The 2016 Chicago SantaCon is on for December 3rd!

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If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I have some personal business to discus.  I’ve been to the Chicago SantaCon maybe 5 or 6 times over the past 10 years but this year I’m helping to promote the event.  So, if you live in the Chicagoland area and you enjoy Christmas, beer, dressing up like Santa Claus, having fun, walking around in the cold, caroling, beer, making merry and beer, you may want to check out this year’s SantaCon.  If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Santa Con is basically a big Chrismasy bar crawl.  They happen all over the world but it seems like Chicago does one of the best ones.  It’s not as sloppy and stupid as the one in New York but it’s also not as tame as some of the Santa Cons that happen in other cities.  I think it’s just the right level of ridiculous.  The word is that some guy is running a second Santa Con in a different part of the city but ours is the real deal.  It’s the original Chicago Santa Con and it’s been around since 2005.

The 2016 schedule has just been released.  Here it is:

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016:

Noon to 1:00PM – Congress Plaza Hotel Bar.  520 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL.

1:00 to 1:15PM – Steps of the Art Institute for photos and caroling.

1:15 to 2:30PM – Beef and Brandy and The Bar Below.  127 S State Street.

2:30 to 3:30PM – Santa takeover at The Bean/Cloud Gate at Millennium Park

3:30 to 4:30PM – Bar Louie – River North.  333 N. Dearborn Street.

4:30 to 6:00PM – Adelines (Formerly Celtic Crossings). 751 North Clark Street.

6:00 to 8:00PM – Brehon Pub 731 N Wells St # 1

8:00 and beyond – General Shennanigas

If any VCN actually want to go this year, let me know and I’ll buy you a drink!

Bunch O Balloons “Secret Weapon” winners

2016 is a weird time to be a kid.  On one hand they have incredible toys and gadgets and an endless supply of tv shows and youtube videos to watch.  On the other hand, Donald Trump just got elected president.  I’m not sure MineCraft/Avengers is really exciting enough to offset the fear/panic some kids will feel under a Trump/Pence administration.  Maybe some “Bunch O Balloons” will help?  If you haven’t seen then, Bunch O Balloons are these new waterballoons that you would have killed to play with when you were little.  You can fill up dozens of them at once and then the balloons somehow seal themselves shut. The company just wrapped up their first video contest and here’s the entry that won the $2,500 grand prize.



Ahh, wasn’t that a pleasant look back at a sweeter, more innocent time?  I really miss the good ole’ days of 2 months ago.  Everything seemed possible back then….we were going to have the first female president,  a liberal supreme court, and new alt-right TV network named Trump TV that we could all mock and revile.  Sigh….well at least we still have water balloons that seal themselves.

BOO! Here’s the winner of some random website’s Madea-themed video contest

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Have you seen the trailer for Boo! A Madea Halloween?  It looks like Tyler Perry bought some clown costumes at Party City and then shot his new movie over Labor Day weekend.  I know the Madea films are popular but I think Perry might be getting a little lazy.  He veered dangerously close to “direct to DVD” territory this time.  Seriously, I’m not kidding about those Party City clown costumes.  The evil clowns in the trailer are literally wearing the $29.99 costumes that I’ve seen in stores.  What kind of major motion picture has a costume designer that would allow the director to use cheap costumes that come in vinyl bags?

Well anyway, to promote and/or piggyback off the film, the website Comed-Hype (which may or may not be officially associated with the Madea films) ran a video contest and asked their fans to submit their funniest Halloween stories.  Here’s the $1,000 grand prize winner:

Click the screenshot to watch the video on
Click the screenshot to watch the video on Pictagram (whatever that is)

Ok, that story seemed pretty made-up and I guess the filmmaker gave up on his plan to do something with that green screen.  But still, I liked this entry and I’d much rather watch a new movie staring that guy than the new Madea film.  Happy Halloween, everybody!  Have fun and please watch out for amateur Freddy Kruegers tonight.

How to create effective custom thumbnails for your Youtube videos

Custom thumbnails from a top 200 youtube star, Bethany Mota
Custom thumbnails from a top 200 YouTube star, Bethany Mota

Man, I am dumb.  I’ve been uploading my video contest entries to Youtube for 8 or 9 years now and it just hit me that maybe I should be giving my entries custom thumbnail images.  Ok sure, that feature has only existed for a few years but still, I should have started doing it long ago.  Eye-catching thumbnails probably won’t help me score any points with contest judges but they might help me get extra views.  And I’ve always suspected that a decent view counts will improve your chances a bit.  Think about it; if judges see one entry that has 12 views and another that has 450 views, they’ll probably assume that there’s something special about the 450-view video.  They may even conclude that entry #2 has viral potential.  And a video contest entry going viral is pretty much the dream scenario for any sponsor that runs one of these contests.

So from here on out on I’ll be giving my videos custom thumbnails.  I’ve never done one before so I had to do a little research before I started.  (I couldn’t see the option anywhere in my video manager!)  Turns out that you need to verify your account before you can create your own thumbnails.  The next step is to cook up a thumbnail that’s 1280×720 pxs and has a resolution of at least 72 px per inch  (The thumbnail’s gonna be pretty small so the resolution doesn’t need to be super high.)  Here’s a template I created.  Feel free to download it and use it for your own projects:

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And that’s about all there is to it.  But if you’d like more info plus some tips about creating attractive, click-worthy images, you should go ahead and watch these official YouTube tutorials:



Big Idaho Potato Tour Video Contest winners

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As you’ve probably noticed, this year’s election has been bumming everybody out.  But even in these dark times we can still find proof that America is the most kick-ass country in the world.  Exhibit A is the Big Idaho Potato truck.  Americans love taters so much that some genius somewhere said “Hey, let’s build a 5 ton fake potato and drive it around for no good reason” and his friends were like “yeah, awesome, let’s do it.”  And they did.  They built the giant potato for no good reason.  I mean, yeah sure, technically it was created to promote Idaho potatoes.  But do we really need to ADVERTISE potatoes in this country?  We eat potatoes with every meal.  And have you ever had a NON-Idaho potato???  If this giant potato truck didn’t exist, is there a chance we’d all start eating North Korean potatoes or something?

Fortunatly we don’t need to answer that question because the giant potato truck does exist.  But I guess not enough people know about it because the folks behind the truck held a video contest to celebrate the truck (thereby celebrating Idaho Potatoes.)  There were three categories; recipe videos, videos shot at the potato truck and general potato themed videos shot anywhere, anytime.  The winners in each category got $1,000. The runners-up got a shit ton of potatoes.  That is not a joke. Here’s the winner of the Anytime/Anywhere category:



That was easily the best potato-themed short film I’ve ever seen.  Also the worst. If you want to see the rest of the winners, head here.  Or you can just watch this video mash-up of all of the entries:



Hey you know what’s funny?  After watching these videos I totally want to chow down on a giant pile of baked, boiled and friend potatoes.  Guess the potato truck did it’s job.  Nice work truck, you did the impossible; you got an American to eat even more delicious, delicious potatoes.