JOSE, Calif. ó Itís that veg-out time of the year.
Christmas is in the rearview mirror, the new yearís
still trying to get its act together, and the living
room couch beckons you to find some time alone and get
out thereís practically a cottage industry of digital
tools and apps to help you with that.
know, because I spent a good part of the day recently
just getting all couch-potatoey, curled up with my
iPhone, iPad, TV and a stubborn determination to bond
with my inner spud. I chose my living room sofa,
timeworn and softly pillowed, a darkened cave with a
clear line of sight to the TV, and a short crawl to the
kitchen in case of emergency. Think of this as my Couch
Potato Manifesto, borne of my horizontal warm-up for
Super Bowl weekend.
things first: I search the App Store for "couch
potato" and quickly download the $3.99 remote
called, yup, CouchPotato MediaPortal Remote. A
no-brainer, right? Not so fast. I canít get the thing
to work with my TV, so after watching a YouTube video
about how cool this app supposedly is, I give up and
just use my old-school remote from Xfinity.
developers arenít stupid; theyíve come up with more
sports-fan apps for the laid-back set, it seems, than
there are sports fans themselves. I play around with
several that offer updates, stats, news and analysis for
teams and leagues around the globe, as well as
live-streaming of all kinds of sporting events. I spend
too much time on theScore, a free app with a cool
user-interface that let me quickly start following all
my favorite San Francisco Giants.
up is an app called CouchPotato Radio, which as far as I
can make out is a podcasted gabfest devoted to
discussing the "Big Brother" reality game show
in all its global incarnations. And just to make sure
everyone was clear about their mandate, they recently
changed their name to Big Brother Radio. Listening to a
podcastís hosts gossiping for hours about the comings
and goings of a reality showís cast, it turns out, is
an experience custom tailored for the humble sofa. Which
got me thinking: Sofa? Hmm.
around on the iPad, I find a review of "The Age of
Comfort," a book in which author Joan DeJean plumbs
the depths of this paradigm-shifting piece of furniture,
much as we might plumb the depths of our own sofa when
we canít locate the remote.
the reviewer writes, "this piece of furniture is
ubiquitous in homes. But before its innovation in the
late 1680s in France, no such piece existed. People sat
on hard, straight-backed chairs (though that changed
around this time, too), or on trunks. Padded seating was
an utterly unrealized concept."
horreur, right? To try and assuage that disturbing image
of a sofa-less world, I do a bit of channel-surfing
("Maury," "Law & Order,"
"Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?") and then
start downloading apps that let you watch a gazillion
movies for free. Thereís Flipps HD and Viewster and
Hubi and God-knows how many more tools out there, each
one designed to help you create the most ambitious time
suck imaginable. And while they may not be movies on
your to-watch list ("Yo Mama Jokes"? "The
Mud Pie Contest"?), they are, well, free ó
unless, of course, you pay for the ad-free version.
my downloaded Crackle app, I quickly get hooked on
"Fat City," a 1972 boxing flick by renowned
director John Huston. I donít even like boxing. But
thatís how "free" and a sofa can conspire
I force myself to turn away from washed-up boxer Billy
(Stacy Keach) and the teenager Ernie (Jeff Bridges) in
whom he sees potential, and return to my
"work" at hand. I find a wikiHow article on
how to be a couch potato, just to make sure Iím doing
this right. From my iPhone, I learn about the art of
choosing the best place for reclining, the proper use of
pillows and blankets, the secret of having a trash can
nearby, and the importance of proper sustenance.
of course, gets me thinking about junk food. I search
food-delivery apps in my phone, which in the past year
have seemingly multiplied exponentially. Thereís
GrubHub, Caviar, Munchery, DoorDash and EAT Club, and
the list goes on. I go to waiter.com and see that theyíll
deliver me a $5 pizza from a nearby pizza joint and Iíll
have the pie in an hour.
being a couch potato in 2016 is a whole different
experience than it was in the past, thanks to the
smartphone and its ability to draw you into an endless
loop of searching the Internet for something, finding
it, then heading off in a new direction on a new search.
This has replaced the traditional channel-surfing,
TV-focused behavior of the sofa spud.
so, before I can order that pizza, Iím distracted by a
completely random thought: Netflix socks.
suddenly remember someone telling me about these
do-it-yourself stockings, which amazingly can pause your
show if the electronic sensors sewn into the socks
detect that youíve fallen asleep. I start poking
around. But, as the Washington Post points out, I
quickly learn that the socks might not be all theyíre
cut out to be: "The socks are painfully complicated
to assemble, expensive and difficult to use," the
article says. Plus, they apparently turn off your show
if you stop moving your feet, which means youíd have
to keep moving your feet nonstop, which of course is
antithetical to the whole couch ethos.
I go to makeit.netflix.com to "DIY" a pair
myself. But I see that the second item on the
ingredients list is an "Arduino microcontroller"
and that I must be "comfortable with a soldering
iron," which Iím most certainly not. Forget the
a brief moment, I ponder the world beyond the sofa. I
find a motivational app called C25K, which helps users
"Go from Couch Potato to Running the 5K," and
I call Bradley Duong, co-founder of Zen Labs Fitness,
which makes the thing. Seeking guidance for an eventual
exit from my couch, I ask Duong for help.
audience is people literally sitting on couches,"
he tells me. "These are people who arenít sure if
theyíll ever run a 5K, people laying on the couch just
wishing and hoping they could make a nice healthy change
in their lives."
I realize, like me.
that," he says, "can be daunting. A lot of
people are overwhelmed and just donít know where to
begin. Thatís our sweet spot."
my sweet spotís right here on this sofa. So I start
researching all the other stuff besides food I can have
delivered to me while I sit. I find a flower-delivery
app that will bring me buds from a shop down the street.
I can order a $169 gas chain saw from The Home Depot and
have it shipped to my house in a week, all without so
much as getting vertical. Iím also tempted to order
live lady bugs from insectlore.com ("Growing
Butterflies since 1969"), where a whole section of
their online FAQ is devoted to "Praying Mantis
learn that I can order chicken-hatching eggs from Murray
McMurray Hatchery, along with guinea-, pheasant- and
duck-hatching eggs. There are apps to buy childrenís
clothes with same-day delivery, apps to have someone
pick up your dirty laundry. I stopped before finding it,
but Iím certain thereís an app for delivery-fresh
apps to your front door.
doing more research into apps that help you call in sick
to work (donít ask), Iím as spent as a couch potato
can be. A drink! Thatís what I need! I download Drizly,
which promises one-hour alcohol delivery. Fantastic!
when I put in my address, I find to my great
disappointment that the service isnít yet available in
does it. This potato is getting up off this couch and
walking to the fridge to grab a beer.
FOR THE COUCH POTATO
MediaPortal Remote: Lets you control your TV from your
Radio (recently changed to Big Brother Radio): Podcast
tracking the "Big Brother" reality TV show
HD, Viewster, Hubi and Crackle: Apps for watching
movies, TV shows or videos on your smartphones or
Caviar, Munchery, DoorDash and EAT Club: Apps that bring
food to your home
Motivational app that helps users "Go from Couch
Potato to Running the 5K"
App lets you have alcohol delivered to your home
Mercury News reporting