Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Home

Extreme Makeover Homemade Edition.

I'm pretty pleased with what I've done with this blog. It represents everything about my origins, down to the littlest details.

And I have a feeling it's going to stay this way for quite a while. Get used to it.

By the way, I changed the name of this blog because The Couch Potato Diary just doesn't have the same ring to it anymore.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

With All Due Respect, You Suck Elephant Dick

There are certain ways you can sugercoat a criticism or an insult in order to soften the blow. But a criticism is a criticism, one can throw it like a boomerang or one can get down on one's knees and hand it on a silver platter, but if it's about something you hold dear, it'll still hurt like a bitch.

Knowing this, people are gradually changing the ways they give criticism: they just lash it out. After all, there's no good way of telling someone they suck, so why not save yourself the trouble of being diplomatic and just say what you think. Who cares if it's offensive to the other person, because he had it coming anyway.

Or, you can start your sentences with well-established excusatory expressions like "with all due respect" before telling someone what you really think. I hated it when people do that, but after a while, I'm starting to find it better to say "with all due respect, you look like shit today" rather than just a flat-out "you look like shit today." Somehow it gives me the impression that no matter how I look any day, you still have the obligation to show me some respect. It's comforting.

But I still can't stand it when people say things like, "You're wearing a green shirt? No offense, but I would never wear green if I were you." Well, it might sound like 'no offense' to you, but all I hear from what you said was, "You're wearing a green shirt? Are you blind, stupid, or just plain retarded, in which case it would still be unacceptable because even my autistic nephew wouldn't be caught dead in something as ugly as what you're wearing right now."

(That would be an awfully bitchy autistic nephew, by the way.)

I give criticisms on a daily basis, so I think I should compile a list of soothing expressions I could use before telling someone off.

You know, just for good measure.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lame Book Names

Did I tell you I just rediscovered Twitter? And did I tell you how awesome it is? I just learned about Twitter trends and stuff, and it's pretty neat.

I had fun reading tweets for #LessExcitingBooknames which is trending right now. Among the best ones I found was:

The Grapes of Mild Displeasure
For Whom the Taco Bell Tolls
The Godmother
V for Vegetable
Journey To The Center of the Mall
The Profile Picture Of Dorian Gray

But the best one in my opinion is:


The Importance Of Being On Time

I literally laughed for a good 3 minutes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Favourite Catwoman

Michelle Pfeiffer is hot. I know it's a redundant fact to echo because she was, after all, Catwoman. So her being hot is a given. No one had ever looked so good in a catsuit. And who can forget that 'meow' that makes a building explode?

Even her name is sexy. Try imagining her pronouncing her name in a slow manner a couple of times (put more focus on the movement of the lips), and you'll see what I mean. Muh-chelle... Ffeeiiffferrr....

She's really aged well. She's my favourite Catwoman. No offense, Halle Berry. You were hot in that catsuit, but the movie was a hot mess.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Going The Distance

A very good friend of mine left for an exchange program in Argentina. She had never gone out of France on her own, let alone lived in a foreign country thousands of miles away for an extended period of time.

We write to each other often, and she just told me how she feels very alienated. People are very nice to her and all, but somehow she doesn't feel like she fits in. It might be the language barrier (she speaks decent Spanish but with a heavy French accent), or it might be that she's only been there for 3 months while all her classmates have known each other since freshman year so it's already a too close-knit circle to break into. Either way, she's having a problem blending in.

Upon reading her emails, I just smiled. It's not schadenfreude mind you, it's just that I know the feeling all too well. Been there, done that.

At least she's white, so she still looked like everybody else in Argentina. In freshman year, I was one of the very rare specimens of the Malayo-Polynesian species, and I didn't speak perfect French so people knew I was a foreigner, but they couldn't really put a finger on my origins. I don't really look Chinese. I'm too tall to be Vietnamese. My double eyelids say I'm not from East Asia. They're like, "Are you Mexican? Peruvian? A mix of Chinese and something else? Or are you just French with a funny face? Seriously what are you?"

It was nerve-wrecking.

As a foreigner in another country, people will be interested in you for like two seconds. After the exotic factor dies down, you're going to have to make real friends like everybody else. And this is when it gets tough. A friendship gives you a sense of belonging and acceptance, and this can only be done if you have things in common. What did I have in common with these French people? Nothing. I didn't look like them, eat the same food, speak the same mother tongue, practice the same religion, get all the French films references and quotes, or come from the same cultural background. My French was bookish and extremely pedantic, and the people around me were speaking 'youth French', with their verlans and derived expressions and corrupted vocabulary and SMS language and Franglish. I couldn't be any more different. Heck, they even had a different handwriting! In France there's a standardized handwriting they teach you in primary school so believe it or not, they ALL have the same handwriting. This standardized handwriting is so well-established that you have French Script as a font in Microsoft Word.

The only thing that saved me from being shunned into oblivion was the fact that I had a knack for languages (so it didn't take long for me to adapt to their French), and that I was an avid reader. Really, my years of being a bookworm finally paid off. In a prestigious French public engineering school, you have this highly educated environment where people actually READ, where they know how to have fun but still maintain their academia. They have this ability to switch from speaking vulgar French into formal French using proper enunciation, elevated register, specific vocabulary and impressive articulacy in a split second.

You can't keep up with that unless you have varied reading materials. I didn't know a lot about European history, and the French are a bunch of very Euro-centric bunch of people for whom Europe, with its long history in philosophy and literature, is the cradle of human civilization and thus, they are very proud of it. So I did a massive amount of reading, especially in areas of European art, music, literature, history and philosophy. To really know a people, you have to speak their language and know where they come from.

And I wasn't afraid to speak up. I wasn't afraid of getting and standing corrected, I made up lame jokes, I asked a lot of questions, I answered a lot of them too. You can't hope to survive 5 years of college without blending in with people, or you're going to end up depressed. College years are supposed to be the best years of our lives.

So yeah, this is what I told my friend who went to Argentina. The lonely feeling will creep up sometimes because of homesickness, but only if you don't keep yourself busy. And friends keep you busy.

Well I don't know why I'm worried about her. She's a party girl. So she'll be fine.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I Ain't No Scrub

I put my iTunes on shuffle and suddenly it played No Scrubs by TLC.

That song was huge 12 years ago, and is considered a modern classic by my generation. But I bet no one really knows the exact words in the chorus so everybody always sings, "No, I don't want no scrub... a scrub nanananana in no love from me..."

And the rest of the song is also a series of indecipherable ghetto mumble. Heck, I didn't even know what they actually meant by 'scrub' until five minutes ago when I looked up the lyrics and saw the very first verse:

A scrub is a guy who thinks he's fly
And is also known as a buster
Always talkin' about what he wants
And just sits on his broke ass
So (no)

So thaaat's what 'scrub' actually means. And all this while I thought they were talking about a doctor's scrub. Like, why would an an all-female R&B group make a song about a garment worn by medical staff in the operating room? Shouldn't they be singing about the empowerment and emancipation of women like they always do?

And I couldn't help but chuckle when I read these lines in the second verse:

But a scrub is checkin' me
But his game is kinda weak
And I know that he cannot approach me
Cuz I'm lookin' like class and he's lookin' like trash
Can't get wit' no deadbeat ass

I'm not criticising ghetto talk, but a girl "lookin' like class" should never say "can't get wit' no deadbeat ass". Besides, how can a girl possibly thinks she's looking like class when in the music video she's looking like this:

Or this (oh God what is this?):


"They say I'm a woman of colour, so I decided to own up and actually be one."

Did they change the definition of 'class' to "slutty bikini top, weird-ass threeway ponytails and chola tranny make-up"? Because if they did, I must have missed the memo.

That being said, I do think the word 'scrub' should have caught on more because the world does need a catchy word to describe people who talk the talk, but never walk the walk.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Life Lesson from Bears

I've always wondered if I could ever be a vegetarian. I tried soy meat a couple of times and I didn't find it disgusting. In fact, if it weren't for the somewhat airy texture, I would've believed that it was real meat.

I can go without red meat for quite a long time (the longest was maybe 2 months?). The only thing that'd be really difficult to give up is seafood, but then again being in a region of France where the sea is nowhere near, I don't get to eat seafood that often anyway.

I remember five years (or so) ago my savings were running really low so I had to really cut corners every which way I could. So I decided to eat egg salad for a month and a half. I would sporadically add crab sticks, but only when I was feeling particularly fancy. Whenever I had hunger pangs, I would just eat apples, or just chew on my nails. And I survived. I felt very healthy during that period, and I lost around 6-8 kilos.

So today I got back from school and I turned on the TV. And I saw a commercial for Discovery Channel. There were two bears chasing after a salmon travelling upstream. They both got to it at the same time, so they grabbed it and violently pulled at it, tearing the poor salmon into two parts, revealing its pink flesh.

And in that gory, tear-jerking, bloodshed moment, under my breath I said, "Wow.. that looks.............. delicious."

That's when I knew for sure that I can never be a vegetarian.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Հայոց գրեր

I was browsing through a friend's photos on Facebook (stalking pervert alert!) and came across one showing a subway station in a foreign country, with signboards in a writing I've never really seen before. It wasn't even remotely familiar. At first I thought it was Georgian but it lacked the "springs" (look up Georgian alphabet on Google Images and you'll see what 'springs' I'm talking about).

So I finally gave up and read the photo caption - it was a subway station in Yerevan, Armenia. So the mystery language was Armenian. You know, the land of the Kardashians.

Naturally I wiki-ed Armenian language and alphabet. Good God, Lemon! It seems like I've been missing out on a lot of interesting stuff. The Armenian grammar is very complete and extensive (somewhat comparable to English, but still not German) and it seems like they have a very long history in literature. I've always believed that you can easily judge a culture by its literature, which is why I think the Greeks are in a mess because they've had too many thinkers and philosophers but not enough people who would actually do something. Haha.

So yeah. Today I discovered a new language.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Annoying People Part IX: "I Dropped Out Of College So I'm The Next Bill Gates"

We all know that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and those Google guys dropped out from college and went on to become multi-zillionaires. Which is cool, because that shows how drive and vision alone can drive people to the top.

I've been in the scholar system for way too many years and it bugs me when people ask me, "Why did you choose to get a Master's degree again? Don't you know that the richest people in the world are all college dropouts? A degree is just a piece of paper. You can be smart on paper, but it's a whole different thing in the real world."

Well I appreciate their concern. After all everybody around me only has my best interest at heart. FALSE. Some of them just want to see me fall so they can say "Hah! I told you so."

But let's see. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard, the best university in the world for decades. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the Google duo, dropped out of their PhD program, meaning they already held a degree. And they dropped out of Stanford, also one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Steve Jobs dropped out of college already knowing what he wanted to do in life.

My point is, even if most of these people are college dropouts, they dropped out of world-class universities, meaning they already had the genius in them. And most of them dropped out because they had brilliant and lucrative projects in mind, and knew that it would be better than college. They didn't become successful because they were college dropouts. They became successful because they already saw a path to success in life and college was becoming an impedance to reach their goals.

If that is your case, then by all means, go for it. Carpe diem. Follow your dreams, and success is within reach.

But if you want to drop out of college because you're too lazy to wake up at seven in the morning, because classes bore you, because you prefer spending your days watching Entourage and playing video games than listening to 3-hour lectures, then don't come to me and say, "I'm dropping out of school because it's useless. I don't know what I want in life, but I'm sure college is not it. All the successful people are college dropouts anyway."

Listen, kiddo. I hate to be the one to break it to you but those people, they are successful because they're smart (both book and street), they're driven, they know what to do in life, they have passion, they were brave enough to get out of their comfort zones and follow their dreams, and most importantly, THEY WORK THEIR ASSES OFF. If you think they got to where they are by lazying around watching TV series, then I suggest you eat rat poison and get into fetal position right now.

And that "I don't know what I want in life, but I'm sure college is not it" bit is pure, raw, first-grade bullshit. It's not that you hate college. It's just that you hate waking up in the morning, dragging yourself to school, and using that God-given thing between your ears.

I respect people who dropped out of college to follow their dreams, but only the ones who flaunt it when they've made it. If Bill Gates came to me and said I'm a fool for being the slave of tertiary education, I would bow down to him and said "Yes, master" with absolute sincerity. Because he's already successful.

If you're just some random college dropout who doesn't have any remarkable accomplishments in life yet, but who just loves to use that 'successful-dropout story' to brag about your probable success in the future, then please just shut up. Do your job, work your ass off, be thirsty for new opportunities in life, and show people that you're worth your weight in crap. If one day you become successful, then you are free to flaunt it, blow your on horn and rub it in the faces of people who looked down on you. You can even write a biography if you wish, and I might even buy it.

But till that day, just shut it. Because looking at where you are right now, I sure as hell won't believe for a single second that you're the next Bill Gates.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Life As A Sheep

I've had it with people going around saying "Cover your aurah or else you'll burn in hell! You'll be hanged by the tongue, and hot molten tin will be poured into your skull!"

Come on, Muslims! Why can't we stop disseminating fear, but instead focus on explaining the benefits of doing good? 

I'm so pissed at people just threatening each other into doing good, "or else in hell you'll be turned into a dog, with fire going into your mouth and out of your anus." Seriously? Is that how we do our dakwah?

People are not sheep. You can't scare them into doing something, even if it might be good for them. Allah actually bestows everyone with a grey matter in the brain, which makes them capable of thinking and choosing what's best for them. Ergo, if properly explained (without condescension and/or Holier-than-thou attitude), people are going to listen and they might actually do it because of the benefits, not because they're afraid of punishment, and not because they've been bribed with the idea of heaven.

We should focus more on instilling the do-gooder instincts in adults and children, so that doing good comes naturally. And sincerely.

I really, really, really, really, hate it when people become arrogant because they think they are more Muslim than others. It defies the purpose of religion, which is every man is equal in the eyes of God. If I'm not as good a Muslim as you are, tell me, teach me, and guide me. Be a friend, be an equal. Don't reprimand me, alienate me, and condemn me to Hell. You're not God, and you'll never be.

Some time last year, I talked to an atheist French guy in my class about religion. He asked me why I was a believer, and I told him why. He asked me a lot of stuff, about how severe the punishments in Islam are, and I said I tried not to look at the punishments, but instead I concentrate on why we are told to do things a certain way. He asked me if it is hard to deprive myself from forbidden foods, I said it depends on how hard you let yourself be tempted. If you don't surround yourself with temptations, the feeling of deprivation is just non-existent. And at last he asked me one very tricky question: "If heaven and hell didn't exist, would you still do all these so-called good things that you do?"

I said yes, because I know why I do them, and I can see the benefits I get from them. Even if heaven and hell were taken out of the equation, I think I would still benefit from these so-called good intentions.

Several months had passed, and after the summer holiday he told me he had converted to Islam, and he finally felt peaceful at heart.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pierre Desproges

I'm reading a book by a famous French humorist, the late Pierre Desproges, called Chroniques de la Haine Ordinaire (The Chronicles of Common Hatred).

If I were to make a comedy film, it would be heavily influenced by Desproges' sense of humour which I think is very similar to mine: deadpan, sarcastic, a bit noir and a bit vulgar, and most importantly, jaded. I think the best jokes aren't the ones that need to be told by shouting or making funny faces. And I, too, tend to hate people I don't know.

I hate being one of those oh-so-sophisticated Malays who always look down on Malay humour, Raja Lawak, recent Malay comedy films etc. But I am one of them, because I fail to see how those things are funny. Yet, the funniest movies I've seen are P. Ramlee movies which involve 100% Malay humour. In his films, the humour is sharp, not just infantile. It's clever, not just insulting your intelligence with easy jokes. It's always several-layered, not simply to be taken at face value. It's pregnant, not empty and void of morals. Most importantly, it's mostly verbal, and not just slapstick or gestural. Slapstick jokes are easy to get, but they're easier to forget. Verbal jokes are harder to create, but the good ones will stand the test of time. Is it any wonder that after so many years, P. Ramlee movies are still heavily quoted in the Malay society?

Which brings me back to Pierre Desproges' book. It reminds me a lot of the jokes I love in P. Ramlee movies. He loves playing with irony, and whenever he points out the hypocrisy in the French society, it's always subtle but spot on. The last funny book I read was The Alphabet of Manliness by Maddox (what was I thinking?) so the bar is pretty low. Very low. Which is probably why I'm really enjoying reading Desproges.

It's a shame that they don't publish Desproges books in English because this book deserves to be introduced to a wider audience. Then again, a lot of the jokes are impossible to translate so even if it did make it into the English-readers market, I doubt it would be as successful.

Rest in peace, Pierre. We need more people like you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Just a week ago we still had sunny days and hot weather, but now it's all gloomy, rainy and cold. So it's official. Summer has ended.

And I don't know where autumn went, because it's mid-October but it's already winter-like. My apartment is a fridge.

Since I don't intend to turn on the radiator and see my gas bill triple, I decided to take advantage of this wonderful capitalist-cum-consumerist society and bought the awesomest human invention since the lightbulb: the Snuggie.

It's a blanket with sleeves. Yes, it's just that. Sounds stupid, but it's actually a brilliant product. Every time I sit in my living room couch to watch TV on winter nights, I have to drag my comforter with me to keep warm. And if I feel like making coffee, I'd have to get out of the comforter and face the cold. Now with the Snuggie, I can do whatever I want without feeling cold.

It's just a fleece blanket with sleeves, but it's more than revolutionary.

First World Bullshit

And to complete my posting earlier, I just read the biggest bullshit ever: "Your birthday gift doesn't have to be fancy and expensive, as long as it comes from the heart."

Yeah, keep telling yourself that.

Because if you only give someone a two-dollar birthday card that says "You're my best friend in the world, I love you dude" and there's some other guy who gives him a Mini Cooper AND a boat, you can bet your ass that your hope of becoming the best man at "your best friend's" wedding has just been reduced to zilch.

First World Problem II: Gift Ideas

A friend's birthday is coming up and I still have no gift ideas. Yeah I know, celebrating birthdays when you're old enough to be accused of pedophilia is lame, but if there's one good thing about still being a student at 23 years old is you can act like kids all you want and it's somehow justified because you know, you're still studying.

So I don't have any idea for a gift. Here comes a very first-world conundrum: What do you give a guy who already has everything?  By everything, I mean, everything. He has a car, an iMac, an iPod, an iPad, a Blackberry, an X-Box with Kinect, 3 headphones, gym membership, nice watches, perfumes, shoes, sport shoes, and he's already seen Manchester United football matches live at Old Trafford multiple times. 

Any gift I buy will pale in comparison, which is why it's so hard to buy gifts for someone who already has everything.

And that's exactly what I put in my Google search this morning: Gift Ideas For The Guy Who Has Everything.

Google is nice and all, but you know what she came up with? Remote-controlled bugs. I shit you not.Yeah, remote-controlled bugs, because even if a guy already has everything, he'd always forget to buy remote-controlled bugs. In case you're wondering what the hell those are, these bugs are exact replicas of real-life bugs and they can be commanded by remote control. Well done, Google. You know exactly what a guy needs.

The other suggestions are all expensive stuff like silk ties or diamond cufflinks or cashmere socks or a cruise on the Nile. What gives Google? All my Google searches have always included the words "cheap" or "low cost" or "discount" or "I'm filthy broke", so Google should be able to read my mind by now and know that I'll never buy diamond cufflinks.

Following my unhappiness with Google's performance, I decided to be more precise with my search keywords: Gift Ideas For The Guy Who Has Everything From A Guy Who's So Broke He Borrows Money From an Obese Middle-aged Hooker.

And that search, as expected, returned nothing.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

First World Problem: Soggy Cereal

A friend was telling me something about his not so exciting life and he started his sentence with, "I poured some cereal and milk into a bowl, then I had to do some stuff and totally forgot about it. When I came back, my cereal had become soggy so I threw it out, and rushed to school. Which is why I'm feeling really hungry now."

Boring story, I know. But when was the last time someone came up to you at 8 o'clock in the morning with a kick-ass, life-changing story? As far as I know, all people have to offer that early in the morning is crankiness. And bad morning breath.

My resolution this year is to always look at the bright side of things. So I managed to find something interesting in that unbelievably mundane story, which is: Why would anyone throw away soggy cereal?

Cereal has always been my favourite breakfast ever. When I was 5, I even asked my mom to pack Koko Krunch in my kindergarten lunch bag. But cereal can get too hard on the gum, sometimes causing mine to bleed. So I'd always wait for the cereal to get real soggy before eating it, something I still do up to this day. The benefits of eating soggy cereal are four-fold:

1) You can eat it with minimal chewing, thus minimising energy waste.
2) No harm to the gum.
3) More time for the milk to absorb the taste of the cereal, so in the end you'll get a bowl of milk with great chocolatey taste (or whatever taste your cereal has).
4) Have you ever eaten cereal in front of the TV and you couldn't hear a damn thing because of the loud, crunchy chewing noise? With soggy cereal, you can eat it while watching TV without any hearing impairment.

So, as an advocate of soggy cereal, I encourage every one of you to stop being a brat who throws out perfectly good food for nothing because soggy cereal is, hands down, better than crisp, crunchy cereal.

Besides, if you hate soggy cereal so much, why do you even bother with the milk?

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Perfect Movie

My definition of a perfect movie is Almost Famous. Why? Because it transcends all kinds of cinematic boundaries. You can be a fan of road movies, biographies, comedy, musicals, drama, coming-of-age teen movies or romance, there's something for everybody in Almost Famous. Cameron Crowe is a genius. If you can write a screenplay like that, you can do anything.

Screenplay is what makes a movie. You can have all the money in the world, but your film can still be forgettable. Just look at Avatar. It cost a lot, and it earned a lot more. But does it stay in your mind? Nope. When I was in my "I want to be a screenwriter and movie director" phase, I remember going to bed every night wishing I had written Almost Famous. It's just that perfect.

I remember obsessing over Kate Hudson for a good six months after watching Almost Famous the first time. And this movie is how I came to know the genius that is Elton John (after the famous bus scene where they all sang Tiny Dancer). And the use of Simon & Garfunkel's America at the beginning when Anita was going to become an air hostess? Just another stroke of genius.

In case you're wondering, I just watched Almost Famous for the umpteenth time and that's what prompted me to write this post.

And after all this time, it's still the perfect movie.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Overlooked Thespians

This was supposed to be a blog about movies. So let's all go back to our roots and talk about overlooked thespians or better known to IMdB forum freaks as 'underrated actors'.

I've always thought Selma Blair and Helena Bonham Carter were terrific actresses and deserved more attention than they've been getting. Selma Blair can pull off comedy roles as wonderfully as she can serious ones. For the past 15 years she's been highly prolific, with 4-5 films per year. Yet, she's still virtually unknown. Helena Bonham Carter has always been visible as well, but her unorthodox looks combined with the quirky characters she always plays make it hard for her name to become household. I'm not a big fan on Tim Burton, but if there's a reason to go see a Burton movie, it's to see Helena in action. But of course, my favourite film of hers is Fight Club.

As for the guys, I think the actor who deserves the most recognition than he's actually getting is Greg Kinnear. Every time I see him on screen, I can be sure that he'll deliver. And he always does. He gave an impressive performance as the gay artist in As Good As It Gets (a movie I've seen like 5 times which is still not enough for a Jack Nicholson film) and the caring father in Little Miss Sunshine, for which her on-screen daughter Abigail Breslin was nominated for an Oscar. He even guest starred in Friends as a paleontologist (Ross' nemesis in the pursuit of Charlie). If that's not enough, he was in You've Got Mail alongside Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, Fast Food Nation, and Baby Mama, playing Tina Fey's love interest, an ex-lawyer who opens up a juice joint. In other words, he's been in a number of very high-profile movies and yet, his name doesn't roll off the tongue as easily as some other actors whose acting chops are questionable at best.

Honorable mentions: Christina Applegate, Jaime Pressley, Benjamin Bratt, John Cusack, Naomi Watts, Jennifer Connelly, Tim Roth, Liam Neeson, Ellen Burstyn.