthropocene-reviewed
Signed copies of TAR are available in many places, including at bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-anthropocene-reviewed-signed-edition/9780525555216

In which John delivers himself an old-fashioned parts video for his birthday. Topics discussed include writing, getting older, living for a million years, moderate dystopias, The Anthropocene Reviewed, the first spacewalk, the first art made from outer space, and the zombie apocalypse of adulthood.



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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday, but it's not just any Tuesday, it's my birthday, and today for my birthday, I am giving myself an old fashioned parts video. That's right Hank, today's video is like Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, it comes to you in three semi-connected parts.

Part one: The final (maybe?) episode of my podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed comes out on Thursday. It is about this drawing, which was sketched by the cosmonaut Alexei Leonov in March of 1965, shortly after he very narrowly survived the first space walk. 

There is video of this first-ever space walk on YouTube, and I like to watch it whenever my palms are really dry and in need of some sweat. 

Leonov's life was fascinating, but mostly the podcast is about why we make art, and what we give up to make it. 

It's been three months now since The Anthropocene Reviewed book was first published, and it has been strange, and lovely, and terrifying, to share something so personal, and I didn't know how to write about that directly, so I wrote about space art. 

Working on The Anthropocene Reviewed has been an incredible experience, but I think I'm ready to go back to writing fiction...maybe? That was a long pause before I said "writing fiction." [laughs]

Part two: good news from the Hank and John chat bot. Hank, in your last video you had an AI based on us answer questions from our viewers, and that was only like, moderately dystopian, so I decided to try it out for myself. 

I said, "Hey, it's John," and it responded, "Beth and Mom and Dad have said, because we don't know yet, that I'm probably going to live more than."

And I was like, "Wait, I'm probably going to live more than what?", because, you know, mortality's always on my mind, Hank, but especially on my birthdays.

And it responded, "I'm guessing one million years, but I could be off by quite a bit." Now initially, Hank, I thought this was unambiguously good news, like assuming the chat bot knows more than I do, a million year life expectancy ain't bad.

But then I was thrown into a new existential quandary: do I really want to live for a million years? I mean, modern humans have only been a thing for 250,000 years, and I feel like just living through all of human history so far would be extremely exhausting, and even after all of that, I would only be to one quarter of my lifespan. 

Anyway, it all got me to thinking about what my preferred lifespan actually would be, and today, on my 44th birthday, I would like to announce that my preferred lifespan is officially 97. It's a nice, solid prime number, and I feel like rooting for triple digits would be a little bit gauche, so there we have it, I would like to live to be 97. Nothing happens if you don't make goals in this world!

Part three: adulthood. When I was younger, I thought of adulthood as a kind of zombie apocalypse, like my job was to stave off adulthood for as long as possible, running from it, fighting it off at every corner, knowing all the while that I would inevitably succumb to adulthood and become part of the zombie hoard.

It seemed to me that people who had contracted adulthood devoted their lives to thinking about excruciatingly boring stuff, like lawn maintenance, and life insurance, and whether the Chrysler Pacifica mini van is superior to the Honda Odyssey mini van. And I was horrified by all that, and did not want to become a proper adult. I think deep down what terrified me about proper adulthood was that it seemed like changelessness to me, like I remember being a kid and looking at my dad's shoes and thinking, "Those shoes are like ten years old, and they still fit." 

But it turns out that 1) a change in shoe size is not the most important or interesting change that humans go through, and 2) there is a comfort and pleasure to ten-year-old shoes that literally cannot be imagined by people whose shoe size changes every year.

And more importantly, 3) adulthood turns out to be full of change. Like yeah, I have a lot of the same relationships I had 20 years ago, but those relationships have dramatically changed and deepened across the decades. And personalities change too, like as a 30-year-old, I hated gardening, and exercise, and being outside, and I didn't care one whit about third-tier English football, and now I love all that stuff. And 15 years from now, hopefully, I will be different again. 

So here's to that hope, and to life, just not a million years of it. Hank, I'll see you on Friday.