Shoe Polishing Is An Art

So therapeutic, so mesmerising. I never expect myself to be so drawn to shoe polishing. Watching a master shine shoe is fascinating to me.

Every action is measured, each motion precise and intentional. Like most Japanese, you can sense that Yuya Hasegawa takes pride in what he’s doing. The respect Japanese have for craftsmanship is amazing.

To others, watching a 8 minute clip on shoe shining is not unlike watching the paint dry. Then again, I’ve always been interested in the subtle part of a gentleman’s outfit and having a polished shoe is certainly an integral element.

Adding on to a fitting suit, a sleek tie, a versatile cuff link and an understated watch. Perfect for the everyday gentleman.

Planet or Plastic?

It’s one of the best cover magazine, ever.

Like many others, I’m floored by the ingenuity of Nat Geo magazine June’s cover. It’s simple yet profound. It’s piques our curiosity in excessive usage of plastic and deeper issues like climate change. Yet, we only need a glance to understand what the picture depicts.

Here are some words from Nat Geo:

Can it really be true that half the plastic ever made was produced in the past 15 years? That a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, with an average “working life” of just 15 minutes? That some nine million tons of plastic waste go into the oceans every year? And that estimates for how long plastic endures range from 450 years to forever?

[…] we have created a plastic apocalypse. Developed nations off-load waste from our convenient lifestyle and foist the cleanup on some of the planet’s most vulnerable people. Our Planet or Plastic? campaign is a call to take responsibility for the messes we’ve already made, and act to prevent more.

My First Solo Trip To The Cinema

As the lights dimmed, my anticipation heightened. It would be the first time I’m doing this. As with every first experience – there’s a sense of anxiety, uncertainty and excitement.

Cinema is a social venue, though the act of watching the film is a solitary process. As kids, we were brought here by our parents. As we grow older, it’s probably the place where we went on an awkward first date. As our circle of friends grew, it became the gathering venue for groups. The choice of show is secondary – usually a blockbuster to satisfy most tastes. Convenience takes precedence over the film that you’d really like to watch. We sacrifice our interest for the greater good of social conformity and friendship.

I always wondered how is it like to watch a movie alone in the cinema. As a teenager, it puzzled me why would anyone watch a show by themselves. Did they not have friends? Were they an outcast? What drove them to sit alone in the sea of movie-goers that came in pairs and groups.

I was about to find that out myself.

I’ve always enjoy spending time alone. I like being in the company of people but yet, I longed for time of my own. 4 days of lunching out with colleagues and 1 day alone. Comes weekends, half a day reserved for myself. That would be ideal – a wonderful way to gather my thoughts.

But watching a movie alone is something I’ve never consider doing. Primarily because I thought how would others perceive me. I don’t want the box office guy to think I’m a loner when I walk up to buy just one ticket. I don’t want to be surrounded by chirpy audience when I’m sitting there alone.

Those fears are unfounded.

These days, one can easily purchase movie tickets online. I wouldn’t have to queue in line and be subjected to judgement. Self ticketing ksioks are readily stationed in the cinema these days, and it’s really easy to skip the line and buy tickets. I bought mine using this niffy machine.

Inside the theatre, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe it was a weekday afternoon, but there were plenty of solo guys watching the show. I didn’t feel out of place among them. In fact, I relish the opportunity to be one of them, to finally experience watching a film in the cinema all by myself.

It’s appropriate that the movie I was watching is named “A Quiet Place”. It has gotten rave reviews from viewers and critics. I thought how nice it would be to watch this alone.

It was a tense, atmospheric movie with almost no dialogue. All the more enjoyable watched alone. At the end of the show, I thought to myself – it wasn’t too bad at all. Would I do it again? Absolutely.

I crave solitude. In this hyper connected world of ours, it’s a privilege to be able to carve out “me time”. In spending time with us ourselves, we are able to look within us, form our opinion and be less influenced by the people around us.

I’m already yawning for my next solo adventure to the cinema. It can’t come soon enough.

Confidence

Confidence has a powerful impact in our actions.

Confidence, they alter our perspective and affect the outcome. Like it or not, we need them.

How do one define confidence then? Does confidence comes from within, or is it through external validation?

Confidence is fragile. It takes time to build it up but when it crumble, it’s like a falling stone. And then it takes courage, time and effort to rebuild it up.

I’m in the stage of extreme low confidence. I can’t see light at the end of tunnel. But it’s nothing new – I’ve experienced it countless times before. Haven’t we all experienced a dip of confidence and we don’t know when will it ever return?

Eventually, we just have to ride through this tough journey. It’s not going to be easy but that’s what navigating life is all about.

Drink to Write, Write to Drink

While showering, I had a strong urge to down a can of beer. Not just any beer – it would be chilled and light flavoured – just nice to quench my thirst for alcohol.

I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t think so. It’s comforting to lean back with a beer in hand and just watch the world go by. Coffee has the same effect, albeit at different time of the day. They calm my nerves and lift my spirit.

But more than anything, I hope a dose of alcohol would do me good for writing. That’s what we are told, right? That famous writers are hard drinkers, alcoholic, and incapable of maintaining a relationship with their spouse and family.

And then I remember reading an article today, that not all writers are alcohol abusers. Some have perfectly normal families and lead a happy life.

Are they the outliners among the trove of famous writers who really can’t live without alcohol? I don’t know. But I wrote this without any sip of beer. I’d love to have a can (or two), but just not tonight.

At least I’m done writing here. Let’s cheers to that, with an imagery can of beer in hand.

Why Is Email So Enduring?

A few days back, I received a newsletter from Quartz Obsession in the inbox.  It’s a fantastic newsletter by the way – packed full of knowledge in a digestible way – perfect for a short read during commute. It’s brief but not shallow, and you walk away with a better understanding of the world and stuffs around you.

On that day, the topic happened to be email. We all have a love-hate relationship with it. Many of us know we are spending too much time on it yet we remain hooked. Despite other tools like Slack claiming they’re shaving hours off worker’s day, email is still going strong. In fact it’s growing year after year.

I’ll quote directly from Quartz:

The data speaks for itself. The number of emails sent is steadily growing 3% year over year, and as of 2018, almost 3 billion humans have at least one email account. (The average is 1.8 email addresses per person.) And the answer is really pretty simple: Even if they complain about it, pretty much everybody actually really likes email.

Publishers like it because it’s a way to directly connect to readers. It’s not beholden to an opaque algorithm, that when tinkered with can cut content off from the reading swathes of your audience: In the inbox, you can connect with the people who like your publication directly. (Hi, again!) It’s great for writers and other creatives for these same reasons, as evidenced by the outcry over the rumored shuttering of MailChimp’s wonky, lo-fi TinyLetter platform earlier this year.

Marketers like it because it’s segmentable: For example, you can customize messaging to different clients based on what they’ve bought from you in the past. And plain old humans like it because, unlike the ubiquitous social media streams cascading in from all directions, it can be managed, customized, and … even … ignored. Email is still relatively intimate by digital standards. And it’s polite: It enables communication without the expectation of an immediate response.

When we rely entirely on platform like Facebook for traffic and contention distribution, we are at their mercy. A slight tweak on the news feed can have tremendous impact. Many brands are producing awesome content, but it’s just not showing up on the follower’s feed. It’s a shift towards “if you want your brand post to be seen, pay.”

Email doesn’t have this problem. It’s always there in the inbox. Legitimate emails may get identified as spam, but at least they’re delivered. It’s not like there’s a tweak to the algorithm and comes the next day, there’s a high possibility of your mail not getting through to the receiver.

But that’s what happening to social networks. And that’s why email is such a powerful and underrated tool in today’s context. Many see social media as a must-have platform and don’t give enough attention to email. But those who done it right reap rewards from it. My personal favourites include those that blends personal touch, whimsical approach and interesting information. Tattly and Hiut Denim are two of my favourite newsletters.

Unlike instant messaging, we don’t have a moral obligation to respond within a short span of time. And for us workers who rely on emails for communication, the last paragraph sums it up nicely – it enables communication without the expectation of an immediate response.

Email really is the ubiquitous tool that is so enduring.

Going Cashless

It’s not far-fetched to imagine first-world countries adopting the methodology of going totally cashless. The drive for cashless payment – led by government’s initiative – is going full steam ahead. Why bother dispensing with cash when cashless is much better. It is trackable, eliminates human error, fast and convenient.

I’ve heard that in China, the adoption rate for cashless payment is so high that some people just do without their cash altogether. It’s so common to pay using an app or e-wallet because the acceptance rate is so high among merchants.

As with anything that brings convenient, what once requires thought and consideration gets cast away. Take for example, an in-app purchase. Once we’ve linked our credit or debit card to the account, purchase any app or in-app stuffs is just a click away. And when you’re so hooked and engrossed in the game, you don’t make rationale decision. You end up paying for something you might never have if you had to pay with cash.

Likewise, adding items into online marketplaces is super easy. In Amazon, you can turn on one-click purchase feature and with a single tap, the order is made and the items are on way to you. The allure is always there. Businesses are making the process seamless and easy. But who’s really benefiting here?

When we spend without using cash, it feels as though we are not spending any actual money. We don’t feel the pinch. We will only feel it when the card statement arrives. It’s only there when we scan through and realise how effortlessly we part with our hard-earned money. We promise ourselves to monitor our purchases more prudently and never succumb to temptations. Does it work? I’ve failed more often than not.

When the bills arrive, I sometimes struggle to recall what transactions they were, and for what purpose they serve. Considering that I liberally pay using multiple cards, they do get confusing. I’ve 5 credit cards, signed for various perks like points accumulation, discounts and rewards. It’s one too many and I’d like to trim it down. Not only will my statements be more manageable, it get rid of the clutter of redundant cards in my wallet. One good card from Visa, Mastercard and Amex will cover all occasion. Maybe 3 is also overkill, but at least I’m eliminating those that I rarely use. That’s for another topic – finance management – one that I really need to practice more deliberately on.

We can choose not to save a default credit card, having to re-enter the information each time we want to purchase. This added step serves as a (minor) deterrence for mindless spending.

Without paying with cash, it’s easy to lose sight of the expenses. A few apps here and there don’t seem like a lot, but they all add up. Cashless is an intangible way of transaction, unlike paying with cash, where you intentionally and consciously know that you are parting with your money. It’s easy for people to think they are not really spending that much when the reality is far from this assumption. It becomes frictionless to spend money we can’t see. That’s the danger we have to accept, especially for people like me, who often give it to impulses.

While going cashless brings about a world of convenience, it also opens up a path to a slippery slope.

Watch

A $10,000 watch tells time, so does a $10 watch. Its purpose is to tell time. So long as they are accurate, they serve the same purpose, right?

For some men, a watch is much more than that. It’s a timepiece that reference history, witness milestones, celebrate victories, survive hardships, and brings intangible sense of esteem. It’s an accessory that completes their outfit.

When I was 13, my father got me a watch. It’s a special Citizen watch. I say it’s special because it’s not the conventional kind of watch a growing teen would wear. It’s an all-black stainless steel watch that looked out of place on the wrist of a not-boy-not-yet-man. For some reason, I’ve came to like it. I didn’t buy it because I like it though, I urged my dad to buy because it didn’t look like any run of the mill watches – like the colourful arrays of Swatch that lined the shop window.

I adore its sophisticated way of telling time. I wish I still have this first proper watch with me. Foolishly, I discarded this timepiece a few years back when I was moving away from my previous home. Gone with it are the memories of my school days – the goods and bads. Writing about this jolts back memories of my friends – almost all of them I don’t keep in touch with anymore. We were indispensable during that period. But as we grow, we drifted apart. As we are all occupied with our career, family and hobbies, friendships take a backseat.

I read that in our 50s, we get a second wind in our relationship with friends. That’s the age where our children grow up and no longer need us that much – financially and physically. Hopefully I don’t have to wait that long to rekindle with some old buddies.

Carnival Games Are Borderline Scam

The bottomline is, if you win carnival games, you lose. Even if you win on the first attempt, the cost of getting the toy is much lesser than the price you paid to play the game.

You could just buy it off Amazon if the toy is what you’re interested in. But nobody really plays carnival games for just the reward, right? It’s the thrill of winning, especially when you know the odds are stack against you.

But most people overestimate what they could do and underestimate that for some games, the odds are heavily stacked against them to the extend it’s almost impossible to win.