The Noblest Distraction

I am a heavily anxious, if not mildly depressed, person. This is my reality. At the risk of sounding too self-deprecating, from time to time I feel like I’m swimming in a sea of anxiety. In the verge of drowning, I frantically try to catch my breath. The harder I try, the deeper I sink to the dark bottomless pit of negative thoughts.

That’s why I took meditation at the first place. Little did I know that anxiety is one of inbuilt components that makes me. So I try to accept the fact that I just simply have to live with it.

Most of the time, it stays in the background, but I’m still surprised when it pops out to the fore and it’s particularly worse during premenstrual.

Ugh, I know right? Woman.

When life gets rough like that, instead of facing it head-on some people turn to distract themselves; they watch TV, go on a shopping spree, update their Facebook status, drink, yada yada yada–I mean literally anything to keep their thoughts and reality at arm’s length.

Like everybody else, I too turn to distractions. At the risk of sounding too self-righteous, I think the best distraction of all is reading. It’s not only the best, it’s the noblest.

I know, I know, I talk a huge deal about reading but seriously what else I do besides slaving away at my tedious job? I rarely go out with friends or engage in social activities (I’m a proud introvert, yo), and I basically despise social media because it’s mostly made up of lies. TV? Seriously? I’d rather chop both of my hands off and eat my own detached limbs than have to watch shitty Indonesian television shows. Even the thought of it nauseates me.

So yeah, I find refuge in books. I seek comfort in literature. It’s not to say that I don’t scroll Twitter feed when I’m upset, or play Angry Birds when I’m bored. It’s just that doing these things for hours I feel a sense of life trickling away, wasted. It sometimes worsens me. But time spent on reading is always time well spent.

And on the upside, reading, especially fictions, allows me to forget that I’m anxious, at least for a while. It gently pushes the monster back to its cave in the back of my mind.

In contrast, looking at social media when I’m in my lowest only leaves me more miserable. I see people leading better lives, having successful career, doing high-status things. It makes me hate my life.

But literature, man! It presents you adventure with all the greatest characters enduring odds, venturing out into the unknown, slaying dragons and falling in love. It tells you stories about many worlds unfamiliar to you, about cultures different from yours, about those you can wholly relate to, those that convince you you’re not alone (like The Hours). Most importantly, it keeps you company, even at the loneliest hour. It never leaves you and it never fails you.

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So there I said it, the real reason why I read (not that anyone cares or anything). In the end, it’s not about indulging in the vanity of trying to be smarter or more cultured and sophisticated. It’s more about staying sane, the act of surviving.

In short…


Image courtesy of Year 13 Media Production, Pari Dukovic via NYMag (modified), and Netflix via Mute The Silence

5 Things I love about Windows 10

So I jumped on Windows 10 bandwagon recently. I had never been into technology but since I work for a tech magazine, I can’t help but following the hype.

The moment I heard that Microsoft would give away Windows 10 for free to Windows 7 and 8 users, I was thrilled. After going through the agony of updating my PC to the latest version of Windows 7 and backing up my files, I finally received the reservation notification. But I hate waiting so I manually downloaded Windows 10 from its official download site.

It’s Indonesia, you can’t expect too much of good things. The same goes with download speed. It took about five hours to download Windows 10 and it took another five to install it to my PC (warning: I may be exaggerating). But it was all worth it. My PC runs Windows 10 now, along with the other 50 million+ devices in the whole wide world.

Here are five things I love about Windows 10 (in no particular order).

1. Faster boot time

When Microsoft announced Windows 10, they said that it came equipped with faster boot time. I don’t know about anyone else, but it surely is compared to Windows 7, at least on my machine.

2. It’s familiar

desktop

They said that Windows 10 has the best of both Windows 7 and 8 worlds. You’ll get both Start menu and live tiles and Windows Store. Yes, it’s so familiar. Since I departed from Windows 7, it’s a no-brainer to adapt to Windows 10, though I have to get used to programs now being called “apps” like on mobile devices.

3. Flat, flat, flat!

Since the introduction of iOS 7 in 2013, I’ve been in love with flat UI. I also love Android Lollipop design language and enjoy Windows 8’s modern interface. It’s no surprising that I instantly fall for Microsoft’s dedication to flat design in Windows 10. I was so fed up with the look and feel of Windows 7, so Windows 10 obviously brings a breath of fresh air to my PC.

4. Groove Music

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Ever since I got my hands on computers, Winamp was my choice even after the company’s shutdown in 2013. Now I’m no longer its devotee, not since the arrival of Groove Music in Windows 10.

Groove Music is essentially a native music player built in to Microsoft’s latest desktop OS. It also lets user stream and download music using a pay subscription called Groove Music Pass. Unfortunately, it’s not available in Indonesia yet (unless you set your region to supported markets like the US. Same goes with Cortana).

What I love the most about Groove Music is its ability to neatly organize my music library. Give Groove Music location in which you save your music and it will automatically sorts them into several categories by albums, artists, and songs. Okay maybe that’s the thing every music player can do, but what really enchants me is Groove Music’s clean and simple interface. It makes you easy to navigate your music collection, create playlist, etc.

5. Task View

task-view

I used to use Alt+Tab and Windows key+Tab on the keyboard to switch between windows. Now Windows 10 offers the better and easier way to do this. It’s called Task View.

There’s million ways to access Task View. Okay, not literally a million, but it’s quite many. You can still use the good old Windows key+Tab or click the Task View icon in the taskbar. You can also swipe up on the touchpad with three fingers.

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Of course, these are not the only wonders of Windows 10. I didn’t get all the features, mind you. That’s a shame because I always want to try Windows Hello. Cortana also can’t optimally work on my PC because apparently there’s something wrong with the mic which is too bad because I heard she does okay.

Nevertheless, I still think it’s the best version of Windows ever and I believe many people will love it as much as I do.

So you better get it already, while it’s still free.


Note:

If you decide to upgrade to Windows 10, make sure that you know what you’re doing. Seek help if you find the whole shenanigans too tech-y for you. And if you plan to take matter into your hand, by all means do it at your own risk and don’t forget to backup your files.

Useful links:

Good news: I’m so over the fear of roller coasters

I am not a fan of roller coasters (not a good opening line, I know). I have this stupid fear of height and the thought of riding all the way through that vertical loop makes me uncomfortable. I know that there’s physics involved, but roller coasters seemed to me like a daredevil act of flirting with death.

But on my latest visit to Dufan couple weeks ago, things changed. I bucked up and allowed myself to be overwhelmed by fear, getting excited but scared at the same time, not to mention having sweaty palms over thinking that there was a possibility that in the next two minutes or so I might be dead because the safety strap would snap off and I would helplessly fall to the cruel pull of gravity.

Nevertheless, I got in the line and when my turn was up, I felt a familiar overwhelming rush of adrenaline (I’m no fan of adrenaline rush either). At the moment I strapped myself in on my seat, I trembled.

“It’s your last day on earth, man,” I heard my self said. (And yes, I’m this lebay*) Didn’t help. The fear was still there. “I’m going to die.”

When the engine started and the cars moved, I knew that there was no turning back. As I listened to the gut-wrenching rattle sound, I scoffed the thought away: “Come on. You never really know, right?”

So, I decided to admit to myself that I was scared shitless. And then the strangest thing happened.

When I acknowledged the fear, I was no longer afraid. It turned out that I got really excited about the ride. Normally, I would tightly grip the chest strap with my mightiest strength, hoping I wouldn’t fall off from the car when it’s upside down on the loop. No, I was all hands in the air like I didn’t care (thanks Miley).

It was totally weird! I managed the biggest grin ever. And it was crazy too! I even giggled and whee-ed my way to the peak and through the loop. Meanwhile, my friend sitting beside me was all screaming and shouting like she’s being dragged to hell by demons.

It was the most enjoyable roller coasters ride I’ve ever experienced.

But you know, actually, there was a moment before the ride that seemed to stretch over a long span of time. In that moment, right after I put on the strap and the belt, my mind was filled with two things: Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost and Schrodinger’s cat.

I remembered there was this passage in the book where Miss Solnit discussed about worrying and and the unknown.

To imagine that you know, to populate the unknown with projections, is very different from knowing that you don’t … Worry is a way to pretend that you have knowledge or control over what you don’t–and it surprises me, even in myself, how much we prefer ugly scenarios to the pure unknown.

This hit me hard. I realized that I filled my head with the scenarios of my own death (told you, I’m this lebay) when I never knew what the future held for me that day.

Which then brought me to Schrodinger’s cat. You know the theory: in the next 5 minutes, I might be both alive and dead. The safety strap across my chest might be both intact and off. The electricity that powered the system might both run and go out when the coasters on the vertical loop. The gravity might be both there and gone (okay, maybe not that random).

This.

This was what really liberated me from my fear. This was what helped me accepting the fact that I am the master of mostly what makes me myself and the rest is beyond my command. The thing about the future is that it’s unforeseeable. Maybe I would be dead or I would get through this ride again safely, like I usually did (yes, it was not my first time riding Halilintar, but still…). Why worry?

You never really know till you’ve tried, all I’m saying.

Kudos to Miss Solnit. And here’s to you, Schrodinger.

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Featured image courtesy of Google Image.

*Lebay (adj.) cheesy term used to describe annoying person who exaggerates things.

Warung Nasi

My girlfriend and I spent our 2015 New Year’s holiday in my father’s hometown. It’s a little town that my family annually visit during Eid-al-Fitr holidays. I always love it there because the air is cool and clear and the locals are nice. Located 48 km south of Bandung, it’s far from any distressing sound and sight of traffic and you can let your urban eyes drink from the picturesque views like these: 000037 000018During our time, we had lunch in this little empty warung nasi (hence warnas). The anonymity of the warnas and how empty it was reminded me of Edward Hopper’s painting.

I came across Automat (featured above) when I stumbled upon an article in which the contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton discusses about the sadness relief that anonymous places can offer when the comfort of our own home has failed.

Automat is a picture of sadness – and yet it is not a sad picture. There can be something enticing, even charming, about anonymous diners. The lack of domesticity, the bright lights and anonymous furniture offer a relief from what can be the false comforts of home. It may be easier to give way to sadness here than in a cosy living room with wallpaper and framed photos. Home often appears to have betrayed Hopper’s characters; something has happened there that forces them out into the night and onto the road. The twenty-four-hour diner, the train station waiting room or motel are sanctuaries for those who have, for sound reasons, failed to find a place in the ordinary world of relationships and community.

I liked both the painting and the commentary and had hoped ever since that I could re-create it someday with V, film and my analog camera.

Back to our holiday story, there was no one besides us dining in the warnas that day so we were free to move anywhere we liked. When Automat crossed my mind, I immediately asked V to sit on the table in the corner. Then I got her on the right pose, and took a single shot (yes, a single shot, because it’s film we’re talking about).

Months passed, the roll stayed undeveloped. I even started to forget what’s on it. I’ve mentioned before that film developing cost is not really friendly here, especially during our personal financial crisis. But I determined to get at least one of my undeveloped rolls to the lab.

So, on one Saturday late afternoon, I took the fresh Fujicolor Superia 200 to Seni Abadi, had it developed and picked up the result the next day. (On a side note, they restock their Kodak collections and raised the film developing price by IDR 27K (normal resolution) and IDR 37K (hi-res) per roll. It breaks my heart to pieces)

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Warung Nasi, 2015, Yashica FX-3 Super 2000 & Fujicolor Superia 200

I must say I’m satisfied with the result. I’m also surprised that I got the exposure just right, considering the light meter on my Yashica is long dead and I have to adjust the settings by hunches. The tone that Superia brings to this photo is so remarkable that it perfectly sets the mood I aim to achieve.

So, it came out quite resembling Automat I guess, except it took place in a warung nasi, with the iconic Lion Star chairs, kerupuk rorombeheun, and Coca-cola-Fanta-Sprite-Teh Botol bottles decorating the window sill. It’s okay if you can’t agree, but in my defense at least it’s in the same ballpark: a lone figure in an anonymous eating place in some strange town.

But my fondness for the photo is beyond that. There is one thing that makes it resonate greatly with me. Despite it’s my sweet girlfriend who’s featured here, this is me, you know? It’s like looking at me, myself: reserved individual who prefers a company of a book to a person yet sometimes, strangely, longs for human touch a.k.a social interaction. But this so called human touch is always out the window, leaving me as an observer not the participant because I’m always on the other side of the glass that is my shyness. It feels sad sometimes *sob quietly*.

Either way, this is by far the most personal piece I’ve ever produced *pat my own back*.


Featured image courtesy of Edward Hopper, taken from the artist’s official site, edwardhopper.net.

On keeping analog conversation going

In 2009, I feel in love. Not with a person, but with photography.

It was the year when DSLR was still damn expensive, but that didn’t stop me. I kept trying to get my hands on any camera, from my friend’s and college’s DSLR to a toy film camera called Olymbus (Olympus knock off). I was pretty happy with it until I saw an old Yashica FX-3 Super 2000, an analog SLR, lying around at my parents house. I grabbed it and had it fixed at a local camera shop downtown.

Pasupati bridge, taken circa 2009 using Olymbus x Kodak ColorPlus 200
Jembatan Pasupati, 2009, Olymbus x Kodak ColorPlus 200

I used Yasinan (the name I gave to FX-3 Super 2000) extensively for a year and loved it dearly. But I still wanted a digital gear. So when my mom bought me Nikon D5000 in 2010, I was over the moon.

First and foremost, I’m no aficionado. I wouldn’t go that far calling my self so. I don’t tinker with the whole shebang about photography and its technicality. Hell, I don’t even dare call my self a photographer. I never dreamed of making a career out of it. I just happen to love beauty and want to capture and share it. As far as I know, photography makes it possible.

So that’s why it was such a shock to me when, after another extensive use, I suddenly got tired of my D5000. It’s not like I’m not happy with it: it’s great and all, I mean I used it all the time at particular moments in my life. But then one day, it felt like someone just turned the switch and I stopped taking picture at all.

It was not entirely bad, though, because it made way for another love, an old one that I used to cherish pre-D5000. It’s the love for analog photography.

Yeah, this tends to happen to milennials because how else can we put up a show on social media?

Anyhoo, there is a certain level of uncertainty in analog photography that I like. It’s like that quote from Forrest Gump movie about life and a box of chocolate: you never know what you’re gonna get. You shoot something and you wait until you get the film developed. Meanwhile, you mostly don’t have any idea how your photos will turn out.

There is also a thing about shooting with film that speaks of presence and attentiveness. You become more aware of your photograph–the composition, exposure, all that shit. You take things very slow it’s almost meditative.

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Jalan Asia Afrika, 2014, FX-3 Super 2000 x expired Konica Minolta VX 100

You actually see the the world through the plain old viewfinder. You spot the subject (in the case of photowalking), adjust the shutter speed, aperture (the ISO is pre-determined by the film) focus and angle. Then you take a shot and move on to the next subject. That’s it. No fumbling with other settings, no preview, no deleting. Once you shoot a photo, it will be forever there on the film (unless you get it burned).

Provided with very limited exposures, you become less and less shutter happy and therefore you carefully choose what to shoot and carefully compose your photos. This level of awareness is rarely felt when I shoot digital. With digital, it’s hard not to be a perfectionist because delete button is always a thumb away. Shooting analog lets you embrace imperfectness. And that, to me, is its charm.

And don’t get me started on how I love the look and feel of film photographs. There is a reason why vintage/retro filters on photo editing apps exist. I’m glad that I don’t have to apply those ugly artificial looks on my photographs when I post them online because they already look good enough. They don’t need any digital alteration because they are perfect in their on way (and still I refuse to add #NoFilter on the caption, it’s tacky).

Dago Atas, 2014, FX-3 Super 2000 x Fuji Superia 200
Dago Atas, 2014, FX-3 Super 2000 x Fuji Superia 200

So last April, I decided to pick up my old Yasinan and started shooting with it again. Eventually, I posted my photos on Instagram and found tons of communities, both global and local, striving to keep analog photography going. There are many film shooters taking on this digital platform to show off their analog works, and boy are they amazing.

Soon I came to know that there are professional photographers who still shoot film (here and here). Some even take a giant leap back in time using tintype cameras like what photog Victoria Will did for this year’s Sundance Film Festival celebrity photoshoot. Awesome.

Kebun Binatang Bandung, 2011, Lucky SHD 100 BW
Kebun Binatang Bandung, 2011, Lucky SHD 100

It’s not always easy, though, shooting analog. There will always be a setback or two. Photographic films are seriously scarce here in Indonesia, not to mention how expensive they are. The same applies to the cost of film developing and I think this won’t change a lot in the long run.

But still, for the things I mentioned earlier, I won’t refrain from shooting film. And I think neither will them film folks on Instagram or anyone out there who think that analog photography is worthy to survive in this everything-is-digital world.

If you happen to be on Instagram too, check out #filmisnotdead, #buyfilmnotmegapixels, and #35mm (among many others) hashtags. You may want to join this analog conversation too one day. Who knows.

My most favorite human, 2014, Yashica FX-3 Super 2000 x Fujifilm Neopan 400
My most favorite human, Lapangan Gasibu, 2014, FX-3 Super 2000 x Fujifilm Neopan 400

This post is to celebrate 2015 Film Photography Day. Featured image courtesy of Velentina (Yashica FX-3 Super 2000 x Fuji Superia 200). Visit my Instagram for more film photographs.

Questions

I love my books. Not that I ever wrote one, mind you. I love books I own. I love to see them neatly arranged on the shelf; to see them slowly growing into a collection, resembling a personal library that is essential for my ego boost.

I also hoard books, meaning that I don’t want to lose them (except the bad ones). That is why every time someone asks me if they can borrow one of my books I always feel slightly worried that they might not return it.

Once, my co-worker said that he wanted to borrow a book I was reading (Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love–great book!). I told him I would lend him the book after I finished it. I never do because as far as I can see he didn’t read the book he bought several days before. It’s still there untouched, gathering dust on his desk. That’s cruel and I don’t want the same thing happen to my book. Even if he would read it, I believe he wont return it. Luckily, he seemed to forget that he wanted to borrow my book. Later, my other co-worker told me that he lent his book to this person and never got it back. My judgement was right. Oh, and poor him.

The thing is, I’m a nice person. I would never say no when someone asks me if I can lend them my books. I would always say “Of course!” with a huge smile on my face. But I wish I could always ask these questions to anyone who wants to borrow my precious collection.

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Congratulations

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To those who manage to be resilient despite hardship.
To those who manage a smile despite sorrow.
To those who love despite heartbreaks.
To those who always show compassion despite suffering.
To those who are brave enough to cry for help.
To those who have the guts to take risk.
To those who keep going despite uncertainty.
To those who know how and when to let go.
To those who hit bottom and get up.
To those who refuse to follow others and choose their own path.
To those who think that they aren’t strong but somehow still soldier on.
To those who aspire to be the change they want to see.
To those who keep their strength and carry on, facing life no matter how harsh, how harmful, how hazardous.
To those who wake up in the morning, unsure of what would happen but still manage to get out of bed and do whatever there is to be done because that’s the choice more sensible than cursing life and giving up.

Congratulations, we are the champions.


Image courtesy of Brooklyn Morgan via Unsplash