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I Can Make You Hot!: The Supermodel Diet (by Kelly Killoren Bensimon) -- Part One

NOTE: Although I was originally planning on posting this whole review at once, I was about a third of the way through the book when I realized that I was already quickly approaching the full length of my previous posts. So, in the interest of making this a pleasant experience for us all, I'm sharing the first half now, and will follow up with the second half in a few days. And honestly, KKB's writing reminds me of Inception in that it's almost certainly hazardous to spend too much time immersed in any single sitting. So fasten your seatbelts, and enjoy the ride!
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So, a lot of you guys have been asking about Kelly Killoren Bensimon's I Can Make You Hot! (wow, is this what it feels like to be an influencer?), and I am thrilled to report that my adventure through this book's 264 pages was even more confounding than I could have possibly anticipated. I have a feeling that I'll need every ounce of my strength if I want to have any shot at conveying to you all exactly how bonkers this purported self-help book is, so -- without further ado -- let's begin.
I Can Make You Hot!, subtitled The Supermodel Diet, has a fairly straightforward premise. Kelly, who "has done it all when it comes to nutrition and her body," will share her hard-earned wisdom with us, her humble readers. Or, as she says in her own words on the back cover:
In I Can Make You Hot! I'm going to clue you in to all the tricks I've learned from a variety of experts and that I now use to live my own life. I want you to be the best you -- happy, attractive, shapely, interested, interesting, and most of all, smokin' HOT!
The blurb promises that the experience of reading this book will be "like rooming with a supermodel and going on a diet together." Truly, only someone with Kelly Bensimon's tenuous grasp on reality would say this as if it were something exciting, rather than a scenario taken directly out of the third circle of hell.
But before we can truly learn what it means to be HOT!, we're treated to a foreword by none other than Russell Simmons. As he shares with us:
Kelly is a great mother and is constantly instilling strong principals [sic] in her daughters. In my opinion, that's the essence of being HOT. Kelly is smokin'.
And just like that, I Can Make You Hot! is knocked out of the running for First-Book-I've-Read-By-A-Bravolebrity-That-Is-Also-Free-From-Glaring-Typographical-Errors. Better luck next time, champ!
In case you were at all hesitant about Kelly's suitability for the job of helping the less fortunate among us reach their maximum potential, Russell clarifies:
Her beauty truly comes from within, and her clear internal compass and well-balanced lifestyle is what makes her an arbiter for what's hot. She has always had her own individual road map and is one of those people who beats to their own drum. Many are amazed by her leaps of faith and courage, which are products of her sustainable soul. And back to that energy! I used to think: If we could only package it. And now Kelly has!
I would kill to be a fly on the wall during a conversation between Russell Simmons and Kelly Bensimon. But all of these endorsements are making me impatient to dig into Kelly's advice, so I skim over the next few pages and arrive at the introduction: "What's HOT and What's Not." Almost immediately, Kelly reassures us that she was not always the gorgeous, talented socialite she is today -- "No. Let's just say that I was never one of those tiny, cute blonde girls who guys named their hamsters after." Excuse you what? I literally just walked away from my laptop to go talk to my boyfriend and make sure I'm not just ignorant of some otherwise well-known traditional male courtship ritual in which young men adopt rodents and christen them after the women they love. That doesn't seem to be the case, although please reach out if you can shed any additional light on this situation.
Reasonably enough, before we can learn how to be hot, we have to know what hot is. Fortunately, Kelly wastes no time in getting us up to speed:
When I was trying to come up with a title for this book, I kept asking myself how I would define what I love. "HOT" is the word that best describes what I love, and it's not a word I throw around lightly. "HOT" is attractive, unique, and first-rate -- never mediocre. Avril Lavigne made a video called "HOT." There are "HOT" issues of all my favorite magazines. Hotmail.com was given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service, and www.urbandictionary.com, whose definitions are created by their readers, defines "hot" as (among other things) attractive, the best, and someone who makes you wish you had a pause button when they walk by because you don't want that moment to end. (I want you to feel like that "someone.") Health, wellness, and fitness are always hot topics. "HOT" may be a buzzword but it's also how I describe the best there is and the best you can be. I've used the words "smokin' hot" for everything from a killer chicken wing red sauce to a coveted couture gown.
There is…a lot to unpack here. My leading hypothesis is that Kelly must have accidentally exposed her internal circuitry to water and started shorting out while writing this passage, causing her to string together a rambling parade of incoherent sentences with no relationship to one another, save a tangential association with the amorphous concept of hotness. Also, it's factually inaccurate. A cursory Google search reveals that Hotmail.com was not "given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service." Rather, the service's name was selected as a reference to the use of HTML to create webpages, as is more apparent from the original stylization, HoTMaiL. I know from her savvy allusion to "www.urbandictionary.com" that Kelly is capable of navigating the Internet, so I'm disappointed that she's made such a careless oversight within the first three pages of the book proper.
Kelly next takes us through a few scenes from her past to illustrate how she has come to understand the true meaning of "HOT." Here are just a few of the assorted pearls of wisdom that Kelly is gracious enough to share with us:
Is skinny hot? Naturally skinny is hot. Starving yourself in order to change your natural body type in order to get skinny is not hot.

For me, the ultimate HOT girl is the nineteenth-century Gibson girl.

…Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack and didn’t let it stop her from pursuing a sport she loves. She's smokin' HOT.

pregnancy is smokin' HOT
I'm distracted from my diligent note-taking by a line that truly makes me laugh out loud.
I don't want to pretend that I'm "just like you." To do that would be disingenuous, and you wouldn't believe me anyway. But I may be more like you than you think. My hair may be ready for Victoria's Secret, but my values are still Midwestern.
I appreciate the honesty! As I continue reading, I am pleased to learn that I am, in fact, already consuming this piece of literature in the appropriate way. As Kelly says:
I urge you to make notes as you go along, either in the book itself or, if writing in a book is anathema to you, in a little notebook to use as your own personal guide. Jotting down ideas as they pop into your head is the best way to process them and be sure that they don't leave again before you've had a chance to commit them to long-term memory. Then, if you've made a mistake, when you go back and see it there on paper, you'll remind yourself not to do it again. Or, as I like to say, you'll avoid getting bitten by the same food dog twice!
Bitten…by the same….food...dog? Never change, KKB. (As an aside, what's the oveunder on Kelly having even the slightest idea what the word 'anathema' means?) If I'm being totally honest, this book is making me feel a little superfluous. What more can I add when the source material is so impenetrable to begin with? How does one parse the unparseable? Newly humbled, I suppose I'll have to be content with just gaping in confusion alongside the rest of you. And now that I think about it, what better book to build me up from these insecurities and encourage me to be my best? In the words of Kelly herself:
After all, why wouldn't you want to be HOT? What's the alternative? Being "not so hot"?
The book is organized into seven chapters, one for each day of the week, focusing on seven distinct facets of hotness. We start our journey on "Monday: Make a List -- Plan and Prepare!" and are immediately blessed with another one of Kelly's philosophical ramblings:
To me, living well is the only option. What, after all, is the only alternative? Living badly? Who aspires to live badly? I want you to live well, and that's going to take some planning.
Eager to improve myself, I read on:
What are your goals for yourself? If you're going to make changes in your life, you need to have a plan, you need to prepare, and you need to take the time to get it right -- so that you don't wind up wasting your time. This is my plan, and from now on it's going to be yours. Monday is going to be the day you make a HOT plan and prepare for the rest of your week. Let's get started together!
I can't help but feel like this is one of those answers that beauty pageant contestants give when they don't actually know how to respond to a question. Or like a motivational speech written by a rudimentary AI. I can't quite articulate exactly what it is that makes Kelly's writing seem so utterly devoid of logical coherence, but it truly falls into the literary equivalent of the Uncanny Valley.
Reminding us that "this isn't just about budgeting your food; it's about budgeting your life," Kelly peppers us with even more helpful tips -- "You don't want to be that person who is snacking while you're shopping. That's not hot -- period." and shares a stream-of-consciousness-style list of "Staples I keep in my house." Which may possibly be some kind of freeform postmodern poetry. Judge for yourself.
Kelly advises the reader to "get out your calendar or PDA" to get a sense of your schedule. "Then use your PDA to find the closest well-stocked market and go there. Making life easy for yourself is what it's all about." Now is as good a time as any to clarify that this book was published in 2012. I'd be lying if I said reading so many consecutive Housewives memoirs hasn't made my grasp on sanity a bit shaky, but I am fairly positive that 2012 was not a banner year for the Personal Digital Assistant.
Kelly has taken the time to pluck out a few particularly incisive pearls of wisdom throughout the book to highlight as "Kelly's Cardinal Rules." I would love to help clarify exactly what this one means, but I'm afraid I'm utterly clueless. One thing I do know for certain, however, as the chapter comes to a close, is that "human contact is HOT; texting is not!"
The week continues with "Tuesday: A Little Ohm and a Little Oh Yeah! -- It's All About Balance." It is imperative that you work out, says Kelly, adding, "I've never met a smokin' hot couch potato and I bet you haven't either." Her personal exercise routine, as she shares, combines aerobics and yoga "because life is all about balance." As she quips, "I'm sure even Gandhi cracked a smile from time to time." A panel titled "HOT Tip" admonishes the reader: "Don't call it working out because exercise shouldn't be work!"
If you'd like to spend a morning in the style of Kelly Bensimon, it's as easy as eating "a couple of oranges" and drinking coffee -- "I love coffee; I would probably marry coffee if it proposed." She also lets us in on some of her secret, highly advanced workout routines designed to maximize your time in the gym and propel you towards your full potential. Such as the "Happy Twenty," in which you run for 18 minutes and then do 2 minutes of squats.
We get further instruction on the hottest ways to run on the following page, where a two-page spread advertises "a few of my HOT tips for having a fun run." To ensure that you're able to start your journey to HOT as quickly as possible, I've taken the liberty of transcribing one of her most valuable nuggets below:
Run in the street instead of on the sidewalk. I took a lot of flack for this when they filmed me on Season 2 of the Real Housewives of New York City. The thing is, I think that people walking down the street while texting are a lot more dangerous than a car. Drivers will go out of their way to avoid you (accidents are too much paperwork, and they really mess up a day), but strolling texters will walk right into you without even seeing you. You could also get smacked by a shopping bag, a stroller, or even an oversized purse. Sidewalks are really obstacle courses. Beware!
Kelly shares some standout tracks from her workout playlist ("It's much more fun exercising to music!"), including the perennial pump-up-the-jam classic, "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver. With no regard for thematic continuity or overarching structure, the next page is dominated by the header "Get Leggier Legs."
An April 10, 2009, article about me in Harper's Bazaar captioned one of the photos "She's got legs." I was born blessed with long lean legs, but I work very hard to keep them looking the way they do. I'm tall, but I could just as easily have long, large legs. And long and large is not hot. Unfortunately I can't give you my legs. But I can help you to be the best you can be.
Truly inspirational. I think.
We continue on with Kelly's advice for "how to avoid the 'freshman fifteen," accompanied by a list of what she refers to as "Kelly rules." These run the gamut from near-sinister
Get rid of any negative thoughts. Negative-town isn't Fun-town.
to nonsensical
For every cheeseburger and fries, you owe me 12 cartwheels on the quad with your friends.
to bizarrely specific and also racially insensitive.
If you starve yourself for a day because you want to lose weight for Homecoming, you owe me 5 minutes of sitting Indian style in a corner and meditating on why you thought that was a good option.
Upon further reflection, I think I would actually be extremely motivated to stick to a diet if the alternative was being reprimanded by Kelly and forced to think about my poor life choices.
As a scientist myself, I was ecstatic to see that Kelly has drawn from a diverse array of scientific disciplines to develop her HOT tips and tricks. Physics, for example:
From Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion
A body in motion stays in motion. The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force. So if you want to step up your exercise routine, try running in sand instead of on the pavement, or bike through gravel. That way your body will have to work harder in order to stay in motion.
Even biology has something to teach us about how to be HOT:
You are a living organism; life is an organic process. You need to be up and active, ready to enjoy the process. Be open and available and ready to do fun stuff. Participating in what you love is HOT.
I'm truly impressed by Kelly Bensimon's unparalleled ability to reframe the most basic common sense as divinely inspired wisdom. We see this in lines like
If you're feeling a bit frazzled and you need to calm down, you might want to take a yoga class.
or, as we read in another "HOT Tip" panel
Don't be afraid to drink water while working out.
I refuse to believe that this is a problem any person has ever faced. Even Aviva Drescher is not afraid of drinking water while working out (although, for the record, she is afraid of aluminum foil). Kelly closes out this chapter by encouraging the reader to "do one thing every day that takes you out of your comfort zone." If you find yourself lacking inspiration, she provides helpful suggestions, such as "try a fruit you've never eaten" and "try tap dancing." As she asserts, "there's nothing more foolish than sitting on your butt when you could be moving your body and having fun."
I turn the page, and the clock rolls over to Wednesday -- "Diet = 'DIE with a T.'" Cute. I bet Kelly would find that Tumblr post that's like "she believed" to be unbearably clever. She wastes no time in letting us know:
I don't believe in diets; diets are for people who want to get skinny. I want you to be happy. If you feel good about yourself, you'll make good choices. If you starve yourself to be skinny, you'll be undermining your sense of self-worth and you'll be unhappy every day. Eating well -- a variety of high-quality, fresh, unprocessed foods -- is for people who want to be happy -- and if you're not happy you won't be hot! Happy is always better than skinny.
This is starting to feel like some sort of word problem from Algebra II. If happy is better than skinny, but hot is equal to happy, diet = die + t??? Kelly tells us that all women fall into two categories: overachievers and underachievers. Being an overachiever is good, and being an underachiever is bad. Here are some things you can do to become an overachiever:
Make good choices.

When in doubt, have fun.

Keep smiling.
Kelly's motivational-phrasebook app apparently starts to glitch out right about here, but she continues on:
Stay positive and move forward. This is your last try at today. Yesterday may not have been great, but, today is better -- you just need to see it that way. The choice is up to you.
The idea of someone being in such a dark psychological place that they are able to find inspiration in those words is so deeply sad to me that I can hardly bear to consider it. Thankfully, Kelly has already taken a hard left turn into what I think is some sort of extended metaphor:
I've already said that you need to treat your body like a Ferrari, but maybe you prefer a Maserati, an Aston Martin, a Corvette, or even a Bentley. Whatever your luxury car of choice, if you treat it well, it will increase in value; if you treat it like a bargain rental car, it's just going to wear out -- and being worn out is not hot!
Ah, yes, I'd momentarily forgotten that cars almost always increase in value after they're purchased, and don't have a culturally ubiquitous reputation for losing most of their resale value immediately. Solid analogy. Apropos of nothing, we get a "HOT Tip" list of "model diet secrets that DON'T work." I'm extremely glad that Kelly encouraged us to take notes while reading -- I'd be devastated if any of these pointers had escaped my attention.
Eating Kleenex to make yourself feel full does not work.

The Graham cracker diet does not work.

Drugs do not work.
Well, I suppose this clears up some Scary Island confusion. Had Kelly indeed been doing meth (as the reported cat-pee smell might suggest), she would be fully aware that many drugs are, in fact, extremely effective ways to lose weight. But lest you start to lose faith in the expertise of our fearless leader, read on: "when it comes to food choices, I've probably made every mistake in the book." By which she means that she ate Chinese chicken soup before giving birth to her first daughter and it made her sick, so she ate a turkey sandwich before giving birth to her second daughter and she didn’t get sick. To be perfectly honest, I'm struggling to find a way to apply this wisdom to my own life, but I'm sure it will become clear in no time!
Kelly is relatable for the first time so far in the following passage:
When I was accused of being a "bitch" on national television, I was really upset. My response was to find comfort in Mexican food and margaritas for lunch and dinner three days straight.
But we promptly return to form on the next page as she recounts her daily diet of "2 green juices," "a KKBfit lunch," and "a KKBfit dinner." I'd like to take a moment to appreciate how generous it is of Kelly to share her wisdom -- earned through a lifetime of catastrophic missteps -- so freely. It certainly didn’t come without a cost, as the following anecdote illustrates:
On the last day of my juice fast, I took my older daughter to a Yankees game where we gorged on sushi. (Yes, they have sushi at Yankee Stadium) As a result, I was stuffed and blinded by carbs when A-Rod came up to bat and hit a home run. Was I able to savor that A-Rod moment with my daughter? Absolutely not. I was in a food coma. Will I ever let myself be thrown into a food frenzy again? No! Lesson learned: I made another stupid food choice, and because of that choice I missed that home run moment with my daughter. From now on, when I go to a Yankees game I'll have a small hot dog instead….I want you to do the same.
Verily! Heed her words of wisdom, lest ye not also lose the precious chance for thine own A-Rod moment.
But don’t think this caution means that you have to get caught up in the minutia of your day-to-day. On the contrary, appropriate planning means "you can stop obsessing about your carrot intake and concentrate on what it is that's going to make you a great person in life." To help illustrate this point, Kelly introduces us to the "Kelly pie." Otherwise known as a pie chart. This is a helpful way to really visualize how much time you'll have now that you can cut that pesky carrot-pondering out of your day! Kelly even offers some thoughtful "hints" to divide your pie:
  1. Celebrate your own health. We take health for granted.
  2. Get up in the morning and say, "I'm so grateful to be where I am and look the way I do," no matter what your size is.
  3. Tell yourself you look HOT, because you do.
  4. Believe in your ability to make good choices today and every day.
  5. Be mindful of what you eat. If I have to be mindful of what I eat, so do you. We're in this together.
Ooh, sorry Brad, I won't be able to make it to this afternoon's meeting -- it actually conflicts with my daily session of believing in my ability to make good choices today and every day. No, I understand how that could seem like an abstract sentiment rather than something that actually takes up time within your daily schedule, but if Kelly has to do it, so do I! And to be honest, my day is packed enough as it is -- it takes at least a second or two for me to tell myself I look HOT (because I do!), and I'm just worried that if I try to squeeze anything else in, it will cut into my mid-morning health celebration. Wish I could help!
In a strangely threatening aside, Kelly commands: "Write down what you ate for the last two days. Don't lie. We can start fresh tomorrow, one bite at a time."
In a section titled, "What I Eat Every Day," Kelly enumerates her "three go-to breakfasts": "two oranges or a plate of mixed berries if I'm not going to be very active, all-bran cereal or some other high-fiber cereal with almond milk or unsweetened coconut milk if I'm going on a long run, riding, or doing something else that requires extra energy, and on weekends, I love making pancakes to eat with my girls." As should be apparent, this is far more than three breakfasts. I am irrationally angry, in the same way I was when a Bachelor contestant said their favorite food was a charcuterie platter. That's cheating. (And yes, I do strongly identify with my Virgo moon, thanks for asking.)
Kelly inexplicably (apologies if I've used that word for the zillionth time already) tells us that "a plastic cup that says 'Forced Family Fun' from www.themonogramshops.com makes the smoothie go down with a giggle." Also, "sitting alone in front of the TV eating ice cream is not hot!" We are then introduced to one of Kelly's more advanced strategies, which she calls "Energy Economics." This means that you might need to eat more on days when you are busy and/or exercising, and less on days when you're relaxing. So many innovative ideas, this book has really packed a punch for its < $5 price tag!
Another ingenious idea? "Stuff cabbage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, or even onions with ground meat, chicken or turkey seasoned with salt and pepper. Bake until the meat is cooked through and the vegetable is softened." Granted, I have been a pescatarian for almost a decade at this point. But disemboweling an onion, jamming it full of hamburger meat, and cooking it for some indeterminate amount of time at an unspecified temperature seems…wrong.
Circling back to her theory of Energy Economics, Kelly explains,
If I don't eat [well], I'm violating my own laws of energy economics and my body goes either into inflation mode (too much energy when I don't need it) or recession mode (not enough energy in the bank for me to draw from). The key is to create economic equilibrium: eating well so that I feel good, which allows me to be happy.
I am begging someone to start a GoFundMe where we raise money to pay Kelly to explain how the economy works. The next page introduces us to "The KKB 3-Day Supermodel Diet," which is less of a diet and more a random assortment of miscellaneous health-related sentiments that reek of the 2009 pro-ana tumblrsphere:
Chew your food 8 times instead of 3 or 4.

Brush your teeth and chew mint gum as soon as you finished eating. When your mouth is fresh and minty, you'll be less tempted to eat again.
The final tip ("nurture yourself") includes a reminder to "blush your checks [sic]." Which may be a typo, but could also very well just be some strange Kelly saying that no one else has ever used in the history of the English language. On the next page, we're introduced to "Kelly's Food Plate." Which other, less sophisticated people typically refer to as the food pyramid. Kelly also takes a brief aside (in a feature box labeled "hot button issue") to expound upon her favorite delicacy, the humble jelly bean:
If you're a fan of the Real Housewives of New York City you probably remember that on Season 3 I took a lot of flack for eating jelly beans and talking about processed and unprocessed foods. I was actually making light of that food snob moment. Who stops at a gas station and asks for carrots? Did you bring your organic food cooler with you on this road trip? The important part is not to be a food snob; but when in doubt choose the best option. Sometimes it's better to be happy than it is to be right. Was I able to make my point? Clearly it wasn’t in the cards at that moment.
This is a truly stunning synthesis of her experience. Underestimate Kelly at your own peril -- this girl has been playing 4D chess for longer than we know.
The chapter continues with some tips from Kelly on how to make the most of your meal planning and shopping experience. And no -- you have no excuses:
There's absolutely no reason why you, wherever you live, can't eat "colorful" foods. All over the country there are "gi-normous" supermarkets where fruit and vegetable aisles are bursting with every color of the rainbow.
I am starting to get a "gi-normous" headache trying to make sense of this chaos. Kelly's advice that we can "mix and match what's there to make a FrenAsian or an ItaloGreek meal" is not helping. We also get some tips for how to grocery shop responsibly:
  1. Always go with a list and never buy more than two items you planned on taking home.
This is incoherent, right? I know I need to wrap up Part 1 of this write-up pretty soon, because I've read this sentence at least two dozen times trying to make some sense of it, and am still at an utter loss. I assume she's left out a negative somewhere, but at this point, I realize I've already thought about this tip for approximately ten times longer than Kelly ever has, so I'll move on.
For the third or fourth time so far this book, Kelly segues into a literal grocery list. To be fair, this is a very effective strategy to take up several pages with minimal text. And what could be more compelling than
Shitake/oyster mushroom combination packs

Dog treats

Lavender pepper
Truly the voice of a generation! Decades from now, English teachers will be teaching their students about a fabled wordsmith who once uttered those eternal words, "shitake/oyster mushroom combination packs." Because this book has absolutely no respect for logical cohesion, we are hurled immediately into a diatribe about how expensive it can be to buy organic -- "I recently walked out of an organic market having paid $400 for just three bags of groceries." As I read on, however, it becomes quickly apparent that Kelly has no idea what the concept of 'organic' even means:
"Organic," in any case, seems like something of a misnomer to me. I know the Food and Drug Administration has regulations for certifying foods organic, but to me, for foods to be truly and totally organic, they would have to be grown in a test tube or a greenhouse with no exposure to the natural elements.
Well, sure Kelly. If that's what you would like to use the word "organic" to mean, be my guest. She tosses us another crumb of helpful guidance, but it only serves to make me feel exceptionally sorry for Kelly's daughters and everything they have to endure:
Plate your food as if it were being served to you in a fine restaurant. Use a fancy foreign accent as you invite everyone to come to the table. Or try saying it in French. My girls love it when I announce, "Le dîner est servi!"
We learn in yet another "HOT tip" that "fast food doesn't have to be fat food," and Kelly tells us for the eighth time that she eats two oranges every morning. In what has already become a recurring theme for me in this book, the following passage makes me desperately curious to know how Kelly thinks science works:
One question people frequently ask me is whether I believe in taking vitamins or supplements, and the answer is "yes, I do," because, even though I know my diet is healthy, I can't be sure that I'm getting all the nutrients I need. All the vitamins and minerals we need can be found naturally in foods, but how do we know, even if we're eating a healthy diet, that we're getting everything we need?
I flip back two pages to confirm that Kelly told us quite recently how important it is to read nutrition labels to know what is in the food we eat (to make sure we avoid foods "whose labels are full of words you can't pronounce"). Exactly how she is reading these nutrition labels yet still manages to have no inkling how anyone could possibly begin to assess their vitamin and mineral intake eludes me. She continues:
I don't want to take that chance. I think of the food I eat as fuel and vitamins as my oil -- my body's engine needs both. Vitamins and supplements are not food replacements, but we're exposed to so many environmental toxins on a daily basis that I believe we need to supplement our diets to counteract all the harm those substances can cause.
I can certainly think of something that is causing harm to my psychological stability at this particular moment, which I should probably take as a sign to wrap things up for today and go read some incredibly dense Victorian prose or something to remind myself what a properly constructed sentence looks like. Promise I won't leave you waiting for long!!
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I fixed our company fax machine. I wish I didn't.

I know what you’re thinking.
It’s 2020. Who the hell still uses fax machines?
You’re right obviously. There can’t be many people who are still using them in this day and age, but apparently, my office is one of them. They don’t actually use it of course , but it sits there in the printing room, unplugged and gathering dust. For some reason, nobody ever dared throw it away. My guess is that nobody from management ever took enough interest, or were worried one of the old guard would throw a hissy fit if it disappeared one day. I suppose it’s one of those relics people keep around “just in case”.
Whatever the reason, we’ve got one. And despite working in coding, whenever something electrical breaks in the office, I get asked if I can help fix it. (Here’s a life lesson - never show anyone at work you’re good with computers. Suddenly you’ll be working two jobs for the price of one.) Since I’m a sucker for a pretty woman, and too polite to say no, about four months ago when a pretty woman asked if I could fix the fax machine, you bet your ass I quit scrolling on reddit and headed to the printer room.
Turned out to be an easy fix - it was just out of ink. But, since pretty much all our cartridges are those rip off branded ones that only work with a specific printer, sourcing new ink meant I had to order some online. After searching the cubicles I finally found the girl to let her know it should be working in a couple of days. I was hoping for “My hero” and possibly a bit of light swooning, but she didn’t even look up from her phone and all I got was a “K, thanks”. She’d just been asked by her manager to do an inventory check and passed it down the line to me. Great.
This was back when Covid-19 was still just a rising trend on twitter, before the world went into full blown panic mode. Despite my best efforts to ignore current events, I still got sucked into the standard water cooler conversations that everyone was having, and I forgot all about the fax machine until the ink arrived the next week. Even after filling the fax machine up, one of its little lights was still flashing. The machine was so old, whatever symbol had been placed directly under the electric diodes had long since faded. Despite the missing symbols, I realised it was trying to print something but had no paper.
Ink and paper. Heroic fix, right?
The moment I loaded it with A4, this ancient little machine snatched the paper and began churning out page after page. It was that archaic nineties sound, when you could hear the ink plotter whirring back and forth. Just printing one page seemed to take almost a minute, but the pages soon piled up and just kept on coming. I supposed that even though the fax machine had been off all these years, it had just instantly resumed whatever print queue was still in its internal storage. If the fax number had been live all this time, it could well be processing every single file that had been sent to our company fax number since nineteen-ninety-whenever.
Looking down at the pages it had spat out, I could see how it ran out of ink. The pages were full black and white pictures. The resolution was terrible though. I hovered around for a minute, but this machine would not stop printing. Flicking through the images, I checked to see if someone had accidentally punched in too many zeroes when they chose how many copies to print, but each page was different. They all followed the same format though, a full black and white image, and a big number in the top right corner. I puzzled over it, trying to make patterns out of the numbers, but they were all over the place.
2
782
45
99999999999999
1.315
800
The images didn’t seem to form any sort of logical grouping either. They weren’t adverts or presentation materials. They didn’t look professional or creative. They were just random. People. Things. One was just a weird floaty ball thing; it looked like a space hopper, but for aliens. I let the pile of paper flop back down and scrolled on my phone. Eventually it would print everything, surely?
I was getting a little bit too distracted by the girls of ‘GoneMild’ when an abrupt halt to the fax machine’s endless whirring made me look up. It had finally stopped printing. When I moved closer to look, the light was flashing again. Out of ink....
Grumbling to myself, I headed to the supply cupboard to grab the bottle I’d bought. Luckily, I’d had to buy in bulk, so still had plenty left. Since the fax machine was running low on paper, I topped that up too. Knowing I couldn’t spend the whole day standing next to this fax machine looking at abundant cleavage, I scooped up the images, set them to one side and let the fax machine do its thing.
Just before I left for the day, I went to go check on it. It had stopped printing, but only because it had run out of ink. Again. Cursing whichever moron had sent an entire graphic novel collection to the fax machine twenty years ago, I tried to see if I could somehow clear the print queue, but the buttons didn’t do anything and there was no display panel, just lights that blinked when it needed something. There’s a joke about my ex-girlfriend there somewhere, but let’s not go there.
Figuring maybe it would finish overnight, I moved the fresh stack of printed pictures - still just numbers and images - next to the previous pile and reloaded the fax machine with ink and paper. It dutifully resumed whirring and spitting out new images.
It wasn’t a surprise the next day to find that the fax machine’s thirst for ink (and my time) had not yet been quenched. It almost seemed proud of its new collection of prints, and I quickly flicked through to see if this pile was any different, but it was just as nonsensical and bizarre as the rest. I could - and probably should - have left it. But I was curious to see how much longer this queue would last before I reached the end. Without sitting there and counting them, there must have been easily three hundred pages of weird images. How many more could there be? Besides, the ink I’d bought wouldn’t be compatible with any of the other printers our company owned, so I might as well use it. I topped up the machine again and left it humming and chewing through a fresh pack of A4.
Halfway through the day, there was a knock at my office door, and an extremely pissed off woman from upper management asked me what the hell I was printing on company time. She practically dragged me to the printing room, whilst I did a less-than-spectacular attempt at explaining the situation.
“Look at this!” she said, gesturing wildly at the fax machine. The light was blinking again, as if to taunt me. On top of the fresh stack of paper was the number ‘84’, and an image of a man’s face, close up, clearly in pain. Agony might have been a better way to describe it. Even with the pixelated and crappy monotone quality of the printer, you could see the man’s facial muscles contorting, eyes clamped shut, teeth bared.
“I haven’t printed any of this,” I said quickly, holding up my hands, “this is just whatever is left from the last time it was on.”
“Even so, you can’t just leave them lying around,” she hissed, splaying the pages and pulling them out to show me. I’d just been looking for patterns, but she was searching for offensive images, and in the stack of hundreds, there were plenty to choose from. Images of fire and blood, people wearing sinister masks, dead bodies just lying in the street. When she pulled them out and lumped them together, it didn’t look good. “This is completely unacceptable! Get rid of them.”
She picked up the rest of the papers and dumped them in my hands. As she scrambled around, the only thing I could think to mutter was “it’s still not finished printing.”
“Just leave it,” she snapped, pulling out the plug and sticking the fax machine on its old dusty shelf, “it’s 2020, who still uses these things?”
She was right, of course. I’d known the only reason they’d wanted it turned on was for an inventory check. Nobody actually wanted to use it. But I guess programmers are naturally curious about how things work. Or I am, at least. I still wanted to see how deep this particular rabbit hole went, but it wasn’t worth losing my job over. I’d not really noticed how bad some of the images were. I turned the pages upside down as I walked back to my office, to avoid anyone else seeing them.
Hovering over the bin, I was half tempted to keep them. They were kind of cool, in a weird way. But what was I going to do with hundreds of random images and numbers? I dropped the whole stack into the bin, and forgot about it. I browsed reddit, and when my colleague came in we talked about how crazy this whole coronavirus thing was.
That was before the lockdown. We started working from home before the Government shut down the country. It’s been a weird few months - like living in a really boring movie - but I was actually kind of glad to get back to work. I’m a creature of routine, I guess.
Not everybody was as eager or as willing to go back to the office as I was, so the place was pretty deserted when I got to work. I did a little bit of catching up with the few faces I saw and knew, then sat down at my computer. No word of a lie, it actually had cobwebs on it. I grabbed some tissues from my drawer and wiped the screen, then as I slid across to throw it in the bin - I froze.
The papers from the fax machine. In all the lockdown craziness, I’d forgotten all about them, but even the cleaners had been sent home when it all kicked off. The papers were still in my bin. The top page was still the one that I'd been yelled at for. The pained face, twisted in an excruciating grimace. Only there was a difference now that made the skin on my arms tingle.
I recognised the face.
The whole world recognised that face now. On a four month old piece of paper, printed in monotone black, was George Floyd.
When I’d first seen this image, I had no idea who he was. It wasn’t the face the TV was showing though; the normal photo of him looking into the camera, alive and well. It was the face that you had to go on internet videos to see. Pinned down. Knee on his neck. Dying.
For a moment, me and George just stared at each other. Then I reached down and slowly pulled all the papers out of the bin, shaking my head. Was I remembering things wrong? Had George died before lockdown? Even if he had, why was a fax machine printing pictures of his death? I pulled up google, and checked. George Floyd died May 25th 2020. We left the office the first week of March.
I just sat there, slowly spinning in my chair, completely unable to process the image in front of me. Then I remembered there were hundreds more pages underneath. Scattering them around the table, my mouth hung open as I began to recognise things I didn’t know the last time I saw them.
The weird blob that had just looked like an alien space hopper, my eyes now instantly saw it was the coronavirus, viewed under a microscope. If I’d have been paying more attention at the time, I’d have probably known. There were riots and protests, a police officer with bullet wounds in his chest, a black teenager hung in a noose, the dead bodies in the street were wearing face masks. A shiver wrapped its way around my entire body as cold realisation spilled over me. Only a few images made any sense to me, but every single one had happened after it had been printed.
It couldn’t be right. Someone must have changed the pictures. They were so low quality, I must just be seeing things. I snatched the picture of George up. It was him. There was no denying it. It was him. My eyes flicked to the ‘84’ at the top right corner. Should I put them in order? I slid the papers around, searching for an ‘83’ or ‘85’, then I paused. He died almost three months after this was printed…
Pulling up the calendar on my computer, I started counting backwards from May 25th. As my finger moved closer and closer to the week we’d left the office, I forced myself to count out loud, but each number just came out in a strangled whisper.
“Eighty-one, eighty-two, eighty-three…”
My finger pointed to March 3rd and fell away. I couldn’t physically say the number. But it was the same as the one printed in black above George Floyd’s final moments. Casting my mind back, I tried desperately to remember what day I printed off these pages. I knew I got the ink delivery on a Monday, and I was printing for one more day before I got told to stop.
March 3rd was a Tuesday.
The fax machine hadn’t just printed the future. It had told me how many days until it happened. As if it had been trying to warn me.
In that moment, I became extremely aware of how cold it was in my office, and how quiet. My hands slid by themselves to the pile of papers, rummaging around until I could find another to verify. All the rioters were too vague; I needed something more specific. At first I passed straight over an image of Big Ben and empty London streets, but then I realised that it could represent the UK going into lockdown. Only when I pulled out the paper did I see the number.
31080
I couldn’t remember exactly how many days had passed between printing and lockdown, but somehow that seemed a little high. Maybe my day theory was just a coincidence with George. Still, here I was surrounded by hundreds of images that the fax machine had somehow known would happen before they did. I was just about to go and check the machine was still in the printing room, when my eyes landed on a page that made me pause.
It showed a man in an untucked shirt and jeans carrying a large box. One that looked a lot like the fax machine. And the man looked a lot like me, even down to the clothes I was wearing.
Despite the cold air, I was starting to sweat. Both my arms were trembling with faint shivers, and I puffed out a deep lungful of air, half to hear something familiar and natural, half to break the silence that was digging under my skin. I ignored the man who looked like me as best I could, and concentrated on the number. 128. Frowning, I turned back to the calendar and counted the days. One hundred and twenty eight days from March 3rd would be tomorrow. So, tomorrow I’d grab the fax machine? In the clothes I was wearing today? If I’d not seen the image, I would have gone to grab it and bring it into the office right now. Looking back at the picture, it was impossible to tell where I was going or even where I was. The background might as well have been a snowstorm for all the grainy blots and faded ink.
Why was it printing pictures of me, or at least, someone who looked like me? And why such a mundane event? Fighting the urge to rip that page into little pieces, I decided to go to the printing room and see if the fax machine was still there. Weirdly, I was sort of relieved when I saw it was. Maybe I was worried someone might have taken it, and the mystery would be over. Raiding the supply cupboard for the remaining bottle of ink, I scooped the fax machine up in one arm and headed back to the office. I didn’t want to hold it like the man in the picture was, but because of its awkward shape and weight, I ended up doing exactly that.
Placing it down on my desk, I unravelled the cord and plugged the fax machine in, topping it up with ink and paper. Almost immediately, it resumed screeching and chewing through the paper. Mind racing, I looked at all the printed images and numbers, spread chaotically all over my desk. Snatching up the image that looked like me, I clutched it in both hands and stared at it so hard, my eyes must have been close to boring holes right through it. It didn’t look like me. It was me. There was no denying it. Desperately glancing back and forth at the number and my calendar, I realised that most of these pages had been printed on Monday 2nd March, not Tuesday 3rd of March. By searching through them like a frantic idiot, I’d mixed them all up. If this one of me had been printed on the Monday, the number was accurate. 128 days until it had come true. The machine had predicted exactly what I’d do, and even though I saw the image, I still did it.
I threw up into the bin.
Some part of my brain had still been holding onto the possibility that somebody was messing with me, but the page clutched in my shaking hands was proof that this was something else entirely. The fax machine was printing the future. Hundreds of pages of events that happened after they were printed.
I threw up again, dry heaving until there was nothing left in my stomach.
Wiping my mouth, I screwed up the image of myself and the fax machine and tossed it in the bin. It wasn’t like the others, and I had to wrestle with myself not to grab a lighter and set the thing on fire. George Floyd and the others had been creepy. The image with me in it - that I’d literally just fulfilled - took my soul and shook it. I was sweating so much I began to stain the other papers as I ruffled through them. All the images I recognised seemed significant for one reason or another. The kind of events that history would document. How was I included?
Fumbling through my colleague’s drawers, I found what I was looking for. His cigarettes. I normally only smoke when I’m drunk, but needed something to stop my brain racing. As I lit it and took a deep drag of hot vapourised tar, I dimly realised I’d never had a cigarette sober, and there was a reason for that. Puffing out thick plumes of foul tasting smoke and biting down a cough, I searched through the other images. How many had happened? How many were still to come? Were there any that were wrong? Since I’d already messed up the divide between Monday and Tuesday, I decided to take out the ones I knew had happened.
It helped a little bit, and stacked together I could see my theory about the numbers equalling days needed some refinement. Images of the riots following George’s death had all sorts of digits on, ranging from 2.6 to 7862027. Since I knew they’d definitely happened, I played around with the numbers a bit, and realised that if I treated the big numbers as seconds or minutes, they would fit the timeline much better. The small numbers generally worked out as months or weeks. Except for some that I could tell were actually days. It didn’t take long for my head to start hurting, and I didn’t think it was the cigarette.
So the image showed what would happen, and the number referred to when, in varying time formats. I was trying to think how I could organise the remaining images when the fax machine stopped printing. Out of ink again. God dammit.
The top page was just money on a counter, and I noticed something that had eluded me on the other images. The fax machine didn’t print text. Other than the number in the corner, there were no letters or symbols of any kind on the image itself. The bank notes were blank, with Queen Elizabeth’s face the defining feature that let me know it was currency. The top left number on this one was very small. 0.0329
Placing the stack neatly on my colleagues desk - I did not want to mix these up with the others - I reached for the bottle of ink and my heart sank. It was practically empty, with only a few dribbles of black ink at the bottom. Immediately, I jumped online to buy more.
With delivery times, I’d likely have to wait a couple of days to print more of the future. I bit off a laugh. What was I thinking? I couldn’t just sit on this, this was more important than some office schmuck waiting for a parcel. I needed to tell someone. The government needed this, or the UN or something. Someone who wasn’t me.
Pouring the last remnants of ink into the fax machine, I took out my phone. Who to call? My boss? The police? My local councillor? My fingers hovered over the numbers, wondering how I’d prove it. All my proof had already happened. Only that angry upper management woman had seen them beforehand, and she didn’t exactly seem like someone who I could get easily get on board. I didn’t even know her name.
Paralysed, I looked back at the papers, as if they might help me. The one with the money. That was a small number. It should be happening soon. The currency was British. That meant I’d got both space and time within at least some close proximity. But what did it mean? Money on a counter. That could be anything. Everybody in the country had money. I could reach into my wallet right now and put money on the-
I took out my wallet and opened it up. Two fivers and a twenty. Comparing the size and the pictures didn’t take long to see that the image showed the same. There were coins on the counter too. I unzipped my wallet and began to dig out my coins. I had four, and the image only had three. Relief washed over me as I figured it was likely just an extreme coincidence. Then, as I pulled out the coins to check closer, one slipped from my fingers and clattered to the floor, bouncing and rolling away. I lurched after it, but it disappeared underneath a filing cabinet.
Cursing, I examined my remaining coins. They were identical to those in the image. The one under the filing cabinet wasn’t there. This was my money.
The fax machine sputtered to a stop and I leapt out my chair, half in shock, half spurred to action. It was my money in the picture. The fax machine was predicting what I’d do again. I placed my money on the table and stepped back, waiting for something to happen. Nothing did, of course. I even tried rearranging it, to closer match the image. Nothing.
Looking at the fresh papers, it hadn’t even finished printing the latest one. It was still half stuck in the machine. I carefully pulled it out, and my blood went cold. At the bottom of a set of stairs, was a tangled heap of limbs. The face hadn’t been printed yet, but I recognised the untucked shirt. The trainers too, I recognised, even underneath the blood. And tauntingly, just on the edge of the image, was the fax machine.
This was me. Dead.
Swallowing, I became painfully aware of the number printed above the image. 6.
Six? Six what, days? Years? Minutes? Seconds?
If I’d had anything left to vomit, it would have come out. I needed to get out of here. I needed to take this machine and prove it was real to someone else or smash it to bits and throw it in a river or burn it or -
Forcing myself to take long, deep breaths, I studied the image. What if seeing this image made me panic and leave with the fax machine? What if, in my blind panic, I slipped on the stairs, and that’s what made the image come true?
Calming down a little, I realised I could just wait. There were no stairs in my office. If I just didn’t leave for a little bit longer, that ruled out seconds and minutes. I still had seven hours of my shift left, so I could rule out hours too. That just left days, weeks, months and years to worry about, right? And I could worry about them later.
So I sat still for a few minutes, sickly smile growing on my face. After what could well have been six minutes, one of the lights on the fax machine lit up, blinking red. That particular LED had never lit up before, and I found myself wishing I could have some idea what symbol would have been underneath it.
I decided it was because I’d beaten it. I’d not followed the future it had predicted for me, and so it wasn’t happy. Jokingly, I fed the paper back to it.
“Want this back?” I said out loud with a smile.
My smile shattered when the fax machine took it. It snatched the paper out my hand and garbled it in reverse, spitting out a clean white paper back into the feed tray. There was the briefest pause, and then it began printing again.
Once more, it ran out of ink before finishing, and the image came out incomplete. It was almost identical. A mangled body wearing my clothes, blood covered pages scattered all around, and a fax machine lying on its side. Instead of stairs, skid marks of a tyre ran underneath the pages and my body.. My face hadn’t printed this time either, and the number 0.00476 hung ominously above me.
Part of me wanted to immediately run the numbers, to see how long I had to avoid roads to stop this becoming true. But part of me knew the truth. The similarity of the images was too striking. The exact same prediction, just a different cause in a different place. Same death, just slightly later. The fax machine was apparently convinced this was my destiny.
On my computer, I closed the calculator and opened a Word document. This Word document. In a moment I’ll save it and email it to you. Please note the timestamp.
I’ve managed to push back my destiny once. The fax machine has shown me what to avoid and roughly how long for. The blinking red light even tells me when it’s safe. I’ve got a few strategies to survive, but this is my failsafe in case I’m wrong. It’s not like I can stay in this office forever. The pictures are important, and I’m amongst them, which means my actions are important.
I can’t sit in my office hiding away, whilst the literal future of humanity sits in my hands.
I’m going to get more ink.
***
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I Can Make You Hot!: The Supermodel Diet (by Kelly Killoren Bensimon) -- Part Two

I hope you all have taken full advantage of the past 48 hours or so to regain some sense of normalcy after our adventures through Part 1 of Kelly Killoren Bensimon's I Can Make You Hot! Without further ado, Part Two:
I resume my journey through the truly incomprehensible mind of Kelly Bensimon with a chapter entitled, "Thursday: Tricks of My Trade." Now that we've learned about the basic building blocks of hotness, Kelly promises to share even more hard-earned advice to help us really kick things up a notch. And, as she reassures us:
I'm actually glad for the mistakes I've made because anyone who doesn't make mistakes doesn't learn, and if you don't learn, you're boring!
And if you're boring, you're not HOT! I think I'm starting to get the hang of this!
One of Kelly's most important life lessons came at her first horse show, when she made an unbelievably devastating misstep: "I decided to have an egg on a bagel from the food-service van." What kind of unimaginable ripple effects did this poor decision set off? I continue on to learn that Kelly "did all right in the competition." And…that's literally the whole story. Kelly legitimately refers to this as "one of my biggest lessons," as it taught her "to never eat more than I normally would." If life-changing breakthroughs were this easily sparked in my own life, I can't even begin to imagine how self-actualized I would be at this point.
At this point in my reading, I have reached the book's first insert, which contains about a dozen glossy color photos from various phases of Kelly's life. Unfortunately, I am far too preoccupied by this picture, in which a carefree, wind-swept Kelly clenches her infant daughter under one arm with all the grace of an NFL wide receiver, to pay the rest of the spread much mind.
We continue on as Kelly introduces new dimensions to the basic tips she's previously introduced. For example, you may have had some vague idea that water was important, but Kelly -- always there to help us learn and improve -- digs into the specifics to make sure we're up to date on the HOTtest tricks of the trade:
Staying hydrated is important no matter what you're doing, so I always try to drink eight glasses or about a liter of water a day. Soda isn't water. Coffee isn't water. Water is water. Drink throughout the day; don't try to get it all down at once. You wouldn't drown an orchid, so don't drown yourself.
I am putting in my formal request for a Public Service Announcement in this format, but using the last line of that passage. Also, Kelly clearly does not know how poorly I tend to my houseplants.
The next page informs us that, "hot isn't just caliente; it's also spicy and sultry." Kelly promptly launches into yet another list of miscellaneous grocery items, this time focused specifically on "red-hot foods." Except it includes entries like "popcorn with sugar and cinnamon," and "Mike and Ike candy," so I'm not convinced Kelly didn't just lose track of the thread entirely by the time we got a few items in. However, this does seem like an appropriate time to introduce this picture, from the book's second photo insert, which clearly depicts the sleep paralysis demon that has haunted my dreams for the past several nights. We're also treated to this chapter's first "hot button issue" panel, in which Kelly pulls back the curtain on the shadowy, pro-salt cabal trying to control us all with their anti-sodium legislative agenda:
We keep reading about how bad sodium is for our health, but if you eat fresh foods that you prepare yourself, you can determine and control the amount of salt you want to use. I, Kelly Killoren Bensimon, am perfectly capable of deciding how much salt I want to put on my food. I don't need anyone else to salt my food for me. I know that the amount of salt I choose to sprinkle on my food is not going to hurt me.
I read on to find a two-page spread in which Kelly expounds, in rhapsodic praise to rival that of Song of Solomon, upon her ardor for her beloved dehydrator -- "I though I was in love with coffee, but now I think my dehydrator is my truest love." Most of the passage is taken up by an unstructured list of the various things Kelly has attempted to dehydrate ("cucumber," "mangoes," "avocado") but she does manage to squeeze in a few infomercial-ready lines -- "Really, you should buy one; I promise you won't be sorry."
Since repetition is the key to reinforcing new concepts, I appreciate that Kelly's next list (of "a few more lean tricks I've learned along the way") repeats a note she originally relayed to us just a few pages ago:
Drink water throughout the day (not all at one sitting).
She's also been thoughtful enough to provide a list of resources for us to use as we soldier on along the perilous journey to HOT. After all, as Kelly says, "I don’t expect you to carry this book wherever you go -- as much as I would love that." As someone who has never before ventured into the wild world of cyberspace, I really appreciated Kelly introducing me to so many fun, useful websites that I might want to check out! In case you, too, just haven't figured out how to navigate this whole Internet thing, I've included a few examples below:
www.amazon.com
One-stop shopping for just about any book, periodical, or product you might want to read or buy in order to get HOT.

www.espn.com
Everything you need to know to stay up to date on any sport.

www.webmd.com
Useful, up-to-date, trustworthy information on medical and health issues.

www.yummly.com
Claims to have "every recipe in the world"
Can't wait to check these out later! That Amazon one sounds super cool!
I'm reminded quickly just how inelegant the transitions in this book are as we move directly from that list into the following:
I suggest that you take a picture of yourself every day…Some days when you're feeling your fattest, you may be surprised to see that you really look great.
Okay, so fat is NOT HOT. Except being comfortable in your body is HOT. And trying to be skinny is NOT HOT. But being skinny is HOT. Thank goodness I still have a few more chapters to go -- I clearly still have a ways to go before I truly understand the logic of HOTness. As it stands, I must admit that I'm a bit baffled.
Of course, returning to the previous bit of advice, Kelly doesn't actually have to worry about taking her own pictures like us plebeians -- "Having been photographed so often has provided me with a permanent retrospective catalogue of my life." The chapter closes with these words of wisdom:
The best kind of vanity is being vain about what you put in your body.
Friday's chapter promises to introduce us to the world of "Hot Couture," and I am excited to see what tips and tricks Kelly has managed to accrue over her lifetime in the cutthroat world of modeling . But first, we abruptly transition to a story about Kelly meeting Madonna shortly after both women had given birth. Kelly had "gained a healthy fifty pounds," which I am led to believe, from the context of the anecdote, is NOT HOT. Madonna, on the other hand, was "flat-stomached" and therefore "HOT and cool." Of course, Kelly reassures us hurriedly that she lost all the weight within the following six weeks and was "actually thinner than I'd been prepregnancy." I am at an utter loss as to what the point of this story could possibly be, but -- blessedly -- Kelly is gracious enough to explain:
So what's the lesson here? That Madonna had personal trainers and chefs to whip her back into shape, and I didn't -- and still don’t. I shouldn't have been comparing myself to her in the first place. My advice to you is: don’t compare yourself to anyone else, only to your own personal best.
This is a perfect example of something Kelly does throughout this book, which is to present a completely reasonable piece of advice (don’t compare yourself to others), but couched within such a bizarre and logically disorganized narrative that by the time I reach the ultimate moral of the story, my brain feels like it's been run through a series of meat grinders, and I'm reduced to just nodding along in bemused acceptance.
We get a "Kelly's Cardinal Rule" reminding us to "let your body be what your body is and be happy with what you've got." I'm starting to wonder if there is some sort of Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde thing going on behind the scenes here, in which two versions of Kelly are frantically grappling over control of the book's body-positivity dial. I'm literally don't even have to flip the page to see Kelly commiserating with us that "we all have days or occasions when we feel fat" and quipping about her "go-to fat outfit." But also:
Stop praying for what you don't have and be grateful for what you've got.
This amount of cognitive dissonance is truly proof that Kelly contains multitudes. Or has recently acquired some sort of debilitating short-term amnesia. Nevertheless, we continue:
But whatever your shape, show it off. Don’t try to hide it. Hiding is not hot.
Kelly next walks us through figuring out which "season" we are, based on the wisdom extolled in "Color Me Beautiful, the groundbreaking book that was so wildly successful in the early 80s." It's no surprise to me that Kelly, who earlier encouraged us to make our lives easier by using our PDAs, finds this to be an exciting new trend to share. Also, in case you weren't aware, "hair color is also important. You can lighten it or darken it or cover the gray." Lighten it or darken it? The boundaries of my mental universe are truly expanding.
Some more fashion tidbits:
Scarves are hippie chic, cool, and always HOT.

If you're narrow, show off how narrow you are with a monochromatic palette.

Ankles are the new cleavage!
Narrow ankles only, I presume. Kelly's selfless, giving nature is highlighted yet again in the following passage, in which she explains:
All these celebrities have stylists who pull the clothes, accessories, and shoes that make them look the way they do. They charge a lot of money for what they do, so why not get some free advice based on my experience.
And what, pray tell, is this coveted advice that Kelly is so lovingly sharing with her readers, free of charge?
  1. Save sweatpants for the gym.
  2. Save PJs for the bedroom.
  3. Dress as if you were the boss.
  4. Remember what Carrie Bradshaw says: "Nothing is casual anymore, even when it says so on the invitation."
  5. Manolo Blahniks are a girl's best friend.
Okay, so far be it from me to complain about the quality of free advice. But. Out of the five pearls of wisdom that make up the "KKBStyle Rules," two of them are rudimentary instructions to wear somewhat-situationally-appropriate clothing, and the other three are the kind of cute sayings that you would find on a piece of poorly bedazzled wall art in the clearance aisle of your local TJMaxx. I'm not impressed.
Kelly next tells us how important it is to eat well and exercise, even "when you're premenstrual or having your period." That way, as she continues on, "you'll feel better because your endorphins will be flowing while your body is sloughing off unwanted endometrium and mucus." To be fair, Unwanted Endometrium does sound like a sick band name.
Thankfully, the mental image of Kelly's mucus slough is promptly booted from my mind by a careening diatribe about the color red (HOT!):
I even painted my nails red the minute I started writing this book. I wanted to see my short red nails tapping away on my Macbook Pro. Almost every red dress is smokin' HOT, and I've never met a guy who doesn't think a woman in a red dress isn't hot. He's a liar if he denies it.
To repeat, Kelly says she's "never met a guy who doesn’t think a woman in a red dress isn't hot." Poor dear got a bit carried away with her negatives, but I'm sure she'll redeem herself in no time:
When I was sitting in the front row of a Marc Jacobs fashion show a few years ago, I wore a full, red short skirt, a tight red sweater, and red open-toed shoes. One of the editors from The New York Times was sitting across from me, and as we were waiting for the show to begin I kept crossing and recrossing my legs to make him laugh.
Sure, Kelly. To make him laugh. I can only assume she must have written some kind of hilariously clever joke on the gusset of her underwear to have had this editor so tickled pink red.
It was a long wait and after a while some guy I didn't know who was at the other end of the row, leapt towards me and screamed that he was obsessed with my feet. How crazy is it that red open-toed shoes and red toenails could create such a reaction. Red is HOT, even stalker HOT. Yikes!
I'm not clear where "stalker HOT" fits into this whole complex web, but it's reassuring to know that a wise soul like Kelly has such a nuanced appreciation of all of the different ways to be hot. She also gives us some "HOT tips for heating up your image." Like,
Put on a pair of jeans and a white tee shirt.

Put your hair in a ponytail.

Put on a pair of hoop earrings.
And also
Wear your jeans a size smaller instead of a size larger.
For some reason not entirely clear to me at this moment, wearing jeans in your actual size does not seem to be an option.
The chapter continues with a reminder to "remember what's on top of your head!"
There's nothing hotter than a HOT head of hair (unless it's a hunky bald guy).
Kelly follows up by offering a list of what she calls "HOT healthy options." Based on the preceding paragraph, you might assume that these tips would have something to do with haircare and hair styling. However, you would be wrong. Instead, we're instructed to:
Enjoy as much watermelon as you like.

Pack a picnic lunch of dehydrated fruit, chamomile iced tea, and mini pizzas made with corn tortillas, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. Eat your picnic in the park.

Come up with something fun you want to try and do it!
Personally, it seems like a bit of a cop-out to make one of the items on your list of fun things to do "make up your own fun thing to do." But who knows? Maybe cop-outs are HOT!
Before my faith in our fearless leader starts to waver, however, I read on through the end of the chapter, and my surety is promptly restored:
Besides my hair and my legs, the one thing people always ask me about the way I look is how I keep my teeth so white. And yes, that's also a matter of genetics. I'm blessed with the whitest teeth on the planet, and, no, I've never had them professionally bleached.
The weekend begins as I turn the page to the penultimate chapter -- "Saturday: Heat Up Your HOT Image with Healthy Options Today." Saturdays, as Kelly tells us, are for fun activities. For example:
If you're in the mall, go to different stores and figure out which looks will make you HOT. Ask other shoppers for advice.
Also:
Parks are great for people-watching. Who looks fit and healthy?
I sincerely hope that any and all of my friends would give me a stern talking-to if I informed them that my weekend plans consisted of going to a park and…pointing out people I think aren't healthy enough?
Kelly then warns us against overindulging on late-night snacks or alcoholic beverages, lest we wake up Sunday feeling "bloating, sluggish, and with deep regrets." Presumably, Kelly then proceeded to rail a massive line of cocaine and hammer out the following frenetic spiel:
You're not going to get fat from having a few drinks a week. You will get fat if your routine is to drink, eat late, and then lie around watching television the next day, eating and making bad food choices. Going out is fun, but when you sacrifice the next day, it's never fun enough. Don't have regrets; enjoy every day. This is a life plan, and yesterday isn't coming back ever again.
The chapter comes to a close with a reminder to "wrap up every day with a great big bow and be ready for your next adventure. But before we close out our week of HOT, we're provided with what I anticipate will be an incredibly useful reference material for us all, the "KKBfit HOT Quiz." If you'd like to take the quiz yourself, you can find it here. However, I'm not entirely sure I would classify it as a "quiz," since it seems to be mostly a set of questions followed by Kelly's feedback on various possible responses. For example:
  1. How Kelly Green are you?
I had a Kelly Green Juice -- Wasn't it yummy?
I had a smoothie from the health food store with a splash of spinach -- Great choice!
I had kale chips, spinach, and quinoa for dinner last night -- I bet you woke up feeling great this morning!
Other?
I presume that the lack of response after the "Other?" choice is supposed to represent Kelly staring at me in deranged disappointment for a few painfully protracted seconds. Some questions, like the one above, don't seem to have any wrong answers at all. In contrast, other questions have clear wrong answers, which Kelly wastes no time in making apparent:
  1. Are you getting enough protein? How many days did you eat chicken, fish, or meat for at least one meal?
I had a grilled chicken salad for dinner on three different days -- That's good, but I wish you'd get a little more adventurous in your choices.

  1. How KKBfit are you?
Haven't had a meal since last night, but I'm going to skip breakfast and go on a run. I won't eat anything until lunch. -- Sorry, but starving your body is not KKBfit.

  1. Are you drinking enough?
I drink when I'm exercising but that's about it -- Not good enough! Try harder next week.
The quiz ends, leaving me entirely unsure of whether or not I've actually made any forward progress towards my HOTness goals, but the next page does promise help for those who "still need more inspiration." Here, it seems that Kelly has compiled a loose assortment of quotes, most of which (I have a sneaking suspicion) were found by searching the keyword "hot" on BrainyQuote.com. Also, this masterpiece from Kelly's ex-husband, noted fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon:
HOT--
It is not about the look,
It is not only about the charm,
It is the perfect combination:
Sweet and tough,
Sexy and reserved,
Fragile and powerful,
And definitely smart.
-- Gilles Bensimon
Move over, Rupi Kaur! I hope with every fiber of my being that Gilles Bensimon has published his collected poetry in some kind of volume that I could purchase, read, and have, I'm sure, nothing but positive things to say about. After about a dozen similar quotations, Kelly continues:
Now, as you get ready for Sunday Funday, take a few minutes to think about how you define HOT. Has your definition changed or evolved since you started reading this book? If so, I'm doing my job.
In all honesty, my definition of HOT has definitely been…affected by this experience. So we'll call that a win! Kelly tells us a few stories about times when her friends and family members have come to her for guidance on how to be hot. She explains:
I'm not the food police, but I've made myself the Sven-arbiter (as opposed to Svengali) of what's HOT and what's not.
Case in point:
It's just not hot to belong to the clean plate club.
The chapter closes with a list titled "Why Don't You," which I believe is supposed to be a list of fun activities we can try during a Sunday Funday. Or possibly a list of terrible life hacks for stoned college freshmen:
Use an electric teapot as a clothing steamer.

Make grilled cheese sandwiches or press wraps using a hot clothes iron.
There are very few things sadder to me that imagining someone taking Kelly up on this last bit of advice as a fun way to liven up what must be the most preternaturally boring existence possible. If your idea of fun is white bread and Kraft Singles getting slowly warmed over on your clothing iron, I can only imagine the fit of hysterics that you'd be thrown into by a passable Minions meme.
And that brings us to the end of the week. But not -- lucky you! -- to the end of this book. Au contraire -- the remaining 100 pages or so of I Can Make You Hot! feature dozens of unique recipes from the culinary mind of none other than the indomitable Kelly Bensimon herself. In her intro, however, she makes it clear that
No one on earth would ever call me a chef.
Of course not, Kelly -- they'd call you a cook. Otherwise, it's creepy.
This portion of the book begins, reasonably enough, with Breakfasts. These include such thoughtfully named delicacies as "My Favorite Cereal" and "My Favorite Pancakes." The recipe for the latter begins with the following introduction:
I'm not the greatest pancake maker, and I probably never will be. But what I am very good at is thinking of unusual things and doing them.
Frankly, I can't argue with that. As she continues:
When in pancake doubt, have fun, add fruit, and see if pancakes can be a vehicle for creating great memories for your family.
Next time I'm in pancake doubt, I'll know just what to do! We move right along into the Soups and Salads section, and are promptly introduced to Kelly's "Jimmy Achoo's Chicken Soup." Which is apparently a play on Jimmy Choo and also described by Kelly as "filled with veggie exploitation," which sounds terrifying. Of the next recipe, "Rich and Skinny Cauliflower Soup with Kale Chips," Kelly reflects:
I adapted this recipe from one I found on the Internet. I wish I could tell you exactly where, but I can't.
The recipe calls for kale chips, which Kelly goes out of her way to inform us can be purchased "at health food stores and many well-stocked supermarkets." We also get a few general "HOT salad tips" that can be applied to many of the recipes throughout this book, such as
There are so many different types of lettuces available today! Try different ones to see which you like best
and
When you order a salad in a restaurant, ask for the dressing on the side. You're a grown-up and you should get to decide how much you want to use.
With that under our belts, the grown-ups among us move on to "Meat, Chicken, and Fish." In her recipe for "Grilled Rib Eye with Herbes de Provence", Kelly tells us about meeting the famous chef who inspired this dish:
When I met Eric, who was still in his thirties at the time, he still had dark hair. I was caught off guard because I thought all chefs were older, had gray hair, and smelled like garlic.
So perhaps Bethenny should have taken it as a compliment? Kelly continues,
He's since invited me many times to go into his kitchen and cook with him, but my fear of losing a finger by being overzealous has prohibited me from accepting.
It's unclear to me exactly what this means or why Kelly would even be particularly worried about this possibility. Does she have habit of excitedly snatching vegetables out from other people's knives? Does Eric have a reputation for slicing anyone who dares to get in his way? Before I make any headway with this particular mystery, we're introduced to the next recipe, the "Pencil-Thin Skirt Steak." As we learn, "Everyone looks slim in a pencil skirt, so it's only fitting that skirt steak is one of the leanest cuts of beef you can buy." We get a recipe for "Sultry Roast Chicken" in which Kelly shares with us that "in fact, chicken without ginger doesn't taste like chicken to me anymore." This would be more believable if we weren't, a mere two pages later, introduced to a notably ginger-free recipe for "Second-Chance Chicken." As Kelly explains,
I hate the idea of leftovers. To me, eating leftovers means you're too lazy to start over, and I've never wanted my girls to think that we weren't starting fresh.
In the introduction to the recipe for "Bad Girl Wings," Kelly gives us yet another poignant insight into her life as a mother:
These chicken wings are Sea's favorite. I'm sure she loves them because she knows I love wings (she's a cutie like that).
It would obviously be ludicrous to assume that Sea actually enjoys chicken wings authentically. Much more likely that she just loves them because Kelly does. HOT! In a segment labeled "hasta la vista taco bell," Kelly recounts a traumatic experience in which she "discovered that my favorite food choices [at Taco Bell] added up to 580 calories." To me, this seems like a perfectly reasonable amount of calories for one daily meal out of three, but according to Kelly, I am embarrassingly off the mark. Rather, she sighs, "I guess that means my Taco Bell days are over -- unless I decide to chance [sic] Sunday Funday into Fatso Food Day." Not HOT.
Kelly tells us about the creative process behind the development of the next recipe, "Spicy Sultry Shrimp and Mango Stir-Fry" (which, for the record, is the second recipe to have the word "sultry" in its title).
This was one of the first dishes I made when I started to cook -- as a science experiment. My "method" was to think of foods I loved and which ones I thought would go well together.
Fascinating! Think of ingredients you like and combine them into a dish that you will then likely also like! The next recipe, for "Kelly's Kalamari," features the following introduction:
I still love fried calamari, but it doesn't love me. Whenever I eat it, it goes right to my stomach and makes a little pooch -- eww!
As a reminder, this is the same Kelly Bensimon who told us that loving our bodies is HOT and dieting is die + t. But also, eww!
We trek along into the next portion of the recipe book, succinctly titled "Pizza, Pasta, Potatoes, Grains, Vegetables, and Sides." We get a recipe for "Pizzzzzzzza!," which instructs the reader to obtain pizza dough, pizza sauce, mozzerella cheese, salt and pepper. Spread out the dough, add sauce and cheese, and cook! This is yet another time I'm glad Kelly told us early on in this book to take detailed notes -- these kinds of nuanced culinary creations can only come from the mind of a true master.
The same kind of true master who would, as we soon learn, conceive of this particular travesty -- "Pink Pizza." Imagine with me, for a moment, that a dear friend invites you over to their house for dinner. I'm making pizza! they implore you. Come over -- we'll hang out, have a couple beers, catch up on old times! Excited for a chance to relive the glory days, you eagerly accept, only to be met -- upon your arrival -- with this abomination. I thought you said we were having pizza? you sputter nervously. This is pizza, your friend intones, as their eyes slowly fade to black and their hands reach out to wrap themselves around your throat.
Kelly goes on to share a recipe for an "Asian-flavored noodle dish" that she has christened (and it truly pains me to type this), "Me Love You Springtime Noodles." Somewhere, the last ember of hope for humanity quietly fizzles out.
The following recipe, for "Pasta with Oddkavodka Sauce" begins with a warning:
When you make this (especially for children) just be sure you cook off the alcohol so that you aren't serving vodka to minors or have to assign a designated driver for your guests.
This seems like reasonable and conscientious advice. Until I read on and learn that the recipe calls for 1/8 cup vodka, and makes four servings. If your guests need a designated driver after consuming a half-tablespoon of vodka each, I would strongly encourage them to seek medical advice forthwith.
I am reminded once again how different Kelly's and my worlds are with the following exclamation:
Try using quinoa in this recipe instead of the rice -- I call that having your cake and eating it too!
Oh, to live a life in which your most selfish indulgence was quinoa. I suppose this should have prepared me for a few pages later, when Kelly remarks:
Both hummus and guacamole make great toppings for steak or fish. They're my version of béarnaise sauce.
I love hummus. Hummus is great. But there is no possible existing parallel universe in which hummus and béarnaise sauce are interchangeable. One of the final recipes in this section is cryptically titled "Have an Impromptu Pepper Party" and instructs the reader to scoop out the insides of a bell pepper and stuff it with "whatever ingredients suit your fancy." Again, I feel like this fails to meet the definition of an actual recipe, per se, but it is supposedly "quick, fun, and satisfying."
We're nearing the book's end (for real this time) with a section on "Breads and Desserts." This includes an inspirational passage in which Kelly shares a personal anecdote:
On Season 4 of the Real Housewives of New York City, I made a mixed fruit pie for my kids with what was left over in the fruit bowl…Don't be afraid to try new things, make mistakes, and have fun doing it.
I can only hope to someday be brave enough and fearless enough to make a mixed fruit pie.
Blessedly, the final section , titled "Beverages", looks like it might have exactly what I need in the aftermath of finishing this book. The "GIN-Ginger Beertail," for example, which "was originally made with gin, but I don't like serving gin drinks because I think it makes people mean." We also get a recipe for something called "Babylove," which (thankfully) seems unrelated to another of my favorite reality TV cesspools.
It only seems appropriate to share the final recipe of I Can Make You Hot! with all of you. I will definitely be downing approximately seven of these tonight, and I hope some of you will be joining me in spirit. Cheers:
Gummi Bear Martini
If you don't have a paper umbrella handy, Gummi Bears are a great way to put more fun in your drink.
Makes 1 Drink
2 parts orange, grape, or other-flavored vodka
1 part Triple Sec
1 part white grape juice
Splash of cranberry juice
Gummi Bears, as many as you like
Combine the vodka, Triple Sec, grape juice, and cranberry juice in a tall glass. Add ice and fill the glass with Gummi Bears.
ETA: I am so disappointed in myself for forgetting to include that Kelly has a ceviche recipe that instructs you to marinate raw fish in lemon juice for exactly two minutes before serving. In the interest of food safety, perhaps it was for the best that this nugget momentarily slipped my mind, but sharing this information with you all is the burden I have been cursed to bear. 🙏🏼
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I'm playing a game called Smile but nobody taught me the rules [Final]

Rounds 1 2 3 4 5
I can't begin to describe what a rollercoaster of emotions I went through in these last couple of days. Days that felt like an eternity. Together with my friends I got sucked into the loop of a game named Smile. The game of madness, randomness, and pain. I had lost Hailey. I had lost Killian. And Killian had lost his poor sister. Nothing went the way I had planned them at all. As much I tried to control the direction of the game, it was always a step ahead of me. I had officially lost control.
And now on top of it all, Lucas was gone as well. We had trusted each other with our lives on numerous occasions and I never regretted it. I didn’t regret it when I left the life I knew because it was clear to me that I had gained a new family. Lucas and I were like brothers. Brothers who went through the hell that was the tv show of satan. A show we starred in as kids that made children who watch it do unspeakable things. Without our knowledge our faces were involved in murder, kidnapping, and suicides. And while we didn’t know what we had gotten ourselves into when we were that young and just wanted to act, we had been plagued by guilt ever since the memories of that time came back to us. And so we had sworn to do everything in our power to destroy anything that revolved around that show. But now I wasn’t so sure anymore that Lucas was really on the same side as me. And Hailey it seemed had turned into a cold-blooded killer.
Suddenly my family was gone and I was standing there on an empty carnival which had turned eerily silent. It was just me and this woman.
I didn't recognize her face at first. She had gotten older, just as I. To be honest, I never expected to see her again.
“Janie,” I whispered but then my eyes shifted back to the Ferris wheel and I couldn’t focus on her anymore. I started running while typing on my phone.
“Alex, who the hell are you calling?” Janie shouted and jumped me from the back.
“A fucking ambulance. If it’s not too late already,”
I pushed Janie away.
“You did this. You killed an innocent boy for some shitty game. Why did you even come back? Did you side with them? Was this all planned out from the start?”
“Aw Alex, I knew you liked me!” I heard someone laugh from the back.
As I turned around I saw Killian’s body drenched in blood but he got up from the wagon as if nothing had even happened. And then I started realizing that he didn’t have any wounds. I moved closer and touched his chest.
“This is paint.”
I couldn’t control myself, my mouth turned into a big smile followed by hysterical laughter. This situation was so insane but the relief I felt was incredible.
The relief quickly turned to anger however. I grabbed Killian by his shirt and started shaking him.
“You were never on our team, were you? You played with us.”
“I’m sorry, Alex. We had to. This was the only way to free my sister,”
Janie started typing something on her phone and walked over to us.
“It’s because of Lucas, Alex. Haven’t you understood that yet? He is involved with Warly. He helped him to recruit the players. His video went all around. We believe that every kid who joined this game did so because they saw the video. That’s how I even found out about it. He spoke to them on a level that not everyone can understand. But the ones that can lose all their free will. They didn’t care if they would have died. They all followed Lucas.”“No,” I whispered, “I was with him. All throughout the game. None of this is making sense. He cut up his own mouth for fuck’s sake,”
“Ask your own friend. She got started because of him,” Janie pointed towards someone behind the Ferris wheel who was walking up to us. She was wearing a mask but I knew this was gonna be Hailey.
Instead of saying anything she just walked to me and spread her arms around me.
“I’m so sorry, Alex.”
Killian and Hailey exchanged a look and she said.
“It’s taken care of. They left and are already on their way back to Marden,”
For a second he smiled but then his expression turned dark again.
“Why are they not saying anything. The round is over.”
“Can anyone please just tell me what’s going on?” I almost shouted.
Hailey sighed and sat down on the platform of the Ferris wheel. Then she told me the story.
“Weeks ago this game found its way to some people I knew in college. They just called it Smile and it didn’t take long before they were entirely obsessed with it. They wouldn’t tell me about any specifics but from what I could tell it sounded insanely morbid. One day I saw my roommate cutting up the edges of her mouth and when I asked her what was going on and tried to call a doctor, she jumped me. She went insane and kept repeating that she has to play the game because Leigh the adventurer told her so. That combination of words already gave me goosebumps but I thought it had to be a coincidence. I was in contact with Leigh all the time and he never mentioned a game. When she finally showed me the video and I heard the oh so familiar tune, I knew that we were back in the mess of Warly. But this time it seemed like Leigh was on their side. After we changed our names, cut so many ties, and everything, it was all back.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because of the game. You know damn well that none of us could speak about it or they would harm anyone we care about. But the first time I played, I was assigned to a team.”
“My team,” Janie chimed in. “And just so you know, I never wanted to get back to any of this. I would have been happy never seeing anyone of Warly’s adventure club again but my little cousin played the game. I couldn’t let anything happen to her, not after all the children that died back then. Well, and I couldn’t let Killian do this all on his own,”
“Wait, so Jen and Killian are your cousins?”
Killian grinned.
“Yeah, also Killian isn’t my real name either. I stole that from a movie.”
“And Hailey, well Helen, was helping you guys? All this time and you didn’t care to tell me?”
All three of them turned serious.
“Look, Alex. It’s not like we were completely in control. The rules of the game were being decided as things were already going. We had no idea what would happen. And frankly, after everything with Lucas we couldn’t know if you weren’t involved as well.”
-
Killian and Janie had a mission from the start, to save little Jen from the game of Smile. To wake her up and get her back home. They had to be careful because it was clear that the game masters would do anything in their power to scramble up any plan they made. When Killian and Hailey had to switch teams it could all have gone south. Everyone wanted to win the game, to get the princess. But if any other player found her, they would have brought her back to the game masters to collect their reward and so they came up with a plan with as many twists and turns that neither the game masters nor the other players would know what was going on. They created a distraction.
To Lucas and me, it looked like we were going to win. Killian would have gotten to Jen, meaning that our team would win the round and the entire game. But they couldn’t have let that happen. Not knowing that Lucas might be on the wrong side.
Killian had been playing for two teams this entire time. He knew everything but shared only breadcrumbs with me. With us. But now things were finally starting to make sense.
When Killian was as near as possible to the princess, almost sure of our win, the jesters came to play. The jesters were all extras. Here to confuse us and scare us. Game pieces that the masters found replaceable. Jen was shooting them down without a care in the world because that’s what she been programmed to do.
Nobody would have expected a jester to start shooting a gun. To the masters and us it seemed like a different team was going to win. In reality however Hailey had shot Killian with a paintball gun. While everyone was distracted, Killian’s friend who was disguised as a jester, brought Jen to a car and drover her off.
Now what wasn’t clear to me yet was why they didn’t go after Jen but instead came for Lucas. Or had Lucas escaped knowing the game was over for him?
“So what is happening now? We can’t be so foolish to assume that they are not currently listening to everything we’re saying,” I said after they had told me about everything.
“It doesn’t matter. Our team already won,” Hailey responded. “When you started playing the game, they offered you something, didn’t they Alex? They let you choose your reward.”
“They offered that all the children who were still under their spell, or brainwash, would be freed from the game,”
--
Dun dun du du dun
There it was. The abhorrent tune. Except, this time we had been impatiently waiting for it. We were sure the game masters were listening to every word we were saying. It didn’t really matter anymore at this point. But I knew that things weren’t quite over for me yet. Especially with Lucas being away all of a sudden. Killian and Janie had given up on him and would have rather seen him dead but I wasn’t at that point yet. I knew there had to be more to the fact why my friend betrayed us. What I came to find out was just so much worse than what I could have imagined however.
I lost the game. Big time.
Congratulations on the win, team S! You must have the biggest smile on your face right now. You took your well-deserved reward. Though we can’t promise that our princess will not rip out more hearts in the future. She’s a first-class royal with a wonderful thirst for blood!
The familiar voice was blasting from the speakers all throughout the carnival.
Now, sweet Alex, our main adventurer ... It is time to pay your debt as you lost, sweet child! Don’t worry though the boys of Warly’s adventure club are already awaiting you! We can’t wait for you to join! Please follow our kind jesters. The rest of you may leave now. It has been a blast to play and I’m sure we’ll see each other again soon.
It was finished off by the sound of a smile.
“There they are,” Helen said and pointed to two jester smiling at us, “please be careful. You don’t know what might expect you.”
I took a deep breath and followed the jesters through the carnival. Everything around us was silent again. The remains of lifeless players in jester costumes were lying in puddles of their own blood. Poor souls who were sucked into this because they had listened to Leigh’s video.
It should never have come this far. I should have known this would happen if you play with monsters.
The jesters topped in front of a mirror cabinet. They opened the entrance and waved me inside.
-
Everywhere I saw myself. Distorted, small, tall. It didn’t matter which mirror I looked into, I felt revolted by my own appearance.
And then a second face appeared from the darkness. And he looked worse than I’d ever seen him before.
Lucas.
“Alex,” he cried out, “I fucked up. I really fucked up.”
Before I could walk over to him, the mirrors changed. They had screens built-in and were playing something. The same video of Leigh was reflected in each mirror. He was dressed in the green clothes that he always wore on the children’s show. But this wasn’t him as a child. It looked as if it had been taken a few weeks ago.
The melody played and Leigh looked straight into the camera.
Hello hello hello, adventurers! I want you to listen closely now.
He smiled.
I want to play a game with you. A game you will never want to finish. A game that will make each and every one of you smile from the bottom of your heart. Isn’t that exciting?
His face turned into a frown.
I know you hate your life. I know deep down you would like to see the world paved in the color red, just as I! So why don’t you join me and we can have lots and lots of-
The video broke off there and the mirror went back to normal.
“You fucking bastard,” I said under my breath.
“We wanted to put an end to this, we wanted to save them!” I shouted.
“Alex, it’s not like you think it is,” we walked through the cabinet until we finally found each other. I didn’t know if I wanted to punch him or apologize.
“It’s true. I made the video for the producer. Well, no, that’s not right. I made a video. He changed things, just like they did back then... The man behind Warly’s adventure club reached out to me. I have no idea how he even found me but he was extremely persistent. Threatening everyone I know if I didn’t listen to him or told anyone else about this.” he sighed and looked to the ground.
“Then he made me a proposition. You know how all those children disappeared when we first aired our show. The children we wanted to save but couldn’t find. He told me if he could take one video of me then they would all be free to go.”
“And you believed him?”
“He was very persuasive. That producer isn’t a normal person, Alex, you should know that! He calls himself Mr. V and is this fucking eccentric cult leader or whatever but- look Alex. He did let them all go. All those kids and teenagers playing the game, they were former hostages.”
“Did you see that corpses outside? You didn’t save them.”
“But I tried,” he was shouting now. “And don’t act so fucking innocent, Alex. You helped him too. Or why else did you make me cut open my own face?”
I swallowed and took a step back.
“What did he promise you, Alex?”
All throughout this mess, nobody had asked me what my intentions were to play the game. And I had no idea how to tell him.
“No need to be ashamed, Alex! You can tell him!”
A man with dark hair and shiny eyes had entered the room without me even realizing it. I had never seen him before but I recognized his voice. He called me after we had already started playing the game. When it still seemed normal and all we did was take a photo of us. He called when I was alone. And he made a proposition if I played the game and won. And next to him stood Warly, with an expression of deep fear.
“He wanted to save good ol’ Warly! Isn’t that adorable?”
If you remember Warly, he was the adult in the show we acted in. He had once betrayed us and threatened many lives. We had abandoned him and sent him to prison, hoping to be rid of him. We couldn’t risk having him around but Warly was a victim. Just like us, he was sucked into the show without knowing what it did. He had tricked us but I knew that he wasn’t really a bad person.
We swore to forget about him but when I heard his voice introducing us to the game, I knew they had somehow found him. The game master promised me I could save him if I played the game and did as asked.
The man took out a phone and started playing a message.
I know this is insane but look you have to do it. Trust me. You have to or everyone else will suffer. We need to play the game. We need to Smile. You trust me, right?
I had no idea that this was what they sent Leigh before he cut his mouth. He told me to take the message and I did. Without knowing what exactly they would use it for.
“I wanted to step out at that point. When they told me to harm myself but I thought if you told me that I had to go through with it, there would be a good reason for it. I had no idea that reason was saving fucking Warly.”
“I’m sorry,” I whispered.
Leigh stayed quiet for a moment. Then he added “Me too.”
My friend and I had wanted to help, to make things better but instead we only brought put more suffering.
“I do have to admit, both of you are terrific actors. Not one of you ever spilled the guts… And don’t worry boys. I’m not a complete monster!” The man said as if he had just read my mind.
“I’m a man of honor and I intend to keep my promise. Everyone who had been under our spell will be free after this game. However, Leigh, I’m afraid you did lose and so I will have to keep that video of you… for future purposes. I’m sure you understand.”
“As to you, Alex. I bet your friends will forgive you eventually. Warly here however never will. I mean, losers don’t deserve a reward.”
Without batting an eye he slit a razor-sharp knife right through Warly’s throat. I had no other chance but to look at dozens of mirrors showing how the man I tried to save lost the life in his eyes as he collapsed to the ground.
As much as I prayed, this time it wasn’t fake blood.
--
It took us a while to comprehend what had happened. I thought my friends and I would separate for good but we didn’t and we never would. Not as long as we had this common enemy.
Mr. V did keep his promise and the children were freed. Young adults were brought back to families who never thought they would see their children again.
It was a bittersweet end, though I have to admit that the bitter taste overruled.
It wasn’t easy but I think after much explaining we all understood that Leigh’s intentions were coming from a good place, but he had been naive and gullible. Just as I. It would still take a long time until we all trusted each other again. Especially as we gained two more members to our group. An old friend I never thought I would see again and someone I had grown really close to in those few days.
The horrific rollercoaster that was the Smile game was over. While the game ignited mistrust in all of us, we also understood that we were all sucked so deep into all of this, not being able to distinguish right from wrong anymore.
We had been victims and accomplices at once but there was one thing we all agreed upon. Warly might be dead but the adventure club will never be able to escape from this. Not as long as they know our faces.
So if you ever stumble upon a video inviting you on an adventure, don't listen to us.
TCC
submitted by likeeyedid to nosleep [link] [comments]

Cheating Boyfriend Betrayed by His Good Christian Sister in the Best Possible Way

This story is now somewhat famous in my circle of friends, and one finally roped me into spilling it on here (here you go Evan). This is the tale of myself and this perfect girl named "Charlie".
Part 1: Exposition
This took place roughly 2 years ago, at the twilight of my senior year of high school. It was early May and our graduation was set for early June, so with most of our brains switched to summer mode and our teachers fresh out of fucks, my friends and I finally fell in line with the majority of our class and started ditching.
Our friend group consisted of a handful of minor characters in addition to my boyfriend of 3 years: "Kyle", my best friend since middle school: "Sarah", myself, and a recent inclusion: "Brad", who, not gonna lie, was and is a bit of a White Knight.
Kyle belonged to a Christian family. No, not the nice, charity giving, actually Christian Christians, but rather the homophobic, slur slinging, will kick a homeless guy in the face and then sit in church like a saint Christians. They always went to church every Wednesday and Friday, and while they invited me, I never went due to being a) an Agnostic, b) a closeted bisexual, and c) almost physically sick from their hypocrisy. They never really liked me because of this. They also were entitled. It wasn't evident until they got into trouble. You see, they helped organize the Church's funding (grants, donations, charity, maintenance, etc), which put them pretty high on the pecking order. The Church, while not the centerpiece of our part of town, still claimed A LOT of the district's authority figures as patrons. It was the sort of unofficial institution that sneaks its way into politics without ever being directly involved. So whenever they got pulled over or issued a parking ticket, they'd drop a couple names and dodge the whole thing.
Kyle himself was decent. I'd known him since elementary school, he was usually nice, and he was hot (shallow, I know, but it was high school), so I tolerated his idiotic and oftentimes narcissistic behavior (they treated him like God's gift to Earth). But it was his sister, "Charlie", who redeemed the whole family. She was a year younger than Kyle and I, and was the only genuine Christian in the group. However, she also had an impish streak in her that led to some fun hi-jinx. You could always tell she'd had a devilish epiphany with this little half smile she'd make. We'd often hang out and she was a blast to be around. We were very close, and she often confided in me about stuff she couldn't tell her family. To me, a great friend. To them, the perfect little Christian daughter.
Sarah was a really good friend who had helped me through the death of my mom. I wasn't diagnosed with depression or anything major, but I loved my mama to pieces and it shattered me. Her and Kyle were always there for me and she was the one who pushed me to ask him out. I trusted her about as much as any teenager could.
Anyways, back to the story. One fateful Tuesday, Kyle, Sarah, myself, and our mutual friends headed downtown to get food, skate, and generally do stereotypical annoying teenage stuff. Getting bored of our current activities, I asked Kyle if he wanted to race on our boards to the end of the street (it was just past the lunch rush so most people were either back in their offices or stuck in traffic). He accepted and about 30 seconds and a loose flagstone later I ended up planting my face into the sidewalk and fracturing my arm. I tried to shake it off but no one else was having it, considering I was walking like a newborn deer and my arm was beginning to swell. We ended up making a visit to the ER where they confirmed that yes, I did have a fractured arm, and a concussion to boot. The concussion was my dumbass tax.
It wasn't too big a deal as far as accidents go, but considering my sorry state, they wanted me to stick around so they could do a few more tests, brace my arm, and generally just ensure that I was healthy enough to return to my dumbassery. Thankfully, Kyle and Sarah had offered to stay with me, because apparently their parents didn't care, and we were already ditching so school the following day wasn't a big issue. I ended up spending the night in the hospital (the hospital had been understaffed for years, so once your condition was deemed stable they tended to shove you into limbo) and went home the following day with the usual concussion orders. Effectively I was to become as a vegetable for 10 days. Wanting to get back to my recently attained freedom I complied, meaning I spent about 7 days sleeping and eating. I only picked up my phone after the doctor cleared me, to which I found an unexpected message.
Part 2: The Act
Brad had gotten my number from Kyle, and sent me a link to a private data storing account (one of those services where you can upload videos, pictures, etc and lock it behind a pass-code for personal use only) and a password. I, being intrigued by this sudden plot hook in my boring life, followed it to find literal GIGABYTES of pictures, all showing Kyle and Sarah in compromising positions and captions hollering things that were definitely not beneficial to their relationship with the Lord. I'm talking everything from individual nudes taken from the Chat of Snaps to full on money shots and everything in between. It looked like an amateur porn album. The most recent of which was dated to, as you probably guessed, that Tuesday evening.
Brad explained that Kyle had this whole thing where he'd upload videos of him and Sarah doing it for his close circle to whack off at. I personally would've simply used Pornhub like a normal human, but Kyle had always been a little self-infatuated so I wasn't too surprised at this Narcissus level move. Brad had apparently just been included and was sickened by the whole thing.
For context, in our 3 years of dating, the furthest Kyle and I had gone was a BJ after a football game that January. He spewed BS about "saving it for marriage" while dicking down my BFF.
I. Was. Shattered. The two people I had placed my unconditional trust in had, without my knowing, been taking turns pounding that trust away, all the while being fully aware of their importance in my life.
I confronted Kyle about this when we next hung out at his place, and he denied everything at first. Said I was being a paranoid bitch. When I showed him the evidence, he involved his parents, who started claiming I PHOTOSHOPPED the photos and videos, and threatened that they would report me for making child porn (Sarah and Kyle had only just turned 18 the past September). Knowing the police would prove me right, but not wanting to tank Brad for possession (our city had been throwing the book at people for this for years) I dropped it and left.
I thought we'd broken up, but apparently his parents insisted we stay together until after graduation to save face with his extended family. Apparently they knew deep down he was guilty, but the usual EP tendencies flared up. Not wanting to make waves (yet) I reluctantly complied, and began regressing into my earlier negative mental spaces.
Part 3: The Revenge
The funny thing about religious families is that they are just as prone to producing LGBT children as non-religious ones. Kyle had avoided the "sickness". Charlie hadn't.
Not one week after our argument, I was at Kyle's house, helping him keep up the act. We hardly interacted, so I turned to Charlie for companionship. This typically happened when Kyle and I would get into fights, as Charlie's chill demeanor and deep concern often led me to confide in her, sometimes with things I didn't even share with Sarah. This, being the biggest "argument" of our relationship, was no different. While we were chilling in her room, she started to get really antsy. Her normal bubbly demeanor was gone. Contrary to your typical homosexual, I didn't have a strong gaydar, so I assumed she'd learned of Kyle's infidelity.
Well yes, but actually no.
I asked her what was wrong and she said she had a secret to spill. I wasn't really in the mood for drama or comforting, but it being Charlie I let her go.
In what has yet to be the second biggest surprise of my life, she told me about how she'd been in the closet for years (14 or 15 was when she first started figuring it out), and apparently for a long time she'd been trying to get closer to me because I was the only person she truly felt comfortable around. Her family was almost stereotypically homophobic and really only approved of her church friends. She was jealous of Kyle and our relationship, but thinking I was straight and not wanting to rock the boat she resigned herself to her angsty teenage heartache. That was until the HMS Relationship struck an infidelity iceberg and she figured she could finally shoot her shot.
Now, given any other circumstance, I would've said hell no. We'd known each other for over a decade, and I'd been dating her brother for 3 years. It would've been scummy and Charlie was practically a sister to me at this point. But then the blood started rushing and the lizard brain started screaming for payback. I'll spare the details for her privacy, but one woo-hoo later her and I were enjoying the afterglow when the gears really started turning.
I felt like shit. I knew what I'd done was wrong, but given my current situation I frankly didn't care about that. I more so felt bad for Charlie. At the time, my feelings were twisted and painful, and I thought I didn't really like her that way, so I thought I'd just one-and-doned the only non-family member who I still trusted. She caught on to the vibe I was giving off and ended up talking me out of some bad thoughts while we got dressed and said our goodbyes.
We ended up continuing the relationship after that. For her she finally got to be with her longtime crush, and I got an escape. When the day of graduation came and went, we maintained the charade until both our families, as well as their church group, went over to their place for a massive dinner celebration and commemorative slideshow.
Now I'd known about this event since the fall, and hadn't thought too much of it until the incident. During our fling, Charlie had been pushing me out of my slump and towards thoughts of vengeance. Apparently, her parents had been spreading rumors to their church group that I had been cheating on Kyle, and they were saying that after the dinner he was going to dump me. In front of an entire crowd that included MY FAMILY. I didn't really care about myself, but my dad had gotten a lot of flak for remarrying after mom died. Some of it even came from me, but having the perspective of age and distance I got over it. I was not about to have him publicly embarrassed by some shitheads who thought they blessed the ground they walked on. Before it was just petty high school drama. But this was no joke. My dad worked for the District Rep's office. The District Rep grew up at that church. It was part of his "one of the people" persona. A few choice words my dad's job would be history. Guess Kyle's parents in their malignancy never thought that part through. Or maybe they did and I'm giving them too much credit. Either way, this was now personal.
So Charlie, being her impish self, began scheming. She was loved by the Church group, so it was easy for her to get the role of prepping the slideshow. She even gave a whole speech about how she couldn't wait to "finally give her brother and his friends the recognition they deserved". She then began compiling the videos and photos from the circle jerk account Kyle had made (dumbass hadn't changed the password), alongside screenshots of their conversations in a group chat they had (she got those by "borrowing" his phone, making a "call" and sending the screenshots to her phone before deleting them from the message history) , and integrated them into a slideshow. It was structured so that a slide would pop up with a bunch of pictures of the boy in question alongside their favorite bible quote. Then the next few slides would include the screenshots of their respective conversations and whatever pictures they had listed as their favorites (censored and from after they had turned 18 for obvious reasons). Altogether this slideshow took Charlie days to compile, but not once did she complain or ask for a break. She was on a mission, and alongside being hot in its weird way, it was also shifting my perspective on our relationship.
So the night comes and we're all sitting around the table, making small talk and putting on our best fake smiles. Several church families are giving me smug "you're gonna get what's coming to you" looks, but I shrugged them off and stuck with my family for most of night. Charlie and I avoided each other to ensure no one got suspicious. Finally, the moment of truth came. Everyone was called into the backyard where they had rows of chairs set up in front of a massive projector. Charlie portrayed her best innocent little sister act before starting the soundtrack. The slides began to roll, and people began to gasp and yell in tune to Good Old Days by Macklemore. Seeing the looks on Kyle and his family's faces as they realized what was happening was priceless. In turn, each boy was brought onscreen and put on blast, and each time everyone was too busy recovering from the whiplash to stop it. The few that did tried to grab Charlie's laptop, but she quickly scooped it up and ran into the house, locking herself in a bathroom (the projector was wireless). No one thought to turn off the projector. Idiots.
Finally, after almost five minutes of bible quotes and nudes, the boy of the hour was put on screen. His quote: Hebrews 13:4 "Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery." It was intended to create the setup for my humiliation. Oh how the turntables.
A handful videos played showing his 18+ exploits, alongside screenshots of the rows of content he had made, with texts dating back to the summer of 2017 implying the length of his fling. It hurt to watch, but I found my solace in the sweet nectar of vengeance laid before my eyes. Finally came the last slide, a blank white page with a single audio file link. Even I was confused at this part, seeing as audio wasn't included in our plans. Charlie crept back outside and clicked play, and Kyle's parents' voices came screaming through the speakers. Apparently, Charlie had recorded their entire humiliation plan in detail, and had added it to the slideshow as evidence of my impending setup. The girl had covered all bases, and when the show ended, she stood next to the projector beaming that devilish half grin.
It took a few seconds for anything to happen. Kyle and his family beat a hasty retreat to the house, but the party being at their place they had nowhere to go. Several church members conveyed their disgust at Charlie, Kyle, and the boys in equal measure for the event. She ignored them, called out to her parents, and waited for them to peep their heads out. When they did, she quickly planted a massive kiss on my cheek and pronounced herself as gay. Needless to say, that didn't go down well. My parents and I left in a hurry, and Charlie, now in deep shit, came with us.
Part 4: The Aftermath
Charlie and I have been dating since. As you probably guessed, her family cut ties with her, so she ended up crashing at my place. My stepmom wasn't too pleased with how she'd gone about my revenge, but my dad thought it was hilarious. He collected his $20 from my stepmom (they'd had a bet over when I'd come out, apparently) and argued on our behalf for Charlie to stay. After all, they had an interesting first impression, and there was no risk of pregnancy. To top it off, it was the perfect way for them to spite Kyle's family after they'd trashed my reputation and tried to make me an outcast. He caught some jokes and snide remarks at work for the next few weeks, but given the circumstances and the fact I was a teenage daughter (apparently we're prone to bouts of roguishness), he got off. No harm.
As for Kyle? Well his family got barred from their church after his collection came to light, which caused them to fall from local grace. They lost the ear of local officials, and the various name drops they'd been using to avoid various fines and penalties caught up to them. Last I heard from Sarah they had moved to the next state over and Kyle was living sexless in his parents basement, squeaking by at a community college.
Sarah and I made up eventually. It took a lot of apologizing and no small amount of grovelling on her part, but not wanting to resent her for the rest of my life I got over myself and allowed her back in. We're not as close as we used to be, but that trust is slowly growing back. Let's just hope she she keeps her stuff in her pants this time.
Charlie and I lived together until I went off to college, where we've been long-distance since. She managed to get into a school two hours away, so we often spend weekends at each others' dorms or somewhere in between, doing our typical hedonistic thing. It's taken me some time to fully recover. As cathartic as our revenge felt, it did little to truly bring me solace. Despite the implications of this story, I had a really deep connection with Kyle, and while it's easy to write off as teenage drama, it still scarred me. My family and Charlie have helped me rebuild. Our relationship may have begun unconventionally, and could certainly be classifiable as "trashy", but we don't care. We're happy, and I have a girl who's gone above and beyond for me. Not everyone can say that.
TL;DR: Boyfriend of 3 years cheats with my BFF, and his religious family tries to cover it up. I sleep with his sister, who exposes him during a church dinner, and drags me out of the closet with her.
submitted by FutureButterscotch9 to ProRevenge [link] [comments]

Some advice for artists when it comes to approaching their career professionally and dealing with labels/production companies as told by Amy Thompson, former manager for Swedish House Mafia, Seal, DJ Snake & marketer for Kanye

Intro: Hey everyone I recently read Amy Thompson’s helpful book about Artist Management and Marketing and I thought there was a lot of stuff that any aspiring professional musician should look into. I highly suggest reading it if you want to get into the business of music but here are my personal key takeaways:
1. Your music is your biggest asset, your catalogue is your portfolio, your brand is your business.
Get in the mindset that your music catalogue is your most important asset, it’s literally your life’s work and if handled correctly could be how you retire and feed you children. Without retaining ownership over your catalogue you could easily die broke. Don’t sign license deals that last for your whole life, don’t sign record deals that give up any hope of recouping your advance, if you are giving someone equity in your career you better be able to clearly explain what it is they bring to the table to add value.
2. Always think of the next move.
One move should set up the other, everyone like plans, plans mean calm. Map out your year and update it monthly. Your single should set up the album, your album should set up the tour, your tour should set up your press run, your press run should get your buzz high enough to get a better deal. Always think of what the goal of anything you do is. What are you trying to achieve? Another example: your well shot video sets up your YouTube to gain followers, your YouTube gaining 1000 followers means you can monetize, once you monetize you’re going to sell your merchandise directly on your YouTube, your sales will go up which will create more revenue to invest in your album budget.
3. The Music Industry is Fickle
The music industry is ever changing, things that have been convention and ‘law’ for 40 year are going out the window, there are no rules and doing something the way someone else did it will only get you diminishing returns, there is no one off formula, do it your way and do it proudly. The streaming era especially changed everything, rollouts and jobs that were once standard will be replaced by new ideas and roles. Don’t do things just because other people are doing them, that’s how you end up never standing out. Being a contrarian once in a while does more than following trends. Get ahead of the trend and your bets will pay off.
4. Songs = Assets you sell to companies, Artist = the product you’re selling to the fans
This is similar to the first point but is something people miss time and time again. You the artist are the product, your brand is the product, your songs feed into your product. If your mission is to spread a political message your songs shouldn’t be the only reflection of that, your lifestyle (or at least how it’s portrayed online) needs to match. Labels don’t develop artist brands anymore, they buy them. You need to have a one sheet that shows why your brand & business are thriving and on the up. You need to constantly convey on Instagram that you are intentionally making some sort of statement. The content of that statement is up to you but you need to write out some keywords and a mood-board about what you stand for and reference it when posting. Same with releases, why does this song help sell who you are better than the other ones? Always keep that in mind.
5. If you do get an Advance MAKE IT LAST.
“An Advance is not money, it’s a loan, and if your royalty rate is 20% it’s a loan with an 80% interest rate.” writes Thompson. And the higher that loan the more pressure you have to get results. If your album doesn’t sell well your 3rd project could be paying off the debt from your first project. Recouping takes years for everyone not just small artists; if they ever recoup at all. If you want to get a big advance just make sure you have mapped out how it will be spent. My advice, keep at least 10-20% of it for unforeseen expenses. You never know what life will throw at you (COVID-19 being a perfect example). If you are spending any of your advance on assets that lose value you might as well just go get a bank loan, either way your screwing yourself.
6. If you do sign with a label have a clause regarding any demos/unreleased recordings
It happens all the time, an artist leaves a label and can’t get their recordings because once you’re out the door they have no obligation or incentive to get them to you. If you know you aren’t going to re-up your deal make sure that you have verbiage in there stating that all unreleased demos are reverted back to you and are presented on the final day of the term with a drive link or hard drive. Otherwise you may have a large gap between when you can release new music which is not ideal for an industry where constant output is a necessity.
7. If you do sign negotiate that your marketing spends go up per project
This is similar to point 6 because it’s about foresight and human nature. If the writing on the wall is that you’re leaving the label after your last committed album they will reduce spending on you. Why would they go all out on your final album with them if all that’s going to do is help another company make a bunch of money with your increased status? Make sure you set a fixed marketing budget per project outlined in the contract so that you can protect yourself from this.
8. Create Databases for Everything
Venue contacts, curators, blogs, these are year round tasks that need to be completed, if you are doing them last minute once you’ve released the song you’ve already lost. You need resources that fit your career and are easy to reference.
9. Every Song Is a New Folder
Every song release if it’s intentional and well thought out should have accompanying assets. The music video, the promo video, the visualizer, the press photos, the split sheet, the press release, etc. Anytime you plan to release a song you need a folder for it with all these things in there. Have these all ready BEFORE you submit your song for release, or at least most of them. You’ll thank me on release week, trust me.
10. Campaigns Need Layers
You can’t release a song in 2020 without video and photo assets. I mean you can but that would be pretty unprofessional. You need a week or two of rollout content and another week of content ready to promote post release. You need to have a post ready for why the song is being released. You need a post ready with a call to action for fans to engage with. Everything should crescendo with the release. Don’t drop your music video 3 months after the song and album if you haven’t been releasing consistent content to lead to that likely expensive video. That alone without a plan for how to get that video max exposure is not going to increase streams by much and doesn’t set anything new up; basically just a waste of your time and money. Map things out ahead of time with how you plan to rollout the content so that each week after release you have something new to show fans and be ready to adjust as needed.
Also, don’t beat a dead horse, sometimes a song rollout will run its course and it’s time to get ready for the next one. I suggest giving each song a months worth of content give or take. Album rollouts are longer yes, but be sure you have a fanbase ready to consume that much music from you first.
Wrap Up So what do you think of these? What other advice would you give musicians who want to make their music a career? Any of you ever worked with a label or company? What was your experience like good or bad?
If you want to talk more about how to approach your career personally please pm me i'd love to talk more with folks
submitted by alexyxray to WeAreTheMusicMakers [link] [comments]

The Strange Story of How I Discovered The Dead

Seeing as how today is the 25th anniversary of the final Dead show, I figured I'd share how I found out about the Dead. I'm not sure how long I'll make this out to be, but I'm just glad I'll get to finally write it down. It's a story of music, jamming, hippies, and acid.
Before I start the story, I want to explain the brief brushes I've had with the Dead in my life. When I was 11 I saw Phil and Friends at Gathering of the Vibes in Connecticut, but I had absolutely no appreciation for him or who he was, and I specifically remember seeing him for a few minutes and walking away to see other stages due to lack of interest. I'm STILL kicking myself or that in case anyone was wondering. (similarly, I saw Billy Strings at a bluegrass festival and walked away because I wasn't interested and then I really got into his music... I have a bad habit of walking away from great shows). My Aunt Ari who was actually a huge Dead brought me and my sister to that show, but we were too young to properly appreciate it.
When I turned 17, I enlisted into the Air Force and hated it. I hated the rules, the bullshit, the conformity, cutting my hair, all of it. When I got to my first duty station at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City, sometime in 2016, I got heavily into country music and eventually got VERY heavy into bluegrass and decided I wanted to play a banjo and happened to buy one from one of the best banjo players in town who later became my teacher. He showed me the ropes and got me started and I eventually went on to teach myself banjo as much as I could. I fell in love with Flatt and Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Don Reno, Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, and Bill Monroe just to name a few. But I heard about this one band called Old and in the Way and I loved their music so much. Since Jerry was the banjo player I tried to emulate his style as best as I could. I knew about Jerry, but I didn't know a whole lot about him. I didn't listen to the dead at all, but I had a deep appreciation for Jerry and the rest of Old and in the Way. In 2019 I wound up joining a local bluegrass/ folk/ rock band and we were actually really good and got lots of shows with nice crowds and I got to really hone my technique, again, emulating Jerry and Earl Scruggs as best as I could.A
Here's where the story REALLY starts. I left the Air Force on September 27th 2019, quit the band, loaded up my truck and headed on out on the open road. After staying in Colorado for a week and camping in the Rockies, I decided to hit up Nashville and try and find some like minded people to play some music. My search was mostly unfruitful, and after a few days of overpriced hotels and drinks, along with the daily hangovers, I decided I wanted a change of pace. I decided I wanted to work on a farm for a while through the WWOOF website. (Basically, I work on a farm for a place to stay)
I went on the website and looked for something north of Nashville and the first place I picked was this place that didn't look anything like a normal farm. I knew what it was, but I had no idea what I was in store for. The first place I looked at on the website was in fact a sustainable eco-village, better known as a hippie commune. It was called The Garden in Lafayette Tennessee, and I decided to head over. I called the phone number, expecting maybe an interview or something, but they told me to show right up and I did. I showed up and I saw these buses, painted with psychedelic colors, hand built structures everywhere, a wonderful and massive garden, art wherever you looked, especially these psychedelic bears that I knew from what little I'd seen or heard about the Dead, and the best vibes I've ever felt in my whole life. There was nature all around me and the people there were some of the nicest, most open people I'd ever met. I shared the weed I'd saved from Colorado with them and did my best to be open with them as they were with me.
Mind you, I was less than two weeks out of the military so I was in absolute shock and I had a hard time talking for most of my time there. I was only going to stay for two days, but that turned into a week and a half. I helped with the garden, building structures, and I played my banjo for them. The food was free and the living was nice and I was in absolute SHOCK over how kind and open everyone was, when in my life I was used to people being cold or have ulterior motives. It was just such a shock for my mind going from the rigid structure of the military straight to a commune where you could do what you want with minimal rules. I met some of the realest and kindest people in my life. I felt love for what felt like the first time in my life and I had an amazing experience and knew I'd return every chance I could. After staying there, I went home to visit my folks in Connecticut, but once that was over I headed straight back there to see it all again.
And this, my fellow Dead Heads, is where I truly discovered The Grateful Dead.
I went back sometime in Late October or November. The air was cold during the day and the nights were bitter cold as well. The Garden was still thriving and the love was still there. They were glad that I came back and I was glad that I did. The love I felt was amazing and I loved them too. I loved how open they were and how they treated me as an equal. Nobody thought less of me for having been in the military or being new. We were all humans, and we were all equals. There were the normal commune shenanigans, we all played music together and I loved playing music with them. Everyone played something, be it guitar, ukulele, drums, cahone, banjo, etc and it brought us all together.
But there was one guy there named who was really good at guitar. For his privacy I won't say his name, but for those reading who know of The Garden, I bet you'll know who I'm talking about. I'll use the letter K in place of his name.
K came to the Garden and loved it, but wanted a piece of land for himself and his family so he bought some land right next to it, so it was like a miniature version of the Garden. But one key difference was that acid and drugs (besides weed, that's considered medicine) was not allowed in the garden. At K's place, anything goes.
We played some music together and we talked a ton about Old and in the Way because we had a mutual love for their music, especially the song Catfish John. He asked me if I knew anything about The Dead and I didn't know a whole lot. I asked him if I should see him and he'd say something like, "The boys? Oh you've gotta see em at least, I dunno, 300 times or so." He told me what Dead shows were like and I was enraptured.
He asked me, "So kid, ya wanna party?"
"Hmmmm, what do you mean by 'party'?" I said
"Go to my place and take some... acid?" he said in a lowered voice because we were around people
I'd done acid twice in my life at this point. Once with a friend of mine at her house, and I took two tabs on Bourbon Street in Nola. Both times I thought it was really cool and interesting but I never got anything I could really take from it.
"hmmmmm, I'll go, but I won't say yes to the acid quite yet.... maybe"
And so it was settled and he gathered all of us musicians who were down to go. I brought my banjo and the synthesizer my sister had given me while I was in Connecticut. There were 5 of us total all playing music with a few listeners who came too.
Now K built his home in the woods and it's VERY homemade. The Garden was already surreal enough, but this took it a step... Furthur...
He built his home around a large tree and built a cabin for him and his family to sleep in. He built a work shed and had a wonderful, massive dog named Lucy. Luckily, I have a few photos I'll share with y'all. The woman in one of the photos was a friend of mine holding my banjo for a little photo shoot, but these were taken waaaayyyyy after all of this happened.
https://imgur.com/gallery/Ysz5Z4g
This is where I went to trip on acid and learn about the Dead.
I had no idea what they were about, I didn't even understand the concept of a jam band.
But I learned that night.
We all took 1 hit as night fell upon us, and it began.
All this time, K was explaining the Dead to me, but it never hit me until we started jamming.
We played a few songs, but then it came time that we all played Catfish John and I have no idea how long we went on for, but for most of it it didn't even feel like we were playing that song. We fell into this weird jam and everything was so fucking weird and I loved it. We were all tripping out and as we were jamming I felt like I was in a spaceship flying through space and I used my banjo to guide myself, but we were all jamming together and our minds were all together in it. But K was like a conductor of the whole jam, guiding us all through it. The best thing I could compare it to was Playing in the Band from Pacific Northwest 73-74 but with acoustic instruments. After we jammed and everyone was tired and drained I was still peaking and wierding out and I sunk into a couch he had there, in absolute awe of what had just transpired. K must have saw it in me and knew it was the perfect time to really show me what the Dead was all about.
"You wanna know about the Dead, kid?" He said
"Just lay it on me man" I said
And what he said next I didn't fully understand or appreciate until these past two months.
This dude straight up pulled out an amp and pulled up a live album. I didn't fully understand the whole deal with Deadheads and live albums, but I did that night.
I obviously can't remember the exact date he pulled up, so I'll substitute it with something.
"Alright man, check this out, 5/8/77, we're gunna go about three quarters into the show during Estimated Prophet when Jerry has this kick ass solo and his guitar goes woh wahhhh"
"Hell yeah! that's a kick ass one!" Said another guy who was there with us
K went on to explain what a dead show was like AND Y'ALL I FELT LIKE I WAS THERE.
I felt the wobs and wahhhs and the wumps and the dumps. Phil was holding down the bass, Jerry was tearing it apart, Bill was keeping it all together, Bobby was holding a solid rhythm, and everyone was having and amazing time and it was just so much joy that I felt in that short period of time.
K and another guy who was jamming with us wound up talking about a Dead and Co. show they saw and they were explaining the vibes there and what its like to be in a stadium full of people tripping. They explained the energy and it blew my mind. I wish I could go into greater detail, but I have no idea how I could even begin to explain it.
As my trip wound down and the vibe shrank down smaller and smaller, I thought to myself, "The trajectory of my life has been drastically changed. I don't know how, but it has."
Recently, I've been seeing the effects of it and I'm so happy that I went through with it and took a leap. It's bittersweet, I'm 22 so I never got to see Jerry. It's not the same, but I'm happy that I got to experience at least a small beautiful piece of the Dead in the woods with a bunch of hippies.
The day I left I went to visit K one more time and I thanked him for showing me the Dead and I told him he changed my life, even if he doesn't realize it. He offered me a few extra hits for the road, but I declined. I decided I only want acid to find me, I'm afraid it would lose its magic if I took it too much.
I sadly haven't seen K since. Apparently he's on a boat off the coast of Florida fighting off the Coast Guard or something, I have no idea. But he hasn't been there in my subsequent trips I've been there.
I've taken that feeling I had that night and I hold it close to my heart and I've made it my mission in life to spread it as far and wide as I can.
Thank you for reading, and be well y'all!
Life's a long strange trip, and we're all in it together.
Edit: here's an interview with one of the founders of The Garden for those interested, https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=share&v=CJ9qG54Ztzo
submitted by loafersglory to gratefuldead [link] [comments]

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