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This is the longest Vlogbrothers video, I think, and definitely the one with the most curse words. BUT THIS IS THE TRADITION THAT WAS ESTABLISHED!

In which Hank reads the first chapter of his new book (and first book) about April May, who meets a bizarre robot sculpture in Manhattan on the way home from her terrible user interface design job.

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Hank: Good morning, John!

Not everybody's gonna know this, but we have a tradition here in the vlogbrothers channel: when one of us has a book come out—so far it's just been you—we do a video reading the first chapter of the book. This stretches all the way back to Paper Towns nine years ago, I discovered by searching our channel. Look at you. You are... young, and disheveled.

There's a few really great things about this: One, it's exempt from the four-minute rule, so I can just go on for as long as I want right now. Two, it's just reading a book, so it's a pretty easy video to do... I've always felt like it's a little bit of a cop-out. But there was the whole writing the book part which turns out to be labor-intensive. Three, you get to tell people about the book, which theoretically—and definitely in my case—is something you wanna do, because you're proud of it, and you like it, and you think people will like it too? And hopefully also it will be useful and enjoyable?

It's just what I'm going for generally in life: Can I be useful and enjoyable? That's just, like, what I say to my son. Every morning. Basically. Not in words, but in actions. I may have got to the meaning of life here... that's not what I intended.

So do you want to hear the first chapter in my book? If not, go away. As read by me, and not Kristen Sieh who does the audiobook and who is fantastic? Let's go.

Kristen Sieh's voice: "I am aware that you're here for an epic tale of intrigue and mystery and adventure and near death and actual death,"

Hank: That was a joke. That was Kristen reading. Now it's... I'm actually gonna do it. But first a warning: there's a bunch of curse words in my book and there will be some in this chapter that I'm about to read. So, just know that.

"Look, I am aware that you’re here for an epic tale of intrigue and mystery and adventure and near death and actual death, but in order to get to that (unless you want to skip to chapter 13—I’m not your boss), you’re going to have to deal with the fact that I, April May, in addition to being one of the most important things that has ever happened to the human race, am also a woman in her twenties who has made some mistakes."

That's a long first sentence.

"I am in the wonderful position of having you by the short hairs. I have the story, and so I get to tell it to you the way I want. That means you get to understand me, not just my story, so don’t be surprised if there’s some drama. I’m going to attempt to come at this account honestly, but I’ll also admit to a significant pro-me bias. If you get anything out of this, ideally it won’t be you being more or less on one side or the other, but simply understanding that I am (or at least was) human."

"And I was very much feeling only human as I dragged my tired ass down 23rd Street at 2:45 a.m. after working a sixteen-hour day at a start-up that (thanks to an aggressively shitty contract I signed) will remain nameless. Going to art school might seem like a terrible financial decision, but really that’s only true if you have to take out gobs and gobs of student loans to fund your hoity-toity education. Of course, I had done exactly that. My parents were successful, running a business providing equipment to small and medium-sized dairy farms. Like, the little things you hook up to cows to get the milk out, they sold and distributed them. It was a good business, good enough that I wouldn’t have had a lot of debt if I’d gone to a state school. But I did not do that. I had loans. Lots. So, after jumping from major to major (advertising, fine art, photography, illustration) and finally settling on the mundane (but at least useful) BFA in design, I took the first job that would keep me in New York and out of my old bedroom in my parents’ house in Northern California."

"And that was a job at a doomed start-up funded by the endless well of rich people who can only dream the most boring dream a rich person can dream: being even more rich. Of course, working at a start-up means that you’re part of the “family,” and so when things go wrong, or when deadlines fly past, or when an investor has a hissy fit, or just because, you don’t get out of work until three in the morning. Which, honestly, I hated. I hated it because the company’s time- management app was a dumb idea and didn’t actually help people, I hated it because I knew I was just doing it for money, and I hated it because they asked the staff to treat it like their whole life rather than like a day job, which meant I didn’t have any time to spare to work on personal projects."


"I was actually using my degree doing actual graphic design and getting paid enough to afford rent less than one year out of school. My work environment was close to technically criminal and I paid half of my income to sleep in the living room of a one-bedroom apartment, but I was making it work."

"I fibbed just now. My bed was in the living room, but I mostly slept in the bedroom—Maya’s room. We weren’t living together, we were roommates, and April-from-the-past would want me to be very clear about that. What’s the difference between those two things? Well, mostly that we weren’t dating when we moved in together. Hooking up with your roommate is convenient, but it is also a little confusing when you lived together through much of college. Before finally hooking up and have now been a couple for more than a year."

"If you happen to already live together, when does the 'Should we move in together?' question come up? Well, for Maya and me, the question was 'Can we please move that secondhand mattress out of the living room so that we can sit on a couch when we watch Netflix?' and thus far my answer had been 'Absolutely not, we are just roommates who are dating.' Which is why our living room still had a bed in it."

"I told you there would be drama."

"Anyway, back to the middle of the night that fateful January evening. This shitty app had to get a new release into the App Store by the next week and I had been waiting for final approvals on some user interface changes, and whatever, you don’t care—it was boring work BS. Instead of coming in early, I stayed late, which has always been my preference. My brain was sucked entirely dry from trying to interpret cryptic guidance from bosses who couldn’t tell a raster from a vector. So I checked out of the building (it was a coworking space, not even actual leased offices) and walked the three minutes to the subway station."

"And then my MetroCard got rejected FOR NO REASON. I had another one sitting on my desk at work, and I wasn’t precisely sure how much money I had in my checking account, so it seemed like I should walk the three blocks back to the office just to be safe."

"The walk sign was on, so I cross 23rd, and a taxicab blares its horn like I shouldn’t be in the crosswalk. Whatever, dude, I have the walk light. I turn and head back to the office and immediately I see it. As I approach, it becomes clear that it is a really ... REALLY exceptional sculpture."
"I mean, it’s AWESOME, but it’s also a little bit 'New York awe­some,' you know?"

"How do I explain how I feel about it? I guess ... well ... in New York City people spend ten years making something amazing happen, something that captures the essence of an idea so perfectly that sud­denly the world becomes ten times clearer. It’s beautiful and it’s powerful and someone devoted a huge piece of their life to it. The local news does a story about it and everyone goes 'Neat!' and then tomorrow we forget about it in favor of some other ABSOLUTELY PERFECT AND REMARKABLE THING. That doesn’t make those things un­wonderful or not unique ... It’s just that there are a lot of people doing a lot of amazing things, so eventually you get a little jaded."
"So that’s how I felt when I saw it – a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor, its huge barrel chest lifted up to the sky a good four or five feet above my head. It stood there in the middle of the sidewalk, full of energy and power. It looked like it might, at any moment, turn and fix that empty, regal stare on me. But instead it just stood there, silent and almost scornful, like the world didn’t deserve its attention. In the streetlight, the metal was a patch­work of black‑as‑night matte and mirror-reflective silver. And it clearly was metal ... not some spray-painted cardboard cosplay thing. It was stunningly done. I paused for maybe five seconds before shivering both in the cold and in the gaze of the thing and then walk­ing on."

"And then I. Felt. Like. The. Biggest. Jerk."

"I mean, I’m an artist working way too hard at a deeply uninteresting job to pay way too much in rent so I can stay in this place — so I can remain immersed in one of the most creative and influen­tial cultures on earth. Here in the middle of the sidewalk is a piece of art that was a massive undertaking, an installation that the artist worked on, possibly for years, to make people stop and look and consider. And here I am, hardened by big-city life and mentally drained by hours of pixel pushing, not even giving something so magnificent a second glance."

"I remember this moment pretty clearly, so I guess I’ll mention it. I went back to the sculpture, got up on my tiptoes, and I said, 'Do you think I should call Andy?'"

"The sculpture, of course, did nothing."

“'Just stand there if it’s OK for me to call Andy.'”

"And so I made the call."

"But first, some background on Andy!"

"You know those moments when your life shifts and you think, I will definitely, without a doubt, continue to love and appreciate and connect with all of these cool people I have spent so many years with, despite the fact that our lives are changing a great deal right now, and then instead you might as well unfriend them on Facebook because you ain’t never gonna see that dude again in your whole life? Well, Andy, Maya, and I had somehow (thus far) managed to avoid that fate. Maya and I had done it by occupying the same four hundred square feet."

"Andy, on the other hand, lived across town from us, and we didn’t even know him until junior year. Maya and I, by that point, were taking most of the same classes because, well, we really liked each other a lot. We were obviously going to be in the same group whenever there was a group project. But Professor Kennedy was di­viding us up into groups of three, which meant a random third wheel. Somehow we got stuck with Andy (or probably, from his perspective, he got stuck with us)."

"I knew who Andy was. I had formed a vague impression of him that mostly was 'that guy sure is more confident than he has any right to be.' He was skinny and awkward with printer-paper-pale skin. I assumed he began his haircuts by asking the stylist to make it look like he had never received a haircut. But he was always primed for some quip, and for the most part, those quips were either funny or insightful."

"The project was a full brand treatment for a fictional product. Packaging was optional, but we needed several logo options and a style guide (which is like a little book that tells everyone how the brand should be presented and what fonts and colors are to be used in what situations). It was more or less a given that we would be do­ing this for some hip and groovy fictional company that makes ethi­cal, fair-trade jeans with completely useless pockets or something. Actually, it was almost always a fictional brewery because we were college students. We were paying a lot of money to cultivate our taste in beer and be snobby about it."

"And I’m sure that’s the direction that Maya and I would have gone in, but Andy was intolerably stubborn and somehow convinced us both that we would be building the visual identity of 'Bubble Bum,' a butt-flavored bubble gum. At first his arguments were silly, that we weren’t going to be doing fancy cool (shit) when we graduated, so we might as well not take the project so seriously. But he convinced us when he got serious."

"'Look, guys,' he said, 'it’s easy to make something cool look cool, that’s why everyone picks cool things. Ultimately, though, cool is always going to be boring. What if we can make something dumb look amazing? Something unmarketable, awesome? That’s a real challenge. That takes real skill. Let’s show real skill.'"

"I remember this pretty clearly because it was when I realized there was more to Andy." 

"By the end of the project I couldn't help feeling a little superior to the rest of our classmates, taking their skinny jeans and craft breweries so seriously. And the final product did look great. Andy was-- and I had known this but not really filed it as important-- and extremely talented illustrator, and with Maya's hand-lettering skills and my color-palette work, it did end up looking pretty great."

"So that's how Maya and I met Andy, and thank god we did. Frankly, we needed a third wheel to even out the intensity of the early part of our relationship. After the Bubble Bum project, which Kennedy loved so much he put it on the class website, we became a bit of a trio. We even worked on some freelance projects together, and occasionally Andy would come over to our apartment and force us to play board games. And then we'd just spend the evening talking about politics or dreams or anxieties. The fact that he was obviously a little bit in love with me never really bothered any of us because he knew I was taken and, well, I don't think Maya saw him as a threat. Somehow, our dynamic hadn't fractured after graduation and we kept hanging out with funny, weird, smart, stupid Andy Skampt."

"Who I was now calling at three o'clock in the morning."

"'The fuck, April, it's 3 AM.'"

"'Hey, I've got something you might want to see.'"

"'It seems likely that this can wait until tomorrow.'"

"'No, this is pretty cool. Bring your camera... and does Jason have any lights?' Jason was Andy's roommate--both of them wanted to be internet famous. They would stream themselves playing video games to tiny audiences, and they had a podcast about the best TV death scenes that they also filmed and uploaded to YouTube. To me it just seemed like that incurable ailment so many well-off dudes have, believing despite mountains of evidence that what the world truly needs is another white-guy comedy podcast. This sounds harsh, but that's what it seemed like to me back then. Now, of course, I know how easy it is to feel like you don't matter if no one's watching. I've also since listened to Slainspotting and it's actually pretty funny."

“'Wait . . . what’s happening? What am I doing?' he asked."

“'Here’s what you’re doing: You’re walking over to Gramercy Theatre and you’re going to bring as much of Jason’s video shit as you can and you’re not going to regret it, so don’t even think about going back to whatever hentai VR game you are playing . . . This is better, I promise.'”

“'You say that, but have you played Cherry Blossom Fairy Five, April May? Have you?'”

"Several people who weren’t Andy walked by as I waited for him. Manhattan is less legit than it once was, for sure, but this is still the city that never sleeps. It is also the city of 'Behold the field in which I grow my fucks. Lay thine eyes upon it and see that it is barren.' People gave the sculpture a quick glance and kept on walking, just as I had nearly done. I tried to look busy. Manhattan’s a safe place, but that doesn’t mean a twenty-three-year-old woman by herself on the street at 3 A.M. isn’t going to get randomly harassed."

"For the next few minutes I got to spend a little time with the structure. Manhattan is never really dark, there was lots of light around, but the deep shadows and the sculpture’s size made it difficult to really understand it. It was massive. It probably weighed several hundred pounds. I took my glove off and poked it, finding the metal surprisingly not cool. Not warm either, exactly . . . but hard. I gave it a knock on the pelvis and didn’t hear the bell ring I expected. It was more of a thunk followed by a low hum. I started to think that this was part of the artist’s intentions . . . that the goal was for the people of New York to interact with this object . . . to discover its properties. When you’re in art school, you do a lot of thinking about objectives and intent. That was just the default state: SEE ART → CRITIQUE ART."

"Eventually, I stopped my critique and just took it in. I was starting to really love it. Not just as a creation of someone else, but like the way that you love really good art . . . just enjoying it. It was so unlike other things I’d seen. And brave in its 'Transformerness.' Like, I would be terrified to do anything that visually reflected mecha robots in any way . . . No one wants to be compared to something that’s mainstream popular. That’s the worst of all possible fates."

"But there was much more to this piece than that. It seemed to have come from a completely different place than any work I’d ever seen before, sculptural or not. I was pretty caught up in the thing when Andy snapped me out of it."

“'What the absolute fuck . . .' He was wearing a backpack and three camera straps and holding two tripods."

“'Yup,' I replied."

"'That. Is. AWESOME.'”

“'I know . . . The awful thing is, I almost walked right by it. I just thought, ‘Well, there’s another fucking cool New York City thing,’ and kept on walking. But it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard or seen anything about it, and since, y’know, you’re always in search of your big viral hit, you might want to get the scoop. So I’ve been guarding it for you.'”

“'So you saw this big, beautiful, muscular piece of art and who sprung into your mind but ANDY Skampt!' His thumbs were digging into his bony chest."

“'LOL,' I said sarcastically. 'In fact, I figured I’d do you a favor, and here it is, so maybe just appreciate it?'”

"A little dejected, he handed me a tripod. 'Well, let’s start getting this shit set up then. Gotta work before Channel 6 drunkenly stumbles by and steals our scoop.'”

"In five minutes the camera was set up, a battery-powered light was glaring, and Andy was clamping the mic to his lapel. He’d stopped wearing stupid ball caps, and he’d given up on his unruly (or just uncommon) haircuts in favor of a short-wavy thing that complemented his face shape. But despite the fact that he was eight inches taller than me and almost exactly my age, he still looked about five years my junior."

“'April,' he said."


“'I think maybe it should be you.'”

"I probably replied with some kind of confused grunt."

“'In front of the camera, I mean.'”

“'Dude, this is your dream, not mine. I don’t know shit about YouTube.'”

“'It’s just . . . I mean, well . . .' Looking back, I think it’s possible, though I’ve never asked him, that he had some idea that this would actually be a big deal. Not as big a deal as it would turn out to be, of course, but big."

“'Hey, don’t think you’re going to win my favor by giving me internet fame. I don’t even want that.'”

“'Right, but you have no idea how to use this camera.' I could tell he was making an excuse, but I couldn’t figure out why."

“'I don’t know how to do behind-the-camera stuff, but I also don’t know how to do in-front-of-the-camera stuff. You and Jason talk to the internet all day long, I barely have a Facebook.'”

“'You have an Instagram.'”

“'That’s different.' I smirked."

“'Not really. I can tell you care about what you post on there. You’re not fooling anyone. You’re a digital girl, April, in a digital world. We all know how to perform.' God bless Andy for being blunt. He was right, of course. I tried not to care about social media, and I really did prefer hanging out in art galleries to hanging out on Twitter. But I wasn’t as disconnected as I made myself out to be. Being annoyed by carefully crafted internet personas was part of my carefully crafted internet persona. Even so, I think we could both feel Andy stretching for a point that wasn’t 100 percent there."

“'Andy, what is this actually about?'”

“'It’s just'—he took a deep breath—'I think it would be better for the artist if it were you. I’m a fucking goof, I know what I look like. People aren’t going to take me seriously. You look like an artist with your pea coats and your cheekbones. You look like you know what you’re talking about. You do know what you’re talking about, and you talk it good, girl. If I do this, I’m going to make it a joke. Plus, you’re the one who found it, I think it just makes more sense for you to be in front of the camera.'”

"Unlike most of my classmates who graduated with design degrees, I thought a lot about fine art. If you’re wondering what the difference is, well, fine art is like art that exists for its own sake. The thing that fine art does is itself. Design is art that does something else. It’s more like visual engineering. I started school focusing on fine art, but I decided by the end of the first semester that maybe I wanted to someday have a job. So I switched to advertising, which I hated, so I switched a bunch more times until I caved and went into design. But I still spent way more time and energy paying attention to the fine art scene in Manhattan than any of my design-track friends did. It was part of why I desperately wanted to stay in the city. This may sound dumb, but just being a twenty-something in New York City made me feel important. Even if I wasn’t doing real art, at least I was making it work in this city, a long ways away from my parents’ literal dairy-supply business."

"Ultimately, Andy wasn’t showing any signs of giving up and I determined that this wasn’t actually that big of a deal. So I ran the mic up the inside of my shirt . . . The cord was warm from Andy’s body. The light shined in my eyes and I could barely see the lens. It was cold, there was a little breeze, we were alone on the sidewalk."

“'Are you ready?' he said."

“'Give me that mic,' I said, pointing at an open bag on the ground."

“'Your lav is speeding, you don’t need it.'”

"I had no idea what that meant, but I got the gist. 'No, just as a prop . . . so I can . . . interview it?'”

“'Ah . . . cool . . .' He handed me the mic."

“'OK,' I said."

“'’K, I’m rolling.'”

Hank: That's the first chapter of my book. Neat, right? I wrote a book!

There's been a lot of really cool things that have happened since the book has come out. If you follow me on Twitter, you saw that I used part of the advance I got for the book to fund a bunch of independent artists to make art based on the book. I'm showing you some of those pieces right now. They're really amazing. You can check out my Instagram if you want to find them all.

There's also a completely fan-led project called The Carls Are Coming dot com where you can do paper-fold-y versions of Carls, and then take pictures of them and pin them to a map, and there are lots of them all over the world. It's very cool. And since the book has come out, I've just gotten so many great responses and thoughts from people, and pieces of creation based on my creation, which is I think the most interesting part of creation.

And I'm so happy to have that. I feel so lucky to have that. I have never had an experience like this in my life, and it is really special and awesome. So if you're gonna get the book or you already have it, I really hope you like it, and I can't wait... I can't wait to do this more!

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.