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Uploaded:2021-03-09
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In which John discusses corndogs, his brother, the past which is never past, the death of Mr. Peanut, and necessity of change.

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Good morning Hank it’s Tuesday you will note that puff levels remain at near record levels.

Recently my daughter was discussing how she did not like the cornmeal casing on her school lunch corndog, and two things occurred to me.

First: I realized that almost all my conversations over the last year, have been either about it or at least shaped by it. Like, even when I’m talking to friends and family about something other than the pandemic and its direct consequences, the pandemic is still essential to the geometry of the conversation. Like when we are talking about politics, we are also talking about the virus; when we are talking about school or work or really anything, we are also talking about the virus. But this conversation about the corndog could’ve happened two years ago or five years ago or really any time, because children have been pulling the cornmeal off corndogs in their school lunches since time immemorial.

Like I’m pretty sure that such a scene is actually depicted on an ancient Grecian urn. I didn’t say any of that to my kid, though, because to call attention to the pandemiclessness of the conversation would’ve been to add the pandemic to the conversation. What I said was “you know, your uncle Hank loves corn dogs.” And then my daughter said, “does he?” And it was in that moment, Hank, that I realized how successfully and profoundly you have rebranded yourself: In 2010, you were a goofball corndog enthusiast, and today you are a tiktok sensation who is among the world’s leading science communicators -- two phrases by the way, “tiktok sensation” and “science communicator” --.

I had literally never heard in 2010. I guess broadly speaking there are two approaches to rebranding. You can take the Planters Peanuts path, where you announce a dramatic shift by having a commercialized funeral for your animated spokesnut, and then rebrand with a hip baby spokesnut.

And then there are the slow-motion, over-time re-imaginings that often happen without us much noticing them, at least until we look back into the past. I have this experience sometimes when I’m walking in the woods and find what appears to be an ancient beer can, but upon close inspection it turns out it isn’t ancient; it’s from like 1994, when I was not only alive but sometimes drinking beer. And those of us who’ve left behind a lot of artifacts online over time from tweets to YouTube videos are beginning to have a similar experience: When I look at March 2007 vlogbrothers me, that person is both familiar and quite distant.

Obviously that guy and I have a lot in common, but we’re also really different. If you ask me to tell you one essential thing about myself, the most important thing, it would be that I am a parent, something 2007 me wasn’t. 2007 me was not the author of the fault in our stars, or a resident of Indianapolis, or an AFC Wimbledon supporter, or the cofounder of Crash Course, or best friends with Chris and Marina, or someone who enjoyed jogging, and on and on and on and on. And Hank, 2007 you was not a father or an author or the CEO of an educational media company.

You were a goofy YouTuber who loved corndogs. I mean, here’s how successfully you’ve branded away from corndogs Hank. There was a CORNDOG HANK t-shirt to go with the Pizza John t-shirt.

Pizza John, still very much here! Corndog Hank? Forgotten to history.

Ok this video’s been all over the place we’ve got to bring this to some kind of conclusion. Ok here we go. Big finish.

Hank, one thing you explore really brilliantly in your novels, is that on the internet you can never fully leave your past behind, because everything you ever said is in some ways still being said. When people read or hear an artifact from your past, they are reading or hearing it in their present. I don’t really know how to navigate the complexity of having pieces of my past, from books to tweets floating around in other people’s presents, but when I look at it,.

I look to you. Because we’ve never let the fact that you’re the younger brother get in the way of you being the wise older brother. And it seems to me, Hank, that one of the ways you’ve stayed yourself is by changing.

All that noted, Hank + Corndogs remains a great love story as prominently noted on my 2021 Vision Board. Hank, I will see you on Friday.