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Make Me a Robot

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I had the privilege of seeing one of my favorite YouTubers in concert over the weekend, and it reminded me once again why I love Tessa Violet so much and how she inspires me.  So in the spirit of inspiring others, I thought I’d share some of her wisdom with you.

Tessa’s a bit of an interesting bird. She started out as a vlogger on YouTube–a bi-product of her international modeling stint. It later morphed into directing music videos and writing and acting in comedy sketches.  And then in the last few years she made the transition to singer/songwriter, which is a surprising change in genre for an online content creator. Very rarely does an audience resonate with a content creator in such a way that they can follow her through such dramatic shifts in genre and style.  But Tessa is different. She’s that quirky girl-next-door. She’s that friend who gets all your issues with anxiety and self-loathing. She’s the banner holder of all the outcasts and loners and people who feel like they just don’t quite FIT. In fact, when people ask me who my favorite YouTubers are, I almost always list Tessa first because I know if they also know her and like her, then we’re definitely going to be friends.  There’s a kinship between people who connect with her work and brand that’s nearly indescribable. But I’ll try to give you a little peak into what I think makes that connection.

One of my favorite songs off Tessa’s first album “Maybe Trapped Mostly Troubled” (and I think one of the most universally popular songs as well based on downloads) is “Make Me a Robot.” If you listen to the original album version, it’s electronic and loud with a powerful, sing-along worthy chorus. But it’s also admittedly a rather bleak song. It’s about feeling so worn out with your emotions and anxieties that you want to disappear–or in this case, become a cold, emotionless robot. And unlike most happy-go-lucky YouTube songs addressing these kinds of feelings, it doesn’t have a resolution.

At the concert this weekend, she played “Make Me a Robot,” but it was in its most subdued version. The keyboardist and drummer left the stage, and it was just Tessa with a guitar and blued lights performing an acoustic version of the song. And she also told the story of where this song came from. How she wrote it after having finally decided to go to therapy to help deal with her intense anxiety, but still feeling and fearing that she was a burden to others. That no one really liked her. That it was all lies to save her feelings.

The venue got so quiet in that moment as she outlined her past struggles, and I knew that most everyone there was feeling exactly as I was–that we know that struggle. That we have those fears. That we’re somewhere in our journey of trying to tear ourselves away from giving up.  Because if you’re a Tessa Violet fan, I’d put money on the fact that you’ve probably wanted to be made into a robot at some point in your life. You might even feel that way right now. The reasoning behind this desire will vary, but we’ve been drawn to Tessa because she’s put into words the disconnect we’ve felt with this world for so long.  

So “Make Me a Robot” isn’t a super hopeful song. But it’s a time capsule of a feeling, an experience that Tessa had, that many of us have had too.  And Tessa’s work and success is the resolution that isn’t present in the song. She’s the living embodiment of why you can’t give in to the cold, emotionlessness of a robot’s existence. You have to keep fighting for you.

So every time I hear Tessa and see her perform, I get a little more hopeful for my future and for all the others like me and her. We’re works in progress. But we’re damn amazing.

If you’ve never heard of Tessa before but are interested to learn more, check out her YouTube channel here.

Also, she’s just released a new EP, and these are the song’s she’s released music videos for so far. I was just going to link one, but after watching them all, I realized I love them all for different reasons and you should watch them!

I think “Dream” is my favorite visually. Like this is the aesthetic that I want to make all my videos in!

“Not Over You” has an amazingly cute and fun color palette and the song’s just so awesome!

“Haze” is an example of how a “lyric” video is still super beautiful and well-directed when it comes from Tessa.

Tessa’s acoustic cover of “Make Me a Robot.” If you want to hear the original electronic version, you’ll have to listen to the album.

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Why the 2016 Presidential Election is Already Over

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It’s October 19th and there are a little under 3 weeks left until the 2016 Presidential Election, but I’d like to suggest that the election is already over.  Why?  You might ask. Is this going to be one of those “Donald Trump has run himself into the ground so Hillary has already won” pieces? No, fortunately not.  But I do think the election is already over. We won’t know until November 9th who’s actually won, but for now, I consider it over and done. And besides the day of actual voting, I feel like we could not hear anything more about this election and be fine.

And why is this? Because as oversaturated as the media has been with the drama of this election for over a year now, we’re all decided voters.

In truth, I’m sure there’s a small group of people out there who legitimately haven’t decided who to vote for yet. (I saw someone just the other day start a Facebook thread asking her friends to give non-emotional arguments for each candidate because she was still undecided). But I don’t think it’s enough to particularly sway an election.  I think at this point, we’ve all mentally voted one way or another.

There are really four main categories: the Trump/GOP Supporters, the Hillary/Democratic Supporters, Third Party Voters, and Protest Non-voters. Everything I read, every political interaction I have, I’ve found people to be in one of these four categories. You’re voting for Trump or you’re simply voting for the Republican party even if you don’t like Trump.  Or you’re voting for Hillary or the Democratic party as a whole or you’re a “Never Trump-er.” Or you think a Third Party vote is better for your conscious or the country.  Or you disagree with all the candidates and feel that you can’t give your vote to any of them.  

We’ve all got different opinions about the election, but I would bet you anything that we’d all agree on one thing: that we’re so tired of hearing about the election and nothing in the next 3 weeks is going to sway us from how we’re voting. At this point, it’s really too late. We’ve already absorbed so much insanity that we can’t even tell what’s a lie anymore.  We’ll justify it however we need to feel comfortable following through with our decision.  This will make us seem stupid or ignorant or downright crazy to someone with a differing view.  But the thing is, we already feel crazy after all the nastiness and hatred and utter nonsense that’s occurred so it won’t feel too off-base anyway.

I guess the key is, please stop sharing “You’ll never believe what Trump/Hillary has done this time!” on Facebook. I mean, we get it. You don’t like X, Y, or Z candidate and can’t understand how anyone else is actually justifying their vote for them (I’m guilty of this too!), but honestly, it’s doing nothing but fuel our ever-burning internal fires of anger and irrationality.

I will be immensely happy when this election is over because at least (I can hope) for a little while that we might have some peace. (I also recognize that if either of the major party candidates win, the climate is such that either way, we’ll most likely be dealing with just as much anger, irrationality, and hatred as we are now).  But at least, for a little while, I can rest easy in the idea that people might stop telling me that I’m ignorant for voting one way or another. Or (more specific to my case) being afraid to let anyone even know what your voting preference is because you worry about retaliation and persecution.

I just hope that 2020’s election (or frankly, any future election) doesn’t feel anything like this one. I’ve had enough presidential election angst for an entire lifetime.

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Working with Brands on Youtube

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Hey friends! I’ve been a little overwhelmed this week with work and YouTube and life in general so my glorious plans for a blog didn’t work out the way I wanted them to. But I still wanted to post a little something so I thought I’d talk about my experience integrating a brand into a YouTube video recently because it’s something that’s new for my channel, but if you talk to anyone in the online video world, they’ll tell you, “You NEED to work with brands if you actually want to make any money!”  I’ve resisted this for a long time for two reasons:

  1. I feel like part of my channel’s brand is authenticity, and how authentic can I feel or be when I’m shilling products at people. Especially when most products that come my way don’t really fit the message of my brand to begin with. I’m not making videos to be a human billboard!
  2. Making interesting content (aka content that’s not just “HEY! BUY THIS THING SO I CAN MAKE MONEY!”) while integrating a brand is hard work.  It takes time and creative energy, and most of the time recently, I’ve felt like I’ve been barely scraping by with my channel.  How am I supposed to make interesting and authentic content without putting even MORE stress on myself?

The answer to that last question, is I’m not really sure yet, because while I enjoy my latest endeavor into brand-integrated content (my Universal Yums Snacks from Thailand video which you can watch below), it was not an easy or non-stressful experience.  Don’t get me wrong, Universal Yums was great! They contacted me about becoming a partner, had a very simple and straightforward application to fill out, and they sent me a box to try and showcase on my channel within a week.  The problem almost always comes with me.

The reason I decided to work with a brand when I don’t normally do so, is because I felt like being adventurous and trying snacks from another country fit with my brand. I’ve done similar videos at the Food & Wine Festival in Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  And I decided to model it after Buzzfeed’s “American’s Try (Some Kind of Weird Knew Food) for the First Time” videos. I find them amusing, and I felt like it gave me a good example of how to structure the video and engage with viewers in this somewhat new format.  And filming-wise, everything came together pretty well. I roped Parker into starring in it with me because it’s always more fun to have several different opinions when showcasing “new” or “weird” things, and it gave me someone to banter with.  The biggest issue though, came from how long this type of video is.  I cut 40 minutes of video down to a little over 11 and that left pretty much only the important parts of us trying the snacks and our opinions on them.  Essentially, this video that I wanted to be simple and as a “bonus” on my channel because I know it’s never going to get the kind of views my regular vlogs and advice videos get took maybe 3 times the effort and time that a regular video does. So by the end of the whole experience I was resenting the idea of branded videos and myself for agreeing to do something like this.  It made me want to go back to my little oblivious hole where I ignore all the brand contacts that come through my inbox and just make videos for me!

But then, I also want to have a successful channel. Working with brands not only helps you  monetarily, but if you work with the right ones, you can increase your viewership as well.  Essentially, you want to hit that sweet spot of a mutualistic relationship between you and the brand.  Everybody’s happy and everybody’s growing!  But it takes doing a lot of seemingly meaningless brand videos to build your portfolio and convince bigger and/or better-matching brands to work with you.

So I haven’t given up on making brand videos yet.  I still think there’s a benefit that I can acquire if I do enough and do the right ones.  If nothing else, it will be a great opportunity to build my skill set.  But I do think this experience helped me learn what I do and don’t like about branded videos. To be completely honest, it was so awkward and difficult for me to “sell” the product at the end of the video.  Even though I like the product and think it’s a worthwhile buy for the money, it felt weird for me to be telling my precious subscribers to buy something.  It’s probably the same reason I haven’t created a Patreon yet. I just feel “dirty” asking for thing other than a like or a comment. Even asking people to share my videos is difficult for me.  What’s wrong with me guys? I need to be more aggressive and apparently care less!

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Behind the Scenes at Howl-O-Scream 2016: Dolls, Clowns, and My Worst Nightmares

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It’s that time of year again! I’m so excited to bring you what’s new and scary at Howl-O-Scream in Busch Gardens Williamsburg this fall!  If you have a fear of creepy dolls (thanks Chucky and Pretty Little Liars), clowns, and carnivals, you’re in for some scream-inducing mayhem!

Busch Gardens added several new features to the park this Howl-O-Scream including a haunted house “Circo Sinistro” which has a carnival/circus theme, a Terror-tory in Italy called Sideshow Square which continues the circus theme, two Escape Room experiences, and the Starfright Orchestra on Saturday evenings playing your favorite Halloween tunes.  I really loved the “Evil Encore”/Circus theme because it’s surprisingly bright and fun sounding while being thoroughly creeptastic. In fact, I wish that more of the park could have incorporated it, and perhaps even expanded upon the Mr. Karver/Georgie the Doll mythology that I glimpsed in the Escape Room.  It’s scary without being so overwhelmingly terrifying that you feel you like you can’t have any fun, which for me, made for a super great experience. So let’s break the new and interesting things down for you:

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No Escape → Escape Room Experiences

Have you been to an Escape Room yet? It’s a difficult adventure where you’re locked in a room with some friends and you have to find and solve clues to escape before the clock runs out!  I did one in New York City when I was at YouTube NextUp in the spring, and it was so fun once I got the hang of it.  Busch Gardens is catching onto the trend and put together an amazing experience.  Not only are they Halloween themed (Mr. Karver’s creepy doll workshop, and the mystery of Jack the Ripper), but they also have performers in the room with you! I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard of a Escape Room with that added element yet. It certainly ups the difficulty factor as you’re a little worried Mr. Karver is going to cut off one of your limbs at any moment!  I didn’t get to play the rooms, but I did get to tour them, and they look amazing! The Escape room experience isn’t included in the price of admission, but I think it’s well worth the price because it’s a puzzle experience and show all in one!

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Sideshow Square

Terror-tories have always been something I tried to avoid in Howl-O-Scream. I’m not a big fan of  people jumping out at me when I’m just trying to eat some funnel cake.  But sometimes you have to walk through them in order to get through the park quickly which is why I actually really like Sideshow Square. While you do have some extra creepy guys in weird clown masks walking around with chainsaws that sound like clown horns, you’ll also find fun (but still scary) “sideshow” style areas.  For example, I got tricked into pressing a button to have my fortune told and ended up with a fortuneteller jumping out of the booth at me. Ah! It makes you want to linger a little more to see everything that’s there rather than power walk through it like your grandma on steroids.

Circo Sinistro

I’m not a big haunted house fan. I’ve learned to somewhat enjoy them when I have a big group of friends, and I can hide in the middle and use them as shields. However, walking through a haunted house essentially alone because you’re wearing a GoPro harness with a light pointed at your face that is basically blinding you, makes for an entirely different experience. Parker was hanging out behind me filming from a different angle so I didn’t have any manly biceps to cling to. I was really nervous to go in! But I would say that of all my Howl-O-Scream maze experiences, this one is actually my favorite! It’s long and has several different stages. It also didn’t feel so closed in and claustrophobic which is usually my one complaint with haunted houses. I remember the Catacombs maze in France in 2014 where I kept bumping into walls and it nearly made me hyperventilate.  But man, are the dolls and clowns in this maze horrifying! It’s pretty much full of every part of carnivals, circuses, and dollhouses that you HATED as a kid (and an adult). So good luck and Godspeed!

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Starfright Orchestra

I haven’t actually gotten to hear the Starfright Orchestra at the time of writing this blog because they only play on Saturdays, but I really hope that I get to take another trip on a Saturday just so I can sit and listen! If you’re a scaredy-cat like me, and really just like going to Howl-O-Scream for the Halloween-esque atmosphere, I feel like this is the perfect place to chill out!  I love the idea of just hanging out and listening to some fun Halloween-inspired tunes from some super talented musicians!

 

If you’re looking for even more Howl-O-Scream goodness (and fright!), check out my latest video from the park! I go behind-the-scenes in all the new areas that I summarize for you here, so if you’re still skeptical, you can see for yourself!