Brian Shen's Dancing Baby Syndrome

What's your theme song?

Welcome to the delusions, neuroses,

and circumstances of Brian Shen.

@amicobracelets a new social technology that might help us be truly more social in the physical world again.


Recently, a good friend turned me onto the movie Timer (2009) . The story takes your typical romantic comedy to a science fiction future, where an implant called a Timer can tell you exactly when you will meet your soulmate. After it is implanted into your wrist, it counts down to zero, indicating the night before your fated meeting, and then the next day when you lock eyes with your soulmate, the device emits a ringing and blinks flashing lights.

Sure there are some logical fallacies here, but, hey, it’s a movie. Suspend your disbelief for a second and let’s really consider what it would mean to have a device tell you whether you will be soulmates with someone before you really even know them. This isn’t love at first sight. This is a machine saying this is your future.

To me, there is something far less romantic about it. Instead, personally, there is an air of uneasiness. It seems you are thrown into a situation instead of letting something develop organically. It’s as if you have to find ways to make it work out of obligation.

When I think about online dating services now, the function of rating profiles and finding “matches” based on qualitative data, I can’t help but think it is in a way similarly throwing you into a situation where you are forced to invent ways to make it work. There is a reason why the saying “opposites attract” exists. You don’t have to be a clone of the other person to have a meaningful relationship. But the more we rely on online dating and more we examine the culture of dating it’s as if we are allowing ourselves to become ever more self-involved, seeking a clone of ourselves at some level.

The thing about dating yourself is that, doesn’t it get boring? I hate to reference Sex and The City 2 (yes, I watched the movie - don’t judge me), but Carrie is worried she’s lost the sparkle with Mr. Big. She says it’s something they’ll have to work at the rest of their lives. If you’re dating someone who is exactly the same as yourself, how can there be sparkle? How can there be any exciting surprises?

With all of our social networks online and searchable, finding information about a potential interest is easier than ever. In the days where Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social networks didn’t exist, it sometimes took months and years to find out details about people’s preferences, interests, and hobbies. It was less about finding an instant match and more about the journey of discovering another human being and forging a relationship based on trust, learning, and storytelling.

Technology has wiped away the magic of meeting people and obliterated the confidence of many attractive, intelligent singles. I have a friend who recently visited me and when we entered a bar, he took out his phone. Instead of looking around the bar to find some people to talk to or just having a good conversation amongst our friends, he was on a geo-location based dating app. His claim was that people are so cowardly now that they won’t approach you in person, but instead message you through the app if they think you’re attractive.

Is this what the dating world has come to? Have we really turned what is supposed to be a social activity into one of the most alienating activities one could take part in?

The funny thing is, no one came up to talk to us that night in person. But my friend did receive a handful of messages on his app—a couple of which were from people in the same bar.

Perhaps he has a point. The advent of online dating has made people increasingly critical. One wrong word, and the user can click next. One wrong photo and the user can think, why is he or she not showing that part of his/her body? and click next. In fact, most people only look at the photos and judge based on that data point alone.

It makes sense, then, that the same behavior singles repeatedly engage with in online environments translates into daily life. It becomes second nature. So in this increasingly judgmental world, who would want to go up to a complete stranger and strike up a (not so) harmless conversation?

Thankfully, my friend also suggested another experiment. What he and his friend deemed “The Kissing Game.” The goal is to kiss at least three people in each bar we went to in hopes of using the game as a way to break the ice and maybe finding someone we were compatible with based on chemistry rather than a list of stats and self promoting words.

What we found was, people are receptive to being approached if it is with a sense of levity and humor. After all, they are looking for people to talk to as well. People just need a little boost of confidence and believe they won’t be rejected.

Technology like the Timer and online dating apps do the opposite. They overplay the scariness of dating, making a monolith out of what it means to be compatible with someone and obscuring the fact that you could really just end up being friends with people you meet.

On the other hand, when I read about a new piece of technology that Trovare, a Cambridge, Mass based tech company, is developing I was intrigued. The device is a wristband that links with your social networks, gathering your data and then broadcasting it to a radius of 50 feet. The device is only a wristband with no screen. It buzzes when you are in the vicinity of someone you would be a great match with based on similar interests (and hopefully other data points, but the company hasn’t revealed what these are). What’s great about it is that it doesn’t tell you who it is—it just tells you that they are in the area.

This is exactly the kind of little boost of confidence people are looking for in order to get talking. If they know there is someone in the area they would definitely click with, that is one less judgmental face in the crowd. Of course, this depends on high adoption rates of the technology, but if it does happen, this would be a huge game changer. Instead of bars in which people stand off to the side and glance around the room, not daring to venture to a neighboring group to talk, it will be a bar full of people bustling trying to figure out who it was that buzzed for them.

The product is currently still in testing. You can follow the company here.

Should I be ashamed if I still think Pokemon characters are cute? lol

(via theupstairskid)

Most people have more needs than wants. That’s why they live the lives they do. But the world is run by those whose wants outstrip their needs.

—Rules of Civility, p 259, Amor Towles

Kind of bittersweet to watch as summer is swiftly coming to an end and rainy season kicks in, but Kinfolk’s short film that is saturated with nostalgia hits home in certain moments. In others, there are things we wish we did or elements that are highly improbable — the twine tied butcher paper lunch sack, leaving your bike in the middle of a field, then randomly having candle-lit lanterns on hand…

Those are things we wish we did more often—and though they’re unrealistic, they are what sets the carefree tone of the short and what makes the imagery so loveable and hate-able at the same time. It arouses a certain desire. 

The well framed shots and color palette don’t help to quell that desire either. Though grainy at times, the film is beautiful to watch. Just forget the cheesy voice over and roll with the music.

If this is what Kinfolk’s magazine is all about, I think I may want to subscribe… anyone read it already?

I’m going to freeze my cherries so I can have some popsicles

—Girl on Street

Also ran into Jaime Cepero aka Ellis from Smash last night

Also ran into Jaime Cepero aka Ellis from Smash last night

Met Zachary booth who told an amazingly hysterical story last night. More to come later…

Met Zachary booth who told an amazingly hysterical story last night. More to come later…

Oh Yeah Cellophane and All That Crap or 13 Hours at the @McKittrick

While I have not been to @sleepnomorenyc in a while, I have been to the @McKittrick Hotel and my beloved @ManderleyBar almost, I’m afraid to say, weekly. It’s hard to resist the lure of the atmosphere Punchdrunk has so painstakingly created—the unusual artists, the red velvet, and smoky stage—and other things like the camaraderie of interesting people. And all of that without a cover!

I can’t say that I’m terribly surprised by the fact that I have met such interesting and talented people at one of my favorite venues in NYC — and I’m not just talking about the actors. Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of spending a good portion of my day with my fellow blogger Frances Koncan, who notified me of an interesting art show this past Cinqo de Mayo, put on by the Calder Foundation. The show ran from 2PM-2AM in the annex of the McKittrick, which “is a space they discovered that wasn’t in the original hotel,” or so they say. While I did not arrive at 2PM, we did spend an ungodly 13 hours in and around the McKittrick—a first time for me.

After arriving at around half past three with a couple of friends, we learned we just missed the first of a few celebrity sightings, Hugh Jackman. About half way through the night I noticed a Jonas brother was there, and then apparently late in the evening Sting arrived. Frances had arrived earlier than I, so I cannot imagine how long that day felt to her. We bumped into each other as my friends and I were trying to enter the exhibit, and she was trying to take a break. And not so surprisingly, one of the cast was manning the elevators.

My question is - how do these guys keep getting looped into doing these side shows when they already have such a grueling schedule? And on top of that, we learned that Nick had fallen down a flight of stairs during a performance earlier in the week. He didn’t look his normal mellow yet happy self, instead he was mellow with a touch of what I perceived to be sadness. When I talk to dancers that I’ve known for a long time, it always seems to be the case that if they can’t dance, they don’t feel like themselves. Now, I don’t know this dancer all that well, but based on the conversations I have had with him, it is clear that he takes performing seriously and has a deep intellectual and spiritual bond with it. So, I feel for him. We felt for him so much with him manning the elevator for a 12 hour shift that I thought we couldn’t just leave him there looking sad and hurting. So after our first session in the exhibit, we went out for some snacks and got him a smoothie and cookies. You can’t leave a man down without helping him out. You just can’t.

Anyway, while we were at the exhibit we saw a number of really interesting pieces. A crowd pleasing favorite was the mesmerizing Flux (Zilvinas Kempinas, 2009), featuring a couple of spools of film undulating in mid-air, guided by the gusts of a fan aimed downwards and the gusts reflecting back up off a white cube. While the sight indeed was beautiful, the installation reminded me of another scene that has forever been ingrained in my memory: the floating plastic bag from American Beauty.

Also of interest to us was a sensory deprivation room, or at least that’s what I called it. Hidden behind a curtain to the left of the hallway from the elevator was a room in pitch black. At times during the day and part of the night, when our feet hurt and there was no where else to sit and perhaps the noise was a bit much and perhaps our eyes hurt, this dark, cool space served as an escape. While it would have been much more interesting to ourselves of sight and also heighten senses in addition to audio—perhaps olfactory? Check out this event called Dialogue that happened near South Street Seaport, where you can be led around a pitch black maze by blind guides and discover a narrative of smells.

Speaking of a smells, there was also a really cool piece with books on a table, each infused with some sort of smell. While the relationship of each scent to the title, colors, shape, and subject of each book was somehow perplexing, it was a great piece to me because it was such a conversation starter. While bending over to sniff the covers that produced these olfactory stories, and other participants in the installation leaned over to do the same, we asked, “What’s your favorite?” “What do you think this one means?” “How does that toe relate to the floral scents here?” “Is there some mustiness?”

Then there were stranger, more interesting and thought provoking performances, which though less accessible than the installation pieces were actually things that I didn’t at all expect. For instance, actors imitating (or mocking—it’s hard to say which) the current and former Presidents of the United States in The Digital Face (Liz Magic Laser, 2012 featuring Alan Good and Cori Kresge as former President George H. W. Bush and President Barack Obama). I’m not terribly sure I know the greater context of the piece, but there was definitely an uncanny feeling of watching gestures I had most definitely seen somewhere previously.

And of course there are the additional photos I have of the performances from later in the evening, that became progressively more strange. A woman walks across a seesaw and it moves up and down as she ceremoniously traverses the plank. A friend of mine called likened it to the trials and tribulations of life and the celebrations that appear sparingly throughout—not sure I buy that but there it is. There was also a film in which they took apart fish heads with chopsticks, which reminded me of dinner with my parents. Then there was the dubstep DJ who helped turn what was left of the crowd into a dubstep dance party.

By the end of the evening, after all the pieces we had tried to decipher our minds were numb, our bodies ached (not as much as Nick’s) and we had been inside for far too many hours. We wanted to be around non-hipsters, even just for a break in the monotony, and to hear music we could more easily appreciate at the Manderley.

Unfortunatelly for us, even the die hard fans, the regulars of the bar, get turned away here. And so we left our night on a somewhat low note. On our way out, we bumped into Sai who to my surprise remembered my name and was kind enough to try to help us get into the Manderley… but without success. Apparently it was an uber exclusive night of Cinqo de Mayo revelry. But fear not, I’ll be back at the Manderley tomorrow (I mean tonight) for some storytelling. As I said, I’m there far too often.

But some of the most entertaining and enjoyable moments were with Frances, as we discussed our blogs, the art we didn’t understand, and of course, her musings of Hot Guy. Whether it was over a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches or lentil soup at a fancy Italian place around the corner from the McKittrick, Frances was always so high energy and unpredictable, which is part of the fun of hanging with her. She consistently surprised me with stories about the people she’s met over the years and how she managed to get herself into hilarious situations (i still want to read it missy!)

Don’t you just love how the SNM blogger community bonds?

So @Revenge on ABC styled Nolan with my fave winter sweater.

My winter sweater has been a conversation starter with so many… some of them awkward, some of them leading to a strained aftermath, and some of them to some unexpected flirting.

I won’t name names (again), but some of you know who started this whole sweater thing.

This sweater is dangerous… so when I saw my sweater on an episode of ABC’s Revenge, I had a minor freakout. I bought this sweater before the episode even aired… and had become sort of a trademark going out look for me. They even paired it with the same sort of blue plaid button down I wear with it.

Anyway, thanks stylists for approving of my look.