Monday, February 14, 2011

Don't Forget To Be Awesome

John and Hank Green, the Vlogbrothers
Four or five years ago, author John Green had an idea. He and his brother, professional blogger and songwriter Hank Green, would spend a year without communicating by means of written word. No emails, no text messages, no online chats. John's idea became "Brotherhood 2.0," a series of YouTube videos John and Hank sent back and forth week by week over the course of a year through their "vlogbrothers" channel. By the end of the project, their videos had become wildly popular. Their massive following would eventually become known as Nerdfighteria, the way Stephen Colbert has the Colbert Nation. Hank and John are very active people on YouTube and still create several vlogs every week responding to each other or directly to their fanbase of "nerdfighters." They are both very intelligent people, and their videos contain a ton of hilarious, interesting, interactive, and often educational content. Nerdfighteria has a huge amount of inside jokes that are easy to pick up on and their videos are also only four minutes long, and as such, are never tedious or boring to watch. They stuff a lot into that period of time.

Many of you Blind Melons and friends of mine have seen me carrying around a number of books in the past three months or so with the name JOHN GREEN in large letters across the top of them. Yes, that John Green and this John Green are one in the same. Looking for Alaska, perhaps his most famous book, won the Michael J. Printz award for young adult literature in 2006. Green's writing is characterized by his highly intelligent, often quirky teenaged characters, his prose's beautiful marriage of hilariously funny and deeply thoughtful narrative, and his creative and unusual methods of organizing his books and presenting the story. These unusual methods include 1. strange chapter names such as "x days before" (x being a number) in Looking for Alaska, 2. the use of footnotes or graphs, and 3. the method I'm using to list these ideas, a method he picked up from another author, usually for comedic effect.

His other books include the Edgar Award (a big award for mystery writers) winning Paper Towns, the Printz Honor winning An Abundance of Katherines, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, a novel he wrote with author David Levithan. These books are wildly popular all over the United States, and a few of them at least have been translated into several other languages. I'm consistantly surprised with how often people at St. Mark's see me reading one of these books and stop to tell me how much they love them. Another surprise is that most of them are unaware of the vlogbrothers channel. At the very least, two Spartan English teachers and a social studies teacher have read or are currently reading them, thanks to my friend and fellow nerdfighter, Merissa. Here is a slightly censored selection from Paper Towns:

"...I like to think that I am the type of person who wouldn't hook up with Becca Arrington. She may be hot, but she is also 1. aggressively vapid, and 2. an absolute, unadulterated, raging bitch. Those of us who frequent the band room have long suspected that Becca maintains her lovely figure by eating nothing but the souls of kittens and the dreams of impoverished children. 'Becca does sort of suck,' I said, trying to draw Margo back into conversation." (p. 38)

The whole book is like this. Green's books are incredibly entertaining to read, and whether you immediately realize it or not, they inspire deep thought and self-reflection in their readers. I have found that I would not like to hang around a lot of the characters in Green's books, (especially the moody but interesting Alaska Young,) and yet I still found myself eagerly still turning pages with no desire to put the books down. Even though the characters are flawed (sometimes annoyingly so,) it doesn't bother most readers. This is likely because everyone sort of is in some way, and so the characters are believable and thus the books become more authentic and realistic young adult literature. So far, I highly recommend any of them, especially Looking for Alaska. Also, if you decide to take them from a local library or even some bookstores, you may find a little surprise inside: a Nerdfighter Note.

Since we're talking about books, Hank and John have also popularized the fact that every single book title sounds a lot funnier when you add "in your pants" to the end of it. Here are some examples:
  • An Abundance of Katherines (in Your Pants) (John Green)
  • The Stranger (in Your Pants) (Albert Camus)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (in Your Pants) (Mark Twain)
  • The Jungle (in Your Pants) (Upton Sinclair)
  • Brave New World (in Your Pants) (Aldous Huxley)

Hank Green and his guitar.
I could not possibly cover everything that is awesome about the vlogbrothers in this one single post, so I'll have to summerize from here. Since this blog is for a literature class, it was most important I think to focus on John and his books, but Hank is just as awesome. Click the links in this post for more information. (Trust me, all of the links are worth it.) Hank, who is literally an internet personality for a living, got his start running, a blog about technology and the world featuring stories on how tech is positively and negatively affecting our environment. He is also a fantastic geek rock songwriter. His songs include Strange Charm, a song about quarks, The Fermi Paradox, and the absolutely viral Accio Deathy Hallows. Hank is a lover of math and science and graphic novels, and his video about The James Webb Space Telescope was tweeted by NASA.

The vlogbrothers have also touched the lives of many and participated in wonderful charities such as the Project for Awesome.

Before I leave you, I just want to say that I am very excited to have ordered a PIZZA shirt to support the vlogbrothers. I've always wanted one, and it's just a funny shirt. For information on the origin of what I'm talking about, you can check out the video below:


  1. Uh, hi. I just read like, your whole blog. And I laughed out loud. It's fabulous.
    John Green is one of my favorite authors, too, even though I've only read Paper Towns, a book which I could never put down. I kept this book with me at all times and would whip it out whenever I had a free second. And as soon as I started reading, I would start laughing. The kind of laughing that makes people wonder if you're sane or not. Or, at the end, I would cry. What a smart, awesome, nerdfighter guy.
    And guess what? When I bought the book, I found the nerdfighter note in it. I was so happy.
    The bacon blog post was so. funny. Next time I want to eat out, I'm getting the Panera sandwich.
    Those were my two favorites, closely followed by the All State one. Thank you so much for your awesome blogs!

  2. You made me want to go get these books!

  3. Admittedly I have never heard of either of these two people, in fact I didn't even know John Greene wrote Looking for Alaska, a book I did hear you say was a good read. Based of this blog I am more inclined to get one of his books to read. Great blog post Johnny.

  4. Loved this. My tribe, if I was 18 again. I 'm not sure if I will be making any "in your pants" jokes in school. hope it is enough to know that I am thinking of them. And can someone lend me Paper Towns? I am asking Mrs H to get it for the library.

  5. OMG> we have to read this:

  6. Yeah, I've heard a ton about Will Grayson Will Grayson, and I'm reading it after Paper Towns! It's interesting to see more and more really well written gay characters in books, comics, and movies. Wallace Wells, Scott Pilgrim's "cool gay roomate," is very funny, something of a father figure and definite source of guidance for immature man-child Scott, for example. Maybe that's what my next blog should be about.

    Thanks for your comments, everyone! I was surprised by the amount of people who went out and read one of these books after reading this. You guys are awesome.