Monday, 29 April 2013

The Occasional Couch Potato

One of the most difficult things to do when you're holding down a 9-to-5 job is to keep stimulating your imagination. It's like nervously anticipating the arrival of a blind date. You never really know what you're gonna get or if he will turn up.  
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Waiting. Hopefully not in vain.

You anxiously wait for spurts of creativity and when ideas come, they don't even knock. They're like bulls that barge in, stampede and pile up on top of each other, and you're left to weed out which one to pull out first for the whole herd story to survive.
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Ideas sometimes arrive like bulls on a stampede.

The past couple of weeks have been particularly a struggle to come up with anything worth mulling about as I was mentally out and about but physically grounded. Add to that, my internet at work was intermittently shutting down, I was disconnected from the virtual world that opens my muse

Needless to say, I was worn out. One night, I slumped on the sofa and promised myself a few minutes of slumber. My few minutes stretched into a few hours. The window was behind me and I looked up to see that the sun was about to shine.

Yet again, I had a sofa moment. You know when some people have a lightbulb moment in the middle of evacuating the excesses of gastronomical hedonism, or when meditating under the shower? I get that as well, plus for some reason, occasional uninterrupted sleep on the couch gives me a physical and phrenic buzz that I feel I'm ready to conquer the world again. Or at least put some silly thoughts into writing.
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 That moment when the bulb lights up.

Extending Your Comfort Zone

So what is it with a sofa that revives me?

I'm convinced it's not a unique experience to me so I googled to check if someone has ever written about the joys of curling up in the sofa when you're supposed to be in bed. 

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A giant sleeping cat couch. Cats at their best as we know them.

Interestingly enough, there are people very concerned about their sofa-sleeping habits that it is discussed at great length via mental health forums or depression central. 

Others share tips on how to sleep on a couch (which to me is as long as you're not standing on it), how to get a good night's sleep on the couch (ending up on the couch is supposed to be not premeditated; you've been relegated to it if it was), or how to choose the best sleeper sofa (again, premeditated).

Is it safe to sleep on the sofa? Is it safe to sleep on the sofa permanently? Can sleeping on the sofa ruin it? These are just some of the questions I came across online which I couldn't believe had articles written about. How can someone come up with a 1,500-word piece on question #3 when the simple answer is YES, you can ruin it in the long run. Couches and sofas are not here to make beds obsolete.

I think that we end up dozing off on the sofa much quicker than catching up with some sleep on our bed, because the sofa serves other than it's expected purpose. In bed, we consciously force ourselves to sleep when we can't because that's the main reason we are in bed (with other in-between reasons withheld). On the sofa, we allow ourselves to zone out while watching TV maybe after dinner. That's when you're hit by that kind of sleepiness you only get at work after lunch. But you can indulge yourself at home and not require the customary cup of coffee to wake you up. 
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 Eat out for a change.

I believe the same purpose-expectation relationship I made up applies to having lunch on a balmy day on your dining table. It feels more celebratory and relaxing once in awhile if everyone gathers in the garden or lanai or conservatory to dine.
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 Calmly sleeping like a baby.

On the sofa, you squeeze yourself into the innermost corner as if you're cocooning yourself. It's almost recreating that space in our mother's womb where we first felt safe--not in the sprawling cot we were upgraded to after the first three months in a Moses basket. 

Sofa or Couch?

So whether you call yours a sofa or a couch, the odd voluntary downgrade bumps up mental and physical well-being and creativity. It pays to have a breather sometimes.

That said, I'm taking a break away from my work desk. And my couch.  And British weather. 

I look forward to looking forward to coming back.

Have a good week everyone! 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Keeping It Fake

I used to work for this very famous luxury brand a few years back, and one slow day on the shop floor I noticed a middle-aged woman pacing her way out of the store.

"Madam, are you alright?," I curiously asked.

"Uhm, I'd really love to get out but this woman in front of me is in my way and she just moves in the same direction where I move," she impatiently yet embarrassingly explained with a frustrated smile across her face.

I looked up and I was staring at a woman who looked exactly like the customer and another one beside her who looked like me wearing exactly the same baffled expression. 

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 I was staring at both our reflections.

I deflected the awkward situation by saying that the mirror shouldn't be placed on the way out as it was a health and safety hazard. 

The customer left red-faced and I reckon didn't go back to the store until after I resigned.

Looking back to that incident, I thought that if we can be deceived by what we can physically see, how facile is it to get tricked by what is virtually fed to our unsuspecting imagination?

Follow Me and I Follow You

Santiago Swallow's Twitter account was suspended last week. 

Mr. Swallow is a 42-year-old Mexican-born American motivational speaker and thinker, a bigwig at the prestigious TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference and a major player at South by Southwest (SXSW) annual art, technology and music event in Austin, Texas. He specialises in understanding modern culture in the context of social networking and global interconnection via the internet. His book, called Self: Imaginary Identities in the Age of the Internet is due to be released later this year.

He is described as Hollywood-handsome (I say, more like a bleached blonde ex-Baywatch lifeguard who moonlighted as a B-list adult film star judging by the photo) and credited for coining the term 'socially imagined self', which I believe is the virtual extension of online denizens' vanity.

He holds annual 'selfathons' aptly held in LA, where narcissistic tendencies have fattened up the coffers of cosmetic surgeons. 

He conjured and posted inane and senseless tweets such as:
"Dawn does not break. It makes."
"Before you lose weight, find hope."


Mr. Swallow has nearly 90,000 followers and is a proud owner of the much-coveted white-on-blue tick next to his name, indicating a verified identity.

He fits the quintessential internet demigod, so why suspend him?

Because, he doesn't exist.

Behind a Man's Success is a Man 
 One lazy April Sunday afternoon, Kevin Ashton, GM of Belkin's cleantech division, had $68 petty cash (or credit) and he decided to spend it on some leisurely experiment. 

Kevin Ashton via
First stop was at Scrivener, a word processing site used by authors and writers for name generation. Alonzo Arbuckle, Leon Ling, Phil Portlock, and Judson Jackman didn't make it to qualify for a Gmail account. Santiago Swallow did.

For $50, 90K followers are guaranteed within 48 hours of purchase via The refund and exchange policy wasn't explained.

Mr Ashton's quick pit stop to Lightroom created the profile image of Santiago Swallow. With nearly 90K followers but no tweets, TweetAdder did the job by firing off tweets and retweets every minute or so.

For reader and follower cross-reference, the remaining $18 was spent on a WordPress domain for a Wikipedia entry.

All under two hours and Santiago Swallow is live on Twitter. 

Justin Bieber has more than 38 million followers on Twitter, but only 47% of them are bona fide (source: Socialbakers Analytics). That is so unBelieberble.

In 2002, a science fiction film starring Al Pacino was released with mixed reviews. 

Al Pacino's character was a movie director whose career was fizzling out. The star of his film quit and he had to find a replacement. Using Simulation One  computer program, he masterminded the biggest star that would ever grace Hollywood: Simone. 
Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino's character) claimed that Simone was a recluse and strictly guarded her privacy. 

The move provoked curiosity and fuelled demand for Simone's public appearance. 

To butter up Simone's followers, Taransky staged remote location 'live' interviews and a concert where Simone sang as she was projected on stage via holographic technology.
  S1mone on stage

 It catapulted her to major stardom, only a computer virus can wipe her out.


Nev Schulman certainly felt like a fish out of water when he found out that the woman he fell inlove with via Facebook didn't exist at all.

Nev Schulman disovers the darker side of internet dating in Catfish (Picture: MTV)
Nev Schulman on his way to Megan

Critics were quick to dismiss the film Catfish (2010) as a mockumentary. But whether it was based on real-life events or not, it does happen to unsuspecting people in search of that significant other.

 Nev was documented by his brother Ariel on his pursuit for Megan, an attractive Michigan-based woman he met on Facebook.
 21-year old Megan (photographer Aimee Gonzales' photo on Facebook that Angela used)

 Megan turned out to be frumpy Angela Wesselman who attributed the revival of her passion for dancing to the online friendship she struck with Nev.
40-year old Angela

 Angela is a catfish, or someone who wears a digital mask to get someone to fall in love with them.

But why the term catfish?

 Fishermen found out that to keep the cod's fresh quality when transporting them from Asia to North America, adding catfish in the tank kept the cod agile, thus avoiding pulpy meat. Angela's husband told Nev that she was the latter's catfish as she kept him thinking, daring, and risk-taking.


Catfish went on to become a 12-episode series on MTV which first aired on Nov 2012. The last episode ran on 25 February 2013. Nev Schulman investigates the authenticity of the identities of couples involved in online relationships.


Amy E aka Keiko Takamura on

Your avatar is the animated custom-made version of yourself with more strategically placed cheekbones, a more exotic name, a much more fashionable job, address and friends, and enviable talents. If you are for sale in a shop, you wouldn't buy yourself, but you'll pay good money for your avatar.

The invitation to Become Your Avatar is a hypnotic byline to abandon your real life. As your entirety is fictitious, then I think in an avatar world no one will bat an eyelash at your fake designer handbags, fake tattoo, fake eyelashes, fake tan, fake boobs, fake friends or even fake orgasm.

Suspension of Disbelief  

In creating Santiago Swallow, Kevin Ashton wanted to illustrate that credibility is indirectly proportional to a large following on Twitter, or any other social media platforms for that matter.

 Reputation precedes credibility. It used to be that credibility was built over time, not overnight. Or you marry into it. Nowadays you can buy it, dress it up, even magnify it.

S1mone, Nev Schulman's Megan, and avatars are alternatives to reality. In as much as models are airbrushed to flawless perfection, lives are edited to paragon and impeccability.

When we were young, we were encouraged to play make-believe. I guess some people are not told that you don't take your imaginary friends to adulthood.

I'm signing out now. It's my avatar's turn.


PS. As of 8:07pm GMT, Santiago Swallow's Twitter account had been reinstated (in fact a few minutes after it was taken down). I feel bad for him as he now has only 63,224 followers. So I decided to follow him. And he followed me back.

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