Trees and Travel

Social networking websites have helped us discover new found connections not only with our friends, but with people all over the world too. These connections can be related to our work, taste in music, places we have travelled to, and so on. Social networking websites make it easier for us to find these connections with complete strangers, but have you ever thought of using these websites to find long-lost blood connections? Or maybe you wish to find out if you are related in any way to someone famous. If that sounds appealing, then just sign up for a Geni account!

Geni is a social networking website that allows people to create their own genealogies. You can build your own family tree, and if that sounds like too much work for one person to do, you can invite your family members and relatives to help build the family tree as well. Geni’s aim is to create a family tree of the world; a shared family tree of common ancestors. Thus, you can find connections to other people that you didn’t even know were in any way related to you. The website also features the family trees of famous people such as the US presidents, athletes, actors, and many more. Geni is a great way for families to keep track of their historical records, ensuring that everything is easily accessed in one convenient place.

Another useful social networking website that allows people to find unexpected connections from all over the world is TravBuddy.

TravBuddy specifically caters to connecting travelers everywhere. It allows users to find travel buddies; people who are traveling to the same destinations as you at the same time, create blogs, upload photos, and post reviews of hotels, tourist attractions, and anything that might interest travel enthusiasts. TravBuddy is extremely useful in finding out about your favorite travel destinations, interesting places recommended by fellow travelers, and of course, to find a potential travel buddy to accompany you in your world adventures.

With the abundance of social networking websites, it is almost impossible to not find one that specifically caters to your particular interests, so start searching and start connecting.


Farewell, Geography. Hello, World.

This is one of my favorite cartoons from Hugh MacLeod, a cartoonist and writer of Evil Plans. It so simply states how massively powerful the Internet can be, and what it can do for artists who wish to showcase their creative products to the world. Before the Internet, more specifically social media, most artists knew that in order for them to really be heard, they had to move to big cities like New York and London. Of course, success was not a sure thing once they moved, but living in these places made the slightest chance of that happening possible.

Although New York is still probably one of the most ideal cities to be in as an artist wanting to make it in this aggressively competitive world, the advent of social media is the best thing that has happened to artists everywhere. No longer is it necessary for musicians, writers, painters etc. to pack their bags and move to a city full of people with the same dreams. Just staying right where they are, even in the smallest of towns, is enough to make themselves be heard.

Take Bandcamp, for example. Bandcamp is an online music store, which also doubles as a platform for new and independent musicians to promote their music. Membership is absolutely free. The public can also listen to songs by these musicians free-of-charge, and if they like what they hear, they can buy the albums directly from the website itself. Bandcamp is practically heaven for budding musicians who wish to get their music out there, and also for people who love discovering new artists. That is what makes it so effective. It combines everything into one neat package, bringing musicians and their fans that much closer together. And Bandcamp is not the only website that does this. Other sites such as SoundCloud and Topspin offer similar platforms for independent musicians to share their works.

Social media is probably one of the greatest things to have come out of the Internet, and knowing how to utilize it can do wonders for an artist, especially a new and emerging one.

First photo: A Generation Ago by gapingvoid
Second photo: How To Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Google Goes Gaga

Earlier this week, Lady Gaga dropped by Google for an exclusive interview with Marissa Mayer, the vice-president of consumer products at Google. The interview mainly centered around Gaga’s outlook on her fame and her life, with the conversation occasionally straying into the topic of the convergence of technology with pop culture.

It is common knowledge that the Internet has propelled so many aspiring musicians to a successful career. There’s Google, Youtube, Myspace and the list goes on and on. All these different types of media forms have helped everyday people garner fame through their videos on Youtube, or songs posted on Myspace. Think Justin Bieber, and of course, Lady Gaga. Even Rebecca Black, who, yes has become completely famous overnight though for all the wrong reasons, got to that stage with the help of Twitter and Youtube. The fast development and wide adoption of new communication technologies has led to media globalisation, so basically anyone, anywhere has easy access to everything that is going on in the world. You could be living in the most remote location in, let’s say, Africa but if you’ve got a computer and access to the Internet, even you would be suffering from Bieber fever, or dancing to Gaga’s Born This Way, or unfortunately have Friday by Black stuck in your head.

In the Google interview, one of the things that Lady Gaga talked about was how with the advanced technology we have now, it is so easy for people to have a taste of fame just by, for example, posting videos on Youtube. For instance, Maria Aragon, a ten-year-old Filipino-Canadian singer instantly shot to international fame when a Youtube video of her covering Gaga’s Born This Way was discovered by the international popstar herself and Gaga retweeted a link to the video to her eight million followers. This caused the video to reach over 10 million views in five days, and this has now increased to over 25 million views. This is a perfect example of how powerful the Internet is, with the creation of websites like Youtube and Twitter.

There was also a question by a fan that was posted to Gaga regarding the ability to garner fame through Youtube and the effects that come with it, and she asked, “I’m curious about your reaction to YouTube as a form for new artists and for some of the criticism that maybe young people get for going online and on the other side, there is the Justin Biebers that are getting famous through YouTube, so what do you think about the future of fame through YouTube?”

To this, Gaga replied, “I think it’s fantastic. I think Rebecca Black is a genius and anyone who is telling her that she’s cheesy is full of shit.”

The Pokerface singer has not watched the video by Black, however. She was only referring to Black’s ability to generate 50 million views and become an Internet sensation. The story of the “amazing” singer that is Rebecca Black also goes back to my point of the Internet as a powerful form of new media. It is beneficial in so many ways but it also causes a lot of negative effects, as proven by Black. But if you choose to use the World Wide Web in hopes of becoming the next Internet sensation, you’ll know there will be consequences to bear, be it good or bad.

For your entertainment, here’s a video (don’t worry it’s not Friday) by Maria Aragon with her cover of Born This Way by Lady Gaga.

Undercover News
Youtube – Google Goes Gaga

Overdose of Sheen

Two and a Half Men star, Charlie Sheen, has been making countless headlines in the news with his crazy antics, from his stints in and out of rehab to his radio rants on the Alex Jones Radio Show that resulted in his termination from Two and a Half Men after he made an anti-Semitic comment on the show’s creator. The media has been lapping up all these juicy news, continuously updating the public on the latest Charlie Sheen happenings.

It is evident that the agenda setting theory is taking place here. This theory refers to “the media’s ability, through repeated news coverage, to raise the importance of an issue in the public’s mind”. People who set the media agenda, also called gatekeepers, select the issues they feel are most worthy of coverage and give those issues wide attention. Usually, the agenda setting theory is used in the context of the news industry but it can also be applied to entertainment news such as in the case of the numerous Charlie Sheen news.

Obviously, the gatekeepers of the radio programs, television talk and tabloid shows, Web sites, magazines and newspapers that have been covering all the Sheen-related gossip think that this is what the public should, and want to know. This is kind of true. People take pleasure in feeding on another person’s problems, especially when that person is a celebrity. An article in the Huffington Post, written by Ed Martin (television critic for, MediaBizBloggers, and TV Worth Watching) talks about this very issue. In it, Martin highlighted an interview that Piers Morgan had with comedian Howie Mandel on the former’s CNN talk show regarding the Sheen saga.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

When Morgan asked Mandel what he thought about “our warped news values,” in which Sheen is so dominant in news cycles, Mandel replied, “It’s a sad statement on humanity … that we all love a train wreck. I’m a parent, and I look at him and I think this must be torturous for his father and his family and the people who love and care about him and this is horrible for the children.

“You’re in television, you’re in the business,” Mandel said to Morgan. “We have to talk about it and show clips. [The fact that] we’re mesmerized by it is kind of a statement of who we are.”

A probable reason for all the coverage on Charlie Sheen’s antics is that the editor of a newspaper or television news broadcast have seen similar stories achieve high ratings. It’s an ugly truth. The public (including me, embarrassingly) love to read about a celebrity’s problems. (Lindsay Lohan, anyone?) It’s comforting to know that amid all the fame and fortune these celebrities have surrounding them, they are not immuned to the obstacles life throws at them. Believe it or not, the number of news surrounding Sheen has been so large that it has even led to the birth of a new verb. Apparently, the terms “sheened” and “sheening” refer to the act of partying.

So, if you guys have been following all the Charlie Sheen news, what are your opinions about it? Should the media continuously feed the public with all the Sheen-related issues?

The Huffington Post

John Galliano’s Anti-Semitic Rant

All you fashionistas out there would have known that earlier this week, British fashion designer, John Galliano, was fired as the head designer of Dior because of his anti-Semitic rant that was caught on video and released on the Internet. The video showed Galliano hurling insults to a group of Italian women at a Paris cafe, and saying “I love Hitler”. The designer formally denied the accusations that were made against him but after this video, this might seem a little bit hard, no? The designer has since apologised for his behaviour, stating that “Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society”, and is now facing trial in Paris on charges of “public insults based on the origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity” against three people. If found guilty, Galliano could face “up to six months in prison and $31,000 in fines”.

This incident follows the star of Two and A Half Men, Charlie Sheen’s comments on the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre. Sheen verbally attacked Lorre, and referred to Lorre repeatedly as “Chaim Levine”, which is the Hebrew version of Lorre’s real name, Charles Michael Levine. The executives at CBS and Warner Bros considered this as anti-Semitic.

These two incidents show that prejudices still exist in this day and age, in this case, anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a “prejudice against or hostility towards Jews often rooted in hatred of their ethnic background, culture, and/or religion.” Prejudice refers to “a negative social attitude held by members of one group toward members of another group”. It is one example of an attitudinal barrier to intercultural communication.

Now, all of you might be disgusted by the comments that Galliano and Sheen made but let’s face it, all of us are prejudiced in one way or another. For example, in Singapore, some people might be prejudiced against ah lians and ah bengs, mats and minahs. If people see them hanging out at void decks, people automatically assume that they are up to no good, even if that’s all they’re doing, hanging out. Others interpret their actions negatively and cognitive biases such as this allow us to maintain our prejudices even though our assumptions are unwarranted.

Another cognitive bias used to maintain prejudices is fundamental attribution bias, whereby people interpret “another’s negative behaviour as internal rather than external”. Going back to the Galliano incident, other fashion bigwigs have given their own opinions regarding the incident. Diane Von Furstenberg, who said that she was disgusted by the British designer’s offensive remarks, also said that Galliano was probably provoked, causing him to lash out at the people in the cafe. Hilary Alexander, the Fashion Director of The Daily Telegraph attributed Galliano’s behaviour to the stress and pressures of the fashion industry.

Galliano himself said that he was “subjected to verbal harassment and an unprovoked assault when an individual tried to hit me with a chair having taken violent exception to my look and my clothing” at a Paris cafe last week.

Think about this though. If someone who was not in the fashion industry hurled anti-Semitic comments, or any kind of offensive comments for that matter, against other people, would these people who defended Galliano have said the same thing?

Both John Galliano’s and Charlie Sheen’s anti-Semitic comments show that prejudice is still prevalent today. Although it is impossible to eradicate all prejudices completely, people should make an effort to understand others who are from a different culture and see things from their perspectives.


Toronto Sun
The Hollywood Reporter
John Galliano (Wikipedia)

David Arquette on Oprah Show

Many of you, I’m sure, will know of David Arquette and Courteney Cox. They were one of the most famous couples in Hollywood but in 2010, it was announced that the couple was separating after eleven years of marriage. On 24 February 2011, David Arquette appeared in his first television interview since his release from rehab on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He revealed details from his struggles with sobriety after a lifetime of substance abuse to what it was like growing up in a dysfunctional family to his split with “Friends” star Courteney Cox.

Arquette and Cox first met in 1996 on the set of the horror movie, Scream, and their on-screen relationship turned into a real-life romance (engagement). They were the perfect example of “opposites attract”; according to Arquette, he was the “livewire” and Cox was his “grounding force” (complementary differences).  Arquette and Cox seemed like the perfect couple until tabloid scandals started to surface. There were rumours about Cox having an affair with her Cougar Town co-star, Brian Van Holt, which Arquette feared were true (actions that undermine trust).

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“I thought she was having an affair with someone. And that made me angry. That made me like, ‘I’ll show you.’ And my way of doing that was getting really self-destructive and virtually suicidal. There were dark moments of real pain and loss and sadness”

Although Arquette has accepted that Cox was faithful throughout their marriage, there were other factors that caused problems in their relationship. Arquette admitted that he was jealous of Cox’s career; he felt that he “was sort of always in her shadow” (aversive emotional state). This was because of her success in the television sitcom Friends, and then going on to the television shows Dirt and Cougar Town. Thus, he felt that Cox has always enjoyed a more successful career than him, leading to his jealousy.

Now, Arquette is trying to get used to living alone in his LA home that he and Cox owned together. However, he “hopes they can still save their relationship” and he “is determined to remain on good terms for the sake of their six-year-old daughter Coco”. (de-escalation).

Personally, I really hope that they will get back together someday. They were a, and this will sound cliche, “match-made in heaven” even though they are complete opposites of each other. So hopefully there will be good news for these two celebrities in the future!


Huffington Post

How to talk dude.

Are there any guys out there who always have no clue what your office workers are saying when they start talking about the latest sports news, hot girls, sports cars and all the other things you could care less about? Well, worry not, because you’re not alone! There are so many guys out there who are just like you. Of course, you might not care about things like sports but having a good relationship with your fellow workers is very important. You have to be flexible in your language use so learning to talk “dude” is essential.

Lucky for you, there is now the Dudes-n-Bros Talking Points system! This is your one quick stop to all the “dude” knowledge you need to know in order to communicate effectively with your colleagues. If you don’t know what this system is all about, the video below will tell you all about it.

With the Dudes-n-Bros Talking Points system, your work life will never be the same again! Not only will you be able to understand what your fellow dudes and bros are talking about, you can actually contribute to the conversation too! Can you feel the worry about your lack of “dude-ness” going away?

Now, this might not be as easy as it seems. It’s not enough to just know about the latest “dude” news. In order to communicate effectively with your colleagues, you have to be person-centered. In other words, you should “adapt to the specific, unique, individuals with whom (you) interact”. For example, there might be a guy in your office who is totally into football. Therefore, you “adapt” by talking to him about the latest football news. And make sure you use the proper football expressions or terms when talking to him because it will make you seem that much more believable as a football fan. Same goes to your boss who might have an interest in sports cars. Learning the right terminology related to cars will definitely let you communicate more effectively with him.

Of course, there might be some of you who think that learning to talk “dude” is completely unnecessary and pointless, and I agree. Why should you pretend to be interested in all these things just to show your colleagues that you’re “normal” like them? But truth is, being flexible in your language use “can often make a crucial difference to (your) communicative success”. Making the effort to relate to the interests of your workmates is the first step in building a good relationship with them. They will have a better impression of you and suddenly your work life doesn’t seem all that bad.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the Dudes-n-Bros Talking Points system now and start your journey to Dude-ville.


No Pants Today!

Improv Everywhere is a comedic performance art group based in New York City, formed in 2001 by Charlie Todd. (Wikipedia) It carries out missions aimed at causing “scenes of chaos and joy in public places”. One of its missions is The No Pants Subway Ride, which is an annual event held worldwide. In this event, participants enter the subway train at consecutive stops without wearing their pants, as you can see in the above video. When asked, the participants simply say that they “forgot” their pants.

If you have watched the video, notice the reactions of the “pants-wearing” passengers on the subway? Some were looking around wondering what was going on, staring at the “no-pants” passengers, asking questions. Others looked a little uncomfortable, while a few took pictures. One woman was even pretty impressed when she saw that there were actually more people not wearing pants.

Now, if you were one of those who did not get the memo on The No Pants Subway Ride, you would probably be wondering why all these people were without pants. Some would have thought that these people have gone insane, or maybe it is a protest of some kind (what protest involves you not wearing pants, I don’t know). There might be some who would not even bother about the “no-pants” thing. You might think, “So what’s new? The world’s full of crazy people.”

The point here is that you, like the people in the video, would have attributed a cause as to why some of the passengers were not wearing pants. Attribution is the “process of assigning cause to human behaviour”. What caused these people to be without pants? Are they going to continue this crazy antic in the future? What does this behaviour say about them?

One of the common errors of attribution is that we “assume that the cause for behaviour is the person, not the situation”. In this case, most people would have thought that all these “no-pants” people have lost their minds. I mean, is it so hard to put on some pants when you are in public? They probably would not have thought that these people were actually celebrating the 10th Annual No Pants Subway Ride.

So, what would you guys have thought was going on with these “no-pants” people? Would you have realised that it was just an event, all in the fun of causing “scenes of chaos and joy”?

To learn more about Improv Everywhere and their missions, you can visit their website:

Improv Everywhere


Improv Everywhere (Wikipedia)
No Pants Day (Wikipedia)
No Pants Subway Ride 2011 (Youtube)


Kevin Kai-Wen Wu, better known as kevjumba, is one of the many people who has successfully become a celebrity by posting videos on Youtube. His videos are usually on topics varying from girls to stereotypes to his dad, Mr Wu. The video above is about how his dad gets awkward around his African-American friends. (Check out his dad’s reactions to his friends. It’s hilarious!)

What caught my attention in this video was how Kevin’s friends were seen by Mr Wu. We all know that certain stereotypes still exist about particular groups of people, including African-Americans. I’m sure the world likes to think that it has progressed nicely past all these stereotypes but sadly, stereotyping still exists.

In this case, specifically, ethnic stereotype.

Ethnic stereotype is defined as a generalised representation of an ethnic group, composed of what are thought to be typical characteristics of members of the group. (Wikipedia)

For example, in the “Awkward” video, it shows Mr Wu’s reaction upon seeing his son’s black friends. He was clearly uncomfortable and the video then shows how he sees Kevin’s friends to be like. It shows one of them drinking and the other with a gun, and these are some of the characteristics that people usually relate to black people.

Mr Wu’s reaction follows the social constructionist model. His association of alcoholism and gun violence with black people is built around the fact that this is how they are usually portrayed by the media. When something as influential as the media starts to portray a group of people in a certain way, other people are bound to believe this portrayal, whether they be true or not.

Of course, I’m not saying that the media is solely responsible for the stereotypes of African-Americans. These stereotypes date back to the colonial years of settlement in America, when black people were made to be slaves to the whites. So as you can see, the African-American stereotypes have existed for many years. You would think that now, being in the 21st century, these stereotypes would not be common anymore. People are more educated and we have learnt that all races are equal and no one race is superior to the other.

However, the fact that we can still see this stereotype happening on television shows or movies just proves that the world has not made much progress at all. According to the Entman-Rojecki Index of Race and Media, 89% of black female movie characters are shown using vulgar language, compared to only 17% of white women. In addition, black women are portrayed as being violent in movies 56% of the time as opposed to only 11% of white women.

Now tell me, how do you expect the stereotypes of African-Americans to be eradicated when the media continuously show them in a negative light?

This can also be linked to the cultural studies perspective, where there is a close relationship between acts of communication and power. Television shows and other media forms that encourage these stereotypes persuade people to actually believe in them, even though they are false. This is not only in the case of African-American stereotypes but also other forms of stereotypes such as gender and sexual stereotypes.

Hence, people should be aware that the stereotypes that may exist of a particular group should not affect the way we see them. Everyone should be treated equally in this world – it just makes for a better place.


Ready to start.

Music, films, television programmes, advertising campaigns, etc. – my thoughts and views related to any of these subjects will be posted here every week. So I hope you, the readers, enjoy my entries and feel free to share with me your opinions.

Let the games begin!