2020 Woke me up

Many would claim that 2020 was a horrible year, I personally know people who have every right to proclaim this, but I am not among them.

It definitely was not an easy year, I do have my own share of tears and fears, but for me to denounce 2020 as “the worst year ever (thus far)” would be a disservice to the real victims. People who lost their closest and dearest loved ones, those who lost their livelihoods, those who are forced to bear the risk of mortal danger for the sake of others, they are the ones who truly suffer throughout 2020. No, my 2020 was challenging, unpleasant, scary, and many other not-so-nice things, but I feel that the right to truly loathe 2020 should be reserved for people who suffered more than I did.

What did I do throughout 2020?

I stayed inside and made do with what I have. Call me privileged/lucky/blessed, and I will guiltily admit that yes, compared to most I have less grievances. Not to say that it was all smooth sailing throughout the year. Somehow I know just enough angels to keep me sane, fed, and paid. I learned to recognize the things that really matter and those that do not. And I also had the opportunity to have deep, long conversations with the one person who matter most to me, which is myself.

Between the pandemic, the issues brought to light at the global and national scale, and all the terrible incidents happening, I was forced to recognize that things are not okay. Modern humans, myself included, are so fragile, physically and mentally. Our structures and systems are flawed, a state that is preserved by the few who gain from those flaws. I’m baffled but I have to admit that most people do not understand how their actions can affect others. Everything is not okay, but okay at least now we know.

I was also forced to accept that I may have subconsciously been limiting my own potentials. Yes growth is scary and uncomfortable, but nothing like a global threat to hammer down the idea that I need to keep moving to avoid being trampled. I still do not plan to blindly move with the herd, but unless I position my footing strategically I will either be forced to follow or be used as leverage.

2020 is like an alarm that blares in a cold morning, forcing me to extract myself from the warmth and comfort of my bed.

WAKE UP, things are not okay, but we can make it better!”
“GET UP, don’t you realize how vulnerable you are?”

“RISE UP, helplessness is not a state you want to remain in.”

As usual I hit the snooze button, but then it keeps blaring, louder and louder, with each new disaster, with each passing month. Until I have no choice but to leave my cocoon of illusion and acknowledge that I have so many things to do and I can’t afford to stay in bed. After all, there’s a whole world of opportunities out there, waiting for me once we finally get a handle of things. So many things to fix, so many things to prepare.

… well if 2020 was a wake up call then I guess it’s time to finish my coffee and tackle my 2021 To-Do list.

There’s no guarantee that 2021 is going to be easier or better, but hey at least now I have a vague idea of what I’m supposed to do.


How self-portraits helped me live.

I am not too fond of my own face, despite what my selfie folder might lead you to think. I like it enough in some flattering angles, but I won’t drown myself just to get a closer look of my own reflection.

I am also by no means a talented artist. I have long struggled with my drawing abilities, whether it’s for landscape, still life or portraits. I would love to achieve a higher degree of accuracy or realism, but alas I fail even at maintaining the consistency between the left part and right part of a drawing. Fortunately, after years of loathing the results of my doodles and scribbles, I have begun to make peace with my limitations. A realist painter I will never be, but at least I no longer cringe at my failed attempts to draw.

In the spirit of incremental progress in fine motor skills, triggered by my recent obsession with fountain pens, I am embarking to further enhance my drawing skills by drawing self-portraits, or at last some interpretation of a self-portrait. The initial reasoning was practicality, my face is a readily accessible reference, and I won’t have to deal with guilt of poorly drawing someone else’s face. It’s my face to mess up.

At first it was really awkward and uncomfortable, the whole process forced me to stare at my own face for long periods of time and scrutinize details about myself. I am forced to accept the fact that I am permanently scarred in certain areas. I am forced to admit that my cheek bone and jaw structure combination will always make me look rounded, which is probably why my late father called me “Bunder” (round). I am forced to admit that I have definitely gained weight, as demonstrated by my cheeks and chin, or should I say chins.

I have developed a tendency, recently, to draw or doodle as I listen to podcasts. What started as an attempt to draw a depiction of my face in a natural and realistic style evolved to doodles, surrealist scribbles, and other styles I have no idea of a label for. Gradually I sense changes, I dare say progress, in the results.

No, the results in terms of performance as a graphic artist are still very far from objectively satisfying. I still have problems with consistency, ever so often I draw myself with eyebrows of unequal height, as if I’m perpetually trying to do an impression of The Rock. The progress I found was in self-acceptance. I do believe that I have adjusted well enough to function as a mature adult in society, but I am still a human being, with all the insecurities that comes with being one. All those minutes spent looking at my own reflection or photograph had served as a period of, well, self-reflection.

As I make strokes to depict the perennial scowl line on my forehead, I made peace with the fact that I have worried so much in my life I need to relearn to how to live. I have yet been able to transfer the details of my face, but staring at the micro craters on my cheeks have lead me to accept that they will be there forever. No longer will I stroke my own cheeks and feel its smoothness as I did as a child.

No, I don’t feel ugly, despite having drawn myself from unflattering angles. Neither do I feel any more attractive than I have felt all along. I am me, with some room for development here and there, and further peace to be made with myself. I am a broken, beaten, persevering soul trapped in this shell of an aging body, and I have made steps to make the ride even more enjoyable for whatever period is left with every single second I spend looking at my own face as I try to project them to other media.

I probably won’t ever produce a satisfying facsimile of my face on a piece of paper, but I am getting closer, incrementally. I probably won’t ever be satisfied with myself, but I hope I will make peace with my limitations.

Indonesia Musings

Lifetime Greeting Cards will either make you laugh or question your emotional health.

I first encountered these greetings cards while browsing through a book store back in high school. Like any typical teenager, I was struggling with personal insecurities, teetering between the urge to express and the fear of embarrassment. Admittedly, these cards resonated with adolescent-me, they were hard-copy expressions of things I would really like to say to some people.

Many years later I stumbled upon these cards as an adult and realized how tacky they are. The graphics left much to be desired and the contents of the cards baffled me. I decided to buy one of each to show to my friends and maybe one day post a blog about it for giggles. Being the procrastinator that I am, it took many years before I finally photographed and uploaded them with the intention of blogging.

Frankly I had envisioned a different direction when I drafted this post in my head. I had planned on mocking the very existence of these cards, portraying them as cringe-inducing evidence of how lame some Indonesians are. Some people perceive Indonesians’ fixation on dramatically expressed feelings and their propensity to be mushy as a sign of weakness. So you got your heart broken, quit whining and get over it. Self-respecting adults would not find these cards acceptable, I thought.

Some cards left me wondering “why would anyone in their right mind risk humiliating themselves with such blunt expression of their insecurities?” Others left me feeling sorry for potential recipients for they hit too close to home. Nonetheless I realized that similar things have been expressed in various contemporary forms, just look at the anonymous secrets people submit on Whisper and the passive aggressive gif and memes getting reblogged over Tumblr. Thanks to social media people are now more comfortable in expressing their vulnerabilities. Although they might not express their hurt through greeting cards, you can easily find messages in the same vein when you scroll through cryptic Facebook statuses.

If I were to be honest with myself, mature-me still resonate with the messages that the cards carry, I may have mastered the rules of acceptable behavior and expression, but that does not negate the fact that I sometimes feel as hurt/insecure/jealous as my teenage self. I might not be bothered by minor annoyances, but when the occasion does arise, well yes I still wish I can send someone a card that bluntly asks “am I not good enough for you?” I might be able to live with rejection, but that doesn’t mean I’m not curious about why I was rejected, be it by a romantic interest or from a certain position that I covet.

Nowadays such raw expressions can only happen when my inhibitions are lowered. Blame the painkillers/alcohol/lack of sleep for my outburst, God forbid I ask honest questions when I’m sober. I have come to the conclusion that mature people who see themselves sending these cards are either courageously putting themselves in a vulnerable position for sake of being straightforward or are desperately seeking for attention. I have the utmost respect for the former and suffer annoyance from the later.

These unique greeting cards are published by a company called Lifetime cards, there  were no website listed, only an email contact at which I’m not sure is still active, I’ll try to email and post an update. Their tagline is emotion and feelings and I must admit it really does show. The contents of these greeting cards do distinctly express feelings and emotions, in a very straightforward manner. Below are 9 specimens that I managed to acquire, each specimen is presented as a composite of two images. The image on the left is the cover of the cards while the image on the right side is the contents inside:

Specimen 1

talking to a wall
might be a sign of unrequited love, if you ask me (c)Lifetime cards














Specimen 2

special to me
I’m guessing they meant to ask whether the sentiment is mutual (c)Lifetime Cards














Specimen 3

Grammatically incorrect but we get it, we get it. (c) Lifetime Cards














Specimen 4

I don’t even know that to say (c) Lifetime Cards














Specimen 5

*ba-dum tss* welcome to the friend zone, I’m your mayor Ross Geller (c) Lifetime Cards














Specimen 6

You can’t really blame them you know, you can’t force love (c) Lifetime Cards














Specimen 7

Personally I won’t dare to ever ask this question, cause I’m afraid of the answer. (c) Lifetime Cards














Specimen 8

Ever heard of a break-up card? it’s better than a post-it (c)Lifetime Cards














Specimen 9

This one is applicable not only in romantic relationships but just about any relationship, IMHO. (c)Lifetime Cards















Let me know what you guys think in the comments below.

open letter

Broadway Ke Java 2016 Producer’s Note (uncut)

I was asked to write a producer’s note for the program book of Broadway ke Java 2016 (more about that in a later post, hopefully). Thanks to insomnia and overall restlessness I stayed up till the break of dawn to compose a rather lengthy note. Alas, as all former journalists should have anticipated, our words are limited by the available space in the layout, only a third of the text got to be printed. I decided to publish the note in its complete form here, just because…

Jack of many things, master of mediocre management, I have made peace with the fact that my forte actually lies in not knowing how to say no or when to quit. Neither an exceptional singer, actor nor dancer, I am now surrounded by triple threats and aspiring performers due to an impulsive decision I made two years ago when JPAC held auditions for BKJ 2014. Someone announced that they were ready for the next person to be interviewed as crew, so I sat down and did it, despite the fact that I was just there to support a friend. And now, six productions later, having been involved in five of them on and off the stage, I can certainly say that I have learned a lot from this community, from opening curtains, saying no to divas, to being more comfortable with my head voice.

Handling any musical theater production is a great challenge on its own, but taking over as the producer of JPAC’s largest production to date with six weeks left on the clock was a a Herculean task, to say the least. Thankfully I received great support from the Executive Director and Co-producer along with all the directors, cast, crew as well as JPAC members and board members, along with our sponsors, media partners and also my exceptionally understanding and helpful family and friends. I am grateful for each and every assistance, favor and assurance that they have so generously provided me.   I realize there are still many things that I should have done to reach the full potential of this show, yet one of the biggest lesson BKJ2016 has taught me is about being realistic without compromising quality.

The past 3 months have been one helluva ride for all of us, relationships are formed, reaffirmed, tested and rediscovered. Life is short, but I have no regrets in spending a chunk of my time with you. This was certainly a team effort, we couldn’t have done it without us, and now let us all, cast, crew and audience, experience the magic of live theater, for each moment is literally once in a lifetime.

living-learning Musings

The secret to everything in life: Quality Ingredient

I have just recently begun learning to cook, and I am bad at cooking. My technique is sloppy (overcooked most of the time), I tend to mess up seasonings (either bland or too salty), and my biggest cause of failure actually lies on my “creativity”. One such example goes, a soup was going alright, until I decided to make it a “fusion” and added last minute ingredients. Good thing I’m not too picky when it comes to eating, I’d rather eat my own bad cooking than starve. 

But I won’t lie that there is a way to increase the chance of producing good food, the cheat lies in using good quality ingredients. The picture above shows how good and appetizing a salad can be as long as you use the best ingredients. The methods and seasonings were minimal and simple, but the results far exceeds the efforts given. 

The same goes for other kinds of productive activities , it’s easier to make something good if you use good quality talents. A compact team of dedicated experts can create better results than a large group filled with people who think they know what they’re doing. It’s easier to have a good time if you are surrounded by great people who discuss about potential ideas instead of talking about other people behind their backs to compensate for their own insecurities.  

Admittedly, most of the time the option to control who we work or surround ourselves with are out of our hands, there is not much we can do about it. Real life is not a fully-stocked supermarket where we can always  pick and choose the best options, the resemblance is closer to a convenience store at 1 am when you’re hungry and desperate for food. You try to choose from the available options and make the best out of them. 


Ignorance IS, unfortunately, bliss

As I grow older I find it harder to deny the old adage that ignorance is bliss.

In general, I loath ignorant people, I try resist to myself from making assumption before acquiring a least some background information or data about something. But in some cases it’s better to look the other way, most of the time this is no easy feat for me, and ignore the fact that you actually know more than you wish you knew. Sleep would have been easier had I not know most of the things I know about the world.

I wish I didn’t know that global warming is happening

I wish I didn’t know that animals are going extinct

I wish I didn’t know that people are suffering because of the haze

I wish I didn’t know about the statistics about children on the streets whenever I drive pass them on the intersection

I wish I didn’t know about the troubles and illnesses of people I know, that way I can imagine that their life is perfect

I wish I didn’t know about the chemicals and toxins that surround me

I wish I didn’t know about my never-ending to-do list

I wish I didn’t know about all the microorganism living on my skins, cause that’s just creepy.

But alas I know, and I fall asleep anyways, after succumbing to exhaustion.

I wish I can go back in time and visit my former self, I’m gonna go up and tell her “Kid, sometimes it’s better not to know. Some images are better left blurry yet pretty without knowing all the details and background story of how that picture came to be.”

But past-me will probably start to observe and create hypothesis and will launch into a short research about people who suddenly got approached by someone who looks a lot like their mother saying cryptic messages, thus making her worry after knowing that she’ll grow up to be chubby and not as attractive as she thought she’d grow up to be.

DIY gadgets hacks Indonesia urban

A cheap and ugly hack for the ZTE MF90

The Bolt super 4g service that had recently been made available in Indonesia offered a sim card bundled with an affordable 4G mifi modem, the ZTE MF90. As far as I know this modem is one of the most commonly used by Bolt subscribers for nowadays. (And also non-subscribers who bought them and then unlocked the modem)

The design for the ZTE MF90 had the button smack dab in the middle of the curved body and is slightly protruding. This design oversight left it prone to accidental power-on due to contacts with other loose things, and even pressure through linings, when carried in a bag. 

Far too many times while I was out and about in an urban outing I would detect my mifi signal being made available even though I had not meant to have it turned on. And in instances when I do want to utilize the little gadget, I was left disappointed for the battery was usually depleted due to accidental powering-on.

I had to do a slight improvisation, or hack, if I were to use the term favored lately in various digital media, for the sake of having a piece of mind when I carry the little mifi around.

A small piece of paper card, some duct tape, and the use of sharp tools left me with something that is hopefully functional although it might not be pretty. As an added bonus, no longer will I be confused in identifying my device from everyone else’s.

I can’t be the only one facing this problem, let me know how you solve yours. 


The Blue Elephant That Eats Gold Coins

I have a piggy bank, well actually an Elephant Bank, that’s rather special.

You see, it only eats gold coins. Well, not real gold coins, but IDR 500 coins, which has a gold color.

Last weekend i was feeling rather curious, how much coins does it hold. So I put all the coins out

And I counted everything up

In total I have IDR 295,000.00 around USD 30.
I can use it to buy around 15 Big Macs in Jakarta.
But I don’t want Big Macs, I want to collect gold coins so that one day I can pretend I’m Scrooge McDuck. So I put all the coins back, and try to find some more “gold” coins.


lo tech graphical adventures

Do you remember Microsoft Paintbrush? The name reminds me of primary school, when we used to computer classes. Back then, paintbrush was one of my fave programs. Any kid would love to draw right?
With the evolution of the Microsoft Windows OS, Paintbrush matured and become Microsoft. I don’t really know the difference, it’s just there along with the package. I haven’t been using paint very much these past years. I’ve always been blessed with computers that has at least GIMP in it. Paint is so basic, even the drawing program on Microsoft Word is better in certain aspects.
Under certain circumstances, usually with no other choices left, I use Paint to make simple graphical edits, like cropping a screenshot. I’m bad at drawing so personally I prefer to draw using vector based programs like Illustrator or Freehand. Even if I had to draw using a pixel based program, I choose Photoshop, at least the layers and multiple undo will make the final product look prettier.
But a recent wave of retro drawing has infected several colleagues of mine. So out of curiosity I decided to jump into the time machine and try to make a decent drawing using Paint. Lemme tell you it’s hard! There are only around two or three undo steps available, so I have to be VERY careful. I keep trying to drag the screen using space bar, keep trying to zoom in and out using CTRL – and +. It was frustrating.
But I finally managed to produce an acceptable drawing. Okay to be honest there’s a possibility that I just pass it of as an acceptable drawing out of frustration. so here goes…

What do you think? Interested in taking a stroll down memory lane and draw your own lo-tech graphical adventure?

Vicious Jakarta part 1

“Ibukota lebih kejam daripada ibu tiri” roughly translated to “The capital (mother city) is more vicious than a step mother” is a phrase used sometimes jokingly describe Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. To a certain extent, it’s true.

The big durian is not for the faint hearted, trust me. I learned that after being born and raised here for the last 26 years. Somebody attempted to abduct me when I was around 11, on my way home after school.

I’ve been through at least five pick-pocketing attempt, some guy might actually succeed, considering the fact that I lost my phone several months ago. I’ve been the subject of numerous con attempts, it’s amazing what stories people would make up in order to get some money from people on the streets.

Everyday you’ll witness at least one traffic accident, ranging from a simple dent caused by a motorbike who bumped you from behind to a bloody truck versus car collision causing pile ups. And not to mention the traffic jam caused by those incidents.

You see, Jakartans just love their drama, people would not hesitate to slow down or even stop their vehicle in order to watch a fight between uninsured drivers about who’s wrong in a crash. Or maybe to be part of spectators witnessing the bloody victim being evacuated from the wreck. Never mind the fact that they are selfishly blocking the road and that they can’t do a thing to help anyway.

Those are only traffic tales, the things you discuss with your friends when you got to the office or maybe at a cafe after work. When you’re stuck in traffic you might even decide to dial a number and start recalling about the crash to a friend.

Besides poor road management and Jakartans addiction to road-side drama, traffic jams are also caused by poor traffic ethics. Prepare to be part of a snaking traffic jam in the middle of the rain caused by motorcycle riders who decided to keep their selves dry by stopping under a tunnel, at the expense of other vehicles.

If you complain, they’ll just say “Easy for you to say, you’re sitting dry and comfortable in a car.” at that point I usually just keep my mouth shut. There’s no use pointing out to them that I drive without air conditioning and that half of my shirt is already drenched by rain coming from my half-opened window. My choices were getting drenched by the rain or to close the window and in a slightly suffocated state drive as my breath fogs up the glass from the inside.

Taking the public transportation is a fairy tale either, remember the pick pockets and con men I told you about? Yeah, they also operate on public transports, along with molesting freaks and other weirdos. But I’ll tell you all about them later, cause it’s time for me to get going before another traffic congestion starts, with all the demonstrations planned today.

Ah… demonstrations, it was once a democratic way to bring down a corrupt regime. Now it has become a way to bring down everybody’s mood. Who wouldn’t be upset to see that their trip to the office was obstructed by a group of clueless people carrying signs and giving speech. It’s not that I’m against free speech, I just prefer to hear them from people who actually know what they are talking about, not some group of paid slackers.