Sunday, December 22, 2013

I love Jakarta Traffic: One girl's psychotic idea of her hometown

Describe Jakarta in one word: Traffic

The capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta is the center for entertainment, politics and business. Home to 9.608 million people, the city is infamous for its congested streets and alarming level of air pollution. More than a blemish on the face of the largest archipelago on earth, Jakarta traffic does not seem to budge despite recent installations of public transportation, such as the Transjakarta Busway. Even so, the government continues to strive to decrease blockage by generating other policies, such as the three-in-one program in 2003 and newer modes of public transport, including an MRT line, which have yet to take shape.

Today, I shan't babble on about the negativity that continues to clout my hometown. Yes, the traffic is horrendous, especially with the rain. Yes, it has and will persistently cost us time, money and energy. Yes, our patience has nearly run out. But, to be absolutely honest, I (sort of), no, actually really, love Jakarta traffic.

Loving That

Alright, take a second, that must have been a lot to take in. Breathe. Look around if you are currently stuck in one of the many notorious street clog ups. Refrain from glancing at your watch and realizing that you are minutes away from the beginning of the meeting and still miles away from the restaurant.

Perhaps, I am high on chocolate or blood-poisoned by the insidious pollution. Maybe, this is all caused by a harrowing bias that grew in me as a born and bred Jakartan. It may also be part of being on holiday from college, you know the overcoming sentimental sensation of being at home, where you could suddenly tolerate all the tediously boring and maddening aspect of life. Nevertheless, my burning love for the traffic here endures.

How so? What magical beans did you eat? Are you mental?

Though, I will never be certain that I am free of mental problems, I know that traffic jams should not be a thing to love, especially since I am well-known to be constantly anxious and nervous. Ironically enough, I hate being late. Most of the time I am five to ten minutes early to appointments. Last semester I consistently came to a 9 AM class thirty minutes prior. You would think that having a pet peeve for tardiness would make me avoid traffic, but instead it has yet to deter my love.

Well, traffic jams, especially in Jakarta, allows time for me to think. The serenity of sitting in a moving vehicle, whilst observing the hectic and rather disquieting streets of Jakarta, provides numerous inspirations, which manifests into stories, essays, and this blog. Another key word is moving. Surprisingly enough, being in traffic still involves movement. Little by little the car transports me from one point to another. Traveling in Jakarta sans the jam may take up to twenty minutes. With traffic, I get approximately an hour of sleeping time. Of course this is all thanks to the driver of the vehicle. The other important part of sitting on a congested street is the room to attend to life's other demands, such as answering texts, emails and even reading. The jam also provides us with the opportunity to engage with others, particularly our traveling companions. I have had some of the funnest and deepest conversations in the car as we maneuver through traffic.
Jakarta skyline
My strange fondness for Jakarta traffic might have something to do with my time in the Big Apple. Living in New York, where telephone service is hard to find and my legs are constantly on the run, drains me out. I hardly have time to recharge, ruminate and communicate. Instead, I move as swift as possible before crashing. Moreover, I am required to be alert at all times. Watch the door, see who just entered the cart, check if your phone and belongings are still with you, carefully swipe your Metro Card, run to catch the train, agh! My experience in New York City has definitely strengthened my joy for the congested roads of Jakarta.

Each day Jakarta accommodates millions of people, including its own population as well as citizens from neighboring areas and provinces. As the center of Indonesian modernity, Jakarta should be more effective in the future. However, without sounding too optimistic, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Though many Jakartans abhor the traffic, do note that others appreciate it. I guess, each one of us are susceptible to our very own beliefs and responses. Mine is just another brick on the wall of thoughts, just like Jakarta is just another city on the map. And at the end of the day, we build this city of ours.


*Author owns rights to all photos above

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Selling Pain: The role of suffering and pain in the stories we tell

Classic stories, ranging from fairy tales to the latest bestsellers, frequently center around struggle, pain and suffering. Cinderella was enslaved by her evil stepmother and stepsisters. Whilst, Katniss Everdeen sacrifices herself by voluntarily participating in the Hunger Games. Other notable characters include Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, even Bridget Jones. Several biographies, Three Cups of Tea and Escape from Camp 14, have been accused to be invalid and fraudulent. Even in day-to-day conversations, we are susceptible to discuss our own struggles. Does pain and suffering sell? And why?


As a self-proclaimed writer I frequently cherish mistakes and awful experiences. Through observation, experiences and my own reading list, I realized how addictive pain is. For instance, gossip magazines are known to largely rely on trash and unconfirmed or fabricated information, yet they sell like peanuts all over the world. There is no such thing as bad press, since society regularly devours the bad and buys the negative. 

For the most part, life is a competition. Siblings may fight for parental attention and love. Friends may fight over the same individual. Students may fight to be both the best and the worst in the entire universe, be it small or big. Survival means competition. Human beings are born with their a set of prowess and blemish. Our experiences enhance and denounce each aspect of our lives. At different points in our lives, we are subject to certain triumphs and turbulences. Somehow, knowing that others' may have it worse than we do is a consolation.

The Bright Side to Being Locked Out
Another theory stipulates that pain is a common, yet basic, tenant of life. To be human is to be imperfect. Based on observation and experience, I believe that knowing and notifying others about our suffering are one of the most effective ways to make friends and gain sympathy. Vulnerability is relatable. As I have mentioned above, we are all fragile in our own way. Some are short-tempered, while others are gullible. Even those who seem to have it all are susceptible to other people's envy. Realizing that a character is imperfect or at the very least as imperfect as we, the readers, are somehow redeems their victory. More importantly it reassures us that we are capable of overcoming our own suffering and perhaps, even, saving the world along the way.

At the end of the day, bad news sells, so does stories that chronicle how terrible one's life is. Pain is a universal theme that allows readers to identify, sympathize and even root for characters in a book. Seeing others experience bitterness allow us to appreciate our privileges. Knowing that demons can be defeated inspire us to strike our own challenges and overcome them. Yes, pain tells a good story. However, how does this fixation over pain influence society? How does it affect writers and the tales that are told?


*Author owns rights to all photos above

Monday, December 16, 2013

IndonesiaMengglobal: Second Indonesian Post

Writing for a blog is one thing and writing to an online publication is another. Today, I have written seven articles to IndonesiaMengglobal.com, a site that was created by Indonesian students abroad for Indonesians students who are interested in studying abroad (Yes! Redundant sentence).

Why have I written so much to one publication in just a few months? Honestly, it began when I was much younger. In high school there weren't a lot of students who were prepared to study abroad. Though information is readily available online, it does require some time and concentration to go through. When I applied for college, no publication or site was available for Indonesian students, in particular. Naturally, when I learned how to contribute to such a page, I had many things to talk about. College is a rich instance in our lives, which is preceded by a tedious application process. As someone who will soon graduate, I also felt that it was my duty to share what I have learned and experienced.

At the beginning of my work with IM, I wrote in English. I felt much more confident in communicating in a second language, rather than my own. Perhaps, this was due to my lack of experience and practice writing in Indonesian. Following high school, I did not have much opportunity to speak, read or write in my native tongue, instead I had to correspond in English. More importantly, I received feedback for my use of the English language. Through IM, I have been able to begin writing in Indonesian again. Unlike other instances, I felt much more secure as Martin, the co-founder of IM and one of the editors, worked with me to prepare the piece for publication.

After six months working with IM, I can't believe that my seventh piece is now up on the site. Since it is written in Indonesian, I will post the translated version on Kisahjika.com as well.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Outliers Are The New Normal

Normalcy is both overrated and under appreciated. Unlike most children my age, I began flying at 4 months old. At eight months old, I was already at the other side of the world, having breakfast with the Genie and Minnie Mouse. Flying and traveling felt normal to me. However, little did I know, not all kids my age flew as early or as frequently as I did. I remember them growling at me as I reached the middle of my story about going to Disney Land and eating princess-shaped gummy bears. I remember them commenting on my stationary, which had mostly come from Michael's, an arts and crafts store in the U.S. Clearly, I was and am still a very awkward outlier.

How do we Glow in the dark?

Sitting in the car today, on route to JFK airport, I realized that everyone is an outlier. There was no shame in being one. There was no need for self-deprication. Seriously. If everyone is an outlier, why do only some of us become weirdos? Why do only some of us get the raised eyebrow? As many things in life, there are different types, reasons and degrees of being an outlier. For instance, to be a beauty can be lauded in certain cultures, while prosecuted in others. Within her family, Cinderella was an outlier. Her beauty became one of the main factors that drover her stepmother and stepsisters to enslave her. On the contrary, I know many gorgeous ladies who reach impressive social heights for their looks.

We all fall on a bell curve. Other people's treatment depends on where we fall on each type of bell curve. Our geographical location and the society we maneuver also influences how we see ourselves and how society sees us. All of these factors would culminate into a particular image, which would then, in some way or form, shape our outlook on the world.

How does each pebble differ from the other? What makes an outlier?

As I think about these things and process the different experiences and stories that I have heard, I became fairly interested in the notion of how being different can be both a weakness and a strength. Additionally, I grew curiouser and curiouser regarding how our quality of life largely revolves on our status as an outlier.

Admittedly, I believe in coincidences, instead of "the reason". We are who we are because of a myriad of factors and events, which shapes us in different ways and degrees. A split second can change our outlook on a particular issue or experience. The world, as defeatist as it sounds, boils down to coincidences. Based on the assumption that, yes, we are made up of coincidences, how do these uncontrolled factors impact our decisions?

So many questions from just a single ride to the airport. Phew! Fingers crossed I will return with an explanation or two.

*Author owns rights to all photos above

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Disease of Wonderment: Supporting the gay rights movement, whilst being Indonesian

Sarah Lawrence is a dream world, so much so that I frequently forget that a whole nother reality exists, fencing it in. Each time I fly home, the images of the campus begins to fade as if it were a sweet dream that passed slow enough to leave an impression, yet too quick to grasp and memorize. After years of living in a sanctuary, where different sexual identities and sexual orientations coexist, I forget of another universe, where homosexuality is rampant and lips are sown shut. With any metaphorical body modification, I am required to contemplate prior to sliding under the knife. As graduation nears, I would have to make the decision soon enough.

The Irony of Having a Photo of The Military
However, before I get carried on, I have a question, a very simple question, is there a place in this world for supporters of homosexuality? I bet there is. Unfortunately, I doubt that it is the same place as I call home. Should I rephrase the question, then? Is there a place for supporters of homosexuality in their respective homes, be it in Jakarta, New York, Berlin or Singapore? And I don't mean a space where we are allowed to maintain our thoughts and principles, yet lose the liberty to speak out. Is there? Is there a place for pro-homos in the Catholic church or on the dinner table? Clearly two different things, yet two very salient parts of my life. Is there a place where my own sexual orientation is not put on the stands for my supporting the same sex marriage movement?

Simultaneously, as I make my way through Sarah Lawrence, managing shows, taking classes, perusing New York City, and writing up conference papers, I have slowly learned how to behave. Just like a child, I relearned how to speak about certain subjects, how to stop mid-sentence when I realize I have gone too far, how to leave certain words out and settle for something less. I gathered that I may never be able to have one of my best friends act as my witness in my wedding, some day, due to religious reasons. I observed the ways more experienced friends tightly smack their lips and keep silent. And I wonder, will I have to install a zipper between these lips of mine? Or worse, will I feel the need to sow them in myself?

The world is becoming more progressive with each second, as different causes are raised and certain battles are won. Victory is in the hands of freedom and equality. Women, struggle as they might, begin to occupy positions of power. With the death of Nelson Mandela, the man who crushed apartheid and became one of the most celebrated men on earth, I wonder how other vehicles of change have flourished around the globe. I wonder what it takes to be an agent of change, if it is worth it, worth the sweat and time and funds, worth the losses of future prospects and existing support.

I wonder a lot, you see. Wondering is the disease of our generation. We write, we perform, we speak, yet sometimes we stop midway and retrieve. Or worse, we act like we've made change, when all we have done is speak of it. Yes, speaking of change is part of the equation, but it is not the end. I remember cleaning up a beach in high school. They said it was part of the school's Go Green movement. Though we left with a clean beach and happy memories, there must have been more that we could have done. Maybe it's the fault of our education system, instead of learning how to take action and organize for a larger form of impact, we learn to do tiny bits and call it quits.

I don't know, I really don't. I wish I do. But I don't.

Despite knowing which battles to fight, I have yet to decide if they are worth the risks. I wish I could share my thoughts on a page without feeling afraid, but I can't and I won't, because I doubt that they would serve any good to the larger plan. Instead, I would assume that it would only bring raised eyebrows and crooked smiles. Now, I am not making much sense.

Time for courage!
Taken from http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/les-miserables-gif

As Enjolras once sang,
It is time for us all to decide who we are. Do we fight for the right to a night at the opera now? Have you asked of yourselves, what's the price you might pay? Is it simply a game for rich young boys to play? The color of the world is changing day by day...

Here you have questions that demand honesty. Though, many of us may not die from our actions, we may lose life's pleasures in return for other types of torment. Moreover, as a supporter and not the protagonist, we have the privilege to stand back and zip our lips shut, after having it wide open in front of our friends or loved ones, who are at the very center of this debacle. The privilege to do so is perhaps the spine of our wonderment and our inner demons. Rather than being "rich young boys", some of us may have had the privilege to see and understand, to have the education to support our principles, and to have the desire to fight/play stir within us. However, "At the end of the day", to continue with the theme of Les Miserables, "you're another day older, and that's all you can say for the life of the poor. It's a struggle, it's a war." But, if I may interject, is there something that we could give?


*Author owns the right to the first photo

Monday, December 9, 2013

Geek by Choice: Steps to intentionally ruining your eyes

People make mistakes in life. Some are catastrophic, while others are adequately minute to be shoved under the rug. I, certainly, have made terrible, stupid decisions in my life that has bordered on both catastrophic and minute. Actually, many remain in the grey zone, unable to be diagnosed nor persecuted.

Geek by Choice!

In fifth grade, I began to sit closer and closer to the TV. Fully intent on getting glasses, I read in the dark, while laying on the bed. As a child, I was used to going to the store the eye ware store. I loved seeing the colorful selection laid out in front of me. Loved it so much that I wanted one for myself. But, instead of getting fake ones without prescription, I was dead set on real ones. I know, stupid, right?

Soon enough, I needed my very first set of spectacles. I remember how proud I felt to have them weight on my nose bridge and my ears. I had succeeded and transformed myself. Yes, perhaps, the true intention was to take on a whole new identity, one which was rarely endorsed by society. I wanted to be a geek. I wanted to have braces, as well, but thankfully forgot about the entire thing before it was too late. For some reason, I identified with the subculture of geeks. I desired access certain doors, ones that were exclusive to geeks. And it certainly did not help that my longest best friend had braces and still wears glasses.

Unabashedly In Love With Dinos

Years after, as I sit and type up this short piece, I realize how our true selves often transcend into our behavior and decisions. Clearly, I have always been proud about being different, I even identified with it without anyone telling me. Mistakes are detrimental, sometimes, but more often than not, they highlight our true intentions, even ones that may not be condoned by the public or by norms.

So, for this holiday season, wear your favorite, albeit ugly sweater and enjoy it. Worst comes to worst, grab a glass of booze and you'll find yourself with a clean slate by sunrise!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Color is The Warmest Lover

Blue is, apparently, the warmest color. In an interview for Salon.com, Julia Maroh, the writer for the Blue is the Warmest Color, said, "Among the black-and-white imperfect memories of Clementine, the touches of blue are there to evoke the strong details that left their mark on her." Though I have only watched the trailer and some of Blue's clips, the color successfully resonated beyond the screen. Yes, I am not at the prime position to critique the film, whether it is the sex scene, Abdellatif Kechiche's directing, or the entire story line, but I am not here to talk about the movie, instead I am here to talk about colors and its resonance.

As a bald child, in a time of LDs (long-disks), I'd sit calmly in front of the screen to watch a video of an orchestra. The details did not matter. I did not know who the conductor was, which orchestra played, and what songs were being performed. All my eyes and memory could fixate on was the colors. Ballerinas entered halfway through the song in different colors. They taught me color theory as they diluted one color to the next. The sight of tint falling into water, gradually losing its pigments made my jaw drop. The gradience hooked me and I was in blissful heaven. Who would have known that color could evoke so much emotion? Or, actually, who did not know the power of color?

How do we choose the colors in our lives?

In junior high, I defined my ambitions with the color black. Many quickly labeled me a goth, as if I were a virus that had to be diagnosed straight away. Though I love Emily the Strange, black lipstick, black eyeliner, fishnet gloves, and vampires, way before Twilight ever came around, I did not constantly wear black to be gothic. On the contrary, I wore black to identify myself with the theatre. "The official color of the theatre is black!" my drama teacher once announced before proceeding to provide us with an elaborate explanation. I associated with black and clung on to it, as I wanted to be part of the theatre. I had the desire to make magic without anyone noticing me. I wanted to walk around the dark stage without anyone being able to point me out. I saw myself as the person behind the smoke and mirrors. I was home. But, the world is permeated with stereotypes, which oftentimes needlessly reduce the world's riches into dust.

Color has also played an immense part in our history and culture. Skin color defined our stations in life and when given meaning, separated the haves and the not-haves, the educated and the non-educated, the free and the caged. Even now, we fall into the trap of diagnosing one another based on our skin tone. To not have enough yellow in one's skin is not to be of a certain race. To be white and caucasian is to be called Bule. Somehow color has defined us, defined how our perception, behavior, and opportunities.

Who knew that color kept so much meaning?

Who knew that something so innocent as color, something that we learned as toddlers could impact each one of us in such disparate, yet meaningful ways? Of course, it would be unjust to blame it all on colors as what is at play here is not the sheer phenomenon of pigments and tints and black and white, instead it is the meaning that we instill in each gradient. As a child, I remember grasping one color and clinging on to it. I liked it and it defined what I would buy, my favorite characters, as well as my behavior. All these things were malleable, too. If my favorite color changed, my mood and overall look would somehow transform slightly. We make love to color and create relationships with it. Though, they rarely stick around for longer than a few years, they are still in our lives, defining our every move, and influencing it subtly.

Now, I am left to wonder. How has other simple aspects of life defined and changed us? And if there is something to do about it.


References
Salon.com Article http://www.salon.com/2013/09/21/blue_is_the_warmest_color_author_im_a_feminist_but_it_doesnt_make_me_an_activist/

*Author owns rights to all the photos above

Becoming an (Ice) Queen

Ever scanned around the cafeteria at lunchtime? Each table full of preoccupied kids, some of which are your friends. A group laughs here, while another giggles there. Their meals barely touched due to all the fun that spread like wildfire around the room. And there you are, awkwardly holding on to your plate, juggling it with the utensils and a cup or a bottle of sorts, much like you would juggling life and academia. Suddenly, your skirt shifts as you begin to stoically wander around. Perhaps, your friends, the one that you have meals with, are sick at home or busy in the laboratory. I hated that sensation, of turning around to find no spot. I would say familiar face if this were at your distant cousin's wedding or at the first day of university, but no, this is high school, a place where you have roamed for the past two years. You know everyone, essentially, on a minimum basis and yet you are still alone.

The Tunnel Towards a Thawed Heart
Being odd and unconventional, I was used to turning and scanning and opting for the weird corner. If I passed some friends who were busy with their posse, I'd make an excuse that I had to catch up on some assignments. As Dr. DePaul, from Masters of Sex, explained in episode 9, "My first year of med school, I tried to sit with my friends, all men of course, who made me feel as welcome as a case of piles, and then I tried sitting with the nurses, that was a disaster, it hasn't much changed over the years-" Then she continued on to utter words that rung so true, yet so false "I focus on the work, at the end of the day that's what endures, that's the thing we leave behind."

To be socially awkward, an introvert, and ambitious comes with a box of other labels, be it bookworm, cold, or blunt. Throughout my days in junior high and high school, where I plunged into the social world, without so much as a life jacket, I adapted by minimizing my emotions. When a friend squealed at a "cute" handbag, I'd either stare at her or roll my eyes, with my lips pressed. Though, I wanted to invest my time to succeed in something, whether it is academics, arts, or society, I opted to detach myself from things that were bound to distract me, including being singled out from the social group.

Perhaps, what Dr. DePaul meant was that work came easily, much more so than being socially adept. For me, it came with the territory of wearing glasses, being good in English, and having ambitions. Since primary school, people thought I loved reading, when admittedly I demanded to be read to till I was in fifth grade. For Pete's sake, I only finished my first novel in six grade, which was late in comparison to my cousins and most people my age. Even so, the labels endured. I was stereotyped based on my appearance, behavior and background. It became a trademark of sorts and the fuel behind my academic and artistic success. Yes, it was much easier for me to bring a book, as back up, to the cafeteria than change myself to join in or to belong.

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway...
Taken from http://elsa-queenofarendelle.tumblr.com

On the other hand, minimal emotion might be the workings of a particularly boyish childhood. Being the only girl, the first social interactions that I ever shared was with boys. I remember putting together guns from legos and rolling on the floor and shooting at my cousins. I remember being physical and aggressive. These tendencies conflicted with my love with ballet, ice skating, tutus, makeup, dressing up, and pink. The clash, somehow, after so long, manifested into a cold, young, bionic lady.

This realization, however, is still premature. As a child, I had learned of a story called the Ice Queen. I remember antagonizing her, yet having this fascination for this glamorous, powerful and accomplished woman. This December, Disney Animation Studios premiered Frozen, which shares parallels with Ice Queen. Characters such as the Ice Queen, Elsa and the Witch in Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, are all portrayed as being a leader, ambitious and cold. The Ice Queen is often depicted as conniving and selfish, especially as she kidnaps the boy. Elsa unleashes eternal cold on her land and creates her own ice castle. While the Witch leads a troop of monsters and also kidnaps one of the children, Edmund. Somehow, society fails to see the heart of the matter.

Taken from http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/no-good-deed

Behind the icy exterior there is a soul that is fed up with loneliness, as well as social norms. Clearly, they can't thrive in society, so why shouldn't they build their own world and pick the friends that they want? Dr. DePaul does the same thing with her research. She invents a universe where she is comfortable, where she can succeed and leave behind meaningful artifacts. The same goes with Elphaba, the protagonist of Gregory Maguire's book Wicked and the antagonist of the Wizard of Oz. In one the musical numbers, No Good Deed, Elphaba announces, "I promise no good deed, will I attempt to do again. Ever again!" after arguing that "no good deed goes unpunished", that "All helpful urges should be circumvented-" and realizing that though she had meant well, "Well, look at what well-meant did".

Elsa and Elphaba
Oh Idina Menzel!
Taken from http://kc-eazyworld.deviantart.com/art/Elsa-and-Elphaba-416821008
I remember, ironically, feeling a sudden rush of warmth when watching Wicked and even listening to the Idina Menzel's (I see what you did there Disney!) rendition of "Let It Go" for Frozen. Their stories and struggles and eventual choices seemed cozily familiar.

When power and ambitions and weaknesses are juxtaposed with societal norms, sometimes, some of us, are left to retrieve to another world. Since I am able to successfully pave my way academically, artistically, and perhaps even professionally, I create a nest that connects these corners. Yes, I have become somewhat colder, but I do hope that something, somewhere could thaw this heart of mine and stop me from being an Ice Queen myself.

*Author only own the right to the first photo

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Rethinking Critical Thinking

The ability to critically think is in the hands of some, complexly intertwined around their fingers, slowly tightening to create an analytical machine of a man. To others, it appears to be a rumor that doesn't deserve much regard. Whilst many others both consciously and subconsciously reach out their arms, lengthening it as much as they could to get a glimpse of this "sorcery". Schools teach it as it were another mathematical formulas, while an education instills it in its students and lights the fire that would smoke up the entire mind, creating an everlasting smoke that could be either abused or put to the task to solving the world's problems.

Even so, learning to be critical is nothing but a fallacy as it demands neither conventional teaching or practice. Those who have conquered it realize that this artistry gradually developed in them without ever making its presence known. It moves in the darkness of our subconscious, tinkering our inner processes, changing our preferences and priorities, rebuilding a new system that would strengthen over time. Throughout the entire course, it warns its host not to be consumed by the sheer drive to understand. Instead, we are asked to occupy our minds with other obsessions, vehicles that would help our critical thinking mechanism to flourish without heed.

Say what?!
The sunlight persistently blinds me as we drive from one state to the other, crossing invisible borders and entering tunnels. Last night's conversation echoes in my ears, causing the space between my eyebrows to crease even further. "Critical thinking should not be blindly championed," I remember saying. "But it is wrong to receive things blindly, too!" one of my friends points out.

Balance is always a bitch!

After two and a half years studying in a liberal arts school, a sanctuary where students with critical minds are given the optimal treatment to develop their "talent", I was on the verge of falling into depression. Numbness was all I felt when I was not preoccupied critiquing another social phenomenon. My taste in life became much pickier than my taste in food, which has always been a problem since childhood. Honestly, the ability to critically think got in the way of enjoying the simple things in life. I censored myself constantly, whilst struggling to develop adaptive ways to deal with this ever growing competency.

In some ways, the suffering tied in nicely with all the privilege and achievements I had attained in college. It made me much more human. I wrote profusely and spoke eloquently. My sharpened perspective on the world added dimension to the words at the tip of my tongue. Reading also became much, much easier. Shakespeare and Beckett and Pinter's sentences no longer demanded extraneous thought. Yes, being able to think critically bore more benefits than a girl could ask for. However, having gone down this yellow brick road, I became aware that mastering this strength was not for everyone.

I mean, seriously, I would hate to wake up to a world that would analyze my clothing options based on some historical event and its manifestation and reflection on today's society. For instance, take Brendan DeLaurier in the latest Mindy Project episode. He is the epitome of a (severe) critical thinker. Instead of embracing his girlfriend, Maria Menounos, after she sang Santa Baby, which admittedly is a problematic song, DeLaurier lectured her on gender equality, akin to few of my past articles.

My inner expression, sometimes, well umm... maybe more than sometimes
In my opinion, we should all be able to think critically on a basic level. Do ask questions. Yet, avoid ruminating. And please don't forget to schedule in some self-reflection time, but not too much or you would be void of any self-assurance, like I sometimes feel.

On another note, to teach critical thinking is not as simple as teaching another language or a musical instrument. Though it may require some time in-class, critical thinking should be supported by the surrounding, society, and the norms. For example, a few days ago I overheard a junior say, "If we weren't at Sarah Lawrence, I doubt that we would even have these crazy conversations." It's true, our school is fertile ground to critique, critique, critique. No one really gets penalized for being too critical. Sometimes lunches are had for the sake of disagreeing. However, I remember not having as much freedom in high school, where certain things were the law and should not be questioned. The same goes with people. Some are open to threatening conversations, while others aren't. However, in order to "make" everyone become a critical thinker, the appropriate environment is needed.

As you can see, there is still much to talk about critical thinking, including how it influences our professional and personal life, its place in the workplace, as well as how it mingles with certain aspects of society, such as the legal system and religion. Perhaps, this could be the first installment on critical thinking.

Happy holidays! Here is a great example of restraining oneself from being overly critical. Refrain from commenting how Santa's race influenced the entire construction of Christmas. Uugh! I feel the urge to continue typing, as words spread through the palms of my hands. Gotta stop before its too late!

*Author only owns the rights to the first photo, not the GIF. The GIF was taken from the fabulous tumblr: http://whatshouldwecallme.tumblr.com/

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Sheer Size of the Audience Doesn't Make Film an Art


Irving Thalberg once predicted, “The movie medium will eventually take its place as art because there is no other medium of interest to so many people.” Although I believe that the movie medium has found its place as art, it is not for the reason that Thalberg used to make his argument. The gross amount of moviegoers has indirectly reduced the world of films into an industry instead that tends to compromise filmmakers’ artistic vision. Art is driven by passion and a strong urgency to share the vision and/or message to audience members, how large or small it may be.


The Definition of Art Demands Its Own Conversation
However, the increasing number of moviegoers, though beneficial in cultivating the film world, has made movies a product, a money making machine that tends to deprive writers, producers, directors, and even actors from their artistic vision and integrity. The number of individuals who take an interest in film is massive in comparison to accepted art forms such as the theatre and paintings, however the growing number of enthusiasts shifted the focus of the film industry from artistic vision to market research. Studios, which often monopolize and dominate the film industry, are well known for treating films as a business endeavor.

Individuals who work on these movies are frequently pushed to follow strict marketing forecasts and business strategies in hopes of making a lucrative, box-office product, instead of making films that they are passionate about. Due to that exact reason, similar films often debut at the same period of time, for instance the 2012 releases of Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman and Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror that were both based on Snow White. The artistic liberty in film was lost due to the ever-growing number of audiences. Nowadays, it is becoming progressively challenging to come across an inspirational film as most are designed to appeal to the masses, and fail to show any artistic passion or urgency.


Only after the emergence of independent films, which regularly struggles financially, did filmmakers have the opportunity to create labors of passion and love, as well as showcase it to the world. With the addition of new funding mediums, such as crowd sourcing, are independent films able to find its footing financially, although recently this particular funding method has been opened up to include studios. Nevertheless, independent films, I believe, are gradually driving film back into the land of art as it allows for artistic liberty in the filmmaking process.

I disagree with Thalberg as he claimed that movies would become an art as it attracts a large audience. Without any constructive changes in how the movie industry is managed and the moviemaking process is run, movies would fail to become art, which is driven by passion and artistic urgency. Fortunately, such change has arrived in the form of independent films. To receive artistic status and maintain that position, the film industry should return to focusing on artistic endeavors of story telling instead of obsessing on profitability of a project. 


*Author owns rights to all photos above

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Loving My "Masters of Sex"

Washington University is my family's legacy school, if we ever had one. Located in St. Louis, the school was known to have the best living and dining facilities when I applied for college. Though my father, uncle, and cousins had attended the school, I failed to plant and develop any meaningful relationship with the school. My inability to identify with the institution was further cemented when I did not gain admittance to the school. Funnily, for someone who invests way too much time on family ties, heritage and identity, I never really gave that instance that much thought. And as a believer in a school and a student's goodness of fit, I was aware even before applying to WashU that we were not meant be.

Awkward Connection
Leaving our short-lived connection behind, I proceeded to mourn other rejection letters and attend my current home and larger enabler, Sarah Lawrence College. A school that most readers have already known so much about, by now, SLC would soon serve as a cocoon, where I would transform into somewhat a feminist and a constant social critique. Admittedly, the conversations that were being did poise elements of hyper vigilance for certain social issues, as well elements promoting personal reflection, sexual liberation and general openness to various conflicting and provocative perspectives.
By the beginning of my third and final year at SLC, I had become a self-professed television fiend. To me, the beauty of living in the U.S.  involved having early access to new TV shows and the most recent episodes. Each season, my don and I would brainstorm through the newest shows that the small screen had to offer.

Masters of Sex, equipped with its brilliant cast, undeniably sharp script, and provocative topic caught my eye early in Fall 2013. A new series on ShowTime, the channel that never fails to inject elements Of questionable sex acts, Masters of Sex  has became the unlikely bridge between the once unaccesible family heritage and I. Unlikely makes for the ideal phrase as the show, due to its rather provocative visuals and noble, yet not so "appropriate" content, appeared to be the last connection possible. To be honest, the series's overall look and feel, as well as as its heart, Bill Masters' primary intent, somewhat left me biting my lip, wishing that I were in 1950s St. Louis, conducting such an enticing, yet somewhat taboo study. Having said that, rest assured, my chances of being part of the research team at that day and age are particularly low, therefore I shall remain content with where I am today, babbling on a blog, writing children's books, and exploring other taboo subjects. 

I wish I were Virginia Johnson, more often than I should!
Taken from http://www.damemagazine.com/sites/default/files/masters-of-sex-ulysses-dame_0.gif
Though, the show offers false hopes it did bring me one step closer to this world that so many of my family members had shared: a world where everyone loves WashU and is proud to be an alum or know one of the school's alums. In addition to providing me with inspiration for research, feminism, taboo subjects, and 50s dresses, Masters of Sex lend a hand in my newfound appreciation for this school, in an albeit unconventional way. I knew that people associate with things differently, but never thought I would find such an appropriate connection after all these years!

Now, all I have to do is come home for Christmas, sit at the dinner table, share my newest passion, and cross my fingers that no one pukes or chokes at me gushing over the bees knees that is Masters of Sex

"Please pass the Ayam Kodok*," I would smile and continue, "So, where was I? Oh yes! Ulysses is this illuminating, glass rod, with a scope on the other side, vibrates and..." (you know the rest)! Wink!

*Ayam Kodok is a strange dish that my family serves during special occasions. Ayam means chicken, whilst kodok means frog. From what I understand it is chicken stuffed with something else, making it look like a frog. 

Author only owns rights to the first photo. The link to the GIF is available as its caption. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Speaking of Death

Death is a sensitive/funny/threatening/universal/common subject and yet each individual deals with it in different ways. Songs have been written to portray death's tragic residue, whilst films have been made to celebrate the life that was once in its place.

Don't Save These Conversations for a Rainy Day

I remember being ten or so and sitting at the end of my great grandmother's coffin. There were two candles on either side, each decorated with its own stream of melting wax. For what felt like a long time, I sat in the foldable chair, wicking off the wax from one of the candles. Peacefulness showered over me as different people pass by. Somehow my behavior shielded me from any social interaction, therefore sparing me from any comments or "sorry"s from those who came. I listened to the chatter around me, zoning in and out of particular conversations. Although I visited her quite often, I never really knew my great grandmother that well, and yet there I sat, waiting for her to pass, even though she was clearly dead. Like a cat at the foot of the bed, I stayed, feeling the warmth of the wax between my fingers, and seeing the candle flickering under the sunlight.

A few years back, her husband, my great grandfather had passed. My parents said that I screamed and yelled not to be brought any closer to the room where he laid. I must have been four or five years old. All I could remember was the darkness of the parking lot and a strobe of green light coming from a point in the distance. Oddly, I have maintained an image of the man sleeping in his casket. An air of mysticism surrounded his death as older relatives recalled specific memories and experienced several dreams following my great grandfather's departure.

As a teen I experienced another death in the family. My other great grandmother passed. Instead of sitting in a corner or kicking and screaming, I mingled. The entire thing was more of a comedy than a tragedy. It seemed that no one really had any fond memories of the woman. I wasn't even sure that she knew and remembered my name. Her funeral was filled with nostalgia, as different family members finally got to reunite. Judging by the food, the laughter, and the amount of gossiping that took place, her death felt more of a celebration than a calamity.

Rose Petal Emotions
Two years ago, I lost my grandfather. After being born to the world with three great grandparents and four grandparents, I finally began to see my world crumbling. I received the news in the Fall, just as I began my first year in college. The man had been sick and crippled by fear. He no longer remembered who I was. Many thought that he suffered from dementia or alzheimer's disease. There was nothing I could do. I had no choice but to stay put and handle all of my classes and assignments as if nothing had happened. Of course, I did make an urgent call to my don and broke down in his office. But I didn't really confide in any of my friends or family members, except for one. The baggage felt fleetingly heavier and heavier, until it was suddenly taken off me. The entire ordeal was far from ceremonious. It lacked a beginning, middle and end, unlike previous deaths in my life.

All of these deaths occurred on my mother's side of the family, where death is accepted as a fact of life. Unlike the other side of the family, my maternal grandmother, mother and uncles talk about death in a matter-of-fact fashion. The conversation lacked sentimentality that was so evident amongst my father's relatives, where death is not to be talked about. Somehow, I think, talking about death made it much easier to experience it. I was prepared with a plan of action that somehow distracted me from the actual passing of a loved one. Consciously acknowledging its presence also made it more real and inevitable, and therefore easier to accept. Even so, one's perspective on death, as I have experienced, is fluid. How we feel about one person's passing will most likely differ from how we remember another person's death. In some ways, different elements coexist and culminate into an authentic experience that demands different treatment and emotions.

As hard and ridiculous as it is to say, deaths can bring families together. Yes, we are supposed to mourn but we are also supposed to celebrate. There is nothing that we, as human beings can do, once someone has passed. Sometimes all we can do, really, is to sit around with a hot cup of tea or plastic glassed water and tell stories, both funny and sad. Somehow, for me, the act of recollecting and sharing with other loved ones, who have yet to die, and even those awkward silences in between stories, heals the wound.

Death is inevitable, yet it provides us with a deck of cards that waits to be shuffled.