Dear John and Roman

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Roman Mars [00:00:56] This is not 99% Invisible. But I am Roman Mars. Dear Hank & John is a podcast where two brothers, Hank Green and John Green, answer questions and give dubious advice. And if I am in a car with my kids, it is the thing we are listening to. I love it. I learn a lot. It makes me laugh. It gets my kids talking, which is amazing. Last year I finagled my way onto the show and podcasted with the best-selling author, YouTuber, podcaster, educator, and marvelous human, Hank Green. And we had an excellent time answering questions about chickens and space and other sundry topics. I am delighted to say that I had the opportunity to return to the show this week. But this time I was paired with the best-selling author, YouTuber podcaster, educator, and marvelous human, John Green. His other podcast and most recent book is called The Anthropocene Reviewed. It is everything I love about everything. If you like knowing 99PI, you will love The Anthropocene Reviewed. But in the meantime, here’s me guest hosting Dear Hank & John with John Green. Enjoy. 

John Green [00:02:05] Hello and welcome to Dear Hank & John. I prefer to think of it as Dear John & Roman Mars. That’s right. It’s a podcast where John, your second favorite Green brother, is joined by your very favorite podcast host, Roman Mars, to answer your questions, give you dubious advice, and bring you all the week’s news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon. Roman, you’re the host of 99% Invisible. 

Roman Mars [00:02:30] I am. 

John Green [00:02:30] One of my favorite podcasts of all time. 

Roman Mars [00:02:32] Oh, thank you. 

John Green [00:02:33] How come you keep coming on Dear Hank & John? 

Roman Mars [00:02:36] Because this is one of my favorite podcasts of all time. This is my family’s podcast. Like, so, the twins–when I have them in the car, we pull up the Dear Hank & John. And when the question comes up, they know I hate it when people talk over the podcast because I can’t listen to two things at once. I’ve gotten old, you know? 

John Green [00:03:02] I can relate. 

Roman Mars [00:03:02] They reach forward, and they hit pause on the little console. And they’ll answer the question before you have a chance to answer it. And they go, “I think I know this.” And this is just a part of our life. So Dear Hank & John is very important to me. So, I’m really honored to be here. 

John Green [00:03:20] Well, we are thrilled that you’re here. The last time you were here– And we don’t usually bring this kind of thing up at the beginning of the podcast, but something extraordinary has happened that I need to inform you about. The last time you were here, you and Hank were chatting about… Remind me exactly what it was. It was how many chickens would need to be in space before humans would notice. Is that correct? 

Roman Mars [00:03:45] I think it was something like that. Like, I don’t recall it perfectly. 

John Green [00:03:50] Great. So, we have received the following email from Rachel that I simply cannot wait to tell you about. “Dear John & Hank, Here in the astronomy community, we take two things very seriously: Knowing everything that is in space and April Fools’ Day. For this April Fools’ Day, I roped a postdoc friend of mine into doing some math in order to answer the question that Hank and Roman Mars recently examined. How many chickens would there need to be in space before we would notice?” This resulted in a scientific paper, Roman, called Nuggets of Wisdom. 

Roman Mars [00:04:24] That’s very good. 

John Green [00:04:24] There’s a lot of good puns in this paper. But I would just like to read you one sentence from the abstract and one sentence from the introduction. The abstract begins, “The lower limit on the chicken density function–CDF–of the observable universe was recently determined to be approximately 10 to 21 chickens per parsec. For over a year, however, the scientific community has struggled to determine the upper limit to the CDF. So, we know the lower limit to the CDF. But what is the upper limit to the CDF?” And then the introduction begins as follows, “The chicken density function–CDF–entered the scientific spotlight in a March 2022 episode, when a listener of the podcast Dear Hank & John wrote in with a question.” The rest of the paper is epic. There’s so much math, I can’t read it. I don’t know what any of this stuff means. But the conclusion is that there would need to be about ten to the 18th power chickens inside the orbit of the earth for us to start noticing. 

Roman Mars [00:05:28] Wow. That’s a lot of chickens. Very close to the earth. 

John Green [00:05:31] I know. 

Roman Mars [00:05:32] That’s a lot of chickens. 

John Green [00:05:35] I was also surprised. I thought it would be maybe in the hundreds of thousands. But then, no, you could put a lot of chickens into orbit before it would start to block our view. 

Roman Mars [00:05:51] Oh, that is amazing. Oh, what a great way to start this episode. 

John Green [00:05:56] We’re never gonna reach those heights, unfortunately. So, I hope you enjoyed listening to Dear John & Roman. Everything after this is going to be a disappointment. 

Roman Mars [00:06:09] Oh, I love it. So good. 

John Green [00:06:11] You’re an expert in our architecture and sort of the built world. 

Roman Mars [00:06:15] Eh. Okay. Yeah. Maybe. 

John Green [00:06:16] So, I wanted to ask you this question about an apartment. “Dear John & Roman, Is it a moral failing to find a living roach in my apartment? Does a cockroach show up because I haven’t cleaned thoroughly enough, as if to lecture me before I kill it? Or do they just wander in because they happen to be in the neighborhood? Do I have to vacuum and scrub every surface now that I have seen this roach? Not trapped in the metamorphosis, Rebecca.”

Roman Mars [00:06:43] I would say it is not a moral failing at all. 

John Green [00:06:49] Agree. 

Roman Mars [00:06:49] But. 

John Green [00:06:51] Oh. 

Roman Mars [00:06:52] Maybe you haven’t cleaned thoroughly enough. 

John Green [00:06:54] Oh… I think that’s victim blaming. 

Roman Mars [00:06:59] No, I just know that it isn’t because you haven’t cleaned enough. But if you want to never have a roach again, you should clean, like, all the time and get rid of all the crumbs. Don’t leave dog food out and things like that. You know, it’s part of the, you know, sort of tactical warfare when it comes to cockroaches. But they will get there. They’re everywhere. 

John Green [00:07:27] They’re everywhere. They’ll be at the very end. Like, right before the heat death of the universe, they’ll be there. I think they come in… And I take this quite personally because it’s an ongoing argument in our family whether the primary reason why we might have bugs or other non-human animals inside of our home is because of a failure in the architecture, which is what I maintain–that there are little gaps that allow the roaches to come in. 

Roman Mars [00:08:02] I see. 

John Green [00:08:03] I don’t know where they are. I don’t think the roaches are born inside the house, you know? And so, I think that’s the failing. And Sarah maintains the failing is that I am filthy. And so, I was really asking Rebecca’s question as a kind of proxy question to you.  And I don’t like your answer. 

Roman Mars [00:08:28] I do not think that you could construct a house so tight as to not have a cockroach be able to wind its way through it. But you could just pick up after yourself, John. You really could. 

John Green [00:08:48] Yeah. No, I mean, I don’t want to disagree with you. I just respect you a lot. I think of you as a friend. But you definitely could construct a house. I know you could because, like, you can make a box that a roach could get into. A house is essentially a very large box.

Roman Mars [00:09:09] Very large box. But if you wanted sort of a hermetically sealed, you know, white room in which you, you know, do your viral research or whatever it is, you could probably avoid any roaches. 

John Green [00:09:22] That’s what I want, so that I could be as dirty as I want. I don’t want to do it for, like, viral research. I don’t want to keep smallpox inside the room or whatever. I just want to be able to be the person I want to be in the space I want to be in, without risking a roach. 

Roman Mars [00:09:39] Yeah. I mean, have you considered putting a box inside the box? Like, your own space?

John Green [00:09:43] Great idea. If we pitched that idea to Sarah, she’ll be like, “Amazing. I love it. Give him a little box in the corner where he can go and drop all of his crumbs. Let him just sneak into his little box whenever he wants to eat, and then he can come out when he’s done. He could pile all the dishes in there that he wants to file. That’s fine because that’s his box.” 

Roman Mars [00:10:10] It’s the only answer. 

John Green [00:10:12] All right. I think we’ve come to a conclusion, Rebecca. You just need to build a hermetically sealed box inside of your apartment. 

Roman Mars [00:10:18] “Dear Roman & John, I know a species is considered native if it is in a certain region due only to natural evolution. But is there a specific amount of time after which a species can be considered native? Is the definition of native species exclusively related to human interference? Or could animals or other causes such as natural disaster displacement species also make a species non-native? Also, is there such a thing as a plant being considered culturally native? For example, orange trees being a significant part of Spanish culture despite not being native to Spain? Curious to know, Mordecai.”

John Green [00:10:51] That’s a really good name specific sign off, Mordecai.

Roman Mars [00:10:53] It is. It’s very good. What do you think? 

John Green [00:10:56] Well, I have a strong opinion about this because I live in Indianapolis, which, depending on your definition of native species… How far back does it go is the first question. Because if it goes back over 12,000 years, there’s no native species to Indiana other than ice because all of this was covered by a glacier that was like 4,000 feet thick. And maybe there was some moss and stuff, but there weren’t any big, big parties. But I am particularly fascinated by this tree called the Gingko tree–the Ginkgo biloba. And there were no Gingko trees in Indianapolis until about 120 years ago. In fact, not to brag, but the first Ginkgo tree in Indianapolis was planted by Kurt Vonnegut’s great-great-grandfather. And I get to walk past it sometimes. So, the Ginkgo is an invasive species in the sense that it’s not native to Indianapolis–except until 2 million years ago, there were Gingko trees right here along the banks of the White River.

Roman Mars [00:12:03] Interesting. 

John Green [00:12:05] So it’s not a native tree, but it also is a native tree. I think… And I’m interested to get your perspective. 

Roman Mars [00:12:14] Yeah. Yeah. 

John Green [00:12:19] I’ve been talking to a lot of horticulturalist people lately because we’re planting a bunch of trees around here to try to even the score. I’ve caused a lot of– You have, too. You’ve caused a lot of trees to be cut down. 

Roman Mars [00:12:32] Fair enough. 

John Green [00:12:33] And I think I don’t like to get too much into my religious beliefs, but I think that’s a significant impediment to getting into heaven. And so, I’m trying to plant some trees to even the score a little bit so that Saint Peter won’t be so pissed off with me when I get up there. And one of the things that I’ve learned, at least in talking to these landscape people, is that I tend to think of, like, “native” or “non-native” as being, in terms of plants, a dichotomy–a light switch that’s either on or off. But they think of it much more as a spectrum, which I tend to find is the case with a lot of experts. Like, things that I think of–as a layperson–as dichotomous people who are experts in the field tend to think of as spectral. 

Roman Mars [00:13:23] Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. Especially with this idea that the Gingko could be kind of grandfathered in or, you know, Kurt Vonnegut’s grandfathered into our understanding since it existed well before humans and was introduced later. I mean, the simple explanation of what non-native is just if humans weren’t involved, it’s native, and if humans were, it’s non-native. But, you know, it is sort of a little bit of a false dichotomy when it comes to how we operate in the world. And definitely sort of chance events with sort of animal distribution could introduce something to an area which is, you know, kind of a stunning achievement. And just because it’s not human doesn’t mean it’s not sort of remarkable and sort of unique and the way that it would invade would be exactly the same. So, I think this is fascinating, you know? I’m not sure.

John Green [00:14:30] We’re not the only weird species and activity moving things around. 

Roman Mars [00:14:35] For sure. This is like a deep pull, so it might be completely wrong. 

John Green [00:14:42] I love that. Hey, that’s what this podcast is all about, Roman. Deep cuts that might be wrong, but we’re not going to research. 

Roman Mars [00:14:51] But basically, up until the point that people realized that plate tectonics–the continents–moved around, there was a great amount of study to sort of justify the movement of plant and animal species across these very far-flung continents. And it was so advanced. As I recall this story very distantly from my education, a large book just came out at the very moment right before plate tectonics that was describing in great detail how all the animals and plants made it. It was like the unified theory of movement. And then, like, a year later, geologists were like, “Okay, so here’s the thing…” 

John Green [00:15:40] “There may be a simpler explanation than this, like, 1,400-page theory of everything.” 

Roman Mars [00:15:45] And then all of a sudden, the distribution made more sense because things were on the land as it moved along, glaciers came, and all that sort of stuff. I mean, islands are obviously populated by things that feel just as extreme interventionist as a human–that land on a place. And it is not natural that it lands there, but it is natural that it lands there. And I like to think of this stuff as not so much separate from nature as a part of nature. 

John Green [00:16:19] Yeah. Right, right. Like, we think of ourselves as being artificial, even though we are made out of earth and everything inside of us is earth. 

Roman Mars [00:16:28] That’s right. 

John Green [00:16:29] We’re not that artificial of an intelligence as artificiality goes. I don’t know if you know this about me lately, but I like to relate everything to the history of human responses to tuberculosis. 

Roman Mars [00:16:44] I do! 

John Green [00:16:44] Your story about plate tectonics reminds me of the story about tuberculosis, which means that I have to tell it. And I’m extremely sorry. So, this guy, Robert Koch, is the guy who finally proved to… Lots of people already knew that tuberculosis was a contagious disease–lots of people in the Americas and in parts of Asia. But in Northern Europe especially, it was really seen as it had to be inherited because it went with all these personality traits–these sort of personality traits we associated with civilization, like intelligence, emotional sensitivity, and just sort of being like a John Keats type of character. And so, in 1881, this medical textbook was published that had a whole chapter on the so-called, like, “consumptive personality”–what kinds of people were inevitably going to get consumption. And it was the same thing, where it was this kind of theory of everything that explained every case of consumption that anybody could possibly get as associated with this personality trait, that thing happening in childhood, your parents did this, or whatever. And then literally the next year, Robert Koch was like, “Nah, I’m pretty sure it’s this bacteria. I found it. Here’s a picture of it. I think it’s that,” which, yeah, rendered the biggest medical textbook in northern Europe totally out of date in six months. 

Roman Mars [00:18:21] Love it. Love it. 

John Green [00:18:22] It’s not even that good of a tuberculosis story. It’s just that I know it. And I want you to know it. 

Roman Mars [00:18:28] I’m one of the people–maybe I’m the one person–who cheers when a tuberculosis story starts to come up on a Dear Hank & John.

John Green [00:18:39] I just can’t believe it. I still cannot believe that tuberculosis is at the center of human history in such dramatic, obvious ways–from the stethoscope to the cowboy hat to the existence of the state of New Mexico. But also–on a more serious, less funny, ha ha note–I cannot believe that 40 million people have died of tuberculosis in this century. And I didn’t know any of them. I thought that, like, tuberculosis was a disease of the past. So, I think, like, my obsession with tuberculosis is really about my confoundedness of thinking of myself as a reasonably engaged person and certainly an engaged person when it comes to potential health problems. And yet I just had no idea. So, it really has reoriented my understanding of the world. 

Roman Mars [00:19:32] Well, I love that stuff. 

John Green [00:19:34] Let’s move on to another question, and I will do my best to not relate it to tuberculosis. This is about an old Instagram account, which Robert Koch did… No. “Dear John & Roman, I have an old Instagram account that I forgot the password to a couple of years ago that has quite a few followers and a couple thousand posts. (It was a Finsta.)” Now we should stop here. What is a Finsta? Do you know? 

Roman Mars [00:19:58] I have no idea. 

John Green [00:20:00] Okay. What could it be? Could it be a financial Instagram that you use to raise money, like a GoFundMe? 

Roman Mars [00:20:09] A Finsta. 

John Green [00:20:10] Finsta. 

Roman Mars [00:20:11] I mean, that sounds like that to me because, like, fintech is like financial tech and stuff like that Yeah. Yeah. 

John Green [00:20:18] We’ll just assume that. “It was a Finsta. There are some things that I’ve said on that account that totally are not reflective of who I am today and that I’m not proud of.” Like, did you raise money via a lie? It doesn’t matter. That’s the point–that Missy said things that they’re not proud of. “I don’t know the email it’s linked to–it was probably a fake one–nor the phone number. So basically, it’s up forever. What do I do if I get famous and successful and these old photos from when I was 14 to 18 and stupid get surfaced? Definitely going to be canceled. Missy.” Oh God. I mean, I really would like to say, like, I’m so grateful I don’t have this problem. But I might. 

Roman Mars [00:20:57] I think everyone is going to have it soon. 

John Green [00:21:01] I’m terrified. I mean, I’m really scared of it. I also said a lot of things, Missy, when I was younger–not just 18–that do not reflect who I am today. I think that’s the hope–that you’re not the same person at 45 that you were at 25 or 15. 

Roman Mars [00:21:20] Absolutely. 

John Green [00:21:21] But there is a way that the internet sort of, like, turns things into a… Well, first off, I guess it makes sense to be held accountable for, like, being that person on some level. But the internet kind of turns things into–I feel this with publishing, too, a little bit–a… Like, time stops. I get older, but those books don’t. I grow up, and my books don’t. And that’s part of why people like my books because now if I wrote some of those older books, they would be way less good but way more mature. 

Roman Mars [00:21:56] You would have thought through the problems and then totally cut them off at the pass. 50 pages long. 

John Green [00:22:06] Right? It would be, like, a 60-page book. 

Roman Mars [00:22:10] Like, “Buck up, kid.”

John Green [00:22:11] It would be more of like, “Hey, don’t make these bad choices, okay? Why are you romanticizing this girl? Just don’t do it. It’s immature, man.” Yeah. So, I would be much preachier and much more like a dad, which would probably make the books worse. But that’s who I am now. And I’m much more proud of this person. Anyway, the point is, like, I don’t know, how do you deal with this? You’ve been a public person for a long time. How do you deal with it?

Roman Mars [00:22:44] The one story that comes to mind is I did a tweet during the height of the sort of Democratic nomination when it was Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton.  

John Green [00:22:59] 2008. 

Roman Mars [00:23:00] My tweet was something like, “I met a diehard Hillary person, and it was kind of weird,” because at that point, I was always surrounded by Barack Obama people, okay? And there was some Twitter meme, you know, eight years later that was kind of like, “Hey, go find an eight-year-old tweet and repost it.” And it just so happens that eight years later, Hillary Clinton was running against Donald Trump. And this tweet resurfaced, and people were like, “Roman! What the hell?” And it was so innocent because at the time, it was really this cool anomaly. Like, I met like an organizer for Hillary. It was kind of weird. 

John Green [00:23:54] You didn’t mean it as an insult. It was kind of surprising to you, coming from the world that you came from, that there were, like… My parents were like this in 2008. They were Hillary Clinton supporters but not, like, aggressive about it. They weren’t, like, knocking on doors. 

Roman Mars [00:24:13] And at the time, you know, there was so much energy for Barack Obama. That was the sea I was swimming in. And so anyway, this is, like, my mild version of this. And it was extremely uncomfortable to try to explain that with some kind of nuance when it seemed like, you know, a choice was about to be made that was going to destroy the world. And since then, I think, over time I have removed more of my personality and my takes on things just in general as a protective measure. 

John Green [00:24:46] Yeah, I should do that. But I can’t stop. I can’t stop. I need to stop. But I can’t stop. 

Roman Mars [00:24:53] And I really do focus on positive things. And I just hope that that doesn’t get taken poorly. I don’t know. 

John Green [00:25:07] Because you don’t want to seem like a Pollyanna, like “everything’s golden.” I think what the internet is missing is hope. I think the most punk rock thing in the world right now is earnestness and optimism. 

Roman Mars [00:25:24] Yeah, I agree. 

John Green [00:25:26] They’re so radically countercultural. 

Roman Mars [00:25:28] Totally. Totally. 

John Green [00:25:29] And so I think that is what the internet needs. But then sometimes when I’m doing that, I think, “Am I going to come across as somebody who’s oblivious to the world’s problems?” Even when I was writing The Anthropocene Reviewed, I was super conscious of that. I remember I was writing the intro, and I was like, “I want this to be about this desire to fall in love with the world.” But then I was like, “Oh, but that’s going to seem like I don’t care about injustice, and I think everything’s beautiful and amazing on earth. And, you know, that’s not how I feel.” So, I really struggled with finding the way through that. How do you be earnestly hopeful while still acknowledging the reality not just of suffering, but also of the unjust distribution of suffering? 

Roman Mars [00:26:18] Absolutely. It is so hard to represent yourself thoroughly and completely. And it’s just your hope that, you know, if this Finsta, whatever that is, is discovered, it’s sort of taken in totality with everything else that you’ve produced and made. And, you know, and, you know, there is a habit of when people get into arguments, it’s easier to land a blow on someone who is more like you, who would feel your admonishment than someone who is so different from you. They do not care that they hate you or whatever, right? Or you hate them. And so, it creates a kind of thinking of like an E.O. Wilson Valley. Where were they ever? It’s very hard to sort of skip over because it’s so painful to change. You get hurt by the people you like the most during that period of time or whatever. And so. So, I’m sympathetic to this. And hopefully. Well, I mean, now everyone’s going to be trying to find Missy’s Finsta. 

John Green [00:27:31] It sounds like it’s going to be pretty hard since Missy doesn’t know the name of the email address associated with the Finsta or the password. But, like, don’t we have to kind of forgive ourselves? Don’t we have to kind of forgive 14-year-olds? 

Roman Mars [00:27:49] Absolutely. 

John Green [00:27:49] Because they’re 14. 

Roman Mars [00:27:50] Absolutely. 

John Green [00:27:52] To some extent. I know that that’s not a blanket statement. But, like, we have to acknowledge that these people’s brains are getting formed and they are capable of change and in fact, like will and need to change. 

Roman Mars [00:28:06] Totally. And it should be celebrated when it does happen and not sort of, you know, taken to task. But I’m sensitive to the idea of this sort of, like, reaction to cancel culture, which, I think, I don’t fundamentally believe exists in the way that is presented a lot of the time. And so, it’s just one of those really, really tricky things. And what I would recommend is just, like, be out there, be good, be a good person in the world, and this type of stuff will hopefully never be discovered. And if it ever is, part of the story is that you’ve become this new person, which is super important. 

John Green [00:28:45] Yeah. And in a way, I think the argument that becoming that new person doesn’t erase the hurt that you may have caused or the hurt that you did cause is important to acknowledge as well. And that’s part of the way that the kind of conversation around so-called “cancel culture” I think gets really off track. It needs to allow for both of these realities, both the reality that people grow and change and the reality that people can cause harm and then grow and change and that harm is still real. 

Roman Mars [00:29:21] Totally. It’s such a mess. I just feel sorry for anyone who had to navigate it very, very young. 

John Green [00:29:30] I mean, exactly. When I was 18 years old, I don’t remember what I was like. I wasn’t great. I smoked a lot of cigarettes. Sarah went to the same high school I did, so she sort of remembers me from high school. And she’s like, “The only thing I really remember about you is that you, like, kind of smelled like really stale smoke and you were sort of cute but mostly because you seemed like trouble.” And that’s so different from my personality now. Like, nobody would, like, see me today and be like, “He’s sort of hot but only because he seems like trouble.” 

Roman Mars [00:30:15] Yeah, that’s a real 180 right there. 

John Green [00:30:18] Yeah. Nobody on earth seems like less trouble. I’m about as intimidating as a goldfish that’s left its bowl. I’m clearly not in the environment in which I thrive if there even is such a thing. 

Roman Mars [00:30:35] Totally. 

John Green [00:30:36] All right. I like that we’re answering questions very slowly and not that many of them. It’s Hank’s least favorite kind of Dear Hank & John, but it’s my favorite. 

Roman Mars [00:30:46] Oh, good. Good. Well, I’m here to serve. 

John Green [00:30:48] I think it’s going to be okay about this Finsta. But to be fair, we don’t really know what a Finsta is, so it might not be okay. I wish I could give you, like, a blanket reassurance. 

Roman Mars [00:30:58] Maybe it’s a fascist Insta account. Maybe then you would have some problems, you know? 

John Green [00:31:06] I hope there’s not a whole genre of Finsta. Like, I’ve heard the word “Finsta” before, and if it was all about fascism, I think I would know that.  I think it’s about fundraising. And if you fundraised under, like, a false pretense, man, that’s not great. But I don’t know. You were 14. You should apologize, try to make back the money, and give it back. 

Roman Mars [00:31:25] Agreed. 

John Green [00:31:27] “Dear John & Roman, Someone I love very much is going through a tough grieving process. His girlfriend, the love of his life, suddenly had to move for work, and no one knows when she’ll come back. He’s having a very hard time with her absence, and–” No one knows when she’ll come back? 

Roman Mars [00:31:45] Okay. 

John Green [00:31:47] Can he call her? Did she go to space? “He’s having a very hard time with her absence and can’t understand why she has left or where she has–” Why doesn’t he call her? “Or that she will be back eventually. How can I help him in this trying time? Important context, he is a horse.” 

Roman Mars [00:32:01] Oh, okay. Well, there we go. There we go. 

John Green [00:32:05] He’s a horse. “His girlfriend is another who went away to training for a while. He doesn’t understand English other than his name and the words ‘no’ and ‘good boy.'” Doesn’t he understand…? Like, what do you say? “Giddyap!” Does he understand “giddyap?”  What’s the other one you say? “Halt!”

Roman Mars [00:32:27] “Ho! Whoa!” Or something like that. 

John Green [00:32:30] “Whoa!” It’s “Whoa!” You say, “Whoa!” Kiowa, you’ve come to the right place. In addition to being Finsta experts, Roman and I are clearly equestrians. 

Roman Mars [00:32:39] Cowboys–through and through. 

John Green [00:32:42] Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous boys. Hot and dangerous. 

Roman Mars [00:32:49] “All I remember about you is the stale smell of cigarette smoke, a little bit of danger, and how you rode that horse.” 

John Green [00:33:00] If there’s anybody on earth who looks less comfortable on a horse than I do, I haven’t met them. All right, Kiowa, we’ve got a horse problem. This is a bummer. There was a period in my life where I had two dogs. But one of the dogs died. And it was awful because the other dog was just confused and heartbroken. Maybe this was anthropomorphizing, but I felt like the other dog was like, “Why did you take away my best friend?” They didn’t get to, like, go through the grieving. They didn’t, like, see the death. So, I think they were just confused and super sad. 

Roman Mars [00:33:49] Yeah. 

John Green [00:33:50] I don’t have a solution for this. I just thought it was sad.  

Roman Mars [00:33:53] Or alternatively, maybe they view all absences as death. 

John Green [00:33:56] Boom. 

Roman Mars [00:33:56] Like a fundamental, object impermanence type of thing.

John Green [00:34:03] But then sometimes, like, death is followed by rebirth, and then other times it isn’t. 

Roman Mars [00:34:10] I mean, the thing is, when it comes to this stuff, you can never address the true problem. But addressing the symptoms is pretty good, which is touch your horse, be with your horse, do things with your horse, and there will be fleeting moments in which they will not feel this pain. And that’s the best you can do. And it probably is the best anyone can do. Then that’s what you should do. 

John Green [00:34:41] That’s also probably the best that we can usually do for each other–you know–accompaniment. Like, “Can’t solve this problem for you because it’s not solvable. And also, you don’t need me to solve it because you already know that it’s unsolvable. And so, my attempts to solve it or minimize it are not actually what you need. What you actually need is just accompaniment. Just to not be so alone.”

Roman Mars [00:35:08] Yeah. Agreed. 

John Green [00:35:10] Yeah, I know this chaplain, Vanessa Zoltan–who is also a great podcast host–and she told me a story once about being with somebody in the midst of, like, terrible, terrible crisis and loss, and this person saying something like, “My life will never be the same.” And instead of saying, “Well, you know, in time it’ll get better,” Vanessa said, “I know.” And, like, just the acknowledgment of the hugeness of what was happening is more of a gift than trying to minimize somebody’s experience. 

Roman Mars [00:35:44] Absolutely. 

John Green [00:35:45] Or some horse’s experience. 

Roman Mars [00:35:47] And the good news is you get to spend a lot of time with a horse. And this seems like a nice horse. 

John Green [00:35:52] Yeah. Yeah, it seems like a good horse with big feelings, which… My kind of horse. I like an emotionally engaged horse. 

Roman Mars [00:36:04] Same. 

John Green [00:36:04] Before this, Roman and I were talking. And we were talking about how some people hosting this podcast are a bit ruminative–spend a lot of time thinking, spend a lot of time analyzing. And Roman said the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. And I promised him I was going to give him a year to use it. But I can’t. 

Roman Mars [00:36:28] Not even 30 minutes. 

John Green [00:36:30] I didn’t even give him 40 minutes. What he said was, “You know, it really is true that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. But the overexamined life isn’t much better.” It’s so true. Why do I over examine life? Why does that horse over examine life? It’s going to be fine. Your girlfriend’s coming back, man. Why do I over examine life? The overexamined life also isn’t that great. Where’s all the attention for the overexamined life? That reminds me. That reminds me that today’s podcast is brought to you by the Overexamined Life. The Overexamined Life is a Roman Mars original that I stole 40 minutes after he said. 

Roman Mars [00:37:17] This podcast is also brought to you by 10 to 18 Chickens. That’s a lot of chickens. 

John Green [00:37:28] I don’t know if that accounts for their spacesuits, you know? But maybe they don’t need to have spacesuits. It doesn’t say “living chickens.” It’s chickens. Today’s podcast is additionally brought to you by Finsta. “Finsta?” Is it financial? I’m not looking it up. I’m never going to look it up. 

Roman Mars [00:37:47] This podcast is also brought to you by Boxes Inside of Boxes–a place where you can be messy, eat, and free of cockroaches, or maybe just live in harmony with cockroaches. 

John Green [00:37:58] It’s all up to you. 

Roman Mars [00:38:04] If I were to start a business today, I would start a podcast production company. I really would because there’s incredible talent out there right now. And, whether you’re starting a new business or growing one, if you really want to be successful, you need the most talented people on your team. And that’s where ZipRecruiter comes in. And right now, you can try it for free at Why should you let ZipRecruiter help you hire for your business? Well, ZipRecruiter’s powerful matching technology finds highly qualified candidates for a wide range of roles. If you got your eye on one or two people who’d be perfect for your job, ZipRecruiter lets you send them a personal invite so that they’re more likely to apply. ZipRecruiter also offers attention grabbing labels that speak to job flexibility–like “remote,” “training provided,” “urgent,” and more–that can really help your job stand out. Let ZipRecruiter fill all your roles with the right candidates. Four to five employers who post on ZipRecruiter get a quality candidate within the first day. See for yourself. Go to this exclusive web address to try ZipRecruiter for free. It’s Again, that’s ZipRecruiter–the smartest way to hire. 

H.E.R. [00:39:12] Sometimes we lose, sometimes we win. Sometimes we try to fit it all in. Sometimes we don’t know what’s in store. Sometimes we find what we’re looking for. Sometimes we’re rolling easy and free. Sometimes one and one makes three. So much to love along this ride. That’s why Nationwide is on your side. 

Nationwide [00:39:39] Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliates, Columbus, Ohio. 

John Green [00:39:44] This next question comes from Max, who writes, “Dear John & Roman, Recently I was in an ice cream store that has an arcade machine in the corner. And I went over to play there, and I found six quarters resting on the machine. Can I use those quarters? No one else was around who looked like the quarters were theirs. Was someone coming back for them? Did they just leave them there for someone to use? I’ve had this happen a couple of times before and I can’t decide if it’s morally right to use them. Only a little mad, Max.” 

Roman Mars [00:40:08] Yeah, use them. 

John Green [00:40:09] I think you got to. 

Roman Mars [00:40:10] Yeah. I think they’re there on purpose. I think they’re there left for you.  

John Green [00:40:16] Right. And then maybe if you feel a little weird about using them, after you have those four to five minutes of gaming joy that six quarters can buy you these days, you go to the ice cream store and you’re like, “Hey, can I get six quarters?” And you just leave the six quarters there for the next person. But I think it’s just for you. 

Roman Mars [00:40:35] Yeah. 

John Green [00:40:36] I was recently at an arcade–a pinball thing. I’m a big pinball fan. 

Roman Mars [00:40:43] Yeah. Martín on our show is a huge pinball fan. And I’m a big admirer. I’m just so not good at it that I have not grabbed on to it as a hobby. But I love it.

John Green [00:40:56] I’m not good either. It’s very much like my relationship with skateboarding. I admire the people who are very good at it. And I think that it’s very beautiful. But then when I play, it’s a pretty fast game. But I just love the machines. I love the noises. It’s like everything that a casino can give you, but it’s way less expensive. And so anyway, I was at this pinball arcade, and there was a pinball machine with four plays on it. And I think it had four plays on it because the person before me had scored, you know, like, 700 billion points or whatever and then just walked away. But I went to the pinball wizard guy who runs the pinball arcade, and I was like, “Hey, this machine has four free plays on it.” And he just looked like, “What’s wrong with you?” I was like, “Do you think I can use him?” And he was like, “Yeah. Yeah, you can use it. Otherwise, you’re going to put a dollar in the machine and then it’s going to have five free plays.” So, I think you should just use them. 

Roman Mars [00:41:59] Yeah, you should just use them. Live like that guy. But I love the idea of leaving six other quarters. But definitely use the ones that are there and put new quarters on. 

John Green [00:42:10] Totally. 100%. Critical. 

Roman Mars [00:42:13] Yeah. Yeah. 

John Green [00:42:14] Yeah. Do you have a favorite quarter? 

Roman Mars [00:42:19] Oh, you mean in the sort of the state varieties of quarters? 

John Green [00:42:23] Or, like, maybe it’s the original. Maybe you like that eagle. 

Roman Mars [00:42:25] Yeah. 

John Green [00:42:26] Or maybe, like, the bicentennial. I loved the bicentennial one when I was a kid because it was so special. But now all the quarters look weird. 

Roman Mars [00:42:35] They do. Someone pitched us a story once about all the quarters. And that is the type of story I would love to… I would follow that thread, but I don’t know if it jazzed everyone else on staff, which is probably why it didn’t sort of make it. But I do think there’s a little bit of a problem with all the special quarters. If they’re all special, like, no one is special. And so, you don’t get an affinity for that bicentennial quarter, which showed up every once in a while–that you could, you know, like, attach some meaning to. But I have to admit, in general, I’m just pretty delighted by each one because I love that type of federal civic symbolism. What people choose to represent themselves is super interesting to me. But I can’t name my favorite. I can barely even picture one of them. But I spend time looking at them for sure. 

John Green [00:43:45] I know that you’re a flag enthusiast. And one of the things that I like most about Indianapolis–maybe the thing that I like most about Indianapolis–is our city flag. 

Roman Mars [00:43:55] Good flag. 

John Green [00:43:56] Really good flag. Doesn’t say Indianapolis on it, which makes it rare and valuable on its own. But it’s also a really good flag. And then the state of Indiana… And this is a huge surprise because you would think that it would have a terrible flag–and it has a bad one. But, like, it’s not nearly as bad as most state flags. 

Roman Mars [00:44:15] I think it’s a good state flag.

John Green [00:44:19] They could take the word Indiana off of it and then it would be great. 

Roman Mars [00:44:24] If I’m picturing it right, it’s the one with the torch in the thing? 

John Green [00:44:29] It is. Dark blue background, golden torch, and then some stars around it. It’s beautiful.

Roman Mars [00:44:35] I totally agree. It would improve greatly–just take the word “Indiana” off of it. But the bones of it, if you did that, are real solid in my opinion. 

John Green [00:44:45] Yeah. No, I agree. 

Roman Mars [00:44:47] But Indianapolis is a great city flag. It’s basically a cross that’s centered. And then it has that white star with a red circle. And it’s lovely. I just was talking about the Indianapolis flag yesterday. 

John Green [00:45:06] Oh, wow. 

Roman Mars [00:45:07] With Michael Green who runs a thing called “Flags for Good.” And he was telling me about the original version of that. This is about a 70-year-old flag I think, roughly. And the original version of it had the cross off center–more like a Nordic cross. 

John Green [00:45:28] Oh! 

Roman Mars [00:45:28] And it won a contest. Someone designed it. It won a contest. The designer left the state, and it was adopted. And he came back to Indianapolis at some point. And then the flag was flying, and he was like, “Oh, they recentered my flag.” 

John Green [00:45:48] Well, but it should be in the center because, as I’ve understood it, Indianapolis is a city built on a grid. But the very center of the grid is a circle. 

Roman Mars [00:45:57] Yeah, yeah, yeah. It makes a ton of sense. 

John Green [00:45:59] And so you can actually… Not to be too nerdy, but wherever you live in Indianapolis, which is a huge physical city–it’s one of the physically largest cities in America–you can point to the part of the flag where you live. Like, if you live in the northwest side, you can point there. If you live southeast, you can point there. And you can sort of use the flag as, like, “I live approximately here,” as long as you’re inside of the city–inside of the beltway. 

Roman Mars [00:46:23] Yeah. Yeah. I love flags that are stylized. St. Louis has a good one like that–that shows the rivers converging into this sort of fleur-de-lis that represents the city. I like it. They need to be pretty stylized for them to work, in my opinion. Indianapolis is a really good example of that. But when they work, they work great. I love them. 

John Green [00:46:47] Yeah. And I love the dark blue. I love the light blue of a Chicago style flag. But the dark blue works for Indianapolis. 

Roman Mars [00:46:57] Yeah, I think so, too. 

John Green [00:46:58] That’s great to hear. I’m just happy to know that Indianapolis was in your mind in any way. We’re just happy to be included and have it not be about something horrific. One time I met with the governor, and he was like, “What do you need to be able to do your business effectively?” And I was like, “I mean, I need you to shut up is the main thing I need. Honestly. I need you to, like, stop ruining it for me.” But what I said was, “You know what, governor? Every time Indianapolis is in the national news, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, it’s bad. Indiana never makes news for being awesome. And so, what I would love is for you to stop making news.” 

Roman Mars [00:47:51] That is good advice. That’s good advice in general. 

John Green [00:47:56] Yeah. Stop pumping the brakes on everyone else’s attempt to make this a normal, nice place to hang out and recruit and work and live. 

Roman Mars [00:48:06] Yeah. Wow.

John Green [00:48:08] And let us have a soccer team. 

Roman Mars [00:48:11] “Dear Roman & John, I was driving with my sister the other day when we spotted a car wrapped to look like a clownfish. The back of the car said it was for a mobile fish veterinarian, which got us thinking, ‘How do they do surgery on a fish?’ Do they do it underwater? Is there a water mask for the gills, like an oxygen mask for people? Do people even get surgeries on their fish? They didn’t teach us this in school.” Oh. There you go. 

John Green [00:48:38] I get it. Now, I would assume that a mobile fish veterinarian is not performing surgeries but is instead being like, “Your fish is good,” or “Your fish is not good. And here’s some fish medicine.” 

Roman Mars [00:48:54] Exactly. 

John Green [00:48:56] But is there fish surgery? Surely there can’t be. 

Roman Mars [00:49:00] I was very intrigued by this because I saw this one. I didn’t do tons of research today, but I–

John Green [00:49:07] We didn’t do anything about Finsta, that’s for sure.

Roman Mars [00:49:10] But I saw this one, and I was like, “I’m very curious about this myself. And there’s no way I can make a guess.” It turns out, yes, there is fish surgery. I mean, I would say that most of the time that a veterinarian is called in for a fish, it is to add chemicals or antibiotics to, you know, deal with some kind of ick or something like that. But for very expensive fish or fish that you’re very attached to–probably larger… Like, I watched, or I saw pictures of a fish surgery, and it was something to behold because you are right. Well, Anna is right. There’s kind of a water mask for their gills. 

John Green [00:49:54] Oh, so they take them out of the water, but they sort of keep the water on them? 

Roman Mars [00:49:59] Yeah. They take them out of the water. I mean, at least the one I saw. They take them out of the water. They have a tube that goes in their mouth that pumps water over their gills so that they can breathe. They are anesthetized. And they cut them open, they remove their little lump or something, they sew them back up, and then you have fish surgery. 

John Green [00:50:23] Wow. 

Roman Mars [00:50:24] I know. Humans are remarkable. 

John Green [00:50:27] It’s amazing. The things that we can do when we care. It’s incredible. 

Roman Mars [00:50:37] Yeah. 

John Green [00:50:38] We can perform surgery on fish. 

Roman Mars [00:50:40] We can. Yeah. Yeah. Love it. 

John Green [00:50:43] That’s pretty mind blowing. I’m sure somebody is going to send us an email a year from now that’s like, “Actually, we did a study and we found out that fish perform surgery on fish, too. And here’s our paper full of puns that we published on April 1st.” But that’s pretty remarkable that humans can do fish surgery. Incredible. I also wanted to ask you this question about cheese. 

Roman Mars [00:51:07] Okay. 

John Green [00:51:08] From Evan who writes, “Dear John & Roman, I come to you with a question. I work at a cafe that specializes in wine and cheese. And we have two cheese platters–one for bland tastes and one stinky cheese platter. We’re talking moldy cheeses. Why do only old people enjoy stinky cheese? Do younger people have more sensitive taste buds? People under 35 always go for the bland cheeses–Gouda, brie, etc… Smell you later, Evan.” 

Roman Mars [00:51:38] Yeah, actually. 

John Green [00:51:42] Really? 

Roman Mars [00:51:42] Yeah. Our taste buds get older, and they get less sensitive. You are more likely in general to enjoy stronger flavors as you get older because those taste buds just aren’t firing like they used to. 

John Green [00:51:59] That’s so interesting. That explains why if you told me 15 years ago that a significant portion of my free time would be spent with my mother growing peppers from seed and then, like, taking care of them in the garden for six months and then over the next six months processing them into hot sauce, I would have been like, “What? My mom lives next door to me?” That would have been my first surprise. 

Roman Mars [00:52:25] Your first surprise.

John Green [00:52:27] Then my second–I would have been like, “And I love it? Wow.” And my second surprise would have been that I make hot sauce with my mom. But it’s so fun. And also, I love hot sauce, which I didn’t 15 years ago. 

Roman Mars [00:52:40] Hot sauce is the best. I love hot sauce, too.

John Green [00:52:43] Oh, I’ll send you some.

Roman Mars [00:52:46] Yeah. I need some Green Family Hot Sauce. 

John Green [00:52:48] I don’t know if you like our family hot sauce, but you won’t complain that it’s not spicy. 

Roman Mars [00:52:54] Yeah. So, I think the two things working here are, you know, just the ravages of time and also exposure. I think that, you know, if over time you try more things–you start to like more things–you can refine your palate through exposure. And stinkier cheeses and all kinds of stronger smells and tastes and stuff like that is one of the great things about growing older, actually, in my opinion. 

John Green [00:53:23] I agree. I went to a blue cheese, like, educational evening several years ago.

Roman Mars [00:53:31] Sure. One of the things you do. 

John Green [00:53:32] Yeah, I don’t know. Sarah was like, “Oh, I got us tickets to a blue cheese education session.” And I was like, “Great.” And I was very unenthusiastic. This is very standard with me, where I’ll be like, “Why are you making me leave the house? It’s the only place where I’m happy. Just put me in my hermetically sealed box and allow me to eat Ritz crackers. I don’t need any of this fancy stuff.” And then I went, and it was amazing. It was amazing. I learned so much. And also, I love to experience people’s passion. 

Roman Mars [00:54:01] Oh my God. It’s like the cornerstone of my entire career. Honestly.

John Green [00:54:06] Yes. Yeah!

Roman Mars [00:54:08] I love people who love things so much that I could watch someone expressing their love for a thing all day long. I love it. 

John Green [00:54:19] Yeah. Yeah. And it doesn’t really matter that much what it is. I mean, as long as it’s not, like, something horrible. For me, there’s not a huge differentiation between people who are extremely passionate about yarn and people who are extremely passionate about fourth-tier English football. It’s just the passion. It’s the love. It’s the fascination. It’s the “Oh, I forgot to tell you something else that’s really, really important about the world’s largest ball of twine.”

Roman Mars [00:54:51] Yeah. 

John Green [00:54:51] That feeling–it’s magical. 

Roman Mars [00:54:54] It really is. It really is. I mean, that’s my favorite part of my job–talking to those folks who really light up when they talk about, you know, the simplest things that excite them. It’s just so, so, so, so good. Yeah, I can totally enjoy a cheese class even though I am not a stinky cheese guy at all. 

John Green [00:55:18] I recently went skiing for the first time, which I had no interest in. And I’m 45 years old. I don’t think I’m going to become an expert skier. 

Roman Mars [00:55:28] Odds are against it. 

John Green [00:55:30] I mean, on a few levels, right? Like, nobody looked at me and thought, like, “Well, that guy has got a chance at the Olympics.” And anyway, I went skiing. I don’t know if you’ve ever been skiing. Are you a skier? 

Roman Mars [00:55:40] No. No, it wasn’t part of my life in central Ohio. 

John Green [00:55:45] Same. Exactly. Right? Very far away from anything–and just never had any interest in it. But anyway, I went. And it was fine. I liked it. It was great. You know, whatever. Good time outside. All that. Mountains are beautiful, etc… But the thing that I loved was my ski instructor, Hailey, who loved skiing, understood it deeply, was passionate about it, and needed to share things with me about it that weren’t necessarily about, like, my skiing. It was just about, like, what makes skiing awesome and interesting and the things that you’re able to do on skis that you can’t do without them. And I was like, “That’s the best part of this vacation for me.” 

Roman Mars [00:56:33] Totally. 

John Green [00:56:35] Getting to learn from Hailey about skiing. I think that stuff is beautiful. And it is one of the great joys of listening to 99% Invisible. By the way, if you haven’t listened to 99% Invisible, I’m extremely jealous of you because you’re about to have the best experience. You’re about to find out that there are actually really good podcasts out there. It’s so good. But that’s one of the joys of listening to it is that so often you introduce those stories of people’s deep love of things–their deep fascinations–and kind of model how that happens in a way in some episodes. Like, you allow the listener to experience some of the same magic of falling in love with something. 

Roman Mars [00:57:26] Yeah. What I like most about the show and the way it changed me in the past, like, 13 or 14 years that I’ve been doing it… And I have to really stress, over the years, my role in what makes the show great has diminished significantly because I have this team of people who make it and are so, so good. And I always say that I’m, like, the third or fourth or maybe the fifth most important person on any story. But I’m there for every story, you know? But what I love the most in terms of that sort of, like, awareness of the world is these designers of our built world and makers of things are solving problems before you even have them. In a way, when you operate in the world, you are in the warm embrace of people thinking about things that you don’t even need to bother thinking about; they’ve handled it for you. And it’s changed my outlook. It makes the world feel so much more caring in general just by thinking about curb cuts and streetlights and, you know, things like that. It just really, really changes my mood when I work on a story or witness someone else work on a story and say, “Oh, you move this here.” 

John Green [00:58:50] You start to see all the systems that people participate in and strengthen for each other. Whether that’s manhole covers or sewer systems. We are all working together on some level to make things easier for each other. And that’s so lovely. It’s such a much better way of thinking about what we’re up to as a species. 

Roman Mars [00:59:18] Agree. It has totally reoriented my brain, doing the show. And so hopefully, you know, you get some of that effect when you listen to it, too. 

John Green [00:59:26] I certainly do. All right, Roman. It’s time for the all-important news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon. I’ll go first. There is no team in professional football anywhere–as far as I can tell–on Earth right now that has lost more games from winning positions than AFC Wimbledon. And today, as we’re recording this–Good Friday, or should I say bad Friday–AFC Wimbledon played Harrogate Town, one of the worst teams in League Two, favorite to go down, not even be a professional team anymore, and won’t be able to play as them in FIFA next season maybe. We were winning two-nil. Two goals from Ethan Chislett in the 85th minute–five minutes to go. And I thought to myself, “Maybe we’re going to win a football game.” But no. No, we gave up a goal. Stupid goal. Really annoying. And then, in the last second of added time, there was a corner kick for Harrogate, and everybody, everybody, everybody on the field–everybody on earth–knew what was going to happen. You could see it in the eyes of all 11 Wimbledon players. You could see it in the eyes of the 600 fans who’d traveled to Harrogate. You could see it in my eyes. And we gave up a goal on the last kick of the game and tied two-two. And I can’t do this anymore. Why am I letting the quality of my life be deeply affected by the exploits of 26-year-olds who live far away from me? Why? And then I went to Sarah, and I was like, “We need to invest real money in AFC Wimbledon.” And she was like, “No. That’s a nonstarter.” And I was like, “They need help. In their minds. They need mind help because there’s nothing wrong with their feet. And I know what this is like because the problem with me is also inside of my mind. It’s not a criticism, it’s just an acknowledgment. And I need help inside my mind.” And Sarah was like, “I think we should probably focus on Partners in Health, buddy.” And that’s a good point. 

Roman Mars [01:01:44] That’s a good point.

John Green [01:01:47] God! It’s so frustrating. 

Roman Mars [01:01:49] Yeah. Oh, goodness gracious. 

John Green [01:01:50] Mars would never do this to somebody, you know? Mars doesn’t have a problem in its head. 

Roman Mars [01:01:56] No, it doesn’t. 

John Green [01:01:58] God! So difficult. It’s so difficult right now. So anyway, hopefully we won’t get relegated. Even though we haven’t won an away game in six months, hopefully we won’t get relegated. So that’s the job at this point. There’s only six games left in the season. Hopefully we’ll be alright. Do you have any news from Mars? 

Roman Mars [01:02:28] Is it a personal question? I don’t know anything about the planet Mars. I would say that I think things are going good in the Mars household, though. So, we’re going strong. That’s it. 

John Green [01:02:41] That’s great. That’s great. That’s the news from Mars I wanted. What’s the news from Mars? And the news from Mars is that things are alright, you know? 

Roman Mars [01:02:48] Yeah. Things are okay.

John Green [01:02:52] You didn’t, like, throw away a two-nil lead in four minutes to the worst team in professional football?

Roman Mars [01:02:57] No, we avoided that fate. But there are many other obstacles along the way. 

John Green [01:03:03] Yes. It’s not to say that there are no challenges. The great thing about caring a lot about football is that it’s so simple. Life is so complicated and so difficult. And that’s the problem with getting too involved in football is that it just becomes, like, “Oh, it’s really complicated.” But if you just watch the games, then it’s so simple. It’s a flat field, The ball rolls around. Sometimes it goes over the line, sometimes it doesn’t. You know, it’s unimportant and in the best possible way. 

Roman Mars [01:03:45] I’ve been watching a lot more soccer because one of my step kids is a fanatic about soccer–loves, loves, loves soccer–goes to the park by himself for, like, three or four hours a day to go practice footwork and stuff like that. 

John Green [01:04:01] Wow, that’s beautiful. Is he interested in a trip to South London? 

Roman Mars [01:04:09] I think he would be. Yeah. He would be. 

John Green [01:04:14] We need somebody who will spend three or four hours a day at the park, working on footwork. 

Roman Mars [01:04:20] Open it up to 14-year-olds, I think you’d have a taker. I hadn’t really been to a lot of soccer games. I played soccer as a kid, but I don’t think I understood it when I played it. To watch the level of thinking for what seems like a bunch of people running around in chaos is really something. My appreciation for it has really grown, watching this kid.

John Green [01:04:51] It really is an art, and it’s a kind of brilliance, you know? And when I was a kid, I was taught that there’s this hard line between sports and creativity. And as such, I always thought of myself as being just deeply opposed to sports on every level. And it was only when I realized that, like, what I was trying to do with stories is not that different from what Roberto Firmino is trying to do with football. It’s the same thing. It’s, like, the same thing as getting to meet somebody who knows everything about the world’s largest ball of twine. 

Roman Mars [01:05:32] Yeah. Yeah. 

John Green [01:05:33] Or the competing world’s largest balls twine. It’s that same feeling of, like, “Oh, there’s levels to this. Beautiful, beautiful levels. 

Roman Mars [01:05:43] Totally. Totally. And I’ll, like, compliment or say something completely ignorant, and he’ll be pretty generous, like, “Well, that one wasn’t a big deal.”

John Green [01:05:57] Yeah. “That wasn’t the interesting part. I’m glad you noticed that. But that is actually very easy.” Yeah, it’s knowing to be there that’s hard. And that was always my problem playing soccer is that, like, I don’t have a lot of spatial reasoning, and so the coach would be like, “If you just run diagonally, you will get to where they are going. Rather than running behind them, in which case you will never get to them.” And I would be like, “No, I think the best strategy here is to run at the person. Not where they will be, but where are they now. And then by the time I get there, I’ll find that they have moved, and I will be shocked every time.” 

Roman Mars [01:06:41] Yeah. 

John Green [01:06:42] How could I have foreseen this? And then you see the people who are really good at it, and you’re like, “Oh, they never even have to make a tackle because they’re just always there.” Sarah played high school soccer. And I played soccer, like, in indoor leagues with her and stuff. And we would get to the end of a game, and she’d be like, “God, you run so much.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but you know where to be.” 

Roman Mars [01:07:07] The good ones don’t have to run. 

John Green [01:07:09] Exactly. She’d just be there every time. Well, thank you so much for plotting with me. 

Roman Mars [01:07:15] Oh, my pleasure. I loved it. 

John Green [01:07:17] I’m so excited to be able to talk with you every time we get to chat. I’m such a fan, so this is really cool. Thanks for doing this. This podcast is edited by Josef “Tuna” Metesh. It’s produced by Rosianna Halse-Rojas. I was joined today by Roman Mars from the podcast 99% Invisible, the best podcast you’ll ever listen to. Our head of community and communications is Brooke Shotwell. And the music that you’re hearing right now and at the beginning of the podcast is by the great Gunnarolla. And as they say in our hometown… 

Roman Mars & John Green [01:07:46] Don’t forget to be awesome. 

Roman Mars [01:07:55] Whether you’re on a cross-country drive or on your daily commute, time in the car is perfect for listening to podcasts. T-Mobile’s network can help keep you connected to all your favorite podcasts when you’re out and about. T-Mobile covers more highway miles with 5G than anyone, so if you need great coverage, especially when you’re on the go check out T-Mobile. They’re the largest and fastest 5G network. Find out more at That’s “seewhy.” Fastest based on median overall combined 5G speeds according to analysis by Ookla of Speedtest Intelligence. Data download speeds for Q4 2022. See 5G device coverage and access details at 

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