Thursday, 25 July 2013

Are You Up for the Unplug Challenge?

On my last post, I touched on the subject of FoMo or Fear of Missing out which you can read if you scroll down this page, or click here

I wrote that I'm more bothered about social media overload rather than missing out on what lots of people claim virtually as their perfect lives. I do acknowledge the indispensability of social media in my daily communication needs. I'm grateful for its speed, accessibility and the eclectic information I gather, but I don't want to be sucked into its lashings of triviality, and the encouragement of vanity and smugness.

Because I love donuts, I borrowed this from Sorry and thank you. Let me know which donut you like and will send you some :D

I then thought about taking a break from all the technological hype and mania every now and then. A kind of detox which I do anyway for my digestive and excretory systems which are extremely beneficial; so why not apply the same to my mental and spiritual aspects?

I was mulling over tips when I came across Sabbath Manifesto: A Provisional Guide for Observing a Day of Rest.

On their website, the manifesto is described as a "...creative project to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world." It was the brainchild of members of Reboot, an NGO that aims to refresh traditional cultures and rituals of Jewish life.

I'm not religious and don't endorse any religion, but this 10-step guide is very catholic (just means universal, for the benefit of all Catholics like me, with no intention to court controversy, and so applicable to all and nothing to do with Catholicism and the church) and I thought I'd share them with you. Each step is relative to your interpretation:


1. Avoid technology: I will revive my old propensity for hand-written notes and snail mails.

2.  Connect with loved ones: Set aside time during the week to speak to them rather than 'converse' via BBM or whatsapp, or email or private Facebook message.

3. Nurture your health: I recently cut down on sugar-free and caffeine-free Diet Coke, and am off to a fitness holiday next week!

4. Get outside: I've heard of the beauty of this lido close to home and will take advantage of the sun that's still being generous, to kick off my flip-flops.

5. Avoid commerce: Make my own 'thank-you' cards.

6. Light candles: Have a lie-in and forget about the time.

7. Drink wine: Dance more. Sing again. Have a laugh. Enjoy life.

8. Eat bread: I suppose this means nourish one's self and I'll do that by reading as many books as I can.

9. Find silence: Listen to my thoughts and feelings. And the birds chirping outside my window.

10. Give back: Be my kindest at all times (fingers crossed).

The Sabbath Manifesto suggests the core principles on a one-day-per-week basis. They're working on version 2.0. Because I love planning ahead, I'm thinking more long-term to slowly wean me from things I was happy not to have four years earlier.

An offshoot of the manifesto is the National Day of Unplugging. It's a 24-hour sunset to sunset abstinence from all these technological traps. The only form of fasting I've ever done was the lemon detox when my only food intake was a mix of maple syrup, lemons, water and top up herbal tea for 7 days. I was aiming for 10 days but had to give up on the 7th as I already resembled Gollum, crawling on the kitchen floor.

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Gollum, for those who haven't met him. My look-alike when I'm hungry. Scroll down and you'll see we have the same shoulders.

No Blackberry, Whatsapp, iPad apps, laptop, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Bloglovin, and Blogger for 1 day will certainly pale in comparison with going hungry for 7. 

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The next National Unplugging Day happens on 7-8 March 2014. Everyone is encouraged to participate. In the run-up to that, you can download the Unplug poster here if you'd like to be part of the pledge, state the reason you're unplugging, upload your photo on the site and be one of the faces filling up their 'unplug wall'. Some unpluggers want to connect, recharge, reconnect, or to face reality. Others took up humour to say they want to shop, unplug toasters (!), sniff bums (that's a dog by the way), flirt, get wild. Let's not get any further than that.

Arianna Huffington, New York, NY
Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post, unplugged.

In music, I sometimes prefer to listen to the unplugged version of a song to fully appreciate the lyrics, melody, the singer's voice and interpretation. You've heard it before: sometimes, less is more.

And so I unplug on the hottest day of the year when the Royal baby was born.

If doing all 10 per week is hardcore, which unplug challenge would you take up first and what would you do?

Friday, 19 July 2013

Attack of the FoMo

On 14 April 2011, the 'word of the day' of the urban dictionary was FoMo. That wasn't a typographical error. FoMo is an acronym for Fear of Missing Out--the new social anxiety disorder gripping ardent users of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. 

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I haven't heard of FoMo until a new article about it was featured on Metro, which I always pick up to read on my daily commute to work. So yes, I've been FoMo-ed myself. Between fashion trends and social phenomena, my appetite for the latter is bigger, but when I occasionally indulge in the former, I gorge myself.

Several articles have been written about FoMo, with The Guardian amongst the first ones to talk about this new technology-driven affliction. Journalist Hephzibah Anderson was one of the writers who called FoMo the modern-day version of 'keeping up with the Joneses.' She wrote about technology being "...ready to whisk you away [and] into someone else's "reality". Being in the moment and owning our experiences have escaped us as they're most often broadcast online. She further said that, "We're too busy tweeting about the scent of those roses actually to breathe it in." Click here to read the full article.

Claire Cohen, writing for The Telegraph, confesses that she suffers from FoMo. She tells of how easy it is to feel being left out when friends' life events are plastered all over your screen. Consumed by finding out what others are up to, she's found herself checking Twitter--with one eye open--in the middle of the night. She goes on to discuss how FoMo has spilt onto the workplace with our obsession for creating a personal brand. I remember people-watching as a pastime when you sit al fresco with a cuppa and let the world go by. Nowadays, online people-watching lets you monitor how others are getting on while thinking that you're just getting by. Read more on Ms Cohen's article here
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I can fully identify with Martha Beck's write-up on FoMo for which was published just two months ago. As a child, I was seething when I was forced to take my afternoon naps. Like Ms Beck, I feared missing out--missing out on group games, hanging around with playmates, and just wasting the day sleeping when all the other kids are out having a great time. The difference with 80s and 90s FoMo was we simply imagined what we're missing out on. Now, with the push of a button or password entry, everything you're missing out on is staring at you.

She has very interesting tips on how to beat FoMo. Click here to read.
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FoMo, to my understanding based on definitions and descriptions online, means fear of missing out on all the rewarding (or so we perceive) happenings and life events around us, especially that we see our online friends posting what we ideally would like to do but can't because either we're stuck in the office, stuck in life in general, or we just made some choices which aren't as fun, exciting or prestigious as our friends' life choices. Or luck. 

That's clearly just an aspect of it, which by the way, can now be thought of as a psychological malady. We may argue that it's simply a case of jealousy and envy, but Dr. Andrew Przybylski, a psychology lecturer at the University of Essex and well-versed in the psychological processes of human motivation in virtual and real-life environments, says that FoMo "...arises from deprivation of basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness." 

 In other words, an individual feels he or she is missing out when insecurities about real-life connections, relationships, identity, and recognition are highlighted by online friends seeming to have what the person lacks at that particular time, whether they're opportunities, experiences or material possessions.  I suppose brushing off FoMo gets better with age, but as I wrote in a previous piece about Facebook users' annoying habits (which you can read here), social media platforms have reduced many of us into online juvenile delinquent social butterflies, so this FoMo ailment is suffered by all ages across the board. But while it may be so, Dr. Przybylski's study found that FoMo is most common in younger men. 

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In a study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of, a portal through which you can receive updates from all your social media accounts and personal emails in one place, 56% of people are afraid of missing something if they don't keep an eye on their social networks. Only 24% plans to take a break from using one of their social network accounts this year. 

To find out if I'm a part of the 56% statistics, I took the RateMyFoMo test, which you can also take here. Below was my test result:

I took this twice because I was in denial that my FoMo level was medium. Allow me to defend myself though by saying that my work set-up and load allow me to idly check all my social media accounts everyday. More than snooping on friends' lives, I genuinely love commenting and 'liking' feeds not just for the sake of robotic and glazed-eyed mouse-clicking. And as I've said in my write-up about Facebook, my friends and family are spread across continents and time zones--social media fills that gap between us. Everyday, I 'talk' to families and friends in the Philippines, UAE, Singapore, US, The Netherlands, Canada, Australia, among others. I am connected despite the distance.

Do I feel I'm missing out? More than anything, I feel I'm missing out on my niece's growing up years (and my future nephew due in December); my mum's indigestion-inducing cooking and repetitive tales of days gone by; night outs with my sister who's nine years my junior; my other sister stuffing me with food whenever I see her; my old friends who are always ready to meet up on short notice; and other friends with whom my connection has never wavered despite not seeing each other in the flesh for years. Yes, I occasionally feel that I've missed out on or have even been robbed of certain life stages when I see childhood friends churning out babies or posting anecdotes about their kids or never ever wandering off a career path. But you see, life happens in different ways to everyone. 

So there you go--my FoMo confession.
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Social media networks are more than just white noise and boredom buster to me. I rarely get bored anyway. Via Twitter, I learn about corporate news from Women's Wear Daily (WWD) months before my work's press office sends us a memo; real-time tube travel news; pollen level updates (I suffer from hay fever so that's very handy); stories to check from my favourite news and fashion magazines which give me ideas for posts; and best of all, I get a thrill from interacting with and being followed by inspiring chick lit authors.

Fear of missing out doesn't bother me as much as it bothers other people. What bothers me is the fear of burning out. I know when I'm on the verge--I forget about the books I borrowed from my local library. So, I'm pacing myself and I encourage you to do as well. One thing's for sure, the iPad's not sleeping next to me tonight.

How did you do on the RateMyFomo test?

Read about the annoying things lots of Facebook users do that make others feel they're missing out, via Facebook's Status Quo.

*RateMyFomo test and are not connected to each other. The combination of MyLife's survey with Dr. Przybylski's test is simply to illustrate my point.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Caught By The Bag Bug

 Just when I thought my on-off relationship with them is over, they just keep turning up at my doorstep like estranged friends and lovers. These ones landed on my work desk--popped up is the more appropriate action--and they literally did.

A theatre actor colleague who works part-time with me also moonlights as an illustrator for a publishing company. He was given this book as something he may want to give as a present to his boss, says the publisher. Perhaps because his mother is my namesake, that makes me the boss.

But seriously, he thought I might like it. He was wrong. I loved it! It's the little details that make this nifty book amusing. Some women regress to infantile stupefaction when their favourite toys are waved at them, much like a child gawking and squealing with delight upon seeing an overhead mobile.

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MsMadge's first encounter with the allure of handbags came with her first glimpse of a pastel-coloured cow soft toy hanging from a mobile. It taught her how to stretch out her short limbs to grab what she wanted.
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And if her tiny little hands didn't manage to pull one off the mobile, MsMadge turned into a bawling little monster.

Coffee table books about handbags and accessories litter bookshops, so publishers have to vie for fashion accessory lovers' short and divided attention. This one tickles that childlike thrill we love getting stirred every now and then, flicking through pages and photos as if I've never seen, held or owned some of the bags before.

What's not to love? Wait till they pop up!

I'm sorry but can somebody tell me who Ali Carlisle is?

A preview of what to see

Agree? It's shoes for me rather than perfume.

A spread on the short timeline of the history of bags. I wrote a more detailed piece on this on my recent visit to the Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam which you can read here and here.

The first pop-up! Not the best photo, so let me tell you a little something about it. It's a pastiche of a portmanteau or holdall. The first half of the 20th century saw people travelling more, so a portmanteau had pockets for rail tickets, and tiny metal locks and keys.

This page tells us of different types of materials used other than leather, from silk and velvet, woven straw and wood covered with fabric, lucite and vinyl to suede and denim. The page on the right is interesting because when the wheel is turned as instructed, the bag shapes are featured in various materials. Let's give it a go.

Turn 1

Turn 2

Turn 3

Turn 4. My favourite as I love the clutch on the left in black satin.

Back to the original page

Pop-up 2! A hexagonal evening bag from the 1940s made of steel with a coiled handle. Quoted on the side is David Brown who I assume was Sir David Brown, an English entrepreneur who once owned the automobile manufacturer Aston Martin. He said, "Never be the first to arrive at a party or the last to go home and never never be both."

Quirky evening bags say NO to hefty totes. My favourite is that wedding dress-shaped fabric evening bag by Lulu Guinness made in 2004. If you can't wear it, carry it.

From 'swete-bags' to hold perfumed herbs to mask the undesirable odour of medieval urban life, the handbag has evolved from being purely functional to excessively impractical. Some 'It' bags fall into the latter category. Say what?! An 'It' bag, coined of course by the fashion industry "think tanks", is a status symbol bag the price of which apparently requires a 2nd mortgage, and that tells the world you've arrived. The book further says it must be luxurious, beautifully made and ultra expensive. The last description is true, the middle one debatable, and the first one is subjective.

Hermès Kelly bag on the left. Fendi B. bag on the right.

Flip open the cards and you'll see from left to right: Prada Fairy bag, Dior Saddle bag, Chloe Paddington bag, and Luella Giselle bag. Fashionistas must have been trained in the language of the business while learning to speak by being shown these photo cards. First word is Prada instead of da da.

More It bags: Marc Jacobs Stam bag and YSL (Just Saint Laurent to you and me now) Muse bag.

The list of It bags won't be complete without Chanel's 2.55 handbag. Named after the release date, February 1955, a new version with a different clasp was launched in 2005 to mark its 50th anniversary. The double chain long shoulder strap was very unusual for handbag shapes at the time. Gabrielle Chanel wanted a bag for modern women that would allow them to free their hands.

This one needs no introduction. If you don't know what it is, this page's open for Q&A.

This is something that Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone's character in Clueless) would have an app for had iPads come into vogue during her time. Look at the chart if you can't decide. These are your day options for each day of the week. Sunday not included. Even fashionistas need a break from the all-consuming intellectual challenge of sartorial decisions.

Lift the cards for your night options from Monday to Wednesday. Vivienne Westwood declares on the side, "When in doubt, overdress." She must always be in doubt.

The picks from Thursday to Saturday nights.

Rana, which means frog in Spanish and Latin, is the name of the this bag designed by Marc Jacobs. The evening pouch is made of kangaroo skin and adorned with an antique frog bearing crystal eyes.

Sonia Rykiel once said the above. Sometimes, a bag has more charm and personality than the owner.

The pull-out tab displays some novelty bags. The cat has been let out of the bag.

"You carry a bag as badge of you are." -Lulu Guinness and her flowerpot bag

Reusable slogan bags is an update on what's on your mind. It's like a tweet on a bag without the ridiculous hundredfold hashtags.

How handy it would be to fish out a smile from your makeup bag, thrown in with your mints and lip gloss?

A free bag hook!

The unwrapped free magnetic bag hook. I need a couple of this.

The magnetic bag hook unfurled. Got plenty of room, so get that bag you've been eyeing by hook or by crook!

Many thanks to Chris for this lovely gift! 

For more photos of bags and purses, please click on Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam Part I and Part II.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Which Book Made You?

We are all made of books, writes Jon Woolcott from Waterstones' UK head office team. Our book collection, or at least the ones we are drawn to at bookshops are a reflection of our interests at various stages of our lives. Reading is the one addiction that's healthy for our wellbeing and soul.  
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Books tell us of stories--stories which have personally moved and inspired us, sometimes in ways we couldn't have imagined. At Waterstones' head office, the staff have been mulling about this recently and so they came up with a drive to ask readers about the books that have made a difference in their lives. You are welcome to tell your story via a special microsite called thebookthatmademe. The staff will feature their favourites in their bookshops nationwide over the summer. You'll also see which books other readers and well-known authors picked. Caitlin Moran, author of How To Be A Woman, and Kate Mosse (with an 'e' and not the other one whose coherence may not even be guaranteed when sober), best known for her novel Labyrinth, have written and spoken, respectively, of the books that inspired them to write, namely Louisa May Alcott's Little Women for Ms Moran, and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights for Ms Mosse.

So which book made me? 

I first read Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach when I was 13. It was a requirement in my highschool freshman English Lit class. I guess the nuns approved of it as it's a fable and considered a spiritual book.
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 The original paperback first published in 1970.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a seagull not content with the daily bickering of the flock for food. Passionate about flying, he pushes himself to learn everything about it. His ambition and  unwillingness to conform resulted in him being banished by the elders. While an outcast, he met other non-conforming seagulls through whom he met others who also love to perfect flying. Jonathan befriends Chiang, the wisest gull who teaches him that "To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is, you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived." Chiang also encourages him to keep working on love. And love means spreading his love for flight to other seagulls. Upon his return to earth, he finds other seagulls similarly outlawed for desiring to learn about a higher plane of existence. Fletcher Lynd Seagull, one of his very first students, eventually becomes a teacher like Jonathan, and the latter moves on to teach other flocks.
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 The 2012 paperback version.

I was 13, just moved to the city from a small town and only faintly aware that I, as with everyone else I knew, was bound by tradition, convention and expectations.

I can still recall the line I wrote for my book report which we were required to submit: "The story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull shows us how traditions inhibit us from achieving our full potential." My English Lit teacher then encircled that sentence to emphasise the impact of what my 13-year old mind has gathered from the book. Looking back, I'd say it was my first attempt to write as an adult would.

More than two decades since I first read Jonathan Livingston Seagull, my life experiences and belief system have expanded, and so has my interpretation of Mr Seagull's (not Seagal) flight lesson. Like him, I "...discovered the loop, the slow roll, the point roll, the inverted spin, the gull bunt, the pinwheel." I adjust my 'flight technique' depending on how gentle or fierce the wind is.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull made me understand that to fly high means to achieve a depth of purpose and character. For the much wiser and braver, the depth of character takes them to transcendence.

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 And as for love, which Chiang the Elder advised Jonathan to keep working on, it's sharing the stage with others and letting them take the credit just because they deserve it as much or sometimes even more than you do.  

Now, tell me, which book made you? 

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